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BFZ Draft #2 – Processing For Fun and Profit

After a week off I have another draft under my belt.

This time, I wanted to try something a little more interesting than the landfall deck I drafted before. My first pack had a five mana Blue card that drew cards, but sadly I went with Stasis Snare because while I love drawing cards, it looked pretty slow. No seemingly good White came along, but Black was open, and I got some late Blue cards as well. Pack two went as expected, with Black and Blue coming, but of course White was also flowing since it was well cut upstream in pack one, and I passed a 7th pick Stasis Snare to some lucky jerk.\

In pack three I opened Gruesome Slaughter, which I misjudged to be awesome when it’s VERY hard to use correctly, especially in a deck that wants to trade early to extend the game.

This is what I ended up with:

1 Sludge Crawler
2 Tide Drifter
1 Coralhelm Guide
2 Dominator Drone
1 Cryptic Cruiser
1 Cloud Manta
2 Mind Raker
1 Murk Strider
1 Oracle of Dust
1 Ulamog’s Reclaimer
1 Ulamog’s Despoiler
2 Spell Shrivel
2 Complete Disregard
1 Horribly Awry
1 Gruesome Slaughter
1 Dampening Pulse
1 Rising Miasma
1 Transgress the Mind
9 Island
8 Swamp

Relevant sideboard cards: Swarm Surge, Bone Splinters, 2 Mire’s Malice, Skitterskin, Retreat to Coralhelm, Eldrazi Devastator, and Molten Nursery.

My first match was against Orzhov, and he came out of the gates slowly in both games, but I flooded badly in the first game and almost made a miraculous stabilization in game two.

He had a bunch of dudes, including a 4/5 flier and a Pilgrim’s Eye that were the real threat. I had sided in Retreat to Coralhelm since the matchup seemed very slow, and it was in play alongside Oracle of Dust, Cryptic Cruiser, and Ulamog’s Reclaimer. I had six mana in play and could activate my Cruiser once. My opponent’s all-in would kill me, but I had a Complete Disregard to stay alive at one, then on my next turn I could play Gruesome Slaughter and play the land I had sandbagged to wipe the enemy’s board off the map.

But, he killed my Oracle. Oh well. It WAS going to be cool.

0-1

Match two was against a sweet five-color deck with all kinds of cards I had to read, but my deck was well set up to take advantage of it and ground him out with Mind Raker and other discard. Still, I thought his deck was MUCH cooler than mine.

1-1

My third match was against an aggressive landfall deck. In game one he curved out one, two, three, but was met with a Rising Miasma, and while it was tense for a bit, Transgressing his five-mana Threaten effect left him a few damage shy. Game two went similarly.

2-1

My final match was against another Orzhov deck, but he got a text very early on, and seemed distressed about it the entire game. My draw was great, I countered his third turn play, bounced a guy the next turn, then played a dude AND countered a spell, then for good measure, countered one more spell to seal the game. He said he needed to go take care of something, and conceded.

In the end, I did not like this deck. It contained a few situational cards, and had issues dealing with a large threat already on the table. It had a few moving parts, which I liked, but most of the interesting stuff was very mana-intensive, like the Cryptic Cruiser. Deciding when to use cards for processing was fun, but most of the effects felt weaker than the effects that placed the cards in exile in the first place. Maybe that’s by design since my dudes were reasonably costed in the first place, but often you have to alter your play to make sure something gets exiled so you can extract the bonus later, and you can get punished for it. Additionally, my deck felt very two-faced. It had aggressive cards like Dominator Drone, but also had five mana 2/5s.

Hopefully next week I’ll feel up to drafting again, but Fallout 4 is fast approaching, and I’ve taken the entire week off from work to revel in its glory, so we’ll see.

I’d also like to do more detailed breakdowns of my drafts, but these days people want streaming video, and frankly, I don’t know enough about the format yet to be able to talk at-will about a draft in progress. Perhaps that will change though with time.

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My Blind BFZ Draft

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:

Creature (15)
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
Land (17)
1x Blighted Woodland
2x Evolving Wilds
6x Forest
1x Island
1x Looming Spires
5x Mountain
1x Plains
Instant (6)
1x Infuse with the Elements
1x Natural Connection
1x Smite the Monstrous
1x Stonefury
1x Swell of Growth
1x Unnatural Aggression
Sorcery (2)
1x Call the Scions
1x Earthen Arms
Sideboard (10)
1x Boiling Earth
1x Dispel
2x Hedron Blade
1x Plummet
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!

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Drafting Solforge

I’ve received a request to post a primer on drafting Solforge. I’m certainly not a draft master yet, but I feel like I’ve learned a ton since that first draft that, if I had known when I first started 12 or so short drafts ago, I would have fared far better.

The Basics

Most people are introduced to Solforge by playing Constructed with either someone else’s deck, or with the cards that a starter account begins with. Decks have powerful, powerful creatures and removal spells. Decks tend to revolve around specific interactions. No where is this more prevalent than in the recently popular Weirwood Patriarch/Tarsus Deathweaver decks, where almost every card works in conjunction with the others to create armies of monsters quickly and efficiently.

Draft however, is a different beast. Cards have to function well independently because we typically won’t have a ton of copies of two different cards to put together. That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities to build synergy based decks, but they can be risky to draft. We’ll cover a few specific archetypes later. This primer assumes that you understand the actual mechanics of drafting (ie. two factions, distribution of rarity, etc.)

In draft, there are a few ways to evaluate a card:

Scaling

DEEPBRANCHEspecially early in the draft, looking at how a card performs at it’s various levels is the first thing I examine. Some cards, like Deepbranch Prowler, are powerful options at rank one, but scale poorly relative to other cards. Generally, I find it easiest to look at how cards perform at ranks two and three since most games will go well into rank three or later. There are some cards, however, that severely over-perform at rank two, like Sparkblade Assassin. Sparky is almost as good as some rank threes at it’s second rank, so don’t dismiss a card entirely because of a single poor rank. It can often be vital to have a way for a slower moving rank three-based deck to fend off the more aggressive decks that scale poorly, but try to win the game before you can take control.

Tempo

This method of evaluation is more useful when considering between spells you are forced to take at the back end of a pack.

Spells in draft are strange because they don’t serve the same purpose as they do in Constructed. Most decks in Constructed play removal either because they are seeking to mitigate a specific weakness, or because they are trying to enable a specific strategy, typically either going bananas with Grimgaunts or playing well-scaling level three cards like Chrogrias.

In draft, spells tend to be tempo oriented, mostly because it’s impossible to predict what sorts of creatures an opponent will have. Even generically good spells in Constructed like Dreadbolt and Botanimate aren’t great. Botanimate isn’t reliable enough to draw as a singleton (not to mention that the 3/3 it leaves behind is a small tempo loss). Dreadbolt can be good, but draft tends to focus on high toughness creatures.

soothing-radiance-1So what exactly about spells creates tempo? In almost all cases, using your spell to ensure one or more of your own creatures survive a fight is why you draft spells (other than being forced to). If you cast an Epidemic that turns two trades into your two creatures surviving, it’s like playing an extra card. Even something like Soothing Radiance can generate huge tempo swings.

The other reason to draft a spell is because it can end the game. This may sound obvious, but really, Jetpack is the best common game ending spell. Many games come down to attrition, and both players’ life totals whittle down to the teens often during standoffs. However, Jetpack moves your level three Fangwood Ravager into the empty lane next to it to deal the final 20.

When Jetpack isn’t ending the game outright, it still does good work. Often an opponent who lacks a good trade with a large creature will put something smaller in front of it in the hopes of putting another one down afterward. using Jetpack isn’t creating positive tempo, but it does create a favorable racing situation by moving your higher power creature that’s ready to attack into an empty lane. The very best thing about Jetpack though, is that it avoids the Botanimate issue.

The Botanimate Issue

OmnomnomAs mentioned before, it can be hard to draw otherwise sweet cards like Botanimate on time, but why are they actually bad? It’s actually pretty simple. Spells that require a target to be level one at rank one and scale up appropriately generally aren’t that good. Frozen Solid, Energy Prison, and Warmonger’s Mod all suffer from this issue. However, cards like Omnomnom, while weak at level one, can affect any board state without regard to the levels of the creatures it targets, making it playable.

 

How Creatures Generate Tempo

Sure, Grove Huntress and Magma Hound can generate obvious tempo, but really, a creatures toughness is generally what creates tempo. But it isn’t all that simple. In fact, it’s all relative.

Any creature that kills something and stays in play creates tempo because your opponent has to play another card to deal with it. This is why Stonefist Giant is probably the best common in the format. I haven’t actually calculated the true average toughness of level threes, but I’m guessing that it’s right around 16, which just happens to be Stonefist Giant’s power, making it the king of tempo because it can kill two level three creatures, and often three or more level two creatures due to it’s 24 toughness.

The Constructed Draft Deck

You know, you could always just take everything I’ve just taught you about drafting cards on individual merit and just toss it right out the window. It certainly makes for more exciting drafts and games, even if it likely also results in you owning less tickets and legendaries.

My personal favorite is the Corpse Crawler deck. Big CC starts big and scales into a monstrous 20/21. Your goal when drafting this deck is to draft a critical mass of CC’s and ways to mitigate it’s drawback. While all the factions have creatures that work well with the Crawler, Uterra certainly has the best. Ether Hounds, Grove Matriarch, and Brighttusk Sower all provide excellent fodder. Of course, the actual best are Death Seeker and Fell Walker, which are respectable cards in their own right.

I intended this to be a quick primer, but I’m over 1000 words already, so I’ll cut it off here for now. I’m thinking I have more to say on specific archetypes, but I’ll leave that for another day.  I leave you with an example of a draft that was intentionally done as a gag, and ended up 3-0.

Nigel

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Theros Draft #1

Welp.

I don’t want to start this new series off with such a stinker, but when I take the time to record a video and do commentary, I’m going to post it. Besides, there is often more to learn from a draft I tanked rather than one I won.

In retrospect, I should have just slammed Spear of Heliod. It’s at least an A-, maybe even an A since every single White deck would want to play it, and is good virtually every time you draw it regardless of whether you are behind, ahead, or board stalled. My first pack would have gone poorly, but I certainly would have succeeded in playing a deck featuring at least one of the two colors I designated during the draft to be essential. I didn’t even end up playing the Sea God’s Revenge in the end.

Some early commenters on YouTube mentioned a particular pick I’d like to focus on. It was early in pack two, and I had up to that point the Sea God’s Revenge, a good Black base, and a bunch of marginal Green cards. My choice was between Blood-Toll Harpy and Voyaging Satyr. In the video, I failed to even take notice of the Satyr, so I’ll explain here why I chose the Harpy.

I wasn’t sure what two or even three color combination I was going to be, but I knew I was playing Black. Every card I actually wanted to play outside SGR was black. Sure, I knew I was probably going to end up in Green in the end, but I was holding out hope that I would still be base Black with a splash of Blue, which is a far better color combination. Besides, the Harpy is a fine creature. As stated during the draft, Wind Drakes win games in this format. Admittedly, I’m talking more about Wind Drakes that scale into Exalted Angels via Wingsteed Rider + Hopeful Eidolon, but the point stands.

I really only made one decision in the first game, to keep a bad five card hand. Mulliganing to four is suicide, and even though my five was bad, I’ve won with worse. Also, I could have not played the Swamp and just conceded to hide my second color since there were two Dark Betrayals in the draft, and my opponent could have had them, but again there was the chance he was totally out of gas.

The second game’s only interesting decision was playing the Pharika’s Mender for no value. You can’t always just wait around to get something in your yard to return, and had my opponent not played the Sip of Hemlock he may or may not have drawn the turn I died, the Mender would have served as a decent clock.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week with another draft, more interesting board states, and hopefully a win.

@NigelTheLondon on Twitter

OlentangyThe on YouTube

Occasional Guest on Running the Gauntlet

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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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DII #2, Where Traitorous Blood Does Not Grant Haste

I find myself unable to turn off Valenti repeatedly playing the Benny Hill theme while discussing the Brandon Inge fiasco at second base. That same music would have been very fitting for last nights session, as shown below.

Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:

 

I can’t help but think this card is actually really good. The rest of this pack is pretty boring, and at least the Collar goes in a few deck types.
Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:

 

Some would ask why I didn’t take Midnight Guard, or maybe even Highborn Ghoul. Truth is, I like playing tricksy creatures, and putting the Collar on a guy that untaps takes away a decent portion of the utility. Seakite is like half a removal spell, and a threat to boot.
Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:

 

Anytime this card goes later than the first few picks, something strange has to be happening. I could stay on track and take Gather the Townsfolk, but Fires is just nuts when you can flash it back, and at least a decent spell just on the front end. Besides, it’s early, and keeping options open is important.
Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:

 

And we’re feeling good.
Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:

 

Um, yep. There’s a small chance I should have just let it go, and taken something like Relentless Skaabs, Nearheath Stalker, or even Gather the Townsfolk, trying to set myself up for a deck that just splashes the back end of Fires, but I figured removal is removal.
Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:

 

Note that my Blue White deck would be right on track as well. I would have gotten very solid picks every pack so far, so maybe I’m getting someone’s chaff.
Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:

 

This was me waffling a little, unsure just how aggressive my deck was going to be. Warden is pretty good in a control deck, and a deck with double Fires and not much else going on could go either way.
Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

 

Probably the first sign my dive into B/R was not a great idea.
Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

 

As mentioned before, Torturer is not my idea of a great three drop.
Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 1:

My Pick:

 

Well we get bailed out a little, opening a solid spell. We could wheel something playable too in Cannibals, or maybe the Scarecrow.
Pack 2 pick 2:

My Pick:

 

I sorta figured I’m not playing this card maindeck, but I’m not just taking Mauler and moving in on Blue without good reason. I could still end up slower, or want this in the sideboard against whoever got all those Gather the Townsfolks!
Pack 2 pick 3:

My Pick:

 

We all know Tribute to Hunger is weak, and I do need creatures.
Pack 2 pick 4:

My Pick:

 

I sense a very mediocre B/R deck in the future that relies on drawing its removal at the right time.
Pack 2 pick 5:

My Pick:

 

Yep.
Pack 2 pick 6:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 7:

My Pick:

 

Seventh pick Unburial Rites or Travel Preparations. Meanwhile, I take a dork. I should have taken Collar and really ran with it, second picking Midnight Guard and going from there.
Pack 2 pick 8:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 9:

My Pick:

 

I need to attack to win with this pile. If I had enough guys, Scarecrow is awesome now.
Pack 2 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 11:

My Pick:

 

Bump ya!
Pack 2 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 1:

My Pick:

 

Another small bailout. Now I can maybe steal a game from someone.
Pack 3 pick 2:

My Pick:

 

A pack I won’t wheel anything from, but I do get something useful.
Pack 3 pick 3:

My Pick:

 

I hate this guy, but with two Fires and a lack of two drops, he will make the cut easily over a second Cannibals. Typhoid Rats are ok, but much better in a slower deck.
Pack 3 pick 4:

My Pick:

 

God was I in the wrong colors. I took Rakish Heir because I wanted another way to sack into wins. Geistflame is nice, but I have a bunch of Vampires already.
Pack 3 pick 5:

My Pick:

 

Swing and a miss.
Pack 3 pick 6:

My Pick:

 

Swing and a miss! 0-2 is the count.
Pack 3 pick 7:

My Pick:

 

Just got a piece of it to stay alive. The count is still 0-2.
Pack 3 pick 8:

My Pick:

 

Foul tip into the glove for the strike out!
Pack 3 pick 9:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My Pick:

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  • 1 Diregraf Ghoul
  • 1 Stromkirk Noble
  • 1 Typhoid Rats
  • 1 Walking Corpse
  • 1 Village Ironsmith
  • 1 Vampite Interloper
  • 1 Torch Fiend
  • 2 Village Cannibals
  • 1 Riot Devils
  • 1 Rakish heir
  • 1 Markov Patrician
  • 1 Crossway Vampire
  • 1 Stromkirk Patrol
  • 1 Scourge of Geier Reach
  • 1 Nearheath Stalker
  • 1 Furor of the Bitten
  • 1 Bump in the Night
  • 1 Nightbird’s Clutches
  • 2 Fires of Undeath
  • 1 Brimstone Volley
  • 1 Death’s Caress
While serviceable, pretty much it’s draw well or bust. In particular, this deck needs to draw Fires of Undeath to win most games, not an unreasonable requirement since there are two. However, during my one match, I drew neither Fires. Worse yet, my opponent opened on the play with Stromkirk Noble, while I played the TAPPED Diregraf Ghoul. He played a Forest and passed after attacking. I decided since my hand was clunky I should Furor of the Bitten my Ghoul and race, hoping to use the Nightbird’s Clutches to win later on. Ambush Viper ate the Ghoul, while my opponent missed his land drop on three. My freshly drawn Rats was Nightbird’s Clutched, and Noble became 4/4. I got out Rakish Heir and Interloper, and began to apply pressure. The board filled up with idiots after evil got his third land, adding Orchard Spirit and Villagers of Estwald to his board. Eventually my Interloper had a Noble Flinged at it, and the board restalled as evil played 5/5s for five, not the worst against the B/R deck with Fires of Undeath. I drew Brimstone Volley and decided to take a risk, letting his Werewolves flip, and hoping after the dust settled I could claw back into the game. My opponent cast maindeck Traitorous Blood on Typhoid Rats, and bashed(except with you know, Rats, because apparently he didn’t need to). After the dust settled, I had Rakish Heir and Rats to his 4/6 Villagers and Orchard Spirit. I wasted Nightbird’s flashback to reflip his Wolf since he had his own Nightbird’s in the yard, and needed to be able to attack while not dying to the backswing. Predictably, my opponent played another 5/5 for five while I blanked out. Game two was far less eventful. I kept Noble, Collar, and some bad stuff, and punted when I equipped Noble with Collar and shipped, making him a 4/3 while my opponent’s Hermit was going to flip, essentially killing the Noble and all my offense. Whoops.
I was going to write two of these, but reading this was a little depressing since I didn’t draft very well, and played pretty bad in game two, so I’m going to eat some peanut butter.
Nigel

 

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Down the MTGO Hole, and DII #1

To those of you who don’t see me on a weekly basis around town, you might think that I had simply vanished. For better or worse, I have not been kidnapped/silenced/destroyed/buried/exiled. Actually the MTGO side of my Magic life has been quite busy as of late as I go farther and farther down the rabbit hole of digital card games. Now that I’ve had a decent bit of experience in how the MTGO world really works, I can confidently relate my experiences and give a little advice to those trying to make the change.

The number one piece of advice I can give that you as a player have full control over is to play to your actual skill level. If you’re not the hottest drafter in the world, stay the hell out of the 8-4 queues. Yes, you will still learn a bit, as you would anytime you’re playing against better people, but MTGO isn’t really made for that sort of learning. MTGO helps you review the choices you make in game and during the draft with precision, but because of the nature of the program, opponents tends to feel robotic at times, and you also usually can’t do the one thing that really makes hanging with better players a boon: asking questions. Occasionally someone will have the time and patience to talk with you a bit about a decision, but mostly you’re on your own, and there’s little reason to throw away tickets when the 4-3-2-2 gives you a better chance to stay even, and also helps with your technical play and drafting strategy.

After choosing the right game for you(much akin to choosing a Limit in online poker I would imagine), make sure you pay attention. It sounds painfully obvious, but MTGO is a huge help in determining how a draft is going, for example. All your picks are right in front of you, easily sorted into whatever you want. Also, since you don’t have an actual opponent to watch during matches, all you get from him is what he does. It’s surprising how difficult it can be to gauge an opponents hand without all those subtle signals you get in person. Most of the info is still there however. Watching an opponents’ plays, and more often their overall game(aggressive, passive, land light, etc) reveals almost as much as being right there with them. Thinking about why someone would keep a seemingly actionless hand in Limited is the sort of thing one has to keep in mind when MTGOing. It will save you tickets and frustration when you correctly play around that board sweeper or mythic you wouldn’t have otherwise planned for.

Decisions are everywhere even when you’re not drafting. What you do with your product is very important to staying even. Using bots to refill on tickets can be a quick way to get back in the game, but it is generally a losing proposition. Even when a card drops in price later on, the bot already took your card and flipped it for a free ticket long before the dip. Always have a classified posting open advertising selling anything you deem worthy at whatever price you choose. It’s usually .5-1 ticket higher than bot buy prices, but some cards tend to be high margin, so watch out for cards being bought at 2 and sold at 6, or things of that nature. You won’t sell very fast, and will probably have to buy in if you hit a losing streak, but it’s still better than getting bent over by dealers who simply have more online money than you. At worst, everyone has that one friend who has a real MTGO collection. At least sell to THAT guy at near bot prices, this way you can hit him up later for a deck, reminding him how much money you made him in the past.

There’s a ton more to talk about in regards to MTGO, like the MOCS(which isn’t hard to qualify for), Dailies, Premier Events, and everyone’s favorite, Release Events, but that’s for another time. Here is the first 8-4 DII draft I entered. It took place last night, which I hope makes you see how serious I am about staying out of games you can’t win. I’m no slouch, but I avoided the 8-4s until now because I was able to remain objective about how much I really knew about DII draft, and played in 4-3-2-2s until I was comfortable.

Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:

Death’s Caress, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Tower Geist are the choices I opened, with Caress being a not so distant third. I chose Aristocrat because I felt a Black or Red card would certainly wheel from this pack, giving me a ‘free’ pick, while Tower Geist would leave me wondering whether Black or Red was coming back. The vampire is also a nasty surprise even as a larger Spark Elemental, and can be impossible to kill for some decks. All this makes the double color commitment worth it, and I wanted to try out B/R aggro anyway.
Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:

We get our choice of removal spells, and it’s not close. Being one mana is huge in a fast format like this, allowing us to remove an offending creature and play our own in the same turn to generate tempo. Burning Oil is just fine as a non-flashbackable Red card, but it’s a fair bit worse than the Slip.
Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:

Yikes. Tower Geist is really, really good, and I’m by no means stuck to R/B. I give up a card I don’t really like anyway in Falkenrath Torturer, and gain the potential to switch into something else with a very powerful creature.
Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:

Well, my Blue bent looks more likely now, getting a pack with no playable Black or Red cards. Niblis is pretty good too, so I’m not sad to take him.
Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:

This was a strange pick. I actually didn’t know what was better, but I went with Torch Fiend because it seems to have more utility than the ‘must block’ clause of the Hermit, and the extra power when flipped seems marginal. Mostly I was just happy to receive a Black or Red card!
Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:

This is the only pick I regret in the entire draft. It was only pick six, and I gave too much weight to wanting another two drop. I also wasn’t sure what colors I would be in, and the Nearheath Stalker is just better in most decks that can play either creature.
Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:

Woah, alright then. Red is in fact, open. Black doesn’t seem to be, but we have two very powerful cards, even better than the Blue we picked up in the nothing packs. Still, a decision will have to be made eventually, and what wheels from our pack will help decide.
Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

Some people like Talons of Falkenrath as a one of in some random aggro deck, but I’m hoping to not be that deck.
Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

No Black cards at all. I thought there was a reasonable chance that Chosen of Markov would wheel, but seeing the two larger Red guys there and Forge Devils missing struck me as odd. I was leaning towards U/R now, since there were potentially two other Black drafters at the table, and maybe no other Red ones since the Devil could have just been a hate pick since it can be pretty irritating to some decks. I chose the Fiends because while both creatures kinda suck, Fiends are cheaper, and have a relevant ability.
Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

I REALLY don’t want to play Talons.
Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 1:

My Pick:

Just flat better than anything else. Waif and Big Charms are cute, but they really don’t have the raw power of Volley, and require either setup or drawing them at specific times.
Pack 2 pick 2:

My Pick:

Remember, I figured myself to probably get stuck into U/R, and this card goes from weak to amazing pretty fast in that archetype.
Pack 2 pick 3:

My Pick:

Well that was unexpected. Into the Maw is the safer pick since I’m 100% playing Red by this point. Seeing a Victim is not entirely unexpected since I aside from the first pack in DKA, I didn’t pass much Black, but you’d like whoever has Caress/Flayer would have snapped it up.
Pack 2 pick 4:

My Pick:

Well, here’s another, and this time I’m not giving up anything better than a Scarecrow for it. My Blue cards are now Tower Geist, Screeching Skaab, and Niblis of the Breath. My Black cards are Falkenrath Aristocrat, Victim of Night, and Tragic Slip. Even if I end up having to play something crappy, the Black far outweighs Blue here.
Pack 2 pick 5:

My Pick:

And we’re on our way!
Pack 2 pick 6:

My Pick:

Not playing Chant in this deck, and Night Terrors can be gotten later. Crab is annoying!
Pack 2 pick 7:

My Pick:

Taken over Kessig Wolf for curve considerations. Two drops are super important.
Pack 2 pick 8:

My Pick:

A good sign when the pack seven or eight has something awesome for you.
Pack 2 pick 9:

My Pick:

People have given up on this guy I think. IMO he’s actually better than he was in triple ISD, mostly by the arrival of Stromkirk Captain, but also the decrease in packs full of Chapel Geist and Voiceless Spirit.
Pack 2 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 14:

My Pick:

See? You can always have a Night Terrors if you want one.
Pack 2 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 1:

My Pick:

Somehow I have never opened this guy online, at least according to my collection. I thought very briefly about Rakish Heir, but figured if Red wheeled the first pack, it would also wheel here. Besides, this guy is unstoppable when active.
Pack 3 pick 2:

My Pick:

Giftsies, or the fruits of a well executed draft?
Pack 3 pick 3:

My Pick:

I don’t like this guy much. He’s the worst of the B/R one drops, and is such a bad draw late. I took it anyway because I don’t need a Patrician, and although one drops aren’t 100% needed for B/R aggro anymore, they are nice to have.
Pack 3 pick 4:

My Pick:

My deck is starting to look awesome and weird at the same time. I actually don’t really want a second six mana removal spell, but neither do I want a Scourge much either. It’s playable though, and I was worried about the earlier Nearheath Stalker snafu, so I was just trying to get to 23.
Pack 3 pick 5:

My Pick:

Ok I like him better than those junky dudes.
Pack 3 pick 6:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 7:

My Pick:

Again with the pack seven and eight gifts!
Pack 3 pick 8:

My Pick:

I don’t even wanna play this guy, but I’m gonna have to.
Pack 3 pick 9:

My Pick:

Yikes! They ALL wheeled! Given my vampire count, this is the pick. It also randomly can’t die to Geistflame(once), or Victim, not irrelevant since we’ve passed two.
Pack 3 pick 10:

My Pick:

I’ll play Night Terrors over Feral Ridgewolf if I have to. I’m not stooping to that level.
Pack 3 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 13:

My Pick:

Or I could play this idiot.
Pack 3 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My Pick:

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  • 1 Forge Devils
  • 1 Reckless Waif
  • 1 Bloodcrazed Neonate
  • 1 Skirsdag High Priest
  • 1 Torch Fiend
  • 1 Walking Corpse
  • 2 Vampire Interloper
  • 1 Crossway Vampire
  • 1 Heckling Fiends
  • 2 Rakish Heir
  • 1 Riot Devils
  • 1 Falkenrath Aristocrat
  • 1 Scourge of Geier Reach
  • 1 Markov Warlord
  • 1 Tragic Slip
  • 1 Victim of Night
  • 2 Brimstone Volley
  • 2 Into the Maw of Hell
  • 8 Swamp
  • 8 Mountain
  • 1 Haunted Fengraf

The land count seems a little strange since I don’t have a ton of Black cards, but several of my early drops were Black, and not curving out is an easy way to lose. Also, besides Crossway Vampire, double Red isn’t needed until turn five. I could have just played an extra Mountain, but I wanted to play the Fengraf too, since grinding out games is something the B/R deck has to do sometimes.

In the matches, I crushed pretty much everyone, usually finishing with Brimstone Volley or Falkenrath Aristocrat. That chick really is hard to beat. I won a few games where I shortened an enemy’s clock with weird attacks. With an opponent at ten and three creatures(two untapped), and me at eight or so, I opted to attack only with a 6/6 Scourge and not the Aristocrat that would have gotten through uncontested. My opponent took, hoping to win on the crack back, so I sacrificed the Scourge to the Aristocrat, then Volleyed for the rest. Seeing plays like that earn wins that might have otherwise been stolen from you via ‘lucksackery,’ since if I attack with both, he blocks the Scourge, leaving five power in play for him, and him at 6. I can play a guy to block, but if he has Volley or other weirdness happens, such as me having to use my own Volley defensively, I could lose the game. The only other play of note during the draft was deciding to trade Skirsdag High Priest for a Hermit on the draw on my opponent’s turn three. Sure, I could have him online in a few turns, but after gauging my hand, I didn’t need to devote time and life points to jumping through the hoops he requires to make Demons. I thought I could win a normal game, especially when I’m not taking two every turn, and I did.

Until next draft,

Nigel

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