Where Did It All Go Wrong? A Draft Analysis
By Dom Camus on April 18th, 2007 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now
You have to be careful online, you really do. One wrong click and you could virus your machine, give away your credit card information, end up watching a Barney the Dinosaur clip on YouTube or even be exposed to strong language.
Normally I am pretty careful, but... yesterday I couldn't sleep and got up really early. I logged on to Magic Online and scrolled down the list of users in the draft room. Quite a few of the usual suspects were there. Apparently Americans aren't just insomniacs; they get up in the night and draft because, like badgers, they live in a different timezone. (Check it on Wikipedia if you don't believe me.) So anyway, I saw this one username that looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't think who it was. So I went to click on 'info', but accidentally hit 'download'. And that's how I ended up downloading Dave.
I apologized for my crass error, but fortunately I'd been right - it was someone I knew. Dave is Sophomoros on the forums right here at Salvation and a regular in the Limited forum. We chatted for a bit as I looked for the menu option to send him back.
I'm hopeless at small talk, don't watch any TV and lack shared cultural reference points with Americans and badgers. Consequently, conversation turned naturally to the subject of draft. What Dave really wanted to know was what my secret was. Where did I get my edge? How did I manage to play like a pro, win every draft and still have time to help old ladies across the road? With some reluctance I clarified my level of ability (not quite that awesome), but he still seemed interested in picking up a few tips. So we made a deal.
The deal was, to make up for accidentally downloading him, I'd go through a complete draft with him discussing his picks, then go through the games he played in the draft, analyzing his play. At the end of all that... well, at least it'd be light outside.
(Dave's picks and comments are in green. That's because it's his favourite colour of M&Ms.)
Tendrils of Corruption, Think Twice, Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Rift Bolt, Aether Web, Psychotic Episode, Jedit's Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Undying Rage, Phantom Wurm, Yavimaya Dryad, Reiterate, Zhalfirin Commander
Dave's Pick: Rift Bolt
Penumbra Spider and Phantom Wurm are good cards, but I like Rift Bolt better. I’m not sure whether the pick here is Bolt or Rage if I want to go red, but I opted for the removal.
This is really a two color pack, with Red and Green dominating.
Rift Bolt is definitely the right pick since Red's a better color to be in and Undying Rage varies in power depending on the kind of deck you end up with whilst Rift Bolt is consistently good.
Bonesplitter Sliver, Dark Withering, Viscerid Deepwalker, Ashcoat Bear, Amrou Seekers, Search for Tomorrow, Momentary Blink, Greenseeker, Pit Keeper, Divine Congregation, Clockwork Hydra, Cavalry Master, Harmonic Sliver, Hivestone
Dave's Pick: Cavalry Master
If I can find a madness outlet Dark Withering would be nice removal to have, and Seekers, Blink, Hydra, Master and Deepwalker are all pretty good cards. I went with the Cavalry Master here, since he can turn an army of knights into something fierce if I can find them. Too bad I passed the Zhalfirin Commander.
So - what's going on here ? Dark Withering catches our attention for being removal, but unfortunately it's also in Black. Black is a terrible place to be in TTP draft, so we'll ignore that for now. By contrast, Viscerid Deepwalker is worth a look just because it's Blue and we should never pass up a chance to be in Blue. Having passed lots of lovely Green in the last pack we don't care about Search for Tomorrow.
What about White. Well... Amrou Seekers, Momentary Blink and Cavalry Master all catch our eye in different ways. Since at the moment we aren't in either White or Blue it's the wrong time to take Blink. Cavalry Master seems a bit marginal to me here. It's got an unsplashable casting cost and whilst a 3/3 flanker for 4 mana is decent it's not exactly exciting. Even if we do go White and draft other flankers, we won't usually have them in play with the Cavalry Master. On balance I think I'd prefer the Amrou Seekers here. Against many decks they can't be blocked and the low, easy mana cost is very welcome.
But wait! I'm not sure we want to take White at all here. White is strongest in pack three, so there's no rush to commit to it. We don't know much about our colors at all yet (except we're probably not Green). I think Clockwork Hydra is the pick here for three reasons. First, it's colorless, which is perfect at this early stage of a draft. Second, it pings things. This format is full of things which need pinging. Also, with our only card so far being Red we might have access to other ping sources. And what does ping and ping make? Shock! (If you answered "pingping" I don't think you're taking this sufficiently seriously.)
Snapback, Aether Web, Lightning Axe, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Drudge Reavers, Chameleon Blur, Ghitu Firebreathing, Bewilder, Detainment Spell, Might Sliver, Spirit Loop, Trickbind, Prodigal Sorcerer
Dave's Pick: Lightning Axe
Pretty straightforward pick here. Snapback, Sorcerer and Kestrel are all good, but I can be pretty confident that Red is open, so I stick with a color that should be my main without a doubt.
Yep, clearly the correct pick. But there's a couple of interesting things to note here: the Prodigal Sorceror and the Might Sliver. By the time we pass these the players to our left will be pleasantly surprised to see them, steering them into Blue and Green respectively. After this pack we can forget all about Green. Also, there's something of a lack of Black here, suggesting someone to our right has taken some.
Goblin Skycutter, Crookclaw Transmuter, Strength in Numbers, Zealot il-Vec, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Drifter il-Dal, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Havenwood Wurm, Calciform Pools, Dementia Sliver, Lim-Dul the Necromancer
Dave's Pick: Crookclaw Transmuter
This pack is less exciting than the first few, and it’s hard to pick against the Transmuter. My only other real possibilities are Zealot and Skycutter, but I love the Transmuter.
Good safety pick. The Skycutter is slightly tempting here because early drops are so vital, but any opportunity to go Blue is not to be missed. Worth noting, though - this pick is better for my deck than it is for yours, because you have a Cavalry Master discouraging three color play. You shouldn't be considering the Zealot. It's perfectly playable, but it's a late pick and you're not even sure you're in White yet. Note that it's nothing like as good as Prodigal Pyromancer since you can't use it to finish off a larger creature damaged by some other means.
Amrou Seekers, Temporal Eddy, Terramorphic Expanse, Aetherflame Wall, Detainment Spell, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld, Calciform Pools, Gustcloak Cavalier, Lord of Atlantis
Dave's Pick: Amrou Seekers
With the Zealot and the Seekers passing me earlier I have to wonder about a rebel deck, but I haven’t seen any Amrou Scouts. I like them better than the Cavalier even without a searcher, so I grab the Seekers and hope I’m not late to the party.
This, by contrast, is a harder pick for me than for you. You clearly want the Seekers if you're at all serious about going White (and they also serve as encouragement). I, on the other hand, have to choose between Seekers and Expanse.
Two factors result in me choosing the Seekers. First, there is again no good Blue here and so my hopes of R/U are not as high as they might be. Second, we have already passed one Seekers. If we pass another we're really hurting the chances of White from our left.
One thing worries me about your commentary here... Cavalier? Even with a Cavalry Master I'm not sure that's a card you want to be considering here. It's perfect for attacking fearlessly with, except... it costs five mana. And with only two power, it's not exactly ideal in a race. It seems unlikely that your deck won't be able to find anything better to do for five mana.
Viscerid Deepwalker, Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Icatian Crier, Momentary Blink, Ancient Grudge, Greenseeker, Foriysian Interceptor, Basal Sliver, Gustcloak Cavalier, Whispers of the Muse
Dave's Pick: Momentary Blink
Deepwalker requires a heavy blue commitment that I’m now leaning against. Blink will be useful even if I only splash blue. I’m not sure how good the Ironclaw Buzzardiers is - some of my friends love him, but he’s only ever average for me, so I take the Blink.
Blink-182 aren't good even if you are W/U.Tricky pick here. Blink, Deepwalker, Crier and Buzzardiers are in contention. At this point I think we have a clear signal that White is open to our right. It also seems likely that we have one Blue drafter close by on our right, but not more than one. Red is sparse for us too, but we've cut it so hard that we should see some in pack two.
With our main colors looking likely to be Red and White, we have to think about how our deck will look. What with you having the Cavalry Master over the Hydra I think it's pretty clear by this point that you're building an aggro deck. That suggests to me that you want to avoid being in three colors and you want to avoid cards which don't help your attacking plan. That means no Blink.
Between Crier and Buzzardiers, both have some merits. Crier is a good way to push through wins in the late game if you've beaten the opponent down to a low life total but are having trouble finishing the job. Buzzardiers is never an exciting card, but it's at its best in an aggro deck where the "can't block" restriction is seldom relevant.
I'd go for the Crier here. It's a stronger card than the Buzzardiers overall and with no other spellshapers so far it's at its best. Blink is worthy of consideration if we're splashing Blue, but R/W aggro doesn't want to splash anything, so I'll downgrade its value accordingly.
I know it's tough to evaluate cards in a vacuum, but all things being equal, how highly would you pick these two cards? Neither seems particularly exciting, but I suppose they stand more chance of making the deck than anything else in the pack.
Buzzardier and Crier are both late picks. Of the two I like Crier more in the right deck. Although it's both vulnerable and slow it's also more versatile and can often be the card that wins a close game for you. You do have to be careful not to think of it as a three drop, though.
Drudge Reavers, Errant Doomsayers, Cyclopean Giant, Brass Gnat, Savage Thallid, Screeching Sliver, Tectonic Fiend, Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician, Icatian Javelineers
Dave's Pick: Errant Doomsayers
Another as yet unsearchable rebel. Looking back, Ib Halfheart probably would’ve been nice to have with the Skirk Shamans and the Skycutter.
This is a desperately weak pack for pick seven, sadly. Three cards seem vaguely viable: Ib Halfheart, Javelineers or the Doomsayers. Ib is one of those cards that's tricky to evaluate. However, I think it's fairly clear that he's expensive and will often be a weak card. On the other hand he's at least playable and might make your deck. Doomsayers, by contrast, always make me a little sad if I have them maindeck. Sometimes they hold off some small, evasive creature and sometimes... they do nothing. Even worse, they themselves are vulnerable to pings. The fact that they are rebels does some good, but even in a rebel deck I won't maindeck them very often. (Why? Because once I have a searcher I'll probably win if I have the tempo to safely search out two or three other Rebels. There's just no need to have ten Rebels in the deck, it's overkill.)
I think Javelineers is the pick here. It might not make the maindeck, but even a one-shot ping is perfectly respectable in this environment and it's great with Red storm cards if I get any.
I wondered about the Javelineers. Does the potential presence of rescue creatures in pack 3 raise their value at all, or is that not particularly worth considering?
Synergy is always worth spotting, but in this case I don't think it makes much difference. The Javelineers are mainly good played "for free" on a turn where you wouldn't otherwise use all your mana and then used to kill a Dreamscape Artist, Blightspeaker, Crookclaw Transmuter or (assuming the Javelineers come online first) Prodigal Pyromancer. Once you've got a rescue creature you're unlikely to be short of good uses for it.
Cancel, Empty the Warrens, Icatian Crier, Jhoira's Timebug, Chameleon Blur, Subterranean Shambler, Cyclopean Giant, Screeching Sliver
Dave's Pick: Empty the Warrens
I’m surprised to see Empty the Warrens here 8th pick, but I happily scoop it up.
What was I saying a minute ago? Warrens and Crier both fulfill the same role, so we have to choose carefully here. We have only one suspend card so far and no Coal Stokers. Also we're not Blue (so our expectations for suspend are reduced). For the deck I'm building the pick is easy: I want Warrens because I already have a Crier. For your deck the pick's a little closer, but I think Warrens is still correct on the basis that we should be able to pick up a bit more Red support in pack two. So long as you can avoid the dreaded "two goblins" play, it's simply the more powerful card.
Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Aether Web, Jedit's Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Reiterate
I probably didn’t need another Doomsayers, as my deck would later turn out to be more aggro than control. I don’t know whether Reiterate is playable or not.
What on earth is that Spider doing there?! I think there's only one Green drafter at this table... I've complained about how rubbish the Doomsayers are already. Take Reiterate! Your opponents will never expect it and you can always just copy your own Rift Bolt or similar.
Bonesplitter Sliver, Ashcoat Bear, Amrou Seekers, Greenseeker, Pit Keeper, Divine Congregation
Dave's Pick: Amrou Seekers
I was surprised to see the Amrou Seekers come back, but without any other slivers, it’s the obvious choice over the Bonesplitter.
Very, very surprising to see the Seekers table here. We know there's another White drafter at the table because someone took the Zhalfirin Commander from pack one. I'm forced to conclude that the player in question undervalues the Seekers. Or something really odd's going on like they're W/B Madness plus Rebels and wanted the Dark Banishing.
Aether Web, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Chameleon Blur, Ghitu Firebreathing, Detainment Spell
Dave's Pick: Cloudchaser Kestrel
Also quite surprising.
Goblin Skycutter, Drifter il-Dal, Subterranean Shambler, Calciform Pools
Dave's Pick: Goblin Skycutter
Now that's just silly. Still - it reassures us that we're in the right colors.
Detainment Spell, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld
Dave's Pick: Detainment Spell
May as well take the on-color jank as opposed to the off-color jank.
It's a marginal thing, but in this situation you should always take the most playable card (Call to the Netherworld) even though you cannot run it yourself. You're never playing any of these anyway, so it's like a tiny hatedraft.
Ancient Grudge, Foriysian Interceptor
Dave's Pick: Ancient Grudge
Dave's Pick: Tectonic Fiend
We could even run that under some circumstances!
Coral Trickster, Ivory Giant, Deathspore Thallid, Errant Ephemeron, Flowstone Channeler, Blazing Blade Askari, Glass Asp, Traitor's Clutch, Plunder, Eternity Snare, Pendelhaven Elder, Saltcrusted Steppe, Undying Rage, Squall Line, Mystic Snake
Dave's Pick: Undying Rage
There’s some good blue in here, but I’ve already kind of committed myself to white instead. I think I’ll have too many red creatures to make the Giant particularly advantageous, so I go with the Undying Rage here.
Well chosen. There are several potential cards for your deck here, but this definitely seems like the strongest option. Given what we know about White at this table we might even see the Ivory Giant make the lap, as might Channeler based on that late Skycutter.
Interesting to hear you imply you've given up on the Blue splash. At what point did you start to feel that way?
After taking nothing but the Transmuter I started to feel like a potential splash wasn't going to add much to my deck. An Ephemeron is going to be at its best suspended turn 2, which isn't likely in a splash color. I felt like a consistent two-color mana base was going to be stronger and faster than any splash I was likely to add.
Deathspore Thallid, Tolarian Sentinel, Benalish Cavalry, Orcish Cannonade, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Watcher Sliver, Thrill of the Hunt, Plunder, Fungal Reaches, Krosan Grip, Thick-Skinned Goblin, Word of Seizing, Spike Feeder
Dave's Pick: Orcish Cannonade
In retrospect I ended up not needing more removal, and I’d have been happy to have the Benalish Cavalry, especially with the Cavalry Master. I took the Cannonade though.
Shame you only thought about this in retrospect, because your thoughts were in the right direction. When building a fast beatdown deck the important thing is that your plan is to come out of the gates fast. You simply can't get the early game attackers to do that unless you pick them when they appear. Cannonade can help with a beatdown plan by blowing away a small blocker... but small blockers aren't really a problem for you. The Cavalry, by contrast, does exactly what you want it to do and even plays nicely with your Cavalry Master.
A lesson in bending the rules. It's important to pick removal highly (the rule), but not when doing so comes at the expense of your deck. (The bend.)
Chromatic Star, Gorgon Recluse, Herd Gnarr, Fortify, Coal Stoker, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Two-Headed Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Barbed Shocker, Stormcloud Djinn, Outrider en-Kor, Wildfire Emissary
Dave's Pick: Fortify
This pack was filled to the brim with playable stuff no matter what color you’re in. I mean there are only a handful cards in here I’d be unhappy to see in my deck (if I were in the right colors of course). It’s hard to say I should’ve taken the Emissary, since my judgment is skewed by what happened in my second match. He’s a strong card, but I love Fortify, so that’s what I grabbed. Besides, Fortify has nice synergy with my evasion creatures and my potential mass of goblin tokens.
Ugh - this pack makes me want to cry. Why did the Fortify have to come at the same time as the Outrider? You have the correct pick, though. Fortify is the finisher of choice for this kind of deck.
What's all this about Emissary, though? To start with, it's not a particularly amazing card. Sure, you could pump it up and turn it into a legitimate threat. So for per turn it can be a 4/4. That's like a variant on Flamecore Elemental where you pay the Echo every turn and have one less power. As for protection from White - it's seldom important, it just happened to be inconvenient for you.
Gemhide Sliver, Gaze of Justice, Coal Stoker, Durkwood Baloth, Skulking Knight, Brass Gnat, Dream Stalker, Watcher Sliver, Smallpox, Fool's Demise, Magus of the Jar, Icatian Crier
Dave's Pick: Coal Stoker
For me it’s really between the Coal Stoker and the Watcher Sliver. Without any Slivers, and considering I have Empty the Warrens, I’m happy to have Coal Stoker.
And the other card on our wishlist straight afterwards. We're much happier now.
What's this about Watcher Sliver? I must admit that's not the first card I think of when I'm thinking about beatdown.
Herd Gnarr, Trespasser il-Vec, Amrou Scout, Scarwood Treefolk, Slipstream Serpent, Molder, Venser's Sliver, Children of Korlis, Sangrophage, Dread Return, Coalition Victory
Dave's Pick: Amrou Scout
Not where I expected to find one, but there’s a scout! I’ll take her!
Maybe later - this site's strictly PG-13. (Ho ho!)
Curious pack, but straightforward for us. Scout is unlikely to be exciting in our deck, but it's a two-drop with two power, which is never bad. From a draft discussion viewpoint it's a shame the Scout's all alone in the pack, because it would have been interesting to see if you overrated it!
Keldon Halberdier, Mindstab, Slipstream Serpent, Ground Rift, Dream Stalker, Wormwood Dryad, Clockspinning, Barbed Shocker, Chronatog Totem, Gauntlet of Power
Dave's Pick: Keldon Halberdier
Keldon Halberdier should work well with the rest of my deck. Not much else I’d even consider besides the Gauntlet anyway.
Again no choices here. The Halberdier is nice for our storm count but I'm starting to get a bit wary of our deck's vulnerability to pings. A Grapeshot or a Prodigal Pyromancer could really hurt us. We need to be wary of more creatures with one toughness. Hey - the Gauntlet could fix that! But no - at five mana the Gauntlet comes down far too late to be interesting for us.
Scarwood Treefolk, Orcish Cannonade, Bogardan Rager, Sangrophage, D'Avenant Healer, Wormwood Dryad, Durkwood Tracker, Truth or Tale, Resurrection
Dave's Pick: Orcish Cannonade
Another Cannonade that never ended up making my deck. How good is Resurrection? I’ve never seen anybody play it. The only other options are D’Avenant Healer and Bogardan Rager, but I went with removal again.
D'Avenant Healer, incidentally, is not remotely in contention. To start with, it's very seldom maindeckable in any deck because it's underpowered for a three drop. The two different abilities make it flexible, but the ping ability is even weaker than Zealot il-Vec's since you can't target utility creatures at all and even X/1 attackers can just avoid attacking until the Healer's gone away. On top of that, your deck's supposed to be aggressive, which Healer isn't.
Amrou Scout, Mana Skimmer, Mystical Teachings, Prismatic Lens, Clockspinning, Locket of Yesterdays, Evil Eye of Urborg, Cockatrice
Dave's Pick: Amrou Scout
Another relatively late Scout that I’m happy to have.
Not very happy to see another one toughness creature here, but it's not like there are alternatives. That Lens is a gift for someone, but not us.
Deathspore Thallid, Flowstone Channeler, Glass Asp, Traitor's Clutch, Plunder, Eternity Snare, Pendelhaven Elder
Dave's Pick: Deathspore Thallid
Not a whole lot here, so I took the Thallid to keep him from ripping up my rebels.
Not a good hatedraft here. Deathspore played on turn two won't be able to do anything relevant until turn five, at which point it's a 1-for-1. Not until turn eight do we risk a 2-for-1 against us. Pass it. If someone's running Thallids we're pretty happy anyway (because we're faster). Flowstone Channeler is a fine card for our deck, so worth taking here.
Deathspore Thallid, Ophidian Eye, Thrill of the Hunt, Plunder, Krosan Grip, Spike Feeder
Dave's Pick: Krosan Grip
Another artifact removal spell, and one which I can put to use outside of Limited-Land.
You're right that there's nothing for you here, but Thrill of the Hunt is a better hatedraft. For decks that want it the card is very powerful. Taking cards for your collection is silly unless they're really valuable. If you want Krosan Grip then just buy four of 'em and focus on winning your drafts!
Very true. It doesn't pack the one-time wallop of Giant Growth or Might of Old Krosa, but it often does just enough to hurt, and does it twice.
Herd Gnarr, Coal Stoker, Viscid Lemures, Blazing Blade Askari, Barbed Shocker
Dave's Pick: Coal Stoker
I could’ve taken the Askari here, but Coal Stoker seems good in my deck.
When I first glanced at the pack I thought the presence of Herd Gnarr was pretty remarkable... Nothing like as remarkable as that Coal Stoker. White, Red and Green can't all be underdrafted, so there are probably several weak players at this table.
Gaze of Justice, Brass Gnat, Fool's Demise, Icatian Crier
Dave's Pick: Icatian Crier
I could do worse at the 12th pick than Icatian Crier.
This is late too, but not quite as extraordinary.
Molder, Venser's Sliver, Children of Korlis
Dave's Pick: Venser's Sliver
None of these is likely to make my deck, but Venser could be boarded in against an opponent with powerful slivers.
Whilst I quite often side one of these in against Slivers, two Amrou Scouts might make the Children a better sideboard card. Your deck likes to race and although Children is an awful card in general it can be correct to side it in against heavy Green decks where searching it up gives you a 4-6 point life gain at the cost of four mana and no cards.
Wormwood Dryad, Clockspinning
Dave's Pick: Wormwood Dryad
Doesn’t make much difference here I don’t think. I kinda like the Dryad for some reason.
One pattern I notice in your comments is that you rely on feelings and intuition a lot. Better to be as rational as possible about why you do things, because then when the environment changes with the release of Future Sight you'll be able to adapt faster.
Definitely something that needs work. I'm learning a lot about focusing on the interactions between my cards, not just where they fit on the mana curve.
Dave's Pick: Wormwood Dryad
Yay! Two of them!
Ooh, is it too late to switch to Green ?
Dead / Gone, Ridged Kusite, Erratic Mutation, Keldon Marauders, Dust Corona, Uktabi Drake, Blightspeaker, Sinew Sliver, Gossamer Phantasm, Seal of Primordium, Phantasmagorian, Shivan Meteor, Shrouded Lore, Retether, Pouncing Wurm
Dave's Pick: Dead / Gone
Shivan Meteor is obviously good, but I like the instant speed (and much lower cost) of Dead / Gone.
It's a fine card, but I'm not sure I agree. Small things are not a huge problem for you. Against big things, probably better to nuke them from orbit than bounce them. Sure, the mana cost is higher, but you don't yet have many late drops.
Giant Dustwasp, Dead / Gone, Dreamscape Artist, Ridged Kusite, Dawn Charm, Vitaspore Thallid, Deadly Grub, Aquamorph Entity, Sunlance, Melancholy, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Pouncing Wurm, Rebuff the Wicked, Serendib Sorcerer
Small things: still not a hugeDave's Pick: Dead / Gone
It’s between Dead // Gone and Sunlance, and I’ll take the one that is far more versatile.
Another hard pick! Dead/Gone or Sunlance? Again I'm not sure I agree with your choice. Certainly Dead/Gone is by far the more versatile card, but I think for your deck the extra point of damage counts for more in the midgame and Sunlance shares the one mana cost so useful for Storm antics. I also want to keep our White spell count up so that we can favour Plains building our manabase.
All good points. I like the instant speed and flexibility of Dead / Gone, but that 3rd point of damage is important in a format with cards like Dustwasp. Suffice it to say that I'm not happy to pass either one of them.
Cradle to Grave, Giant Dustwasp, Firefright Mage, Blightspeaker, Ghost Tactician, Fury Charm, Evolution Charm, Gossamer Phantasm, Skirk Shaman, Sunlance, Auramancer's Guise, Treacherous Urge, Spellshift
I feel like I’ve got a good bit of removal, so I’m happy to take another evasive creature over the Sunlance.
I certainly see why you like the Shaman here, it's lovely for our deck. But no. Sunlance again.
Think so? Seems like we have a fair amount of removal and a nice aggressive creature would be good to have.
Definitely a valid argument. This question comes down to looking at the situations where we'll want each card. If the opponent has the ground locked up we'd rather have the evasion. If not, we'll get as much damage through by blowing away a blocker and attacking with whatever creatures we have than by evading around them. If we can put the opponent in a position where nothing with less than four toughness can keep them safe, that's probably a winning position.
Your pick isn't bad, though. As we'll see in a minute, we're heading for slightly different styles of deck here.
Synchronous Sliver, Dawn Charm, Spitting Sliver, Reality Acid, Deadly Grub, Citanul Woodreaders, Fa'adiyah Seer, Bog Serpent, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Sulfur Elemental, Ana Battlemage, Mycologist
Dave's Pick: Sulfur Elemental
Pretty blah pack. It comes down to hating something like the Woodreaders or taking a Sulfur Elemental which might not help my team a whole lot. I chose the Elemental just to keep someone else from screwing me with him.
Wow! Nice! Shame we already had a problem with low toughness White dudes. Still, I take the Elemental without hesistation here.
Battering Sliver, Reflex Sliver, Whitemane Lion, Saltfield Recluse, Evolution Charm, Pallid Mycoderm, Brain Gorgers, Brute Force, Mana Tithe, Sophic Centaur, Riftmarked Knight
Dave's Pick: Riftmarked Knight
Is Riftmarked Knight good? He seems like it to me, but it also seems like he’s late to the party when you suspend him. The only other things I’d really consider are Whitemane and Brute Force, and I picked the Knight. Not sure if it was the right call though.
Again I'm a little sad here because we'd like a Whitemane Lion and we'd really love Brute Force... but the synergy of the Knights is too strong to ignore with both Flanking and Suspend. Also we've got a lot of removal so we'd like to be keeping our creature count up now. If the reverse were true and we were short on tricks I'd pick the Brute Force.
Reflex Sliver, Dreamscape Artist, Poultice Sliver, Reality Acid, Citanul Woodreaders, Pallid Mycoderm, Bog Serpent, Primal Plasma, Simian Spirit Guide, Venarian Glimmer
Dave's Pick: Pallid Mycoderm
An unexciting pack, but Pallid Mycoderm is playable.
That's a defensive card. We're not interested. Simian Spirit Guide is better for our deck and although we might not maindeck that either it's got some appeal as a way to accelerate our offence when we're drawing first. (Turn one Benalish Cavalry! Surprise!)
Synchronous Sliver, Needlepeak Spider, Dust Corona, Vitaspore Thallid, Dash Hopes, Aquamorph Entity, Shade of Trokair, Primal Plasma, Waning Wurm
Dave's Pick: Shade of Trokair
Nothing wrong with the Shade here. I have enough removal that I probably don’t need to concern myself overly much with flyers.
Yup. Not ideal for our deck since it's too mana hungry, but could make reasonable filler. Note that we mostly like this not so much for its raw beatdown power as for the fact that we can suspend it cheaply.
Incidentally, there's another reason to like the Spider - four power for four mana. With enough removal there's a real prospect of actually hitting with it. (I'll still take the Shade here, though.)
Battering Sliver, Brain Gorgers, Ghost Tactician, Wistful Thinking, Dash Hopes, Skirk Shaman, Essence Warden, Hedge Troll
Dave's Pick: Skirk Shaman
No complaints about another Shaman. I love these guys.
Dust Corona, Uktabi Drake, Gossamer Phantasm, Seal of Primordium, Phantasmagorian, Shrouded Lore, Retether
Dave's Pick: Uktabi Drake
With all the Woodreaders, Dustwasps, Essence Wardens and Drakes I saw, somebody could make a killing in green. Nothing here for me, so I grab the Drake.
You're missing a trick here which is the counterpart to hatedrafting. You want your opponents to run Uktabi Drake, because the Echo cost makes it rubbish against the deck you're building. Take Retether instead as a raredraft, or Phantasmagorian because it has a great name.
A plan fiendishly clever in its intricacies, as Homer Simpson would say. I wouldn't have thought of that, but Uktabi Drake is a pretty horrid play against a deck like mine.
Dawn Charm, Vitaspore Thallid, Deadly Grub, Aquamorph Entity, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Rebuff the Wicked
Dave's Pick: Dawn Charm
I love Dawn Charm in 2HG, but it doesn’t seem quite as useful in a regular draft. Still, it’ll probably be more versatile than Rebuff the Wicked.
Fair enough as a pick, but probably shouldn't make your deck since it's primarily defensive and not much good otherwise. It's probably marginally better than Rebuff as a sideboard card since all three effects are at least potentially relevant even though Rebuff is more surprising (due to being rarer).
One thing neither of us spotted is that there's a good chance of another Dawn Charm in two packs' time, so Rebuff is the correct pick here!
Firefright Mage, Blightspeaker, Ghost Tactician, Auramancer's Guise, Spellshift
Dave's Pick: Spellshift
I’m a sucker for goofy rares, and I don’t think any of this stuff will make my deck anyway. Late Blightspeaker for whoever’s in black.
Could be worth taking the Ghost Tactician here. It's a weak card that you don't want to play and probably don't want to side in either, but it does work well with your deck and might be playable against decks with very low creature counts because it makes your swarms harder to block.
Still, not the world's worst raredraft (though possibly the worst rare!).
Dawn Charm, Spitting Sliver, Deadly Grub, Mycologist
Dave's Pick: Dawn Charm
Probably don’t need another Dawn Charm, but I wouldn’t be playing anything else.
Given that we already have a Dawn Charm, hatedraft Spitting Sliver.
Battering Sliver, Pallid Mycoderm, Mana Tithe
Dave's Pick: Pallid Mycoderm
I probably could’ve taken Mana Tithe from this pack, but I don’t especially like the card.
Mana Tithe here. Your opponents will be struggling to get decent blockers down. They'll run into Tithe every time unless they flood. And if they're flooding you're happy anyway. You can always discard it to a spellshaper. That's one of the great things about spellshapers - they let you feel happier running situational cards.
Definitely true about both Mana Tithe and spellshapers. Makes me miss that Flowstone Channeler I shunned earlier.
Reflex Sliver, Simian Spirit Guide
Dave's Pick: Simian Spirit Guide
Apes are cool, and ape spirits are even cooler.
OK, I admit you don't need two!
Well if I'm not mistaken, this is simply the same one I saw before. It wouldn't have been possible for me to take a Spirit Guide earlier and then again in this slot.
Dave's Pick: Dash Hopes
This was fitting, since my hopes of winning the draft were dashed in round 2. Ok sorry, that was bad.
Don't say that here! That's a spoiler. You've spoilerized everyone!
Before we look at Dave's deck, let's have a look at the deck I would have ended up with...
The first cut of my potential deck contents looks like this:
That's 25, so I want to cut two cards (since this is a two color deck I'm happy to run only 17 land even with no mana acceleration). The main path to victory for this deck seems to be removal plus Seekers/Shaman evasion. The most obvious cut here is Icatian Javelineer. We have plenty of high quality removal so there's no need to squeeze in a low power source of ping like that. This takes me down to sixteen creatures, at which point I have a decision to make: do I take out another creature, weakening my Undying Rage and Fortify options or do I take out quality removal just to keep my creature count up.
My inclination is to lose the Goblin Skycutter. If we really need to remove enemy flyers we have other ways to do it, but at only one toughness the Goblin's not the world's most durable attacker. We have other X/1s, but all of the remaining ones have at least some other use. Also, our creature count isn't quite as low as it seems because Empty the Warrens makes creatures.
So my deck looks like this:
Note the way it's actually gone a little bit aggro-control at the eleventh hour. I have too few two drops to be a proper aggro deck, but my midgame should be pretty decent as I blow away critical chunks of the enemy team.
My main fear with this deck is enemy pings. I have a real shortage of big stuff and early disruption from a control deck could wreck me quite easily.
Now let's take a look at the build Dave went with using his cardpool...
So - main difference here is that Dave's deck has a better early game than mine and a more versatile rebel chain. He also has an extra Skirk Shaman, which gives him an extra threat over my deck. This comes at some cost, though. Something as simple as an enemy 3/3 can cause him considerable difficulty - and there are a lot of such creatures in the format. Dustwasps and Corpulent Corpses are the worst since they're threats as well as blockers and Dave has few ways to stop them at all. Also, his vulnerability to pings is even worse than mine.
On the play, Dave's deck has a fair chance. He casts whatever he can early, blows away the enemy's first couple of creatures and then hopes to evade for the win. On the draw things don't look so promising. Unless he manages to Storm up six goblins it looks quite hard for him to gain enough tempo for a win.
So, armed with his newly constructed deck, Dave set out to win the draft...
Walking through every play of the games is not the aim here. Play by play analysis gets long. Instead, imagine us like a sports commentary team reviewing the play over a cup of coffee after the match. Except without the coffee. I can't stand coffee. Seriously - how can something smell so nice and taste so awful?
Dave's dialogue is, again, in green.
Game 1: Dave wins the die roll and chooses to play.
Initial Hand: Plains, Plains, Plains, Mountain, Errant Doomsayers, Undying Rage, Dead // Gone
Dave's Call: Keep
"This hand is worth thinking about. Let's go through the pros and cons. On the one hand, you have three castable spells, which is good. On the other hand, you have only one threat. Any answer from your opponent could sink you. Even "suited up" it's only a 3/3. But the flipside is that you will deal some early damage, which is essential for your deck. Also, a mulligan to six is unlikely to leave you with much pressure anyway, because your opponent will be two cards up and happy to trade resources to stay in the game. I think you're correct to keep this. You'll lose to things like Piracy Charm or even Dream Stalker, but if you draw one of your six routes to an evasion creature in your next two draws (Seekers, Shaman or Scout) then the odds are in your favour."
"It wasn't what I wanted to see, but like you said it was probably best to keep. I've heard from more than one person that Errant Doomsayers is pretty good, but I'm extremely skeptical now. Also, I see now that even if it were a playable card, it had no place in an aggro deck."
"Well, you do need to be careful not to swing right to the opposite extreme here. Errant Doomsayers is definitely playable, it's just not particularly good. And it can have a role even in an aggro deck as a way to tap down blockers. But since it doesn't beat down very well you'd most likely run it if you were short of spells rather than in a 'creature' slot."
The game from then on was straightforward. Dave topdecked Amrou Seekers on turn three and his opponent kept a slow draw, so the game was a bit of a massacre.
Moving swiftly on...
Game 2: Dave is drawing first.
Initial Hand: Rift Bolt, Fortify, Riftmarked Knight, Mountain, Dead // Gone, Keldon Halberdier, Cloudchaser Kestrel
Mulligan to 6: Coal Stoker, Mountain, Mountain, Skirk Shaman, Keldon Halberdier, Plains
"After the unavoidable mulligan your six cards are about as good as they could be. This is a clear keep."
The opponent was seemingly short of early plays in this game, but put up a decent fight thanks to Telekinetic Sliver, Synchronous Sliver and Sinew Sliver. With the first of these dead Dave's early damage lead proved sufficient for the match win, but it was a closely fought game and several interesting situations came up.
"Let's take a look at your turn three. You've got your suspended Halberdiers on the way. Very, very nice to see your opponent manage no three drop, but when that happens you need to stop and think. He has the mana up for both Mana Tithe and Cancel there. Blue is full or morphs. What's the chance he has no play with three mana and access to all five colors? You should give some consideration here to passing the turn with no play. You can Coal Stoker into Shaman next turn, without which you currently have no way to play the Stoker unless you want to 'Gone' something or lose three life. Better still, you'll have mana open to use Dead on his turn if he drops anything with toughness 2 or less (like a morph). Of course, all this would come at a cost of dealing two fewer damage, but I think that's worth it here."
"There's something I'm recognizing here. To oversimplify things, poor players don't follow the general rules of Magic - 17 lands in a draft deck, the beatdown deck needs to be swinging hard and fast, etc. - because they don't understand them. Average to good players understand the rules. The best players, however, know when to bend the rules."
"This is that sort of scenario. An intermediate player lays out his threat to race his opponent, not giving enough thought to why his opponent had no turn 3 play, and whether it might be best to pass the turn even when playing the aggressive role."
A subtle reference to Urza'sAnother tricky call came up on Dave's turn five. Having hit all his land drops he had both Coal Stokers in hand, but no other plays. Dave considered the play, but eventually elected to hold both in hand. Although he was able to use one the following turn after a Temporal Eddy targetting his Halberdiers he did eventually take mana burn from the second one anyway.
Legacy rare Iron Maiden,
thanks to Time Spiral's
"You should definitely have gone for Stoker into Stoker then burn for three. Yes, there are things you can usefully do with the Stoker mana, but the chances of drawing into them are not high. Yes, it will deal you three damage. However, it will deal your opponent six damage in terms of having the Stokers on the board sooner. You are the aggressor - you don't care anything like as much as he does about your life total."
"Kind of reminds me of Kavu Titan. The 4-6 damage he'll score when played on turn 2 is often more valuable than the damage he might score if you play him with the kicker later. Sure, he could be a 5/5 trampling beater, but he might also be countered, removed, pacified or simply run into a wall of blockers."
The last situation that arose involved a gang block against the Keldon Halberdier by Synchronous Sliver and Sinew Sliver. The Halberdier was always going to die, but Dave decided to assign lethal damage to the Sinew Sliver.
"I disagree with your assignment of damage there. A 3/3 with Vigilance is not good news for you and you should definitely choose to kill that in preference to the Sinew Sliver. Yes, you'd rather his other Slivers gained Vigilance than +1/+1, but we don't even know if he has any more in the deck."
With a reasonably solid 2-0 win behind him, Dave moved on to round two.
Game 1: playing second.
Opening Hand: Lightning Axe, Errant Doomsayers, Mountain, Plains, Errant Doomsayers, Undying Rage, Dead // Gone
"Not a thrilling hand with only two land, but I decide to keep it. Like most average players, I’m currently in the process of overcoming my mulligophobia."
"I completely disagree with your sentiments here, other than the decision to keep. You have no spells costing more than three mana. This is a superb hand. By the time you want more mana you will surely have drawn it and in the meantime it's full of gas! It's only a shame those Doomsayers aren't good cards instead. But that's a deckbuilding problem, not a mulligan problem!"
The opponent this round turned out to be R/B and for the most part the game hinged around Dave's Undying Rage, which put considerable pressure on his opponent. However, a Wildfire Emissary stalled the ground comparatively early with Dave's Errant Doomsayers enchanted with Undying Rage unable to break through.
A critical moment arrived on turn seven when Dave drew Fortify and the Riftmarked Knight suspended earlier hit play. Dave had two other cards in hand, Lighting Axe and Skirk Shaman. He discarded the latter to the former, killing the Emissary, then swung for the win with Fortify. But was it correct?
"The Fortify draw on turn seven is fine good fortune but you take something of a risk here. Discarding Shaman for the Axe is expensive. As things play out, you just win, but your opponent has up and two cards in hand. He could have the capacity to destroy your fat Doomsayers and remain alive on two life. Or five life if his trick is Tendrils of Corruption. And some Uncommons and Rares are even worse for you. You might still win from there, but having committed your entire hand is a bit of a risk, particularly since he's been dropping land every turn for a while so might well have two spells in hand."
"Two other options were available here. First, you could wait a turn. Your Doomsayers can tap down Askari and anything else small and your draw is either something you're happier discarding to Axe or it's another good card - fine either way. Your opponent will get one more draw to save himself, but in return you insure yourself against disasters far more effectively. Is it worth it? Probably not given what we know of his deck. So you made the right call... that turn."
"The other option was actually presented a couple of turns back. Did you need to drop that second Mountain? On the face of it you need RR in play to cast the Shaman. However, after you played the Mountain you didn't actually cast the Shaman, having better things to do. There is another motivation for dropping the Mountain immediately, which is to reach the six mana needed to hardcast the Axe. On the other hand your deck has little other need for six mana, so you could always just cast the Axe by pitching the hypothetical sixth land. I think this is your best play: hold the second mountain in hand, then discard the Mountain to fuel the Axe. If he has nothing, you still win as before. If he has a trick to save himself, you now only need to topdeck a Mountain or either Coal Stoker to be back in the game."
Game 2: playing second again.
Opening Hand: Plains, Plains, Mountain, Mountain, Riftmarked Knight, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Cavalry Master
"Here’s where I get into the murky depths of mulligan theory. This hand has nothing to do turn one or two, and I’d probably like to get a fast start. On the other hand, the mana distribution was good and I had good creatures, so I held onto it."
"This hand is a definite keeper. The prospect of Knight backed by Cavalry Master is very nice and whilst you have no turn two play at least you have options for turn three. You also have two chances to draw into a two drop in time, which isn't that unlikely."
The game started badly with a turn one suspended Keldon Halberdier from Dave's opponent, turn two Aetherflame Wall then turn three Urborg Syphon-Mage with none of Dave's removal anywhere to be seen. The game took an unexpected twist as the opponent turned out to have his own copy of Undying Rage and suited up the Syphon-Mage.
That might have been game over, except that Dave had drawn an Amrou Scout he hadn't had time to play yet, so when the arrival of the suspended Riftmarked Knight was followed by topdecking Empty the Warrens the board looked like this:
Opponent (18 life)
3 Swamp (tapped)
1 Mountain (tapped)
Keldon Halberdier (tapped)
Urborg Syphon-Mage (tapped)
Undying Rage (enchanting Syphon-Mage)
Dave (8 life)
3 Plains (tapped)
3 Mountain (tapped)
Shade of Trokair
Black 2/2 Knight token with haste, flanking and protection from White
Amrou Scout (came into play this turn, cannot attack)
6 Red 1/1 Goblin tokens (came into play this turn, cannot attack)
"Now here’s where I feel I could’ve won the game if I’d played better. I have three flankers to attack with, and he has nothing which will kill them outright. Forgetting that the Urborg Syphon-Mage can’t block, I chose to only attack with the pro-black one. I’m pretty sure that right there I lost the game."
At a crucial moment Anatoly Karpov"You flag this up as a playing error, but in fact you make at least four serious errors in this one turn! First, as you point out, you forget that Urborg Syphon-Mage cannot block. Second, you attack with the wrong knight anyway - the Black one is pro-White. It's the pro-Black knight you kept back! Third, you forget that your knights have double flanking, so in fact they'll trade with the Mage anyway. Lastly - and by far the most seriously - you cast the Scout and Warrens before combat. Good grief, man! What were you thinking?!"
remembers his Black Knight has
protection from White.
"Suppose instead that you attack with the whole team with all six mana up. What's your opponent going to do? He's tapped out. He has no safe blocks. He has every reason to believe he has what he needs to win - or at least that he's better off trying to press his life advantage than blocking. So he'll let you hit him for at least seven! Then, after combat, you play scout and storm out all your goblins. Now he's on eleven life facing eleven attackers. Even if he puts down one more blocker, that's only four blockers in total (because the Syphon Mage can't block). Also, if he casts anything significant the Syphon Mage won't be able to activate."
"On your following turn you'll be attacking for at least six damage and killing most of his team. Wait until after combat to cast the Kestrel to prevent blocking with Syphon Mage."
"So yes, I think it's fair to say you could have won that."
Game 3 playing first.
Opening Hand: Mountain, Plains, Amrou Seekers, Mountain, Mountain, Coal Stoker, Amrou Scout
For once we're in complete agreement about the quality of the hand and the game starts beautifully with Amrou Scout followed by Amrou Seeker then turn four Coal Stoker into Skirk Shaman.
A misclick on turn five cost Dave a bit of damage...
Then on turn six Dave topdecked his other Amrou Seekers. Can you guess what happened next? Sulfurous Blast!
"This game demonstrates a classic lesson: don't overcommit to the board. Your opponent was running quite short of ways to win and casting the second Seekers as soon as you drew it made it possible. This rule is more fundamental in Constructed, but still applies in Limited. In fact the Limited form is simpler. Before casting a creature, ask yourself what your opponent's 'outs' are. That is, which cards could he hold or draw which would give him a chance to win. Ask yourself how many of these 'outs' are beaten by your casting the extra creature and how many remain effective. Similarly, how many are defeated by your holding the extra creature in hand? In the case of mass removal, you usually want the creature in your hand."
Dave's opponent then hardcast a Reckless Wurm, which Dave "matched" with an Errant Doomsayers. Unfortunately the Wurm was then enchanted with Undying Rage and was soon able to swing for the win.
"I might’ve been ok if that Reckless Wurm hadn’t come down. I’m also not sure what I was hoping to accomplish with that Errant Doomsayers, when I could’ve saved mana to Gone his Wurm. Would’ve been particularly nasty in response to the Undying Rage."
"Combined with the damage missed on turn five you probably could have won this even after getting the second Seekers Blasted unnecessarily."
So Dave was out of the draft.
It's easy to be dismissive about the results of Magic drafts, complaining about having your colors cut off or about the bomb your opponent drew or the state of your mana. The first step to becoming a better player is to realise that whilst all these effects are real, a great many of our losses come from our own errors. And players continue to make errors as they get better, just fewer of them. It's all very well Dave saying nice things about my draft standard, but he wasn't watching yesterday when I temporarily forgot about Skittering Monstrosity's drawback and killed it by casting a Pallid Mycoderm (of all things). This was a serious error indeed... but the odd thing was it won me the draft. My opponent, convinced I'd made a match-losing error, committed to an alpha strike. As a result, I was able to hit for two with my Mycoderm and burn him out with an eight point Disintegrate.
The moral of the story's pretty clear. Spend a few seconds thinking before you make each play. Sure, game timers are fairly short online, but it's three minute-long trances that run your timer out. There's no excuse for not thinking at all.
Our deal resolved, I attached Dave to an email and sent him to himself. It was only after I pressed 'Send' that I noticed I'd made a slight typo in the address. Ah well, one small error's not going to make much difference. Right?
By Dom Camus on April 18th, 2007 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now
About Dom Camus
Dom Camus is a player of games, a pooter wizard, a graphic artist, a mighty pirate, a moose herder and a liar. When he's not playing other games, he plays Magic the Gathering.