For those following the recent discussion regarding Nick Eisel continuing to write for this site, The Ferrett issued a call to arms for more good writers on Onslaught drafting. So I decided, what the heck, why not give this a try? Beats waiting for Gary Wise to ever get his articles done.
What qualifies me to write draft articles, you ask? True, mostly I’m known for Constructed deck analysis and goofy off-the-wall sort-of-Standard-playable fare. I am a good Limited player, though, rated as one of the better players in the state of Oregon, and I do draft plenty down at my local game store. And me writes good (my six fans tell me so). I prefer "real life" drafting to Magic online, since I’m trying to maintain a positive balance in my checking account and I like to see the sun once in a while (see Tait, Geordie).
I’m going to have a go at reviewing Legions, and if I enough readers find this stuff valuable and worthwhile, I’ll keep doing it.
Let’s start with white. While not the worst color in Onslaught draft (that honor goes to blue), white doesn’t get the love that black, red and green get. That’s mostly because its best stuff falls in the weenie range, although there are certainly a few bombs. Still, white has only gotten deeper with Legions, and if you want to get into white early, you will be rewarded with some good stuff.
Notably, U/W has now become a playable archetype. Add in more blue and white fliers and damage prevention and it’s old-school U/W. Amazingly, you can run any of the four color combinations with white. Provoke gives you enough removal tools to be able to run G/W as a rush deck, but it’s a fairly weak combination unless you have a few bombs. Fortunately, Legions white has a few of those.
Just a few.
Akroma, Angel of Wrath:
Speaking of bombs…I like to think of this card as "Cris Carter" since "all it does is win games." An obvious first pick, and while I don’t advocate hate drafting, this might be one instance where you could be…Flexible. Just stay alive long enough to cast her, and more often than not you’ll win. Even if you lose, you’ll at least have paid for your draft with this card.
Beacon of Destiny:
In the early game, it can block morphs. In the late game, it can take two for the team. This ability isn’t totally useless, but there are many better 1/3 Clerics for 1/3, as we’ll later see. Take it late if you need one for your set.
What you are getting initially is a five-mana 2/2 flier. What you will get is card advantage once it gets snuffed, provided there are good Birds and/or Clerics in your graveyard. This is a card that will make a good U/W deck a little better and a bad U/W deck not-quite-as-bad. How high you take it depends upon the quality of fragile Clerics and Birds you have in the deck. A high pick if you have a B/W Cleric deck (especially in conjunction with Cabal Archon), its value is lowered in W/U and W/x Soldier decks.
Defender of the Order:
Decent, but unspectacular. You do get a 2/4 with a nifty trick that can save your forces from global kill spells like Starstorm and Infest, but more likely will be used to save your creatures in combat-something Cleric decks like. I’d take it fairly early in a Cleric-based deck, perhaps fourth or so, later in a white non-Cleric deck-I wouldn’t be surprised to see this card get passed completely around the table.
Why doesn’t anyone play Slivers? Is it because you don’t want to give their ability to your opponent’s creatures? Or is it the fact that they’re more expensive than their previous incarnation? The Essence Sliver is one of the strongest of the new Slivers, a Hill Giant with a built-in Spirit Link. Being a 3/3 alone makes it good in this morph-crazy environment. It’s a stronger choice for U/W, as it gets stronger with the number of Illusions you’re packing. A first pick for U/W, and a high pick for any deck packing white.
So let me get this straight: this card makes all non-creatures spells cost more, and he’s printed in an all-creature set.
Hmm. Something doesn’t quite make sense here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Most likely relegated to the Constructed environment, where he’ll fit into marginal sideboard slots where Sphere of Resistance went. Even an off-color morph is better than this guy. Pass it unless there is literally nothing else in the pack better.
This guy is probably more at home in the Constructed environment, killing Squirrel and Wurm tokens – but there are Centaur and Dragon tokens he can eliminate in the draft environment as well. He is a puny 1/1 for one, however, and his ability is expensive. More than likely his ability would only be used as a pseudo-Fog. That’s not a bad thing per se, but when it costs 3W and a creature, I’m dubious. Take him very late for the Cleric deck or if you really fear Caller of the Claw; there are many other cards far better than this one.
There are some people who think this card is good. There are also some who think the world is flat.
Maybe I overexaggerate.
This card does have a limited role in a very aggressive W/R or W/G Soldier-centric deck, tapping potential blockers while weenies like Glory Seeker and morphs come over for the early beats. The value of this card decreases if your opponent has larger creatures that the Legionnaire can affect. If you have an aggressive deck, pick it higher, otherwise, leave it for the rare-drafting nine-year-olds.
A reasonably costed flyer with the built-in "tax" ability. This will keep an opponent from committing all his forces without tying up his many, which will be anything from annoying to vexing in the midgame. The only downside is that it doesn’t fit into the tribal mechanic. Still a first to third pick for any white deck; you can never have enough three-toughness fliers. Works great in conjunction with Whipgrass Entangler.
Commons and Uncommons:
Decent but unspectacular. The trouble with not making Clerics tap to attack is that your Clerics seldom get above the two-power threshold, and that they generally don’t want to go into the Red Zone; that’s why they hang out with Zombies and Soldiers. It also gives this ability to all Clerics, so it sucks in the mirror. Still, it’s the four toughness can make it worthwhile. If it’s in the pack you crack open, odds are it will come back to you, take it around an eighth pick or so.
Samite Healer and Aven Fisher went off and did a bad thing; nine months later, this got hatched. It’s cards like these that are making U/W playable in Onslaught draft. But therein lies the problem; if it attacks, you can’t use the ability, and if you use the ability, it can’t attack (unless you picked up Akroma’s Devoted, but that’s neither here nor there). Gets really silly in multiples, so you’re more likely to use the damage prevention ability, or the threat of it, than the two damage per turn. Take it anywhere from fourth to eighth, and if you get them later than that, be thankful.
Okay, white weenie this ain’t. The amplify mechanic goes against the traditional role of the Soldier, which is to be cheap and hard hitting (see Squad, Catapult). By the time you’ll be able to play this card, you should have already played out all your Soldiers. The value of this card increases with the number of Daru Stingers in your deck, but I still wouldn’t have more than one in my deck. Pass them early and they’ll come back to you.
The bonus of getting into white with Onslaught is the opportunity to pick this guy up in Legions. Stronger in U/W due to the preponderance of Birds in those colors, he should be a 3/3 sooner than later. Really, really strong card, take them early and often, but you’ll be lucky to see more than one.
It serves much the same purpose as Vitality Charm in R/G, enabling a player to regenerate a gang-blocked Beast. Trouble is, Clerics generally don’t get as big as beasts, and you’re left with a puny 1/1 body after demorphing. But that’s okay; you get a combat trick to save a better creature and a chump blocker for later. It’s uncommon, so odds are you won’t get more than one, which is about all you want. Look for them around the seventh pick or so.
Demystify was a card that could usually make a solid case for the 23rd card in a deck, being as everyone usually played at least one enchantment. Now, the white player gets the not-quite-as-good Nantuko Vigilante. I rather like it, being a nice four-toughness body means it will be good on defense – which seems to be the theme of the Clerics. Just remember, if you control the only enchantment in play, it will destroy it when demorphed; the ability is not optional. Pick them around 7th-9th.
Strictly speaking, much better than the Warhawk, but suffers from the same drawback. The more you can hoard of these, the better, but be aware that you are sacrificing early game board position for a potential house later, which makes it more at home in a Cleric deck than a Soldier deck. If you are holding two other Soldiers and a Stinger, you may want to hold them back to have a decently-sized Stinger on turn 4. If you pass one and get another one in the next pack, start picking them up. If you only get one, it’s not worth playing, but two or more are. I’ve taken them as early as third and as late as eleventh.
Best white one-drop ever? That might be saying a bit much, but I really like this card; you’re never sorry to see him in your hand. He makes for a great one-drop, gets rid of pesky Sparksmiths, Wellwishers, and Smokespew Invokers and is a great blocker once he has no targets to be provocative with. Better in an aggressive R/W Soldier/Goblin deck, where we’ve learned that provoke + Crown of Fury = savage beatings, but I’d use him in any deck with white. Grab him around the third to fifth pick or so; often it’ll slip to later picks, but don’t take the chance of not getting any.
It’s not as good as I originally thought, but still a solid middle-of-the-pack pick. Works well with the weenie soldiers who want to rush an opponent and it can sit in your hand to pump the amplify guys. And, on very rare, desperate occasions, you may actually want to cast it – five toughness means this guy can block just about anything without "Krosan" in the name and survive. If you have a lot of amplify guys, their value goes up. They are overvalued in my estimation by inexperienced drafters, so the supply can dry up early if you’re at that kind of table. Among a stronger group, you can pick one or two up around the sixth or seventh pick, hopefully.
Liege of the Axe:
Fairly vanilla soldier, but with a twist-so maybe he’s French vanilla (or, as I understand we’re supposed to call it, "freedom vanilla"). Obviously, this is a guy you want to be turning sideways a lot. More often than not, he simply ends up trading for another morph. Worth picking for a Soldier-heavy deck, but the ability doesn’t merit you going out of your way to take it earlier than sixth pick or so.
I remember when soldiers were cheap little guys. This guy’s little – but he costs 4W, for cryin’ out loud! For this exorbitant price, you get the valuable provoke ability and first strike – morphs beware! The value of this card increases with the like of Piety Charm, Crown of Vigor, and Daru Encampment. Still, five mana for a 2/2 is a lot to pay. If you think your deck needs them, these can usually be acquired late. Very late. But if you are going the G/W route, you almost have to have this guy. Deftblade Elite is such a superior card compared to this.
White seems to be cornering the market in Rime Dryads lately. If you have one of the few rare Slivers worth playing, this guy might make the cut. Otherwise, you get exactly what it says it is – a 1/2 for 1, and it doesn’t even have snow-covered forestwalk. Usually found in the same position in draft as Break Open, down towards the last pick.
A card I have come to value a little more highly. While its ability is by far the weakest of the Invokers, it is a 1/3 for 1W – meaning, again, morph blocking, and the fact that it’s weak often means it gets ignored until, suddenly, you’re at the magic 7W and gaining precious life. Stronger in U/W than W/B, I like to pick one up late when going the Cleric route. You can get them as low as the last pick on occasion, but people are starting to find that a five-point life swing in life isn’t that bad of a thing and taking them a little earlier.
Now we’re cooking with gas – this is a Soldier that believes in the motto "be all you can be." Obviously gets better with the more cycling cards you have, and if you have a Lightning Rift to go with it-the fun just doesn’t stop. A 4th-6th pick; take it higher is you have lots of cycling cards, and be willing to snag Macetail Hystrodons later to back him up.
It flies, and has a toughness of six. That’s pretty good. It can lose flying and use the provoke ability, which is also pretty good. It costs six mana, which is not good.
Even though it’s a Bird Soldier, it’s a better fit in the Cleric deck, where that six toughness is better than the two power. But for six mana, it’s really not a fit in either the Cleric or Soldier deck. If you really need fliers and/or defense against them, this will fill the bill… But if you need this for fliers and/or defense against them, your deck probably isn’t that good to begin with. It’s a damn fine blocker, though. A 7th-8th pick at the highest.
Wall of Hope:
Ah, Wall of Essence, I knew you well. This is actually a pretty decent card for the W/x Cleric deck. It’s cheap, stops the early morph attacks, and will usually buy you some life chumping a blocker. I wouldn’t want more than one or two in a deck, but they’re solid additions nonetheless. Start picking them up around the eighth pick or so, but don’t wait too long – they won’t always last that long if there are more than two white drafters at the table.
To be a 2/2 for five mana, a card better be really good… And this isn’t. At least Celestial Gatekeeper flies. Potentially strong in a U/W deck full of Slivers and Illusions, it’s still overcosted and vulnerable to the other color your opponent has that you don’t name. Hell, morphs can kill this thing. Forget what I said earlier, this is why people aren’t playing Slivers – if they aren’t rare, they suck. Ninth pick at the highest.
I suspect I value this card higher than others, and I’ll draft it as early as the third pick. In a Cleric-heavy deck, the Entangler can keep an opponent from committing as many attackers as he’d like. However, it’s three mana for the privilege of his 1/3 body, and his ability isn’t much good if you only have one or two Clerics in play. Once you have the mana to use his ability, though, and the Clerics (including your opponent’s) to activate him, very few of your opponent’s creatures will be entering the Red Zone. I draft them high; your mileage may vary.
First strike is actually better than protection from black in this environment, although with Skinthinners and Aphetto Exterminators running about, that’s nice bonus to have as well. The only problem with the Knight is just that – he’s a Knight, not a Soldier, so he’s pretty much a tribal lone wolf. Still worth it in a Soldier deck. 4th-6th seems about right for him.
Another card moving up the charts. Reasonable to play both as a morph (while it’s no Patron of the Wild, the combat trick is pretty nice) and face up as a 2/1 flier for three. Goes great with Cloudreach Cavalry, and fliers, especially cheap ones, are always a commodity. Take it as early as your third pick, and the more you can hoard, the better.
Next time: Legions blue – or, just when you didn’t think things could get much worse…