Originally, I had intended to use my first draft of the day for a walkthrough. I ended up drafting a mediocre red/black deck (splashing Unburial Rites, naturally) and losing round 1; however, I figured I’d just stick to my guns and go through my decision-making process for that one. When I was a few lines into writing it up, I hopped back in the queue and drafted a far more interesting concoction, and I actually made the finals with it. It feels a little early to showcase a quirky deck, but with all the other draft walkthroughs floating around, I figured people are familiar enough with the fundamentals of the format and how to draft "normally" that this should be worthwhile.
If you’re trying to maximize your win percentage, I don’t recommend going out of your way to draft a gimmick deck (or an unorthodox archetype). Drafting is supposed to be fun, of course, but unless I’m on wicked tilt or am feeling particularly pleased with myself on the crest of a winning streak, I won’t pursue a strategy that doesn’t have a realistic shot of winning.
For instance, the stars would have to align perfectly for me to draft a Burning Vengeance deck—and they did a couple days ago. I first-picked Silver-Inlaid Dagger out of a blank pack, then got passed a foil Vengeance alongside a regular one in a pack deep enough where I thought I could take one and table the other. While someone snatched up the other one from that pack, I did manage to pick up a second in pack 1 pick 3, so I went all-out. I ended up making the finals (and I think splitting), but the deck was quite sketchy; I was playing two Nightbird’s Clutches and splashing Purify the Grave.
In sum, the risk is high and the reward low with many gimmick decks, but I think I was in a reasonable spot with today’s. It’s fun and can be quite powerful—it just doesn’t seem to come together properly often enough.
The only two considerations are Kessig Cagebreakers and Galvanic Juggernaut. The Cagebreakers are on a power level high enough above the Juggernaut’s that I don’t need to bother fence-sitting. While the Cagebreakers will be great in any green deck, if I really want to maximize them, I should look to play a self-milling subtheme and as many creatures as possible.
Here, I start carrying out the plan. If you’re drafting completely “by the book,” the safe pick is just Victim of Night; however, Forbidden Alchemy is one of the best commons in the set if you can flash it back, and I’m willing to splash a color to enhance my theme. It’s still early in the draft, so I’ll be able to pick up fixers at opportune times instead of scrambling for them at the last minute. Selhoff Occultist would also be good in the deck I envision, but Alchemy is more efficient at dumping creatures in the graveyard, plus it helps find other cards that do the same. Somberwald Spider isn’t really worth mentioning, so to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why I just did.
I took Avacyn’s Pilgrim over Traveler’s Amulet for a couple reasons. First, I’m not sure the Amulet would even be better in my prospective G/U/b deck, as Pilgrim’s mana acceleration will help me keep pace with the more straightforward decks, and it’s another body to boost Cagebreakers and whatever else I end up with. Second, while I’d prefer to end up with a green/blue deck, I’m still open to drafting a standard green/white beatdown deck if I get passed Travel Preparations instead of Armored Skaabs.
Cleaver could be good if I end up with a lot of humans, but it’s pretty clunky, and I’ve found it to be pretty interchangeable with stuff like Moment of Heroism and Spidery Grasp, which come way later. It’s important to have a good curve, and Viper will work out well in either green/white or green/blue.
IT’S A SIGN!
I’m going to have to be pretty selective with my non-creature slots, but depending on what else I get, one Claustrophobia should be worth including. I debated taking Voiceless Spirit to continue my proud tradition of waffling, but cooler (maybe?) heads prevailed.
I spoke too soon. Time to whip out the ol’ waffle iron. If people are going to pass me a 7th-pick Travel Preparations while green/white is still on the table, I feel obligated to pounce. Taking Orchard Spirit wouldn’t have been a real hedge since passing up on those Travel Preparations would be a major step toward dismissing white; if I ultimately chose the white route after too much indecision, my deck wouldn’t be very strong. I’m not positive whether Crab or Orchard Spirit would be better in green/blue self-mill; Crab buys time to get to your hopefully degenerate late game, while Orchard Spirit gives you the plan B of just curving out. I think I’d have taken Spirit if not for the Preparations.
This should have just been the Scarecrow. I was thinking about various games where opponents flipped it on turn 2 and panicked a little. At the time, I also thought either selection would just be a warm body that I hoped would end up in the ‘yard (so, I guess, a “cold body”); in actuality, Scarecrow is a pretty solid defensive card that would have helped me survive the mid-game. Oops.
Curse of the Bloody Tome is slow and eats up a precious non-creature slot. I want to get as many dudes as I can and save the spell slots for Mulch, Alchemy, and maybe some removal. Curse is no Armored Skaab.
Depending on how big my black splash is, there’s some chance I’ll play this. It pumps up Splinterfright et al as well as anything when milled, and if I draw it (and can cast it), I can send it right to the graveyard with a slight benefit.
Though I will eventually want a little fixing, this is just too early to “waste” a pick on Traveler’s Amulet. The Prey Upon was tempting, but I wasn’t kidding about the importance of creature density in a deck like this.
While Departure and Ulvenwald Mystics are both fine, I want more cards that reward me for going through all this work to fill my graveyard. With this and Forbidden Alchemy, I’ll move mana-fixing up in my priorities.
I probably don’t have to explain why I didn’t take the Claustrophobia here. Stitcher’s Apprentice helps get creatures in the bin, but it’s annoying spending the mana, and it’s too far below the Boar in raw power.
For the record, it was correct to pass THIS Scarecrow.
Jackpot. If you play this on turn 2 in a deck like this and hit for a lot, you don’t even mind having to discard.
I knew I wouldn’t play the snake, so I just made a standard hate-draft of the card most likely to beat me.
Obviously this card has potential in such an archetypeâ€”and it actually lives up to it. I certainly want at least one of these in my deck.
Since I’m pretty much guaranteed to splash black, this pick is quite greedy. That said, I would still make the same pick now. Punishment’s power level is off the charts even after taking the variance into consideration, and it complements my deck perfectly (other than the color, of course). Boneyard Wurm is pretty useless in most green decks, and the pack is reasonably deep, so I have a decent chance of tabling it. I am REALLY going to have to get some fixers now.
I actually didn’t think I could table the Maniac here. There’s a good chance Forbidden Alchemy is a better pick, but it’s closer than you think, and sometimes you just have to go for the gusto and/or broke. (Probably broke.)
I stand by this pick as well. Darkthicket Wolf is a great creature that can either hold off an opponent’s ground forces or give me some easier wins as part of my deck’s aggro “Plan B.” In a deck like this, Caravan Vigil doesn’t let you cheat on your splash lands as much as it would in other decks. If I mill my one Swamp to Assistant, Punishment, or something I pick up later, Caravan Vigil is no longer a “black source.” At this point, I’d still like to play Heretic’s Punishment, but I’m not married to it.
I’m probably playing both Kindercatches along with the Cagebreakers. If it’s hard to get through on the ground, I may board this in to build my own dragons. I can’t see Spidery Grasp ever being worth a non-creature slot here.
I probably won’t be desperate enough to use this on myself as mana fixing. Probably.
The other Wurm didn’t table, but this one did? Intriguing.
Catch Me If You Kin(der): A Tim Aten Production
2 Darkthicket Wolf
In the end, I didn’t actually get enough fixers to justify playing the Heretic’s Punishment. The recommended play would be to cut the Mountains for another Island (or maybe Forest) and swap the Punishment for the second Gnaw to the Bone. Again, do as I say, not as I do, etc.
If you counted the decklist or noticed how I said to swap out the MountainS for aN Island, you’ve realized this deck is 41 cards. Before listening to some solid advice from PV several years ago, I was okay with sometimes playing 41 cards because 18 (or 17) lands in 41 cards felt "right" when the standard 17/40 wouldn’t have. That’s a load of hogwash. Just play 40 cards and give yourself the best chance to draw your best cards. In this corner case, though, my greedy mana base forced the issue. I’m running the bare minimum of each basic land type (again, the self-milling factors in when I consider 2 to be the bare minimum for my splash colors), and that adds up to 17. With the Mulches, Vigil, Assistant, and Pilgrim, 17 lands just seemed like too many. Besides, there’s nothing to cut; all the spells have to stay, and it’s more important to have a critical mass of binnable creatures than to improve my odds of drawing Cagebreakers by a tiny fraction…I think. I’m sure someone who didn’t stop taking math classes sophomore year of college has a better idea about this.
Other than Gnaw to the Bone, which "should" be in the deck, if you’re wondering about any of my cuts, the answer is "because it’s not a creature."
Round One vs. G/R/w
Game 1: The board got cluttered, and Grave Bramble held off his early offense. He eventually landed Gallows Warden and started pecking away with it, but it was his only viable attacker, so it wasn’t a huge concern. What WAS a huge concern was that I didn’t have a good way to break through his two Ironfangs and Ulvenwald Primordials—not good with a library approaching single digits. With about 7 cards left in my deck, I had to play Splinterfright and a Darkthicket Wolf to flip his dudes back, then Gnaw end of turn to keep them from transforming again. With 4 cards left in my deck, I drew Grasp of Phantasms. I was lucky it wasn’t one of the last three cards, but it would have been fine to mill it. I Grasped a blocker and swung for the fences, decimating his squad and putting him at 4. Then he played…Blasphemous Act. There was some small hope I could bounce his only blocker and attack for the win if all three of his cards were blanks, but my last remaining threat was my last card.
I boarded in Cobbled Wings, BUT I DIDN’T BOARD ANYTHING OUT. SO THERE.
Game 2: He played a couple small dudes but was slow to play a Forest. I landed Cagebreakers, which singlehandedly prompted Blasphemous Act, which he couldn’t afford to cast until after I’d attacked. Because Cagebreakers was all I had to commit to the board, I still had a Kindercatch and Woodland Sleuth in reserve.
Game 3: My opening hand was Pilgrim, two Darkthicket Wolves, Splinterfright, two Forests, Mountain. Sheesh, what deck was I drawing from? I got him to 4 before the board stalled, and then when my Splinterfright was big enough, I sent in with everyone. When the dust settled, he was at 2, and I had just a 1/1. I was hoping to save my Cagebreakers for after Act, but I wanted more board presence than just a 1/1, plus I figured he would have played it earlier if he had it. Well, he must have drawn it in one of the previous two turns because the Cagebreakers died instantly. On my turn, I drew Kindercatch; on his, he conceded.
Round Two vs. Red/Black
Game 1: He double mulliganed and didn’t play anything until turn 5. Thanks to the wonders of Modo, I lost this replay, so use your imagination.
Game 2: My opening hand was Caravan Vigil, Mulch, Grasp of Phantoms, Mr. Krabs, Heretic’s Punishment, Island, Mountain. Since you have to gamble a little with a deck like this, and I was up a game AND on the draw, I decided to keep. I promptly drew Deranged Assistant and Alchemy, which found Forest. I Grasped Juggernaut, which he replayed before Victiming my Crab. Juggernaut remained on lockdown while I played a Kindercatch and flashed back Grasp on a Skirsdag Cultist. He played Altar’s Reap on one of his two other creatures (both Typhoid Rats) to untap Juggernaut, then sent it into my now double-Catch and finished one off by sacking the Cultist. Gnaw to the Bone kept his Traitorous Blood from becoming worrisome, but when he had Tribute to Hunger for my lone Kindercatch, decking again became a concern. With 7 cards in my deck, I drew Cagebreakers and Spider Spawning on consecutive turns. He had another Victim for the Breakers, but the Spawning made a total of 21 tokens.
Round Three vs. Green/Blue
We agreed to split and play for funzies.
Game 1: My curve was turn 2 Mulch; turn 3 Splinterfright; turn 4 Deranged Assistant and Boneyard Wurm; turn 5 Grasp a Sturmgeist and cast Darkthicket Wolf; turn 6 Spider Spawning. Already at a low life total, my opponent scooped to the Spawning.
Game 2: I kept a two-Forest hand that had most or all of my green two-drops. My opponent double mulliganed but curved out with Gatstaf Shepherd, Orchard Spirit, and Festerhide Boar. I was stuck on two or three Forests for most of the game. At the end, I could have topdecked a Mulch or an Island for Alchemy to break through his lone blocker (a Cagebreakers of his own) for the win, but I didn’t and would have needed three creatures in my next four cards anyway.
Game 3: My opponent played two Gatstaf Shepherds and a Ludevic’s Test Subject, and I had Darkthicket Wolf and Ambush Viper to hold the Shepherds off as well as (eventually) Heretic’s Punishment to keep Test Subject from flipping. Unfortunately, I forgot that the "flip Abomination back into Test Subject" trick is an extraordinarily rare corner case that will never happen and waited for him to put the last counter on before trying to kill it when he still had mana up. See, I thought that simply adding a sixth counter would flip it back and somehow got it in my mind that the "remove all counters" would only happen when it was convenient for me. (The actual only way it flips back is if it has four counters already, then someone puts six activations on the stack.) Thus, I turned what should have been an interesting game into a prompt loss. I’d say I lost focus and tried to get too cute because I wasn’t actually playing for anything, but I knew I was going to publish a match recap and would theoretically not want to embarrass myself, so I don’t really have a leg to stand on.
See ya next week, kids!
(P.S. Maybe little pinch?)