Drafting White/Blue In Odyssey/Torment

I’ve been drafting every morning on Magic Online, and I have some thoughts on an archetype I’ve had success with. Oh, and I finally go off on Magic’s pricing structure. Has it been too long since I ranted?

I’ve been drafting every morning on Magic Online’s beta test… And let me tell you, it couldn’t be simpler! Simply follow these steps:

1) Turn on computer and start up Magic Online. Connect.

2) Hmm… Magic Online cannot connect to the server? But my nifty DSL connection allows me to download free porn at a megabyte per second! Hmm. I’d better verify that this blazingly-fast connection is working.

3) Who cares about Magic Online?

4) Try to connect again. Despite massive influx of data, MOL still can’t find the server. Reboot DSL box and try again.

5) Success! Sign up for draft game.

6) Draft solid deck.

7) First-round opponent drops because he’s rare drafting and is done. Get a bye. Wait around for an hour.

7) Become briefly disinterested in Magic Online again. Yay DSL!

8) Start playing second-round opponent, just in time to get the connection dropped. Even though the Magic Online web page says the server is up, I can’t connect. Reboot DSL. Reboot PC. Still doesn’t work. Sit and watch helplessly for the next hour, knowing that the game is over and I’ve just lost rating points.

9) Test out DSL connection again. Depression suddenly lifts. As do other things.

10) Get back on Magic Online, draft excellent white/blue deck, play perfectly. However, since white/blue decks need to know everything you’re doing and have to click”OK” every three seconds to respond to what my opponent is doing, I run out of time on the chess clock. Again. When I’m two points away from winning and in the middle of my attack phase.

11) Pick up computer in preparation to heave into wall, then realize blazingly-fast DSL connection has some benefits and put it down.

Besides, my wrists are too weak to pick up the PC anyway.

Now, before I start on how to draft White/Blue in Odyssey/Odyssey/Torment, let me digress for a moment on Magic Online’s pricing:

Complete and utter total, weak-ass bullsh*t.

And I’m understating.

It’s not because of the price. $3.29 a pack isn’t bad… If it does what it’s supposed to do. Paying full price for a draft isn’t my ideal pricepoint – but for a game any time of the day or night, with rules and official tourneys involved, I can live with it.

But here’s the rub: If I pay ten bucks out of my wallet, I don’t want cards…

…I want a game.

I don’t want,”Oh, I raredrafted all the cards I wanted and now I’m dropping, so you get a bye!” I don’t want,”Despite your currently-functioning DSL connection, the Magic server refuses to acknowledge you for no apparent reason!” I don’t want,”Despite my opponent’s functioning cable modem, it’s refusing to acknowledge him for no apparent reason!”

Ten bucks is a draft in real life. In Magic Online, ten bucks can be a bye and a disconnect and a loss, which sucks even if I keep the cards.

In other words,”Hey, sorry you didn’t get to see the movie, guys… But you get to keep the popcorn.”

The thing that nobody talks about is how often you get accidentally disconnected. It happens less often nowadays, but during a day of heavy playing I can still get jarred offline two or three times. If that happens in Everquest, fine, your character vanished mysteriously and is out of harm’s way… But in Magic Online, you’re still there, unable to connect with your Avatar, who just lost a game. Or worse yet, the server’s autodrafted the Suck Deck for you, losing the match.

And thass all cool if the packs are free, muchacho.

But if I just blew ten bucks of my precious dough?

Think again.

What Wizards is not considering is that if you go to a real life tournament and draft, your first-round opponent is not going to just drop before you play… Mostly out of fear that you’ll track him down and squish him like a bug for being a jerk, but still. But people will raredraft in tourneys all the time, and if they don’t care about their rating – or better yet, have one account for ratings and another for raredrafting – then the games will suffer.

Yeah, that’s gonna get the newbies into Magic.”Hey! You paid ten bucks and won! With no enjoyment or learning whatsoever!”

Why not just play Progress Quest instead, which is at least free?*

If I’m going to pay ten bucks, I want stability. Rock-hard stability. If the system goes down while I’m in the middle of a game and I can’t reconnect in time, screw the cards; I want my money back. That’s two hours of enjoyment I just lost.

And the”reassuring” article by the security guy at Leaping Lizards is the worst piece of marketing-driven drivel I’ve ever read. (Now, to be fair, he may know what he’s talking about… But it certainly doesn’t come off here.) There are, essentially, two ways to read what he wrote:

1) Boy howdy, everything’s safe. No worries. Relax.

2) What? Why, yes, Diablo II did hold all of its player characters and inventory in a special multi-layered security design… Just like we’re doing with Magic! And yes, they did get hacked. Frequently! In fact, to the point where at one point they had to back up three weeks and start over, since their server was riddled with haquors. And how does our”$3.29-a-pack” system differ from Diablo’s”absolutely free” multi-layered security? Heck if we have a clue! But we do know that if we have to obliterate your three hundred dollars in card purchases over the past month and ask you to buy all those booster packs over again, we’ll be sure and tell you how sorry we are.

Basically, his article says,”We’re doing everything that Everquest and Asheron’s Call do, and they get hacked all the time, but at least they don’t ask you for ten bucks for every piece of equipment like we do.”

Is this reassuring?

Thanks, guys.

So what was I talking about?

Right. How to draft blue/white in Odyssey/Odyssey/Torment.


There’s two reasons for my telling you to simply stay the hell away from Blue/White – one is game-related, the other is Magic Online-related.

Game: White has gotten a lot weaker in Torment, and it’s not worth it anymore. That’s not real news. Black is stronger and can pretty much kill anything that white decides to put out there. That’s not real news, either.

The real news is that everyone’s favorite new color combination is blue/black, which means that not only do you get a suck color (white) by specializing in blue/white, but chances are good that your support color might get drafted out from under you.

Magic Online: As [author name="Will Rieffer"]Will Rieffer[/author] noted last week, playing anything controllish in Magic Online eats up your clock something fierce. I was a decent U/W control player, and many times the final turns came down to clicking the”go” button as feverishly as I could. You will lose if you choose a slow, reactive deck in Magic Online thanks to the chess clock.

So what are you to do, then?

Well, I’ll suggest a little color combo that’s won me the last three Ody/Ody/Tor drafts I’ve been in, giving me a nice little ratings boost to make up for all of my”Oops, you disconnect, you lose the game” things that Magic Online’s given me in the past:

Red/Black Tempo

Now, I’ve talked to blisterguy (and bugged him enough that he finally wrote me a damn article), who has a rating of just under 1800 on Magic Online, and he prefers B/R Control, which is an entirely different beast. Let me clarify:

B/R Control is a slow deck that relies heavily on Innocent Bloods and the like for early defense, ramping up to a high mana count for Anarchist tricks with Morbid Hungers. It relies strongly on things like Dirty Wererat and Chainflinger, and you first-pick the Hungers to make sure you get them. It is powerful, but slow.

B/R Tempo involves drafting suck cards and blazing away, hopefully doing about ten to twelve points by turn 4 and then pinging away for the end.

It sounds stupid, but after I got forced into it a couple of times and won, I realized it works.

Here’s how you draft it:

Draft red like you were drafting an aggressive R/G deck – but keep in mind that this is tempo, early drops are critical, and red will be the bulk of your creatures, too. Spark Mages, though they go late, deserve a place in your deck, as do the (very) occasional Dwarven Grunt. Mad Dogs and Minotaur Explorers are what you want for creatures, and Reckless Charge makes them mad; the more Blazing Salvos you can get, the better, since you want your opponents to have to make nasty choices. And considering that you’re focusing on early drops, Volcanic Spray is a much higher pick, since it can take out 3/3s with a Spark Mage or a Mad Dog, and clears out squirrel tokens for massive advantage. (Attack with the Spark Mage, opponent blocks – or doesn’t – then Volcanic Spray twice for the kill.)

Oh, and if you get a Molten Influence? Maindeck it. It helps.

Black is your removal base, and you first-pick Afflicts and Bloods – but Ghastly Demises are sideboard cards. You’ll be fleshing out your removal in Torment, so small critters are good here, too – around the fourth or fifth pick. Gravediggers help bring (back) the pain, Dusk Imps are great for Reckless Charging, and Patriarch’s Desires help kill a lot. Painbringers are overpriced, but they’re good for what ails ya if you work through to the late game.

Spark Mage, Dwarven Grunt, Mad Dogs, and Minotaur Explorers are what you smash with, Black is how you get people to sacrifice and remove.

Obviously, if you pick up a bomb like Bloodsucker, Patriarch, or Savage Firecat, to hell with the mana curve.

Cards that don’t work: Dirty Wererats aren’t bad, but in this deck you’re never gonna hit threshold (too many flashback cards) and they’re kind of overpriced when you consider that. Don’t not pick them; just don’t overvalue them, either. They’re not first-pick material by any standard. Likewise, Chainflingers are four-mana, 2/2s that don’t attack; they’re not what you need, since you tend to burn cards in the yard quickly.

So what do you do when you hit Torment?

Draft removal. Black removal and red. You’ll generally tend to be fairly red-heavy until now, so balance it out.

Crippling Fatigue and Chainer’s Edicts are a first-picks. Putrid Imp and Strength of Lunacy are what you really, really want, since a 3/2 flyer that you have to discard cards for is surprisingly strong. Nobody wants to kill it.

Butchers, yeah. Waste Away? Too expensive. Organ Grinders are very key here, depleting your graveyard for a long-term kill (and if they’ve been playing as defensively as they should have, they’re usually low on removal now) and Gravegougers help keep annoying green mages away from threshold.

If you play Carrion Rats, remind me to slap you.

As far as red goes, skip the Barbarian Outcasts; they’re only 2/2s. One or two Petravarks are good at the four-drop level if you can find them, but Sonis Seizures and Flaming Gambits are nuts. Two or three Longhorn Firebeasts? Sign me up.

Grim Lavamancer is made for this deck. Good luck finding one.

How do you play it?

Drop an early creature on turn 1; walk over and smash face a couple of times, as a lot of decks don’t really do anything until turn 3. When they play a creature, Cripple it or Spray it or Blood it; play something else, repeat. Get them down low, to the point where you can burn them out or overwhelm them with your cheap critters. At no point should they have more than one creature out.

How does it fare against the establishing Ody/Tor archetypes?

B/U Control: Actually, not bad. You’ve got a lot of their removal, and their creatures are better suited for the late game. With your early destruction choices (Salvos and Firebeasts), you can get them down low or destroy their resources. And unlike G/R, if you run out of steam, you do have several non-attack based ways of killing if you do finally run out of things.

G/R Blitz: Actually, a better matchup than I thought, and I’ve played it a couple of times. Mongrel is still a pain, but Spray is golden (heh) in this matchup, as it takes care of Squirrel and Elephant tokens at a massive price. You’re both burning resources to try to outdo each other; the G/R player will generally get you down low as you jockey for permission, but your late-game topdecking skills are better than his, since you’ll have destroyed all of his creatures and have more burn choices. Sometimes he’ll topdeck burn and finish you off, but generally you do pull it out.

G/B Threshold: Excellent. You kill all of their early stuff, and destroy their late-game potential. With most games lasting five to eight turns, their chances of hitting threshold are slim… And Cephalids never get a chance to broke. Make sure to maximize your evil choices and use your Salvos and Firebeasts as life losers – never play a Salvo without a real burn or kill spell to back it up. This early in the game, they won’t have the mana to protect a Rootwalla anyway.

Anything with white: You die. Oops. Okay, some matches this just sucks in.

S’all right? S’all right. I’m not saying this is always a game-winner, but when it works, it works. It blitzes past control decks, and it can be very fast out of the gate. It’s not always my first-choice draft, but it’s not a bad place to be in.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy

[email protected]

* – Currently a 30th-level Double Wookiee Bastard Lunatic. By the time you read this, I may be 40th level! Whee!