Hello again, my peoples. I assume at this point that most of you have seen Dissension cards on the webernet, or perhaps even in person. If you were lucky enough to attend a prerelease, or know someone who did well at one, you might have even been able to crack a few pizacks and perhaps sling the new spells. Personally, I was unable to attend a prerelease, but because my life is generally blessed, I was lucky enough to do battle with Wizards of the Coast R&D and Online Media during my visit to Seattle last week. I might have even chatted with people who have played and/or designed the cards about what was good and what was not in the full block draft format.
Because I love you almost half as much as you all love me (I tried to figure out exactly how much that is, but my computer keeps complaining about dividing by zero…), today I’m going to share what I learned about drafting with Dis*.
* Random literary note, Dis is what Dante calls the lowest circles of Hell, where the most heinous sins are punished in the Inferno. Clearly bad pack three drafts can now be referred to as the 6th through 9th circles of Hell.
1) Dry Ingredients
Monty Ashley did a little breakdown of what three-color combinations contain guilds you can draft in each pack, and it looks like this:
As you can see, there are five triads that allow you to pick up a full suite of gold cards in all three packs. As Monty said when I asked if I could steal this from him, any monkey with a clue can do this sort of analysis, and as if to prove his point, Flores did the very same thing in his article last Friday. The questions that come immediately to mind are: do all of these triads work, and which color combinations that do not fit this mold remain good in spite of it?
2) The Meat
First of all, let’s take a look at the strategies of the first five triads (which sound like the villains for the next Stephen Chow movie) and see which ones work well together, and which configurations have guilds whose designs are antithetical to one another. For those of you who likes yer words simple, that sentence should read “Which color combinations don’t work?”
Let me start by saying that U/B/R is perhaps the sketchiest full block triad listed. This is interesting, because U/B/R was one of the strongest color sets in RRG draft (along with B/G/W). This setup worked extremely well in RRG draft because Dimir and Izzet have similar strategies – they generally want to tie up the ground early and win in the late game via gradual attrition and card advantage. The guild you are adding to these two control strategies happens to be Rakdos. You know, the Hellbent-empty-your-hand-balls-to-the-wall, we-worship-demons-and-so-should-you guild? That’s the one. Long story short, Rakdos doesn’t seem to play very nice with their Dimir/Izzet cousins. The guild does have some very strong removal cards in it (Wrecking Ball and Twinstrike are fabulous, dahling), but if you are going to draft this particular triad, you either need to clean up in packs 1 and 2, or you need to find some U/B/R deck that empties its hand early and goes aggro. This will likely force you to pass a lot of the best Blue cards, which seems like a poor strategy overall.
The other triad that strikes me as a little weak is R/B/G, mostly because the Golgari cards want to do slightly different things than Gruul and Rakdos. The disparity isn’t as severe as U/B/R – Golgari is controlling, but has some aggressive drops and can oblige Hellbent by dumping dredge cards into the graveyard to be brought back later. However, it doesn’t seem to enhance the overall triad strategy as savvy drafters would like. This combination doesn’t appear particularly bad right now, but it’s not really a triad you’ll actively pick to be in unless you snag early Golgari bombs or you are intentionally metagaming into underdrafted color sets. Trying to draft a good deck comprised of the weakest guilds in each pack strikes me as suboptimal.
The other three-color triads all seem strong or better. I know it’s quite early to say something like this, but from what I’ve seen the aggressive R/W/U strategy might just be the nuts deck possible in RGD draft. You have commons like Legionnaires, Galvanic Arc, Faith’s Fetters, and Compulsive Research, plus a set of strong uncommons available in pack 1. You can then go almost entirely Izzet in pack 2, grabbing Weirds, Chronarchs, and Savants to shore up the ground and keep the card advantage going, and grab whatever glorious Azorius comes your way in pack 3. Aggressive decks love to draw some cards as they beat down, and this color combination probably gives you the best aggression (Boros and Azorius combine to make a helluva beatdown Guild) while keeping your card advantage high and giving you a lot of removal options as well. Forecast plus their big fliers even lets Azorius fare well in the late game, giving R/W/U players just about every possible option when it comes to building a good deck.
R/W/B is similarly powerful, though it trades the late-game of R/W/U for unbridled aggression. Orzhov doesn’t fit perfectly with Boros and Rakdos (bleeding is not the same as gushing), but it’s close enough, and once players figure out which Rakdos enablers are good and which are not, they’ll have an easier time building decks in this color set. Unfortunately, these three colors make you desperate to get all of your mana (and colors) online early, or else you can end up slow with a bunch of underpowered men in hand. R/W/B feels like it has great potential to go either 3-0 or 0-3, so figuring out what key signals tell you that you can draft a good R/W/B deck will be key.
The last full block triad is U/B/W, which is particularly interesting because it comes in control, aggro-control, and hint of lime flavors. Depending on which cards you see in packs or get passed, you can go for the full flier barrage with removal backup, or you can draft the full control setup, putting expansive asses on the floor faster than a Fly Girls reunion tour, and bleeding your opponent to death for wins. Since this is the only obvious control triad, I expect most of the players who only drafted U/B/R in RRG to switch to this one as their first preference, though forcing colors in this draft format appears to be a recipe for disaster. I guess we’ll find out in Prague.
3) A Couple Slightly Less Obvious Items
First of all, Simic cards are better than you think they are. Okay Jeroen, they aren’t better than you think they are, but everyone else needs to sit up straight and listen. Just because these cards have a lot of text on them is no excuse to keep passing people der nuts Simic deck to the lucky guy down the line. In the hands of someone with a clue, the +1/+1 counters can get totally out of hand and you end up facing a horde of flying fatties (squirt, squirt) that are nearly impossible to deal with. Coiling Oracle varies from decent to ridiculous (try putting a bounceland into play off of this), all of the Plaxes are pretty good, and Wall of Hats (Vigean Hydropon) is the perfect enabler for Simic/Gruul beatdown. Turian cast a turn 4 Ghor-Clan Savage against me in Seattle and then added another counter to it a turn later, then finally had the option to give it flying before he killed me. Surprisingly, he won that match…
The point here is that a) Simic is some good and b) since Simic is not part of any triad, the guild colors will naturally be underdrafted unless players are intentionally setting up third-pack drafting strategies. U/G/R works quite well for this because there are good mono-color cards in Ravnica, and then you get two excellent guilds in Guildpact to go along with token madness in pack 3. Speaking of third-pack drafting, both Azorius and Simic are strong enough to make players seriously consider doing just that. Obviously you can’t get by on just one pack of playables, but you can certainly put yourself in position to draft the best cards that come to you in pack 3. You just have to pray the guy one or two spaces to your right doesn’t have the same ideas, or you just bought yourself a 1-2 or worse.
Another thing to be aware of is that RGD is going to encourage a lot of four-color decks, and even without a fourth color, mark of the beast manabases will be back in force. Green players can naturally skew this way (Civic Wayfinder is now an obvious first pick unless there’s a real bomb in the pack, while Farseek moves up as well), but other players will be filling in holes via Karoos and Signets. Don’t expect to table either unless your pack is completely retarded, and even then you won’t be getting many Karoos after 5th pick. Regardless, if you can get the manabases right, four-color decks will be very powerful, both with Green’s color-fixing and without. Expect to see a lot of these at the Pro Tour.
Tim Aten says karoos can beat everyone short of Das Hopper. I think this might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight. By now, however, all of you should know just how good bouncelands are, and explaining it further should be entirely redundant.
Other Stuff You Should Know
I already mentioned how Vigean Hydropon is both subtle and much better than it looks, but another card you should be aware of is Delirium Skeins. It looks terrible, but is important in making Rakdos strategies work and has the potential to blow midgame decks completely out of the water by making them discard a host of fatties before they ever get to hit the board.
Because Karoos are so important in the format, you’d either need one or none in your deck, or have to be completely crazy not to play first in a draft. Even then (and you might not realize it yet), there are a lot of viable aggro strategies floating around, and letting them play first is tantamount to asking for a punch in the mouth from Oscar De La Hoya. I mean yeah, Oscar weighs all of 150-160 and speaks with a soft voice, and the Golden Boy isn’t the bravest fighter or the biggest puncher out there, but it’s still a punch in the mouth from a boxer. BDM mentioned that the Eidolons could possibly make the discard less painful, but most of the Eidolons are not awesome (though they are nice to discard to Compulsive Research) and the tempo concerns are still there. I like Chad Ellis work more than most, but having been punched in the mouth before, I advise against it.
Oh, and for the record – Jon** chooses to play.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that this format is very much about drafting your mana, both in real terms (actual lands) and in the abstract (mana symbols). There’s an artistry to knowing when to prioritize mana-fixing and when to take the good spell/creature, and it will be interesting to see who can find the right balance before Prague.
I leave for Prague on Saturday, and if I’m not too drunk, exhausted, or busy sightseeing, I might just check in with a postcard from the Czech Republic next week with late-breaking updates and stories from my first trip to Continental Europe.
** Yes, that Jon.
Young Drew Barrymores
You are on the play and cast a Signet on turn 2, with Black, White, and Red mana all available for turn 3. Your opponent plays a Karoo on turn 2, and that is now his only land. You have Wrecking Ball in hand – do you destroy the Karoo on turn 3?
So Finkel is playing in Prague – What’s the over/under line on where he will finish? Top 64? Top 16? I’m curious for opinions from laypeople here.
The Kitchen Sink
It’s hard to feel bad for Dave Williams because he lives a charmed life, but having the Poker World find out about your movie career can’t be much fun. It’s not like this is much different than all the idiocy that happens on MySpace and a hundred slightly more seedy websites every day. In fact, nowadays it seems like everyone either is making or wants to make dirty movies.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Sam Gomersall may or may not have given an occifer of da law the full “Nossir!” when the officer suggested he stop peeing on the wall of a 7-11 recently. Said cop then may or may not have taken him downtown for said behavior, though one can only assume that he waited until Sam’s bladder had finished its chore.
I would just like to state that I have officially disowned StarWarsKid as my barn/son. Not attending the Dissension prerelease was the final straw. Applications for a replacement son will be taken when I get back from Prague.
Billy Moreno Daily series was worth reading for the novelty value, but Goodman and Lebedowicz have been both fun and interesting. You’d have to be a complete idiot not to take time out of your oh-so-busy schedules to devour their writing. Oh, and Luca Chiera’s sister might just be one of the Top 10 most attractive women I have seen in real life, but I have a thing for girls that look like she does, so feel free to throw my opinion on this matter out the window. I am, however, looking forward to Audrey Tautou in The DaVinci Code.
[fearphage] hark: did you invent douchebaggery?
[Hark] no, I just perfected it
[Mozzie] oh come on
[Mozzie] 10:37 rhoaen: Nice deck.
[Mozzie] 10:37 rhoaen has lost the connection.
[rhoaen] that’s you?
[rhoaen] nice deck.
[knutedit] I have this “Avant Guide” for Prague I was flipping through
[knutedit] and before I got to the hotels section
[knutedit] I came across the brothel and cabaret section
[knutedit] ran out of time to look for hotels…
[Riptide] maybe we can just stay in a brothel for a week or so
[Riptide] draft with the girls
[Sadeg] it’s like [zr0e] man jelger is johan unreal stupid
[Sadeg] [zr0e] awkward
[Sadeg] then he puts me on ignore
[Sadeg] such a meanie
[knutwrite] johan is mean but in a happy swede way
[knutwrite] it’s very disconcerting
[Sadeg] happy swede way 🙂
[Riptide] happy swede way???
[Riptide] johan is just mean.
[knutwrite] look mr sad swede
[KeeblrElf] i’ve never seen him be mean in my life
[knutwrite] if you could be a little more like johan, people might vote for you once in a awhile
[Riptide] dear god
[Riptide] this world does NOT need another sadeg.
[zr0e–] of course it does
[Riptide] he once kicked a 10 year old in the face just for laughs
[zr0e–] that was Ben Goodman
[zr0e–] not a 10 year old
[knutwrite] I bet it was funny, though
AntonJ: any masashis in the q at all?
ael2: uh oh
AntonJ: now im just happy im missing
AntonJ: richie = unbeatable
There are 8 players in the queue.
Jedco15: nooo!!! not Rich Hoaen!
AntonJ: wtf just happened
[Stii] zr0e, is your top8 list antti and richie?
[zr0e–] 1. finkel 2. anton 3. jelger 4. tomohiro 5. Richie
[JelgerW] I think you typo’d your 3rd pick
[jeroenr] xcept, at our prereleases there is enough product for 1 side-event
[jeroenr] and it will be DiDiDi
[Riptide] YOU GET SIDE-EVENTS?
[Sadeg] i cant even imagine
[Riptide] our side event is punching each other in the face
[Riptide] (i usually pick the smallest kid there just to be safe)
[gomersall] just don’t pee against a 7-11
[gomersall] it’s not a good idea
GTMoney: There is ONE cable company called Cox
GTMoney: All cable companies are Cox
GTMoney: If you know what I mean
GTMoney: They’re giant, giant Cox
GTMoney: I’m just wondering if they can somehow merge with Wang computers
GTMoney: To form Cox-Wang Entertainment
GTMoney: Then, that company could be bought by
GTMoney: Boniface N’Dong
GTMoney: Of the L.A. Clippers
GTMoney: Cox-Wang N’Dong
[mixedknut] so my wife asked me what I was going to do in Prague next week
[mixedknut] I had to stifle the instinctive urge to respond, “Prostitutes, ofc.”
[mixedknut] No good could possibly have come of that.