In the middle of August, I returned to Pittsburgh and to CMU. This year, instead of getting a dorm room or a small apartment, four friends and I managed to pull ourselves together and rent a house just a few blocks away from the universities. Given the fact that we all met via Magic, it’s not very surprising that there’s a draft taking place downstairs as I type, and that we’re already brainstorming ideas to try out when the whole Lorwyn spoiler is leaked. In the same vein of Nick Eisel old “Night at the O” articles, I bring to you the collective thoughts of the Magic House, tempered by my own opinions.
There is not a whole lot going on in the world of Constructed these days. Part of the problem is the usual summer lull. Constructed events are essentially at a dead-end. Yes, there’s a Pro Tour coming up, but the majority of people I know aren’t qualified for it, and so Extended is little more than a curiosity until the full Lorwyn spoiler comes out. Standard is in a similar state, as the next big tournament will see three sets gone and one set added. And the Block PTQ season is over.
Not only that, but Magic Online is crushing any hopes of seeing Constructed technology arise. Tenth Edition and Masters Edition Release events are squeezing out all other Premiere Events, and they’re doing so immediately after a brand-new deck managed to win one of the monthly Open events. And, if that somehow weren’t enough to wring the life out of Constructed Magic, the 8-man queue payout problem is still just as big as it ever was.
However, if you haven’t seen the Token Deck in Standard, it’s probably worth at least giggling over. Then it’s worth losing to a couple of times so that you take it seriously. In its debut, it took out R/G Aggro, B/G Rack, and Angelfire on the way to victory.
I don’t have a list, but the following cards are all included:
Lands: Forest, Stomping Ground, Karplusan Forest, Gruul Turf, Pendelhaven
Mana: Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid, Birds of Paradise, Yavimaya Dryad
Tokens: Mogg War Marshal, Fists of Ironwood, Scatter the Seeds, Siege-Gang Commander
Enhancers: Gaea’s Anthem, Overrun
Sideboard: Greater Gargadon
The deck plays out exactly like it looks: you make a ton of idiots and then you make them huge. In some games you don’t even need to make them huge, you can just get the job done with ten 1/1s. Against aggressive decks you can usually race very easily: an Overrun or an Anthem with just two token cards is often enough to seal the game before you die yourself. Against controlling decks you can sit on the power of your single threats. A Siege-Gang Commander or Scatter the Seeds (with an Anthem in play) as your follow-up to a Wrath or Damnation is extremely strong.
It’s the only deck I’ve seen beat Ghosts of the Innocent, and it’s also the only deck I’ve seen beat Tarmogoyf plus Loxodon Warhammer in the aggro mirror. In talking with teammates, we’ve decided that the following cards that could be worth trying out, you know, if Magic Online had playable Constructed events.
Dryad Arbor – Sure, it would be terrible to draw this as a real land, but a friend of mine thinks that it would be a great idea to run this as a one-of to fetch up with Yavimaya Dryad. Given that your goal in life is to assemble a critical mass of tiny idiots, running a fetchable 1/1 really doesn’t seem like that bad an idea.
Sprout Swarm – It’s good in Limited, so it has to be good in Constructed too, right? Seriously though, there’s a decent chance that a smaller-than-four number of this card could be very good. It’s the one-card army and that’s what this deck is all about. Yes, Constructed is many times faster than Limited, but the explosive power of Fists and Scatter will let you start firing this card in there multiple times starting as early as turn 4. It also guarantees that you’ll have something to rebuild with after even multiple Wraths. The main strike I see against this card is that your slower opponents are more likely to have a counterspell in this format.
Baru, Fist of Krosa / Verdeloth the Ancient – Both of these guys could be worth trying out because of their dual purpose. Each is a big guy on their own, which might be something that you want from time to time, and each gives you a way to enhance your game plan if things are going smoothly. In other words, if you have five tokens on the board, then these guys will make them bigger. If you have zero tokens on the board, then these guys will actually be relevant threats.
There are also a couple of traps into which our brainstorming has fallen. I figured that I’d share these so that anyone who wants to take this concoction to Friday Night Magic won’t have to waste time thinking about them.
Doubling Season – Yeah, it’s the token deck. Yeah, Scatter and Siege-Gang make six guys, Fists and Marshal make four, and so on. The fact remains that this card costs five mana, and for five mana you could just kill your opponent with Overrun. The fact that you have Overrun and Anthem also means that you’re looking to get all of those cards out of your hand quickly, unless you have reason to believe that you should sandbag in the face of a Wrath. Starting strong with a Marshal, a Fists, and a Scatter will be much less impressive when you follow up with a Doubling Season.
Scion of the Wild – This is the same card as Doubling Season, just in different clothing. If you have eight Saproling tokens out, you don’t really need to plop a 9/9 into play to seal the game up. Similarly, if you just got Wrathed, there’s not much that a three-mana 1/1 is going to do for you that a two-mana pair of 1/1s couldn’t do.
We here at CMU tend to draft on Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays at the O have been documented by Nick Eisel in the past, and they’ve gone through some pretty serious changes. The first time I ever showed up to the O, there were actual gravy-trained pros everywhere. We bought sets from Gary Wise and drafted against Mike Turian. These days, most of the pros have moved on from the game or from Pittsburgh, and we’re left with semi-pros, guys who have played on the PT multiple times but haven’t gravy-trained.
With all of the drafting going on, we’re about as tired of TPF as the rest of the world. Yes, the act of drafting is more than just solving the format, and we continue to draft because we have a good time doing it. However, we’re ready for the next set, and so we often find ourselves pulling random drafts out of thin air. Last week we decided to break the monotony with a triple-Mirrodin three-versus-three draft. These old-format drafts are a lot of fun for those of us that remember them fondly, and also for those of us that never got a chance to try our hands at them. Mirrodin was the first set that I drafted “seriously,” though it wasn’t until a year or more later that I was any good at high-level Magic. In this vein, one of my teammates opened Crystal Shard and Arc-Slogger in different packs, and managed to draft neither of them. I had to hatedraft a Plated Slagwurm eleventh pick. Yeah, we got destroyed in that draft.
On the topic of team drafts, I am consistently amazed at how much I am annoyed by Sprout Swarm. In your average eight-man pod, the Swarm isn’t a huge concern. If you open it you can splash it, or take a card like Knight of Sursi over it. If you pass it to your neighbor and they snap it up, you can rest easily with the fact that you won’t have to deal with the consequences of your pack until the finals, if at all. In a team draft, you are guaranteed to have to play three matches against the player who took it. In addition, there’s a better chance that it will actually make their deck, since (I believe) the average team draft deck is of lower quality than the average eight-man deck. In an eight-man, you’re often looking to set up a nice cooperative feeling with your neighbors; you help them out, they help you out, and everyone comes out of the draft with a powerhouse. In a team draft, you are actively looking to screw your neighbors, and so you’ll cherry-pick cards like Strength in Numbers or Amrou Seekers when you can afford to.
As a general rule, the only card I’m willing to take over Sprout Swarm in a team draft is Akroma’s Memorial. I’m still waiting for the day when I open up Sprout Swarm and foil Sprout Swarm when I’m not drafting Green, and then I can just jump off a bridge and end it all.
Usually I try to stay away from preview cards. This is not because I am morally opposed to spoilers, because I find the Prerelease more fun when it’s a mystery, or because of anything like that. It’s because I’m terrible at evaluating new cards, and because I don’t find thinking about new Standard decks too exciting when we’re missing 50% of the next set. However, I am psyched for Lorwyn.
I think it looks like it’s going to be fun. I don’t know if Gaddock Teeg is the second coming of Jesus, but I do know that Boggarts are funny, and killing people with Fairies and Swamp-Goblins is going to rule. I’m also looking forward to being plugged in from the beginning again; I missed a huge chunk of Time Spiral Limited when I was living in New Mexico, and I’m ready to be able to learn with everyone instead of play catch-up all the time.
Mostly, though, I’m excited for the jolt of life it will give Magic. Ten days from now, we’ll go from the ho-hum I’ve-drafted-this-set-eight-million-times state of mind to new cards, new archetypes, and new ways to launch goblins at your opponent’s face. I can’t wait to be able to talk about draft strategies and States decks with full access to the new set.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM