Limited Lessons – A Mono-Black Draft Walkthrough

Read Nick Eisel... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, August 19th – With Eventide now in the draft mix both online and off, Limited players around the world are learning the subtleties of the SSE format. Today’s Limited Lessons sees Nick take us through an almost mono-colored draft walkthrough, sharing his thoughts and insights on the cards and format every step of the way…

This past week I’ve spent a lot of time in the car, which was not too enjoyable. It did give me a lot of time to think about new things to try in draft, so I’m going to try out some new ideas this week and then write about them if they end up being any good.

For now, I figured another draft walkthrough couldn’t hurt, and this time around I picked one where I didn’t go Mono-Red (which are the majority of the drafts I’ve recorded so far).


Pack One

Pick 1
Disturbing Plot, Nurturer Initiate, Aethertow, Safehold Elite, Barkshell Blessing, Gloomwidow’s Feast, Spell Syphon, Inescapable Brute, Foxfire Oak, Splitting Headache, Woeleecher, Lockjaw Snapper, Roughshod Mentor, Wasp Lancer, Vexing Shusher

When I first looked at this pack I thought I was taking Safehold Elite. Then I considered Vexing Shusher before realizing that it would be totally unreasonable to take that first even with my absurd love of Red cards.

The safe pick here is definitely Safehold Elite, as it offers the most options and is a great card. I’m a huge fan of the GGG cards (G meaning Guild Mana) though and going out on a limb for them often reaps great rewards. I decided to go with the riskier pick here in Wasp Lancer because it’s a more powerful card overall, and I prefer mono-colored or near mono strategies whenever possible in this format.

Pick: Wasp Lancer

Pick 2
Sickle Ripper, Parapet Watchers, Blight Sickle, Ballynock Cohort, Crabapple Cohort, Traitor’s Roar, Prismwake Merrow, Crimson Wisps, Viridescent Wisps, Cinderbones, Mine Excavation, Guttural Response, Inkfathom Infiltrator, Runed Halo

If you went with Safehold Elite first (as I assume the majority would), this pick is definitely Ballynock Cohort. As for me, the pick is certainly the Infiltrator and a nice compliment to my first pick.

Pick: Inkfathom Infiltrator

Pick 3
Gravelgill Duo, Fists of the Demigod, Rune-Cervin Rider, Tattermunge Duo, Blazethorn Scarecrow, Spell Syphon, Rustrazor Butcher, Aphotic Wisps, Kithkin Shielddare, Torrent of Souls, Wild Swing, Dream Salvage, Mystic Gate

On actual Magic Online I definitely take Mystic Gate here because it’s worth enough to justify it. Since this was the beta, I get to make a good pick instead.

At this point I was mainly thinking Mono-Blue or Mono-Black if possible after the first two picks, with UB still being a decent option. Gravegill Duo has been extremely mediocre for me every time I’ve had it in play, so I decided to go with the potentially stronger option in Torrent of Souls. It won’t be hard to splash for the Red half if I end up in Mono-Black anyway.

Pick: Torrent of Souls

Pick 4
Sickle Ripper, Torpor Dust, Blight Sickle, Somnomancer, Fate Transfer, Poison the Well, Gleeful Sabotage, Ashenmoor Cohort, Apothecary Initiate, Drove of Elves, Torrent of Souls, Wheel of Sun and Moon

I flirted with the idea of a second Torrent of Souls which could put me in some kind of reanimator deck, involving Ghastly Discovery or Cinderhaze Wretch to discard off-color monsters and then possibly even swing in there with Haste. I’ve wanted to try this for a while, but decided to instead just make a safe and strong pick in Torpor Dust.

The Dust is a card that I’ve liked more and more as I’ve played with it, and it is a solid piece of removal that doesn’t get respect equal to its value.

I think Fate Transfer is also a viable pick in this pack, but I don’t like taking it this early and there’s always the chance it could table. Sickle Ripper is also much worse than Torpor Dust.

Pick: Torpor Dust

Pick 5
Gravelgill Axeshark, Sootstoke Kindler, Nurturer Initiate, Mudbrawler Raiders, Whimwader, Toll to Renown, Thornwatch Scarecrow, Rustrazor Butcher, Safewright Quest, Merrow Grimeblotter, Wound Reflection

This pack was super interesting, and I timed down quite a bit before making a decision.

A lot of the reason I was intrigued by this pack was because I haven’t ever played with Wound Reflection, and it seemed like it had potential to be very strong in an evasive deck like the one I currently had. Either way, it will probably end up tabling.

Grimeblotter has been pretty mediocre for me in any deck that doesn’t have Power of Fire in it, but it’s worth noting that he’s nice to have now that Banishing Knack is around.

The best pick here for me is Sootstoke Kindler, especially because I already semi-committed to Black with the Torrent.

Pick: Sootstoke Kindler

Pick 6
Torpor Dust, Watchwing Scarecrow, Faerie Macabre, Aphotic Wisps, Woeleecher, Memory Sluice, Giantbaiting, Blazethorn Scarecrow, Crowd of Cinders, Dramatic Entrance

It seems like the Black is really flowing in this draft, and I decided now was the time to fully commit to it. Faerie Macabre and Crowd of Cinders are both awesome cards but I felt that the Crowd would likely end up being better if I got a bunch of Black dudes, as I also already had Sootstoke Kindler.

Pick: Crowd of Cinders

Pick 7
Traitor’s Roar, Somnomancer, Rattleblaze Scarecrow, Gleeful Sabotage, Kithkin Shielddare, Prismwake Merrow, Inescapable Brute, Horde of Boggarts, Fulminator Mage

I could still end up UB in this draft but I see no reason to take something like Somnomancer in this pack when Fulminator Mage and Rattleblaze are both here. I’m not sure about you guys but I pretty much hate having Rattleblaze and Blazethorn Scarecrows in my deck. That being said, it’s possible that Rattleblaze is just nuts in Mono-Black and I don’t know it yet. This time around I went with the Gray Ogre, as it helps power Crowd and can possibly blow up a land once in a blue moon.

Pick: Fulminator Mage

Pick 8
Helm of the Ghastlord, Safewright Quest, Splitting Headache, Barrenton Medic, Memory Sluice, Poison the Well, Fossil Find, Reflecting Pool

I’m probably a bigger fan of Splitting Headache than most people, but I decided I had to take the Helm of the Ghastlord here because of Wasp Lancer, Inkfathom Infiltrator, and possibly more guys in pack 2. It’s also fine on just a Black guy like Crowd, which will still Specter them.

Pick: Helm of the Ghastlord

On the way back around I grabbed a Splitting Headache, Fate Transfer, and Wound Reflection. Not too bad so far going into pack 2, except my only real options right now are Mono-Black and BR.

Pack Two

Pick 1
Burn Trail. Farhaven Elf, Scuttlemutt, Old Ghastbark, Merrow Wavebreakers, Scar, Bloodshed Fever, Loamdragger Giant, Put Away, Turn to Mist, Elvish Hexhunter, Tower Above, Flame Javelin, Sapseep Forest, Wort, the Raidmother

I can’t ever see taking anything over Flame Javelin unless it was a bomb Black Rare or Incremental Blight. Don’t even look at the Scuttlemutt in this pack, as it really isn’t close.

Pick: Flame Javelin

Pick 2
Burn Trail, Wildslayer Elves, Cinderhaze Wretch, Silkbind Faerie, Wanderbrine Rootcutters, Scar, Sinking Feeling, Goldenglow Moth, Smash to Smithereens, Hungry Spriggan, Loch Korrigan, Gnarled Effigy, Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Mistmeadow Skulk

This pack is pretty ridiculous. That being said, while I wanted to stay consistent here and take Wanderbrine Rootcutters to go with my Helm, I couldn’t possibly justify passing Burn Trail when I was already likely splashing for Torrent of Souls. Must be nice to be the guy next to me getting a third pick Silkbind Faerie.

Pick: Burn Trail

Pick 3
Wingrattle Scarecrow, Old Ghastbark, Ghastly Discovery, Oona’s Gatewarden, Elsewhere Flask, Cerulean Wisps, Ember Gale, Smolder Initiate, Gloomwidow’s Feast, Flourishing Defenses, Ashenmoor Gouger, Moonring Island, Deus of Calamity

Smolder Initiate is definitely awesome in Mono-Black, but unfortunately there are just better options here. This pack allows me to get maximum use out of my Sootstoke Kindler by powering out a hasty Ashenmoor Gouger.

I did briefly think of Ember Gale for the splash, but never seriously considered taking it.

Pick: Ashenmoor Gouger

Pick 4
Mudbrawler Cohort, Farhaven Elf, Last Breath, Wanderbrine Rootcutters, Sootwalkers, Safehold Sentry, Pili-Pala, Bloodshed Fever, Manamorphose, Turn to Mist, Scarscale Ritual, Kithkin Rabble

Helm of the Ghastlord could definitely use some more help, and thankfully I can take the Rootcutters here without passing anything great.

Pick: Wanderbrine Rootcutters

Pick 5
Sootwalkers, Blistering Dieflyn, Presence of Gond, Kinscaer Harpoonist, Loch Korrigan, Ember Gale, Niveous Wisps, Loamdragger Giant, Drowner Initiate, Gloomwidow, Madblind Mountain

This pick is very close and I could definitely see going either way with it. This isn’t the best type of deck for Ember Gale because most of my guys have evasion already, but the Gale will still kill plenty of dorks these days which makes it even more valuable. I also have the Gouger, who may want to get one last swing through in the mid-game. That being said, I wanted some more solid men to fill out my curve and decided to go with Sootwalkers.

Pick: Sootwalkers

Pick 6
Briarberry Cohort, Gloomlance, Chainbreaker, Manaforge Cinder, Scuzzback Scrapper, Elvish Hexhunter, Goldenglow Moth, Thoughtweft Gambit, Reknit, Knacksaw Clique

Wow. This pack was either completely insane or people just weren’t picking from it.

At any rate, getting Gloomlance this late should be a testament to the fact that Black is still very underdrafted. That or the players in this queue were sub-par, as there are still two insane Blue cards here too.

Pick: Gloomlance

Pick 7
Medicine Runner, Ghastly Discovery, Wildslayer Elves, Scarscale Ritual, Intimidator Initiate, Sinking Feeling, Gloomwidow’s Feast, Tattermunge Witch, Revelsong Horn

I almost hate-drafted the Intimidator from this pack, but decided there was some chance I’d play Scarscale Ritual so I took it. If this were an 8-4 on real Magic Online though I’d probably hate up the Initiate given the way the draft has gone so far.

Pick: Scarscale Ritual

Pick 8
Mudbrawler Cohort, Chainbreaker, Oona’s Gatewarden, Smash to Smithereens, Smolder Initiate, Scrapbasket, Strip Bare, Drowner Initiate

This was actually a very tough pick since I don’t have too much cheap Black stuff to trigger the Initiate often. I decided since I was going for an evasion plan that I’d rather have the Gatewarden on defense. Tapping out every turn is bad for the Initiate too.

Pick: Oona’s Gatewarden

On the lap I picked up a late Scar, second Gatewarden, second Sootwalkers, and a Chainbreaker which likely won’t make the cut.


Pick 1
Gift of the Deity, Clout of the Dominus, Stream Hopper, Wickerbough Elder, Unmake, Duergar Assailant, Wilderness Hypnotist, Monstrify, Ballynock Trapper, Smoldering Butcher, Beckon Apparition, Springjack Shepherd, Hag Hedge-Mage, Chaotic Backlash, Glen Elendra Archmage

Have you ever drafted online and yelled “Got There!” while sitting in an apartment by yourself? I distinctly remember doing so after opening this pack.

I know it’s not like a super lucky open or anything, but I’m rarely in Mono-Black, and whenever I am I never see any Unmakes or any of the other good Eventide reasons to get into the color.

Pick: Unmake

Pick 2
Double Cleave, Fire at Will, Talara’s Bane, Nightsky Mimic, Heartlash Cinder, Banishing Knack, Dream Thief, Recumbent Bliss, Grazing Kelpie, Aerie Ouphes, Shell Skulkin, Quillspike, Hatchet Bully, Nightmare Incursion

Normally I’m very excited to get passed a Quillspike, but so far in this draft I don’t have any real way to abuse it. I decided instead to embellish my splash by taking Hatchet Bully.

I do also want to mention that I think in general the Mimics are overrated, and that the UR one is actually the best because most of the UR commons are excellent and fit well into Mono-Red. It also fits the theme of Mono-Red better than the other Mimics fit into existing archetypes.

Pick: Hatchet Bully

Pick 3
Odious Trow, Slippery Bogle, Shorecrasher Mimic, Favor of the Overbeing, Clout of the Dominus, Kithkin Spellduster, Jawbone Skulkin, Woodlurker Mimic, Cenn’s Enlistment, Noggle Bandit, Gilder Bairn, Swirling Spriggan, Lingering Tormentor

This pick was motivated almost entirely by mana curve concerns, as well as future hopes in my remaining picks. Normally I like Lingering Tormentor, but I already have plenty of four drops after tabling Sootwalkers. I went with Woodlurker Mimic here after considering moving into straight BR for Noggle Bandit. I think this option has some merit, and it’s possible this was a mispick, but at this point I was focused on splashing for Red and still trying to get maximum value out of my Crowd of Cinders. It’s possible I was sacrificing too much card quality by passing the Bandit here so please post your thoughts in the forum.

Pick: Woodlurker Mimic

Pick 4
Tilling Treefolk, Hobgoblin Dragoon, Talara’s Bane, Favor of the Overbeing, Double Cleave, Battlegate Mimic, Hoof Skulkin, Oona’s Grace, Drain the Well, Harvest Gwyllion, Idle Thoughts, Restless Apparition

It would seem as though my last pick was right for this particular draft, as I’d have trouble supporting the Restless Apparition with Noggle Bandit also in my deck. The Apparition is also far better than Harvest Gwyllion if you can cast it consistently.

Pick: Restless Apparition

Pick 5
Wickerbough Elder, Drain the Well, Riverfall Mimic, Cinder Pyromancer, Trapjaw Kelpie, Hotheaded Giant, Kithkin Zealot, Antler Skulkin, Desecrator Hag, Cauldron Haze, Duergar Cave-Guard

Gravedigger here I come. Nice that he also turns on my Woodlurker

A side note is that Cauldron Haze has proven itself so far to be one of the weirdest tricks ever. I’ve been completely destroyed by it a couple of times, and also seen it be completely useless and terrible.

Pick: Desecrator Hag

Pick 6
Merrow Levitator, Slippery Bogle, Gift of the Deity, Beckon Apparition, Fang Skulkin, Noggle Bridgebreaker, Oona’s Grace, Smoldering Butcher, Cache Raiders, Crag Puca

This pack is kind of annoying because I have enough four drops that I don’t really want the Butcher, and I also only have two BG guys to power up the Gift. Neither option is really great, but I think the Gift has the most potential to actually become good if I table Odious Trow or pick up some other GB guys.

Pick: Gift of the Deity

Pick 7
Scourge of the Nobilis, Drain the Well, Duergar Assailant, Hobgoblin Dragoon, Cenn’s Enlistment, Wilderness Hypnotist, Raven’s Crime, Soul Snuffers, Phosphorescent Feast

Huh? I was totally confused to see Soul Snuffers here this late.

The only thing this could really mean is that nobody was drafting Black, or there was possibly one other card that was better. Pretty tough to do since Snuffers is amazing, but whatever. It was also the beta, so who knows what people were doing.

Pick: Soul Snuffers

Pick 8
Merrow Levitator, Odious Trow, Battlegate Mimic, Grazing Kelpie, Inside Out, Shell Skulkin, Antler Skulkin, Patrol Signaler

As I was saying, Odious Trow usually ends up making his way around the table late. Gift is definitely getting played now.

Pick: Odious Trow

I got virtually nothing on the way back around, except for a measly Fang Skulkin which likely isn’t making the cut because it doesn’t even work with Crowd.

Overall the draft went alright, but I probably could’ve made some different picks along the way. I’ll be interested to see what you guys think.

Odious Trow
Oona’s Gatewarden
Sootstoke Kindler
Woodlurker Mimic
Inkfathom Infiltrator
Wasp Lancer
Restless Apparition
Ashenmoor Gouger
Torpor Dust
Splitting Headache
Wanderbrine Rootcutters
Hatchet Bully
Soul Snuffers
Desecrator Hag
Crowd of Cinders
Burn Trail
Gift of the Deity
Torrent of Souls
Flame Javelin
4 Mountain
13 Swamp

I debated between Helm of the Ghastlord and Splitting Headache and actually found it humorous when I played Splitting Headache after passing it for Helm. Whatever the case, Helm had the potential to be awesome with more UB guys while Headache’s value will remain similar regardless of the deck.

Unfortunately the matches were not exciting at all. In round 1 my opponent dropped and I was forced to report him since draft and drop is disallowed on the beta server. I waited for what seemed like forever before round 2 started.

In round 2 I instantly mulliganned to five in game 1, and got crushed by turn two Manamorphose into Talara’s Battalion, turn 3 Boggart Ram-Gang. Wish I was kidding. Whenever I record a draft I make a text file with game notes, and this one was not very long. In game 2 I actually got going pretty well, with Infiltrator on turn 2 into Wasp Lancer on turn 3. After hitting him a few times he drew a Mountain and Firespouted my team away. From here I played some 3/3’s, but he played Crabapple Cohort as well as Deus of Calamity (which I’m assuming he got super late), and they were too big for me to handle.

Overall I’ve had pretty good results with Mono-Black, and I look forward to hearing comments from you guys in the forums.

Nick Eisel
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