Drafting with Tim – Scars of Mirrodin #5!

Monday, November 22nd – What does Tim draft this time around? Whatever it is, it’s not going to be another boring infect draft. Read this week’s Tim Aten draft and contemplate his picks, one at a time!

For my first several installments, I designated a particular time—after Survivor on Wednesday or after Jeopardy on Tuesday—for my “Drafting
With” draft, to both make me focus on the task at hand and prevent self-promotional cherry-picking. If I made sketchy picks and ran my draft into the
ground, I’d have to face the cold, public scrutiny. After last night, I decided to make an exception to the naturalistic approach, at least for the
duration of triple-Scars: I’ll throw out any “traditional” infect drafts.

The draft that was supposed to be documented herein started off with a Sylvok Replica, a Cystbearer, and then a Plague Stinger, and it never looked
back from there. I won round 1 by inflicting eighteen poison counters with a Lifestaffed Plague Stinger, then got poor draws (which wasn’t surprising,
as my deck was mediocre) against Owen Turtenwald round 2 and lost. None of my games were interesting, but more importantly, the draft itself was too
straightforward, as infect drafts are prone to be. I’ve already complained that infect is inherently overpowered, but even more damning is that it’s
the most ridiculously linear Limited mechanic of all time. It’s more akin to a toddler’s exercise of “POINT TO THE RED TRIANGLE” in
each pack than a test of Magical expertise.

Thus, if I open a Skithiryx or a pack where Cystbearer is the best card, I’m still going to go infect, because I strive to do what is “correct” each
draft; it seems like publicly demonstrating a willingness to eschew a certain archetype is counterproductive. [Encourage poor habits] Once I’m no
longer content taking the best card, where will it end? Why not take the third-best card instead of the second? (“Well, if I were trying my hardest,
I’d take Tangle Angler here, but since I’m trying to be kooky and more readable, let’s go with Liege of the Tangle.”) For that reason, I won’t be
taking such a slipshod approach and will instead forego documenting the draft entirely.

  Pack 1 pick 1:

  My Pick:

  Pack 1 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Arrest and Galvanic Blast are far enough ahead of Rust Tick that it’s not worth taking Tick to “stay open,” especially when doing so implicitly increases my chances of being black or green. I think Arrest is a little better than Blast, but Blast is in a color with a better upper end. Either is fine here. For the record, Etched Champion is unimpressive.

  Pack 1 pick 3:

  My Pick:

True Conviction and Grasp of Darkness are both better than Shatter, but as I already have a great red card, I naturally prefer to take Shatter. Neither card is worth abandoning my first pick over, either; Sphinx is better than both of them, and blue’s relative unpopularity makes it easy to “force.”

  Pack 1 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Trigon of Rage is better than Sylvok Lifestaff in infect because it can enable a lot of the creatures to kill your opponent in two hits. It’s also nice to not have to keep mana open every turn to get value out of Lifestaff and, since the deck isn’t about single-minded aggression like infect, to be able to move it to a blocker post-combat. In a metalcraft deck, its lower cost lets you arrive at ‘craft a little earlier, and this is the deciding factor.

  Pack 1 pick 5:

  My Pick:

How nice for the infect players.

  Pack 1 pick 6:

  My Pick:

How nice for me.

  Pack 1 pick 7:

  My Pick:

  Pack 1 pick 8:

  My Pick:

In metalcraft, a Spellbomb will usually be the pick over Certarch. Here, I already have a handful of metalcraft cards, so another cheap artifact is easily a more pressing concern. I took Flight Spellbomb over Panic because the Sphinx and Reins make me think I’ll be playing a lot more blue sources, making it easier to cycle.

  Pack 1 pick 9:

  My Pick:

A perfectly reasonable “24th-card” metalcraft enabler.

  Pack 1 pick 10:

  My Pick:

This deck won’t have room for Ferrovore or Bonds of Quicksilver, so I just took the card that I least wanted to play against. I’m not worried about “signaling,” as people don’t see an eleventh-pick Ferrovore and then just decide to jump into red.

  Pack 1 pick 11:

  My Pick:

If I’m not going to have room for Ferrovore, I’m not going to have room for Seastrider either. I hate-draft cards from infect whenever I get a chance, and Ichorclaw Myr is arguably a better sideboard card against infect too; Seastrider is better against Tel-Jilad Fallen, but Ichorclaw is more effective against Blight Mamba and opposing Ichorclaws. There will be plenty of other opportunities to pick up arbitrary colored creatures that “can block Tel-Jilad Fallen.”

  Pack 1 pick 12:

  My Pick:

Such as here.

  Pack 1 pick 13:

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  Pack 1 pick 15:

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  Pack 2 pick 1:

  My Pick:

This was exactly the card I was hoping for when I took Galvanic Blast over Arrest.

  Pack 2 pick 2:

  My Pick:

  Pack 2 pick 3:

  My Pick:

It’s never fun passing a great card in one of your colors. Embersmith can sometimes (but not always) wreak more havoc than Scrapmelter, but it makes you play off-curve, dies to a lot more (and can be killed before you get value out of it), and effectively has Pacifism on it as long as your opponent has creatures in play. Scrapmelter’s impact is felt immediately, and it can actually brawl. Even though it sounded like I was being harsh on the Smith there, I would’ve easily windmill-slammed it if the Scrapmelter hadn’t been there.

  Pack 2 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Before I noticed the Turn to Slag, I was planning on taking Neurok Replica. With all those four-drops, I want my game to start earlier even if Artisan is better in a vacuum. This was a rather close pick, but Turn to Slag just takes care of too many problems, and I figured there was plenty of time to shore up my various curve and artifact deficiencies.

  Pack 2 pick 5:

  My Pick:

  Pack 2 pick 6:

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  Pack 2 pick 7:

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  Pack 2 pick 8:

  My Pick:

I love Sky-Eel School more than just about everyone. The aforementioned curve and artifact concerns clearly dictated this pick.

  Pack 2 pick 9:

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  Pack 2 pick 10:

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  Pack 3 pick 1:

  My Pick:

This was likely a mispick, but depending on your disdain for Lux Cannon, it’s not as bad as you might think. I’m not happy taking one first because of its slowness, but it’s an effect worth waiting for, and an artifact is an artifact. My curve was still a little high, and my creature count low, plus another Myr would increase my chances of the Spellbomb, Myr, Steed draw. Even though I never actually drew Lux Cannon, if I could do this pick over, I’d take the Leaden Myr. At the time, I was overly optimistic about my chances of picking up another Myr later. While you do want quite a few Myr in a metalcraft deck, I think Lux Cannon is better than the third one.

  Pack 3 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Turn to Slag is more immediate than Barrage Ogre, takes care of bigger problems, sometimes results in devastating 2-for-1s, and isn’t counterproductive to metalcraft.

  Pack 3 pick 3:

  My Pick:

In case you’ve been living in a cave, Trigon of Corruption is not a black card.

  Pack 3 pick 4:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 5:

  My Pick:

In theory, yes, I should’ve just taken the Seastrider here. In practice, the decision is incredibly marginal. I already have a couple random colored dudes to side in against Fallen, and this takes one more Fallen out of the card pool. Fair warning: if there’s a chance you’ll play the card, do not hate-draft over it. Here, I figured there was no chance I’d play the Seastrider.

  Pack 3 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Lux Cannon and the Trigon aren’t reason enough to take the Throne, even if I do sort of want another cheap artifact.

  Pack 3 pick 7:

  My Pick:

The Certarch I already have is going to be running on fumes as-is.

  Pack 3 pick 8:

  My Pick:

See the Tel-Jilad Fallen pick. I didn’t think I’d play a second Soliton, and I can’t imagine boarding one in. Here, maybe I should’ve just left the Exoskeleton in circulation because I have several Shatters to set up 2-for-1s…

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Argent Sphinx

2 Chrome Steed

Neurok Replica

Oxidda Scrapmelter

Saberclaw Golem

Silver Myr

Sky-Eel School

Snapsail Glider


Arc Trail

2 Flight Spellbomb

Galvanic Blast

Lux Cannon

Panic Spellbomb

2 Shatter

Strider Harness

Sylvok Lifestaff

Trigon of Corruption

2 Turn to Slag

Volition Reins

8 Mountain

8 Island


Like last week, the packs seemed pretty weak in general. I ended up a little short on quality creatures, particularly low-drops, but other than my
greedy and misguided pick of Lux Cannon over Myr, I’m not sure what else I could’ve done.

Round One vs. W/R

Game 1: After keeping a four-lander on the play, I Galvanic Blasted his Embersmith and dropped a pair of embarrassing 2/2 Chrome Steeds. He played
Ghalma’s Warden with a Myr, Spellbomb, and Dais for metalcraft, and soon sent both of his guys into my untapped 2/2. Fearing Arc Trail, I took the
damage. He had no play post-combat and simply took eight damage when my Soliton pumped the Steeds. He didn’t play much else, and three attacks from
Argent Sphinx sealed the deal.

Game 2: Because my opponent mulliganed, I kept three lands, two Steeds, Sky-Eel School, and Volition Reins on the draw. I’ve seen people make poor
mulligan decisions based on opponents mulliganing—less frequently now, since the rules preclude someone seeing whether his opponent is double
mulliganing and then somehow manufacturing a faulty reason to keep a horrid hand because of that—but I think my choice was justified here. My
hand is reasonable, and just about every draw in the deck helps it, but it’s admittedly slow. That my opponent mulliganed means he has fewer resources
with which to overwhelm me before I can develop my board. Additionally, the average six-card hand is probably weaker per card than the average
seven-carder, since you have to be more willing to keep speculative hands at six to give yourself the best possible odds of winning. (Obviously the
average six-card hand is absolutely weaker; I’m saying it’s relatively weaker.) This isn’t to say you should never go to five obviously, but that
people* should be and are more reluctant to do so.

After stalling on one land for a turn, my opponent sacrificed an off-color Horizon Spellbomb, then hit several land drops. He had a Kemba’s Skyguard,
as well as a Galvanic Blast to off my first Steed and a Dispense Justice to kill my School. Over the next few turns, I Turned his Ghalma’s Warden to
Slag and Volition Reins-ed his Wurmcoil Engine. Unfortunately, he had a Glimmerpoint Stag to resume control of the bomb mythic. Even so, I thought I
had a clear path to victory—he was at eight, and I could Flight Spellbomb my Steed and then Galvanic Blast him out—until he tapped his last
mana to play Glint Hawk. That set up the following board:

He had Stag, Engine, two 2/2 fliers (one untapped), and five lands. My board was Steed, Neurok Replica, and six lands, and my hand was Blast, Flight
Spellbomb, Shatter, Lifestaff, and black Trigon. I was at nine life to his eight. Since I couldn’t win that turn, I decided to set myself up to win the
next turn, just playing the Trigon to ensure metalcraft for my finale next turn even after I’d sacrificed my Replica and Spellbomb. I clearly didn’t
want to play the Spellbomb until I was going to use it, as he’d just leave a flier back if I did.

The plan went off without a hitch. He played a sixth land and attacked with his squad, and I put my Replica in the way of the Stag before bouncing his
Engine. When he tapped out to replay the Engine, I knew I was in the clear.


Round Two vs. Infect

Game 1: Not knowing what I was playing against (I’d probably peek in the Top 8 of a premier event, but I don’t think it’s worth the time and effort in
a simple 8-man, plus it’s bad practice for IRL events where you won’t have access to such information), I kept four Mountains, Shatter, Trigon, and
Turn to Slag on the play. I soon drew another Mountain and a Turn to Slag. I neglected to Shatter his Horizon Spellbomb, then quickly drew my other
Shatter and Oxidda Scrapmelter, all of which remained glutted in my hand. Meanwhile, he Sliced my Trigon, played two infect dudes and a Carrion Call
and then cast Untamed Might for the perfectly reasonable, legitimate win.

I boarded out Shatter and Lux Cannon for Ichorclaw Myr and Certarch.

Game 2: I kept a five-lander, because you can’t just mulligan every opener,** and drew three straight lands. My opponent’s opening line of play was
peculiar, to say the least. On turns 1 and 2 he played Horizon Spellbomb and Blight Mamba. On turn 3, he missed his land drop and, with two Forests in
play, didn’t sacrifice his Spellbomb to hit his land. The next turn, he drew and played a Forest, then immediately sacrificed his Spellbomb to fetch a
Swamp. Since he did this on his turn, he was up to eight cards in hand and had to discard. The card he pitched? A Swamp.

After a couple turns, I had two Chrome Steeds against his Blight Mamba and Tumble Magnet with three counters. I Reins-ed the latter to achieve
metalcraft, hoping he didn’t have Slice; he had Carrion Call and simply took the attack, going to ten. On my next turn, fearing Untamed Might, I played
Soliton and simply passed the turn. After he cluttered the board with another Carrion Call, I decided to take some action. I cast Turn to Slag on some
random dude he played that turn, leaving up a Mountain instead of an Island despite having Soliton in play. I was hoping this represented a reasonable
Galvanic Blast bluff, which I considered my best chance to win, since he had more than enough guys to overwhelm me and get in with a lethal Untamed
Might. When I sent in both Steeds and Soliton, he quadruple-blocked a Steed, leaving him at three life with just a Blight Mamba. Maybe he didn’t have
the Might after all…

He didn’t attack on his turn, and when I attacked, he Sliced Soliton and blocked my 2/2 Steed with Mamba. I played a Sky-Eel School, and next turn, I
was actually able to use Flight Spellbomb on my Steed to finish him off despite Bladed Pinions on his Mamba.

Game 3: I had a perfectly reasonable opening hand this game—three lands, Blast, Ichorclaw, Neurok Replica, and Scrapmelter—so naturally, I
lost horribly. After his Fume Spitter and Contagious Nim traded for Ichorclaw and Blast, I felt compelled to raw-dog my Scrapmelter. He played Carrion
Call and then Bellowing Tanglewurm, and he also had a Slice in Twain for next turn’s Replica. At four poison, I topdecked Soliton . . . which was
promptly tapped by his freshly cast Tumble Magnet while I had an Island untapped. He sent with his team anyway—including the Tanglewurm—and
I ate his tokens with a Myr and the Soliton. After combat, a Cystbearer joined the team.

On his next turn, my Soliton haumphed his Cystbearer, but a Tainted Strike on Tanglewurm took me to nine poison. He didn’t have the Ichor Rats then,
and I was otherwise taking over control of the game, but I didn’t have a doubt in my mind he’d draw the Rats. Sure enough, after I attacked him to five
a couple turns later, he drew his card and said “I hope you don’t have the counter,” and then my tournament was over.


*Other than Martin Juza.

**Again, unless you’re Martin Juza.