My Worlds Part 2 – Standard Matches and Draft Preparation

My Worlds by Zvi Mowshowitz
Last Friday, Zvi Mowshowitz talked us through the decision processes that led him to his powerful Blue/Black Faeries deck for the Standard portion of Worlds 2007. Today we see the deck in action – five rounds against the best players the world has to offer. Zvi then moves on to tales of his preparations for triple Lorwyn draft…

[Part 1 – Standard Preparation.]

Part 1 can be found here

Last week, I took you through some of the thoughts behind my choice of deck for the Standard portion of Worlds 2007. Today, I walk you through the five rounds of Standard play before moving onto some general thoughts on triple Lorwyn draft…

For reference, here is my Worlds Standard U/B Faeries decklist.

Let’s go!

Round 1: Asaf Shomer [ISR]

All four Hall of Fame inductees had first round feature matches, so I shuffled up under the lights against Asaf’s Guile deck. It quickly became clear what he was up to and we settled into the match. Pendelhaven allowed me to get around Desert as planned, forcing him onto a clock. He tried to answer with cards like Venser and Guile, but even if they resolve they do very little to stop me since they cannot block and it was too late to race. There’s a game where my draw is beyond awkward and I can’t put him on a good enough clock thanks to a giant flood, then in game 3 he stalls on land, making the conclusion anti-climactic. I’m still wondering if I could have won game 2 by simply attacking with a bunch of Conclaves, as I had him down to six, but I tried to fight a war instead and he had the goods. The Guile matchup is about sitting around and waiting on both sides. If he lets you stick a Clique or a Scion it’s over in short order, unless he can resolve a Sower of Temptation or other large spell in response. Eventually he can overpower you, but eventually is a long time and Pendelhaven puts him on a ten turn clock even against Desert. Pithing Needle made game 3 interesting by taking out Pendelhaven, but he was too far behind. One note for those back home is that you do run Terror after sideboarding in this matchup, as killing Sower of Temptation and Teferi are vital and often he has to force them out by test spelling on your turn and then tapping out on his own turn to force the issue.

Round 2: Florian Pils [DEU]

I believe Pils was playing a counterless Mannequin deck. This gives you all sorts of control over what happens, since you have all the veto power, but he has an awful lot of cards that are annoying for you. I make a huge mistake in game 1 by not running a Sprite out there on turn 2, and I know it right away, forcing me to play around threats to Clique the entire game and finally getting through his four Conclaves by topdecking Cryptic Command before he can get up his defenses and start to let his card advantage do its work. Game 2 is less interesting, and I win without incident with a curved out draw that overwhelms him. I see the Mannequin matchup as strong for you, since they can’t use their artifact creatures to block. That means that you can win with a fast draw, but they have to win a long game against the deck with all the counters. You need to play carefully since they can snowball their advantage quickly if given the chance, but the natural edge feels very strong to me.

Round 3: Yujian Zhou [SGP]

Zhou is playing Guile as well. By this time I’ve heard about Dragonstorm and other such goodies, but I’m stuck in a previous metagame. That’s fine by me, but it all goes so very wrong. The first game I can’t get pressure thanks to an unanswered Desert, and he has a storage land, which is something the Guile deck seems like it should have more of but it likely can’t afford the color. He gets out a Factory as well, and I have to force the issue; a waiting game against Guile isn’t always lost, but a storage land forces your hand and he was doing an excellent job of knowing when he needed to hold open his mana. Several times he even missed a storage counter due to what might happen if he added one, and every time he was right to do so even if I didn’t always have the response. To have a shot against you Guile players need to know exactly when they can and cannot accumulate resources. When he starts to go for it, I know that time is against me so I try to Cryptic Command the storage land, but a fight ensues that ends with a Guile hitting the table and I don’t have a clock to compete with it. We get into a fight and he steals a bunch of Sprites, which is more than enough. Game 2 I cross my fingers on turn 2 but he drops the Desert and when I attack with the Oona’s Prowler anyway he’s too smart for that and takes the damage. I no longer can go for Scion without risking Sower, and I know that if I go for it I force him to try, so we settle into a waiting game again. I get Pendelhaven-fueled attacking going after a few turns, but he draws the third Desert! Suddenly I have to force the Scion to do anything, and when he tries for Teferi we have a huge counter war that results in Teferi sticking along with one Scion, and I lose all the counters out of my hand except for a Cryptic Command. I untap and consider my options; I have a strong army. I attack with everyone but the Scion and hold the Command, which I figure should beat him if he doesn’t have a Sower. If he has one, the Command only keeps Teferi out for one turn so I probably lose even if I try to play around it. On the other hand, if I attack with Scion then he might win without the Sower. He has the Sower, takes Scion, trades creatures off in ways I’m not sure he had to do but which leave me devastated. At this point I have to try and get beyond lucky, so I use the Command on Teferi, but he has me decidedly outgassed and it’s over quickly. At the end we talk about the tactics surrounding the second game and he comments that I played well, which is both nice to hear and not what you want to hear. I’m supposed to be the one who says that!

Round 4: Kelvin Yew Teck [SGP]

Kelvin is an old friend who I worked with back when we had Worlds off in Sydney. We chat about various historical and strategic questions during the match, and generally have a good relaxing time. It turns out he’s more or less done after this tournament, which is too bad. He’s playing Red/Green mana ramp, which he knows is not a good matchup for him, but he does have maindeck Cloudthresher. It doesn’t show up in game 1, and an army of pests stings him to death while he ramps up his mana and I counter his Harmonizes. I sideboard in Flashfreeze and again counter everything that doesn’t involve mana development in game 2, including Eyes of the Wisent, while playing around Cloudthresher. His draws were terrible and he was never in it, but either way the match is clearly very tough. There’s no doubt you want to bring in Thoughtsieze here if you have it, which together with Flashfreeze turns this from awful into a complete nightmare since you know whether you have to fear them at any given time. He’s a Legacy expert, who I learn is planning to play the modern Landstill model that Allen Sorenson ran at GenCon. He thinks there won’t be anything too innovative, which is generally what Legacy people think since they obviously would have thought of it by now. I leave considering more seriously having a third color of mana available, and make sure to have Aura of Silence in my sideboard…

Round 5: Osyp Lebedowicz [USA]

Osyp’s deck is a Mono-Red burn deck. Game 1 is about Gargadon math, as I have to constantly figure out if he can go all-in and whether he wants to or not while he builds up to getting it normally, and trying to figure out which turn to drop the Clique to slow him down enough to win the race. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the tempo set up so that he can’t win. I can’t actually counter Gargadon since its mana cost is ten and all I have is Sprite, but I have double Clique so he can’t attack for damage or do much else while I’m swinging in the air beyond his copy of the five-damage 3/3. It’s clearly a squeaker, but I do the math on the situation and see that I have Clique to tap him out and he has only one card and two lands; the Sprite counters anything he could play, and if he doesn’t play anything I can play it out safely to chump block and win at one life either way short of Sudden Shock. He then spends a few minutes on my upkeep since he can’t figure out why I Championed an untapped creature rather than a tapped one. I know I have the game so I suggest that it’s because I’m an idiot. It’s an interesting question whether that’s technically true; my play was clearly worse if I’d missed something, but also put me in no danger. Once you see a play that always wins it’s hard to keep thinking. I sideboard in Terror and Flashfreeze, he boards out Gargadon. I draw no pressure and have to Terror a pair of Martyr of Ashes – it seems strange to me that these are still in his deck. I then get the pressure going, but even with a terrible draw his burn adds up surprisingly fast. On the last turn I have a choice to make; if I run the Scion out there I can’t fail to kill on the next turn, but it means I can’t fizzle Lash Out. However, to win that way he has to have exactly Lash Out and then Lash Out or Incinerate, and he then had to both make a land drop and win a clash. I didn’t think about Lash Out as much as I should have, and it’s possible I could have won without risking it. In any case, he needed to untap, Lash Out, win the clash, put the card on the bottom, then hit a Mountain for Incinerate to take the game to game 3. He won the clash, but missed the Mountain.

After the match, I hear Osyp saying my deck is really good, which isn’t the type of thing people like Osyp generally say when decks like Dragonstorm are out there, so initially I assume he’s being beyond sarcastic but it turns out he means it. I exchange decks with Chapin, and we compare notes before getting ready to draft.

Getting ready to draft meant learning Lorwyn. My first draft with Lorwyn was a six man we did with reconstructed packs assembled from previously drafted cards, since the set hadn’t been released. In that draft, I started with Knight of Meadowgrain since it seemed like the best card, and ended up with all the Kithkin. Jon Finkel commented that my deck would get a lot of very good draws and a lot of very bad draws, since it was based on things like Cenn’s Heir, and that’s what happened. I went 2-1, and after a 1-2 with my second draft my third managed to go 3-0 with a White/Red blend of Kithkin and Giants. My Kithkin phase was in full swing.

I tried to get more real life drafts in, but it was difficult. My job is not a nine to five, instead requiring me to work weekends and many nights but giving me days off during the week according to its own schedule. That meant that I was incompatible with all those jokers who had these things other people call jobs and wanted to draft when they didn’t have to be at work. Instead it would have to be Magic Online. I retrieved my password and started lining up for the draft queues. I did one 4-3-2-2 to warm up, then nothing but 8-4s. I have a lot of respect for those guys, and it took me about ten drafts to get to the point where I was playing on their level.

At first I thought Kithkin were good, which lasted until I drafted them against knowledgeable opponents a few times. Then I went through a Merfolk phase, when Blue was still underdrafted online and you could get a lot of pretty insane decks that way. The synergies of Merfolk seemed far better than what Faeries had to offer; when Faeries fizzled you didn’t have much, and when they succeeded you were still beatable. Merfolk decks could scramble and when they came together they didn’t lose. I almost always drafted them aggressive rather than defensive, with a frequent emphasis on Islandwalk. Again, this made sure I had game if things went badly, as I was practicing for Worlds rather than trying to win queues. Elves were next as I learned about the power of Huntmaster and Branchcutter, which is highly underrated, and for a while I would often start with a mix of Green and Blue cards and decide later which way to focus. This also led to me figuring out how to draft UGx, with Sadin’s additional advice to prioritize the mana fixers. The Merfolk-Elves fork is actually a powerful strategy when it comes up.

Once I got strong enough with Elves, the Treefolk started to look appealing as I noticed how late I could get not just jokers like Cloudcrown and Battlewand Oak but even Thorntooth Witches, and especially the white guys in a pinch. I drafted these decks a bunch, which generally ended up being good but not great. Occasionally you got some ridiculous effects, although they weren’t quite as ridiculous as the others. The best use of them was as a backdoor option in case you went Green or Black/Green and Elves proved unavailable. Later on I’d try the White versions and the three color versions, which is a Green deck with two splashes.

Then there were the funky decks. I tried Elementals in a bunch of different ways. The overly focused version that had lots of tribal synergy proved awful for all the reasons Kithkin were awful, so I soon learned that there are two Elemental options. You can draft them as a non-tribe, using them for tempo as a subtheme, or you can do the Smokebraider hustle. Either way, it wasn’t some place I wanted to go due to a lot of key cards being irreplaceable and/or rare but it can work, and the one draft I did at Neutral Ground I won with a deck featuring double Horde of Notions. I learned how to take the best cards and hold the deck together with Changelings and string, which BDM referred to as professional style drafting. Near the end I finally had a straight up chance to draft the Goblin deck, which went fine but didn’t impress me. Given my strategy of going for high reward cards it seemed unlikely I would ever end up there. The last tribe was Giants, which I did a couple of times on Magic Online when I had access to Thundercloud Shaman but I never went into it speculatively. It’s quite possible that’s the mistake that cost me the tournament, but more on that later.

After a while things got clicking. I had a day when I did five drafts and only dropped one final match to Andrew Cuneo in which I successfully put him on Makeshift Mannequin without having seen it. That made me feel very wired in to the format even though his Thundercloud Shaman won out in the end. The biggest thing I do differently than many other drafters is I always play the finals out. I don’t understand how you can think that four to six games is enough to figure out what was right or wrong about your deck and how you can improve for next time. By constantly splitting drafters are saying they know what makes a good deck and exactly how to play. I don’t believe that for a second. Knowing what you want and how to use it is at least as important as how to get it.

The biggest decision you make in any draft is what colors you should draft, and that is a function of where you want to be. Early on it was clear that Blue was the strongest color, and The Rule applies but the full version would say “Draft Blue unless everyone else knows The Rule.”

There’s a problem. They know.

I would like to offer an updated version: “Draft Blue unless everyone knows The Rule and not everyone knows that everyone knows.”

Sadin reported back from Daytona Beach that everyone was drafting Blue. Blue was comically overdrafted. So I had to decide whether that meant it would still be overdrafted or if Blue had peaked and would come down in time. In the end I decided to draft naturally, which meant treating White as the weakling it is but not having much of a bias elsewhere.

Join me tomorrow, when I put this information into practice…