Reflecting Ruel – Drafting Worldwake With Olivier

SCG Open Richmond!

Friday, February 12th – Worldwake is here, and the pros are drafting with a passion in preparation for Pro Tour: San Diego! Olivier Ruel is one such pro, and today he shares a Zendikar / Zendikar / Worldwake draft in all its glory. Enjoy!

One week has passed since the prerelease, and the sealed deck and the drafts I have played so far allow me to understand some of the changes the format has faced.

My first impression, when reading the spoiler list, was that the format would get a little slower. Indeed, a lot of cards, illustrated by the multikicker spells, are mostly efficient when the game goes deep. The other thing I have noticed is that Worldwake has a lot of early allies, which are mostly good. Therefore, when going into my third draft, once I had gotten a little more familiar with the format (which actually didn’t seem much slower, by the way), I decided to try and force allies. My strategy was simply to pick any allies, and to have, if possible, White as one of the main colors in order to make the best use of Hada Freeblade and Join the Ranks.

Today’s article is set out like a “Drafting With…” article, but, in my opinion, there is no better way to understand a new format (and a new archetype) than through experience; and explaining my choices is the best way to share that experience with you.

Here is the draft. For each pack, I only noted down the relevant cards.

Pack 1

Pick 1: Highland Berserker, Shatterskull Giant, Goblin Shortcutter, Welkin Tern

As my goal is to go Allies, I quickly pick the Berserker. However, this pack shows one advantage of the archetype. Even though I pick Red and 2 of the 3 best cards in the pack (those I pass) are Red, it shouldn’t have much of an impact on pack 2. I don’t mind much if the guy on my left or the guy on his left is Red, as we won’t be interested in the same cards.

Pick 2: Living Tsunami, Inferno Trap, Umara Raptor

When you draft Allies, you should think of signals in a different way. Once again, it’s okay to pass the colors you’re intending on playing. I’ve picked Red and pass Inferno Trap? No big deal. I pick Umara Raptor over the theoretically better Living Tsunami? It’s just fine, as long as I don’t pass any relevant ally in this pack. I go for the Raptor without much doubt.

Pick 3: Nimana Sell-Sword

Pick 4: Jwar Isle Refuge

Pick 5: Nimana Sell-Sword, Tuktuk Grunts

I don’t care much about the haste ability. I don’t want to race my opponents, but to control the board as quickly as possible and then to beat them with bigger guys. This is why I like the cheaper drop better here.

Pick 6: Goblin Shortcutter

Pick 7: Tuktuk Grunts, Expedition Map

I already have several pumpable allies and I know fixers will be necessary. However, the very basis of an ally deck is “the more, the better.” And once again, as far as signals are concerned, it could have an impact to pass a second Grunts.

Pick 8: Expedition Map

Pick 9: Kazandu Refuge, Into the Roil

I may be Blue and not have any Green yet, but it is important with an Ally deck to be able to splash anything at any point. Hopefully, if you get enough fixers, you can pick pretty much any non-ally bomb you would open or get passed, which makes the deck even better.

Pick 12: Beast Hunt, Spidersilk Net

This pick may seem obvious, but at the moment, except for Expedition Map, every single pick is a guy. Also, there is no bad guy I can possibly take, so a card which could give me 1.5 allies average for 4 mana could be an option. It’s still not enough to be picked here, but playing it as a filler wouldn’t seem so desperate to me.

Pack 2

Pick 1: Punishing Fire, Hagra Diabolist

The pack is short in playables, so I’m not sure Diabolist will come back, but the removal is still a better card. I have a lot of good expensive allies already, and what I need now is help to get to turns 4 to 7, when I’m supposed to catch up and then take the advantage. An early removal can only be helpful in order to achieve this.

Pick 2: Giant Scorpion, Graypelt Refuge

I’m interested in the land, as I’m pretty sure I’ll get some more allies at some point. However, Giant Scorpion is great filler, like Punishing Fire, and it fits the role of “early drop allowing me to stabilize the board.” Actually, if I had had to choose between the removal and the 1/3, I would probably have gone with the latter. I’d rather intimidate two 2/2s than kill one.

Pick 3: Living Tsunami

With many expensive spells and a lot of colors, it is not a card you want to play in the early game. However, it is perfect on turn 6 or 7, and no deck has as many lifegain lands to combo with the big wave than Allies.

Pick 4: Disfigure, Makindi Shieldmate

If I had more White, or if I had any White at all, I would probably be picking the defender. However, and contrary to the Giant Scorpion pick (which has the same profile as the Shieldmate), it can hardly help in the early , as White will be a splash at best. Had the pack given me Ondu Cleric instead of the wall, I would probably have picked it; even as a midgame drop, it saves a lot of time, and as it is obviously more synergic with the rest of the deck.

Pick 5: Hagra Diabolist, Torch Slinger

A difficult pick, and I am not sure it is the correct one. I haven’t got much Red lately, and I started wondering if Red will be more than just a splash. On the other hand, Hagra Diabolist is rather good and it is, obviously, an ally, and a good one. It may be expensive, but it isn’t more than the Slinger, so it shouldn’t hurt my curve so badly.

Pick 6: Kraken Hatchling, Khalni Gem

Kraken Hatchling could be very useful, but, on the other hand, Khalni Gem could be the card which will allow me to take some White and Green cards in the last pack. Also, it compensates for the loss of tempo by bouncing the trigger lands. I choose to pick mana over synergy.

Pick 7: Khalni Gem, Surrakar Marrauder

I’ve no use for Surrakar Marauder, as I won’t be able to play many non-ally guys, and as I’ve already Shortcutter as the random two-drop. On the other hand, I may not see myself playing two Gems in the same deck, but it could allow me to pick absolutely anything I’d like from pack 3.

Pick 8: Nimana Sell-Sword, Torch Slinger

Once again, the best card in this pack is not the best card for my deck. That’s one of the best things when you’re on an Ally strategy: receiving in the late-picks cards that are worth first to third picks for your deck.

Pick 9: Hagra Diabolist

… It did make it back.

Pick 10: Graypelt Refuge

This pick is one of the best in this entire pack. With 2 Gem, Expedition Map, and this land, with just one land I’ve 4 White and 4 Green sources, allowing me to make some five-color adjustments to my Grixis deck in the last pack.

Pick 11: Kabira Crossroads

An option if my mana allows it, as it both saves time and combos with Living Tsunami.

Pack 3

Pick 1: Searing Blaze, Akoum Battlesinger

I may not have much Red, but Searing Blaze with Landfall doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you have two Khalin Gem. Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ally wheeling here.

Pick 2: Join the Ranks, Halimar Excavator, Pilgrim’s Eye, Bojuka Brigand

As I am now, I won’t be running any Forests or Plains, so the Eye is not really an option here. I want to Join the Ranks a lot, but it would hurt my deck’s stability when the Excavator is both a good early blocker and an excellent ally. Bojuka Brigand may be good, it is still no match for the 1/3 in a deck which aims at being Control.

Pick 3: Vastwood Animist

Nothing very relevant in the pack… I may as well take the ally, even though it’s not exactly an ideal splash.

Pick 4: Join the Ranks, Akoum Battlesinger, Tomb Hex

This time I go with the token producer, which I can’t wait to see in action in a deck using 2 Hagra Diabolist and many pump guys. If it was not there, I think I’d go for the Battlesinger. It may be not very good, but it is still an ally, and a card I can drop on the same turn as a Khalni Gem in order to compensate for the loss of tempo.

Pick 5: Halimar Excavator, Treasure Hunt

I’m going to play either 18 or 19 lands, which could make Treasure Hunt very good, but it’s still no match for the Excavator.

Pick 6: Treasure Hunt, Pilgrim’s Eye

Much tougher pick. I’d use both cards for the same aim: helping me with my mana while making a little card advantage if possible. In this draft, I’d rather pick the most regular card.

Pick 7: Vapor Snare

Okay, what the hell is this doing here? Removal, possibly an ally, combo with my lands: it may be another expensive drop, but it’s still probably my deck’s best card.

Pick 8: Mysteries of the Deep

Pick 9: Mysteries of the Deep

Pick 10: Bojuka Brigand

Pick 11: Surrakar Banisher

Pick 12: Halimar Depths

Combo with Tsunami and Vapor Snare. In another draft, this card would justify by itself picking Treasure Hunt reasonably high.


Creature: none
Spells: Expedition Map, Disfigure
Two cards I could hardly not run.

Creatures: 2 Halimar Excavator, Highland Berserkers, Bojuka Brigand, Goblin Shortcutter
Spells: Punishing Fire, Searing Blaze
Goblin Shortcutter is unlikely to make it if I’ve enough playables. Every other card seem locked in.

Creatures: Umara Raptor, Giant Scorpion, Pilgrim’s Eye, Vastwood Animist
Spell: none
Whether I run or not the Animist is the only question here.

Creatures: Joining the Ranks, 3 Nimana Sell-Sword, Living Tsunami
Spells: 2 Khalni Gem
That’s just too many expensive spells. Khalni Gems and Living Tsunami could not make it.

Creatures: Tuktuk Grunts, Surrakar Banisher, 2 Hagra Diabolist, 1 Vapor Snare
Spells: 2 Mysteries of the Deep
During deckbuilding, when separating guys from spells, remember a creature is not a card which says: “Creature: something” but any card which ends up being a guy at the moment you cast it, like control magics, token producers etc.

I’d love to play all of those cards, but that’s way too many 4 and 5 drops, I’ll have to slash in the top of the curve.

Basically, the deck has 5 slots for the following cards:

2 Khalni Gems, Goblin Shortcutter, Living Tsunami, Surrakar Banisher, Searing Blaze, Hagra Diabolist #2, 2 Mysteries of the Deep, Vastwood Animist.

I could even possibly cut one more card, as the curve is so high that I’m very likely to play 19 lands anyway.

The first clear cut is Goblin Shortcutter; the deck has already many early drops. Then, Searing Blaze will make it if, and only if, both Khalni Gem make it to the deck. As the deck’s main problem is that it has too many 4 and 5 drops, I don’t see myself casting the Gem on turn 4. Also, the lands I have and the presence of the Expedition Map make one Gem enough to make the mana right; one Gem and Searing Blaze are out. Then the curve is still too high, and I’ve to start cutting cards I like a lot. Goodbye Surrakar Banisher, I’ll board you in against a deck which has too much of a tempo advantage over me, or which simply uses auras.

The list is now down to: Khalni Gem, Living Tsunami, Hagra Diabolist, Vastwood Animist, and 2 Mysteries of the Deep. I want at least one Mysteries in, at least as one Gem, and Living Tsunami will help me overcome my weakness to flyers. The choice for the last card to cut comes to three cards: Vastwood Animist, Mysteries of the Deep #2, and Hagra Diabolist #2. As far as curve is concerned, I feel like I’d rather cut an expensive drop. Even though the Animist won’t be a turn 3 drop regularly, I still like to have the possibility to cast two spells a turn at some point. And as the deck is now, I’ll only be running 5 non-Blue non-Black cards, so my mana should be able to survive its presence. Eventually, I choose the draw spell over the Diabolist, as I’d rather have a card which is good when I’m in trouble than a card which is good when the game is looking good. Anyway, with 12 “Creature: Ally” in the deck, drawing three cards should always give me one of them.

Now that the spells have been decided, let’s take a quick look at the mana. I want to be able to have Blue and Black mana on turn 3, so I want at least of 7 each, 8 if possible. 8 would be 6 Swamp, 5 Island, Halimar Depths, Jwar Isle Refuge and Expedition Map. Then, I’m not in a rush to get my Red mana, so I can count Khalni Gem as a good mana source. 6 Mana sources would be enough, so: 2 Mountain, Kazandu Refuge, Expedition Map, Pilgrim’s Eye and Khalni Gem. I don’t need a Forest or a Plains to cast one spell of each color, as Khalni Gem, Kazandu Refuge, Graypelt Refuge, Kabira Crossroads and Expedition Map are more than enough. That gives me a total of 18 lands, to which I add a Mountain as if casting Highland Berserkers or Punishing fire on turn 2 is not necessary, it is still quite useful.

The final decklist:

6 Swamp
5 Island
1 Halimar Depths
1 Jwar Isle Refuge
3 Mountain
1 Kazandu Refuge
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Kabira Crossroads

1 Expedition Map
1 Disfigure
2 Halimar Excavator
1 Highland Berserkers
1 Bojuka Brigand
1 Punishing Fire
1 Umara Raptor
1 Giant Scorpion
1 Pilgrim’s Eye
1 Vastwood Animist
1 Join the Ranks
3 Nimana Sell-sword
1 Living Tsunami
1 Khalni Gem
1 Tuktuk Grunts
1 Hagra Diabolist
1 Vapor Snare
2 Mysteries of the Deep

Playing 41 cards is not what I wanted, but the first round was starting and there wasn’t any card left in the deck I wanted to cut. Anyway, when you don’t have bombs or cards (including lands) you want to cut, and when your deck seems stable the way it is, it’s better to submit a 41 card decklist than cut the wrong one.

In my first round I opened game 1 with my two Excavators, and decked my opponent in no time. In game 2, I went for an all in attack and, after he blocked three of my guys with three of his, I played Join the Ranks, dealt him 10 damage and saved two of my three attackers.

My second round opponent had a good Boros deck but he gave me game 1 when, while I thought I had recovered from his fast draw with Vapor Snare on his bigger guy, he used Iona’s Judgment not to remove my enchantment but his guy! Later in that game, when it was obvious he had a trick, I attacked into Refraction Trap which almost let him win that one. It’s not so hard to play around that card when you see it coming… I’ll have to keep it in mind for my next events.

After I ended up taking that game, I resisted draw with a Steppe Lynx, Cliff Threader, Kor Hookmaster mostly thanked to Halimar Excavator. A little later, once my board was developed, he went for his last card in had: Day of Judgment. Good for me, I had just returned a land with Living Tsunami and my other card in hand was Mysteries of the Deep. With those three extra cards, I ended up taking the game.

In the final round, facing my roommate Vivien, I didn’t face much trouble. Vivien missed land drops on turn 3 and 4 of game 2, but that was not it. The guys his RG deck would produce were just smaller than mine for the same cost, and in a matchup in which tricks or flyers nearly don’t exist (Tsunami showed up for a turn before he killed it with Oran-Rief Recluse), only raw power of creatures matter, and my guys where just bigger than his. While he was desperately gathering blockers in the second game (thanks to Turntimber Ranger) and keeping me from attacking, on the last turn of game 2, Hagra Diabolist dealt him 19 damage (5th Ally + Join the Ranks), finishing a rather interesting draft.

Of course, it was not PT level, but there were three good and three decent players at the table, which still made the draft rather interesting. I’ll definitely try that strategy a little more over the next few days.

Have a great weekend!