Feature Article – Underrated Cards in Triple Shards Draft

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Friday, October 31st – Shards of Alara Draft is proving to be a fabulous format. The various shards offer the discerning drafter with a myriad of options, with both Control and Aggro strategies represented in the metagame. Today, Nick Eisel shows us some of the current under-appreciated gems that you can pick up late in your drafts to great effect.

I’ve been drafting a lot of AAA lately.

That may come as no surprise to most of you since I’m doing the Drafting With column. In the process of doing all of these drafts, I’ve been keeping a journal of sorts and taking note on which cards the 8-4 players on Magic Online are underdrafting or underrating.

Today I want to share with you some real gems that you may otherwise continue passing over. This may differ slightly from my Underrated columns in the past simply because there are more quirky Rares in this set that I feel are being extremely underrated or possibly just misunderstood.

Relic of Progenitus
Instead of saving my biggest “find” for last, I’ll just start off with it.

A couple of weeks back I was doing a lot of experimenting with BR and also thinking about good ways to combat other people drafting it. It didn’t take too long to figure out that I should be taking this card slightly higher than if the Unearth mechanic didn’t exist. From there one thing led to another, and I actually started maindecking this since it cycles anyway and should give you a huge advantage against anyone planning on doing things in the graveyard. Not only does this hose Unearth, but it does some other things like shut off Sanctum Gargoyle or Windwright Mage.

The point here is that not only should look for one of these for your sideboard at bare minimum, but you should actually maindeck it if you can find room. This is better in some decks than others of course, since it just depends on how that archetype matches up against BR. I’m not going to do a complete run-down here, but suffice to say that if you’re in any kind of control build you should be prioritizing this and maindecking it almost always.

Quietus Spike
I was not impressed with this card when I initially saw it. Then I played against it and got destroyed. Then I played it myself and started winning. Pretty standard full circle card mis-evaluation on my part. I think a lot of the problem is that weird Equipments like this have usually been marginal in the past, and so I lumped it in with those instead of actually considering how it would impact a game.

The thing about this card is that it’s awesome on both offense and defense. If you’re attacking it’s a royal pain to block and likely trade a better creature with whatever is holding the Spike. You also can’t just take it or you’ll get cut in half. On defense it lets your worst guy trade with whatever they attack with. The one downside here is that 3 mana is a bit expensive for an Equip cost but I can assure you it is every bit worth it.

Ooze Garden
This one is actually courtesy of Ben Peebles-Mundy. The other night while drafting at CMU he was talking about this and how good it is with Exalted. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of ways to abuse the card. What about Unearth? Hissing Iguanar? Rockslide Elemental? I hope you’re getting the picture.

Another great thing you can do is attack and play Sigil Blessing or Resounding Roar and then make sure your guy stays huge for the next turn. I played a match on Magic Online where I went off with this and two Sanctum Gargoyles. Nobody ever considers playing this card in my experience, and the uses for it are seemingly endless. Give it a try for yourself and check out all of the cool things you can do with it.

Angelic Benediction
This one is on the list because I’ve been beaten by it more times than I’d like to remember. To me, this is what an Exalted card should look like, and playing against this is extremely annoying. When you’re planning on attacking with one huge guy every turn it becomes nearly unstoppable if you can also tap down their best guy. This is also great in multiples even if it may seem counterintuitive that you’d ever want multiples of the same Enchantment in play.

This is also very playable in GW aggro or GWr, but I haven’t tried it out yet in GRw.

Bant Battlemage
Compared to all of the other Battlemages this guy looks terrible on paper. Despite this fact he actually plays much better in practice and fills some important holes in the format.

First off, he sends your huge guys to the air in the Exalted archetype. This enough is alone to make him a high pick in that particular deck as Exalted isn’t very impressive if they can just chump every turn with Dragon Fodder tokens. He can also send whatever random fatties you have in UGW to the air if you don’t have an Exalted chain assembled.

Second, and possibly more importantly, he fills a huge hole in the RGW archetype. Mosstodon is as good as he is for the simple reason that there are a lot of fatties in this format that really want to have Trample and don’t. Mosstodon seems to get picked pretty highly though, while the Battlemage goes pretty late in the drafts I’ve been in. It would only make sense then to aggressively look for this guy if you find yourself in a deck with lots of fatties like Incurable Ogre who just can’t seem to get the job done without Trample.

At first I thought I was just overrating this card because it fits my overall play style quite well. Then I talked to some other good players only to find out that they too were first picking this guy and very happy about the results. The simple truth is that it’s very easy to trigger this guy in the format, and he also accelerates you to the big guys that will let you draw.

Even in an aggro GW deck that doesn’t have a ton of fat, this guy should still make the cut most of the time as he turns all of your Resounding Roars and Sigil Blessings into cantrips.

Savage Hunger
I’m mentioning this for the simple reason that it is the poor man’s Mosstodon/Bant Battlemage. I have no idea why this card doesn’t get more love as it will be cycled in most games and occasionally just win a game for you when you stick it on a huge creature and trample over. This is definitely not unplayable and fills a niche role in the format.

Kederekt Creeper
I’m guilty of underrating this guy too, but so are the rest of you.

Yes, he’s hard to cast. Yes, he’s better than Gorgon Recluse once in play. He’s also awesome in the five color deck since you can actually plan on casting him before turn five and he will also hold the fort very well. While I haven’t drafted a ton of Grixis yet preferring usually to just stay RB or RBg, I think there is definitely an archetype out there when you get enough fixing where you can take multiples of this guy and have a very sick deck. I’ve heard one story already of someone getting 3 copies of this guy late to go with his opened Cruel Ultimatum and ending up winning a PTQ with it.

I think the moral here is that people realize this is very hard to cast and since it’s only a 2/3 it doesn’t look very exciting. If you put it in play on your side of the table a few times you’ll likely change your perspective on this.

Minion Reflector
Unplayable? So I’ve heard.

This card will come to you very late and there are lots of really good combos with it in the format. Let’s just assume you have something simple like a Vithian Stinger. This is pretty good already and will be just as good when you end up Unearthing for another two pings. You can also take it a step further and consider what might happen if you play Sprouting Thrinax with this in play.

I could go on all day or you guys could just peruse the spoiler and see all of the silly things you can do with this card. It’s clunky for sure, but it’s also a bomb if you draft around it and I’ve had a lot of success with this in the 5color archetype since you can take any guy you want to combo with it.

Gustrider Exuberant
I have yet to see anyone use this card for what it was initially intended. That alone would lead you to think it was bad, but it again fills a nice hole in the Exalted decks by allowing you to get a late pick flier that will be just as good as other fliers with a couple of enablers in play.

You can get these as late as 13th and I’ve played multiples in some of my Exalted decks.

Incurable Ogre
I end up with two of these in a lot of my GR aggro builds, so it’s very possible I’m just biased due to a lack of playing with many other four-drops. That being said this guy has been good for me, and is one of the big reasons I look for ways to give Trample in this format (or First Strike via Rakeclaw Gargantuan). I was never a fan of Dross Crocodile, but this guy has been much better since Red is very good at clearing the way in AAA.

Bull Cerodon
I know, I’m beating the dead horse, right?

This card seems to be the Tromp the Domains of the format, in that everyone claims that they know it’s insane but nobody picks it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten this 4th or 5th in pack 1, and that should basically never happen. This is Rorix at Uncommon for Limited, so I’d suggest you start treating it as such.

Resounding Wave
This card is awesome and gets virtually no credit outside of the five-color deck. If you cycle this it should be game over almost always, or at least buy you enough time to draw into something to win. What I’ve been using it for though is to bounce Oblivion Ring during combat and ambush an attacker. This is not only very good but also super annoying, as the opponent then has to spend another turn recasting the Ring and not developing his board.

On most occasions you should plan on cycling this if you want maximum effect out of it, and if you can’t cycle it consistently you can probably cut it from the main and board it against Oblivion Ring.

Onyx Goblet
This is another one that nobody seems to like. I really want at least one of these in my BR decks to go along with my Pingers and Blightnings and win any game where the board is empty or stalemated. I realize it has no immediate impact on the board, but it’s not easy to kill, and it should pick up a game win here and there. It plays nicely with BR’s overall game-plan as well which is to kill everything and burn them out.

Naya Charm
However good you think this is, I assure you it is better.

This card wins so many games it’s sick, and you should do whatever it takes to get this in your deck. The great thing is that the aggro decks are already very good, and having this card will usually just push you over the top.

Hopefully this article was informative and you get the chance to try some of these out on your own.

Nick Eisel
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