Every once in a while I get an idea for an article that I assume is going to get me yelled at. Not by my editor, who doesn’t even yell at me when I make fun of him. I mean by my readers. I think I’ve curbed my arrogance a great deal and I’ve tried to be more friendly, but still, there are always those articles drifting in the back of my head.
This is one of those articles. This article is on drafting MD5. MmmDeeFive. Say it outloud with me. Mmm Dee Fiiive! Now, here’s the conundrum if you will: As of this writing, we don’t know all of what’s in Fifth Dawn, but I’m not going to let that stop me.
So you must be thinking”Well you’re really jumping the gun there Mister Telfer!”
Not so. I’m going to propose a bit of theorycraft here. The more important part of this idea is proving the theory is possible. We’re going to center on the idea of drafting five colors in MD5.
(Note : When I use the term”2CC” or what have you, I am referring to unique symbols – ie, two mana and then two”colors” of mana)
Why would I want to draft five colors?
This is an interesting problem, isn’t it? Drafting the full five means your mana base has to accept, at the very least, being somewhat erratic. Usually, the idea of drafting for five colors is just too inconsistent. Even with mechanics like Morph, you run the risk of not getting enough out of your cards in return for your investment.
However, Fifth Dawn is very much the new five-color set. First and foremost, there’s the Bringers. Each Bringer looks something like this :
Bringer of the Green Dawn – 7GG
Creature – Bringer
You may pay WUBRG rather than pay Bringer of the Green Dawn’s mana cost.
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 3/3 green Beast creature token into play.
Now, let’s be kind of honest here. Why would this card appeal to a five color player? It’s fairly simple, really. It’s not that good a card in a normal deck. Paying nine mana for a 5/5 is very hard to justify. I mean there’s late game bombs like Pentavus or Bosh, Iron Golem, sure. But nine mana is a massive stretch.
Meaning it’s going to get passed. Be honest with yourself – you’d pass this for a better card, wouldn’t you? If you can’t use its alternate cost, this card is pretty much a real stinker. But if you can use its alternate cost, suddenly you’re getting a pretty good deal. Especially if you took it fifth pick. This is the worst of the Bringers by far, so it’s pretty unlikely it’s going to get snapped up high, even in a rare draft.
Let’s look at an uncommon Sunburst card;
Etched Oracle – 4
Sunburst (This comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana used to pay its cost.)
1 , Remove four +1/+1 counters from Etched Oracle: Target player draws three cards.
Illus. Matt Cavotta
This one doesn’t even require all five colors of mana, which is kind of nice. While it is an uncommon, this card is like Bringer of the Green Dawn in that it is 24th card trash to someone who isn’t drafting five colors. Should you pay 1CCC for it, it’s still only a 3/3 creature for four. Hill Giants are nice, but when they’re hard to cast Hill Giants, they’re just not as good. This drops it down in pick orders.
Yet, if you’re running enough colors to support it, you get a fancy 4/4 for four – which is excellent, plus you get an amazing ability. Combined with Arcbounds or even the much maligned Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor, it gets stronger and stronger.
Finally, we come to a sample common.
Skyreach Manta – 5
Sunburst (This comes into play with a +1/+1 counter for each color of mana used to play its mana cost.)
Illus. Christopher Moeller
That’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, other players are either not going to take it, as 3CC results in a 2/2 flier for five, they’re pricing it as a 3/3 flier for 2CCC. That’s a decent pick, but it isn’t a bomb. For a five color drafter, you’re looking at a common bomb that other players are likely to pass to you! If that doesn’t appeal to you, I don’t know what will!
The primary appeal of drafting five colors is the presence of several commons, uncommons, and rares that won’t be too valuable to other players (since their deck can’t support them), yet will be extremely valuable to you. This is the appeal of going from three colors – which is feasible and easily done – to five colors, which is somewhat difficult.
Getting high pick, bombish cards past your third pick sounds good, no?
So you’re implying I should force Five colors?
This is a misconception that often comes up when discussing this possible draft archetype. To be quite frank, you should not force a five color deck. As the appeal of the deck is access to higher value cards at lower picks, it goes down dramatically should your fellow draft mates be in the same color”combination” as you, particularly if least the guy sitting beside you gets the same idea.
In addition, while the support cards for this archetype are fairly numerous, you still need a strong foundation to move into five colors. Unless you have those support cards, this archetype will simply become a mishmash of random cards that don’t really work together. That, my friend, isn’t all too worthwhile.
This can lead into the very confusing idea of when you should draft five color bliss in MD5. What exactly signals that it’s safe to go into five colors? Well, first and foremost, let’s think about colors in Mirrodin. Red is still going to be one of the best colors in pack one.
Now, imagine you’re drafting Red. You get an early Electrostatic Bolt and a Shatter. Those are pretty normal cards. After that, you’re passed some Green… stuff like Tel-Jilad Archers or Tel-Jilad Exile. You notice that about the fifth pick, you’re looking at a pack with some very good Blue and some very weak Red. Say something like a Neurok Spy going around late. You go into Blue / Green, a not-so-hot color combination, leaving Red as your splash color.
Now, mind you, normally this isn’t the greatest of ideas. Let’s say you pick up maybe one or two Myr and a Chromatic Sphere though, as well as a Journey of Discovery. Strangely you’re already looking at many of the tools of a five color deck already.
- Cards to fix your mana
- Baseline cards in your colors to use while you get Sunburst online
- Splashable removal
This is the sort of situation where you’d start building a five color deck. Basically, you likely want to be in Green and/or Blue, and probably you’ll have been cut off from your other color along the way. It’s hard to evaluate the exact point where you’d be certain, but I’m supposing if you pulled in two Journey of Discovery and two Chromatic Spheres late in pack one, you’d probably be pretty safe going into it.
Oh, and remember to take those Myr, especially if you’re not in Green. There aren’t a lot of replacements for them coming in the next two packs.
So you’re thinking of a specific color archetype and drafting it?
So to speak, yes. Just because you’re drafting for Sunburst does not mean you are drafting for five colors. There’s a pretty distinct difference. In my mind, you are probably going to want to draft two primary colors – Blue and Green. You are then going to want to take a removal color, as well.
Why Blue and Green? Well, we have a couple major fixers in those two colors. Journey of Discovery and Sylvan Scrying are rather obvious. The Blue one is, strangely enough, Vedalken Engineer. Do you remember how you thought it was rather strange the card read”of any one color?” Well, there you go. On top of that, you have the mighty Darksteel Ingot, which produces mana of any color. It’s already been discussed on magicthegathering.com how it was made common to support Sunburst. And support it, it shall!
Now, on top of that, we have two key commons from Fifth Dawn. The first is a mana fixer :
Sylvok Explorer – 1G
Creature – Human Druid
Tap: Add to your mana pool one mana of any color that a land an opponent controls could produce.
In most situations, your opponent is not going to be playing both Blue and Green, which means this will act very much like a off-color Myr while granting you additional colors for your Sunburst cards. Overall this is a good card even if you’re not drafting Sunburst, as mana acceleration has proven time and time again to be highly valuable. On top of this, rests this stellar Blue common :
Thought Courier – 1U
Creature – Human Wizard
T: Draw a card, then discard a card from your hand.
They sit in the same slot but Thought Courier is completely different. Why does this card have extra appeal to a Sunburst deck? You’re going to be giving up your three-slot from time to time to bring out a Darksteel Ingot, so it’s good to play something on turn 2. Two-drops are good. Beyond that, Sunburst decks are built around turns four through seven, with some really powerful five-mana spells. You will want to dig through to them, and before that, dig through to finish your five colors of mana to power them out.
If you build your deck around the principles of mana fixing and drawing out of your mana issues, you will most likely have no difficulty powering up the five color spells in the mid game.
This is all theory of course, so don’t throw rocks at me if it turns out to be wrong.
What are the role of artifacts in such an archetype?
This is where things go from being”sketchy, very sketchy” to quite consistent. Seeing as we’re in the artifact block, it’s natural to assume that artifacts would offer an increased resilience to such an archetype. Artifacts don’t really care which colors you’re using for mana. Actually, they don’t care at all. Artifacts like Cobalt Golem, Cathodion, and other midrange creatures move up in a deck like this.
For the most part, you would plan for your deck to move from playing mana acceleration / fixers, to dropping your midrange men to gum up the board, to powering out your high-end Sunburst bombs which subsequently beat your opponent’s face in.
You’re always going to be able to cast artifacts, and they are going to save your butt in the early game. Things like Steel Wall become a lot more valuable when you’re acting like a control deck. Once you get the five colors, you’re golden, but you’re going to need to buy some time.
Of course, there are also midrange Sunburst cards to be exploited.
Artifact Creature — Myr
The problem with something like this is that you aren’t going to nail the three colors on turn three with total consistency. Of course, a 3/3 for three isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s probably better to just go with a Yotian Soldier. I’m not saying Suntouched Myr won’t make your deck, only that it shouldn’t be drafted to fill that slot.
Something like this should :
Battered Golem – 3
Artifact creature – Golem
Battered Golem does not uptap during your untap step. When an artifact comes into play, you may untap Battered Golem.
As long as you’re able to play something during the midgame as you sort out your mana issues, you should be able to survive to the late game where your super spells come online and smash face.
Okay, so we’ve got Blue and Green with artifacts. You were talking about Red earlier though?
One of the key points is that Blue/Green is simply not a”power” color combination in Mirrodin draft, and while there are several good cards in Fifth Dawn for the colors, it is unlikely to absolutely change. Though you could and should rely on artifacts for your midrange creature base, you are still going to want a removal color.
After all, you are drafting to play five colors. If you’re drafting to splash three colors to power out four to five color spells, why not simply play a third color in a stronger role to get the most out of your draft picks? Let’s take the earlier example where you start in red and get cut off : You have access to those colors of mana, and the spells may very well have already started in your pile.
Spells like Barbed Lightning, Electrostatic Bolt, Grab the Reins, Spikeshot Goblin – all those first picks you take early then get cut off from – will work out fine in such a deck, though you won’t necessarily get them online at the exact moment you would like.
This will help increase the power of your deck, especially if you open or get passed stuff like Bosh, Memnarch, or what have you, will splash quite nicely into the pile should you get them when they’re worth picking.
Obviously, the key point here is to look to your three other colors for access to removal that Blue and Green don’t traditionally have. I am implying you should select one of them and deepen your access to it, don’t just take every good colored card and form a mishmash of spells. For example, if you started in Red, why wouldn’t you take those Echoing Ruins and Barbed Lightnings in pack 2? They’re not hate drafts if they’re going to end up as valuable cards in your deck.
This leads to our other problem, though.
The spreading of mana symbols and lands in general within your deck creates two serious problems. First, your land golems aren’t going to be too effective. Spire Golem has always been accredited as fairly decent for four or five mana – well, that’s where they’re going to lie. Tangle Golem is going to be about the same, as you will probably end up running more Forests than Islands.
In addition, many of your double symbol cards are going to be that much weaker. Hoverguard Observer or Fangren Hunter are good examples, while they will remain playable, they aren’t going to be as good as they would be otherwise. And you can just about forget it when it comes to running Fangren Firstborn.
Basically, you’re giving up the full strength of you two primary colors to have access to the best splashables of a third color and then Sunburst cards that need four and five to be fully effective. In some cases this is going to hurt a great deal – like when you’re offered that Fangren Firstborn. At other times, it’s going to feel fine, as you open a Fireball that you would have splashed anyway.
Or when you get three Skyreach Mantas. Powering out five-power fliers for five more than once a game is going to feel downright unfair, given the black in their expansion symbol.
So how do you feel about the Sunburst cards altogether?
Since it’s probably worth discussing this, here’s how I’d likely rate the various Sunburst cards – in case you find yourself somehow managing to put together the mana fixers to run the burst at the prerelease, or so on, before more definite pick orders can be discovered.
Arcbound Wanderer – 6
Modular – Sunburst
Modular’s a great ability. A 5/5 for six is reasonably good, but if you consider the fact you’re going to be playing with one a bit late, it’s not the best of the Sunburst crop. I wouldn’t mind getting one of these later on, but I wouldn’t high pick this one.
Baton of Courage – 3
You may play Baton of Courage at any time you could play an instant.
Remove a charge counter from Baton of Courage: Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Basically you get a divisible Giant Growth for three different colors of mana. If we follow the idea that Sunburst cards are best when considered as mid to late game bombs, this card is rather pointless. Three mana for a dividable, restricted giant growth just isn’t that good. This probably better in a normal three color deck.
Clearwater Goblet – 5
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may gain life equal to the number of charge counters on Clearwater Goblet.
If you Sunburst this out on turn 4 and your opponent doesn’t deal with it, in four turns you have double the life total you normally would. That’s a ridiculous hurdle for your opponent to get over. Lifegain sort of sucks no matter how you slice it, so I won’t call this a”bomb” on the scale that Pulse of the Fields is on, but assuming it’s allowed to sit for a couple turns you will be a lot harder to kill than otherwise.
Engineered Explosives – X
2, Sacrifice Engineered Explosives: Destroy each nonland permanent with converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on Engineered Explosives.
The”neo-Deed” is obviously not quite as hot as a real Deed, but keep in mind Leonin Squire, Auriok Salvagers or other cards that make use of the”Artifact with less than 1 converted mana cost” mechanic. There’s also Trinket Mage too, of course.
Etched Oracle – 4
Sunburst (This comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana used to pay its cost.)
1, Remove four +1/+1 counters from Etched Oracle: Target player draws three cards.
Assuming you can power this thing out with four counters, it’s ridiculous. Concentrate is good; a Concentrate that trades with another card and beats for four is just plain ridiculous.
Heliophial – 5
2 , Sacrifice Heliophial: Heliophial deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of charge counters on Heliophial.
A bit over priced, it’s unlikely anyone is going to take these things high. While being able to deal five points to the face is quite nice, at seven mana it’s a bit pricey even for a Lava Axe. The fact it acts as removal doesn’t change the fact it’s still seven mana, even over two turns as it is.
Infused Arrows – 4
Tap, Remove X charge counters from Infused Arrows: Target creature gets –X/-X until end of turn.
Serrated Arrows part two. At three, this card is about fine, at four it’s quite good. Generally you’re not going to get more than two creatures dead with this thing, but on the plus side it becomes very hard for your opponent to effectively block or attack when you can trim his larger men down with the arrows. Very good card, something I’d pick high if I was out to burst the sun.
Lunar Avenger – 7
Artifact Creature – Golem
Remove a +1/+1 counter from Lunar Avenger: Lunar Avenger gains your choice
of flying, first strike, or haste until end of turn.
This is one of the really big Sunburst cards. It’s unfortunate it can not gain Banding as it’s ancestor, Urza’s Avenger, could. Then again, it can’t gain trample either. Blah. As a 7/7 for seven that can gain flying and beat down, it’s not bad, but it’s straight up inferior to a Skyreach Manta or just about anything else. Especially good with modular men, of course.
Opaline Bracers – 4
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +X/+X, where X is the number of charge counters on Opaline Bracers.
This is a weird card, but probably one of the better ones. Though the initial equip cost is pretty pricey, it’s slightly stronger than Vulshok Battlegear with the added bonus of being cheaper to move around once you get it going. That’s pretty solid, especially since you expect to pick up a lot of mana myr and random dorks along the way.
Pentad Prism – 2
Remove a charge counter from Pentad Prism: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
This thing is kinda pointless in Limited. Though powering up a turn 3 Skyreach Manta or whatever else becomes possible, it seems like a bit of a waste to run a Dark Ritual that either doesn’t add any additional mana or takes a turn to”come online.” I suppose if you’re low on mana fixers, you can use this, but otherwise I’d avoid it. [It was considerably better than this at the Prerelease, but Iain wrote this article before then. – Knut]
Sawtooth Thresher – 6
Remove two +1/+1 counters from Sawtooth Thresher: Sawtooth Thresher gets +4/+4 until end of turn.
This is not so bad, as it’s a six power man for six that can flip into being a ten power beat stick for a turn if need be. The fact it’s very hard for your opponent to block due to it’s size and very hard to take on the chin more than once as it can knock them down ten points if need be. Two hits from this and a Heliophial are game!
That doesn’t make me really want to play Heliophial.
Solarion – 7
Tap: Double the number of +1/+1 counters on Solarion.
In two turns of activity this creature becomes a 20/20. No fuss, no muss. It just becomes gigantic, and can still hang around to block. If you have Lightning Greaves or something to untap it, there isn’t a lot of things your opponent can do to keep it from killing them.
Oh besides regenerators.
If you have the tools to give it trample – like, dare I say… Loxodon Warhammer – this card is pretty solid in your deck. Lacking such tools, it’s just an increasingly gigantic vanilla creature, which while a sort of bizarre win condition, isn’t all too amazing for seven mana.
It really hates Raise the Alarm.
Spinal Parasite – 5
Remove two +1/+1 counters from Spinal Parasite : Remove a counter from target permanent.
This card is kind of silly now matter how you look at it, and while it isn’t absolutely terrible, 4/4 for five are nothing to get too excited over given the other Sunburst cards available. I don’t think it would make your deck unless things went really wrong, but on the other hand, it might be a decent sideboard card.
Suncrusher – 9
4, Tap, Remove a +1/+1 counter from Suncrusher: Destroy target creature.
2 , Remove a +1/+1 counter from Suncrusher: Return Suncrusher to its owner’s hand.
I’m wondering why this thing even bothers to have the return to hand ability. This isn’t exactly a Palinchron, you know? At nine mana for a 8/8 creature, you are probably going to attack with it instead of using it’s uber-goofy abilities. Should have been a heck of a lot cheaper.
Nine mana is just too much.
Suntouched Myr – 3
Artifact Creature – Myr
Like I said above, this guy is pretty midrange. Not too good or too bad, but nothing special. Don’t take these high, 3/3s for three are good, yes, but not when it’s very hard to use them as a simple three-mana dude.
Personally, I look forward to drafting the Sunburst.dec, but as I’ve said, it isn’t something I’m going to be forcing. I myself think it’s an available archetype, given the cardbase. Time will tell if people end up agreeing with me – Or not.