Choosing Your Weapon in AVR Draft

After a successful release weekend of fun and victories, I’m just bursting with thoughts about how to draft AVR. I waited one extra day to squeeze a few more drafts in, to make sure I had a good handle on things before I went to you about it, and this gets posted in time span http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/carrie-on-%E2%80%93-drafting-avr/ . It’s an excellent dissection of a few of the major archetypes that have been discovered in this juvenile format, and worth reading in addition to this if you need to cram for the PT this weekend, or you just want to stomp your local FNM.

A quick note before we begin. I only talk about non Rare/Mythic cards when discussing an archetype, unless it’s a single card strategy based around that particular card. I also don’t bother to say things like “Defang is useful in the White Angels deck because you have a flying army anyway, and removal is good.” Hopefully you don’t need me to say things like that. If you do, you need to stop reading and go learn the basics of drafting. Let’s to it!

White Angels

This is a loose archetype, almost a sub strategy that blends well with Green soulbond and Blue control, but I’ve had a ton of success with it so far, expecially against the super popular Red Humans decks that just run out of gas against the endless stream of life gain attached to already decent cards. The entire basis of this deck revolves around two commons, Seraph of Dawn and Scroll of Avacyn. They are your two biggest weapons in extending a game. Seraph is first pick worthy, and Scroll will often fall rather late to you, making it a great value relative to the work it does against the aggro decks. When it comes to uncommons, Goldnight Redeemer is excellent, as is Emancipation Angel, and Archangel isn’t bad either, even if it does cost seven. Other White cards that can contribute depending on your composition include Voice of the Provinces, Defy Death, and Spectral Gateguards. Seraph Sanctuary deserves mention as well, because no one will ever want one but you, and playing one doesn’t hurt much. Two is riskier, but also workable depending on how many double colored spells you have.

So how does a deck with these cards win a game? Aside from the above mention of Red Humans, everything except Seraph of Dawn, Emancipation Angel, and Goldnight Redeemer tend to go rather late, but they form a powerful defense. It’s very frustrating to effectively race an army of guys with Gateguards + Seraph. Opponents will expend resources in an attempt to kill you quickly, before the life gain becomes too much to overcome, but will find you well out of their reach after a Scroll of Avacyn, or Goldnight Redeemer. You also have a strong evasive army that allows you to shift gears easily once the time to strike comes. Often, you won’t have but five or six cards in this archetype, and it will be meshed in with something else(preferably Blue), but that’s not a big deal because all of these cards are acceptable on their own, and contribute to a longer game plan.

Pairing Angels is pretty simple. You want Blue, and bad. Galvanic Alchemist, and Elgaud Shieldmate both perform a similar function, providing a large butt and an extra ability for your Seraph of Dawn. Peel from Reality lets you replay your ETB Angels, mess with attacks that would normally kill you but instead gain you life, or just reset your Seraph to block while bouncing an enemy creature. Mist Raven, one of the top commons in the set(perhaps THE top common), is also obviously good with the rest of the cards you’d like to see, and Ghostly Flicker is a great trick that can achieve total blowout status in many spots. Uncommons like Nephalia Smuggler, Favorable Winds(in the right deck), Ghostly Touch acting as a versatile vigilance aura, and Tandem Lookout to keep the gas coming all help extend the game and let you continue to grind advantage with your threats. Crippling Chill and Amass the Components are both ok as well, even if that seems a little obvious.

Although I won’t go into detail, Green is the other viable color to go with here, but it isn’t quite as powerful. The goal is to pair up with pump bonders and race, but it’s not as effective.

The end result is a slow grindy, control deck that often can win with ten attacks from Seraph of Dawn, while hampering an opponent’s ability to break through. It’s probably not going to end up as the ‘best’ archetype, but it’s fairly easy to draft, and makes for entertaining games filled with important decisions.

Green Soulbond

This deck is all about beating the crap out of people with large men. Best of all, it can be paired effectively with any other color, though I prefer Blue solely because of Wingcrafter to have large FLYING men. Drafting this deck is pretty simple. You take Wandering Wolf, Timberland Guide, and Trusty Forcemage above most things. Nettle Swine should be in there too, along with Wildwood Geist. I don’t like Pathbreaker Wurm very much, but he can get the job done too. Uncommons to watch for are Druid’s Familiar, Blessings of Nature(this could be the best uncommon in the set), Wolfir Avenger, and Gloomwidow. Be sure not to fall into the trap of having too many expensive spells. It’s quite easy to have a deck with Yew Spirit, Howlgeist, and Vorstclaw by accident. This will not get the job done in most cases, so don’t value your five/six drops too highly. Use those picks to branch into whatever other color you deem correct.

I didn’t include Triumph of Ferocity because it deserves it’s own paragraph. This card seems like a trap card, a win more card, whatever else you like to call do-nothing enchantments like this. The line of thinking that associates ToF with the previous statements is that if you already have the biggest guy, you are already winning, and don’t need an extra card. However, this card is a little different. You can be TIED for the greatest power and still get the card. I admit, it’s tough to always have a higher power guy. Usually you would need a three or four depending on the matchup if you needed to trump their power. Being tied however, is substantially better. Board stalls, or just parity is more common in this format than most, and activating this even just twice can tip the scales. I didn’t quite think much of this card until last night, when I had my eyes opened on it when ToF beat out multiple Amass the Components and Gryff Vanguards in a fairly epic match.

Pairing Green with someone is easy. Just pick the open color that fills whatever gap you seem to have. White gives some nice two drops and combat tricks, Red brings a little removal, some two drops that aren’t quite as good, and some interesting Human synergies, Blue brings Wingcrafter and trickery, and Black gives some dorky creatures and excellent removal. I haven’t drafted enough to definitively say what goes best with Green, but I’ve had success with Blue, using it’s tempo cards, especially Vanishment and Into the Void, to get way ahead on board. Ghostly Flicker also does hard work here, dodging removal and repairing your monsters to create favorable trades. After that, and don’t take this to heart because it’s half conjecture, and half birding other people’s games, I like White, then Red, then Black as potential partners for Green.

Black…Something?

Black is in a strange spot in AVR. They are the only color with removal that doesn’t plain suck, but as a result their creatures are even worse than usual. There are a number of strategies that let you draft Black without having to play Mass of Ghouls en masse.

Loner Black

This is a tough deck to end up in. It takes a number of uncommons to make it come together, so I don’t suggest forcing it, but if it appears to be falling to you, slipping into this deck can reap huge rewards. The number one card you probably want is Homicidal Seclusion. It is damn near impossible to race this card on a flier, and it’s so good you want two if you can get it. To supplement this strategy, and to increase the likelihood of drawing Seclusion, Amass the Components, Crippling Chill, and even Fleeting Distraction will get you closer to your goal of Voltroning a five plus power guy that essentially never dies because you can just play another one. Having some Bone Splinters is very important, and lets you make interesting plays, like attacking to gain some life, blowing up your guy to kill a threat, and replacing your guy to block and gain more life. It’s primary purpose though, is to stop you from flat losing to aura based removal like Defang and Spectral Prison. I’ve only played this deck once, so my experience is very limited, but I can say that Demonic Taskmaster, possibly the best card to have Secluded, kills in three turns. Other key cards are Fettergeist, Undead Executioner, Marrow Bats, Alchemist Apprentice, Latch Seeker, and Evernight Shade. As stated before, this deck is difficult to get, but sometimes worth the risk, and if you can pick up the usually useless Demonic Rising, you get an alternate way to win that won’t cost you much in terms of picks.

Sacrificial Black

Another strange sort of deck that Black can manage is one based around stuff dying. Again it centers around uncommons. The overall idea is to assemble a large man with Havengul Vampire or Bloodflow Connoisseur, and along the way gain ground using Blood Artist, undying creatures, Undead Executioner, and Even Thatcher Revolt. Oftentimes, this deck will have a small Human subtheme simply because there aren’t many cards that explicitly belong in this deck, so dipping into another archetype is an evil that is unavoidable. Oddly, many rares would go great in this deck, like Hound of Griselbrand, Demonlord of Ashmouth, and Harvester of Souls. Sadly, they are all so generically good that it’s unlikely to see them late. Lastly, the lowly Butcher Ghoul might be the most important creature for this deck. Without two or more of them, sometimes this deck just doesn’t come together in the right way, and you end up with a terrible B/R aggro deck with no synergies. Do not pass too many of these!

I’m a little short on time, so I’m going to skip the Red Human archetype(which, in the link above, is explained in great detail, and a somewhat obvious deck to draft anyway), and leave most of the single card strategies for next week, like milling with Otherworld Atlas!

Enjoy drafting!

Nigel Higdon

 

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