Limited Lessons – Blue/White in Shadowmoor Draft

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Tuesday, April 29th – Triple Shadowmoor is, or soon will be, the draft beverage of choice across the globe… yet even before the set sees its official release, Nick Eisel believes he’s found the Best Draft Archetype. Backed with numerous drafts and the opinions of some of the best drafters alive, Nick presents a comprehensive examination of Blue/White. Is it all that Nick claims it to be?

I’ve done a decent amount of drafting in the last week, and after sharing conversations on AIM about the triple-Shadowmoor format with other good players, I’ve come to the following conclusion:

Blue/White is the best guild in triple-Shadowmoor, and it isn’t even close.

Some may say that this is a big statement to make so early on in the game, but I’m pretty sure that it’s true. If somehow I do turn out to be wrong I’ll end up eating my words, but it’s not like that hasn’t happened before, and I also have plenty of people who agree with me.

I decided to start my guild series by covering the best instead of saving it for last, so here we go!

Before I dive in here and talk about the important commons, I want to talk a little about overall game-plan. The average UW deck is going to be pretty aggressive in this format, and this ends up shifting the picks in favor of cards like Somnomancer over something like the more controlling Curse of Chains. I’ve had a couple of decks that were more mid-range, but in general the best UW decks will be aggressive, and it’s a good thing to know that before you draft.

Remember as I’m going through this that UW can play GW guild cards as well as UB guild cards, so I’ll mention the important ones.

Thistledown Duo
If you are absolutely sure that you’re drafting UW, this is definitely the best common for the archetype. 3/3 fliers for three are pretty rare, and there are enough guild cards in the set to continue turning this guy on through the mid-game. It may look like just a Grey Ogre on paper, but trust me when I say that this guy is just unreal.

Silkbind Faerie
For the times you’re uncertain if you’ll end up UW, this is the overall better card to add to your pile. Taking the Faerie gives you better options for the rest of the draft if you don’t feel like gambling on a first pick, first pack Thistledown Duo. It’s nice too that you can attack and then tap a guy before blockers, which is exactly what UW wants to do. This is also the best target for Steel of the Godhead, as it creates a 3/5 unblockable Exalted Angel tapper.

Steel of the Godhead
While this is definitely in the top two of its kind, it’s still not a super-high pick for this archetype. The main problem is that everyone is ready for Auras in this set (or at least they should be), and you’d usually rather just add another guy to the board. I definitely like to have one of these in my deck, in case I need to get out of a stalled board position or if I have a few Silkbind Faeries, but usually you want to be taking the aggressive cards over it. I can say that without question you’d rather have Thistledown Duo than this.

Watchwing Scarecrow
This is by far the best guild Scarecrow, and if you drafted correctly you should have plenty of guild creatures to turn on both abilities. This reminds me of Spire Golem, only it is usually better in UW.

Briarberry Cohort
This is about as aggressive as fliers come, and the ability should not be very hard to turn on for most UW builds. I knew I liked this card at the prerelease, but once I watched Peebles draft around it, I fell in love.

Ballynock Cohort, Safehold Sentry, Safehold Elite, Medicine Runner
These are all great attackers for the archetype. Obviously Medicine Runner will usually just be there to help fill out your curve, but the other three guys are all excellent. Two-drop into Ballynock Cohort with Somnomancer in hand is a difficult opening to stop, especially when it can be followed up by Niveous Wisps or Consign to Dream to keep the pressure coming.

Consign to Dream and Aethertow
I talked about Consign last week, and I’ve had the chance to play with it more and still been very impressed. Someone asked in the forums which of these I thought was better, and it’s definitely a complicated issue.

All things being equal, I think Consign is better because it is proactive. Most Aethertows are only going to be for one copy, since it’s pretty easy to play around four lands untapped along with two creatures that could Conspire it. In the late game you might totally blow someone out of a stalemate with Aethertow, but this format seems to be pretty quick so that likely won’t come up as often. With Aethertow you’re just waiting for your opponent to walk into it, while with Consign you can cast it and then pound through or end step after they’ve only left a lone blocker back.

As with any close decision, this one will often be deck dependent. If you have something like Rys, the Redeemed to make a bunch of guys for Aethertow, or possibly a Repel Intruders, Aethertow just may be the pick for you. I think I’d rather have one of each than two Consign to Dreams, but I haven’t tested this yet so I’m not 100%. Having one of each makes your deck much harder to play against if you pass the turn with mana up.

Inquisitor’s Snare and Last Breath
Inquisitor’s Snare another card about which I just can’t say enough good things. It’s cheap, so it’s near impossible to play around, and it straight up kills a lot of the creatures you’ll be facing thanks to the guilds. If somehow you’re against a non-Red, non-Black guy, I’m sure you can find a way to kill it without losing anything just by preventing its damage and double blocking.

Last Breath is a decent piece of removal, but I’d say that the Snare is a bit better as it can kill much bigger things.

Niveous Wisps and Somnomancer
Somnomancer is the better of the two here mainly because it’s attached to a 2/1 body. Both of these cards serve the same goal in that they allow you to continue to apply pressure. I don’t think a good UW aggro build could have enough copies of either of these, so take as many as you can get.

Curse of Chains
This is still decent removal for UW deck so you should take it when you can, but not over the better aggressive cards.

Kinscaer Harpoonist
This can help in other matchups where the battle will go to the air. Overall, this is not an early pick, and you really don’t want too many four-drops.

Barrenton Cragtreads
If I were going to play some four-drops, however, I’d much rather have this guy as he is both Blue and White and turns on a lot of the important cards in the archetype like Duo, Cohorts, and Steel of the Godhead.

Prismwake Merrow
I talked about this last week, and it has lots of good uses in the format. I wouldn’t go picking this early, but I wouldn’t be upset to have one in my deck to turn on my Cragtreads or screw up one of my opponent’s interactions.

Merrow Wavebreakers
If this is at the top of your curve then playing one can’t really hurt too much. Overall, the card is fine but I’d definitely be taking the earlier drops over it.

Parapet Watchers
I’ve had mixed results with this so far. I think it’s definitely playable and annoying in the early game, since it’s nigh-unblockable. It also helps to hold the ground if you go to the air against a deck like GR. Overall, this is a solid guy to fill out your deck.

Barkshell Blessing
This is another cheap way to keep the pressure on and combos really well with the strategy of taking a bunch of two-drops. I haven’t Conspired this very often, but it’s been just fine as a Gather Courage.

Rune-Cervin Rider
This is playable but very hard to pump unless you’re heavier White than usual. I wouldn’t actively go looking for this in UW.

Scarscale Ritual
This card can be good in some UW builds, but it’s probably not what you’re looking for since you want to just apply as much pressure as possible and the -1/-1 counter this gives doesn’t exactly help that. If you end up being more mid-range, then this card can definitely be good for you.

Torpor Dust
I wouldn’t really advocate playing this unless you have no other options. This is like a bad Curse of Chains in the archetype.

This is the one archetype where I’m not taking this guy highly, since the acceleration isn’t as good here. If you know you’re in UW I’d take most of the aggressive cards over this, but if you’re not sure you can almost never go wrong taking this guy as his color changing ability will still be good in UW.

Elsewhere Flask
I absolutely love this card, but it’s usually best avoided in UW since you want your early drops to be aggressive creatures. This also doesn’t do much unless you have Armored Ascension and/or Flow of Ideas, so I’d say that this is the one deck where I wouldn’t pick this relatively highly.

Burrenton Medic and Kithkin Shielddare
The Medic is a card that you’d want in your UW decks in most of the past formats in recent memory. It’s also exactly the kind of card to avoid in UW in triple-Shadowmoor. Kithkin Shielddare is similar in that it’s very defensive and doesn’t fit the overall game-plan.

Both of these cards may have been good in a different setting, but they simply don’t fit the UW strategy in Shadowmoor.

Obviously I didn’t cover every common possible, but this is a list of the most important ones in my mind. The UB guild doesn’t really add much to the archetype in the common slot, but the GW two-drops are excellent and Barkshell Blessing is a perfect fit. Focus your picks on the aggressive cards whenever you can and you should end up with a strong deck most of the time, as this color combination is very deep.

I decided I’m not going to do the Rares for these guild strategy guides, since a number of them overlap. If you have specific questions about a Rare don’t hesitate to ask in the forums, but I will only be covering Commons and Uncommons in this series. If I neglected to mention something, feel free to yell at me in the forums.

Mistmeadow Witch
If you get this online it’s very difficult to beat since there isn’t a lot of removal in this format to begin with. This is obviously good for protecting your guys, as well as shipping theirs out in the End of Turn step so that they don’t come back for a whole turn. You can use this to totally clear the way or to abuse some comes-into-play effect.

Essentially, this little guy does it all and is definitely a bomb in UW.

Armored Ascension
I’d rather have Steel of the Godhead in most builds, but this is playable and you can get it late.

Spectral Procession and Advice from the Fae
Both of these are excellent, and with Advice you’ll almost always get the extra card since you have lots of early creatures. Spectral Procession is great for the aggression plan.

While this doesn’t fit the theme of the archetype, I’d still always take it and play it. It will usually pick off an attacker or give you time to get back in the game if you’re behind.

Mistmeadow Skulk
I hate this guy, seriously. Has there ever been a more annoying card?

I played against this in the prerelease and found myself boarding in crappy creatures just so that I actually had an answer to this little jerk. This is definitely a high pick, though it probably won’t be as good as it was in Future Sight since the format overall is more aggressive and more early creatures are seeing play.

Repel Intruders
Zing. What can I say here except that this is the nail in the coffin on turn 4 if you played a guy or two already. Certainly worthy of a high pick.

Thoughtweft Gambit
I haven’t played with this yet, but it seems like the best way to get out of a stalled board. I think I’d almost always play this because there are plenty of games where the opponent is able to stabilize, and UW doesn’t exactly have burn or Power of Fire to deal the last few.

Leech Bonder
This guy is just awesome. He’s cheap, kills a guy or two, and then he’s a great attacker. His ability is also very tricky and, if there are some -1/-1 counters on the board, simply keeping him untapped can make blocking nearly impossible for your opponent.

Prison Term
The best Pacifism since Faith’s Fetters. I guess that’s why it’s uncommon.

Biting Tether
Even though this will kill the creature eventually, it’s still a Control Magic in a deck that wants to bash as quickly as possible. This is for sure a first pick in any deck that can cast it.

Faerie Swarm
The White version of this isn’t playable because Vigilance isn’t very good. This one is just fine and will usually be 3/3 or even bigger in most UW decks. As an aside, I’d almost always take the Blue Cohort over this, as it’s just quicker.

Deepchannel Mentor
This is another one that I haven’t played with yet, but it could be a game-ending bomb. I guess if you have enough Blue guys, go ahead and give it a shot, and it will probably win you at least a game or two.

Here are a couple of the UW decks I’ve drafted this week.

Briarberry Cohort
2 Safehold Elite
Medicine Runner
Safehold Sentry
Puresight Merrow
Prismwake Merrow
Thistledown Duo
2 Ballynock Cohort
Silkbind Faerie
Thistledown Liege
2 Barrenton Cragtreads
Twilight Shepherd
2 Niveous Wisps
Curse of Chains
Inquisitor’s Snare
Prison Term
Steel of the Godhead
Consign to Dream
9 Plains
6 Island
Mystic Gate

This was my first attempt at the archetype and it came out even better than I initially expected. My curve was great, I had all of the good tricks, and the deck performed extremely well. One thing I will note is that you’ll want to run 16 lands a lot in decks like this because the mana-curve is pretty low and you’ll have cantrips like Niveous Wisps to help out. I picked the two-drops very highly in this draft, and I believe I first picked a Safehold Elite in one of the packs. Picking them highly is the only way you’ll end up with a lot of them, so it’s probably a good way to draft the archetype.

Rys, the Redeemed
2 Safehold Sentry
Elsewhere Flask
Mistmeadow Witch
Inkfathom Infiltrator
Prismwake Merrow
Thistledown Duo
Gravegill Duo
2 Wingrattle Scarecrow
Watchwing Scarecrow
Kinscaer Harpoonist
Godhead of Steel
Merrow Wavebreakers
River’s Grasp
Armored Ascension
Niveous Wisps
Ghastly Discovery
8 Plains
8 Island
1 Swamp

This draft started off as somewhat of a trainwreck. I was planning on going into UB with a few early pick Wingrattle Scarecrows until I got a bunch of good UW stuff late and then opened Mistmeadow Witch. I wasn’t very happy with the looks of this deck, but I still ended up going 2-1 with it, which is just another testament to the strength of the archetype.

Hopefully this guide is a good starting point, and I strongly recommend you try to get into UW whenever possible as I do believe it is the best archetype available. See you in the forums!

Nick Eisel
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