Casual Happy Fun Drafts

Magic’s teenage bad boy checks with some Betrayers strategies he learned after scrubbing out of Pro Tour: Nagoya, details of a no-holds-barred Team Rochester battle between the champions of two continents, and some stories of happy, fun drafts among the pros.

*Warning* Please do not taunt happy, fun draft.

Why is it so hard to write the beginning of an article? I always find it difficult to catch people’s attention and not sound like a moron at the same time. I could emulate the introduction of the latest article I read part of. It would involve me stating my name, my accomplishments, and then trying to emphasize how hard it was to achieve them. I mean, hey, that caught my attention. It did get me to keep reading, even though I decided to join a second draft instead a few paragraphs into it. Regardless, I am going against that concept and I don’t plan on using that little gem of literature in future articles either. This time I’m just getting away with this little rant, but next time I think I’ll be up for a challenge.

PT: Nagoya

The other day I decided I’d share some of my thoughts on Betrayers in Limited, since I feel like I’ve played with it more than most. This is largely thanks to my early exit in PT: Nagoya, allowing me to play in many casual fun drafts for absolutely no money at all against some of the biggest masters and donks on the Pro Tour. Scrubbing out of the PT is worth its own short story, though, so if you want to read something of any type of value, you’ll have to scroll down through my relatively short bad beat stories from the main event.

The first draft, I was inserted into a table with Mitch Tamblyn, a European and six Japanese that I had never heard of. I wasn’t too pleased a few packs into the draft when the players on either side of me had settled nicely into four colors. The guy on my right was Blue/White/Green spirits splashing Glacial Ray and Yamabushi’s Flame. The guy on my left was Red/Blue/Green splashing White Honden. My White/Black deck was no peach, and I could basically only beat the two four-color players on either side of me.

I lost to Tamblyn, who had the best deck at the table, in the first round. I was surprised this wasn’t a feature match, and equally surprised when my next match against someone I’ve never heard of was. Apparently, this guy also had a worse deck than me, sporting maindeck Sokenzan Bruiser that did not get taken out against me. I won that match, then lost game one of round three where I just needed a second Black to Befoul for the win. In game two, my opponent had three Tellers in play on turn 7. Things did not look good, especially when they were still in play around turn 12 or so. To make a long story short, we did a lot of stuff, I probably made some mistakes at some point, he made a lot more, and then I won. You should all be proud. Game three he kept a hand with two Swamps and nothing he could cast on the play. When he didn’t play a land on turn 3, I was very happy that I’d be able to get away with a 2-1 from this deck. Then he drew four lands in a row, I got extremely flooded, and he bashed me. Not too happy about that one.

I was even less happy after seeing my 1-2 pod. It included multiple Ruels, a Masashi, and some other players. One of the other players was another Japanese player of note, but I’m not sure which one. Pods with four competent players are rare at the 3-0 bracket, so basically the random pod generator administered, if you know what I mean. I lucked out Antoine’s double Nezumi Graverobber deck with my Blue/White in round 4, and then lost a pretty even matchup to Masashi’s Red/Black by getting incredibly flooded and never being in either game. I stayed in for the last round to try and pick up the extra PT point. I won easily, since my opponent had misclicked a lot during the draft and continued to do so when we battled. Sadly, about four-fifths of the 3-3s got the extra point, so I didn’t.

I'm a good kid, honest!

Early Betrayers Impressions

I really did not want to return to the site on Saturday, because I knew that I’d just get bitter from watching everyone who, through much skill and expertise, went through to the second day instead of me. Return I did though, and I quickly started gaming in the above-mentioned casual fun drafts. As I stated, they were, of course, for absolutely no money. I feel it important to emphasize that, since drafting for money is a bad thing and only causes trouble and addiction to gambling. Oh, and I don’t play poker either and ahem, neither should you.

After all the drafts with Betrayers, I came to some conclusions about the top colors in the set and what cards are getting overrated and underrated early on.

Having two of the top four commons in the set propels White to its spot as the top color. Namely, I am talking about Waxmane Baku and Split-tail Miko. Remember Blinding Beam? I do. I also remember that no one caught onto the fact that it was nuts until just about the release of Fifth Dawn. I don’t think people will make the same mistake with Waxmane Baku now that I’m here to explain that it’s nuts. You get an average-sized body that can be so much more. It can be a simple Benalish Trapper, tapping down your opponent’s biggest creature each turn. It can be a Blinding Beam, tapping down a few creatures for a limited amount of time. It can even tap down their whole team and be a Wave of Indifference, assuming they lack Masako. Split-tail Miko is just a very solid card. It sits back and messes up combat for your opponent as well helping out against their damage spells.

These two are obvious gooders, but the number three White card seems pretty bad to some. Moonlight Strider basically combines a bunch of mediocre abilities and puts them all together to become a very solid card. 1/4’s for four have never been that great. The sacrifice ability can protect your Kabuto Moths and Waxmane Bakus from incoming removal. If said creatures are dead before your Strider gets in there, no worries. When they kill the Strider, you can soulshift them back. If you need them hurry you can speed up the process by sacking the Strider to give something protection, usually saving something in the process. When someone from the sideboard asked me to tell them my white pick order, I quickly put Hundred-Talon Strike above the Strider without thinking, which is very wrong and I am publicly taking back right now.

Another small factor that makes White even better and is probably being overlooked by most right now is its strong sideboard cards. Heart of Light and Terashi’s Grasp bring White answers to some problematic cards it could not deal with in the past. The Grasp isn’t as necessary as Heart of Light, since Quiet Purity was already in Champions and there are not very many artifacts you need to kill. However, it is a little better because it gains you life and can kill the new rare equipment that wins every game in which it is cast (Umezawa’s Jitte). Heart of Light will be boarded in against Frostwielders and Matsu-Tribe Snipers everywhere for the next six months. Even though it gives them a good blocker, this card allows the White mage to deal with very problematic cards that could otherwise spell the game. Some other playables like Hundred-Talon Strike, Kami of False Hope, and Kami of the Tattered Shoji fill out the White common slots.

You get a bomb uncommon in Faithful Squire and a few other solid ones, but for the most part the white uncommons are nothing exciting. One that is probably better than you are giving it credit for, though, is Tallowisp. At 1/3 for 1W, he probably won’t be beating down, but actually does provide some early defense before you can get your flyers and stuff in action. The thing is, the ability is actually very relevant. Between Cage of Hands, Indomitable Will, Heart of Light, and any creature enchantments you might have in your second color, you often end up with multiple creature enchantments in your white decks, making Tallowisp a nice card advantage engine. Even with one, I try to run Tallowisp if it’s a good enchantment like Cage of Hands or Mystic Restraints.

The rares in White are very good as well, highlighted by Final Judgment and friends, but I won’t spend time dwelling on rares since what makes or breaks colors in a draft format and draft decks, are their commons, not rares. You can’t count on opening that one bomb rare every time, but if a color is deep in its commons, you can count on getting some solid picks for your deck out of that pack each time.

Black comes in a close second for the best color. To begin with, it has the best common in the set, Horobi’s Whisper. Removal is always at a premium, and if the Whisper only killed a creature for 1BB it would be a great card and a first pick. Anytime you are able to splice it is really just a freeroll, since removing cards from your graveyard is not very relevant, even less so than before now that there is one less pack of Gibbering Kamis and Scuttling Deaths. Other than that the commons are pretty average, with Takenuma Bleeder providing a larger than average body and Okiba-Gang Shinobi another decent body that usually hits them for two cards when it first comes into play at the cost of tempo only.

Out of these two, a consensus has not yet been reached as to which is better. I am strongly on the side of the Bleeder. Simply, I’ve won a lot of games where my opponent spends their fourth turn to bring in the Shinobi and make me discard because he lost so much tempo doing that. The Bleeder, on the other hand, is always a solid three-drop that will put your opponents on the defensive early. Another thing to keep in mind, somewhat related to the Bleeder, is that the Onis in Champions get better with Betrayers as you are more likely to pick up Ogres now than before. Past these commons, Skullsnatcher is pretty good but there is not much else. Watch out for Psychic Spear to end up being solid. I might just be way off on this one and biased through my personal experience, but hey, that’s what I’m basing all this on. These commons don’t sound like much, but between the Whisper and the creatures I mentioned, that accounts for a much better common base than Green, Blue, and Red.

Betrayers Black is unique in that there are so many good uncommons that it somewhat makes up for the lack of depth in the common slot. Eradicate and Throatslitter are excellent removal and Hired Muscle and Ogre Marauder are nice three drops with only average stats but great abilities. Scourge of Numai is also quite good, just make sure to board it out against multiple Mystic Restraints or Cage of Hands. There are some other playable ones, but the four first-pickable uncommons are what makes the Black uncommons deep enough to be noteworthy.

All this information means that you want to be drafting White and Black more often. Since they were already good (both in the top three) in Champions, you were probably already drafting them. Betrayers just accentuates this.

Blue, Green, and Red are all pretty weak in Betrayers. In all three cases, this is because they are just too shallow. For example, Torrent of Stone is one of the best commons in the set, but besides Frostling, the other Red commons are barely playable. The uncommons don’t come to the rescue either, meaning you probably will not get many Red picks out of Betrayers. The same is true for Blue and Green, with Green doing the least bad of the three thanks to some really good uncommons. (Yes, I know that was hardly a not awful sentence. Move along, please.)

Torrent of Stone, like I said, is clearly very good. You already knew this. One card that you might have heard is pretty bad or even unplayable is First Volley. While it’s not first-pickable by any means, I still feel like your deck needs to be pretty good to cut it. There are a lot of one-toughness creatures that it can kill by itself, and if you have a Frostwielder or something it upgrades to killing two-ass guys. More importantly, though, is that it is arcane. If you are playing Red, hopefully you have a Glacial Ray or Torrent or even other arcanes in your second color. If you don’t, your deck is probably bad anyway. Thus making it good enough to warrant a spot in most of my decks, and almost every time I’ve had it, it has traded one for one at the worst.

Tragically, these three cards are where the good news ends. Of note is that Frost Ogre is worse than your friends are probably telling you – I’ve certainly played it before, but I’d rather not. Usually you end up trading your five-drop for their four or even three-drop. Anyway, Red was already fairly shallow in Champions, but Glacial Ray pretty much made it worth it. With Torrent being a little worse than Ray, and the support cards being a lot worse than Kami of Fire’s Roar, Brutal Deceiver, and friends, tables will be able to support even fewer Red drafters.

If you are drafting Blue, you want to pick up Shimmering Glasskites and… uh… yeah that’s it. The commons really thin out after that. Ninja of the Deep Hours is good, but only if you have a few one-drops. Otherwise, it’s playable but nothing special. Veil of Secrecy, Mistblade Shinobi, and Toils of Night and Day are all okay, but really not on par with the power level other colors can offer. Another card that is about as good as those, but doesn’t get enough credit is Teardrop Kami. Its one-drop status helps out any Ninjas of the Deep Hours that you’ve picked up, and the ability can be relevant a lot of the time. You don’t end up using that often but the threat of being able to untap and block can often do a lot more than you would think.

Green is probably the least bad out of these three, but not because of its commons. The only ones you should be excited about are Gnarled Mass and Matsu Tribe-Sniper. The Mass is always a solid body with above average stats for a three-drop. The Sniper is either game-breaking or terrible. However, I’ve found that I’d rather have him in my maindeck and board him out against non-Blue non-White opponents than not have it game one and bring it in against Blue or White players just because it can single-handedly dominate the game and get you wins you otherwise could never get.

Who needs a target?

Child of Thorns is also a nice addition to Green’s arsenal, which was previously lacking any respectable one-drops. Roar of Jukai is playable, but worse than I thought it was at first glance. You definitely don’t want more than one in your deck. I cast this after my opponent blocked my Kodama of the North Tree with two guys. Yep, it’s a way to get around the bad Tree’s “bonus”. Okay fine, that still wasn’t a good story, but hey, if you didn’t think of that then next time you have a North Tree, you might pick up a Roar and it’ll win you a game. Yeah, thank me. Believe it or not, there is actually one positive thing about playing Green – you have a good shot at getting a top-notch uncommon, since Budoka Pupil, Genju of the Cedars, Unchecked Growth, and Fork-Branched Garami are all first picks.

Although most of the time you will have to play Blue, Red, or Green going into Betrayers, their lack of depth means that it is going to be better to pair one of them with either Black or White in order to get a hold of enough playables. Of course, the packs can fall in a way that you get all the decent and good cards that I just told you about, but more often than not, you will find yourself seeing all the other terrible ones and wish you were White for the late Miko or something.

A lot of the information about what cards are good and bad might seem really obvious to you – I mean, I doubt anyone out there really thinks Horobi’s Whisper is bad or something. However, most of the time I actually finish articles, I feel like they told me obvious information. Then I read the forums and see that everyone loved it, learned a lot, and want more articles just like it. Now, I’m not asking for that kind of feedback or anything, I’m just kind of adding this as a side note to all of you who want the ten minutes of your life back that you spent reading what you already knew.

GP: Boston

I played the wrong deck. I got good matchups for it, so it shouldn’t have mattered, but I got unlucky in those good matchups, so I lost. The end.

Well, actually my deck choice wasn’t completely awful. It certainly was not the best possible choice, but it was at least in the upper half of decks I could have played. It was Reanimator, which I do not recommend for GP’s that will be dominated by combo decks, but it’s probably still solid in PTQ’s where you have an abundance of Red Deck Wins and other random aggro decks.

Also related to the GP, I just think everyone should know that I had the idea of the Cephalid Life deck about a week after PT: Columbus. Unfortunately, everyone I talked to thought I was retarded for suggesting it, and it was quickly dismissed. Then it won the GP. Well… should have won.

Upcoming Events

I won’t be scrubbing out of GP: Seattle in a few weeks, but not because I’ll be winning it. Instead, I will be attending school, which my parents feel is more important than a Magic tournament on the far end of the country. What a joke.

The tournament that is more important than school, however, is Pro Tour: Atlanta. As always, we have done absolutely no practice, so look for us atop the standings as in previous team events. Rumor has it that our squad will be participating in a casual-fun-Team-Rochester-draft on Thursday night in Atlanta against none other than PS2. Well, minus Kuroda, plus Masashi Oiso. You can watch this spectacle yourself for the low price of ten dollars or one thousand yen.

Until then, remember to vote for me in the Rising Star invitational category and thanks if you were one of the few that voted for me in North America. Osyp deserved that one, but I think I might deserve to represent the rising stars of the game. I’d appreciate it if you agreed. As always, if you have any question, comments, or flame you can hit me up at [email protected] or on modo.


irl and on modo