Drafting With Tom! MSS #1

Wednesday, March 16 – Tom Reeve managed to survive the Talent Search and is now back to give you guys an MSS draft walkthrough. Use this under-drafted strategy in a SCG Draft Open this weekend in Dallas/Fort Worth.

So I’m back! Hooray! And I’m drafting and everything. As this is my first time Drafting With, and my usual reaction to playing on Magic
Online is eerily similar to severe anaphylaxis, I hope you’ll forgive any interface-related hiccups (yes, this is foreshadowing, grumble grumble)
that crop up. But of course, the draft’s the main thing, right? Just to say it explicitly, I’ll be drafting exclusively in 8-4 queues.
I’ll try to avoid rare-drafting too much, and I’ll play out my finals. If anyone has suggestions for format, information you’d like
or like more of, or any other constructive criticism, please join in the discussion in the forums

So without further ado!

  Pack 1 pick 1:

  My Pick:

The considerations here were Ichor Wellspring, Phyrexian Rager, Leonin Relic-Warder, Pierce Strider. There’s been quite a bit of talk recently of white being underpowered (particularly people being tempted into the color by Phyrexian Rebirth and regretting it), and I decided to try out an aggressive white deck in the style of my early Talent Search article on R/W and try to maximize the impact of potentially under-drafted, heavily white cards like Skyhunter.

  Pack 1 pick 2:

  My Pick:

W/R is looking a lot more attractive now! Flamefiend is incredibly powerful, and I’m both unsurprised that a rare was taken over it and curious if a better rare was. If my impression of attitudes towards white, particularly heavily white decks, is accurate, I’d be looking for Skyhunter to table here, while Offering might be snapped up by someone dabbling in the color or prepared to splash it.

  Pack 1 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Not much to say here. Divine Offering and Blightwidow are the most powerful cards in the pack, and I’m happy to take a hit in overall power level to stay on plan.

  Pack 1 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Given that I’m planning on drafting an aggressive deck with plenty of two-drops and hopefully a decent number of fliers, Piston Sledge should fit in well.

  Pack 1 pick 5:

  My Pick:

I’m surprised to see Septic Rats still here. Rusted Slasher and Ringleader were considerations, and the decision was tilted by a couple of factors — first of all, I’d rather have the creature that’s more durable in its own right, and second of all, even if Ringleader isn’t getting through for damage itself, it can represent extra damage on the board in a deck that wants to be attacking.

  Pack 1 pick 6:

  My Pick:

I’m happy to see a Skyhunter here, as I’m still hoping to table the one from my first pack. Resister is a fine card, and if I end up with one, I may well play it, mana permitting.

  Pack 1 pick 7:

  My Pick:

If the deck ends up very fast, Spine might not make the maindeck, but it could be a strong sideboard card against slower decks that can hold off my early aggression — a deck with the Blightwidow or Lumengrid Gargoyle that I passed earlier, for example, or some late-game bomb (particularly one that isn’t vulnerable to Offering or Relic-Warder).

  Pack 1 pick 8:

  My Pick:

I already have Ringleader and Flamefiend and don’t want to go too heavy on more expensive creatures. I won’t cry if Sentinel doesn’t make the cut.

  Pack 1 pick 9:

  My Pick:

Now I can’t avoid taking something expensive! It’s looking doubtful that I’ll have metalcraft reliably for Rhino, and Gnathosaur’s interaction with Spine of Ish Sah might become relevant.

  Pack 1 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Ding! It looks like there’s one other white drafter, which puts us in a strong position for the rest of the draft.

  Pack 1 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Not looking likely to be playable but might as well pick it in case.

  Pack 1 pick 12:

  My Pick:

This was a straight-up mistake. I’m not going to play yet more 6/7-drops, and Mirran Spy can block Skyhunters!

  Pack 1 pick 13:

  My Pick:

  Pack 1 pick 14:

  My Pick:

  Pack 1 pick 15:

  My Pick:

  Pack 2 pick 1:

  My Pick:

This was a pretty mediocre pack. The choice was between Sunspear Shikari and Vulshok Replica. I only have one equipment so far, the Sledge, but I’ll be looking out for power-boosting equipment like Lifestaff or Darksteel Axe.

  Pack 2 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Nice easy pick and good to get some removal for non-artifacts.

  Pack 2 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Not going to turn down a Revoke for a Strider Harness.

  Pack 2 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Not going to turn this down either!

  Pack 2 pick 5:

  My Pick:

Given my lack of artifacts so far, this was a greedy pick. Saberclaw Golem, although on the high end of the curve, would have probably been more likely to make the maindeck.

  Pack 2 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Still greedy! This wouldn’t normally be a hard decision at all, but I seriously considered Origin Spellbomb here again due to a lack of artifacts so far. I gambled on building up an adequate number of artifacts in the second half of the draft…

  Pack 2 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Considered Revoke for the same reason, but with Offering, Scrapmelter, Relic-Warder, Revoke, and Arrest in the bag already, I was prepared to gamble on a two-power guy that might be able to provide a bit of extra board control or reach.

  Pack 2 pick 8:

  My Pick:

This is just ridiculous. Presumably there’s only one other white drafter and a white rare of some kind was opened.

  Pack 2 pick 9:

  My Pick:

Artifact, creature, useful to have around against infect? Check.

  Pack 2 pick 10:

  My Pick:

The Glint Hawk might yet end up being rescued, and Censer may well make the deck just as a burn spell anyway.

  Pack 2 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Would rather not play it, but with three Smiths, it’s probably a good sideboard option against other fast decks, both for the life gain and cheap Smith triggers.

  Pack 2 pick 12:

  My Pick:


  Pack 2 pick 13:

  My Pick:

  Pack 2 pick 14:

  My Pick:

  Pack 2 pick 15:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 1:

  My Pick:

Equipment for the Shikari, artifact for the Smiths, and a huge power bonus that could make a big difference against potential problem cards like Blightwidow and Darkslick Drake.

  Pack 3 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Hopefully the Censer will table, but Stag is far too good to pass up. Clears blockers out, kills tokens, kills living weapons, blinks Scrapmelter or Flamefiend, resets my other Censer or Arrest. Is there nothing it can’t do?

  Pack 3 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Not too excited about any of these, but Disperse is the most likely to be useful.

  Pack 3 pick 4:

  My Pick:

A solid equipment, and two-cost artifacts are valuable for the Smiths. Gives an alternate evasion option as well, and I’ve already mentioned that I want a good number of answers to four-toughness reach or flying creatures.

  Pack 3 pick 5:

  My Pick:

I’m not going to have consistent metalcraft for Berserkers or Relic, and Vulshok Replica fits perfectly into the deck. If it gets one hit in then goes to the dome for three, it will have done a great job; anything more than that is a bonus.

  Pack 3 pick 6:

  My Pick:

It’s possible this should have been Acolyte as a cheap sideboard card against infect (Rebirth might be better, but I don’t have enough cheap artifacts to use it properly for that purpose).

  Pack 3 pick 7:

  My Pick:

I have plenty of two-drops and am not sure if I’ll play any of these, but an artifact creature is more likely to make this deck than a Silvercoat Lion.

  Pack 3 pick 8:

  My Pick:

Distraction has improved post-Besieged, with living weapons, Piston Sledge, and the expensive equip on Copper Carapace.

  Pack 3 pick 9:

  My Pick:

Not playing any of them; might as well hate up a Dino.

  Pack 3 pick 10:

  My Pick:

And the Censer tables, as hoped. I might have enough to play Glint Hawk now with an eye to using it as a midgame card rather than an aggressive play.

  Pack 3 pick 11:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 12:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 13:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 14:

  My Pick:

  Pack 3 pick 15:

  My Pick:

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1 Glint Hawk

1 Leonin Relic-Warder

2 Leonin Skyhunter

1 Sunspear Shikari

2 Embersmith

1 Myrsmith

1 Auriok Replica

1 Vulshok Replica

1 Bladed Sentinel

1 Glimmerpoint Stag

1 Oxidda Scrapmelter

1 Kuldotha Flamefiend

1 Origin Spellbomb

1 Nim Deathmantle

1 Piston Sledge

1 Strata Scythe

2 Necrogen Censer

1 Divine Offering

1 Revoke Existence

1 Arrest

11 Plains

6 Mountain


1 Spine of Ish Sah

1 Gnathosaur

1 Leaden Myr

2 Fulgent Distraction

1 Banishment Decree

1 Hexplate Golem

1 Oxidda Daredevil

1 Tainted Strike

1 Salvage Scout

1 Plated Seastrider

1 Phyresis

1 Kuldotha Ringleader

1 Ardent Recruit

1 Golden Urn

1 Ferrovore

1 Dispense Justice

1 Ghalma’s Warden

1 Alpha Tyrranax

I did end up including the Glint Hawk but counted it as a four-drop when laying out my curve, planning to use it to rebuy Censers and retrigger Smiths
more than get in damage in the early game. I kept most of the more expensive cards (Ringleader, Gnathosaur, Spine of Ish Sah) in the board, ready to
board them in against decks that seemed too capable of blunting the weenie rush.

Now, unfortunately MTGO in its infinite wisdom decided not to save a single replay from this draft, so I’m afraid that details of the games will
rely on memory.

Round 1

Now, I think it would be fair to say that things did not get off to the smoothest start. I won the die roll, chose to play, mulliganed a one-Mountain
hand into a six-land hand into a one-Mountain hand, and drew my second land on turn 4; my opponent dropped Thopter Assembly on turn 7… And I
crushed him. Not close. Apparently a deck full of efficient creatures and artifact removal was well-suited to handle a deck full of living weapons and
other predominantly artifact threats. Who knew!

My opponent’s deck seemed solid, and he deployed the Assembly in all three games — he won game 2 after I once more choked on white mana,
and he ramped up fast enough to drop Thopter Assembly with UU up for a Stoic Rebuttal on my Scrapmelter. Game 3 was more drawn-out, as I answered his
Assembly only for the board to end up practically clear, albeit with my opponent low on life. I played out my Embersmiths and ended up using them to go
to the face against a growing defensive board. Spine of Ish Sah triggering Embersmith wasn’t something I’d ever expected to do, but it
happened, and eventually he gave me enough time that I drew into Flamefiend to end it.

Round 2

Other than being a pretty quick and straightforward 2-0, I can remember relatively little of this round. Consider round 2 a musical interlude and
envision me shaking my fist and scowling at Magic Online, saying ‘Why, I oughta!’ What can I say? Sometimes you just make Skyhunters and
bash people with them, and it’s tough to remember exactly which assorted guys were failing to race you.

Round 3

My opponent in the finals was playing a peculiar U/G/W infect concoction. My opponent was on the play in the first game and played Blight Mamba off an
Island and Forest. I played Embersmith; he attacked and cast Oculus post-combat. I used Origin Spellbomb to ding the Mamba with Embersmith and passed
back, at which point he drew four with Vivisection/Oculus. I cracked the Spellbomb and got in for some damage, then started playing more small ground
creatures. I couldn’t get much damage in before he set up a defensive board of Perilous Myr and Priests of Norn, so I sat back and built up for
an alpha strike. As it was, he couldn’t get other creatures to stick, and I ended up able to alpha strike a bunch of Smiths, Myr tokens, and a
Vulshok Replica into his two blockers and Quicksilver Geyser, push through enough damage to get him to four, and finish him off with the Flamefiend.

In the second game, he had his colors but was stalled on three lands. I got a Skyhunter down, then Nim Deathmantle, while he played Perilous Myr, Rot
Wolf, then Infiltration Lens. With nothing that wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the Perilous Myr in hand to speed up the clock, I blocked his Rot
Wolf and paid for Deathmantle, accepting the card disadvantage to put a serious clock on him. A few quick swings were all it took to bring him into
range of the deck’s copious reach.

The lesson to draw from this? White may have lost ground and may have more difficulty consistently assembling metalcraft, but a combination of
under-drafting and a shift in game plan can still get results — rather than relying on metalcraft, going for a more old-fashioned combination of
evasion, reach, and carefully targeted removal.

Oh, the other lesson to learn is that Kuldotha Flamefiend is completely preposterous, and apparently not everyone has picked up on this yet, as in
another draft last night, one came to me fifth. Mono-red, splashing Morbid Plunder and Skinrender, with Kuldotha Flamefiend and
Phoenix? I almost wanted to write up that draft, but there are surprisingly few interesting decisions involved in drafting a near-monocolor ridiculous
deck packed with bombs and crushing everyone 2-0. Sigh. This one? I screwed up some stuff in this one, which made it a little trickier to assemble and
gives people things to talk about in the forums!

Speaking of which, time to sign off for now, and hopefully I’ll be back with you again sometime.