Limited Lessons – A Shadowmoor Draft Walkthrough

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Tuesday, July 1st – With Magic Online throwing up server and lag issues, Nick has been working hard to bring us a tricky Shadowmoor Draft walkthrough, and today’s offering doesn’t disappoint. While it seems that Mono-Red is the current deck of choice for the discerning drafter, sometimes it’s best to stick with the devil you know…

If you’ve been on Magic Online at all in the past week, you’ll surely have noticed that they had problems (as usual) with the server. Drafts didn’t run for three straight days, which was more than annoying, but I did manage to get a few drafts in on Friday when they finally came back up. I picked the one that seemed deepest in strategy content.

This is from an 8-4 Queue on Magic Online.

Pack One

Pick 1
Scarscale Ritual, Gloomlance, Morselhoarder, Smolder Initiate, Scrapbasket, Wildslayer Elves, Chainbreaker, Strip Bare, Drowner Initiate, Puncture Bolt, Dream Salvage, Armored Ascension, Puresight Merrow, Graven Cairns

While this is a pretty weak pack overall to start out the draft, the pick is still pretty interesting.

In another format, maybe, I could see myself taking Gloomlance first, but Black is just awful in SSS, and there’s literally no way I could even consider it in a pack with good cards in other colors.

The two best cards here are obviously Puncture Bolt and Armored Ascension, and the pick is definitely an interesting discussion.

Armored Ascension has a really strong commitment attached to it, which is something you usually don’t want to burden yourself with so early in a draft. When you think about the top archetypes of the format, UW and GW are both certainly up there and this card is amazing in beatdown strategies like those.

Puncture Bolt, on the other hand, doesn’t come with any real commitment except that it’s not the best splash option in the world. It does stop Persist, and it’s an all-round good piece of removal.

Now that I’ve outlined all of that, how do I make a decision here? I think a lot of this pick is based on color preference. Both cards are very good so you can’t make a huge mistake going one way or another. I ended up going with the Armor because I felt it was probably the slightly stronger card overall and could win games all by itself. I could also focus on getting as many Plains in my deck as possible, or just abandon the card altogether if I get passed some kind of bomb.

After talking to a few other players they mainly agreed that the pick could go either way, but that Bolt is less risky and Red is also just awesome. I tend to agree, but decided to go the road less traveled for this draft.

My Pick: Armored Ascension

Pick 2
Torpor Dust, Gleeful Sabotage, Apothecary Initiate, Ashenmoor Cohort, Nurturer Initiate, Smolder Initiate, Watchwing Scarecrow, Barrenton Cragtreads, Mudbrawler Raiders, Torture, Pale Wayfarer, Revelsong Horn, Illuminated Folio, Wheel of Sun and Moon

This pack is just abysmal for a second pick. The only choice here obviously is between Watchwing Scarecrow and Cragtreads, and I really don’t think it’s close. Even if I end up in GW the Scarecrow will still be better, and I’ll likely have some UW guys to power it up anyway.

My Pick: Watchwing Scarecrow

Pick 3
Safehold Duo, Niveous Wisps, Wingrattle Scarecrow, Loamdragger Giant, Ember Gale, Sootwalkers, Drowner Initiate, Pili-Pala, Safehold Sentry, Corrupt, Drove of Elves, Tattermunge Witch, Painter’s Servant

One huge difference between this format and past formats is that two-drops are absolutely essential. In other formats they are still fine creatures, and it’s important to have a curve, but you don’t go totally out of your way to pick them highly. No matter what deck I end up in for this draft, if it has Plains in it, it wants to be aggressive.

It shouldn’t surprise you then that I was happy to take the Sentry here. Niveous Wisps is a great card as well, but they tend to come somewhat late in my experience online so far and I’d definitely rather have a two-drop.

A nice side bonus here is that this pack is very good for other archetypes so it should help to ensure a steady flow of White in pack 2.

My Pick: Safehold Sentry

Pick 4
Watchwing Scarecrow, Parapet Watchers, Scuzzback Marauders, Disturbing Plot, Safewright Quest, Gleeful Sabotage, Kithkin Daggerdare, Inescapable Brute, Prismwake Merrow, Guttural Response, Howl of the Night Pack, Impromptu Raid

Watchwing Scarecrow is by far the best card for me in this pack. Parapet Watchers and Prismwake Merrow are both fine cards, but I am currently Mono-White and the Scarecrow is the better Blue card anyway.

My Pick: Watchwing Scarecrow

Pick 5
Hungry Spriggan, Cultbrand Cinder, Loch Korrigan, Morselhoarder, Wingrattle Scarecrow, Scrapbasket, Scrapbasket (foil), Smash to Smithereens, Blistering Dieflyn, Repel Intruders, Wild Swing

Aside from the awesomeness of double Scrapbasket, this is another relatively simple pick. I could consider going into GW with Hungry Spriggan, but with two Watchwing Scarecrows already and Repel Intruders in this pack I think UW is by far a better option if the cards come. Combine the above statement with the fact that Repel Intruders has just been insane every time I’ve cast it, and I’m definitely taking it here.

My Pick: Repel Intruders

Pick 6
Tattermunge Duo, Nurturer Initiate, Barrenton Medic, Emberstrike Duo, Disturbing Plot, Toil to Renown, Whimwader, Tatterkite, Heap Doll, Crowd of Cinders

Odd to see a Tattermunge Duo going this late, but Tatterkite is definitely my pick here. UW generally has a good matchup against BR, but adding Tatterkite into the mix should push it even further in my direction.

My Pick: Tatterkite

Pick 7
Niveous Wisps, Zealous Guardian, Loamdragger Giant, Scar, Swamp, Rite of Consumption, Chainbreaker, Bloodshed Fever, Sapseep Forest

I was having a discussion recently with a friend about Niveous Wisps. He claims he always ends up cutting it in UW or GW because he has too many playables, and I personally think this has to be a mistake. Certainly in decks where you just have a bunch of good spells I could see this being the case, but this isn’t the norm in my experience. In this format I want my deck to be a bunch of aggressive guys and then spells like Niveous Wisps which let me turn the pressure up. The other spells I’d want would be Auras, removal, or other combat tricks.

I realize this discussion has little relevance in this pick because there just isn’t anything else, but the point is that I value the Wisps very highly and could only see cutting them in rare circumstances. Something to keep in mind for your own drafts, as I think you’ll be very happy with the card if you give it a chance.

My Pick: Niveous Wisps

Pick 8
Viridescent Wisps, Mine Excavation, Spell Syphon, Blight Sickle, Cinderbones, Torpor Dust, Merrow Grimeblotter, Mistveil Plains

I actually should’ve taken Torpor Dust here, and I have no idea what I was thinking by going with the Grimeblotter. Neither card is particularly exciting in UW but the Dust is by far more flexible and stronger. UW tends to have plenty of four-drops anyway, and the Grimeblotter is getting cut in most instances. So this was definitely a mispick, but the percentage of the time it actually matters should be very low.

My Pick: Merrow Grimeblotter

On the lap I got Scrapbasket and a second Niveous Wisps, which I was obviously ecstatic about, as the only playables for me.

Pack Two

Pick 1
Crabapple Cohort, Rustrazor Butcher, Fate Transfer, Safehold Elite, Kithkin Shielddare, Gravelgill Axeshark, Sootstoke Kindler, Aethertow, Steel of the Godhead, Spell Syphon, Aphotic Wisps, Leechridden Swamp, Raking Canopy, Flourishing Defenses, Woodfall Primus

This pack has some interesting options for me.

The first thing we can remove from the options department is Aethertow since, I already have a bunch of four drops and it’s not the best in an aggressive strategy for obvious reasons. After doing that, I think a lot of players would take Steel of the Godhead without thinking too much about it. I think this is wrong, because of what I said earlier about prioritizing two-drops in this format.

I think the pick here is Safehold Elite, and it’s by a lot, as I don’t have any UW guys yet and I already have Armored Ascension.

My Pick: Safehold Elite

Pick 2
Scarscale Ritual, Intimidator Initiate, Morselhoarder, Puncture Bolt, Wildslayer Elves, Chainbreaker, Strip Bare, Drowner Initiate, Last Breath, Scrapbasket, Gloomlance, Fossil Find, Ashenmoor Gouger, Torrent of Souls

This pack is pretty bad overall for me and makes me wish I’d have gone Red back in pick 1 with the Puncture Bolt. Anyway, I basically have to just take Last Breath here even though I really don’t like playing it. It’s a decent sideboard option against Silkbind Faerie or something similar, and it’s not the end of the world if it makes the maindeck.

My Pick: Last Breath

Pick 3
Traitor’s Roar, Prismwake Merrow, Crimson Wisps, Gravegill Duo, Splitting Headache, Woeleecher, Foxfire Oak, Rune-Cervin Rider, Torture, Fists of the Demigod, Blowfly Infestation, Pale Wayfarer, Illuminated Folio

Apparently my plan of cutting White hard didn’t seem to work as well as I’d anticipated. Either that or these packs just suck for me, but I’m stuck taking another marginal UW card in Rune-Cervin Rider. I suppose I could still end up in GW at this point but I had my mind set on casting Repel Intruders with both Blue and White mana.

The Riders also sucks in this spot because it’s yet another four-drop, so it’s possible I should’ve just taken Prismwake Merrow here, but I think I was subconsciously still flirting with the possibility of ending up GW. This could be the second mispick of the draft.

My Pick: Rune-Cervin Rider

Pick 4
Kinscaer Harpoonist, Farhaven Elf, Scuttlemutt, Hungry Spriggan, Manamorphose, Cerulean Wisps, Strip Bare, Cinderhaze Wretch, Intimidator Initiate, Glamer Spinners, Kithkin Rabble, Thoughtweft Gambit

Finally, a pack with some options.

Scuttlemutt is solid, but the curve tends to stop at four, with only one or two five-drops in most UW builds. His second ability can power up the Watchwings, which is worth noting. Kithkin Rabble and the Harpoonist both suffer from being four-drops in an already crowded slot. Thoughtweft Gambit could be worth consideration but I already have two Niveous Wisps. Glamer Spinners is absolutely awesome, and turns on both Watchwing Scarecrows as well as possibly screwing with an Aura or saving my Armored Ascension from a bounce spell.

I think the Spinners is by far the best pick from this pack, both on power and synergy level.

My Pick: Glamer Spinners

Pick 5
Apothecary Initiate, Cinderbones, Fate Transfer, Crimson Wisps, Steel of the Godhead, Rattleblaze Scarecrow, Juvenile Gloomwidow, Barrenton Cragtreads, Advice from the Fae, Sapseep Forest, Runed Halo

I made another odd pick here.

It’s possible I should’ve taken the Steel of the Godhead, but if you look over what I’ve drafted so far there aren’t many good places to put it. I only have one UW guy, and I have three Artifact creatures in the deck. So I could take the Steel and gamble on picking up more UW guys, or I could make the safe pick in the Cragtreads which will also fully turn on my Watchwing Scarecrows. I’d like to hear comments on this if people disagree, and in general I’d take the Steel every time. This situation was weird because I have more Artifact creatures than usual and only one UW guy.

My Pick: Barrenton Cragtreads

Pick 6
Safehold Sentry, Sinking Feeling, Wanderbrine Rootcutters, Smolder Initiate, Ember Gale, Scar, Cerulean Wisps, Boggart Arsonists, Briarberry Cohort, Presence of Gond

I went with the stronger two-drop in the Cohort and firmly committed to UW. At this point I was regretting the Rune-Cervin Rider over Prismwake Merrow though, as the Merrow would help turn on my Cohort more consistently.

My Pick: Briarberry Cohort

Pick 7
Fists of the Demigod, Thistledown Duo, Helm of the Ghastlord, Emberstrike Duo, Woeleecher, Blazethorn Scarecrow, Memory Sluice, Madblind Mountain, Cauldron of Souls

I guess the earlier packs just sucked. Even so, there’s no way I should be getting Thistledown Duo this late, so I really have no idea what is going on.

My Pick: Thistledown Duo

Pick 8
Loch Korrigan, Farhaven Elf, Last Breath, Wanderbrine Rootcutters, Goldenglow Moth, Zealous Guardian, Glamer Spinners, Deepchannel Mentor

This more than makes up for the lack of good packs earlier. Getting five great creatures in a row is always nice, and it seems to have filled my deck out quite well.

Obviously I don’t think this pick is close, as Last Breath can’t hold a candle to Glamer Spinners.

My Pick: Glamer Spinners

On the lap I grab an Aethertow, Prismwake Merrow (from the pack I think I mispicked, booya), and Kithkin Rabble. I was very happy with my deck at the end of this set of packs, as I really got hooked up with the later picks.

Pack Three

Pick 1
Inquisitor’s Snare, Gloomwidow’s Feast, Sootwalkers, Intimidator Initiate, Presence of Gond, Briarberry Cohort, Shield of the Oversoul, Manaforge Cinder, Last Breath, Blistering Dieflyn, Sinking Feeling, Grief Tyrant, Jaws of Stone, Corrosive Mentor, Puppeteer Clique

About that Puncture Bolt. Damnit.

I gave some consideration to Shield of the Oversoul (only one GW guy), Inquisitor’s Snare (too reactive), and Last Breath (wait, no I didn’t consider this at all). Eventually I took the Briarberry Cohort, as it is by far the best card for me.

My Pick: Briarberry Cohort

Pick 2
Scuzzback Marauders, Toll to Renown, Safewright Quest, Aphotic Wisps, Traitor’s Roar, Rustrazor Butcher, Curse of Chains, Thornwatch Scarecrow, Faerie Macabre, Rattleblaze Scarecrow, Somnomancer, Horde of Boggarts, Beseech the Queen, Plague of Vermin

Initially I thought this pick was close. Curse of Chains is the better overall card for sure, but Somnomancer is better in aggressive decks. If you take one look at what I’ve drafted you should see that Somnomancer is the pick for the simple reason that I have two Briarberry Cohorts and need more cheap ways to empower them.

My Pick: Somnomancer

Pick 3
Turn to Mist, Scarscale Ritual, Elsewhere Flask, Bloodshed Fever, Ghastly Discovery, Manamorphose, Cinderhaze Wretch, Wildslayer Elves, Oona’s Gatewarden, Merrow Grimeblotter, Spectral Procession, Puresight Merrow, Order of Whiteclay


Both Order and Procession are amazing. I have plenty of creatures that Order can return though, and I think this pushes it a bit over the edge. The idea of course is to trade a bunch and then just bring the guys back with Order. Procession is definitely awesome, but I think it’s slightly less powerful than Order when you have a bunch of good targets.

My Pick: Order of Whiteclay

Pick 4
Barrenton Medic, Faerie Macabre, Sootstoke Kindler, Memory Sluice, Thistledown Duo, Barkshell Blessing, Foxfire Oak, Helm of the Ghastlord, Splitting Headache, Umbral Mantle, Sygg, River Cutthroat, Mana Reflection

At this point I would’ve been unhappy with anything but a finals appearance with this deck. I don’t think this pick is a complete no-brainer because I think Sygg is probably at his best in this archetype, but Duo has to be slightly better. In a build more centered around Blue I would take Sygg, but this deck is much more focused in White and also has Armored Ascension. Barkshell Blessing is also very strong in UW, but it is outclassed by Duo.

My Pick: Thistledown Duo

Pick 5
Medicine Runner, Inquisitor’s Snare, Merrow Wavebreakers, Manaforge Cinder, Scuzzback Scrapper, Rite of Consumption, Put Away, Raven’s Run Dragoon, Corrupt, Fossil Find, Witherscale Wurm

Medicine Runner is probably the worst two drop you can have in UW, and I already have five guys in the two slot. Inquisitor’s Snare, on the other hand, is excellent removal. If I was low on two-drops this would be a tough pick, but I think more often than not the Snare would still win out. Since that isn’t the case this time, it’s a very easy pick in the Snare.

My Pick: Inquisitor’s Snare

Pick 6
Ashenmoor Cohort, Mudbrawler Raiders, Crabapple Cohort, Thornwatch Scarecrow, Inescapable Brute, Mine Excavation, Spell Syphon, Blight Sickle, Deepchannel Mentor, Counterbore

Deepchannel Mentor actually looks pretty good in this deck now that I’ve picked up a bunch of Blue guys. I’d rather not try to run a card like Spell Syphon in this deck, as it will just be too inconsistent and do nothing in the late game. The Mentor looks great here.

My Pick: Deepchannel Mentor

Pick 7
Safehold Duo, Put Away, Oona’s Gatewarden, Strip Bare, Ghastly Discovery, Elvish Hexhunter, Smolder Initiate, Medicine Runner, Smash to Smithereens

I could’ve went with the Hexhunter here as a good sideboard option, but I decided to add to my pile of two-drops with Medicine Runner. I don’t think Safehold Duo is really playable here because I have way too many four-drops already. I could be convinced that Hexhunter is the better pick here, though.

My Pick: Medicine Runner

Pick 8
Poison the Well, Sootstoke Kindler, Fate Transfer, Steel of the Godhead, Aphotic Wisps, Kithkin Shielddare, Nurturer Initiate, Lockjaw Snapper

Despite my best attempts to not pick a Steel of the Godhead this draft, I lucksacked into one very late. Not only that, but the card is actually insane in my deck now with Somnomancer, two Duos, and two Spinners that I didn’t have before.

My Pick: Steel of the Godhead

Somehow I tabled a second Inquisitor’s Snare 9th, and got Raven’s Run Dragoon as the only other relevant card to end the draft.

The Deck

Armored Ascension
2 Glamer Spinners
Inquisitor’s Snare
Safehold Sentry
Order of Whiteclay
Repel Intruders
Steel of the Godhead
Barrenton Cragtreads
Prismwake Merrow
Safehold Elite
2 Watchwing Scarecrow
Deepchannel Mentor
Medicine Runner
2 Thistledown Duo
2 Niveous Wisps
2 Briarberry Cohort
7 Island
10 Plains

Relevant Sideboard:
Last Breath, Inquisitor’s Snare, Rune-Cervin Rider, Raven’s Run Dragoon, Kithkin Rabble, Aethertow, Put Away

Quite a few strong cards in my sideboard but I think this is the best maindeck build for the card pool. Like I said earlier, I was super happy with this deck and expected to at least make the finals and go from there.

Round 1, my opponent had a 1580 rating and didn’t put up too much of a fight. Game 1 I curved out with Cohort, Duo, Watchwing Scarecrow, and then tapped his one flier with Wisps and Somnomancer when it tried to get in the way. Game 2 he got stuck on two lands, and I played some dudes and ran him over.

Round 2 the first two games were split due to mana problems. Game 2 I mulled two no-landers to five cards and drew all lands after keeping 3 land, 2 spell. Game 2 my opponent kept a seven card hand with no Red mana in his GR deck, and by the time he finally drew it I had him facing down four guys with Wisps and Ascension in my hand. Game 3 was all about Glamer Spinners, as I wrecked his Runes of the Deus with it. He made a big attack and I moved Runes off of his Morselhoarder and onto his Blazethorn Scarecrow, and then wrecked him with good blocks. After that he tried to get back in the game, but I had Inquisitor’s Snare and just finished him with fliers.

In the finals my opponent had a sick Mono-Red deck and beat me soundly in two games. I got a good start in game 1, but he wrecked my board with Jaws of Stone for six and I couldn’t recover. I boarded in Put Away, Inquisitor’s Snare, and an Island, and got smashed by his start of Initiate, Mudbrawler Cohort, Mudbrawler Cohort, Burn Trail with Conspire. I kept a somewhat mediocre hand but one that I definitely couldn’t mulligan, and it just didn’t work out.

Hopefully this walkthrough was informative as I initially wanted to do one on Mono-Red but a lot of the picks are pretty easy and self-explanatory. One thing I definitely don’t like about this format is that the walkthroughs aren’t as tough, because the cards tend to fall into place no matter what you do because of being Hybrid. There isn’t as much switching colors, and if you switch archetypes you still get to use most of your playables so it’s not as difficult a decision when you switch. Anyway, I will still do more of these, and I may have something very exciting coming up in a week or two, but we’ll have to see if it’s possible or not… watch this space!

See you in the forums.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]
Soooooo on MTGO