I partook in a number of three-on-three drafts on Magic Online this week, and took screenshots of most of them with the intention of using one for a walkthrough. Unfortunately, none of them proved to be that interesting and I was left with a decision. I could still go ahead and write a walkthrough on one of these drafts and just accept that it wasn’t that interesting but was still an LLL walkthrough nevertheless, or I could wait another week when the 8-man queues will be running, and put in the extra effort to find a draft worth covering.
I decided to give it another week, and instead cover the Giants archetype with this article. I’m sorry if this disappoints anyone, but I prefer to put quality first.
The Giants archetype is noticeably simpler to draft than the Elemental one I discussed last week. Most of the commons are straightforward, and the deck is almost always R/W based. There are still some interesting decisions to make, and I want to talk about those this week.
My first impression when the set came out was that Giants was likely the worst tribe. This wasn’t based on experience but rather an overview of the card pool, and it turned out to be wrong. After drafting the archetype a couple of times I have to say that Giants is very powerful, if you know what to look for as far as a reason to get into the deck.
A few people have suggested that Giants should be hybridized with another tribe, since most of the creatures are cumbersome and you’d like some support in the early turns. This may be true to a degree, but I believe the people making these claims just aren’t drafting this card high enough. This is the Smokebraider of the Giants archetype, and you should treat it accordingly. I’ve instantly picked this over Tarfire or Lash Out in situations where I was solidified in Giants, and I’ve always been happy with the pick. This guy allows for some seriously broken openings, and is the main common reason to get into the deck.
The most obvious of these openings is turn 3 Daredevil, turn 4 Axegrinder Giant. The same play is almost as potent if your giant is just the maligned Lairwatch version.
The short story here is that this is the key card in the deck, and I find it hard to believe you will have a strong deck without one or more of these.
This card serves two very important purposes for the Giants drafter. First, it allows you to accelerate to something huge like Hearthcage Giant a little earlier than normal. Second, and more importantly, it gives your large men Trample to ensure they hit for maximum damage and can’t simply be chump-blocked and raced.
This card doesn’t tend to go high and I’d usually pick an Axegrinder or other card over it early, as you really only want one in your deck. That being said, you’d always like to have one, so evaluate it accordingly.
This card enables some sick openings, just like the Stinkdrinker. Thankfully there are some cheaper Giants in case you don’t get Stinkdrinker online before this guy becomes outclassed even when his ability is turned on. Nobody really seems to take this card unless they have a lot of Changelings, so this is another benefit to drafting the deck besides Stinkdrinker.
A Goblin? Isn’t this supposed to be a strategy guide on the Giant archetype?
Yes, yes it is.
Like I said earlier, players have complained that this deck has trouble stopping a quick rush and is too slow to be consistent. The key is to pick defensive early cards like Mudbuddy here, and then plan to overpower the other guy with large men. This is the most defensive Goblin of all time, and tends to stop better ground creatures in their tracks. This guy also has the bonus of incredible interaction with Lowland Oaf.
Axegrinder Giant and Lairwatch Giant
Standard issue fat.
The more Stinkdrinkers you have, the better these guys get. In one draft I had four Stinkdrinkers so I went ahead and played three Axegrinder and three Lairwatch, knowing full well I would be casting one on turn four in most games. Just hope your Daredevil doesn’t meet a Nameless Inversion and you should be good to go. If you haven’t figured it out, Axegrinder is the better of the two but only because you want to be attacking.
Like Elementals, these guys have trouble dealing with fliers. The Changeling solves some of these problems as well as being an early game Giant to turn on Greatheart, or only cost one mana with Daredevil out.
This is a very high pick in most archetypes that can cast it, and I think it only gets better here.
So your Giants are having trouble getting through on the ground? Haven’t drafted a Soulbright Flamekin yet? How about taking them to the air?
This card has been amazing for me here, for obvious reasons, but I think I prefer the Changeling because it also counts as a Giant.
This differs from similar cards in the past because it doesn’t need an attacking or blocking companion in order to get online. Since you only have to control a Giant, the drawback is almost negligible and you should be more than happy to play as many of these as you can get your hands on. The idea is to have lots of Giants anyway, and this guy enables you to get a quicker draw than your opponent is prepared for and just run him over. This is the perfect three drop after turn 2 Kithkin Greatheart.
Like my other tribal strategy guides, I am focusing on the particular cards you should be paying attention to when going into this deck. This doesn’t mean that you should start taking Stinkdrinker Daredevil over Lash Out, Oblivion Ring, Tarfire, or Goldmeadow Harrier to start off a draft or in the first few picks, but it’s a sacrifice you should make late in pack 2 or in the beginning of pack 3 if you’re more solidified in the archetype. Some other Giants not specifically detailed are Hillcomber Giant and Lowland Oaf, but they are pretty self-explanatory. You can mix in some small dorks like Adder-Staff Boggart or Inner-Flame Acolyte to shore up your early game in slower builds. The Acolyte is particularly impressive because you can make a hasty Axegrinder out of nowhere and swing a game heavily in your favor. The Evoke ability on that card is probably at its best in this archetype full of fatties.
As I said at the beginning, the commons aren’t overly complicated, but there are a few things like the Soulbright Flamekin and Balloonist that deserve a more respect in this archetype than normal.
Uncommons and Rares
The real reason to draft this deck is if you open or are passed one of the bomb uncommons or rares that are available to the tribe.
This guy comes out far earlier than is fair if you’ve drafted correctly and have some Stinkdrinkers or Soulbrights. Once you’ve cast this your opponent should find himself in a world of trouble, as you could go lethal pretty much any time he doesn’t block by sacking some dudes. Another reason this is the perfect complement to Soulbright Flamekin is because the Flamekin gives Trample and is also an Elemental to sacrifice when you pound through for the lethal blow.
This is extra large, and if you give it trample or flying your opponent is likely dead in one swing. Not sure what else I can say here, except this shouldn’t be picked over something like Stinkdrinker or a good removal spell, as on its own it is merely playable and not a bomb by any means.
This is the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of Giant cards available, and can solely move me into the archetype. Not only should this completely wrath your opponent’s side more often than not, it will leave all of yours untouched since they will be Giants anyway. This also works well with Mudbutton Torchrunner if you need to set off his ability to kill a bigger guy than the Thundercloud can handle, or just go to the dome for three.
Obviously another windmill slam just like the Thundercloud Shaman, this gives you everything you’re looking for in the archetype. +2/+2 and Trample is nothing to sneeze at when you’re looking at a deck full of 6/4s. It helps that he’s a fine man on his own, and easy to cast.
The first time I had this card it was in a Goblin deck, and I had trouble getting value out of it because it would end up killing my whole side. In this deck it shouldn’t kill much, as even the Stinkdrinker has three toughness, and you can also go to the dome which is a combo with…
Overall I’m not a huge fan of this. It’s definitely playable, but the complaint with this archetype isn’t being able to do enough damage, it’s surviving long enough to do so. I like this in my decks with multiple Stinkdrinkers, but it’s usually prudent to sideboard it out in an aggressive matchup because it doesn’t stop you from getting run over. This is good against mid-range though, as it does a nice chunk of damage and draws a card to boot.
This is pretty self-explanatory and you should get it late as it’s hard to play in any other deck. Just be careful about casting this with only one Giant in play if your opponent has mana untapped, because you could easily get wrecked by Nameless Inversion or Whirlpool Whelm, and you really don’t want that happening.
Arbiter of Knollridge
This is a good way to regain parity if your opponent has a quick draw. It’s kind of a weird card though, as it can be terrible if you need to cast a guy after your opponent has stabilized at a lower life, as you let him gain back all that ground. I think this situation is probably rare, and you’ll be on the back foot more often than not, making this guy very strong.
I believe this is the best of these type of uncommons, and really strong in this archetype since it comes with built-in flying. You’ll usually have another Kithkin or two around as well, in case one of the tokens ends up dying and you still want to go to the air.
Thundercloud Shaman is probably the best card you can open in this archetype, but Brion is almost certainly the second. It’s huge and fast and makes it hard for an opponent to race, due to Lifelink. Finally, it’s excellent at finishing people by throwing Axegrinders at their head.
To end, I have a ridiculous decklist that I drafted in a three-on-three online this week, and it easily posted a 3-0 result.
2 Axegrinder Giant
2 Moonglove Extract
2 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
2 Thundercloud Shaman
Most builds won’t be anywhere near this insane, but you do end up getting cards later than you’d expect because nobody else can play them. The best advice I can give is to watch for Stinkdrinkers, Blind-Spot Giants, and Kithkin Greathearts, and move in when you feel that the deck is open.
See you next week with a draft walkthrough!
Soooooo on MTGO