This was the first of many BOO, or Build Our Own, drafts. Each player submits 45 homemade never-before-seen cards into the total draft pool, then everybody drafts from them. The best players in Seattle always got to play them, and I always dreamed of participating. After all, I had always loved making cards in the forums and competitions offered by MTGSalvation. But what were the chances of them letting me into to that coveted eight-man circle? I would have to get a lot better before I even had a chance...
Spiral forward to June 2008. I finally received the offer to play in the sixth BOO draft. It was time to ready my engines and put my best cards out for display. It was time to battle. It was time... to BOO!
It was the day after States; the weather an above average day in Seattle for November. That is to say, overcast and cloudy without rain. Eight individuals descended upon Jonathon Loucks' and Brian Wong's apartment to compete in this grandiose competition.
Let's introduce our participants:
Brian "Draft Master" Wong
Charles "Aceman, the State Champion" DuPont
Chris "Secret Weapon" Kelly
Daniel "Treefolk-Hugger" Hanson
Jonathon "Xeko Game Intern & Makeshift Mannequin Man" Loucks
Zaiem "TCGprentice" Beg
And me, Gavin "Lesurgo" Verhey
Wait, that's only seven. Where's our eighth? He was the one with the printouts of cards. Oh well. We engaged in various Magical activities, waiting for him to arrive. After Dan promptly beat Zaiem in a match with Shadowmoor sealed decks they've been playing for four months (it's a long story) a knock on the door heralded his arrival... Ricky "BOO Boss" Boyes was here!
He quickly handed each person their set and we pulled out the scissors. And we began to cut...
After that tedious process finished, we sleeved up the cards, shuffled them, and put them into packs.
Phew! It takes a lot of work to set one of these up! But finally, it was time to get our BOO on. We took our randomly-determined places at the table and the draft began to unfold...
Now, something to remember about a BOO draft is no two of the same card exists in the draft. Additionally, there's no spoiler ahead of time. The only cards you know are your cards and the cards of the person you reviewed, so three quarters of the cards available are complete mysteries. As you can imagine, this leads to some pretty hard decisions...
The draft took about two hours to complete, but it was well worth it. Time for deckbuilding!
I started in red with two removal spells in a row, but eventually I settled into a very controlling W/B/u/r deck due to some bombs that came extraordinarily late including three (!) Wrath effects and two planeswalkers. The red splash (which was "free" since it came off of Land of Plenty and Battlefield) is to support the odd, yet cool, player-only usually-a-fireball of Creative Urge.
1 Land of Plenty
1 La Brea Tar Pits
1 Raven of Light*
1 Questing Bird
1 Spellsworn Peacekeeper
1 Crack Strike Force
1 Deathbound Demon
1 Manifester of Beliefs
1 Salvetrip Merfolk
1 Zombie Explorer
1 Batman's Charm
1 Chromatic Compounder
1 Creative Urge
1 Decompose Mana
1 Experimentation Cage
1 Karmic Discharge
1 Picard's Charm
1 Robala Chastel
1 Xenox Vorsel
1 Fade Into Tomorrow
1 Vampire's Charm
*Brian didn't put reminder text for bandwagon on the card, but the ability is pretty simple. Any time on your turn when you could play a sorcery you can pay the bandwagon cost and remove it from the game bandwagoning target creature you control. The bandwagoned creature gets the printed bonuses as long as the card remains bandwagoned. Then, any time on your turn when you could play a sorcery, you can pay the Bandwagon cost again and return the removed card to play. If the creature being bandwagoned leaves play, the removed card remains removed from the game permanently.
**This split card in the BOO draft had to be printed separately, and is not in the MWS file. Djinn//Tonic is the following:
Creature - Djinn
At the beginning of your upkeep, Djinn deals one damage to you.
You gain 5 life.
Forecast - , Reveal Tonic from your hand: You gain 1 life.
I sit across from my first opponent, Dan Hanson, ready to battle. On game one he has a turn one G and leads up to a turn four copy of The Whole Cast of Firefly into a turn five Marauding Elephant. I block once and end up at a low life total, and the next turn he sacrifices his G to let his Elephant get through my Peacekeeper (which was fending off the Elephant by resolving first strike damage and then removing the damage before normal damage) for major damage, but I have other plans. I cast Devitalize with entwine and kicker to take his board away, then echo my remaining guys. He gets out from under the Devitalize and drops Dwyane Wade, but his plan ends up backfiring as I Experimentation Cage Dwyane Wade to give all of my creatures extraordinary basketball talent - and 5/5 bodies to boot! I swing in for lethal.
Game two is more of the same, except Dan leads with a mulligan into a mediocre hand. I don't have the Devitalize this time, but once again I end up putting Dwyane Wade into an Experimentation Cage for the victory. Who needs good creatures when you have your opponent's basketball superstars?
It was about this time Jon called me over to his match against Zaiem. I turned around and a smile crept over my face:
I was excited to see Lesurgo in play. That excitement didn't remain for long. A couple minutes later I heard what I didn't want to hear: Lesurgo (the card) had dispatched his opponent and I was going to have to play against Jon next. Uh-oh!
Game one, he suspends a turn three Propaganda Campaign and follows it up with a turn four Blossoms of Paradise. Fortunately my deck doesn't have many creatures to be swayed by Jon's ridiculous Propaganda, preferring to do battle with the planeswalkers. I play a Robala Chastel and start building up counters. The problem, however makes itself quite apparent a couple turns later as Jon hits his fifth color and the extraordinarily busted Mythic Rare makes an appearance. "Flying. Lifelink. Fear. Rampage. Bushido. Flanking. Persist. Frenzy. Double strike. Trample. Haste. Attack Robala for 14. I gain 14. Go." Ouch. Should've named Mythic Rare with Robala. I quickly lose, and we both agree Mythic Rare was a gigantic printing mistake and errata it to "once per turn, on your turn." The card is pretty much unbeatable. (Additionally, we both realized as printed you could name lifelink and bushido limitless times... Oh dear!)
Game two, Jon mulligans twice into a one-lander with Ricky Boyes' Secret Weapon and has trouble hitting his land drops. Eventually he gets Mythic Rare out, but it's pretty weak with its new restriction and I still manage to win.
Going into game three, we fix Mythic Rare to once on each player's turn. We think that will keep it still pretty powerful without being totally busted, and lead to interesting game play decisions.
He leads with a Fertilization, letting the first creature I kill quickly ramp up his mana. I start to deal damage with my meager army of a Raven of Light, a Questing Bird, and a Djinn, but he also begins to build up a force to battle back with. The hinging point of the game comes on a turn when I Fade into Tomorrow my board position of six lands so I can survive and untap into a Wrath effect, when he casts a Chipmunk Family. Suddenly all of my lands come back and he gets seven tokens. I still fire off my Karmic Discharge, but he thins every land out of his deck thanks to Fertilization. Even after casting three Wrath effects, he eventually beats me going long because his deck is left with nothing but gas. But at least the good news is we think we finally fixed Mythic Rare! It's now good, but not totally busted. And I didn't have to stare down Lesurgo, Realmbreaker. Phew!
Round three, my opposition is Brian Wong with an aggressive G/B/w deck. Game one, things get a little crazy. A cast a turn three Zombie Explorer, and turn four I draw the other half of my combo I had spotted in deckbuilding.
"Give me a second... Okay, I'll take 12." Brian's eyebrow rose. A Questing Bird and a Raven of Light soon joined my squad, then I cast Fade into Tomorrow to flicker out all of my permanents... circumventing the Zombie's drawback entirely! I untapped on turn five with ten lands in play. I was ready to attack and then Creative Urge him out. But, you see, there was a problem. To top off a weird enough game, Brian had cast a Domesticated Squid the turn I was Fading into Tomorrow. I'd like you to take a moment to read Domesticated Squid.
No, seriously, read it.
A card whose abilities were designed to do nothing was actually doing something - acting as a mana sink to stop me from winning the game! Although very curious as to what would happen if I gave him the mana and he activated the ability, I resisted the temptation. Fortunately I drew a removal spell for his Squid next turn and won, but the sheer absurdity of that game made it the most memorable moment of the night for me.
Game two was close, but Brian managed to Big Answers my Robala (Ricky was happy to know that using the "damage to planeswalker" mode actually occurred!), while playing a lot of very buff green men, including the powerful spawn creatures like Saprodeal. He eventually broke the game open when he drew his Morale Commander and sent in his 2/2 token horde.
Game three was, unfortunately, anticlimatic. Brian missed some land drops and his love of nonbasic lands got the best of him as he had trouble getting the color of mana he needed due to the cache lands Ricky made. I cast Xenox Vorsel and locked down his next two spells, putting him too far behind to recover.
Well, that was all three rounds... Sooooo, what now?
Silly me! Time for a second draft, of course. I didn't get to finish that draft, though, so instead let's talk about the sets each person made.
Click on the name of a person or their featured card to view a PDF of all the cards of their set.
DISCLAIMER: While none of the cards are particularly not worksafe, there is some non-typical Magic artwork used as well as some fantasy artwork that doesn't adhere to WotC's typical artwork rules. I would recommend not opening any of the set PDFs at work or school, just in case.
Sparring Spurs - Changed to "nontoken"
Sir Francis - Second ability now reads " : Sir Francis gets..."
Brian's set has a lot of cards that are deceptively powerful. He made a claim as we started that his set was underpowered, but I had heard stories of his antics from the past. According to an anonymous but reliable source, he is very good at making cards nobody wanted in the first draft, but by the second draft people had a chance to play with them and see how strong they were, and so they were snapped up early.
His spawn mechanic was pretty strong, and bandwagon is very cool despite its lack of cards. His cycle of one-drop creatures looked poor on the surface, but played a lot better than they seem. There are also a couple of very good standouts in Wagg Wiggem and Flything, among others.
Bother - Changed to "2 or less"
Brian Wong's Secret Weapon - Changed to "return a land you control to its owner's hand."
Chris was generous enough to step in at the last moment because of a cancellation. As a result, a lot of the cards in his set were thrown together. Additionally, he solicited ideas from other people to help him out. I sent him one of the most exciting cycle of cards in the entire BOO draft: the Secret Weapon cycle. Each one did something, then an additional something if your name was one of the eight people in the draft. These were a hit that influenced drafting (I want this card... but I can't pass him his secret weapon!) and caused laughs all around. It's the little twists like this that you can only do in a BOO draft that help make them so unique.
Seeker of Pain - Power/toughness is 2/1
Dan likes options. I mean he really likes options. His set reflects his option-loving ways perfectly by containing lands that can be spells (all of them extraordinary), charms, morphs, a Hedge-Mage-esque cycle of hybrid cards, a cycle of cheap creatures with expensive activation costs, a manland, and more. Because his cards were so versatile, they were drafted highly and you couldn't count on any of them to table.
Chipmunk Family - "1/1 white chipmunk creature token"
Zombie Explorer - "Play this ability only once each turn."
Charles was generous enough to fill in when Eric Reasoner discovered he had accidentally double booked the day with BOO draft and personal obligations. Unlike the person who Chris filled in for, Eric already had his set made so we just used that. Eric had an overarching land theme with the chipmunk cycle and cards like Fertilization. He also had a cycle of cards that started with "Make" (Make a Dude, Make it Burn, Make it Huge, Make it Hurt, and Make Brains) which let you either get an effect or a smaller version of that effect and the mana you paid for that spell back, Deconstruct style.
Experimentation Cage - Changed to
Robala Chastel - Starts with 3 loyalty
Sealed Wickedness - "Target of a spell or ability you control"
As Dan so eloquently pointed out during the draft, "Gavin, reading each of your cards is like reading a novel." I think it's probably because he had just seen Xenox Vorsel (which is so long because, sadly, there isn't a way to put the symbol in a planeswalker's ability boxes yet), but it's true. A lot of my cards do things that are hard to evaluate because they haven't been done before. (And have flavor to boot.) It caused interesting discussion and evaluation, but as a result, a few of them turned out a bit too good in practice.
Weird Weird - Doesn't effect lands
Mythic Rare - "Play this ability only once each turn."
Jack Bauer - Removed the last line of text because it was too powerful.
If anyone's cards felt most like a complete 45 card "set," it was Jon's. He had three mechanics and themes in Weirds, Stasify, and provocative, all of which played naturally and interacted well (making Weirds the home creature type of Stasify was a really nice and natural touch that fleshes them out as a race), as well as several cycles to tie them all together. His set played great and was extremely interesting to play with and against.
Ricky's set has a lot of efficient cards (albeit with weird names) that fill a very important hole in BOO draft. Sometimes creating normal, efficient spells and creatures are an afterthought to showing off crazy and new ideas, but fortunately Ricky had enough cards to ensure there were some fairly simple creatures. He also had the consensus best land cycle out of all of us in the "cyclelands" that tapped for one color and landcycled for their allied colors. On the other hand, his cache lands looked very attractive on the surface, but often turned out too impractical when they were played.
Reverse - Ability removed (While fun in theory, proved too problematic in practice)
Zaiem had a lot of nicely designed, elegant cards and a good combination of abilities. By far the largest point of contention was with his ten card cycle of lands that come into play tapped and add one color to your mana pool, then tap for a different color. In the first draft, people were taking them highly for fixing. In practice though, they turned out to seldom do what you wanted. Sometimes you wanted to cast a spell on your opponent's turn, or sometimes you just didn't want to take that point of mana burn. We all had a long conversation after the draft and determined they needed to be better, but we kept coming back to just making them River of Tears reduxes. It's definitely an interesting card creation riddle!
That's the fun part about something like this. You get to evaluate cards you've never seen and nobody has talked about previously. It's a lot of fun playing with each other's cards and seeing the various abilities interact. BOO drafting is some of the most fun I've ever had, and I encourage you to try it.