So I’ve got this really annoying neighbor.
Generally I don’t talk to the people that live around me that much, but my mom is friends with a few of them and those are the only ones I really know of. With one exception.
Jerry is an older man, probably in his 60s, and I hate to say it, but I think he’s gone senile already. He’s lived across the street since we moved here some 20 years ago, and my parents have hated him since the day we moved in. My parents dislike for him can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as he lets his dog take a crap in our yard, doesn’t take care of his animals (they are always running wild, and often malnourished), hit our mailbox with his truck and then denied doing so, and dumps his trash in our burn pile (one that we don’t even use anymore).
To give you a better picture of this, I have a 3-acre yard, quite the walk if you want to cross the entire length. This guy will actually make the long walk to throw random things onto a burn pile that we have, but haven’t used in a few years. Why he doesn’t just put this stuff out with the rest of his trash at the end of the driveway, I’ll never know. My dad walked down there one day to find a broken hairdryer, some pop cans, and a bag full of old clothes with holes in them. Needless to say, he was quite annoyed about it.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Jerry decided to cross the line last week.
He came over here banging on the door at about 11 AM one morning. With my mom at work, brother at school, and dad away, I was home by myself. Now, if you know me, you know that there’s no way in hell I’m up by 11 AM unless I have some very specific responsibility like a class or doctor’s appointment. I’m usually up far too late playing poker or Magic Online and end up sleeping into the early afternoon.
Apparently Jerry doesn’t realize that if no one answers the door, no one is home, because he must have stood out there pounding on it for a good twenty minutes. This ended up waking me up, but I only sat up for a minute and then went back to sleep after I thought I was hearing things (the front door is all the way across the house from my room). Jerry wasn’t about to give up that easily though, as he somehow went all the way around the house and started knocking on windows. I eventually heard him and was worried that something serious had happened so I rushed outside.
Needless to say, when I saw it was only him out there, not only was I fairly sure that nothing serious had happened, but I also wanted to kill him for waking me up.
“Young man, young man, I need to ask you something,” Jerry yelled.
“Uh huh..” I managed, still half-asleep.
“You think you mother would mind if I pawked my truck in yer yard for a couple hours?”
“Why would you want to park a truck in my yard?!” I inquired.
“I appreciate it, tell your mother I said Thank You” he said as he started walking back to his house.
I honestly was speechless.
He had walked over here, pounded on the door for twenty minutes, and then even had the gall to start knocking on windows! The man gave no reason for wanting to park his bulky truck in my yard, and just walked off without even getting my approval. I really didn’t know what to think of the whole thing, but decided that standing in my front yard in my boxers was probably a bad idea so I went inside and went back to sleep without worrying too much about the whole thing. I figured he was just having a crazy moment or something and wasn’t about to actually park anything on my lawn. Boy was I mistaken.
2:30 PM rolled around pretty quickly, and my mom busted through the door which woke me up. She seemed really angry about something, so I went to talk to her and see what was wrong.
“That bastard has a bunch of construction trucks parked in the front yard!”
And suddenly it all became clear.
I looked out front to see not one, but three dump trucks parked in my yard. I went back into the kitchen and explained what had happened earlier to my mom, and she was simply furious. She called Jerry’s house a few times to try to get him to move the trucks, but there was no answer.
“Those things are gonna ruin my lawn!” my mother snapped.
To make a long story short, Jerry had moved the trucks into my yard for apparently no reason, and then went on vacation! Talk about senile. My parents actually contacted the police on the matter after the trucks were still out there and Jerry wouldn’t answer his phone or front door three days later and the police had them towed away. Some people.
Besides this funny little incident, the past few weeks have been pretty good to me.
I managed to qualify for the 2005 World Series of Poker in a free qualifier as well as a number of other things, so hopefully I’ll make my way onto TV and make a nice score this July in Vegas. I’ll let you guys know how it goes before it gets aired on ESPN if I do well.
Anyhow, this week I wanted to do an overview of some of the best archetypes in this format and what you should be looking for when you’re drafting each decktype. I’ll also include some decklists for each archetype to give you an idea of what a normal build would look like.
This archetype was essentially non-existent before the release of Betrayers, which is why I want to talk about it first.
I’ve always been a fan of mono-colored decks since they are far more consistent than normal two-color draft decks. Unfortunately this time around we don’t have the power of Consume Spirit or Pestilence to guide us to victory and will instead have to rely on a quick creature assault backed up by a solid selection of removal.
Black has lots of quick ground men like Nezumi Cutthroat, Takenuma Bleeder, Cruel Deceiver, and others. Soulshift is great in this deck with Gibbering Kami and Scuttling Death the heavy hitters in that department.
For this archetype, as with most of the others, I want to have a section on certain cards that gain value by being played in the given archetype. Let’s take a look at some of the specialty Mono-Black cards:
This tricky little enchantment is virtually unplayable in any two-color deck. This allows the mono-Black player to get it very late, and it is quite good in the deck. Dropping it on a turn 2 Cutthroat can create a reusable Fireball every turn. Just attack and dump all of your mana into it and it will end the game quite quickly. I wouldn’t advocate playing more than two of these, but two seems to be the right amount as long as you’re high on creatures as is the norm in this deck.
I’ve always liked this in my Black decks, but I really want multiple copies of this if I’m mono. Coercion at two mana is quite potent indeed, and I’ve run as many as three of these in the same deck with good results. I’d rather have this than Waking Nightmare if I’m playing Mono-B.
This is slightly obvious, as you’ll always be able to cast him on turn 2 and use his ability to maximum effectiveness in this deck. What isn’t obvious though, is that I really think this guy is excellent and doesn’t get picked highly enough. Because of that, you will get them pretty late when drafting the deck, and they can do a lot of damage very quickly making it hard for your opponent to recover.
Genju of the Fens
Sure Nick, just mention all of the cards that have a “pump” ability for one Black mana, real creative.
Seriously though, this is a bomb in mono-Black, and not very good in other Black decks which makes it have the same effect as Midnight Covenant in that you’ll get it much later than usual since few other people want it. My friend Ben Peebles lost to it in a queue on MODO where he had the game completely locked up until his mono-Black opponent topdecked it and attacked for a hasty ten damage.
The strength of mono-Black lies inherently in the fact that the Black cards in this format work better by themselves than when paired with another color. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’ve found this to be true overall and this is why I advocate that you draft this deck if possible. The other nice thing is that you can really abuse the pump effects and Akuba and if you open a bomb in Betrayers you can just splash it since you’re still without a second color anyway. Take a look at a sample list:
2 Wicked Akuba
2 Midnight Covenant
2 Takenuma Bleeder
Thief of Hope
Scourge of Numai
2 Scuttling Death
This is usually my favorite color combination regardless of what block we’re playing. Therefore, my opinions on specific cards may be slightly skewed in favor of this archetype or U/W in general, as they usually get the brunt of good cards and the colors have great synergy together.
Clearly this deck isn’t nearly as strong as it was back in Onslaught. The days of Lavamancer’s Skill and Sparksmith are long gone, and hopefully will never return if we wish to retain any sort of balance.
The Champions version of U/R still has some of the same feel to it as the old Onslaught decks, without all of the extra firepower. Combinations such as Teller of Tales plus Frostwielder really make the deck tick, and it has great ground defense in the form of River Kaijin, Zuberas, and Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch. The game plan here is usually to stall the game and win with fliers while burning out anything that gets in the way. The other method would be the “shotgun” approach involving Frostwielders, Untap spells, Initiate of Blood, Soul of Magma, and Nine-Ringed Bo.
We all know I’m not a huge fan of this one, but it is somewhat of a necessity in this color combination. The reason for this is that you can’t deal with giant Green men like Moss Kami, Scaled Hulk, and whatever else your opponent may have. It’s also fine for locking down opposing Kabuto Moths (which are highly annoying for this deck, more-so than usual).
So while I really don’t like this card, I don’t mind playing one in most of my U/R decks. If you have enough other playables though, it’s better to leave it in the board and just side it in against the big guys.
This is my favorite card in the archetype with the exception of Teller of Tales.
Back in triple Champions the format was just a tad bit too fast for this guy to really shine. Now that Betrayers has slowed things down a bit, you should have plenty of time to set up your board so that this guy dominates the game. Multiples are more than welcome, as well as ways to untap them.
The most important thing here though is that in U/R I would take this guy over Ronin Houndmaster and Kami of Fire’s Roar (two commons that I generally like over Frosty in other archetypes).
Since U/R is the archetype that can most easily abuse Arcane, this one is a nice fit in some decks. I’d almost always run if it I had Glacial Ray with any respectable number of other Arcane spells, and it’s nice to find Petals of Insight to power up in the midgame. Nobody will want this and you’ll get it in the waning picks of the first two packs.
I’ve heard this called a bomb, but I personally feel that it’s overrated in most decks. I’ve even seen it taken over Yamabushi’s Flame early in a draft, which I can’t ever see myself doing. It’s a good card, but if it kills most of your own guys it may not be optimal for you.
The one deck where I really do like the card though is U/R since most of your ground guys don’t die to it (unless they’re Zuberas, which is a good outcome), and the rest of your creatures fly. It also comes equipped with a big body, which is something that is lacking in the archetype.
This guy again fits the bill in terms of having a “big body.” He’s also much easier to get than Earthshaker since he’s a common and Red is still slightly underdrafted.
When most of your game is River Kaijins and Fliers, this guy is a good addition to the attack force and can help in handling the big green guys.
As you’ll see in the decklist below, this guy is a well-kept secret to the archetype that I’m letting out of the bag.
Most people see this card and correctly evaluate it as an aggressive card that usually won’t be good unless you can trigger it every turn. What they don’t see, however, is that it can also be a 2/2 Wall when you’re trying to buy some time to get your fliers going. In a lot of games you’ll end up trading this for a more expensive ground creature and gain some sort of tempo and mana advantage through doing so. Then there are those times where you draw a nice curve and he can also just attack every turn, which is just a bonus.
2 Goblin Cohort
Reach Through Mists
Genju of the Falls
Toils of Night and Day
2 Shimmering Glasskite
Kami of Fire’s Roar
Teller of Tales
Another form of this deck that is possibly viable is the Ire of Kaminari/Dampen Thought/Glacial Ray concoction. Dr. Martel has tried this a couple of times in our CMU drafts with some amount of success, and I think if you can pick up all of the pieces it’s actually a strong deck. Goblin Cohort is good again here as a 2/2 Wall since you lose the Ethereal Hazes and other defensive cards that the Dampen deck used to have when it was UW.
This is probably the most improved archetype after Betrayers as it gains the powerful Waxmane Baku, Moonlit Strider, as well as the Ninjas.
I have been drafting this archetype a lot lately though, and there are a lot of problem cards for it to overcome. Nezumi Graverobber in particular has given me a lot of problems since I usually have Kami of False Hope in my deck and if it somehow makes its way to the graveyard (Waking Nightmare or Removal), they gain an infinite Fog engine that I basically have no answer to. The same goes for Moonlit Strider and other sacrifice effects. Some other annoyances are Frostwielder, opposing Kabuto Moths, and anything else with utility.
One thing I can say about U/W is that you can easily lock the game up with Moth, Moonlit Strider and some good attackers like Blademaster or Mothrider Samurai. A lot of decks in this format just cannot deal with an active Moth with Strider or Blessed Breath backup, and U/W is the best at abusing the Moth.
There aren’t any cards that truly standout in this deck like there were with the above two archetypes, as most of the cards that are good here are just very good control cards in general or good fliers or tricks. I do have a sample list though, which was chosen from a large sampling of lists to give you the best idea of what a normal solid UW deck will look like. Split-Tail Miko is also really good in this deck, but I’m sure you knew that already from reading KK’s extensive review of the archetype.
Kami of Ancient Law
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho
2 Shimmering Glasskite
Kami of Old Stone
Ribbons of the Reikai
Hundred Talon Kami
Sire of the Storm
I don’t draft this combination that often, but it does have its own set of perks.
Devouring Greed for one is pretty strong in this deck, as well as the fact that you can play both colors of ninjas in combination with Soratami Mirror-Guard and Kami of the Waning Moon to get them through. Another nice combo here is Mirror-Guard plus Wicked Akuba, which will end the game quite quickly if they don’t have a way to stop it.
This card really shines in this deck since any tempo advantage you can gain is good for the overall plan. U/R and U/W are both more controlling, and while Vortex is still great in those decks, it’s simply better in U/B since it’s a more aggressive archetype. Getting guys out of the way so your ground men can get through only shortens the clock when your fliers eventually get to attacking. All in all, this card is probably best in U/G since that deck has no real other form of removal, but it still serves a very important purpose in this deck.
Arguably the best of the common ninjas, this guy only gets better when you have fliers to drop him early as well as Minamo Sightbender and Kami of the Waning Moon. This is a very high pick for this deck.
Also, not to state the completely obvious, but Shuriken is an absolute bomb in this deck, since you’re very likely to get a good amount of ninjas. There isn’t much I’d take over it if I opened it and was in the color combination already.
2 Floating-Dream Zubera
Kami of the Vanishing Touch
2 Mistblade Shinobi
Kami of the Waning Moon
Ninja of Deep Hours
2 Scuttling Death
Petals of Insight
This is another deck that’s gained quite a bit with the addition of Betrayers in both colors. The theme in this archetype is to play lots of Spirits and abuse Soulshift, Devouring Greed, Waxmane, and any other Spirit triggers you can find. Skullmane Baku can even be playable in these decks because you will easily stall out the board and let it build up enough to kill a few men.
If I knew I was drafting B/W, I’d take Scuttling Death over all of the Black commons, including even Nezumi Cutthroat. As far as the Cutthroat is concerned, I feel he’s gotten a lot worse with the addition of the second set for a couple of reasons. First, there are a lot more ways to deal one damage now, and do so cheaply with First Volley, Frostling, Yamabushi’s Storm, etc. Second, Black hasn’t gotten any worse with the inclusion of the new set and may have actually gotten better (at least in my eyes), so a good number of your opponents will be able to block the Rat easily. Scuttling Death is a great card though, and I almost always take it over the common removal spells unless I have no other form of kill and it’s late in pack two. Hundred-Talon Kami really finds a home in this deck as well.
In the past I haven’t really liked this color combination, but I think that this block may finally be its time to shine.
Kami of False Hope
Kami of Ancient Law
Kami of the Waning Moon
2 Gibbering Kami
Ahh, the jank deck. For all of you out there who like Akki Avalanchers, I really just don’t see it. I don’t know why you’d want to sacrifice precious lands for a couple of damage in the first place, and you certainly can’t do this in the early game. When it comes time that you may want to use the ability it’s unlikely that guy is ever getting through anyway, so that essentially makes it a 1/1 that can possibly trade for an X/3 in the late game when you have a few extra lands laying around. Not something I want in most of my decks unless I’m mono-Red and going for pure aggression.
R/W is essentially an aggressive version of U/W that takes better advantage of Waxmane Baku and Kami of Fire’s Roar to force through damage.
This card gained a lot of respect near the end of the triple Champions format, but it’s worth noting that it’s also very solid here. It triggers all of your Spiritcraft creatures, deals the final points of damage, and also allows you to splice Glacial Ray or Torrent of Stone.
This card is the complete package for R/W, since you’ll generally be the aggressor and three points of damage for one mana is huge.
Kami of Fire’s Roar
This guy is simply amazing in this deck as well as G/R. If you have enough Spirits to fuel him he basically lets you Falter every turn. The pick between this guy and Ronin Houndmaster is pretty close (if you ever have to make it) though I think I’d lean slightly towards the Houndmaster as this deck can sometimes be lighter on Spirits than something like B/W.
This guy is only okay in the U/W archetype we already talked about simply because you’re not trying to do fast damage, you’re trying to lock up the board. When the board gets locked up, you’d usually rather play better fliers than this. He does get better if you have Ninjas in the U/W deck, but he’s usually at home here in the janky R/W builds.
Don’t take this in the wrong way and think that I’m saying not to play him in U/W, but I’d pick him higher if I knew I was going to be R/W.
Kami of the Painted Road
This is another good trigger card, though I’ll admit his mainstay archetype is G/W since you have virtually no evasion. I still like him in this deck though if you’re Spirit oriented as he combos well with Fire’s Roar and can help do the last few points. Not something I’d pick highly, but a solid man for the deck.
2 Blessed Breath
2 Split-Tail Miko
2 Moonlit Strider
Kami of Fire’s Roar
Torrent of Stone
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Kami of the Painted Road
I know a lot of people that like this color combination, but I’m not one of them.
Kami of the Waning Moon is great here with big things like Moss Kami to target, along with Devouring Greed since this deck is almost always based on Soulshift and Spiritcraft.
This thing is simply nuts in these colors. Now that you have Gnarled Mass, Child of Thorns, and Bile Urchin to go along with all of the other cheap targets, Burr Grafter should never miss on his Soulshift ability.
Obviously Scuttling Death and all of the other good cards are solid here, as well as possibly Kami of Lunacy, again because of Soulshift. Pus Kami is nice with the mana acceleration too and I definitely recommend it in these colors.
I don’t feel the need to post a list here, since I’m sure many of you have drafted these colors and there’s nothing special about posting a list here.
The few archetypes I left out from this list are U/G, G/W, G/R, and B/R. The reason for doing so was because I didn’t really think I had enough new information to give about the archetypes to make it worthwhile to devote an entire section to them. I will do a quick rundown here though.
I actually do like this color combination as it combines combat tricks, fliers, and big creatures. Ninjas with pump spells is a good combination, and Green decks are usually lacking in the flying department. As I said earlier, Vortex is big here, as well as something like Phantom Wings or Guardian of Solitude.
It’s very arguable that this deck should’ve received its own section. I just don’t like the archetype that much, and didn’t have a whole lot to say since it’s pretty basic. Kami of Fire’s Roar is again big here, and as always with G/R, your goal is to be aggressive. Order of the Sacred Bell is usually better than Burr Grafter here unless you have something like Pain Kami to recur as well.
Take a page from the Jason Martel notebook on G/W (he has drafted it about 30 times at CMU) and play Vital Surge in combination with your Kodama’s Mights, Blessed Breaths, and Hundred-Talon Strikes. Again, Kami of the Painted Road is great here along with any other form of evasion. As always though, G/W has big problems with utility and really isn’t a great draft archetype.
This is probably the best deck that didn’t get it’s own section, and again that could be due to personal preference. I’m never really a fan of the hyper-aggro kill everything deck, but this tendency of mine is especially true in this format. The cards just never really come together well enough for me to like the color combo, but I will agree that it’s viable if drafted correctly. I do know that Shinka Gatekeeper is especially good in these colors since you can just clear a path for it with your removal. Black also has lots of three power three drops which are good for this deck as well.
Hopefully this article gave you a better idea of how certain archetypes are built and what cards to be on the lookout for in each particular deck. Until next week.