I don’t play Magic much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m involved in Magic, I just don’t play much. In fact, aside from a random single round this summer where I borrowed a deck, I haven’t actually played since Fate Reforged came out.
But Battle for Zendikar looked promising for me, a dinosaur of a Limited specialist, and so I gave it a crack.
In a 19-player event (I’m in a 6-man pod), I drafted this without any knowledge of the set:
1x Dragonmaster Outcast
1x Giant Mantis
1x Grove Rumbler
2x Makindi Sliderunner
2x Snapping Gnarlid
1x Tajuru Stalwart
2x Territorial Baloth
3x Valakut Predator
1x Void Attendant
1x Wave-Wing Elemental
1x Blighted Woodland
2x Evolving Wilds
1x Looming Spires
1x Infuse with the Elements
1x Natural Connection
1x Smite the Monstrous
1x Swell of Growth
1x Unnatural Aggression
1x Call the Scions
1x Earthen Arms
1x Boiling Earth
2x Hedron Blade
2x Scythe Leopard
2x Shadow Glider
1x Unnatural Aggression
There are a few useless cards in the board too. I ended up 3-0-1 with this deck, after deciding four hours was enough Magic.
Some highlights from the draft:
P1p1, I read every card, and almost certainly incorrectly picked a Shadow Glider. I wasn’t sure about how relevant the themes of BFZ were, and although I don’t recall what I passed on, I ended up picking it because Wind Drake is good in every format, right?
Most of pack one I continued to be unsure of the relevance of the keyword abilities in BFZ. I picked up an early Gnarlid as it reminded me of Oren-Reif Survivalist, and that card was alright!
P2p2 I opened a pack with Prairie Stream, and after asking how much it was, I took it not knowing what to pick again since I felt White was open, but I got a few late Red and Green cards. Hey, drafts aren’t free!
I passed two copies of Drana’s Emissary in pack two, tabled one, and lamented my life choices. I don’t need to know BFZ to know that’s a good card.
P3p3 I opened Dragonmaster Outcast and took it after deciding I wanted to be Gruul. The one time I saw him was on a mulligan scry, and shipped it immediately. Still, I decided that the table was decidedly not into Gruul, and tabled a Grove Rumbler from the pack. Mise!
In retrospect, I was probably the only person drafting Gruul Landfall since I got NINE landfall dudes (11 if you count the not-great Scythe Loepard).
After trading in the Stream for a cool $6, I headed into my rounds, where I don’t really have specific plays to talk about in sequence, so I’ll just talk in general about the deck.
The deck was aggressive compared to most I saw. Other decks tried to eek value from Awaken cards, or generate a large dude and win with it, and still others tried to tempo me out with bounce effects attached to dudes. Of those, it was only tempo plays that were scary. You see, a landfall deck is on a very specific clock. You need to make land drops up to four or five just to, you know, play Magic, and all your guys are a mite too small to compete most of the time, so in order to get in there you need to play land after land. Once you’re out of lands, the offense stalls HARD. I had a few ways to keep up the pressure with Evolving Wilds or Blighted Woodland, but I knew I needed to attack every turn. The one game I lost, my weak start was punctuated by a Clutch of Currents, and it was over right away.
No one seemed to have real removal outside Touch of the Void, which was a pleasant surprise. It meant that boards will build and race, or stall and let swing cards carry the day. I’ve never really liked two and three drop into double removal on the play, and BFZ doesn’t appear to have much of that.
At one point my opponent, with UR open, blocked and was dead if I used my Blighted Woodland and didn’t cast anything else on my turn. I had sized him up as competent, and I exclaimed “C’mon, man! Don’t put me to the test!” Luckily, when I said “Well I’m going for it,” he scooped up his cards and said he plain forgot about it. Mise again!
I watched a number of games on either side of me, and a draft video or two after getting home. I am reasonably sure this style deck is not great against the Orzhov midrange decks that gain a fair bit of life, mostly because you eventually will stop playing lands and they will be at like 15 life and not five.
I had an inkling that this format would be an enticing reason to come back to the game, even if only once a week to draft, and I was not disappointed. BFZ, after one draft, reminds me of a less aggressive triple Innistrad draft. There are multiple archetypes to draft beyond mere color combinations, there is a one mana blue sorcery I’m in love with, and synergy is rewarded.
Sadly, I won’t be drafting live next week since Halloween is approaching and I’m carving pumpkins next Monday, but this set seems good enough to maybe update MTGO and burn some tix, and yes, that is actually a HUGE compliment!