Insert Column Name Here – Further Adventures In M10 Drafting

Read The Ferrett every Monday... at StarCityGames.com! Monday, July 20th – So now that I have a couple more M10 drafts under my belt, lemme give you some updates on cards I have reevaluated, and a report of the prerelease and a later draft!

So now that I have a couple more M10 drafts under my belt, lemme give you some updates on cards I have reevaluated, and a report of the prerelease and a later draft!

I’m not saying a four-mana trick that doesn’t necessarily kill the creature is good, but it’s not nearly as terrible as I thought at first glance. It seems especially useful when Blue is facing down Green’s Craw Wurms and needs to buy a turn or two to draw into Sleep.

Some folks have pooh-poohed this in Limited play, and particularly Sealed, but I’ve found it golden on any number of occasions for stripping things I have no answer to. Thus far I’ve caught an Earthquake, a Pyroclasm, and an Overrun, as well as a couple of lesser things. It’s not a first pick, and it certainly can be substandard late in the game, but overall I like this a little better than Mind Rot, which isn’t a bad addition to a competent Black deck.

I’m not saying what the most popular M10 colors are in Limited, but I will note that we ran out of Forests by Friday night’s draft.

Great Sable Stag
I picked this first in my last draft, mainly because it was in hot demand and I figured, “What the hell, if I wind up in Green I’ll use it, and if not I’ve made some of the money back from my draft.” But I did go green, and lemme tell you — when you go up against a U/B deck, it feels positively unfair dropping this on turn 3. Especially when your turn 4 play is an Oakenform.

This is not to say I won both games against U/B decks — see later in the report. But in terms of racing, it really is nigh-unanswerable to them except for Mind Controlling one of your beefier guys.

Howling Banshee
I was really down on this at first because the symmetrical life loss just seemed too likely to backfire. But a black 3/3 that flies trumps nearly any common in the air, and that loss of three life can end a game very quickly if you put it at the right time. I’m still not 100% sold on the card, but it’s definitely moved out of my “My God, don’t ever play this” file and into my “Definitely to be considered in certain circumstances” pile.

Merfolk Sovereign
I am still aghast that Wizards put this in. I mean, there are two other Merfolk in the whole damn set, and one of ‘em’s damn near unplayable. If you’re gonna try to go tribal, man, give people something to work with! Otherwise, it’s just a crap rare.

My record at never opening this in drafts remains unbroken. Just in case you were wondering.

Prized Unicorn
At 2/2 it’s spendy, but I’ve found it strangely useful in Green/Black decks. Basically, you cast it and break through with everything to put your opponent on the back foot so he can’t attack you the next round without risking certain death — keep a trick online in case of an untimely Lightning Bolt or Doom Blade, of course — and then use Rise from the Grave or Gravedigger to bring the Unicorn back for the next turn’s demise.

I’m not saying it’s an archetype you’d want to build, but I have won two games off of it. It comes in especially useful when you’re attacking with Child of Night, since that gives you extra life to give you a greater cushion for any potential counterattack.

Safe Passage
At three mana, it’s actually a great combat trick, though quite a few people didn’t seem to understand how easily it could wreck them. This turns Earthquakes into one-sided disasters, counters Overruns, turns combats into routs. Harm’s Way costs less and is harder to play around, but suffice it to say that this really should be heavily respected.

Sphinx Ambassador
I personally refuse to read this card until I a) open one in Sealed, or b) am facing one in a game. Any card that has this many lines of rules text is just crying out for attention, and I refuse to feed its dysfunctional verbal diarrhea.

Undead Slayer
So potent against the Black decks that really, I’m considering hate-drafting it early on. Unfortunately, it’s an uncommon, so even if I do hate-draft it there’s still a good chance there will be multiples at any table.

The Prerelease
Alas, I’ve already dissembled the Sealed pool that I got at the Prerelease, but I did at least keep the final deck. Suffice it to say that when I saw both Fireball and Consume Spirit I was sorely tempted to go R/B — a color combination that’s screwed me over in the past — and when nothing better showed up in Green, White, or Blue to dissuade me, I went with this deck:

1 Berserkers of Blood Ridge
1 Canyon Minotaur
1 Capricious Efreet
1 Fireball
1 Goblin Artillery
1 Inferno Elemental
1 Lightning Elemental
1 Prodigal Pyromancer
1 Seismic Strike
1 Sparkmage Apprentice
1 Stone Giant

1 Bog Wraith
1 Child of Night
1 Consume Spirit
1 Drudge Skeletons
1 Kelinore Bat
1 Mind Rot
1 Rise from the Grave
1 Unholy Strength
1 Wall of Bone
1 Weakness

1 Whispersilk Cloak

1 Dragonskull Summit
8 Mountain
8 Swamp
1 Terramorphic Expanse

As always, I’ll give a lesson as to what I learned from each round.

Rounds 1 and 2
Unfortunately, my notes on these were lacking, but the scores show both rounds were solid victories; the lowest I was ever at was seventeen life. If I recall correctly, these were both against players of novice skill, with sketchy deck choices — typical prerelease stuff. These are the wins where I traditionally burn off my feelings of guilt by asking to see their deck and giving them advice.

The Lesson: Take better notes.

Round 3:
When people asked me how I did in this round, I said, “My butt hurts.” Which it did. In the first game, I had both Consume Spirit and Fireball in hand, and my opponent cast a single creature: an Elvish Visionary. Unfortunately, on turn 3 that creature had an Oakenform, and when by the time I got up to five mana to Fireball it, he’d equipped a Magebane Armor to it, and the turn after that it was an Overrun.

The next game I kept an aggressive hand, but what did he have? Oakenform on Child of Night by the third turn, and on the fifth turn he got Master of the Wild Hunt. I did have the Fireball, but he had the Giant Growth. I lost forty to one.

The Lesson: My deck was weak because it really had no way to deal with a creature at instant speed aside from the lone Seismic Strike. Yes, I’m not denying the Consume Spirit and Fireball pulled me out of some games, but in this game one Doom Blade would have turned it all around.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a better option. That’s Sealed for ya sometimes.

Round 4:
Two long, crushing games against a guy with a G/W deck sporting Baneslayer Angel, which he saw before turn 6 in each game.

He got up to 41 in the first game, and I did manage to off his Angel, but that twenty-point difference was too much — especially when the Angel itself had brought me down to ten. I flung Drudge Skeletons in the air for a while and blocked the Slayer thanks to Stone Giant, but eventually a Pacifism on the Skeletons did me in.

The second game went for an agonizing time — he got out the Baneslayer again, but this time I had the Fireball, followed by Rise from the Grave to get his Angel working for me. He had the Pacifism the next turn, which was particularly heartbreaking because in my hand was the Whispersilk Cloak, and if he’d drawn it one turn later I would have been unstoppable. As it was, it was a long, drawn-out standoff where I could have broken through but was at three life, and he couldn’t attack me with everything because if I blocked properly I’d take him down from fourteen life on the return attack.

Eventually he cast his Overrun. GG.

So 2-2, and not looking good to make the Top 8. Still, I played.

The Lesson: It was debatable whether I needed to Rise the Angel right then. I was at ten life, and I probably could have held off until I could cast the Whispersilk and then Rose and equipped it. I suspected he had the Pacifism, and at the time, I didn’t know he had Overrun. The correct play was probably to try to hold off to seven mana, which I didn’t, and lost as a result.

Round 5:
This was against my friend Adam, who’d driven me to the event, and (I think) he was at 3-1 and had gotten paired down. The irony was that I said to him, “Look, when you build your deck, you have to take the mana curve into account. You want threats on turns 2, 3, 4, and 5 if you can.” He was skeptical of this information, which turned out to matter very much when that’s exactly what I did in both games.

(The first game was a little more give-and-take than I make it here, but he lost the damage race due to a Child of Night with a Whispersilk Cloak on it, and later on a Bog Wraith joined the fun.)

3-2 seemed unlikely to get into the top 8 — which did not trigger a separate draft, just let you play further for bigger prizes — but my tiebreakers were lucky. I got in.

The Lesson: Yes, the mana curve still matters, even in slower formats.

So who was I facing again? Baneslayer Angel dude. Not good.

I went on tilt and kept a land-light hand in the first game, stammered on mana, and truly paid for it. I conceded at nine when I realized that there just wasn’t any point in trying to go for it with three mana out.

The second game was ugly, however; he didn’t have Baneslayer, and on turn six I got out Capricious Efreet. The rolls went perfectly my way for three turns, first killing his Acidic Slime — which I then Rise from the Graved to kill off his second White mana source to ensure he couldn’t Baneslayer if he drew it — and then killed off his Cudgel Troll twice, which allowed me to attack for the win (since it tapped out to regenerate).

He was clearly rattled by that, and the third game was sadly fair. He tried to race me, but a Whispersilk Cloaked Berserkers of Blood Ridge brought him down in four-life increments until he died.

The Lesson: When someone has a card that will destroy you, you have to keep your damn head about you. I shouldn’t have kept that light hand in the first game, but I was like, “I need a hand that beats Baneslayer Angel.” No, as it turns out, what I needed was just a good hand, and I paid for it. Fortunately, I rebounded for the next two games with a bit of luck.

Also, don’t cast Capricious Efreet until your opponent has two permanents you want to gank.

Playing against a guy with a solid U/G deck I’ve seen before — he’d crushed a Shivan Dragon-playing guy in Round 4 with a solid mix of Green ground beef and counterspells, and I wasn’t much for my hopes.

These were close games, and I wasn’t taking too many notes, but the first game was a race — again, Whispersilk Cloak and Berserkers of Blood Ridge was a potent combination to slip under his fliers, and a resolved Prodigal Pyromancer shut down an unreasonable percentage of his creatures. I won at five life.

The second game? A massacre. I never had a chance. Not sure why, but he was at twenty when I died, which usually indicates a poor hand that I kept.

Third game, it came down to me using my Fireball on his Stampeding Rhinos when he cast it, then equipping Whispersilk Cloak to a Canyon Minotaur the next turn to break through over several turns. He had counterspells, but I had board position.

The Lesson: This seems really obvious, and it is, but that Fireball often has to get used to keep you alive now. Yes, it’d be cool to bring your opponent down from sixteen, but quite often you’re going to have to do that the hard way and clear the path with the Fireball.

I always feel a little pang of “nooooo” when I have to destroy someone’s blocker, but that’s life for ya, man.

This was, in all aspects, a rout, but I don’t feel bad.

The first game was his second turn Deadly Recluse, followed by a fourth-turn Ajani Goldmane, and I was stuck at two land. Good game.

The second game I kept a better hand, but this match was hysterical — he got out a Captain of the Watch, which I killed after absorbing a particularly nasty attack, then used Rise from the Dead to get his Captain working for me.

He winced, smiled, and cast his foil Captain of the Watch the next turn. I used Weakness to ensure that he couldn’t trade with me, but his five 2/2 tokens to my three 2/2 tokens turned out to be just too much for me to handle.

The Lesson: If you can possibly open two Captain of the Watch in the same pack, which he legendarily did, I impore you to do so. Your Sealed games will be so much easier.

The Draft
I drafted a truly wretched deck also that night, discovering that if an aggressive Blue deck doesn’t get Sleep (and I was the only main Blue drafter in the pod), then my entire army gets trumped by one Razorfoot Griffin.

Next Friday, however, I went back bright-eyed and bushy tailed to play again in an eighteen-man draft split into two pods, and in my first pack (as mentioned) I opened Great Sable Stag and took it. I then stayed in Green until I got a fourth-pick Tendrils of Corruption, which I took as evidence that people wanted me to go Black.

Pack two, a horrific choice of first picks: I could take a Doom Blade, which would be perfect for my deck. Or I could rare-draft the Ball Lightning, which might be a decent idea because I knew the guy next to me was in Red.

Or I could take the foil Captain of the Watch.

Maybe that Doom Blade will come back to me, I thought, but of course it didn’t. I did pick up another Tendrils, though, and a pair of Assassinates, so I had a fair amount of removal at least.

Third pack? The rare was a Goblin Chieftain. And so my third pick got burned up on rare-drafting for the third time, but at least they were decent rares. For me, I mean. Professionally speaking, I know that Captain of the Watch may not be a tourney-breaker, but in multiplayer it’s an auto-addition to the soldiers deck I’ve been thinking about making; likewise, Goblin Chieftain.

What I wound up with was this deck, which I rated a B-:

2 Borderland Ranger
1 Centaur Courser
1 Craw Wurm
1 Cudgel Troll
1 Elvish Visionary
2 Giant Spider
1 Great Sable Stag
1 Oakenform
1 Prized Unicorn
1 Stampeding Rhino

2 Assassinate
2 Child of Night
1 Duress
2 Gravedigger
1 Mind Rot
1 Rise from the Grave
2 Tendrils of Corruption

9 Forest

8 Swamp

Round 1
To my great joy, it turned out that I was playing a U/B deck. First round, my Great Sable Stag came down on turn 3 and went all the way, spending a few turns bumping into his Liliana Vess first.

Unfortunately, he had completely outdrafted me. That Liliana Vess was his first pick, and he had drafted the rest of his deck to support it — nothing but card drawing to ensure that he always had it by turn 5, and every creature he had was nearly purely defensive, and with just enough removal to ensure that anything too big got zapped. I drew the Sable Stag in one game; he cast enough Divinations and Mind Springs and Ponders and Sage Owls to ensure that he got it in all four games (we played once for fun), and once down she just wrecked me.

The Lesson: Learning to adapt a draft to a particular strategy is something I don’t do nearly enough. He got a bomb, then shaped all his picks to make sure that she’d appear and be effective when she did. He went 3-1 in the draft and almost went 4-0, losing in a heartbreakingly close match against a W/R deck featuring Ajani Goldmane.

Round 2
You know how you can always tell when someone’s just getting into Magic? It’s in the way they play the cards so cautiously, muttering to themselves, looking at the board with positive anxiety. The guy I was playing this round was no challenge at all, sadly; he meant well, and was very nice, but was playing all three of his maindecked artifact lifegainers (and was disappointed when he cast Dragon’s Claw and I wasn’t playing Red), and had a similarly-maindecked Sanguine Bond and only two lifegain spells.

I defeated him handily in four games, then gave him deck advice. It’s what I do, man.

The Lesson: No, really. The lifegain artifacts are just not good in all but the worst circumstances. And even then, no.

Round 3

The Lesson And Match Report: Play with more than twelve lands. Oh, and more than twelve creatures even if you have Cancel and Negate and all those lovely counterspells. Please. No, really.

Round 4
Time to play against the guy I had passed all the Red damage spells to (including a Pyroclasm), but noting how many solid Red cards I was passing I had drafted aggressively to ensure I wouldn’t get blown out. As it was, he had all the soldiers from White except for Captain of the Watch.

The first game went on forever; I came out swinging with my best Green beaters, which he promptly Pacified, then he Pyroclasmed away my defense, and then he Earthquaked for four to clear the rest of the board and to bring me down to four.

But I wasn’t standing still, either. Despite his megaburn, my Tendrils kept me in the game, and I kept Gravediggering the beef back out, and then both my Children of Night showed up to bring me back up to twelve. By the time I was about to win I was at a meager five cards left in my deck, but I did — at which point my opponent complained bitterly that he hadn’t drawn his good cards, by which he meant “The Armored Ascension he would have needed to kill me.” I pointed out that he’d drawn all of his good Red removal and both Pacifisms, which didn’t seem to sway him.

I did not point out that I’d drafted my deck to beat his. It seemed mean.

The second match was much quicker, if a bit angier: I Duressed him first-turn to see a hand consisting of some Soldiers, an Earthquake, and a Glorious Charge. I yoinked the Earthquake, of course, and after a few turns when he tapped down to a single White mana I Tendrils of Corruptioned his Veteran Armorsmith for three.

He cast Glorious Charge.

I pointed out that he had one White open. No, he said, he had three mana open, he’d cast his Armorsmith this turn. Which he was right, but he’d had his land tapped at odd angles so I didn’t notice what was open. He forced me to stay to the original plan — of course, I would have hit his Elite Vanguard if I’d known he had 2W showing — and I fumed, but had to agree.

However, it gave me great satisfaction as I then pounded him down, first Assassinating both of his Palace Guards and then utilizing a recurred Prized Unicorn to smash past his troops with a pair of Children of Night and a Cudgel Troll.

He was one Plains away from killing me with an Armored Ascension, but that one Plains was the difference.

Round 5
This was extremely stupid. I was playing Smiley, who was playing a pretty controllish U/B deck. In game 1, on turn 4, I said to him, “You have a counterspell in hand.”

“Maybe,” he said.

I cast Great Sable Stag, and he confidently slapped his Essence Scatter to the table, and then his jaw dropped as he read the card. It was a very mean moment, taking pleasure in reading his counter, since at that point he had effectively lost the game; he could have Mind Controlled my Green guys to block, but I had Tendrils in hand just in case he did that, and he didn’t even draw the Persuasion.

Next game, turn 3 Great Sable Stag. Turn 5, when he tapped out for a guy to try to race me, Oakenform.

I actually had to apologize to him. It really was unfair. But that’s Magic for ya.

The store owner was only allowing one more round that night — he was tired — so the final round was against a guy with a Soldiers deck. He was the only White player at the table, and had multiple copies of Harm’s Way, two Righteousness (though I’m not sure if he wanted two), and at least one Safe Passage.

I knew none of this, though; I kept a slow hand with Gravedigger, Tendrils of Corruption, and Stampeding Rhinos. So it looked quite bad for me when he came out on the play with Elite Vanguard, White Knight, Veteran Swordsmith, Palace Guard.

I thought I was dead, but fortunately, my second-turn draw was an Elvish Visionary (which traded with the Vanguard), which drew into my second Tendrils, and I played around Harm’s Way to kill two of his weaker guys and stabilize at three life. It took a while to crawl back into position, and I lost in a wretched trade to Righteousness, but eventually I did wear him down enough to kill him.

Second game was much the same; he came out blazing, I tried to stabilize, except this time he had his Harm’s Ways active when I Tendrilled; I always had enough to kill his men, but my own Tendrils were killing my guys. Once again, my Gravediggers kept bringing back my dudes, and he made the fatal flaw of misreading the Prized Unicorn; yes, you do have to block it, but if you have the Palace Guard the correct answer is to block everything.

I played as if he wouldn’t see it, which he didn’t, and I was grateful to take that and win four packs. All in a night.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy
[email protected]StarCityGames.com