“Anyone wanna draft?” I asked. It was Memorial Day. No one did, naturally, because they all had things to do on Memorial Day.
I, on the other hand? I was trapped at home for the weekend, upgrading StarCityGames.com and monitoring servers like they were a baby’s heartbeat, so I couldn’t leave or host a party. (I mean, I could host a party, but I might have to shoo everyone away should the precious servers collapse and require my full-time attention.)
Nobody wanted to draft. But I did. Randy Buehler said that Shadowmoor may be his favorite draft format of all time, and I myself am really digging the handful I’ve done. So when people said, “Well, why don’t we draft on Tuesday instead of playing multiplayer?” I jumped at the chance.
Ben brought over boxes, and the eight of us split up into two teams — Red and Artifacts. The teams were randomly chosen by me pulling cards out at random until I found four-of-a-kind — but in retrospect, “Team Red” was destined to beat “Team Artifact.”
The group was a mixture — there were two people who’d never drafted before, one of whom hadn’t played since Ice Age and the other who was good at Magic but didn’t know Limited. The rest of us had drafted fairly extensively, but we were worried about the guys who didn’t draft —would they foul the stream?
Only one way to find out. Every member on the team would play each of the members on the opposite team, and the team with the most collective wins would get two packs apiece. Golden.
My first pick was a Ghastlord of Fugue, which I thought long and hard about — at five colored mana, it was a commitment. On the other hand, it was a powerful card, nothing else in the pack was removal, and thanks to the hybrid I could play it in one of two colors if I didn’t go U/B. Worst-case scenario, I had a cool rare.
Second pick? Well, the golden rare-eye of Rhys the Redeemed was poking out at me, and once again there was no removal to be found in a fairly weak pack. And I wasn’t sure if Rhys was a sign to go some form of Green/White, but I didn’t see anything that looked that great in Black or Blue, so I went with it.
Third-pick Aethertow. Okay, I’m in Blue.
Then came the fourth pick with the Memory Sluice, and I was faced with a choice. It wouldn’t table, I knew that, not at fourth, but if I picked it then I could try for the milling strategy Nick Eisel had discussed — and I knew it worked, because it had wrecked me in my last draft. I hated to commit to such a high pick for a card like that, but I knew I’d need it to try.
So I took it. Boom! I was in U/B — a pick cemented by my fifth-pick choice of Helm of the Ghastlord.
As it turns out, this was bad. Because so Ben, my teammate who was two seats down from me, was also U/B. And as it turned out Ilya, the guy directly upstream from me, was also in Blue. Fortunately, I was in a very specialized Blue, plucking anything U/B and milly.
Really specialized. Because when somehow, I got a tenth-pick Puncture Bolt, I wondered whether I was in the wrong colors. The Blue wasn’t coming fast and furious, and I snagged a couple of Red cards. I was light on creatures, and not sure what to do.
(As it turns out, there were only three Red drafters at the table, only two of them serious — one was my teammate Josh, two seats upstream from me, and the other were two downstream from me. So he was snagging the best cards he could, but there was so much quality Red in this draft that I was getting a lot of it.)
The first pick in the second pack? An Ashenmoor Liege. Because I wasn’t getting any good Blue, and was worried that maybe I should shift into B/R — which really concerned me, because I had to pass up a Memory Sluice to get the possibly-off-color Liege.
Fortunately, the Blue started to come as I picked up three Drowner Initiates in a row as my fourth through sixth picks, choosing them over stronger creatures because dangit, I’d forced the Mill deck and I was going to try for it… And then I was lucky enough to have the Memory Sluice lap, and then get one in the next pack, for a total of three each.
From then on, I just took whatever Blue dorks and bounce I could get, hoping to stall. It worked out okay, with what was essentially a mono-blue deck with two Black cards:
2 Consign to Dream
3 Drowner Initiate
1 Flow of Ideas
1 Gravelgill Duo
2 Prismwake Merrow
1 Ghastlord of Fugue
1 Helm of the Ghastlord
1 Inkfathom Witch
1 Kulrath Knight
3 Memory Sluice
1 Oona’s Gatewarden
1 Turn to Mist
1 Wanderbrine Rootcutters
The card I sided in the most was Whimwader, which was a solid wall against the aggressive Green/White decks where I needed large blockers to stop the annoying Kitchen Finks and boosted Safehold Duos and such.
I vaguely debated putting in Deepchannel Mentor, which seemed like a good finisher in case the milling plan failed… But at six mana, that was the top end of this curve, and if I was relying on my little weenie Blue guys for the alpha strike I was probably losing badly.
I went with Cursecatcher over Zealous Guardian in this deck, which was probably a mistake. The Guardian isn’t great, but at least I can flash it in for surprise blocks. The Cursecatcher, on the other hand, stopped nothing when I wanted it to, which should have been expected in a deck that wanted to stall until the late game.
I did not ever use the Spell Syphon, which seemed too situational. Again, I wanted to get to the late game, at which point I can’t see the Spell Syphon consistently firing. I suppose it could have taken the heat off in the early game, but I was too busy casting men then to use this. I know Nick Eisel loves it, and maybe he’s right to, but it didn’t fly for me.
Oona’s Gatewarden, on the other hand, did fly for me, and she’s very good in this archetype — in a deck that wants to wait until the late game, she’ll ward off smaller creatures, activate Conspire, activate Drowner at little cost, and make a large guy into a much smaller guy. I’m not saying she’s first-pick, but I wrote her off as dross and actually she’s a pretty effective wall.
I played a gentleman who had a reasonably weak W/G deck that featured all-star hits like Prismatic Omen. He did have a Spawnwrithe and two Presence of Gonds… But as I discovered, having enough mana to Conspire spells out with a Leechbonder makes for unhappy Spawnwrithes.
(Memory Sluice with Conspire, untap Leechbonder to put a -1/-1 onto the Spawnwrithe, attack, put another counter on… I have a 3/3, he has a dead Spawnwrithe. Fun! But not for him.)
Unfortunately, he missed a couple of opportunities to do things — holding back Spawnwrithe when I had a 2/1 because he didn’t want to lose his original, not Presence of Gonding every turn — and the final game was gummed up in a ridiculous fashion when I Aethertowed his Witherscale Wurm, then Consigned it, then Consigned it again, every time knocking cards off with the Drowner. I won.
This was against Adam, who I referred to early as the up-and-comer of our multiplayer group. Adam’s a smart guy who comes from a chess background, and he’s famed for getting drunk on New Year’s Eve and then playing chess.
With three people.
Adam’s still learning Magic, and he’s a definite Johnny — he gets stuck on these uber-combinations that must win. Since he’s new, he frequently gets focused on the wrong threat and then pays for it… And he never seems to understand why everyone pounds on his Sliver deck first chance they get.
That said, this was a massacre. I mulliganed to six on the play and kept a one-land hand with two Drowner Initiates on the hope I’d pull it out, and I didn’t. Gah. I should have mulliganed to five, but I hate doing that so much and I blew it.
The next game? No better. He had a very aggressive W/G deck himself — he was the only player on his team who 4-0’d — and I was hanging on at three life just as I stabilized the ground. I had two Drowner Initiates out, and had just burned the last of my tricks to bring him to a halt. He had ten cards left in his library.
Good game, chief. Bleah.
I made the error in the second game of siding out Flow of Ideas — a mistake, since it’s incredibly good in this deck. You wind up burning all your tricks in the early game in an attempt to survive, and getting something that helps you regain your strength is a good thing.
This was against Ilya — his team had W/G decks, ours had all the U/B — except that his had a splash of dangerous Blue.
He steamrolled me in the first game, plowing me over with a bunch of Safehold Duos and Thistledown Duos. His deck was filled with a lot of pretty decent creatures, but he had no combat tricks. I survived for a while due to Leechbond shenanigans, but eventually fell because he Curse of Chained my Ghastlord. Very cruel.
But I was very cruel in the second game, when he misread Leechbonder and Turn to Misted it his third turn to get rid of the counters. “Okay,” I said, putting the counters back on.
“Oh,” he said. “Can I read that? I thought it would remove the counters if I did that.”
“Sure. But it doesn’t.”
“Ah,” said he. “Can I take that back?”
“No,” I said. When it’s my money on the line for an error that shouldn’t have been made, I’m gonna be a beetuva jerk. I’m all cool about takebacks at the multiplayer table, but this is cash money. And so I won that one handily…
Or really not, since I finally stabilized at a single life, but then dominated. And the third game went similarly, which is the glory of the Mill deck. You think you’re gonna win, it seems inevitable — and a flurry of Aethertows later, you’re losing to nothing at all. Ilya wanted to pound a wall.
Hint: If you’re playing against the Mill deck, or at least my Mill deck, you might want to think about getting rid of the enchantments. Admittedly, Adam won with his, but when I am packed with bounce and things like Curse of Chains, the likelihood of a single critter getting to the combat zone clad in an enchantment is unlikely.
I was not liking my chances against this deck — it was the other R/B deck, and I’d watched Josh play it in the mirror match. Filled with hasty, persistent tramplers and a ton of removal for small guys — he picked up the three Tortures that had made the way around — this was going to be a stone-cold bitch of a game because my Drowner Initiates wouldn’t stay on the table.
They didn’t. However, apparently Ghastlord of Fugue wanted to come out and play, and so he showed up on turn 5 in both games, followed by a Helm of the Ghastlord in both games, which meant that it was over pretty quickly. He also had large critters to go on the offense and take me out before Ghasty could mop up, but they tended to get bounced or Misted so I could strip his hand of them.
I won with the mill deck in the combat phase. Who knew?
We played a third game for fun, and I got beaten — but even so, the deck did better than I thought it did, because a tempo R/B deck that relies on quick beats is very much hurt by the Condemn to Dreams. I came within one combat phase of winning, and lost only because I drew eight out of ten lands. Eeek.
So I went 3-1. Not bad. And my team won handily, which was good, picking up two booster packs apiece. What more could you want from a fun Tuesday night?
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy