Magical Hack: Drafting With Sean

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Sean takes us through not one, not two, but three triple Time Spiral drafts, each pick lovingly recreated for us readers! It’s clear that the newest set on the block has everyone talking… but will this practice be enough to take Sean to the top tables at Grand Prix: New Jersey?

Last week, we took a look at drafting at Pro Tour: Kobe with an eye for figuring out how this all played out, searching for trends to apply into the future… in my case, specifically, this upcoming weekend at Grand Prix: New Jersey. To further prep for this event, then, my goal was to get some serious drafting in… and maybe try out a few things I haven’t tried before, to change my perspective on what does and does not work in Time Spiral Limited, and maybe get out of the habit of drafting Black as often as I seem to end up doing. Barring that last part, though, the goal was to learn how to draft Black better, so as to maybe squeak out some more wins from what had previously been lame-duck decks.

So in addition to the in-real-life drafting I did over the last week, and the numerous Sealed Deck discussions I’ve seen going around, I also installed the latest edition of Mark Schmit’s “DraftCap,” the software Rich Hoaen uses to bring you “Drafting With Rich.” One might note that this is about where the similarities to “Drafting With Rich” end, as we’re no longer drafting with Rich Hoaen, frequently attested best Limited player in the world… now we’re drafting with Sean McKeown, frequently attested to have the biggest ego to success ratio of writers on the Internet (while Flores’ ego is much larger, he’s actually succeeded at more as well, so… yep, still true) and pretty much lacking in any claim to fame he didn’t write himself.

The goal of these online drafts was not specifically to test my mettle against the best drafters in the world, at least right away. I’ve been drafting pretty frequently at Neutral Ground and pitting myself against some tough competition, at least when it’s available, to keep myself grounded in reality through personal experience instead of just believing everything I read on the Internet to be true and assuming that if I apply the Lessons of Kobe (TM) whole-cloth I’ll win fame, fortune, and the adoration of women. I haven’t been able to draft as frequently as I might like in the last two weeks, however, so the purpose of these drafts was to gain experience with some strategies I hadn’t tried before, practice playing Magic and drafting a deck and building my draft deck properly once it’s all done with, and win some packs and tickets profit to work up enough of a buffer to maybe go adventuring in the more dangerous land of the 8-4s if I had some significant bonuses from the 4-3-2-2 queues.

The first of these drafts was Sunday night, and was as follows:

Pack 1: Benalish Cavalry, Feebleness, Looter il-Kor, Spinneret Sliver, Keldon Halberdier, Ivory Giant, Two-Headed Sliver, Prismatic Lens, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Pull from Eternity, Locket of Yesterdays, Duskrider Peregrine, Serra Avenger, Squire

Pick: Serra Avenger

In addition to being an amazing rare-draft, Serra Avenger is also the best White card in the pack, though Duskrider Peregrine is very close to it in power. Looter Il-Kor is also tempting, but a powerful White card is great to take first as White is basically the best color to get.

Pack 2: Mindstab, Gaze of Justice, Coal Stoker, Durkwood Baloth, Coral Trickster, Ivory Giant, Mystical Teachings, Thrill of the Hunt, Shadow Sliver, Bogardan Rager, Spirit Loop, Truth or Tale, Careful Consideration, Disenchant

Pick: Careful Consideration

… And here we don’t see anything really impressive to follow up with as far as White cards go, but do see Careful Consideration, quite the powerful card.

Pack 3: Mana Skimmer, Durkwood Baloth, Fathom Seer, Chromatic Star, Looter Il-Kor, Brass Gnat, Dream Stalker, Watcher Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Tectonic Fiend, Smallpox, Swarmyard

Pick: Looter Il-Kor

Looter versus Seer is a hard call to make most of the time, but as long as we’re early on in choosing colors I think it’s not even close, Looter Il-Kor can be disastrous for some decks to beat and doesn’t slow down your mana production, even if it also doesn’t ever actually draw cards, just filter them. The aggressive two-drop Shadow critter also best fits with the White-Blue aggro plan that I’ve got going, with Serra Avenger and Looter so far for beats and Careful Consideration to reload. I’m also reasonably sure that more people read getting passed Looter as “Blue is open, jump on in” than read the same from the subtler, frequently better Fathom Seer.

Pack 4: Think Twice, Ashcoat Bear, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Drifter Il-Dal, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Chameleon Blur, Outrider En-Kor, Saltcrusted Steppe, Lim-Dul the Necromancer, Unknown Timeshifted Card

Pick: Outrider En-Kor

En-Kor versus Kestrel is likewise a hard sell, but my experience says both are difficult to block well, and one of these two survives Sulfurous Blast while the other kills your Temporal Isolation. Oh, and one of them is a Rebel, and the other is not. Outrider En-Kor attacks almost as well, survives more situations, and can contribute to a blocking plan much better than Kestrel does.

Pack 5 and 6 are conveniently missing; DraftCap works great, but is still not perfect. If you don’t give it enough time to register your pick, or try using AIM or read email or use anything but MTGO, it can get fidgety. I get Coral Trickster and Riftwing Cloudskate.

Pack 7: Fathom Seer, Flamecore Elemental, Feebleness, Molder, Children of Korlis, Viscid Lemures, Ground Rift, Chronatog Totem, unknown card.

Pick: Fathom Seer

Pack 8: Empty the Warrens, Strength in Numbers, Momentary Blink, Pit Keeper, Divine Congregation, Careful Consideration, Chronatog Totem, Bewilder

Pick: Careful Consideration

Still going with the “card advantage” plan, with Seers, Considerations, and Looters. I can even pull away from it some, because I have plenty, but it’s not like I’m going to suddenly pass Looters and Seers if I see them. I haven’t seen White cards worth taking in a while, though, and am starting to look to see what color might actually be underdrafted to fit with my Blue at this point, since I can live with Serra Avenger as a blatant rare-draft for three tickets and move into an actual color to go with my amazing Blue cards so far.

Pack 9: Ivory Giant, Two-Headed Sliver, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Pull from Eternity, Locket of Yesterdays, Squire

Pick: Ivory Giant

… and the Squire comes back around the table. Not all Timeshifted cards are created equal, kids!

Pack 10: Mindstab, Thrill of the Hunt, Shadow Sliver, Bogardan Rager, Spirit Loop, Truth or Tale

Pick: Truth or Tale

This should probably have been Bogardan Rager or Mindstab, but I guess I figured taking an Uncommon would help recoup costs of the draft better than either of those commons might if I happen to switch into those colors. I got nothin’.

Pack 11: Brass Gnat, Dream Stalker, Watcher Sliver, Smallpox, Swarmyard

Pick: Smallpox

And here we see the “underdrafted” signal I was talking about. Dream Stalker and Watcher Sliver are fine defenders, but Smallpox coming back around the table is a sign that Black is underdrafted… and that people don’t know it’s worth half a ticket, since it goes in the Solar Pox deck and is being bought two-for-one if you are patient and look around some. I’m also starting to think that U/B with Madness tricks might be the plan for here, as I already have a Looter and two Careful Consideration to lend to Madness tricks.

Pack 12: Urborg Syphon-Mage, Mindlash Sliver, Chameleon Blur, Saltcrusted Steppe

Pick: Urborg Syphon-Mage

Clearly the most powerful card, and again a sign that Black may be open. Which isn’t necessarily surprising since it is criminally undervalued, but if you can get all of it, it’s fine. (And if you can use it to support a better color like Blue, even better!)

Pack 13: Detainment Spell, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld

Pick: Call to the Netherworld

Again thinking a Madness theme might work out.

Pack 14: Mindlash Sliver, Ghostflame Sliver

Pick: Ghostflame Sliver

Uncommon draft, I’m never going to play Mindlash Sliver, not even to enable my own Madness spells.

Pack 15: Children of Korlis

Pick: Children of Korlis

Pack 16: Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Rift Bolt, Aether Web, Assassinate, Savage Thallid, Ancient Grudge, Flickering Spirit, Call to the Netherworld, Drifter Il-Dal, Opaline Sliver, Wipe Away, Volcanic Awakening, Restore Balance, Darkness

Pick: Wipe Away

I haven’t specifically locked down to Black yet, and I’m not looking to just jump into Red for Rift Bolt here, so I take Wipe Away… the removal spell I know I can cast, rather than the one I maybe might be able to play.

Pack 17: Viscerid Deepwalker, Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Search for Tomorrow, Icatian Crier, Dark Withering, Goblin Skycutter, Chameleon Blur, Subterranean Shambler, Cyclopean Giant, Screeching Sliver, Scryb Ranger, Sulfurous Blast

Pick: Dark Withering

Passing Sulfurous Blast hurts, but getting a powerful Madness spell makes up for it. I won’t lie, though, last pack’s Rift Bolt suddenly looks more tempting… the things we find out after the fact. I can still be certain that I’ll get more Black, while the Red should be drying up before long.

Pack 18: Deathspore Thallid, Flowstone Channeler, Herd Gnarr, Trespasser Il-Vec, Glass Asp, Prismatic Lens, Ground Rift, Eternity Snare, Fury Sliver, Smallpox, Faceless Devourer, Sindbad, Swamp

Pick: Faceless Devourer

Here I go with the always-shadow, sometimes-removal-spell Devourer, instead of Trespasser Il-Vec; I am honestly not worried about ending up with enough madness enablers at this point, but do want evasion creatures that can double as removal spells. Sindbad would also be an interest madness outlet / card advantage man, but I went with the shadow creature figuring the Sindbad was so narrowly useful it might come back around the table.

Pack 19: Grapeshot, Mindstab, Slipstream Serpent, Nantuko Shaman, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Two-Headed Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Yavimaya Dryad

Pick: Slipstream Serpent

Pack 20: Pentarch Ward, Assassinate, Zealot il-Vec, Cyclopean Giant, Brass Gnat, Savage Thallid, Screeching Sliver, Momentary Blink, Careful Consideration

Pick: Assassinate

Remember “underdrafted colors”? The Red is most certainly gone, so I’m not crying that I didn’t pick up the Rift Bolt and Sulfurous Blast, but my in-color choices are quite solid. The only reason I am passing the bomb Blue spell Careful Consideration is because I already have two of them, and Assassinate coming this late tells me I am going to continue getting the good Black from both directions now.

Pack 21: Chromatic Star, Tolarian Sentinel, Flowstone Channeler, Dream Stalker, Wormwood Dryad, Venser’s Sliver, Clockspinning, Evil Eye of Urborg, Barbed Shocker

Pick: Tolarian Sentinel

A Madness-enabler that can sometimes get tricky, returning Nightshade Assassins if I get any.

Pack 22: Coal Stoker, Deathspore Thallid, Tolarian Sentinel, Glass Asp, Plunder, Eternity Snare, Pendelhaven Elder, Scryb Ranger, Vampiric Sliver

Pick: Vampiric Sliver

All Hill Giant all the time. This Coal Stoker shouldn’t still be there, though, telling me Red may not be as heavily drafted around me as I presumed. Such is life.

Pack 23: Terramorphic Expanse, Snapback, Pentarch Ward, Bonesplitter Sliver, Flickering Spirit, Bewilder, Weathered Bodyguards, Viscerid Deepwalker

Pick: Terramorphic Expanse

Bounce spells are good, but mana-fixing is better still… if you aren’t willing to take Terramorphic Expanse over reasonably good cards, you don’t deserve to have any Terramorphic Expanses in your draft deck, it’s just that simple.

Pack 24: Errant Doomsayers, Aether Web, Ancient Grudge, Flickering Spirit, Call to the Netherworld, Volcanic Awakening, Darkness

Pick: Darkness

Pack 25: Search for Tomorrow, Icatian Crier, Chameleon Blur, Subterranean Shambler, Screeching Sliver, Truth or Tale

Pick: Screeching Sliver

Pack 26: Glass Asp, Ground Rift, Fury Sliver, Smallpox, Swamp

Pick: Smallpox

Half a ticket, and a key theme of the deck I am building? I’m amazed that I have two and really glad besides, this is a powerfully disruptive spell that is amazing on the draw against pretty much any deck, and that I can already break in half with Madness effects. I do wonder who took Sindbad out of this pack, though… it’s usually laughed at instead of played.

Pack 27: Mindstab, Viscid Lemures, Two-Headed Sliver, Shadow Sliver

Pick: Viscid Lemures

Pack 28: Pentarch Ward, Brass Gnat, Screeching Sliver

Pick: Screeching Sliver

Pack 29: Venser’s Sliver, Clockspinning

Pick: Venser’s Sliver

Pack 30: Glass Asp

Pick: Glass Asp

Pack 31: I viciously rare-draft a Lightning Angel out of a weak pack. Double Angels so far equals about six tickets, seven tickets if you count my two Smallpoxes, and I’ve still got a good deck going as well.

Pack 32: Amrou Scout, Grapeshot, Scarwood Treefolk, Slipstream Serpent, Gaze of Justice, Strangling Soot, Sidewinder Sliver, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Viashino Bladescout, Brine Elemental, Primal Forcemage, Calciform Pools, Ixidron

Pick: Strangling Soot

… and if I can pick up another Terramorphic Expanse, the flashback becomes free of just one Mountain in my deck. It must have been a pretty good Timeshifted card the guy next to me took, though, not to take a Strangling Soot to go with the Sulfurous Blast I passed him.

Pack 33: Strength in Numbers, Zealot Il-Vec, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Psychotic Episode, Jedit’s Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Aetherflame Wall, Wipe Away, Undying Rage

Pick: Urborg Syphon-Mage

Pack 34: Icatian Crier, Bonesplitter Sliver, Think Twice, Penumbra Spider, Mindlash Sliver, Chameleon Blur, Flickering Spirit, Ghitu Firebreathing, Faceless Devourer, Firewake Sliver, Liege of the Pit, Resurrection

Pick: Liege of the Pit

Pack 35 is lost, but I pick up a second Vampiric Sliver (this time foil!) to go with the “counts as a Hill Giant” plan.

Pack 36: Amrou Seekers, Mogg War Marshal, Terramorphic Expanse, Drudge Reavers, Temporal Isolation, Havenwood Wurm, Basal Sliver, Sage of Epityr, Ghitu Firebreathing, Knight of the Holy Nimbus

Pick: Terramorphic Expanse

Pack 37: Gemhide Sliver, Molder, Venser’s Sliver, Children of Korlis, Sangrophage, Viashino Bladescout, Dementia Sliver, Chronosavant, Orcish Librarian

Pick: Orcish Librarian

For amusement value. Chronosavant and Gemhide Sliver are both better picks, to take away from prospective opponents, but I like my little book-eater.

Pack 38: Gorgon Recluse, Amrou Scout, Ophidian Eye, Watcher Sliver, Thrill of the Hunt, Plunder, Gustcloak Cavalier, Plains

Pick: Gorgon Recluse

This Amrou Scout so shouldn’t be here still, but there’s a Gorgon Recluse for my U/B Madness deck so it gets to live on until someone else takes it to play with… or stabs it in the face, like I’m sorely tempted to do.

Pack 39: Bogardan Rager, Sangrophage, D’Avenant Healer, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Harmonic Sliver, Thick-Skinned Goblin

Pick: Sangrophage

Pack 40: Grapeshot, Gaze of Justice, Sidewinder Sliver, Viashino Bladescout, Primal Forcemage, Calciform Pools

Pick: Grapeshot

Pack 41: Strength in Numbers, Zealot il-Vec, Psychotic Episode, Jedit’s Dragoons, Foriysian Interceptor

Pick: Psychotic Episode

Pack 42: Bonesplitter Sliver, Mindlash Sliver, Chameleon Blur, Ghitu Firebreathing

Pick: Bonesplitter Sliver

Pack 43: Mogg War Marshal, Basal Sliver, Sage of Epityr

Pick: Basal Sliver

Pack 44: Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Fool’s Demise

Pick: Ironclaw Buzzardiers

Pack 45: Children of Korlis

Pick: Children of Korlis

Final decklist:

1 Mountain
2 Terramorphic Expanse
7 Island
7 Swamp

2 Careful Consideration
2 Smallpox
Dark Withering
Strangling Soot
Wipe Away
Call to the Netherworld

Looter Il-Kor
Coral Trickster
2 Urborg Syphon-Mage
Fathom Seer
Faceless Devourer
Slipstream Serpent
Liege of the Pit
Tolarian Sentinel
2 Vampiric Sliver
Viscid Lemures
Riftwing Cloudskate
Gorgon Recluse

In my first match, I am playing against a Red-Green deck splashing Black, and win in three by keeping up aggressive tempo to the best of my ability. I win the first off the back-breaking play of Smallpox discarding Dark Withering, and lose the second by falling too far behind after I skip my third land drop. The third is a nail-biter, as tempo flows back and forth to favor first one and then the other player, but I use Smallpox early on (discarding Call to the Netherworld) knowing it will keep him from some of his six-drops like Bogardan Rager, and also get a card out of his hand… down to just one or two left after that play. I’d already reloaded with Careful Consideration and so was up cards and just needed to get the time to deploy them, and we stalemate with him at three life, me at eight, and I have a hard time keeping a creature in play for one reason or another… my aggressive push saw a lot of creatures traded off. I have Vampiric Sliver with just Smallpox left in hand, and he casts Penumbra Spider… while I draw Wipe Away and attack for the kill.

I am officially content here, as I’ve recouped two of my three packs, putting me into the profit zone from here on in, as I can buy back the third pack and get my two tickets back as well just with the two Rares plus two Smallpox. This is why I play 4-3-2-2s, I break even in the short run with less to worry about.

The second match is against a Blue-White deck with a strong Sliver focus, and game 1 is a cake-walk more or less… we both get good draws, but my good draw started with turn 2 Looter, and this helped me to demolish everything he played and swarm him with critters. I lose the second to Essence SliverHivestone with Celestial Crusader out, when I was just a little bit short of breaking past his defenses and killing him… you can’t race Essence Sliver, and shouldn’t try.

The third game of the match sees the opponent stall on two lands after a mulligan, and I cast Smallpox before he draws his third. He sacrifices his Plains and draws nothing but Islands from that point, while I am cracking with Looter Il-Kor and filling my hand with threats and card drawing spells.

So I’m guaranteed a third pack, putting my profit margin at +5 tix if I lose the finals playoff for the last pack… and do I ever, to the other Black mage at the table, the one with all the Nightshade Assassins. I get absolutely creamed in about seven minutes, and that’s counting sideboarding. His second color was Red, for removal spells, in case he didn’t have enough in just Black.

Monday night I go out and draft Eye Are Ell, drafting a powerful Red-Blue deck and losing in the first round of what is effectively a single-elimination sixteen-man draft to Ashok Chitturi, whose last name I doubtlessly just butchered to oblivion, the other contender for winning the tournament and whom I had the pleasure of playing in the first round. I didn’t learn anything from that draft, unfortunately, besides reconfirming that missing your third land drop is killer. I’m then talked into a two-on-two friendly draft against some local players, including Brian Marshall, who is not to be confused with Brian David-Marshall of MagictheGathering.com fame, former owner of Neutral Ground… again I draft Blue-Red, because nobody stops me from getting everything I could want in that color combination, and “live the dream” with the Coal Stoker beatdown deck. I didn’t really learn anything from that competition either, because there was no stiff resistance to strain against and in so doing actually learn something useful, but I did at least have fun… and won some cards, which is not to be despised.

Tuesday, however, I am finally able to get a second draft in… while borrowing a more stable network connection since I am not picking up whatever wi-fi is in my neighborhood but on my lady-friend Oana’s secure network and actually inside her house, so… a much better connection. I did not, however, remember to bring my laptop’s plug, which is officially foreshadowing because round 2 and afterwards just didn’t happen.

Pack 1: Cancel, Empty the Warrens, Icatian Crier, Bonesplitter Sliver, Tendrils of Corruption, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Havenwood Wurm, Chameleon Blur, Flickering Spirit, Opaline Sliver, Voidmage Husher, one uncommon, rare, Timeshifted card unknown.

Pick: Tendrils of Corruption

… Crap. I’m a Black mage AGAIN? The missing uncommon, rare, and Timeshifted card were basically unplayables, and trust me, rather than first-pick a Black card that begs me to play lots more Black in my deck, I was looking for anything, anything else.

Pack 2: Flamecore Elemental, Gemhide Sliver, Feebleness, Chromatic Star, Sangrophage, D’Avenant Healer, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Two-Headed Sliver, Fool’s Demise, Assembly-Worker, Weatherseed Totem, Valor

Pick: Weatherseed Totem

Black/Green is solid, and Weatherseed Totem is solid by itself, better at least than picking up Feebleness and trying to maintain my Black drafting. Gemhide Sliver is the better Green card, per se, but I think Weatherseed Totem is the more powerful card by far and thus the better pick if I do manage to stake out some Green for myself… Gemhide Sliver won’t throw people downstream into Green because they see a power card coming through, but the Totem will be exactly like blood in the water for those who might see this pack and realize that Green is wide open. In short, Weatherseed Totem is the kind of card that makes me content to give up my first-pick to play it instead. Then again, I was somewhat biased about wanting out of my first-pick’s colors.

Pack 3: Think Twice, Ashcoat Bear, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Thallid Germinator, Detainment Spell, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld, Vampiric Sliver

Pick: Urborg Syphon-Mage

Bugger me, but I think I really am a Black mage. Nothing stands up to the quality of the Syphon-Mage, though the Kestrel is sorely tempting, so I seem to be getting stuck in Black again.

Pack 4: Feebleness, Spinneret Sliver, Ivory Giant, Grapeshot, Thrill of the Hunt, Plunder, Skulking Knight, Brass Gnat, Durkwood Tracker

Pick: Feebleness

Pack 5: Aether Web, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Drudge Reavers, Goblin Skycutter, Pit Keeper, Divine Congregation, Jhoira’s Timebug, Undying Rage, Fungal Reaches, Plated Pegasus

Pick: Pit Keeper

Undying Rage is awesome, and if I end up in Red I’d love to have it, but I’ve started in Black and tend to shy away from Black-Red if possible… and whenever I am Black, I can never seem to find enough early plays, so Pit Keeper has extra bonus value to boot.

Pack 6: Lost by DraftCap. I’m pretty sure this was Withered Wretch over mediocre cards of the other four colors, following on my theme to be happy getting Black two-drops in my Black deck.

Pack 7: Chromatic Star, Children of Korlis, Sangrophage, Viashino Bladescout, Mystical Teachings, Thrill of the Hunt, Fungal Reaches, Krosan Grip, unknown card

Pick: Chromatic Star

Pack 8: Empty the Warrens, Strength in Numbers, Mindlash Sliver, Jhoira’s Timebug, Jedit’s Dragoons, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Gustcloak Cavalier, Moonlace

Pick: Knight of the Holy Nimbus

… Maybe this means I get to be the White mage instead? Please? Too bad I was taking Black cards over Cloudchaser Kestrels; no wonder I get stuck with Swamps so often.

Pack 9: Empty the Warrens, Bonesplitter Sliver, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Havenwood Wurm, Chameleon Blur, Voidmage Husher

Pick: Empty the Warrens

A nothing pick. Of any of these, I’d be most hopeful to get Empty the Warrens running, even though I really like Subterranean Shambler. Nothing to see here. I should probably have taken the Bonesplitter Sliver, because at least then my “nothing” pick may show dividends if I hit a critical mass of decent Slivers.

Pack 10: Gaze of Justice, Sidewinder Sliver, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Viashino Bladescout, Ophidian Eye, Conflagrate

Pick: Conflagrate

… crap, Red really is underdrafted next to me, so it looks like I am probably going to be a Black-Red mage. Or at least I sort of kind of maybe have a Fireball now with leanings towards being Black-Red.

Pack 11: Feebleness, Sangrophage, D’Avenant Healer, Mystical Teachings, Two-Headed Sliver

Pick: Feebleness

It came back, so I’m really just going to be solid on being the Black mage. It’s a good thing I can deal with this, because it seems nobody else can.

Pack 12: Detainment Spell, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld, Ignite Memories

Pick: Call to the Netherworld

Pack 13: Plunder, Brass Gnat, Truth or Tale

Pick: Truth or Tale

Pack 14: Aether Web, Divine Congregation

Pick: Aether Web

Pack 15: Viashino Bladescout

Pick: Viashino Bladescout

Pack 16: Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Aether Web, Ghitu Firebreathing, Bewilder, Detainment Spell, Psychotic Episode, Thick-Skinned Goblin, Ghostflame Sliver, Gustcloak Cavalier, Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, Unknown Timeshifted card, Premature Burial

Pick: Ghostflame Sliver

A pack with not very much except for Premature Burial, which impresses me less and less as time goes on. Ghostflame Sliver is a two-drop, which I seem to recall having said I find very important for my Black decks as I never have enough. It also lets me consider going Sliver-happy, if more Bonesplitters and such come around… I’m willing to start biasing towards Slivers as more of them appear.

Pack 17: Pack lost by DraftCap. I’m pretty sure this one was Fiery Temper.

Pack 18: Mindstab, Slipstream Serpent, Nantuko Shaman, Castle Raptors, Gorgon Recluse, Dream Stalker, Watcher Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Glass Asp, Traitor’s Clutch, Locket of Yesterdays, Evil Eye of Urborg

Pick: Gorgon Recluse

Pack 19: Tolarian Sentinel, Flowstone Channeler, Trespasser il-Vec, Fortify, Spiketail Drakeling, Prismatic Lens, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Viscid Lemures, Quilled Sliver

Pick: Trespasser il-Vec

I’m a Black mage and that’s okay, I work all night and I sleep all day… wait, no, that’s not lumberjacks, that’s vampires. With a Recluse and Fiery Temper it’s worth it to start to skew towards Madness cards, and Trespasser il-Vec is downright solid to begin with.

Pack 20: Pack lost by DraftCap. I’m pretty sure this was Coal Stoker, because I gobbled him up nice and early once I settled into being Red.

Pack 21: Cancel, Penumbra Spider, Pentarch Ward, Thallid Germinator, Zealot il-Vec, Chameleon Blur, Cyclopean Giant, Screeching Sliver, Orgg, Phantom Wurm

Pick: Orgg

A non-pick, though if I get enough removal he may just be a monster.

Pack 22: Herd Gnarr, Amrou Scout, Molder, Children of Korlis, Viscid Lemures, Ground Rift, Dream Stalker, Truth or Tale, Aspect of Mongoose

Pick: Amrou Scout

Hated to death. No lies. This one really did get stabbed in the face.

Pack 23: Viscerid Deepwalker, Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Dark Withering, Savage Thallid, Ancient Grudge, Call to the Netherworld, Drifter il-Dal, Dementia Sliver

Pick: Dark Withering

The Madness theme continues to grow.

Pack 24: Pack lost by DraftCap.

Pack 25: Brass Gnat, Savage Thallid, Screeching Sliver, Ancient Grudge, Weatherseed Totem, Harmonic Sliver

Pick: Weatherseed Totem

The first one was out of hope of playing it. The second one was out of fear of playing against it. Either way, I’ve probably got all the Weatherseed Totems at the table, and I’m content with that.

Pack 26: Pack lost by DraftCap.

Pack 27: Dream Stalker, Blazing Blade Askari, Glass Asp, Locket of Yesterdays

Pick: Blazing Blade Askari

Pack 28: Tolarian Sentinel, Clockspinning, Viscid Lemures

Pick: Viscid Lemures

Pack 29: Chameleon Blur, Screeching Sliver

Pick: Screeching Sliver

Pack 30: Ground Rift

Pick: Ground Rift

Pack 31: Goblin Skycutter, Crookclaw Transmuter, Zealot il-Vec, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Snapback, Havenwood Wurm, Basal Sliver, Sage of Epityr, Ghitu Firebreathing, Scryb Ranger, Sulfurous Blast, Spirit Loop, Hivestone, Sindbad, Corpulent Corpse

Pick: Sulfurous Blast

Pack 32: Pack lost by DraftCap. I am pretty sure this one was Strangling Soot.

Pack 33: Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Temporal Eddy, Tendrils of Corruption, Mogg War Marshal, Psychotic Episode, Jedit’s Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Aetherflame Wall, Careful Consideration, (two cards missing)

Pick: Tendrils of Corruption

Pack 34: Pack lost by DraftCap. I am pretty sure this one was Basalt Gargoyle.

Pack 35: Grapeshot, Scarwood Treefolk, Slipstream Serpent, Gaze of Justice, Wormwood Dryad, Venser’s Sliver, Clockspinning, Bogardan Rager, (three cards missing)

Pick: Grapeshot

Pack 36: Spiketail Drakeling, Scarwood Treefolk, Orcish Cannonade, Keldon Halberdier, Plunder, Eternity Snare, Molder, Barbed Shocker, Faceless Devourer, Island

Pick: Faceless Devourer

At this point I have plenty of removal spells, and will already be cutting some. Admittedly, Cannonade is awesome… but Faceless Devourer is a removal spell that attacks for two, much preferred.

Pack 37: Coral Trickster, Benalish Cavalry, Two-Headed Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Barbed Shocker, Chronatog Totem, Magus of the Mirror

Pick: Blazing Blade Askari

Pack 38: Dark Withering, Viscerid Deepwalker, Ashcoat Bear, Search for Tomorrow, Corpulent Corpse, Foriysian Interceptor, Drifter il-Dal, Pull from Eternity

Pick: Dark Withering

The madness continues, but I am unlikely to get another madness outlet, with only two creatures and a Conflagrate to make my stuff undercosted.

Pack 39: Goblin Skycutter, Havenwood Wurm, Basal Sliver, Sage of Epityr, Ghitu Firebreathing, Scryb Ranger, Sindbad

Pick: Goblin Skycutter

Pack 40: Mogg War Marshal, Drudge Reavers, Sprout, Sage of Epityr, Divine Congregation, Tectonic Fiend

Pick: Tectonic Fiend

And here I get the heavy hitter I had been hoping for, the one that lets me put the Orgg back in the sideboard where it belongs because I have a reasonable fatty to finish the game with, and one with a much more manageable drawback.

Pack 41: Glass Asp, Ground Rift, Eternity Snare, Pendelhaven Elder, Saltcrusted Steppe

Pick: Saltcrusted Steppe

Pack 42: Temporal Eddy, Mogg War Marshal, Psychotic Episode, Sprout

Pick: Temporal Eddy

Pack 43: Gaze of Justice, Clockspinning, Paradise Plume

Pick: Paradise Plume

Pack 44: Scarwood Treefolk, Plunder

Pick: Plunder

Pack 45: Two-Headed Sliver

Pick: Two-Headed Sliver

DraftCap skipped a total of seven picks: packs 6, 17, 20, 24, 26, 32, and 34. I tracked cards plucked from six of those seven packs, and played five of them, but couldn’t tell you what order they were picked… other than to say that Fiery Temper and Strangling Soot were certainly taken out of packs 17, 32, or 34, as neither of those went especially late. Those five cards were: Withered Wretch, Coal Stoker, Fiery Temper, Strangling Soot, Basalt Gargoyle, and in the sideboard, Bogardan Rager. My final deck was:

8 Mountain
9 Swamp
Ghostflame Sliver
Pit Keeper
Withered Wretch
Goblin Skycutter
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Trespasser il-Vec
Faceless Devourer
Basalt Gargoyle
2 Blazing Blade Askari
Viashino Bladescout
Coal Stoker
Gorgon Recluse
Tectonic Fiend
Fiery Temper
Sulfurous Blast
2 Dark Withering
2 Tendrils of Corruption
Strangling Soot

I only had room for so much removal in the maindeck, and moved Grapeshot and the second Feebleness to the sideboard. I was short on Madness outlets, with just Syphon-Mage and Trespasser il-Vec to power out Dark Witherings at a more-reasonable cost, and so played the Conflagrate that I am not usually so impressed by in draft just to have another potential Madness outlet for my removal spells.

For my first match, I beat another one of those U/W Slivers deck; I won the first game despite getting set too far back with a pair of bounce spells forcing me to lose Basalt Gargoyle… my opponent saw me play two Swamps and two Mountains, leaving the Mountain untapped to go with my fresh Gargoyle, and Wiped Away the untapped Mountain at end of turn, then played Riftwing Cloudskate to bounce the other Mountain. For the remainder of that game I was taking damage from Cloudskate and a Benalish Cavalry, trying to mount some pressure of my own despite being set back two land drops, and this gets harder when I have to face off against Momentary Blink with flashback, countering removal spells like it’s nothing. I exhaust the Blink’s second use by casting Conflagrate on Riftwing Cloudskate, and am able to flash back Conflagrate for two, hitting the opponent’s face, discarding two Dark Witherings.

From there I am then able to win by playing monsters and attacking while in the last turn he goes to 2 and then uses Careful Consideration to try and stay in it against two two-power men, with Fiery Temper in hand. Figuring I didn’t want to show another Madness spell if I could avoid it, I sat back and tried to win with damage if reasonable; he casts Careful Consideration then exhausts the five counters on a storage land to cast Errant Ephemeron to block… still leaving him at dead if he doesn’t have another trick. I then burn him out after learning he has Snapback.

I lose the second game in a tight race where his Looter does too much damage, and not by dealing one point to me at a time; my opponent sculpts the perfect hand by tossing extra lands and useless spells and beats me down with his A-list creatures. Cleverly, then, I win the third when he stops playing lands, while I have turn 3 Askari, turn 4 Coal Stoker into Basalt Gargoyle as my opening, with Sulfurous Blast and Tendrils as removal. He suspends an Ephemeron, plays Coral Trickster face-up, and Screeching Sliver. And he dies. That was the whole game.

I wait a half an hour for the next match to start, and my laptop is fading fast; I’ve got just over half an hour of battery left after my first match. This leaves me eight minutes to win my second match, and my computer powers down as I seem to be winning the first, eliminating all of my opponent’s threats and following up with Tectonic Fiend alongside two other attackers versus an empty board. This means I needlessly annoy the poor opponent who now has to sit there for twenty minutes waiting for me to reconnect, and I “only” score two packs out of the draft; I didn’t get anything of any actual value, unless Withered Wretch is actually a ticket nowadays, which means my prior +5 Tix now becomes —2 tix after losing the ability to actually play my second match.

But oh, how my third draft was destined to make up for that worry… though not before more Eye Are Ell drafting at Neutral Ground, meeting up with the Tuesday night draft crowd assembled off of BDM’s email group. And this one was a lesson-teacher, as I drafted a Black-Red deck that was Suspend-heavy with plenty of Storm, with Mindstab, double Corpulent Corpse, and Greater Gargadon, just as the turn 1 Suspenders, and Rift Bolt plus Coal Stoker as more things to set up double Grapeshot, double Empty the Warrens. One Empty the Warrens turn did in fact net a total of ten Goblins, followed up by a suspended Greater Gargadon that could now come into play with Haste “at will”, and by drafting a deck that was heavy on the time-lapse action as well as looking at Suspend as a resource to fuel Storm showed me a new and more interesting way to look at Red decks… which was certainly eye-opening and worth learning, even though that meant I didn’t get home till 1am (… and have to be up around 7 or so to go to work the next morning).

At this point, you might guess that I am a little bit sick of getting stuck with Black decks, because I’ve had nothing but a variety of flavors of Black decks for a week now, with just one Blue-Red deck (played for just one match before being eliminated from the draft) to tide me over from the pull of the Dark Side. My next draft threatened to end up in much the same place… as will soon be seen. Worth noting is that this last MTGO draft I am going to share with you happened on Wednesday night, and so “after reading Blisterguy’s article on Wednesday,” full of pineapple-laden humor and card prices for cards like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Also worth noting is that I have spent entirely too much time being influenced by BDM’s drafts, as will be evident when I start trying to pick up Slivers like there’s no tomorrow…

Pack 1 I open Teferi, out of a pack that has nothing memorable in it… and DraftCap lost it the second time around, to boot. I mentally windmill-slam Teferi, glad not to be taking a Black card, thinking maybe I’ll draft Blue-Red, or Blue-White, or Blue-Green, or even just invent a sixth color to avoid playing Black with my Blue because I am sick of Black, sick of working so hard just to make tools that look so powerful turn into a match win.

Pack 2: Icatian Crier, Bonesplitter Sliver, Tendrils of Corruption, Think Twice, Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Psychotic Episode, Jedit’s Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Phantom Wurm, Faceless Devourer, Fool’s Demise, Avatar of Woe

Pick: Avatar of Woe

It’s even foil, too. It’s far and away the best card in the pack, and my soul does the little dance inside that it does when a part of me dies. I can’t believe I’m stuck being a Black mage again… what did the person to my right take, passing a foil Avatar of Woe?

Then again, I guess I don’t really care, do I? I’ve got an Avatar of Woe. And it’s foil.

Pack 3: Mana Skimmer, Nantuko Shaman, Coral Trickster, Benalish Cavalry, Feebleness, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Two-Headed Sliver, Fallen Ideal, Firewake Sliver, Basalt Gargoyle

Pick: Feebleness

Pack 4: Icatian Crier, Bonesplitter Sliver, Think Twice, Penumbra Spider, Errant Doomsayers, Chameleon Blur, Flickering Spirit, Ghitu Firebreathing, Bewilder, Thick-Skinned Goblin, Ghostflame Sliver, unknown card

Pick: Penumbra Spider

So much for the Black cards, and good riddance to them for that matter. Foil Avatar of Woe has to be a significant chunk of tickets, and I can go back to drafting a good color with my Blue deck, and forget the moment’s insanity that saw me draft a second Black card to go with my blatant raredraft.

Pack 5: Strength in Numbers, Corpulent Corpse, Viscerid Deepwalker, Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Jhoira’s Timebug, Savage Thallid, Ancient Grudge, Flickering Spirit, Primal Forcemage, Sengir Autocrat, Fathom Seer

Pick: Fathom Seer

Sweet, a good Blue card… back on target, back on target!

Pack 6: Pack lost by DraftCap. This pack gave me a Viscerid Deepwalker.

Pack 7: Chromatic Star, Mystical Teachings, Thrill of the Hunt, Shadow Sliver, Bogardan Rager, Traitor’s Clutch, Fallen Ideal, Ignite Memories, Tromp the Domains

Pick: Tromp the Domains

Right. Seventh. I have been given permission to hold onto Green like it’s nobody’s business, and now I just have to figure out how to maximize my Green deck, or even “just” splash a Tromp. Check.

Pack 8: Coral Trickster, Feebleness, Spinneret Sliver, Keldon Halberdier, Brass Gnat, Dream Stalker, Blazing Blade Askari, Aspect of Mongoose

Pick: Coral Trickster

Pack 9: Pack lost by DraftCap. I think I picked up a Grapeshot out of a pack with nothing in it, but I could have picked the Grapeshot up later, I’m not 100% sure.

Pack 10: Penumbra Spider, Psychotic Episode, Jedit’s Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Fool’s Demise

Pick: Penumbra Spider

Pack 11: Coral Trickster, Clockspinning, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Firewake Sliver

Pick: Firewake Sliver

There should be a Spinneret Sliver coming back soon, and I’m giving serious consideration to going into a crazy Sliver theme if I can get it, because Firewake Sliver shouldn’t still be in this pack. I take a risk that may or may not work out, taking it over a Coral Trickster that would currently be quite nice, but I’m at the table where Tromp the Domains goes seventh, so I figure I have a bit of leeway for trying to draft the most ridiculous deck I can get my hands on.

Pack 12: Chameleon Blur, Ghitu Firebreathing, Bewilder, Volcanic Awakening

Pick: Bewilder

Pack 13: Savage Thallid, Ancient Grudge, Primal Forcemage

Pick: Primal Forcemage

Pack 14: Greenseeker, Haunting Hymn

Pick: Greenseeker

This card is so much better than a fourteenth pick it’s not even funny. But it’s Green at the table where the six other people didn’t want Tromp the Domains, so I guess I am just going to win.

Pack 15: Traitor’s Clutch

Pick: Traitor’s Clutch

Pack 16: Looter il-Kor, Spinneret Sliver, Keldon Halberdier, Ivory Giant, Grapeshot, Mindstab, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Watcher Sliver, Dementia Sliver, Paradise Plume, Tromp the Domains, Sedge Sliver, Unknown Timeshifted Card

Pick: Sedge Sliver

Remember how I said I was considering going crazy with the Slivers? This is the kind of card that lets you do just that, and it would let me maybe branch back into Avatar of Woe territory if I wanted to… I figure I can go crazy on colors, maximize Tromp the Domains, do the ridiculous Sliver deck thing, it’ll be great.

Pack 17: Lost by DraftCap. This pack offered me up a Rift Bolt, to go with my new Sedge Sliver and my Firewake Slivers.

Pack 18: Lost by DraftCap. This pack gave me Fiery Justice… and I took it. I’m a Green deck, I’ll figure out how to make the colors work later.

Pack 19: Aether Web, Amrou Seekers, Temporal Eddy, Detainment Spell, Psychotic Episode, Sprout, Aetherflame Wall, Pit Keeper, Opaline Sliver, Wipe Away, Molten Slagheap, Shadow Guildmage

Pick: Shadow Guildmage

Nothing impressive in this pack, but Shadow Guildmage is too good to let pass, and too good to not take myself if I maybe end up following up on that Sedge Sliver action…

Pack 20: Icatian Crier, Goblin Skycutter, Strength in Numbers, Drifter il-Dal, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Havenwood Wurm, Foriysian Totem, Firewake Sliver, Wheel of Fate, Disenchant

Pick: Firewake Sliver

Might just go Sliver-crazy… just need some more Slivers.

Pack 21: Gorgon Recluse, Herd Gnarr, Fortify, Deathspore Thallid, D’Avenant Healer, Glass Asp, Prismatic Lens, Ground Rift, Plated Pegasus, Unknown Card

Pick: Prismatic Lens

… if I do go crazy, I’ll need some mana-fixing, won’t I.

Pack 22: Aether Web, Temporal Eddy, Aetherflame Wall, Detainment Spell, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld, Dreadship Reef, Ghostflame Sliver

Pick: Temporal Eddy

Pack 23: Feebleness, Tolarian Sentinel, Clockspinning, Sangrophage, D’Avenant Healer, Harmonic Sliver, Skittering Monstrosity, Plains

Pick: Skittering Monstrosity

… as I lumber more back towards the direction of being a Black mage, not quite sure what the heck I’ll end up casting yet, hoping something figures itself out but confident I’ll have powerful tools wherever I end up.

Pack 24: Ivory Giant, Grapeshot, Mindstab, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Dementia Sliver

Pick: Grapeshot

Pack 25: Pentarch Ward, Viscerid Deepwalker, Greenseeker, Divine Congregation, Fledgling Mawcor, Truth or Tale

Pick: Fledgling Mawcor

Blue being severely under-drafted finally comes back into play, and my confidence restores me to being base Blue-Green and figuring the rest out later. Phew.

Pack 26: Slipstream Serpent, Traitor’s Clutch, Plunder, Eternity Snare, Molder

Pick: Slipstream Serpent

Pack 27: Detainment Spell, Psychotic Episode, Sprout, Aetherflame Wall

Pick: Aetherflame Wall

Pack 28: Goblin Skycutter, Strength in Numbers, Mindlash Sliver

Pick: Strength in Numbers

Pack 29: Herd Gnarr, Ground Rift

Pick: Herd Gnarr

Pack 30: Detainment Spell

Pick: Detainment Spell

Pack 31: Amrou Seekers, Search for Tomorrow, Corpulent Corpse, Cancel, Empty the Warrens, Jhoira’s Timebug, Chameleon Blur, Subterranean Shambler, Cyclopean Giant, Screeching Sliver, Phthisis, Tromp the Domains, Conflagrate, Draining Whelk, Hunting Moa

Pick: Tromp the Domains

Why not just have the stupid crazy deck, I could have had three Tromps, just two will have to do. The Sliver thing so didn’t work out, but it seemed worth trying.

Pack 32: Tolarian Sentinel, Benalish Cavalry, Orcish Cannonade, Errant Ephemeron, Eternity Snare, Skulking Knight, Sidewinder Sliver, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Viashino Bladescout, Paradise Plume, Paradox Haze, Faceless Devourer, Unknown Card, Temporal Eddy

Pick: Errant Ephemeron

Pack 33: Mogg War Marshal, Terramorphic Expanse, Drudge Reavers, Temporal Isolation, Crookclaw Transmuter, Empty the Warrens, Divine Congregation, Mindlash Sliver, Thallid Shell-Dweller, four unknown cards.

Pick: Terramorphic Expanse

Pack 34: Flowstone Channeler, Trespasser il-Vec, Spinneret Sliver, Fortify, Spiketail Drakeling, Flamecore Elemental, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Two-Headed Sliver, Prismatic Lens, Durkwood Tracker, Plated Pegasus

Pick: Spiketail Drakeling

Pack 35: Search for Tomorrow, Corpulent Corpse, Basal Sliver, Drifter il-Dal, Subterranean Shambler, Mindlash Sliver, Havenwood Wurm, Opaline Sliver, three unknown cards.

Pick: Search for Tomorrow

Pack 36: Fortify, Mana Skimmer, Nantuko Shaman, Ophidian Eye, Thrill of the Hunt, Plunder, Skulking Knight, Conflagrate, Spirit Loop, Plated Pegasus

Pick: Nantuko Shaman

Pack 37: Castle Raptors, Scarwood Treefolk, Children of Korlis, Sangrophage, Viashino Bladescout, Assembly-Worker, Pendelhaven Elder, Basalt Gargoyle, one unknown card.

Pick: Castle Raptors

Pack 38: Mogg War Marshal, Drudge Reavers, Empty the Warrens, Cyclopean Giant, Savage Thallid, Paradox Haze, Gemstone Caverns, Magus of the Jar

Pick: Magus of the Jar

… holy draw seven cards Batman, and it’s foil!

Pack 39: Search for Tomorrow, Cancel, Jhoira’s Timebug, Chameleon Blur, Subterranean Shambler, Cyclopean Giant, Conflagrate

Pick: Search for Tomorrow

Pack 40: Tolarian Sentinel, Eternity Snare, Skulking Knight, Viashino Bladescout, Paradise Plume, Paradox Haze

Pick: Tolarian Sentinel

Pack 41: Pack lost by DraftCap.

Pack 42: Flowstone Channeler, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Plated Pegasus

Pick: Wormwood Dryad

Pack 43: Drifter il-Dal, Mindlash Sliver, Voidmage Husher

Pick: Drifter il-Dal

Pack 44: Plunder, Skulking Knight

Pick: Plunder

Pack 45: Sangrophage

Pick: Sangrophage

The deck I ended up assembling was:

2 Search for Tomorrow
2 Grapeshot
Rift Bolt
Fiery Justice
Temporal Eddy
2 Tromp the Domains

Viscerid Deepwalker
Errant Ephemeron
Spiketail Drakeling
Fledgling Mawcor
Coral Trickster
Fathom Seer
Primal Forcemage
Nantuko Shaman
2 Penumbra Spider
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Magus of the Jar

1 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Terramorphic Expanse
7 Forest
7 Island

… and I should have had a second Mountain, at the expense of another spell, most likely the lame-duck Primal Forcemage whom I put in thinking maybe it’d let me get cute with the Suspend creatures, or do ridiculous blocking tricks with Teferi out. All I really had to make sure of was that I would be able to cast my Red removal more consistently, and I still required seven of both my main colors, so a spell had to go… and that was the weakest man.

For my first match, I am playing against a heavy White deck… fortunately, those are the kinds of decks that Grapeshot and (better yet!) Fiery Justice are best against. In the first game I can’t get past four mana, so I struggle even to stay alive, when my best defenses are shot through by Mangara. I had Grapeshot and the ability to abuse it, but no Forest to make best use of it… which is where I clued in on the fact that I didn’t have enough Red sources to play my spells properly.

I sideboard moderately extensively; I’m taking both my Tromps out because I don’t want to “just race” the White deck, I’m sideboarding into a more controlling stance overall, putting in a second Mountain as land number eighteen, Castle Raptors to better block flankers and 2/2 fliers, Spell Burst to stop early Morphs and possibly lock the opponent out of the game if I survive long enough, and Prismatic Lens to accelerate me. Game two is ridiculous; I’ve got a turn 2 Lens, turn 3 Spiketail Drakeling plus suspend Search for Tomorrow, and turn 4 Magus of the Jar. On turn 5 I search myself up a Mountain, draw for the turn, then pop the Jar, casting two more spells and following up with Grapeshot to demolish their team of a flanker plus Mangara.

Game 3 is likewise preposterous… I keep a hand of Forest, Greenseeker with no other lands but with quite a solid hand, and draw a land or two while also searching for the right lands overall. I’ve got a pair of Spiders on defense plus Mawcor to make life difficult, and the ground starts to gum up, so I attack with both Spiders figuring why not… and the Raptors predictably stops two damage. Fiery Justice takes out Castle Raptor and a 2/2 flanker, but the board gums up again when they cast Flickering Spirit to block. Deciding I am the spider beatdown deck I send again, and lose half a Spider to flank knight plus Flickering Spirit, who didn’t have the ability to just bounce out of play… but does anyway with Momentary Blink. Slowly but surely the game drags on, me nipping in for a point each turn with my Mawcor while nothing else happens, they keep drawing lands (and so do I… two a turn actually, since I filter the entire land content out of my deck with Greenseeker over the remaining turns) and I play another creature or two to mount the pressure. Finally I push past them with seven cards left in my deck, plus a Magus of Jar who would have let me draw my entire deck if I needed to use Rift Bolt and Grapeshot to kill the opponent. (I didn’t.)

Match 2 is downright masterfully set up; they suspend Halberdier on turn 1, and suspended Deep Sea Kraken on turn 3. I drop a morphed Mawcor with two Forests and an Island, to which they respond with Ironclaw Buzzardiers. I read the card and double-check to make sure it can’t block Morph and send it in, following it up with Penumbra Spider. They play Prodigal Sorcerer, and I morph my Mawcor and ping it, then swing with my Spider past the Buzzardiers. Halberdier and Buzzardiers get in there before Mawcor untaps to ping the Halberdier, and there are two counters left on Deep Sea Kraken because I’ve played a lot of spells. But then, I also timed this perfectly… as on my turn I play Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, ticking the Kraken down to one counter and ensuring that there is nothing they can do to actually cast their Kraken during their upkeep. With the writing on the wall, the concession follows immediately as their hand is spent and my board is absurd.

For the second game, I earn the concession after having only taken four turns; I started with a suspended Search for Tomorrow and used Terramorphic Expanse on turn 2, followed by Grapeshot for two on Spiketail Drakeling plus unmorphed Coral Trickster (“Little Beater”). Their fourth turn gets them Coal Stoker plus Burning Blade Askari, so on my fourth turn I play another Island (Mountain, Forest, 3 Island in play) and just pass the turn. They attack, I flash in Teferi, they concede.

I don’t get it, but I won’t complain. I then split the last pack so my last opponent could go play the 9:00 Professional Event… the deck is nice, but I’m not heartless, and that would let me go do something else… say, get started on my article for the week, since at that point it’s now 9:00 on Wednesday and the article is due to Craig “as early as possible” Thursday, which never works out before 5pm… which is quite a bit later over in jolly old England. We ended up agreeing that I would get the extra pack out of the prize split, offering 2 tix for their half-share of the split. So I am up one pack and down four tix overall before selling off my deck’s pieces, and I am then able to search around for people interested in a foil Avatar… I offered to sell the Avatar for four, they counter-offered five, we both went home happy, because they got their Avatar for less than six, and I got rid of my Avatar for more-than-four. Teferi turns into three tickets, and Sedge Sliver becomes 1, +5 tix / +1 pack at the end of three drafts.

Still not enough to make me go brave the 8-4s when I’m content to just play and goof around, I just want to have played a critical mass of Magic the week before the Grand Prix in order to be reasonably confident that I won’t be rusty and out of touch. Suffice it to say my drafting on Day 2 will have to be up to higher standards than this if I get there… but I learned a bit more about how to make a Black deck win, and how to pick out signals when there are plenty of good cards in the packs.

Hopefully this has been an amusing adventure for the reader, as well… and we’ll see if I have anything to write about personally for this weekend’s Grand Prix, or if I’ll just be doing coverage of the Day 2 drafts from the outside looking in…

Sean McKeown
smckeown @ livejournal.com

In the still and the silent dawn another day is born
Tossed up by the tireless waves, body bent and torn
In the heat of the blinding sun I wake only to find
That Heaven is a stranger place than the one I left behind…
Sarah McLachlan, “Drawn to the Rhythm”