Wow. Here I am. How should I start this off?
How about “It is *so time* to be the man.”?
How about this.
The man in black fled west, and the gunslinger followed.
Ok, taken also. And maybe I don’t always wear black, and there was no gunslinger following me, but I did go west for a while. Now, I’m back. It’s nice to see you all again. What have I been doing all this time? Well, I’m working for some folks who make that other card game. They’re a great group, and they’re currently making their way through the growing pains that come with shepherding a fledgling game, with impressive results. So many old faces of Magic are out there, it’s like a clubhouse, except instead of barning relentlessly like I did a few years ago (and boy, I was the master at it), I get to work with these fine people, all of which are smarter than I am. It’s tough on the ego, but great for learning. I’m also working on helping to create intellectual properties. If UDE comes out with a sitcom about a sassy robot in the next quarter, you know who to blame.
And yeah, I still do a lot of barning. Cut me some slack.
Now, I’ve got some free time, and a drafting itch. In fact, I’m in the Top 8 of a CBS Sealed right now as I type this introduction, watching a replay of a match where people are smashing Rag Dealers into Matsu-Tribe Birdstalkers. (Why are the players in Top 8 of CBS sealed worse than the players in the 4-3-2-2 queues?) So I’m back, maybe one time only, maybe for good. Or bad. Or ugly. I’m not unlike Eastwood, really, in looks, temperament, and the number of times I’ve had a leather saddle under my ass just for the camera.
To commemorate this dubious occasion, let’s share a secret. I’ll be totally honest with you, since we’re stuck here on the Internet, enjoying another moment together – and you in turn must be totally honest with me. Mine will be a very down-to-earth, open type of honesty, too. The sort that a man only experiences after a terrible argument with his spouse, or, as was so deftly pointed out in “There’s Something About Mary”, a quick but satisfying five knuckle shuffle. Here’s my confidential whisper to you.
There was a time when I thought I’d never play Magic again.
Seriously. Not just a fleeting moment, either, but a dry and unquenchable gulch of time, featureless from a gaming standpoint except for the occasional console RPG dalliance that would roll by like an errant and badly translated tumbleweed. Lately, the whole genre is like that “refuge of the damned” that people keep referring to in literature, except worse. And yeah, I know, that admission isn’t exactly the sort of news that sends shockwaves reverberating across the media landscape, but for me, a self-professed gamer for life… it’s still a sobering thought. *I* almost quit! Me!
No MODO drafting? Well, I have to apologize, John Queue Public. I was busy with other things. But then I finally got to hang out with OMC for a stretch (you may remember him from such instructional Magic articles as “My Chthonic Bathroom“) down in California, and we quickly put a stop to that “no Magic” nonsense. I’d come in a Kamigawa virgin, the most powdery white geisha in the entire bath house. I was drafting 20 times/week before I left, having made the transition from demure kimono princess to a makeup smeared, crusty whorehouse madam who rove you rongtime.
And I definitely boom-boom soul brother.
Mostly though, I draft queue. Twelve dolla. Twelve dolla.
I thought it would be easy at first. My first CBS back, I started White, cracked Jitte and Celestial Kirin, and then 3-0’d and walked around telling people I was a greater master than Einstein, Edison, and Willy Wonka put together (and yes, for those curious… my snozzberries definitely taste like snozzberries). Sadly, just before I was about to chair a meeting of the U.N Security Council and declare myself ruler for life, reality came crashing down like the sledgehammer of plot in a summer blockbuster. Loss upon loss upon loss. It was actually worse than a summer blockbuster, and just to put that in perspective, this summer there was a movie about a fighter jet A.I going crazy because it got hit by lightning.
I complained a little, at first – because it was such a disappointment to not have Jitte-level cards in every draft. My voice could be heard echoing through the halls of my apartment complex, and old men were poking their chicken-jowled heads out of doors, letting out a waft of their pungent dinners, just to figure out what I was raving about.
“You mean I don’t get to open Jitte in every draft? Or Nevinyrral’s Disk with hooves? I don’t get to destroy two Kami of False Hope and an O-Naginata just by casting Ethereal Haze? Well, that’s a shame. I was just starting to like Kamigawa Block draft.” It got loud. Eventually, someone took me aside and told me I was embarrassing myself, my family, and my country, and not in that order. I settled down, sat back down to draft and, still convinced I was Sam Gomersall android doppleganger, picked a White card over Myojin of Cleansing Fire. What? Isn’t the format fast? Who gets to eight mana?
I was 6-0 on Day 1 of that thing, but I just dropped. The whole thing was too commercial, man. It wasn’t about pure Magic anymore.
Anyhow, for someone just getting back into the swing of things, not getting a Jitte in every draft is a stepmother-level bitch. You don’t miss that little sword until it’s gone, and you can no longer play terribly and just win every game. I know – I tried. I played like I’d been huffing paint, proceeding through phases that were measured not in ticks of the clock but in the minute exhalations of breath that would accompany every boneheaded misclick, mispick, or more mundane piece of strategic ‘foonery. And yes, I lost instead of winning, which didn’t do a whole heck of a lot for the old ego. I miss Jitte – I haven’t opened one in the hundred drafts I’ve done since that inaugeral face-smashing when I decided I might try to play again. The gamers at the Carlsbad apartment where I was lodged (and I mean “lodged” as in “embedded” and “entrenched” – every day after work I tolerated about as much human interaction as your average agoraphobe, greeting requests for brain activity with reactions somewhere between a hoarse “go away, drafting” and the alternative, a mumble that was only 6% vowels on a good day) were treated to regular outbursts of profanity as I lost to stuff that I hadn’t even dreamed of in my wildest nighttime imaginings, let alone seen.
“This guy is acting sketchy.”
“Yeah… he only attacked with half of his guys?”
“He left half of them back?”
“What did he knock you down to?”
“Yeah. You’re not going to like this.”
And of course, I died to Hidetsugu’s Second Rite.
Later on, on the *same night*, different draft, I topped that by playing this outstanding game.
Me: “Raving Oni-Slave.”
Him: Phantom Wings, bounce it.”
Me: “Bah. Raving Oni-Slave again.”
Me: “Attack for 3, play Kami of Empty Graves.” (I had all the platinum hits in this contest.)
Him: “Attack for 1, HSR you for the fourth turn kill, GG.”
I was destroyed. I sat around for the next hour mumbling things like:
“I hope that guy develops cancer of the vulva.”
“More like SH*T-etsugu’s Second Rite.”
But what do I know? Not only do men not have vulvas (except for, to be fair, in certain Japanese comics), but until I recently I thought Raving Oni-Slave was better than Kuro’s Taken. I would tell people walking by, and they’d glance at me and then look for a hidden camera, like they were on an episode of “Gags” or something. I stopped a bespectacled old man with a Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart goatee, on the street, to let him know what was up, and even *he* got raw on me.
He just turned a weathered eye in my direction and let loose.
“Son, get your head out of your ass. Raving Oni-Slave is borderline unplayable. You don’t want it if you have even one Ninja in your deck, you don’t want to trade it in combat, you basically don’t even want it around.” And then his face got wild. “You ungrateful little scumbag. I didn’t rot my leg off in ‘Nam just so you could make piss-poor deckbuilding decisions. Turn 2 Raving Oni-Slave as the only option for turn 4 Okiba-Gang? I’d rather get shelled by little men in black pajamas.”
I pressed on. “But it beats down!”
His faced turned tired, haggard. I could see the weight of years of frustration with bad drafters.
“Son,” he croaked. “I hope you like packing up your cards to a 9th pick Phantom Wings, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you play Raving Oni-Slave in any deck besides B/R with about 10 pieces of removal.” Then he produced a bottle of rum and started pounding it back.
Before I’d rounded the corner, he was slurring his words and telling a story about how his captors at Da Nang once tried to make him take that Asuza land-dropping guy over Kodama’s Might in a Team Rochester draft, and when he refused, they stood him on metal re-bar and beat him with bamboo reeds whenever his feet slipped. Conditions were so bad, no one could survive there except for the hardiest POW’s and CCG event coverage guys, who are used to operating in squalor and being at the mercy of sadistic overlords.
So yeah, I’ve got nothing from Kamigawa block draft so far but a few cheap thrills threaded into a sheet of scorn. It’s a long road ahead, a path that I’m sure will be strewn with further indignities, terrible manascrews. I’ve already lost a first-round match where my opening hand featured Opal Eye, Honden of Cleansing Fire, Honden of Infinite Rage, Mountain, Plains, on the draw, ten Plains in the deck, and never drew a third land, two games in a row. Serious. Same opening hand both times, same screw. I guess that was Magic’s way of welcoming me back.
Anyhow, instead of wasting more of your time flexing my thesaurus (I can seem smart, thanks to the Interweb), I guess I’ll try to give you MODO fanatics some drafting advice. Pros, you already know this (or know better and think I’m wrong). Ready?
1. Shinen of Life’s Roar is better than Elder Pine of the Jukai, Okina Nightwatch, and Inner Calm, Outer Strength.
I’m sure this has been said all over the place, but it’s true. Shinen of Life’s Roar is too good for words, but since I have to fill this space somehow, I’m going to try my hand at some words anyhow. If you’re on the play and you open with Shinen of Life’s Roar and Child of Thorns, and any kind of reasonable backup, you’re in the driver’s seat. If the board stalemates, it can win the game. You can alpha strike, then Soulshift it back and alpha strike again. It can function as pseudo-removal (all you creature, please to be blocking Moss Kami now, arigato) and generally just invalidates a lot of openings that are very good. You know how many times my Ghost-Lit Raider has been stranded in my hand because of Shinen of Life’s Roar? A few. Get SoLR + Kabuto Moth, or something as mundane as Serpent Skin, and you’ll feel like you’re playing with Deftblade Elite + Dragon Scales again. It’s a blast from the past.
In a typical game with Shinen of Life’s Roar, for me, he’ll kill something with the help of a growth spell or Child of Thorns, then trade with something else (usually a Blue flier with summoning sickness, or something else similarly wimpy). Then he’ll get Soulshifted back later to make blocking impossible, or perhaps put it into the heads of all my opponent’s men that gang blocking my Matsu-Tribe Sniper with Sokenzan Spellblade and Ronin Cavekeeper is the best course of action ever when I have Sosuke, Son of Seshiro in play. One point for you, and one point for you. Bye, guys! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
2. Raving Oni-Slave sucks, Takenuma Bleeder is great.
Ok, fine. If you’re playing R/B with a ton of removal, and you also have an O-Naginata, Scourge of Numai, Razorjaw Oni and Gutwrencher Oni in your deck, Oni Slave is an amazing card. Even then you can get screwed. Other decks can race too, you know, and dinging yourself for three isn’t the best idea when you’re trying to outrun a Shimmering Glasskite, Genju of the Falls and a Soratami Rainshaper. Those are problems that removal doesn’t solve. Oni-Slave is terrible against Blue. One Mistblade Shinobi and you just lose the game. Against Red, he’ll probably hit once and then you’ll take three from a Torrent of Stone or something. And have you ever been bolted twice by your opponent’s Otherworldly Journey? It’s not an experience I’d recommend to anyone but my worst enemies, and possibly Phil Samms, who now works at a Hershey factory in what has to go down in history as the potentially disastrous hiring in the history of the food industry.
Now Bleeder – that guy also makes you lose life, and he also solves your Ogre problems with cards like Gutwrencher Oni and Scourge of Numai… but he doesn’t suck. If he dies, you take what? 1? Maybe 2 before all is said and done? Not six. He costs one more, but so what? So get a bunch of Bleeders in the Betrayers pack, and then take Kuro’s Taken in the Saviors pack. To sum up, I happily take Oni-Slave in B/R, and he’s a cancer, of the malignant variety, anywhere else.
3. Sink Into Tanekuma is good.
You guys know this, right? A little reading of coverage should have done that for you. I just click on Rich Hoaen name and do what he does, right down to the pick orders and missing child support payments to his baby mamas. You usually don’t cast Waking Nightmare until turn 4 or 5 anyway – and that’s usually when I cast this card. With a little acceleration, you can have Okina Nightwatch already on the table. If you thought Waking Nightmare on turn 5 for the last two cards was good, how about Sink on turn 6 for your last three cards, and now I have a 7/6 beater? The fact that’s it’s Arcane puts it over the top. Sometimes you just don’t have a good way to turn on those Hired Muscles and Budoka Pupils (they dilate *you* instead of the other way around). I like to have Okiba-Gang Shinobi and a Sink in every deck.
Just like Richie. That scoundrel.
4. If you have Okiba-Gang Shinobi (or, God forbid, Throat Slitter or Ink-Eyes) then stock up on guys that people never block.
Nobody ever blocks Kuro’s Taken, they’ve usually laid a 2/2 on turn 3 – some finesse play like Callow Jushi that might as well have “Fragile, handle with care” stamped on it. You’re probably getting in there unless that Floodbringer that every Blue player always has decides to die in the line of duty. Which it won’t, because Floodbringer is a coward and always has been.
- Nobody ever blocks Gnarled Mass when you’re on the play – because they can’t. It’s too big. Same thing with Takenuma Bleeder. And if you have a Child of Thorns? Forget about it. You could be on the draw and up against a Kabuto Moth and still probably get through.
- Nobody can block Nezumi Cutthroat. If you end up against another Black deck, you just got unlucky. Even then, you can probably sneak in there somehow.
- Nobody ever blocks Battle-Mad Ronin. That man is a walking, mouth-foaming license to ‘Gang.
- Nobody ever blocks Araba Mothrider unless they played a Soratami Mindsweeper, Mothrider Samurai or Shimmering Glasskite on turn 4 and are on the play. If you’re up against a W/x deck, are you going to risk your freshly cast Celestial Kirin against an attacking 9th pick like Araba Mothrider? Maybe if you’ve already seen the Okiba-Gang. But show the same guy a Hundred-Talon Strike in Game 1 and he’ll give you the key to his sister’s chastity belt before he’ll block with anything important.
- Lastly, Ogre Marauder doesn’t get blocked until turn 6 or later, except by people who have Dripping-Tongue Zubera in their decks. State law.
This is just a partial list.
5. Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo, Genju of the Cedars, Oboro Envoy, and Fumiko the Lowblood are all better than almost anything in their respective colors and you shouldn’t be passing any of them if you’re anywhere near those colors.
Just saying. If you pass this stuff, I don’t even want to talk to you. You are the Mother Brain to my Samus Aran. I’d rather crack your glass casing and fire missles into your cerebral cortex.
6. Yamabushi’s Storm wrecks some decks, and should be boarded in (or maindecked, if it doesn’t hurt you too much) on appropriate occasions. And you’ll probably get it late.
Ever kill three fliers with one spell that wasn’t called “Gale Force” (another fine sideboard card, by the way)? This is your ticket. A lot of decks fold to this card. When you build, count the number of X/1’s in your deck. If it isn’t many and you need a spell, get this in there. If you leave it in the board and your opponent has a lot of X/1’s (and many decks do) then put it in. It’s simple math, which is why I usually fail. I’m hoping you’ll take up the mantle and succeed where I’ve met with crushing disappointment. I can see it now… you let him lay out his Kitsune Loreweaver and Moonwing Moth… then spring a trap to which their response will be, no doubt, almost Akbar-worthy.
7. If you’re playing Blue/White, there’s always an answer, even to cards that “just beat you”. Try to get a Heart of Light, Minamo’s Meddling (or any other counterspell) and a Terashi’s Grasp to cover all of your bases.
Heart of Light is great for cards like Kumano, Master Yamabushi or Ghost-Lit Raider, which both obliterate you by themselves if not stopped. Terashi’s Grasp gets rid of Jitte and other late-game no-hopers like Honden of Seeing Winds. Minamo’s Meddling (or any other counter) can be used to stop the card that beats you by itself like no other- Meloku the Clouded Mirror. Or Fumiko the Lowblood. Even something less immediately deadly like Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar (just try winning against that thing if you’re stalemated) can be stopped by a counter, and you can get Oppressive Will, Minamo’s Meddling, and Overwhelming Intellect very late. There’s always an answer, you will get it late, take it for your sideboard instead of your 10th copy of Blood Clock or Hair-Strung Koto. By now, it’s automatical for me. I basically have “cover all bases” OCD in draft. My hands shake like a falling leaf (though not necessarily Dosan, the Falling Leaf, since he doesn’t shake or, it has been said, do much of anything else) if I don’t load up on Rending Vines and Quiet Purity. I’m no longer tempted.
Unless it’s a foil Koto.
8. Draw first in Sealed as a rule.
Decks will be slower and your mana will be worse. Just do it, unless you have the fastest two-color deck in the history of Sealed. The extra card matters, honest. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a Manriki-whatchawhatever in my eye.
9. Glitterfang is a useful tool that you will get late.
Glitterfang is great for piling up counters on Blademane Baku (or Waxmane, or Quillmane), putting counters on Cunning Bandit and his ilk (Budoka Pupil, Faithful Squire and Cunning Bandit being the best of that bunch, though they’re all good), reusing Kami of the Waning Moon, Kami of Painted Road or Kami of Fire’s Roar to get through those defenses, draining with Thief of Hope… you get the idea. It’s a free land search every turn for R if you just add Elder Pine. Don’t pass up a chance to use this little guy to his full potential. He’s the littlest choo-choo that could, kinda like one of those trains from that show that Ringo Starr used to do voice-overs for. You know the one.
I still remember the episode where they walled in the “bad train”. I shed a tear for poor Thomas that day.
10. Matsu-Tribe Sniper beats some decks almost by himself.
What do you want me to say? It’s true. What consistently playable card nullifies a pick higher than itself on a more regular basis? For U/W decks, he’s like torture.
I don’t know why I came here tonight.
I got a feeling that something ain’t right.
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and I’m stuck in the middle with you.
Hum that classic tune while your Sniper is locking up that Kabuto Moth and Shinen of Flight’s Wings tighter than Tillie. Because the enemy is in the chair, you’ve got the straight-razor and the gasoline, and it’s just a matter of time before your opponent and his ear are unhappily parted. How does a U/W deck beat Matsu-Tribe Sniper in any reasonable draw? How did Cavemen play Rock-Paper-Scissors before the invention of the last two? Rest your head. They’re both trick questions with no real answer.
11. Quillmane Baku is better than you’d think.
I once beat someone who had Oyobi, Who Split The Heavens in play for like eight turns, and the MVP of that game was Quillmane Baku. Look for opportunities to return stuff that costs 0 (including your opponent’s land if you have Soilshaper or they have a Genju) and don’t forget that if you have more than one Baku or other Spirit/Arcane-dependant card, you can cast and return a 1/1 Spirit like Kami of False Hope every turn to get more Spirit/Arcane triggers. He’s versatile, like a summer dress with two different but complementary tones, suitable for lounging at the park or dining out. You might even say that this card is my ‘Mane man.
12. Sosuke, Son of Seshiro very is first-pick worthy.
He basically has fear. Tons of decks have to double-block to kill him anytime before turn 6 (and usually after that), especially if you have tricks, and he’s a guy you just can’t double block. He also turns your Matsu-Triber Snipers and, yes, Akki Underlings (and a few other random Warrior friends) into Basilisks of the highest order. Take him, look to gobble up Snakes and maybe go R/G if it’s in the cards. What more do you want? Above the curve in size, helps his friends, great ability. Plus, he’s got four arms. I could accomplish *a lot* with two extra arms.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got. Guess I better hop in line for another 8-4! (And maybe I’ll see my favorite MODO name of all time wandering around- Tanaka_Katana_Nakata_JP. I’m sure glad he includes the “Japan” at the end- otherwise we’d all be going “Tanaka_Katana_Nakata…wonder what *that* guy’s nationality is?”)
Anyhow, like T_K_N says in his user info, I apologize for my poor English. Among other things.
I’ll see you later.
FP_GLyM on MODO