Insert Column Name Here – How Do You Draft When You Don’t Know The Cards?

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Monday, March 3rd – Drafting a new set is tough, but that’s not what I’m talking about. No, to make life interesting, my local store decided to hold the Lorwyn segment of my draft in Russian packs – not bad for the cards I know a lot, but what about those loopy rares? Plus, I learn a Very Important Lesson about a Morningtide card that I misunderestimated, and the first announcement of The Ferrett’s new (and sure to be overhyped) webcomic!

Before we start with today’s lessons, let’s give a Very Important Plug:


That’s right! I have a new webcomic that I will plug incessantly! This one’s co-authored with Catherynne M. Valente, World Fantasy Award-nominated author of The Orphan’s Tales, and it’s a story of a very strange apocalypse. But it’s the first day; hey, I don’t want to give too much away.

Anyway, the name of this comic is My Name Is Might Have Been. The art is stunning. Don’t expect too many laughs. But… well, you’ll see.

In any case, I’ve had a struggling couple of weeks with Magic — not playing it, but getting to play it. I was late for one draft thanks to a server mishap, then the next week I was flying out of town, and only this week do I finally manage to struggle down to my store to a draft, leaving me way behind.

And even then, it wasn’t a true draft. The local players are hot for Morningtide, and they love unusual cards, so it was one pack of Russian Lorwyn, and two packs of Morningtide. Not quite cricket in terms of what a Top 8 draft is going for, but probably a better tournament for me to get a handle on what Morningtide cards do.

Plus, it was a hoot drafting Russian.

When you draft in Russian, you wind up signaling in weird ways. Mainly because we were all cool with the normal art for, say, Nameless Inversion (my first pick) or Aethersnipe, or even the power rares like Dread… But obscure, hardly-ever-played cards like Lammastide Weave and Shapesharer? You can’t read the card, you don’t remember the art — but you don’t want to pass it, unless it turns out to be a good card that you just blanked on.

So we were all holding up cards. “What the hell is this?” “It puts the top card of someone’s library into their graveyard and if it matches you get life.” “Oh, really? Huh.”

So we all inadvertently got glimpses of what cards our opponents might be using, mainly because someone wondering what Glen Elendra Pranksters did (hey, the art looks like all the other faeries) tells us that he’s at least interested in the faerie tribe.

But man, I’ll tell you, it’s heck going into Morningtide. So, this is a Red Goblin. In Russian. Is it a Goblin Warrior or a Goblin Rogue? Well, if you don’t want to ask, your best bet is to look at a card where you do know the class, like Stinkdrinker Daredevil, and dope out that “bpoAfra” means “Rogue.”

I made a pretty large error at the beginning of Morningtide, though, and I’d like to get your opinion. I was in a R/B Giants/Goblins deck with a touch of Rogue to it, and I was going to let the (now thankfully English cards) tell me whether I wanted to go on an all-out Roguefest or just keep with the power of Morningtide’s R/B removal. (I had the sneaking suspicion that Morningtide wouldn’t have a whole lot of Giants, and I was kind of right.)

The first pick came down to either Thornbite Staff or Violet Pall. I yoinked the Pall… But I think that was a mistake. Given that I had two whole packs of Morningtide, I think it would have been better to give up the Pall and get the Thornbite, which I could then snap up at least three or four common Moonglove Changelings — each useful on its own — and then hope for the board-decimating play of “Thornbite, equip, pay a black, use my Deathtouched dude to decimate your guys two mana at a time.”

Still not sure. But I think that was the better play, even if the Pall is undeniably potent.

Anyway, here’s what I got:

1 Adder-Staff Boggart
1 Boggart Sprite-Chaser
1 Consuming Bonfire
1 Fire Juggler
1 Footbottom Feast
1 Giant’s Ire
2 Lowland Oaf
2 Pyroclast Consul
2 Seething Pathblazer
1 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
1 Sunrise Sovereign

1 War-Spike Changeling

1 Boggart Loggers
2 Moonglove Changeling
1 Nameless Inversion
1 Noggin Whack
1 Pack’s Disdain
1 Stinkdrinker Bandit
1 Weed-Pruner Poplar

1 Violet Pall

7 Swamp
11 Mountain

Round 1: Quick Kithkin
Interestingly enough, being more used to Sealed than to Draft, I thought my deck would be really good against Kithkin. I mean, hey! Double Pyroclast Consul will decimate ‘em, amiright?

Well, I’m used to the Kithkin of Sealed. They have some synergy, but not a whole deck’s worth. By the time I got to a Consul and was lucky enough to activate it on my upkeep of turn 6 or 7, I’d be dead against the quick Kithkin of Draft.

That said, this was a tough battle. I lost the first game as the Kithkin sailed overhead (Order of the Golden Cricket with a Daily Regimen was pretty bad when I couldn’t draw removal), but the second game was a tight race. I was down to six life, and had Pyroclast Consul out to stabilize (and hopefully wipe!) the board. It activated with a Seething Pathfinder, but he saved everything with a timely Forfend, and looked ready to wipe me out shortly.

Thankfully, I guaranteed the next Consul with a Footbottom Feast, sacrificing the Pathfinder and stacking it underneath some random card. The Consul hit, his board was wiped, and I won.

The third game, I did a stupid thing. I kept a hand with four land and five-mana removal spells (Consuming Bonfire, Violet Pall, and Weed-Pruner Poplar) on the play, thinking that if I drew action I’d be fine. If he’d gotten a blazing start or reinforced something, I could have been dead. Fortunately, I drew a Boggart Loggers and then a Pack’s Disdain when he tried to get tricky with another Daily Regimen, and won.

Round 2: Slow Kithkin
This deck wasn’t quite as fast as the other deck, but that was actually worse. I could clear the board of a bunch of weenies, but a double-Burrenton Shieldbearers ensured that I couldn’t block profitably, and his double-Preeminent Captain and sets of Ballyrush Banneret made it extremely difficult to stop everything from coming out.

The big problem, though, was that I first misunderestimated (to steal a Bushian phrase) a card, and then made a punk error to lose to it. I had a shot in game 2, having stabilized the board after clearing it with a Consul. He had Redeem the Lost, which I didn’t think much of. But he won not one, but two clashes with it, saving his guys from the next Consul… And then, once I had reduced him to a single creature with other spot removal and was about to stabilize, I forgot he still had it in hand. Instead of casting a Black and a Red creature, I cast two Red creatures, and he Redeemed and swung for the win.

Punk loss. But made worse by the fact that I didn’t realize how irritating that card could be. I’d chosen kill a reinforced creature rather than fizzling his target for the Redeem — in the future, I’ll know how vexing it is. (Even if him winning not one, but ultimately four clashes with his Kithkin deck versus my Giants deck was statistically unlikely.)

He won the next two rounds as well handily, killing by turn 5 on at least two occasions. A potent deck, to be sure!

Round 3: Mana Screw
This was a frustrating game. My opponent had a pretty punishing deck, filled with lots of beefy Treefolks and Elves to accelerate into them, and a Shapesharer to ensure that any beef you saw would be coming twice. I’d just watched him do the ol’ “Death by turn 5” trick himself.

I don’t know how I would have done in the long run. But I had a two-land hand that I mulliganed into a six-card, three-land hand, and I didn’t see another land until turn 8. Of course, all my removal cost 5 — and, frustratingly, it was in my hand. By the time it came on line, he already had too much out there for me to recover.

Then, in game two? A one-land hand. Which I mulliganed into a three-Mountain hand (with three Red spells), and this time I drew all Black spells and no Swamps. Again, I died with not nearly enough action and was swearing quite copiously at my deck.

We played a third game for fun. I got mana-flooded, drawing what would have been an amazing eight-land run. And that was after I pile shuffled. Que sera sera!

But really, is that my deck’s fault? Look again, you bozo. How many five-mana and up cards do I have? Violet Pall. Two Consuls. The Bonfire. The Weed-Pruner Poplar. The Sunrise Sovereign. With so many top-end cards, even with eighteen lands, I was just asking for manascrew. I should have had the strength to chop something off there in exchange for a better curve out.

So my mana screw? It was pretty crappy. But “having a hand full of five-drops” only happens when you put a hand full of five-drops in the deck. Duh.

Round 4: Randomness And Manascrew
My opponent was downstream from me, and had gone four colors in his first four picks. He’d eventually settled on a three-color Rogue deck, using Blue for Faeries, Black for enablers, splashing Red for Taurean Mauler and a handful of Red instants.

Needless to say, he laid a third-turn Taurean Mauler, and I got mana-shorted. I had the Violet Pall in hand, and land #5 was looooong on coming. By the time I finally drew #5, he’d decimated all my guys with combat tricks and I died in frustration.

Game 2, it was a little better… I was still short on mana, but he had kept a one-land hand and Ponder. He Pondered, and his first three cards showed no land! Woot!

Then he shuffled and I cut him to a Swamp. And he drew two more lands, just enough to stall me long enough to win a tight race. Grrr.

The Wrap-Up

So 1-3. Not great. But while other players would attribute their losses to bad luck — and there certainly was an element of that in there — I have to look at poor deck construction (it should have had a mana curve, not a mana cliff) and some bad play in the Kithkin matchup. But at least now I know to respect Redeem the Lost.

Next week I’ll have MODO. And I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, and I’ll have a new webcomic. Still. Say, have I mentioned my webcomic?

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