This week, let’s try talking about something a little different, away from the usual Faeries du jour, or even the Block Constructed format at all. I’m going to take a break and talk about something I’ve been enjoying lately: Shadowmoor-Shadowmoor-Eventide Draft, and forcing colors. At first I wanted to try forcing mono-Black, for the simple reason that other people wanted to see it done (judging from some of the forum responses). Of course, in that same forum someone posted that you’d be better off just throwing 10 bucks away. He was almost right!
Mono-Black is quite mediocre, even with Eventide helping out by giving us two more efficient removal spells at the common slot and some decent uncommons. The main issue that Black has as a color in draft, at least from what I’ve experienced, is that it doesn’t play any role particularly well. In a way it’s situated to be a controlling strategy that eventually finishes up with a few big guys and Corrupt, but it rarely plays out that nicely. Part of the problem is the â€˜few big guys’ part; the biggest guy they have that isn’t you lucksacking an Oona or similar rare bomb is Ashenmoor Cohort. The other issue is the removal all costs a billion to get the job done, save in Eventide where you now get Unmake and Soul Reap.
Unfortunately for Black, almost all of its common dorks are plodding clods of dubious value. Even more unfortunate is they don’t do a very good job of playing defense either. Oh sure, there are a few that can guard the fence respectably… Cinderbones, Oona’s Gatewarden, and Rendclaw Trow can all do a decent job thanks to Wither and (at least for two) some form of on-board hardiness. So you can put up a mild defense against ground-ponders that aren’t bigger than a x/3, and hopefully cast removal on anything that is. At least with Eventide you do get the Trow, Desecrator Hag, Bloodied Ghost, and Restless Apparition as good creatures; unfortunately, this means other people will actually want them, unlike the normal bad Black cards.
Playing this not-so-great deck was an amazing plan, I know, which is why it only lasted one go-around. I don’t have an exact copy of the deck, but let it be known it was quite meh, and the saving grace was the double Corrupt and Incremental Blight I was rocking from the uncommon category.
Here’s the brief report on it:
Round 1 — Green/X
Game 1 is settled by my opponent being mana screwed with three Forest in play on turn 3 and the same number on turn 8. My awful Black creatures beat him to death and I’m amused.
Game 2 ends up in a stalemate of two Cinderbones and a Smoldering Butcher holding off two Hungry Spriggan and two other mild-sized beaters. I, in my infinite skill, draw Incremental Blight and end the game in a couple of turns. And by a couple I mean ten, because Cinderbones make for very bad attackers.
Round 2 — R/U/W Aggro
Game 1 I mulligan to five and get run over by one- and two-drops.
Game 2 ends once I cast Soul Reap on his Somnomancer with a Steel of the Godhead enchanted on it. Okay, so in reality I had to keep fighting from there, but I basically stopped his best shot.
I did get to remember just how insane Loch Korrigan is when the opponent doesn’t have a removal spell. I used her to slowly deplete my opponent’s creature horde and life until he finally nailed it with a Puncture Bolt. By that time, however, he’s on four life and struggling against my Grey Ogre army. Consecutive topdecks of Fire at Will and Selkie Hedge-Mage to stall my army buys him time, but eventually a Gwyllion Hedge-Mage and Faerie Macabre got there.
Game 3 is a struggle as we smash our crappy men against each other, and my Wasp Lancer proceeds to trade three times with his flying forces. Desecrator Hag really is impressive in this deck, allowing me to constantly reuse my flier as the rest of my Black-only dorks have lower power. Eventually he sets up a position with two Red creatures and attempts to Burn Trail plus Conspire me out on consecutive turns. Thankfully after the first one I nail him with a Corrupt for six, and with his few creatures tapped out I finish him off.
Round 3 — U/W Aggro
I die in two short but brutal games. Apparently not drawing my Incremental Blight is a bit of an issue against an army of fliers which my Wither blockers are useless against.
Well, that was fun, amirite? Instead of continuing with this fool’s errand, I decided to switch it up and focus on G/B, which not only gives aggressive options, but can actually end the game in a timely fashion with its fatties. From Eventide you gain some solid additions to the Black midrange archetype, which aren’t too hard to figure out as â€˜Just look at the hybrids for Black’ covers them all. For hybrid spells in Eventide to focus on, here’s a listing.
Hag is a great way to get your biggest threat back while getting a 2/2 donk out of the deal. He goes great if you plan on having even a mildly aggressive deck. Wasp Lancer, Hungry Spriggan, etc. are all reasonable three drops that can get killed by removal on turn 4 or 5, and then get reanimated while making a creature drop. Trow is just a solid meat and potatoes creature, annoying to block or beat down. I shouldn’t need to point out how awesome removal is, merely that it’s nice to have any and it’s the main reason to be Black. The Hatchlings are decent, but Voracious has a great natural ability and shroud is a lot more useful than Wither. Not a whole lot can take down 4/4 or bigger, especially in the W/R or W/U decks relying on early beats and more evasive type creatures backed by cheap tappers or removal.
Nice to have
Gift of the Deity
All of these guys are rather self explanatory in what they do. Quillspike + Devoted Druid has won me a few games and Restless Apparition is just really obnoxious to deal with in combat. Sure, he gets killed by a huge amount of removal, but it’s another guy that can require an answer to deal with over a few turns.
Canker Abomination’s usefulness depends on acceleration you have and if your opponent can curve out. Against many of the Blue archetypes or slightly slower G/X ones you can often get this guy down as a 4/4. Throw in a removal spell and you’ll like have a 5/5. However, you tend to get into pseudo-stalemates or races against evasion guys enough that this can be a serious liability. Compared to some of the other guys here, you may want more for four mana than a Hill Giant.
Eisel gushed about Gift of the Deity in R/G, and the value of the card doesn’t go down in B/G at all. Remember, if you successfully get this card down and swing, more than likely all of the opponent’s creatures that can block will end up dead. Even just on a Green creature, it provides the perfect way to break a ground fight where both sides are staring at one another. The best part is since B/G isn’t very popular, this card tends to last for a bit, just like Runes of Deus did back for SSS draft despite being perfectly playable in other Green decks.
All of these guys make for nice little additions to more aggressive B/G decks, but they are hardly necessary for the decks to succeed. Bloodied Ghost is probably the best of these, but you know you probably aren’t going to get quite enough of these guys and Faerie Macabres to become a real flying force.
The draft strategy I used was simple: I focused mainly on making a G/B aggressive deck, but I would settle for a midrange one if the draft felt that way. For Shadowmoor I took the Black removal over pretty much everything else, followed closely by the efficient Green creatures like Hungry Spriggan, Devoted Druid, Kitchen Finks and so on. I was even fortunate enough to get a Spawnwrithe in one of the drafts. After that I took the usually late Corrupt, Faerie Macabre and â€˜can actually play D’ Black creatures.
For Eventide I mostly went for the most powerful cards, most of which happens to be removal, but sometimes I’d get packs from which I’d gleefully snatch a Hag as the only relevant pick in my colors anyway. Hatchlings can last a surprisingly long time… I know they require work to truly use, but even a half on-color one can be a real boon at times. This is where being in B/G pays off, as you basically get to pick from some of the best cards other Green decks want early on and pick up Soul Reap which tends to slip. Then, when rounding it out, instead of possibly fighting you get a few efficient dorks.
I’ve only managed three drafts forcing B/G total, since I’m not exactly swimming in Eventide packs and I can’t just pound out Magic Online drafts at the moment. Unfortunately this also means I didn’t record the drafting sections. Not a real loss I suppose, as I’m not good at draft, nor were there too many interesting choices with the restrictions I placed on myself.
I did end up recording two of my decks, so I’ll list those along with the results of my drafts.
1 Oona’s Gatewarden
2 Twinblade Slasher
2 Nettle Sentinel
1 Elvish Hexhunter
1 Soul Reap
1 Devoted Druid
1 Mercy Killing
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Hungry Spriggan
2 Presence of Gond
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Wasp Lancer
1 Study Hatchling
1 Loch Kerrigan
1 Cankerous Thirst
Yes, I realize the creature quality isn’t exactly the greatest, but I knew early on I’d end up having a pretty aggressive deck. I ended up with both Spriggan in pack 1along with the Spwanwrithe and one of the Presence of Gond. The second pack brought me a Presence of Gond along with some of my black goodies like Corrupt and Wasp Lancer. The Loch Kerrigan I can’t remember when I picked up, but it was quite late around the 11-12th pick I believe.
My first three picks in Eventide went Soul Reap, Snakeform, Quillspike; since nobody was in both my colors, I actually picked up Cankerous Thirst later on. The Green aggressive drops I find are generally looked down upon, and with little else to do after my 3rd pick, I started stockpiling for my eventual aggro deck. As you can see I ended up with quite the spicy little number in that department, with people underestimating Slasher and just ignoring Nettle Sentinel. I get that it’s only a 2/2 dork, but in the early game nobody wants to trade with him, and in a deck like this he can get in there multiple times.
To summarize, I went 3-1 in matches and 6-3 in games.
In round 1 my mono-Blue opponent died on turn 6 in the face of: Turn 1 Nettle Sentinel, turn 3 Spriggan, turn 4 Cankerous Thirst, and turn 5 Green spell. The second game didn’t have him faring much better than the last one, where I managed the Devoted Druid — Quillspike combo and chewed away at his defenses until he was killed on turn 7. How fair.
Round 2 was against G/W, I won the first off a mana screw where he could only play two- and three-drops, which were actually trumped by my own one-drops. Slasher kept Finks, Elite and Medicine Runner at bay, while I used Presence of Gond to start building up men. Eventually my line of play became play Spriggan, attack with it, when he goes to trade with a double block, kill it off with Mercy Killing. End the game next turn with 8 tokens and a Slasher.
The second was just odd, since I won almost purely off Spawnwrithe, a Slasher with Presence of Gond, and a well-timed Snakeform. Basically I just made a small copy army which bought time to build up a token army as well. The Snakeform allowed me to trade most of my men with his while getting another copy of Spawnwrithe into play. He was soon overwhelmed by the buggers.
Round 3 was against W/U, the first game I kept too slow of a hand and died by turn 7 to fliers. The second and third I just overwhelmed his relatively small early creatures to get a big edge on damage, eventually ending with Corrupt dealing the last four and five in their respective games.
Round 4 was against a mono-Red deck using Power of Fire and Flame Jab. You can imagine how that turned out against my surly crew. Hint: Almost every creature I have is one or two toughness strong.
The second draft deck I don’t remember, but it wasn’t anywhere near as aggressive (or good) as the last one. I managed an ugly 2-2 in large part thanks to the Black Wither creatures and Blowfly Infestation slaughtering entire armies in some of my games. The other games I won were just being competent* and not giving up any more resources than I had to. As I said earlier, Cinderbones and Trow make for very efficient defense, especially in closer damage races.
*A rare change of pace
Third draft was what I expect many of the Golgari decks to look like when you shift into the deck. Sort of midrange with a few aggressive drops in case you get to utilize the curve-out draw.
1 Barkshell Blessing
1 Twinblade Slasher
1 Elvish Hexhunter
1 Woodlurker Mimic
2 Soul Reap
2 Rendclaw Trow
1 Farhaven Elf
1 Hungry Spriggan
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Wasp Lancer
1 Grazing Kelpie
1 Loch Kerrigan
2 Desecrator Hag
1 Gift of Deity
1 Aerie Ouphes
1 Foxfire Oak
1 Witherscale Wurm
Although it isn’t a lot to look at, you get a good combination of efficient beaters, removal, and recursion. Sure, I don’t have actual card draw in here, but the two Hag are here to give you a boost in the mid-game and the drawback on Soul Reap really isn’t that big a deal. Yes, it does suck quite a bit against a heavy-duty Green deck, but almost always you’ll have a valid target to use it on. Often it’s simply a sorcery speed Terror that sometimes drains 3 from the opponent if you use it late.
I ended up going 2-0 in matches and then running away to go catch my train to go home. Good times, I say. Since I don’t usually do a ton of drafts, I’m not really sure how to pad this out and make it more interesting. I played some men, blocked a few annoying guys, and then blew up the ones left standing.
So now you know the plan for the archetype: get the Black removal on the cheap, take advantage of the aggressive Green creatures and Black hybrids being undervalued in some cases, and go to town. Of course, when you do draft SSE, I don’t suggest you just run into the arms of Golgari as it isn’t even close to the best color archetype. At the moment though it seems underrated and you can take advantage of the stigma of Black from Shadowmoor. Basically, in SSE the best plan is to take advantage of the schemers and abuse what they don’t deem worthy of play.
That’s about it for the draft stuff… next week we’ll be back to focusing on Block stuff. Before you leave, there’s one last thing for you wonderful people…
“How about a magic trick? I’m going to make this pencil disappear…”
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom