Overrun Into Top Eight Draft: A Prerelease Tale
By Caleb Durward on August 4th, 2009 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now
The months before a new release are like sailing in tepid waters. The intricacies of the last limited format have been (over)developed, their mystique lost into the murky depths of monotony. Then the new set enters on a tidal wave. All over the world, players hold new cards for the first time. Marveling at the art, analyzing the abilities, feeling the bit of adrenaline that comes with noticing their pool has some power. Knowing they have a chance. While I'm not a romantic person, I have to admit I get caught up in it from time to time.
My glance around the room tells me most players feel the same way. Players normally unimpressed with pages of dual lands get the chance to be excited about Serra Angel again. The guy registering his pool across from me hums and talks to his cards. I can't help but listen in.
"Hello Llanowar Elves, hello Giant Growth. Hello there Overrun, you're going to win me all my games." I pause from registering to flip through my green:
My eyes turn to black, my favorite color from a flavor standpoint:
I glance over at red, the other removal-heavy color:
Maybe blue has some goodies:
Last but not least, white:
A cursory glance at artifacts:
We're not registering decklists, so I don't mind taking a chance on a situational card like Righteousness, as I will have to use it for a maximum of one game. I think it's the vigilance on Serra Angel that convinces me to try the card, as the combination of the two vaguely reminds me of Serra Avenger carrying an Umezawa's Jitte in legacy. Only bad.
I get my pool registered with entire minutes to spare and prepare myself for five rounds of sealed play.
Round one: RB
My first round opponent dismisses my attempts at smalltalk. I'm fine with that. His eyes never leave his cards, and I can tell he thinks about his land drops. He probably runs a Black Knight or something equally color intensive. I win a close game one despite a Righteousness sitting uselessly in my hand. Blinding Mage paves the way for White Knight beats followed by Overrun. I see Sparkmage Apprentice, a couple Viashino Spearhunters, and a Prodigal Pyromancer, so I board out Righteousness (never to be seen again) and Nature's Spiral for Mold Adder and Rod of Ruin.
I lose my tempo game two, and he starts going nuts with Prodigal Pyromancer. I trade evenly and beat him down to eight life, but he stabilizes with back-to-back Gravediggers. Finding myself losing control of the game, I ponder whether to trade aggressively or sit back. I tap my creatures sideways, hoping he would put me on a trick and misblock, potentially taking enough damage for me to win off of a topdecked Overrun or flyer if I drew it. He didn’t and I didn’t. After the game he mentions that he was worried about Giant Growth, but his life total was too low to play around it. I shrug. At least I gave him the chance to misplay.
I mulligan to six on the play. I gain control of the board with a White Knight, a Rod of Ruin, and a Serra Angel. Serra only hits once before he drops a Xathrid Demon into play, halting my attack. I look down at the Overrun in my hand and ponder my dilemma. I can swing in with everything, and force him to trade down his army, including the Xathrid Demon. However, it would leave him with enough life to survive an attack next turn, and I would lose the Serra. He has three cards left in hand. I just have the Overrun and a couple lands I've been holding in case he runs Mind Rot. I pass the turn. He sacrifices some things, burns some things, and smacks me for 15 in one turn. I untap and cast Overrun.
"Are you going to keep playing?" I ask, curious whether he'll drop to draft.
"Am I going to keep playing?" The look he gives me informs me that not only will he keep playing, but that he will win the whole shebang and that therefor my question is the stupidest thing that I could possibly say.
"Yeah. Are you going to drop?"
"Good. Let's keep each other's breakers up then, eh?"
He smiles. Tiebreakers, standings. These are things the competitive player understands. He gives me a nod and walks over to check on his friend.
Round Two: GU
I recognize my round two opponent. The slight nasal tinge to his voice, the way he throws his head all the way back when he laughs at his own jokes, even the way he holds his hand remind me of playing him in legacy tournaments. We banter a bit, and I ask him how good his deck is. He doesn't know, as his last opponent had mana troubles. Game one he Rampant Growths into a Craw Wurm, which he sticks a Magebane Armor on. He tries to put pressure on me by Might of Oaksing it and smashing me to 5 in one turn. I have a Pacifism for it and get a Blinding Mage online. He doesn’t find more pressure, and a Giant Growth helps finish him off.
I board in the Mold Adder for the Nature’s Spiral. The Adder is my turn one drop, and it quickly grows into a 2/2 and starts beating. I follow up with a Deadly Recluse and Great Sable Stag. He Pyroclasms away everything but the Stag, but I get a Rod of Ruin online and his life total drops fast. A Gorgon Flail sits useless on his side of the board. I drop a Siege Mastadon to finish things quicker. His untap and draw steps are a blur as he races to Mind Control the armored elephant. His face falls when I swing in again.
"Giant Growth," he sighs, but blocks the stag anyway. I have a Divine Verdict for the Mastadon and the game is soon over.
Round three: GBr
Up to table one. My opponent is friendly and confidant. He grins down at his cards as he shuffles them. Game one is short and sweet. He drops a few green creatures that my Blinding Mage and Pacifism take care of. He uses some black removal to kill a few of my creatures, but I still have enough to make Overrun lethal.
I do my usual Adder sideboarding. This game he fetches out a mountain with his Borderland Ranger and I comment on the splash, "Probably a one-of Fireball."
He looks up but doesn't say anything. The Ranger trades with a Deadly Recluse. An Awakener Druid joins his side, and things get heavy fast. His 4/5 Treefolk swings in with a Centaur Courser, and I have a Runeclaw Bears and Great Sable Stag to block. I look down at the Rod of Ruin in my hand. It would be nice to just ping off the Awakener Druid and not have to deal with the Treefolk any more, but it would take a turn to cast the Rod and another turn to activate it. That's eight Treefolk Damage. I consider trading with the Centaur and chumping the Treefolk, only taking four, but that would leave my opponent with both more tempo and more life. I double block the treefolk and have a bear left over to swing with on my turn. My army grows large and Rod cleans up. He draws land.
After the match I ask him about the red splash again, "Pyroclasm, Earthquake?"
He grins and fans out a list full of bombs, including the one-of Fireball. I count myself lucky the games were quick.
I'm starved. My first two opponents and myself throw in for Burrito Union, an excellent place in Duluth that delivers. I buy a Bawls soda from the store to tide myself over until the food arrives.
Round four: GBw
My opponent is friendly and laid back. He offers to draw. The first place person after the swiss gets an extra three packs, though, so I decide to play it out.
Game one I get a pair of Blinding Mages and a Razorfoot Griffin. He Doom Blades one of the Mages and drops a Child of Night, followed up by a Howling Banshee. I Pacifism the Banshee and keep beating. He Sign in Bloods himself down to five and scoops up his cards.
Game two I keep a sketchy four land hand with an Elite, Deadly Recluse, and Entangling Vines. Since I was on the draw, and knew he had early chumpers, I really should have mulliganed into something with more beef or evasion. My land flood is deserved. On to game three.
Game three I keep a hand with an Elite, White Knight, Stable Stag, and two forests/two plains. It's an aggressive opening, and I am on the play. I keep it. He opens with a Stormfront Pegasus and then, mysteriously, doesn't swing with it. I put him on Giant Growth, and swing in with my two dudes, hoping to get the trick out of his hand. Harm's Way clears my side of the board, and I have to wait until turn four to drop the Stag, which he has a Pacifism for. I try to rebuild, but there's just no way. Howling Banshee finishes me.
All of my past opponents are also 3-1, and my tie breakers are well over 70. My spot in the top eight is secured, as there are only 7 people who can possibly get ten+ points and there is no way anyone could beat my tiebreakers. I relax and eat my burrito.
Round five: GW mirror.
My opponent is also 3-1. I offer him a draw, as I want to get some trading in, but he shakes his head and tells me that he’s worried about his breakers, which are around 40. I decide not to press the issue. I am, after all, here to play magic.
Game one goes terribly wrong. He has more creatures, bigger creatures, and an overrun of his own. My Blinding Mages are terrible. They were amazing up to this match, and I think it’s because against everyone else they let me bash in, while against the mirror they tied up my own mana while he still hits me. Creature count matters. Plus, they are weak against the mirror's Entangling Vines.
Serra Angel still looks good, but the rest of white looks pretty bad all of a sudden. Elite Vanguard and White Knight are terrible against a deck filled with 3/3s and 4/4s. I nod my head a bit. It’s time for something drastic.
In retrospect, the second Lava Axe should have come in. As should have Emerald Oryx. I feel like a scrub for forgetting about Oryx against all the green decks I faced, but such is life.
Game two is a blowout. I draw plenty of red removal and he can't keep a creature on the table. Lava Axe finishes him.
I can tell my opponent has the fear. His body language isn’t nearly as confidant as it was in G1. What good is overrun, if he has no creatures to attack with? Again I offer the draw, mentioning that he would still top eight. He pauses his shuffling, and we track down the standings. I show him why he’s a sure in, and we draw.
Top Eight Draft:
Two new faces. Everyone else faced me in the swiss. My round one opponent, allegedly infinite on MODO, sits to my right and my round four opponent is on my left. I'm happy about my spot, as I can count on both of them to signal and stick to their colors.
I open up a Siege-Gang Commander, and my heart gives a little jump of joy. While he might be slightly nerfed, the Siege Gang is still incredibly good, especially in limited. Bombtastic. I resolve to force red, hopefully picking up some good red removal spells in pack two.
The guy to the right of me passes me a pack with the rare missing. The pack has a Tendrils of Corruption and a Rampant Growth for playables. The Growth is on top, and the Tendrils is on the bottom. The rest of the cards haven’t been moved, as the uncommons are clumped together. Obviously, he’s trying to signal me. Unfortunately, I don’t know which way.
I can't help but think about how nicely the Growth would ramp into the Siege Gang. I also like how green opens up the possibility of a third color, while running Tendrils almost necessitates two. Then there’s the lack of good creatures in R/B. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of red’s creatures are efficient, but they lack body. Black has some good evasion, but also lacks beef. I would pair either of those colors with green or white.
Pack three has a Giant growth on top of the pile, so again I am signaled. But is it a signal to go into green, or leave it alone? I shrug and pull a Seismic Strike from the pack and pass it on.
Pack four has another Tendrils, and I palmface. I’ve already sent the drafter to my left a signal for black, so I might as well keep feeding him. I pick out an Elvish Visionary, thinking how great it’ll work with a couple late Trumpet Blasts.
The rest of the draft is pretty uneventful. I pick up some solid red removal, as predicted, and get some green beef to compliment it. Near the end of pack two I have to choose between a Craw Wurm and an Enormous Baloth. I pick the Wurm, as I figure the extra turn of tempo might matter, but I'm not at all sure about the decision. My colors dry up halfway through pack three. I learn the guy to the right of me was green the whole time, and the guy to the right of him, the top seed, settled on red sometime in pack two. The reason? Multiple late Wall of Fires. I'm not joking.
The guy to my left has enough card quality to play mono black. He expects me to be surprised. I'm not.
Top Eight Draft Deck (Janky RG):
Before I assault your gentle eyes, dear reader, keep in mind that it takes me a while to warm up to a new draft format.
Notable SB cards:
Quarterfinals vs. WU aggro
My round two opponent sits down across from me. Again we banter, and he lets me know his draft didn't go that well. He seems nervous, but he is experienced enough not to let it get the better of him.
I start game one by dropping some green fat and killing a few flyers. Siege Gang Commander comes down to finish things.
I board out the Trumpet Blast for an Ignite Disorder.
Game two is relatively quick. He has a very aggressive draw involving multiple Veteran Armorsmiths and Veteran Swordsmiths. I manage to burn some of them, and drop some fat in the way, but by this time he has a few flyers out. I get so caught up in the state of the board that I forget to block one with a Deadly Recluse, essentially casting lightning bolt on myself. His last flyer finishes me off.
Game three I keep a hand of Forest, 2x Mountain, Craw Wurm, Elvish Archdruid, Elvish Visionary, Sparkmage Apprentice. I draw a series of red burn, mountains, and a few dorks. When I finally get the second forest, the Archdruid is all but useless. The Craw Wurm, on the other hand, seals the game with a little help from Lava Axe.
Semifinals vs. UR mill
I know he's playing mill, so I mulligan into a hand heavy on creatures and low on removal. He plays a turn one Burning Inquiry, counters my two drop with an Essence Scatter, and follows it up with a turn three Jace Beleren. I play a few dorks, but he has Wall of Frost and Wall of Fire in play. I draw into a Rod of Ruin and a Seismic Strike that are both somehow worse than useless. He plays Traumatize, activates Jace, then finishes me with a Tome Scour. The game is over before turn eight.
I get an aggressive start in game two and beat him down to 9 before he gets some walls in place. I sit back on a Craw Wurm and a Prized Unicorn. It's an odd sort of stalemate, me trying to draw the extra three points of damage and him trying to draw an answer or a win through mill. I know he has the inevitability, though, so when I draw a Trumpet Blast to compliment the Kindled Fury in my hand, I swing in. He has a Negate for the Trumpet Blast, and I foolishly squander the Fury for a point of damage, hoping to draw a Prodigal Pyromancer or Lightning Bolt with him at two life. He beats me down with an Illusionary Servant for the win.
0-2 (third place)
We talk for a bit about our nutty first game. I show him my sideboard plan and he nods emphatically.
"This card is really good against me," he says, pointing to Panic Attack. I agree with him. One of the things I like about limited is how it keeps me re-evaluating my assumptions. He fans out a deck full of Burning Inquirys and Tome Scours. Crap cards, to be sure, but paired in a deck with Jace and Traumatize, with six or seven giant walls to gum up the board, they are downright brutal.
It's nine o'clock. Players trickle out, some dragging because they didn't get the playset of Ball Lightning, others prancing out the door, new duals in hand. The top four wants to do another draft, but the four quarterfinalists are already drafting. We ask the shopkeeper if she'll stay open late. She smiles at us.
"There's always tomorrow," she says.
That's right, I think to myself. There is always tomorrow.
By Caleb Durward on August 4th, 2009 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now