I recently suffered through the longest losing streak of my Magic Online career. As you might suspect from a guy who spends most of his time complaining in #mtgwacky, that covers a lot of losing. It’s not every day I set a new record for futility.
I said to myself,”Something has got to change.”
I know. As article openings go, it’ll never be up there with”So I won the Pro Tour” or”It all started with a call from EDT,” or”Mainz was full of great memories for me, Matt Vienneau.” It doesn’t bring emotion screaming to the table with as much rapier precision as”So you lost, right?” and”He’s going to Consult for Spite and Spite the face.” Even in the dread shadow of those shortcomings, I’ve chosen to start the article with that line simply because it explains why I’ve been drafting a lot lately.
If there’s one thing I can’t abide, constant reader, it’s losing repeatedly. I’m sure all of you are having a lot of fun with your newfangled”Darksteel” cards in your so-called”real life” drafts, but for Magic Online players, there is another month of MMM on the way, and this article is for people who find themselves mired in that month like a rock in Old Man Pederson’s north field. Can’t win? Oh, I feel your pain, brother.
The format was just beating me furiously about the neck and shoulders, and I don’t mind at admitting it. Thirteen drafts in a row without a win. Of those, eight were first round exits, defeats tantamount to dressing for the game, coming out for warmups, and then going home. And I’m not talking about just 9-5, 1700 Room drafts filled with guys from clans like”Neutral Ground NY” and”Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.” I was getting first-rounded out of the 4-3-2-2 queues like you wouldn’t believe – just sitting down, drafting a passable deck and playing like Chauncy the Gardener from Peter Sellers'”Being There.” I got the distinct impression after a while that many of my fellow 4-3-2-2 queue gladiators were laughing under their respective breaths when I would sit down at the table. They would message each other with glee, eagerly anticipating the hilarious spectacle to come.
“Pffft! You’re playing Tait in the first round! Let’s see how many 5cc creatures he can draft this time! ROFL.”
“Yeah, last draft he had three Goblin War Wagons and a Balloon Brigade in his deck! LOLZ. Pretty strong against my Icy.”
Many of these losses were due to poor play, many were due to mediocre decks. (There was also a nice chunk of bad luck involved, but luck evens out in the end.) It was with a tearing and heart-pounding suddenness that I came to the conclusion that I didn’t understand the format at all, and that I needed to ask for help. I remember the exact moment – I was getting my nose knocked off of my face by some guy with a 1611 rating. I reached deep within my tattered soul and decided that it was time to ask for help.
So I went to #mtgwacky, the obvious first choice of anyone who wants help with his or her game, and did what I usually do when I go to #mtgwacky after a tough Magic Online loss – I complained. At length. At first, I received the standard response for such behavior – a general grumbling that I should shut up. After some more complaining, though, a young malcontent named Phillip Samms piped up with:
“You should draft R/B.”
And from those humble beginnings, a strategy was born. I didn’t get more information right away – I was too hot under the collar, burning to draft again and avenge my massive defeats – but I did return to #mtgwacky during the next draft to ask interested parties about a couple of picks. I’d ask about stuff like”Pewter Golem or Consume Spirit here?” and Samms would say something like “Neither,” and tell me, in what I imagined to be the tones of a professor lecturing a prize student, that I should be drafting more Nim Lashers and Disciples of the Vault.
At the mention of Nim Lasher in particular, eyes seemed to light up.
[OMC] Lasha 😀
[psamms] Lasha is definitely a good man
Nim Lasher? Had the world gone crazy? I’d compiled a fairly good record locally just by cutting those guys out of my decks and playing lategame powerhouses like Consume Spirit and Pewter Golem. But it wasn’t working online, that was for sure – and something had to change before I was in MODO debt up to my ears. And on the advice of a couple of good ol’ Canadian boys (including rhoaen, psamms, OMC, and SickBeats), something did change.
I didn’t come up with this drafting method, but I did recently learn it, practice it, and put my own small spin on it. If you’re in the know, just smile and nod. I’ve finally caught at least halfway up to you. If you’re not…then settle in.
Constant reader, let me introduce you to Lashdraft. Where, as the old saying goes,”one mans trash is another mans treasure.”
Tenets of the Lashdraft School of Drafting:
1. Pewter Golem is too slow.
2. Consume Spirit is too slow.
4. Take Viridian Longbow over almost anything.
5. Don’t draft Green cards. (often)
6. Don’t draft White cards.
7. Don’t draft Blue cards. (often)
8. No taking seven-mana rares over one-to-three-mana aggro commons.
A cautionary note about the following pick orders and recommendations: you can’t just blindly follow the pick orders below. Canadian National Champion Josh Rider recently told me that he believes this format to be”more about drafting a deck instead of a pile of cards”, much moreso than previous Limited formats. He’s right. If you follow the pick orders listed below without keeping an eye on the number of creatures you have drafted, how they interact, the amount of removal you have, the speed of your deck, and the synergies of your cards, you will lose. These cards all scale in value depending on how your deck is shaping up. In some cases, is it appropriate to take a”seventh pick” over a”second pick” if your deck would be better served.
Here is your pick order, with comments to follow. I’ve omitted any cards that you don’t even want in your deck – they’re not listed at all. So don’t cry to me over the absence of Goblin War Wagon and Vulshok Gauntlets.
3. Leaden Myr*
4. Nim Lasher
5. Nim Shrieker
6. Vault of Whispers
7. Disciple of the Vault
8. Nim Replica
9. Wail of the Nim
10. Necrogen Spellbomb
11. (Pewter Golem)
You can see here that you want removal and Nim Enablers above all. The Lasher is actually about on par with the Shrieker in terms of power, because it starts out as a 1/1 instead of a 0/1. With two artifacts, the Lasher is still a very reasonable 3/1 on turn 3. The Shrieker is a 2/1 flyer on 4 four under the same circumstances, not nearly as saucy, and certainly not hot and fresh from the oven. Actually, you’ll find that picks two through seven are quite close in power level in general, and the right choice often depends on the needs of the deck. Some card specific strategies:
This guy is the cornerstone of Lashdraft. Slagwurm Armor is a much maligned piece of Equipment, but in when you stick it on a Nim Lasher, you get a certified powerhouse that is almost impossible to block and kill. The Lasher defines the archetype, because it is so good with so many”trashy” cards. Tooth and Scale of Chiss-Goria are both winners with a Lasher on the table, Neurok Hoversail lets you smash the face, off-color Spellbombs provide an offense boost. Nim Lasher is no flash in the pan man, it’s the genuine article! Smashes for tons on offense, sometimes trades with Plated Slagwurm on defense. You want as many Nim Lashers as you can get, and you’ll sometimes get them very, very late.
Lashdraft. We deal in lead.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll no doubt notice the Maris-esque asterisk beside the Leaden Myr entry in the above pick order. This is because the value of a Myr fluctuates according to how many you currently have. The magic number is two. If you’ve got two, you can fire Leaden Myr down below Lasher and Shrieker. If you don’t, you pretty much take Leaden Myr over anything. That’s how important it is to have two Myr in your deck. They enable more explosive starts, power up Nims, and if the going gets tough, they aren’t afraid to suit up with a Warhammer and smash the face.
Disciple of the Vault
The best friend of Krark-Clan Grunts and Atogs everywhere, this little guy gets in early beats and then, when your opponent least suspects it, unleashes a life drain of epic proportions. Every Lashdrafter knows the joy of beating an opponent down to six and then dropping a Grunt to end the game then and there. Especially ridiculous in multiples, this little guy also helps out by wielding your Viridian Longbow while larger men rumble into the red zone. Often comes on the print run right beside Pewter Golem, which you can safely ignore.
I was having trouble getting my Lashers through to elbow the neck… until I started taking these high. The best use for Irradiate is to remove blockers and swing in for more damage. None of this”defense” business. Irradiate might seem a little costly for what it does, but trust me when I say that you have to get those damn blockers out of the way before you can successfully go about the business of lodging a Lasher halfway up your opponents lower G.I.
Wail of the Nim
Great for sideboarding against decks with multiple Raise the Alarm, Tel-Jilad Chosen, and, of course, other Lashdraft decks, which generally have more one-toughness men than a European hockey team. Doesn’t make my maindeck, but has housed people out of the board more times than I can count. So, more than five times.
Not listed for a reason. Like octagenarian nookie, Pewter Golem is slow, fragile, and unreliable. The four-power creature of choice for Lashdraft decks is Myr Enforcer, which doesn’t have regeneration and doesn’t need it. Don’t even get me started on Consume Spirit – about ten things have to go right for your deck to be able to use it.
Okay, okay. The Pewter Golem may make your deck if you’re short on the proper playables and you managed to pick one up late, but I want to make it clear that this archetype is not about drafting Pewter Golems. It is about Disciples, Lashers, and everything in between.
1. Spikeshot Goblin
2. Electrostatic Bolt
4. Pyrite Spellbomb
5. Iron Myr*
6. Krark-Clan Grunt
7. Great Furnace
8. Goblin Replica
9. Vulshok Berserker
10. Hematite Golem
11. Fists of the Anvil
You’ll get less top level Red stuff than top level Black stuff. This is because everyone already knows the red stuff is good, and they take it. Nobody really thinks Terror, Irradiate or Leaden Myr is much of a first pick. The power difference between picks seven, eight, and nine is very small, and all are solid additions to your Lashdraft.
When you equip this and boost the power/toughness…is that called”pumping Iron?”
Same thing goes here. Pick it this high until you have two of ’em. Then drop it below the Grunt.
Disciple of the Vault’s best buddy, aside from facilitating a game ending life drain, this also performs the not-inconsiderable task of smashing the noggin and fizzling those pesky Deconstructs. Sometimes you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to get a Grunt for your deck, since Red is so overdrafted. Have patience – he’ll come around in time.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Some people take Bonesplitter over this, but I still don’t. Spikeshot Goblin is the best common you can have in your B/R deck. You will seldom see him in the same pack with Bonesplitter, but if you do, this is your choice. You will have plenty of shots at power-boosting equipment as the packs unfold, and don’t forget that Tooth of Chiss-Goria goes really late. Wins games by itself that you have no business winning – no other common does this.
This is ranked above Shatter because it removes a wider variety of blockers, especially against White decks and other Black decks. All the creatures that die to Shatter but not E-Bolt are slower than Clegg on a crutch anyhow – Clockwork Dragon rolls out of his sizable bed pretty late, about the time his controller is about to eat the ol’ dirt sandwich courtesy of Horatio, the friendly Nim.
***Cards To Avoid*** Ogre Leadfoot
I’ve managed to go about fifteen drafts now without having an Ogre Leadfoot in any of my B/R decks, and I’ve been none the worse for wear because of it.
2. Myr Enforcer
3. Viridian Longbow
4. Leonin Scimitar
6. Tooth of Chiss-Goria/Scale of Chiss-Goria
7. Slagwurm Armor
7.5 – (Wizard Replica)
8. Chromatic Sphere
8.5 – Neurok Hoversail
9. Yotian Soldier
10. Alpha Myr
11. Welding Jar
These rankings are pretty rough. More than anything, it’s important to keep your creature count at around fourteen. If you’re low, you’ll want to shift Frogmite up. If you have a Spikeshot, the Tooth moves up. If you have no Nim Lashers (sacrilege!) then Slagwurm Armor isn’t nearly the hot ticket you might expect. Different decks need different things.
The only card you take over it is Spikeshot Goblin. Bonesplitter is too good for words. Even the lardos on workman’s comp know it. I was down at the unemployment office just the other day looking for a date, and all they were talking about was Bonesplitter and Quiznos, in that order.
Many people have known that Longbow is very, very good for some time now. I was just recently made aware of that fact while reading coverage of PT Amsterdam (where a certain young man by the name of Richard Hoaen could often be heard lamenting a lack of Lashers within reach of his Rochester arm). More recently, an article on the new Mtg.com was singing the praises of this fine card.
As a Lashdrafter, you will learn to fear the Longbow. It’s as good as usual in your deck, especially since you so often have the early creatures to get it going on turn three, but that’s not where it stands out. Viridian Longbow makes a living by making the life of a B/R drafter miserable from the other side of the table. This shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. I mean, what did you expect it would do to a deck filled with Lashers, Myr and Disciples of the Vault? Just pass on by and say”Boy howdy?” On the contrary, the Longbow wrecks even the most solid Lashdraft if it isn’t dealt with. For this reason, I sometimes include the decidedly non-tempo-oriented man known as Rustspore Ram in my maindeck, despite his complete lack of offensive acumen and general inability to inflict damage.
Well, we all have our strengths.
The Lasher police department – to serve and protect. Slagwurm Armor turns your 4/1 into a 5/7. That sort of boost isn’t something you find just lying around under a rock. Slagwurm Armor has gotten a very bad rap, but ignore that and feel free to take it without feeling guilty. It’s a fine card.
Tooth/Scale of Chiss-Goria
Both are quite good with Nims and Grunts, plus they help with Affinity for Frogmites and Enforcers while serving as combat tricks against the unwary. Those reasons are just tertiary, though, to the main role that the Tooth/Scale team plays in the Lashdraft master plan. Quite simply, if you have enough copies of Tooth, Scale, Viridian Longbow and stuff like Spikeshot Goblin and Granite Shard, Fractured Loyalty goes from unplayable crap uncommon to”Control Magic, 10th pick.” If you can pick up a Loyalty, do so – and then start hunting for Teeth and Scales. The reverse is also true.
Do not draft either of these cards. If you see them in a pack, and there is nothing for you… find something. Raredraft, take the foil land, or pick up an Alpha Myr. Anything but the War Wagon or Gauntlets. The War Wagon is an awful creature in this deck, and with Slagwurm Armor, Neurok Hoversail, Leonin Scimitar, Bonesplitter, and Viridian Longbow all outclassing the Gauntlets, there’s no reason to add them to your pile. Hate draft to keep them away from those Leonin Den-Guards if you want, but it will seldom matter – those decks never get anywhere. The ones with Longbow and Raise the Alarm are the real terrors. I can’t remember the last time I lost to a Den-Guard. I think it was back around the time Dukakis rode in that tank.
I have yet to have to play it (same with Necrogen Spellbomb, which is last on the Black commons list), but I take it late and I certainly would play it, if the situation dictated such a move. That’s the main difference between this card and something like Goblin War Wagon, which I simply don’t draft.
Uncommons – Black
1. Betrayal of Flesh
2. Slith Bloodletter
3. Relic Bane
4. Flayed Nim
5. Nim Shambler
Betrayal of Flesh
Though this might seem a bit expensive, Lashdraft decks have, on average, the same number of mana sources as any other Mirrodin deck. We here at the Lashdraft Institute simply seek to do more with our opening turns, playing the beatdown role while eliminating twenty opposing life as quickly as possible. That said, there is still room in a Lashdraft deck for the Duplicants, Betrayals, and yes, even the Platinum Angels of the world. You and your opponent will likely both hit six or seven mana eventually. The difference is, you won’t be at two life when you hit seven. Oh, and if you have a Disciple or two on the table, feel free to sacrifice a few artifact lands to the Entwine. Always a pleasure.
Not only is it the best Slith, but most Lashdraft decks are heavier on Black than on red, so you’re in great position to play it out on turn 2 and commence the beatdown. Slith Firewalker would be an even better fit… if you could find some way to reliably get RR on turn 2 while still casting your Black spells, which often greatly outnumber your Red ones. Also, Slith Firewalker comes next to Loxodon Warhammer and Granite Shard in the print run, and both are far superior cards. Slith Bloodletter doesn’t have that problem, as it appears on the print run right beside Jack and Squat, respectively. (Well, One Dozen Eyes, I believe, but so what? Who plays Green? Being next to One Dozen Eyes on the print run is like being next to that unpopular fat guy in the class picture.)
I have won entire games with Bane damage. You just cast it on an artifact land or a piece of equipment and then go on with the game. Generally at least a Lava Axe, sometimes it”merely” forces the enemy to sacrifice the offending artifact. Yeah, I know. I’m real upset about that, too.
***Cards To Avoid*** Barter In Blood
Doesn’t work in Lashdraft. If you’re casting it, you’re out of gas. I tried it, even had some success with it, but it belongs in the slow, Consume Spirit, Pewter Golem, Altar of Shadows-type Black deck, the one sporting Yotian Soldiers built during the Carter Administration.
Uncommons – Red
1. Shrapnel Blast
2. Grab the Reins
5. Fractured Loyalty
6. Slith Firewalker
You will find this order deviates very little from what is established. The good Red uncommons are so powerful that it’s hard to change much of anything without it being a major mistake.
The absolute best card you can have for a Lashdraft deck, bar none. You take this over stuff like Platinum Angel, Megatog (tough, but the right pick), Bosh, Oblivion Stone, and the like. You might want to raredraft the Oblivion Stone, but Shrapnel Blast is better in the deck, trust me. With the right draw, your opponent will have time to blink once, and then there will be a shiny new crater right where his seat used to be. That sort of thing is sure to baffle the tournament organizers, who, so I’ve heard, try to maintain a craterless venue.
This card will take your lunch money. If you’ve been drafting as you should, this uncommon is like Control Magic at half price. It’s a free”bomb” uncommon that other decks don’t get a shot at. Cards that work with it include Tooth/Scale of Chiss-Goria, Viridian Longbow, Spikeshot Goblin, Granite Shard, and Icy Manipulator. The first two are easy to get. Ahhh! Nothing swings a game like creature theft! Except maybe the artifact listed first on the following table…
Uncommons – Artifact
1. Loxodon Warhammer
2. Mask of Memory
3. Icy Manipulator
4. Lightning Greaves
5. Granite Shard
7. Banshee’s Blade
8. Skeleton Shard
9. Vulshok Battlegear
9.5 ***B/R Talisman***
11. Mirror Golem
12. Myr Retriever
13. Bottle Gnomes
14. Rustspore Ram
Mask of Memory
You have no business ever passing this card unless you are raredrafting. Better than any common or uncommon in the format, with the possible exception of Grab the Reins, Shrapnel Blast, and Loxodon Warhammer. Mask of Memory wins games, and even if Lashdraft decks don’t sport the evasion of U/B decks or White decks, they have removal instead, and that will do just fine, thank you. Clear a path and draw to your hearts content. This card is so good that it actually wins games in my sleep, while I’m dreaming. I’ll be tossing and turning, clutching desperately at my pillow, and muttering”Pshwhwhw …..draw two..zzzzzz….pshwhwhw….. gee-gee sir….zzzzz….”
Deserves a mention because it’s amazing with Nim Lasher. There are plenty of decks that are glad to see a Fireshrieker in the draft pile, and this is one of them. So yank it before some dingleberry stumbles on to it and sticks it on something less than manly, like a Fangren Hunter.
Not nearly as good here as in the slow, Goblin Replica and Pewter Golem-filled B/R decks you might have been drafting. That said, it can still dominate a game if you have the right deck for it. You usually won’t – your important creatures aren’t artifacts when you’re running a Lashdraft. If you do find yourself with a couple of Enforcers, a Myr Retriever (which annoyingly comes right beside the Shard on the print run) and some Goblin Replicas, you’d still be crazy not to take it. Every Lashdraft is different, and sometimes Team Lasher gets a lot of help from Team 4/4 Puncha-U-Face.
Not a bomb in this deck. Of course, if you’re going to play non-rare, six-mana creature, it should definitely be this 3/4 super-evader, and not that clunky old Goblin Dirigible. (If I wanted my stuff to stay tapped, I’d be playing Stasis). Under no circumstances should this man be taken over the Lasha!
***Cards To Avoid***Goblin Dirigible
Sloooooooooooooooooooooow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:”Swings like a brother, costed like your mother.”
Crystal Shard (the bomb diggity)
Lumengrid Augur (people always pass this to me, I always take it)
The above six cards are my most common splashes. With an eye towards picking up some powerful splash cards in your travels, you should grab any copies of Seat of the Synod and Tree of Tales that you can reasonably afford to take, along with Talisman of Impulse and Talisman of Dominance. Copper and Silver Myr are also more than welcome to join the team.
Some Final Tips
1. Keep your creature count at around thirteen or fourteen. I can’t stress this enough. You will have far too many opening hands with no action if you go below fourteen. Trust me – I know from experience. If you’re low on creatures, you should be taking Frogmite over Leonin Scimitar, Vulshok Berserker over Pyrite Spellbomb, Nim Lasher over Irradiate. It’s got to be done, or you will lose.
2. If you have two or three Myr/Talismans/Spellbombs, play sixteen land. If you have four Myr/Talismans/Spellbombs, play fifteen land. If you have 0-1 Myr/Talismans/Spellbombs… go sit in a corner and think about what you’ve done. I sometimes find myself loathe to drop to fifteen land if I’m splashing, or if my creature base includes color-intensive stuff like Slith Bloodletter or Arc-Slogger. If you need to get your colors, sixteen is a safe number. Under no circumstances should you be playing seventeen land.
3. Watch Out For Raise The Alarm.
4. Remember that your goal in drafting this deck is to assemble a machine that will do a quick twenty. Be willing to sacrifice some card quality for speed as you make your selections. Pewter Golem is the best common creature in the set if you’ve got eight land (well, except maybe for Wurmskin Forger or Malachite Golem, even slower) but it doesn’t exactly put on the pressure.
5. I didn’t know where else to put this, so it will go here. There is a rare piece of equipment called”Nightmare Lash.” It is ridiculous in B/x aggro decks like Lashdraft, and it will come very, very late because a) Many people don’t know how good it is and b) Most of the table can’t use it. Personally I’ve received it, gift wrapped, as late as seventh pick. That’s a nice coup, considering that Nightmare Lash is better than Bonesplitter if you have sufficient Swamps… which you should! Take it and don’t look back!
That’s it. If you’re having trouble with Mirrodin, as I was, I hope this helps you find your way. It’s possible to draft a passable version of this archetype every time you sit down at the table- it’s consistent. Thanks to the draft style outlined above, which was created and refined by better players than I, I’ve managed to spend less while drafting more on Magic Online, and rack up more than my share of wins. I can’t recommend it enough. If you like attacking and don’t want to sit around regenerating the same dumb pile of rocks every turn, grab a Lasher when the pack comes your way!
Lashdraft. You’ll be glad you did.
[Phil Samms is not only the President of Lashdraft Incoporated, he’s also a client. – Knut]