Welcome back, everybody. I hope you’re well-rested and full of the same passion for life that I feel each and every day of my deeply meaningful existence.
A little while ago, I got an e-mail from someone who reads my column (yeah, I’m as surprised as you are). The person in question, who goes by the Magic Online nickname Pugg Fuggly, has done me a great service by providing me with some nice material for an article… Namely, this one.
Mr. Fuggly did what Nick”Soooooo… That’s game boys!!!” Eisel had done back when he was a hardcore MODOer – he did an online draft, listing the possible picks and the card he actually chose. My job is to appraise what he did masterfully, what was all right, and what he could have done better.
Since this is a somewhat lengthy and time-consuming process, let’s get started. The card he chose will be in bold at the end of the list, with discussion following.
Pugg realized that most of the cards in the pack could hardly be considered viable first picks. I included only the playables, and even some of those are stretching it. He chose Pacifism over Mythic Proportions because he said he wanted to send a strong signal that he was not green. Even if you have a strong preference for white, I would still strongly recommend taking Mythic Proportions, which Pugg correctly identifies as a bomb. Granted, the new set has Daru Sanctifier, Nantuko Vigilante, and Echo Tracer, among other hate cards for the enchantment; however, Pacifism is an enchantment, too, and has the same limitations. The Proportions are fragile, because of the removal, bounce, and chance of the creature getting killed in response… But once it resolves, it can make a lot of games unfair. I think of it as an 8/8 evasion creature with haste for seven mana. Pacifism is a decent white signal, only causing confusion if the person to your left thinks you took a white rare.
It won’t be of much help to continue appraising this draft as though he’d first-picked the Proportions, so we’ll just take it from what he had.
Good Lord was this pack horrible. Pugg notes that the rare was missing, which is a point of interest, but doesn’t really help the pick much. All in all, this is an easy pick, since most of the rest of the cards are mediocre. White/black is a fine color combination, and Cruel Revival is an excellent card.
Another mediocre pack. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to notice that the packs are often all very good or all very bad. Anyway, this pick boils down to Ascending Aven vs. Aven Fateshaper. Either way, the person to the left may be tempted to take a blue card – but if we decide to go blue, we can severely cut it for the rest of the pack to prevent getting cut pack 2. If you’re hesitant about going into blue, the Fateshaper is the call, as it’s an easier splash. The Fateshaper is obviously a more powerful card, but the Ascending Aven is much faster. Pugg says that passing an Ascending Aven is a weaker signal for the next person down to go into blue, and he may be right. Seeing an Ascending Aven 5th pick or so just isn’t surprising. Ascending Aven is definitely better in blue/white due to its soldier status.
Seven mana isn’t unattainable, and no one wants to have to deal with a 4/5 flier. To further complicate things, there are reasonable substitutes for both cards (Mistform Seaswift and Primoc Escapee) in Legions. I guess I’d take the Ascending Aven, because it’s three mana less and only has 1 less power, but it’s a decision I’m glad I didn’t have to make myself.
Wow, what on earth is wrong with these packs? Pugg says the Fateshaper is a clear pick here, and I agree. In hindsight, the Ascending Aven was definitely the pick, but I was leaning in that direction anyway, as two Fateshapers are a little excessive. You’d still probably play them both, but be careful about your curve.
If you were green, you could have taken the Warrior… But I’m not going to dwell on that anymore. The best card in the pack happens to fall in one of our prospective colors, so we might as well scoop it up.
The packs are thinning out more drastically and quickly. I agree with this pick as well. Black/blue decks need a little bit of ground stall, like the various walls and even Crypt Slivers, paired with an aggressive air force. Pugg Fuggly says that he hasn’t really had much success with blue/black. That being the case, I don’t know which is better – to shy away from certain colors, or to get practice when them if the situation arises to get better with them. I prefer the latter, but I also understand that some people’s play styles aren’t compatible with certain types of decks. When there are two cards of roughly equal power level, like Solar Blast and Pacifism, with all else equal, the pick often comes down to color preference. Some lucky individual has two Daru Cavaliers, which are nearly bombs with this crappy card pool.
Pugg says he took the Slide because he wanted to leave his options open, perhaps not abandoning his white just yet. I disagree with this; I’ll take his second choice, Riptide Biologist. First, he passed along some decent white (compared to the rest of the card pool) already. Second, he doesn’t have any cyclers yet, and while Astral Slide is pretty good, I don’t think it’s good enough to start forcing cyclers. Third, the Biologist fits in with the ground stall part of blue/black’s air/fear assault. And finally, there are no other blue cards in the pack, so our cutting off the person to the left, should he have wandered into blue, would be complete.
Explosion this late is sort of odd; perhaps it should have been considered as well for a possible move into blue/red, but I’m not sure this is such a good idea.
Says Pugg,”A fine blue card, and it’s a bit surprising to see it go this late.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. This pack was probably the best one at the table when they all had fifteen cards in them. As we would hope, there’s likely at most only one other blue drafter at the table.
This was all that was listed from the rest of the first pack that was potentially relevant. Airborne Aid is unlikely to get maindecked, of course, but with Imagecrafters and birds, who knows? Chain of Vapor can be a nice trick, but its utility decreases if you have an Echo Tracer or two.
At this point, we’re clearly blue. We don’t have many black or white cards, so we could really go either way. Hey, if we open Rorix or Slice and Dice, we may abandon our other secondary colors altogether. Onto pack two…
Pick One: Daunting Defender, Screaming Seahawk, Leery Fogbeast, Misery Charm, Wirewood Elf, Daru Healer, Secluded Steppe, Solar Blast, Dawning Purist, Dwarven Blastminer, Gratuitous Violence, Festering Goblin
This one stings a little. The Erratic Explosion pick pack one is coming back to haunt us now. We hadn’t been getting a red signal, but then again, we hadn’t been getting a signal in anything but blue, really. If red were still an option, the pick would still be rough. Violence is the better card – but this late in the game, it’s unclear how much red would be in the deck, making it hard to”splash” triple-red. Solar Blast may have been the pick.
But all is not lost. The point of no return varies from draft to draft, depending on card quality and depth in each color. Taking the Solar Blast here leaves options open, but Festering Goblin cements you into blue/black. There should be a fair amount of black coming this pack, since not much of significance was passed in that direction. At this point, I would probably suck it up and take the Goblin as well, passing the red to the right and hoping for better things pack three.
Pick Two: Dirge of Dread, Daru Cavalier, Battering Craghorn, Mistform Wall, Battlefield Medic, Pinpoint Avalanche, Krosan Tusker, Daru Lancer, Improvised Armor, Flamestick Courier, Righteous Cause, Cruel Revival
A nice pack (especially for white), and we get one of the best two cards out of it. I’m not feeling so bad about the last pick anymore. It doesn’t look likely that we’ll see anything back from this pack, unfortunately. We’re in full blue/black mode now, so anything we take that isn’t in those colors will be a hate or a potential splash.
Again, Pugg says it best:”A pretty obvious pick considering that I’m now firmly entrenched in U/B.” I always like it when one of the best cards in the pack just happens to be in my color.
A decent pick from a poor pack. I agree with Choking Tethers over Complicate, since Complicate is unreliable. By the time you can afford to leave mana open for it, it is often the case that your opponent has the mana to pay for it. Complicate is still a fine card that is perfectly maindeckable and can catch opponents off guard and draw a card… But Tethers cycles early, cycles to tap a key attacker or blocker in the late game, and can serve as a combination Fog/Falter to help you win the race.
Pacifism… Hmm. Things are still going our way, though, with a solid removal spell for the deck. The Fallen Cleric would have been spicy with double Imagecrafter, but Swat is obviously the correct call.
Not much to explain here. A very weak pack with a respectable card for us; this makes me feel better about the other Biologist we passed up. Plus, while it’s not as big as the Fallen Cleric, it still works alright in conjunction with Imagecrafter.
The Buzzard is a 2/2 flier for four with a nice drawback for your opponent. It’s easily tied with the best card in the pack. This deck is really filling out nicely. The white/blue deck would have been about as strong; it would have been different, but not necessarily better, as it would have a rough go of things against a Sparksmith or a Timberwatch Elf.
Nothing for us really. I’m usually leery of playing the Pressure maindeck, but with a Mistform and two Imagecrafters already, it might be very good in this deck. Against opposing white decks, it shouldn’t be too hard to snatch a nice bird.
…and nothing else of relevance in pack 2. The Seahawk is unlikely to be played, but the Mistform Wall was a stroke of good fortune (or how LUCKY, to the layperson). At its best with a Lavamancer’s Skill on it, the Wall nonetheless has a place in this deck to stall the ground while the birds attack. Also, it’s another Mistform, so Peer Pressure may see play yet.
I’m not a big fan of the Couriers, because all your opponent has to do is kill a tapped one-toughness creature midcombat to wreck you, but the Ghosthelm is an acceptable 23rd should the last pack be harsh. And now for Legions…
Pick One: Nantuko Vigilante, Macetail Hystrodon, Deftblade Elite, Embalmed Brawler, Skirk Marauder, Glintwing Invoker, Timberwatch Elf, Daru Sanctifier, Aven Redeemer, Mistform Seaswift, Canopy Crawler, Shifting Sliver, Warbreak Trumpeter, Glowrider, Smokespew Invoker
Lumbergh:”Yeah, I’m gonna have to go ahead and sort of disagree with you… Yyyyeaah.”
According to Pugg,”removal is removal.” Yes, removal is removal, but efficient fliers are efficient fliers. The Smokepew is a very good card, but it’s better in more defensive decks. It will definitely be a welcome addition – but in a deck like this, you want to attack in the air quickly. In most games with this deck, by the time you get to eight mana, the outcome will rarely be in question. And since there are no other spectacular blue cards in the pack, I can’t say that I expect the Swift to come back. (Theoretically, the Swift should almost never come back around the table, but it does so frequently enough that you must consider it as a possibility.) Of course, the Smokepew man makes the lap sometimes too.
Pick Two: Hundroog (Ferrett please no), Lowland Tracker, Crypt Sliver, Deftblade Elite, Skirk Outrider, Infernal Caretaker, Wall of Hope, Merchant of Secrets, Daru Mender, Wirewood Channeler, Keeneye Aven
Pugg correctly assesses this to be a mediocre pack, then correctly chooses the excellent flier in his colors. Not much to say about that.
Pugg deemed this a difficult decision. And it would have been for me as well until I read his sidenotes. I was reminded that not only does Cruel Revival fetch the Ultimus, but it also makes an easy target for the Shapeshifter. There wasn’t anything you could reliably shift into play (except the newly picked Zombie Mutant) until now. Now all he has to do is name Cat or Clone or Legend or whatever when the Shifter is about to die. It sucks passing another Seaswift, though; since he didn’t take the first one, I’d consider taking this one. Had he taken the first one, the pick would have been more easily the Ultimus. The Escapee doesn’t really warrant consideration because it’s worse than the other two and doesn’t fit with the curve; the seven-slot is already full enough.
In Mr. Fuggly’s words,”A raredraft, plain and simple. It didn’t seem worth it to exchange a Caretaker for a third of a ticket.” Being a notorious raredrafter myself, I find it hard to argue with him given the circumstances. Usually when I raredraft online, I make sure it’s worth a full ticket, but let’s face it – the card he takes out of this pack is unlikely to make the cut in his deck anyway. Ooh, column idea. I could write about when to raredraft on MODO… Maybe…
Nice, nice, nice. Excellent on its own, works better with Mistforms, including the ever-popular Ultimus (as Pugg himself noted).
Just the man we wanted to see. The Wall is an incredible card, and rather versatile due to its single blue morph cost. Play it face up on turn 2 and start playing fliers; play it face down turn 3, trade it with a morph (while keeping it alive), then turn it down again the next turn to attack if the board is clear.
This pick is tough. Mr. Fuggly seems to be a pretty good drafter, but his judgment was a little off this time around. The choice is between Crypt Sliver and Goblin Turncoat. The Crypt Sliver works with the Mistforms and the Spectral Sliver and even helps stall the ground, while the Turncoat has an important extra power and provides an easy sacrifice mechanism for the Festering Goblins. Since there was a Crypt Sliver in pack 2 that we could possibly see again, I’m leaning toward the Turncoat. What do you think about this pick?
If he’d really wanted a Voidmage Apprentice, this would be the one to take. I guess the Wakecaster could help, since we really didn’t get as many fliers as we would have liked. Also possible is hating the Needleshot Gourna. Hate drafting in an eight-man usually doesn’t accomplish much, but there’s nothing too exciting for us in this pack anyway, and one less Gourna to halt our whole offense is a good thing.
Pick Nine: Nantuko Vigilante, Embalmed Brawler, Glintwing Invoker, Daru Sanctifier, Warbreak Trumpeter, Shifting Sliver
In this deck, I certainly agree with this pick. The Brawler isn’t that great, and our late game is already covered by the black Invoker and the Fateshapers. We needed another evasion creature, and while somewhat weak, the Shifting Sliver fits the bill.
Not much to say here. May or may not make the cut, but without looking too closely at the card pool we have, I’d say probably not. But it does get back that lovable Ultimus!
This one’s sort of close. The Operative is overall a worse card, but those two Fateshapers continue to loom large in our decision-making. The Escapee may still be the pick, since it can be cycled away if it’s unaffordable or redundant.
Pick Twelve: Infernal Caretaker
Looks like raredrafting was the right call, even if it’s only 1/3 of a ticket.
And now onto deck construction…
Here’s what I would build:
2 Aven Fateshaper
Wall of Deceit
2 Cruel Revival
2 Festering Goblin
My deck differs from Pugg Fuggly in a few ways. Where I have Fateshaper #2, Imagecrafter, and Choking Tethers, he has Voidmage Apprentice, Peer Pressure, and Infernal Caretaker. The morphs he included are little better than off-color morphs, although there is a chance I would play one over Imagecrafter.
Imagecrafter can do some neat tricks, not the least of which is turning opposing zombies into something else so that they can be Revivaled. The deck as I made it is rather low in morph count; morph creatures are quite valuable, and you should try to have a decent number. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t, though.
I think the second Fateshaper is fine, as the Primoc cycles. I usually like to run seventeen land if I have no cyclers, but including all three seven-drops pushes it over to the definite eighteen realm. Many pros like to play with eighteen all the time so that they never miss the crucial turn 3 land drop.
Peer Pressure is interesting, but I don’t think there’s enough creature-type manipulation to use it without diluting the deck with another Imagecrafter. I’d still side it in against bombs with unusual creature types, like Cat, Gorgon, or Orgg.
As for the Tethers, I can say with a high degree of confidence that it was a mistake for Mr. Fuggly not to run it. It’s far too useful in just about every deck with blue in it, and it’s never a dead card.
A final note is on the land. Pugg played one more Swamp and one less Island than I did. I can understand this, as the deck isn’t mana symbol-intensive. For me, though, since the quantity of blue cards nearly doubled the quantity of black cards, I prefer the 10/8 distribution. 10/8 means there will be a slightly lower chance of a turn 1 Festering Goblin, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially since the goblin isn’t a mandatory turn 1 play.
Pugg Fuggly included a match report along with his draft and deck. Let’s see how he did with his version of the deck.
Round One vs. Tormented
Game One: I win the die roll and choose to play first. I keep a good opening hand of two Islands, two Swamps, a Caretaker, a Smokespew Invoker, and a Primoc Escapee. Before we start, however, Tormented says,”I think my deck is absolutely sexy good….I’d be impressed if you win (no offense meant).”
Round One vs. Tormented(1784 Limited Rating)
As an aside, who uses”sexy” to describe Magic cards, other than Michael J. Flores? Is Tormented Michael J. Flores? I’m sure my regional lingo sounds dumb to most people, too, but there are some things that I’d imagine most people find asinine. Like when Jesse, a small child who plays at Compendium, started to say use”sauce” to describe something good, like topdecking a Shock. *shudder*- Tim)
I drop my Swamp and he drops a Plains. I drop a second Swamp, he lays a Swamp, and he drops Oversold Cemetery… The rest of the game was pretty much downhill from there. I get decent draws, and get a few attacks in, but eventually his army of clerics does me in. There was a point where I could have stolen a couple of his creatures with the Peer Pressure, as he had Aven Redeemer, Whipgrass Entangler, Vile Deacon (attacking as 7/7 at one point), Cabal Archon, and yes, Glarecaster. I had a Primoc Escapee, a Mistform Wall, and a Keeneye Aven to steal his two Birds, but I had to wait for him to tap out, since he was just short of Cemetery range.
Of course, since I didn’t actually see the game, there’s nothing I can say about what happened. Who knows if the play was perfect, or if some bad judgment calls were made? Speaking of bad judgment, Mr. Fuggly sideboarded in some plains and a Demystify, presumably just for the Cemetery.
First, this involves weakening your mana base. That isn’t too much of a problem for this deck, since most of its spells require only one colored mana. Second, I only sideboard in focused enchantment removal like Demystify or Naturalize if I have a really good reason. Usually I will bring in enchantment removal only if I see two problematic enchantments. I don’t know the exact statistics, but what if your opponent draws Cemetery and you don’t draw Demystify? What if you draw Demystify but he doesn’t play any enchantments? In other words, you want your drawing of Demystify to coincide with his playing of a problem enchantment. Ask Zvi about the odds of that one. But in the end, it would take multiple enchantments – say, Cemetery and Pacifism – or an incredibly powerful enchantment I had no answer to – which, for some decks, would be something like Mythic Proportions – for me to go crazy with the enchantment kill.
Game two wasn’t even close. I managed to draw both of my plains pretty quickly, and I got to seven mana and a Primoc pretty fast while not being flooded, but he dropped the Cemetery on the second turn again – and this time he had a Nantuko Husk to help him out. Not to mention a Havoc Demon and that Archon again. Plus, he said he had Exalted Angel in his deck. Booooomb-tastic.
Pugg also mentioned that he messed up with his Shapeshifter, naming a creature type that he’d already drawn all the representatives of. Not that this mattered; The Demon was already doing the dirty work by this point. Fair enough – but that’s no excuse, Pugg!
That’s all for now, kids. A special thanks once again to Pugg Fuggly for providing me with material. Even though mistakes were made, the potential for greatness is there; he seems to have a pretty good idea of what he’s doing.
Next time: a bucket, a mop, and an illustrated book about birds.