PV’s Playhouse – Drafting With Worldwake

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Thursday, February 11th – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, in preparation for the approaching Pro Tour, has been drafting Zendikar / Zendikar / Worldwake with a passion. Understandably, he has reached a few conclusions about the format, and he shares his initial thoughts today!


I have to admit I struggled for a topic this week. Right now I am in Oakland and I spend my entire days playing Magic in preparation for the GP and Pro Tour that are to come. Of the formats I play I really do not have much to say on Extended that has not been said. There are a number of viable decks everyone knows all of them and they are all playable though some less than others. Standard is a slightly bigger mystery and I did find out some things about it but that is probably because I knew almost nothing so anything is an improvement. To be honest don’t really want to talk about Standard this close to the Pro Tour. It’s not that I have anything that is going to break the format apart – I wish – but I really wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing the few things we do have right now (and I am sure the people working with me wouldn‘t feel very comfortable either).

That leaves the third format we played which is by far the most fun: Cube Draft! For those of you who don’t know Cube Drafting is a draft with a stack of cards that are generally very powerful. They vary from Cube to Cube but you generally have things like Balance Wraths Recalls Facts Armageddons Demonic Tutors Moxen Wheel of Fortune etc. I understand that it seems counterintuitive to talk about a completely casual format with three very important tournaments going on (I am also going to Madrid) when they have four different formats between them but I believe there are many things we can absorb from playing any kind of Magic. Basic concepts are not lost on casual formats – you still have to worry about card advantage tempo attacking blocking mulliganing.

Cube Drafting is interesting because it is never the same. Every time you draft it every time you open a pack it presents you an unique challenge forcing you to revaluate the concepts you had before because every card you pick changes the value of everything else you had radically. We are used to drafting Limited and Cube is in a way drafting Constructed. Cards like Kumano that would go first in a normal draft end up being last picks while I would happily first pick Gifts Ungiven for example which is just not that hot in Limited in general. Another interesting aspect on Cube is that you draft Constructed decks but at the same time so does everyone else. You are passing them those cards so if you are really skilled at it it is like you get to build your deck for the tournament while peeking at the decks of every one of your opponents! You know what they have and you can build accordingly.

Okay okay… who am I kidding? Although we did do some Cube Drafting and it is probably the best casual format ever and I stand behind everything I have said about it (as in I actually think it is useful to play it from an improving your play point of view) I don’t think I can bring myself to write about it so close to those important tournaments. Instead I will talk about the fourth format we played – Zendikar/Worldwake draft.

The day I arrived in Oakland (and that would be the 8th) was my first contact with real life Worldwake cards. As you probably know by now if only because I keep ranting about it in Brazil we do not have what could be called an outstanding distribution of Magic product which means that we do not get any of the cards in time. We have obviously not had a Prerelease yet and the cards simply do not exist here. To give you an idea of how bad the Magic-Customs relation is in our country when I won Nationals the TO told me that he could not give me my trophy at the time because it had gotten stuck in Customs along with the boxes of the new product. We played a lot of Constructed but like most Magic players we are addicted to drafting so as soon as we found eight people we started doing a number of drafts (and this time we actually have a reason to do so i.e. PT: San Diego). In those drafts I was able to learn a couple of things.

First though I have to warn you that my perspective of Zendikar drafting is well different from the rest of the world. A lot of people who are really good including everyone that has been drafting with me thinks it is the fastest format known to man and I well simply disagree. I have been trying to digest that idea but it simply doesn’t make sense to me and every time I play I get a different feeling. Not that it is a slow format – far from it – but it is not actually that fast and people use this argument to justify things that are in my opinion unjustifiable.

The main thing that makes the format so apparently aggressive is that the Landfall cards are much better at attacking than blocking (and so are some cards like Welkin Tern) but there are also many guys that are better at blocking than attacking – Kraken Hatchling Nissa’s Chosen Shieldmate Ox etc. It has always been like that – every format has had its sort of Wind Drake or “2/2 can’t block guy” as well as its River Kajin. I think the real reason people think it is fast is that everyone says it is fast which makes everyone pick accordingly – if everyone tries to build their decks while having “the format is a race” in mind then when two people with this mentality clash the game is going to be a race because they built their decks for that. A circular logic.

For example when we were doing drafts one of the players said they would pick Steppe Lynx over almost anything p1p1. This is based on the assumption that the format is so fast that Steppe Lynx is needed to “keep up” with it. The player thinks that so he is going to build his deck with a couple of Steppe Lynxes and similar cards and then he is going to have to win the game quickly because his cards don’t do anything in other stages of the game. He will believe the format is all about the early game when it is only so because of his belief in exactly that. As for myself I don’t like Steppe Lynx and I don’t like Adventuring Gear. This makes it so that my cards are better for all the stages in the game so I don’t feel the need to kill them as fast as I can. When all your cards can only attack (and only when you have lands) and cannot block then of course the format is going to feel like a race every time but it doesn’t have to be so because no one is forcing you to draft or play those Steppe Lynxes.

This doesn’t mean you have to start drafting Vastwood Gorgers over Nissa’s Chosen – curve is still a consideration and all that – but you don’t have to get so desperate for a fast deck that you pick Steppe Lynx over Hideous End like one of the players in our group. Of course this is just my view on the matter and I know a lot of good people disagree. It might be that I am simply wrong but this is my honest opinion and the way I draft.

Another thing that guides my picks in this format is that I think removal is really at premium. Historically speaking I’ve always picked removal very highly so my decks most of the time ended up with a lot of removal. In this format my average is probably one – I have decks with simply no removal and sometimes even my Red/Black decks don’t have a lot. At Worlds I had a Black/Red deck that had one Heartstabber Mosquito and one Torch Slinger for removal and that was that and I pick removal over almost anything! The thing is that there just isn’t much removal in those sets and everyone picks them very highly which makes me pick them even higher. At this point I cannot see myself picking say Plated Geopede over any decent removal spell – Disfigure Burst Lightning Journey Hideous End et cetera. Also historically speaking my best performing decks in this format have generally had a significant number of removal spells with the creatures not really mattering as much (nor the speed in which they killed my opponent most of the time).

Still on the removal topic I think Sam Black put it perfectly in that we have to see what Worldwake can do for our Zendikar picks since Worldwake is always going to be the last set and it is that the magical toughness to avoid removal is no longer 3. Pretty much every removal spell in this set (Tomb Hex Urge to Feed Smother Nemesis Trap Searing Blaze Iona’s Judgment) kills three toughness creatures so you can no longer sit behind your Kor Skyfishers and Vampire Nighthawks. These are obviously still very good cards but they are not as good as they used to be so pick accordingly. At the same time you have fewer of those super aggressive cards like Lynx Geopede Tern since you have one less pack of Zendikar and no real replacement for them in Worldwake so this strategy gets worse. As much as I dislike Lynx if I’m playing two I’d rather have three and that scenario will happen less frequently now.

Now there are some Worldwake cards I’d like to talkabout because they performed better or worse than I expected:

Aether Tradewinds: This card is clearly decent but it ended up being much better than we expected. The fact that you can bounce any permanent means that if worst comes to worst you bounce one of your lands (which shouldn’t be a problem because “if worst comes to worst” is usually not early on) but there are plenty of times where you actually want to bounce something so much that you would end up using a bounce spell on one of your permanents and this bounces one of theirs as a bonus! Narrow Escape is playable and this card is just much better. It is also really good with Journey to Nowhere and the fact that it also bounces one of their guys means you can afford to hold your removal spells for a few turns because it will give you the tempo back when you hit 5 lands.

Permafrost Trap: When I see this I keep thinking of Blinding Beam but the truth is it is just not Blinding Beam. Even if we don’t count the ability to play both effects individually which admittedly is pretty minor there is the huge difference of not untapping every one of their creatures versus not untapping only the two that you targeted. It is not a bad card by any means but it is not as good as it looked like to me originally – it is just a little bit better than Whiplash Trap. Maybe the games I played with it were just awkward I don’t know.

Mysteries of the Deep: I like this card more than most people exactly because I don’t think the format is that fast. I like all the defensive guys much more than the aggressive guys (i.e. if my p1p1 is Steppe Lynx Kraken Hatchling and 13 unplayables I will pick the Hatchling) so this is exactly the kind of card I need. I also like the UG archetype a lot (though it has that problem of having no removal but not even my BR decks have removal so it’s almost the same). A problem I have with that deck is that I keep playing Grazing Gladeharts and Harrows and then just run out of things to do with my mana and this lets me keep up. It is especially good in the UG deck too because that deck can make use of both the spells and the lands that you draw it in the late game so three cards will really feel like three cards most of the time.

Abyssal Persecutor: I didn’t really get to play with or against this guy but we had an interesting discussion on how many removal/bounce spells you needed to play it in Limited and answers were generally pretty low with some people saying zero. My problem with zero is that there are a bunch of decks who simply can’t kill it even if they wanted to and what do you do if you face one of those? It might be that they also do not draw their way to kill it and then you just can’t put them into negative or they are never killing it and it looks somewhat suspicious when they are at 6 life and you don’t attack with your 6/6 for no reason. I would generally like 2 or more kill effects to play this guy but I can survive with one – it also helps if you have cards like Vines of the Vastwood so you can block and pump their guy to kill it – but I would just never play it with zero.

Vastwood Zendikon: This one is much better than I thought he would be – he is basically a Craw Wurm for 4G that enters the battlefield tapped and you can kick for G to untap and give haste (and at this point the comparison moves so much from the original that I wonder why I didn’t just say “it’s basically 4G enchant land makes it 6/4” – reminds me of the time Tempest had just been released and then a friend of mine talked about Diabolic Edict and the other asked “what does it do?” and he explained “oh it’s like Swords except it’s Black not White costs 2 not 1 it’s sacrifice not remove they choose and not you and they don’t gain life“). In any case it is a much better Craw Wurm and it hits for pretty hard out of nowhere – just the fact that this card exists at common will make people play differently I think.

The Multikicker guys: Those guys aren’t super impressive but they are pretty solid and fit the three-drop spot that was lacking in Zendikar. I mean any format where Mindless Null is playable and people actively pick it because they want to play it has to have an enormous deficiency of three-drops and those guys though not the most exciting are three-drops with two power and one ability not counting their ability to be bigger. They are good for both the times where you have to curve (or your opponent has curved and you need something with which to block) and the times you topdeck them and this makes them better than people think at the moment.

I think people should stop drafting these situational aggressive cards. The whole point of the Landfall mechanic is that you draw lands later on and they are useful for something but if that something is making your 0/1 a 2/3 on turn 10 it’s not really being useful because you should not be playing 0/1 guys or equipment that don’t do anything in the first place!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Wish me luck at the GP!