Removed From Game – Bill and Ted’s Winston Adventure

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As we start the New Year, what better way to clear the Magical cobwebs from our befuddled brains than getting ourselves the ultimate six-pack? Yes, it’s time to dust off those unopened Lorwyn boosters and get back into the Limited swing of things with this Winston Draft extravaganza, taking you through a head to head showdown from first pick to final turn. Synergy – it’s what you use when you’re naughty. No other jokes inside. Promise.

Happy New Year to you all. The start of the year is a strange time for Magic. By and large we’re still waiting for the first PTQ season of the year, although if you’re in England that season actually starts tomorrow, and Lorwyn has been around for a while, even online. Add in the fact that you’ve basically acquired all the Lorwyn rares you need for whatever decks you’re building, and it’s hard to know what to do with those half a dozen Lorwyn boosters you’ve got sitting in the corner. Except, thanks in part to the 2007 Magic Invitational, it isn’t. You know exactly what to do with them – play a Winston Draft.

Here’s the rules. Take out those pesky rules inserts or tokens, then shuffle all ninety cards together into one big pile. This pile is going to be your last resort, the place you turn when you don’t like any of your other options. And what options do you have? Simple. Put one card face down to start three piles: A, B, and C. You begin by looking at the card in pile A. If you want it, fine, it’s yours, and you replace it with one unseen from the top of the main pack. If you don’t like pile A, leave the card there, and add another to it from the main pile. Then try pile B. Again, you don’t have to have it, but if you don’t you have to add one to the pile. Same again with pile C, and if you still don’t like what’s hiding under there, then you just get the top card from the main pile.

One of the reasons I like Winston so much is that it’s plenty strategic enough to engage without being so skill-intensive that the better player wins 90% of the time. Plus, Winston illuminates a lot of important points about Drafting if you’re new to the format, and because it’s essentially an underpowered format, you get to make creative use out of some fairly unexciting cards, which could stand you in good stead when it comes to finding your 23rd card for a Sealed Deck for example.

Let’s meet our players then, Bill and Ted. Both have played Magic for a long time, and have plenty of Lorwyn experience behind them. I’ll talk you through the whole draft, then we’ll look at what they managed to cobble together, and then we’ll look at the best of 3 matchup itself. Let’s go.

Bill won the toss and decided to get the ball rolling.

A – Kithkin Healer
B – Weed Strangle YES
Kithkin Healer is a pretty decent opening card. A single White mana means there’s no real commitment to a color, it has a useful ability in a format where nullifying a removal spell can be awesome, and it’s a 2/2 body, which plenty of Winston decks end up playing. Really, Bill is greedy to pass it up, but is rewarded with proper removal in Weed Strangle from pile B.

A – add Nightshade Stinger
B – Ashling the Pilgrim YES
Ted turns down the Healer too, he isn’t too excited by the addition of 1/1 flyer Nightshade Stinger, although evasion wins plenty of Winston games. He too gets a real winner in pile B, the first rare of the draft Ashling the Pilgrim. Needless to say, Ashling can win a game on her own, either as a gigantic monster, a Wrath of God, or a game-ending burn spell.

A – add Warren-Scourge Elf
B – Gilt-Leaf Seer
C – Lignify YES
Healer + Stinger + Warren-Scourge Elf = no thanks. Pile B is now a Gilt-Leaf Seer, a solid green card, especially when you’re wanting to go in search of bombs, but Bill decides to take first look at pile C. Although Lignify is only removal of sorts, it certainly counts here, nullifying any number of big fat Green monsters or irritating 2/2s like Hornet Harasser or Kinsbaile Balloonist. Yes please.

A – add Faerie Trickery
B – add Mulldrifter YES
Pile A now has four cards in it, and Faerie Trickery is probably the best of the bunch, but none are actually exciting. Pile B finds the Gilt-Leaf Seer now sharing a pile with Mulldrifter. A 2/2 flyer, and Card Advantage? Sold!

A – add Imperious Perfect YES
The fifth card of pile A finally tips things over the edge, and by a long way. Bill may not play any of the first four cards, but even it’s only as a splash the chances are that Imperious Perfect will make his deck. It’s incredibly powerful when left unchecked, and remember that in addition to there only being six boosters’ worth of removal, there’s only six chances to find something like Final Revels or Austere Command, the kind of cards that can totally wreck a board position. The Perfect is one of the best possible spells in the format, and Bill is a happy man.

A – Faerie Tauntings
B – Goldmeadow Stalwart
C – Sunrise Sovereign YES
Faerie Tauntings is basically hideous. The Stalwart is interesting, because if you can get it out turn 1 it’s a total beating. In only six boosters however, forcing your way to a bunch of Kithkin is going to be very hard work. Even assuming that the cards exist in enough quantities – unlikely in itself – the sacrifices you would have to make in terms of card quality in order to get them make this a poor choice. After all, who wants a vanilla 2/2 for 4, or even for 1, if it’s on turn 6? When Ted gets to pile C he takes it instantly. There may not be many giants in the end for him, but even one other in play next to the Sunrise Sovereign is a real beating. A card like Avian Changeling for example becomes a 4/4 flying trampler with the Red rare around, and even alone the Sovereign is a mighty man that demands to be killed as quickly as possible.

A – add Incandescent Soulstoke
B – add Boggart Harbinger YES
A disappointing rare in pile A to go with the Faerie Tauntings holds no appeal. Bill probably won’t want the Stalwart either, but Boggart Harbinger is nice here, since he can plan towards having some juicy targets to go hunt. Nameless Inversion would be a winner in that category, but so would a big hefty Changeling or if he’s lucky something like Wort, Boggart Auntie or Mad Auntie (both rare). In addition, his early Weed Strangle has virtually guaranteed he’ll play Black, so picking up this was a simple choice.

A – add Boggart Forager
B – Ringskipper
C – Hunt Down
Random – Streambed Aquitects
Yuk. The first set of utter garbage for Ted. Ringskipper isn’t actually terrible, but is below average and therefore not as good as a lucky dip pick from the top of the main pile. Streambed Aquitects is a good card, and with Mulldrifter, Sunrise Sovereign and Ashling the Pilgrim already in his pile, Ted is starting to look towards Red/Blue.

A – add Spiderwig Boggart YES
Another solid Black card makes its way into Bill’s pile. This feels like a slightly wimpish pick, since there may have been better to come, but at least we know for sure the Boggart will make the team. At the moment, Incandescent Soulstoke seems unlikely to make it in, and Bill is looking towards Black/Green.

A – Wispmare
B – add Elvish Handservant
C – add Dawnfluke
Random – Giant’s Ire
Yuk again. Ted has to go to the well once more, since none of the piles appeal. Elvish Handservant isn’t a bad card, and if he was playing some Giant’s might be decently playable. If he gets to look at this pile again, he might be tempted. As it is, his random addition is Giant’s Ire. This is a card that rarely sees play outside of a very specific Kithkin/Giant/Burn type affair, but it’s just the kind of card that might make a difference in Winston, especially if Ted can pick up another one. At that point, he can start looking at Bill’s life total and visualising 4 off the top, something Bill won’t be calculating for, at least in game 1.

A – add Adder Staff Boggart
B – add Prowess of the Fair
C – add Whirlpool Whelm
Random – Leaf Gilder
For the first time in proceedings Bill goes to the random pile. Adder-Staff Boggart is a nice-ish card, but it doesn’t appeal to Bill. The mana acceleration provided by Leaf Gilder is much better news, and again suggests that being greedy is a good strategy in Winston, rather than settling for average cards.

A – add Hunt Down
B – add Hurly Burly
C – add Drowner of Secrets YES
Piles A and B are starting to get crowded, but Ted is still reluctant to take the Ringskipper and friends from pile B. Pile C on the other hand finds a potential winner in Drowner Of Secrets. Although he may not end up with that many Merfolk, even one or two can turn a matchup into a race against time for Bill. Starting with seven cards, assuming that the Drowner turns up somewhere around turn 5 with a Merfolk buddy already in play, Bill will have 9 turns to finish the game or die to decking. Not necessarily a problem, but with the threat of more Merfolk the Drowner almost always has a big shiny bullseye painted on it, and that in itself makes it a high pick, since Bill will almost certainly aim removal at it at top speed.

A – add Summon the School YES
When Bill takes this, he can’t know quite how fearsome a bullet he has just dodged. It’s possible that he may end up playing this himself, although he’ll have to rely on either some Black/Green Changelings or some unexciting white Merfolk if he’s going to get the School in session. However, that’s not at the forefront of Bill’s mind. In a normal Draft, you play against less than half of your opponents even if you win the draft, and you don’t play the player on your left until the final. That means that you can quite happily pass high quality cards on the ‘it’s not my problem’ philosophy. However, in Winston, every card you don’t take could be used against you every game, so making sure things like this don’t get into the wrong hands should be high up your priority list.

A – Consuming Bonfire YES
In real 8 man draft, the Bonfire often gets relegated to the sideboard, only to appear if you’re facing big green fatties. In Winston, it’s gold standard removal, and Ted takes it in a blink.

A — Gilt-leaf Ambush YES
With 49 1-toughness monsters in Lorwyn, instant speed 1/1s are good news, and even if you’re putting them in the way of the two enormous beatsticks about to kill you, that’s still a good deal. Since Bill is already thinking Green, he snaps the Ambush up.

A – Wellgabber Apothecary
B – add Lairwatch Giant
C – Lairwatch Giant
Random – Blades of Velis-Vel
After an unexciting set of options, the top of the main pile brings a nice trick, either as a defensive pump spell to trade up with bigger monsters, or as a math-changing offensive surprise.

A – add Dreamspoiler Witches YES
The Witches are a central part of many Blue/Black draft decks, and although we can’t expect to find lots of Peppersmokes and the like, as a 2/2 flyer with potential bonuses, this is a great pick.

A – Battlewand Oak
B – add Paperfin Rascal YES
At last the gigantic pile B which began with Ringskipper all those picks ago leaves play. The Paperfin Rascal was enough to persuade Ted to take the whole lot, although two at most are likely starters, with Hurly-Burly a possible sideboard option.

A – add Deeptread Merrow
B – Dreamspoiler Witches YES
A second Dreamspoiler is great news.

A – add Stinkdrinker Daredevil YES
Although it’s narrow acceleration, the Daredevil is still precisely that – acceleration. If Ted can get his Sunrise Sovereign out 2 turns early via the Daredevil that’s a serious threat, and he’ll be hoping for more giants along the way.

A – Kithkin Daggerdare YES
1/1s really need to do something good. Thankfully, the Daggerdare does, provided you’re on the attack. With Green/Black, Bill won’t necessarily want to see the Daggerdare early in the game, since he’s likely to be on the backfoot to start with, but later on that ‘could go anywhere’ pump ability is likely to make blocking a nightmarish proposition.

A – Treefolk Harbinger
B – Facevaulter
C – add Plover Knights YES
It’s quite possible that Ted won’t be able to shoehorn the Plover Knights into his deck, but he certainly doesn’t want them turning sideways against him. So far, neither player has seen anything useful in the way of mana fixing, and that really is at a premium in Winston.

A – add Wanderwine Hub
B – add Ceaseless Seerblades
C – Smokebraider
Random – Stonybrook Angler
So far there’s no use for the 0/3 Treefolk Harbinger, and Wanderwine Hub combines two colors that Bill isn’t too excited about. Smokebraider is very useful for expanding your color horizons, but only when you’re comfortably in Red already, which Bill is clearly not. His random pick of Stonybrook Angler off the top is unlikely to help him, except by not having to face it.

A – add Sentinels of Glen Elendra YES
That’s better. Okay, so pretty much everyone who isn’t blind can see these guys coming, but just because you know it’s there doesn’t stop them being an instant speed 2/3 flying machine. A great addition to Ted’s deck.

A – Fertile Ground YES
The ultimate mana fixing, with no strings attached. If Bill finds anything powerful to go with his Green and Black spells this will definitely help. And of course, it’s not just fixing, it’s acceleration too. Awesome.

A – Smokebraider YES
As we mentioned a few moments ago, Smokebraider needs to go in a deck that’s already Red, and that suits Ted perfectly. He can already get Mulldrifter out as early as turn 3, and he’ll be hoping to find some enormous splashy Incarnation, which are also Elementals.

A – Sentinels of Glen Elendra YES
Having taken Fertile Ground, the chances have improved that Bill will attempt to play these. Even if he doesn’t, and you’re probably getting the hang of this by now, cards like this don’t get passed up.

A – Hillcomber Giant
B – add Dolmen Gate YES
If Ted was confident that Bill was playing Red, Hillcomber Giant would be a very good pick indeed. Three toughness is a big body, and Mountainwalk would make the giant a major threat. Since Ted is definitely Red though, that reduces the odds. Now he could take the Giant as a defensive measure, not wanting to face it. Instead he moves to pile B and takes a card that can be hideous or marvellous but rarely somewhere in between. Although he doesn’t know it, as the matchup is shaping up, with Ted as the likely Beatdown early, Dolmen Gate could give him some much-needed extra gas. Incidentally, if you’ve never played with this guy before, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Turning 5 men sideways into a bunch of blockers in order to get 2 damage through is all very well, but you are sweating blood during combat, praying that there’s no Rootgrapple on the way!

A – add Cloudgoat Ranger YES
0.3 seconds. That’s how long it took Bill to make sure that Ted didn’t get the Cloudgoat Win Condition.

A – Broken Ambitions YES
In real 8 mans, countermagic is generally a sign that your opponent is playing Guile, since most people who open the foolish Elemental Incarnation seem to find it genetically impossible not to play every counterspell they can lay their hands on. Personally, I’d be tempted just to beat people with my 6/6 essentially unblockable man. In Winston, knowing that plenty of rares are likely to be even more bomb-like than normal, countermagic isn’t a dirty word, and this will definitely make the starting line-up.

A – Dawnfluke
B – Sylvan Echoes
C – add Final Revels YES
A and B are rubbish, but C is amazing. Yes, it’s full-on Wrath of God territory (with a prevailing wind) and Bill won’t even have to splash for it.

A – add Epic Proportions YES
Bill would probably sell his grandmother to get his hands on this ridiculous game-swinging rare. Ted would probably sell his grandmother to make sure Bill doesn’t.

A – Faultgrinder
B – add Seedguide Ash YES
Faultgrinder is a card that might be good for somebody sometime, but not Bill and not now. Seedguide Ash on the other hand is great. A lot of people underestimate his dying ability, but taking three Forests out of your deck really improves your chances of drawing action spells.

A – add Tar Pitcher YES
Ted’s not likely to have many Goblins to pitch to the Tar, but with his Smokebraider likely to be in his deck, Faultgrinder becomes a little bit more interesting, a sort of poor man’s Seedguide Ash. Although most Lorwyn Winston drafts do actually have some Vivid lands in them – where the hell are they? – Faultgrinder’s ability could still pay dividends, especially as we know that Bill is running Fertile Ground. Can you say two-for-none?

A – Incremental Growth YES
A legitimate bomb, and the second time a bomb green uncommon has just fallen into Bill’s lap. Lucky boy.

A – Battlewand Oak
B – Spring Cleaning
C – Nightshade Stinger
Random – Elvish Eulogist
Battlewand Oak is probably the best of these dreadful options, but the top of the main pile isn’t exactly stellar.

A – add Triclopean Sight
B – add Plover Knights YES
Another card that Bill can’t pass up, and he’s starting to head towards a decision as to whether or not he can squeeze in the white – remember, he’s already nicked the Cloudgoat Ranger. The trouble as usual is the double mana commitment.

A – add Moonglove Winnower
B – Moonglove Extract YES
Bingo! Straight-up removal.

A – add Lash Out YES
See above, although this is going to make things even more complicated in terms of mana if he wants to get this online.

A – Veteran of the Depths
B – Nectar Faerie
C – add Moonglove Winnower
Random – Inner-Flame Acolyte
Nectar Faerie isn’t absolutely terrible, although if you got rid of ‘absolutely’ you’d be close. Ted’s random pick was much better. Inner-Flame Acolyte is an okay card generally, but in an aggressive deck is a nice addition, and is a key component of any White/Red Kithkin + …deck.

A – add Boggart Birth-Rite
B – add Shimmering Grotto YES
Weeping for joy, Bill finds more genuine mana fixing. Since there shouldn’t be enough screaming speed packed into six boosters to get rolled over really quickly, it shouldn’t cost him to pay one extra for a key card.

A – add Kinsbaile Balloonist YES
With just a single mana, the Balloonist is splashable, and certainly has a target on it. Left in peace, it wins games, often with 5/7 Vigilant Trampling Oakgnarl Warriors flapping away underneath it.

A – Jagged-Scar Archers YES
A way to deal with flyers, repeatedly, is pushing Bill towards a seriously good deck.

A – Nameless Inversion YES
If he’s going to splash, you can bet that this quality removal will be on top of Ted’s list.

A – Blind-Spot Giant (last card then added)
B – Inner-Flame Igniter
C – added Black-Poplar Shaman YES forced
When Bill turns down a Blind-Spot Giant, the last card from the main pile gets added to pile A. Looking at Inner-Flame Igniter he passes and moves to the final pile, which he’s obliged to take, not that he has a problem with Black Poplar Shaman or Moonglove Winnower come to that.

A – add Giant’s Ire YES
Ted takes a second Giant’s Ire….

B – Inner-Flame Igniter
and that leaves Bill to take the last card.

Let’s see what the two players have got, starting with Bill.

He has almost no relevant Blue, so sets them aside. In White he has six playable spells – Summon the School, Plover Knights, Triclopean Sight, Cloudgoat Ranger, Hillcomber Giant, and Kithkin Healer. Plover Knights and Cloudgoat Ranger are reasons to play the color, while the other four aren’t, since Summon the School isn’t going to get going, at which point it’s a substantially worse Gilt-Leaf Ambush. He sets the Knights and Ranger to one side, seeing whether he can squeeze them in. Red is next, and is as straightforward as saying Lash Out, which feels like a prime candidate for a splash. Now we get to his two primary colors, Black and Green. In Black he has Nectar Faerie, 2 Nightshade Stinger, 2 Dreamspoiler Witches, Boggart Harbinger, Black Poplar Shaman, 2 Moonglove Winnower, Spiderwig Boggart, Weed Strangle, Final Revels. This isn’t bad at all. Quite a bit of evasion, Winnowers to take down any enormous ground threats, and the very tasty Final Revels. Finally we have Green. Here he has : Imperious Perfect, Leaf Gilder, Kithkin Daggerdare, Seedguide Ash, Battlewand Oak, Jagged-Scar Archers, Incremental Growth, Fertile Ground, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Lignify. He has at least two game winners here in the form of Imperious Perfect and Incremental Growth. The Fertile Ground means that he’s got every reason to splash the Lash Out, but little incentive to try to stretch as far as the double White spells. That leaves his final deck looking like this :

2 Nightshade Stinger
Nectar Faerie
Leaf Gilder
Kithkin Daggerdare
Fertile Ground
Lash Out
Battlewand Oak
Jagged-Scar Archers
Imperious Perfect
Boggart Harbinger
Black Poplar Shaman
Spiderwig Boggart
Gilt-Leaf Ambush
2 Moonglove Winnower
2 Dreamspoiler Witches
Seedguide Ash
Final Revels
Incremental Growth
Weed Strangle
Shimmering Grotto
2 Mountain
7 Swamp
7 Forest

Ted begins with some unexciting White. Only Kinsbaile Balloonist and Plover Knights are reasons to play the color, and he doesn’t have the fixing to try the Knights. That leaves the Balloonist as a possible splash. Green is similarly unexciting. This time he has a genuine game winner in Epic Proportions, but again he’s faced with the dilemma of having precisely zero fixing for a double mana cost spell. Nonetheless, he puts the Proportions in the possibles pile. In Black he has precisely one worthwhile spell, Nameless Inversion. Now that’s a much better idea as a splash. How about Blue? Deeptread Merrow, Paperfin Rascal, Streambed Aquitects, Drowner Of Secrets, Mulldrifter, Ringskipper, Sentinels Of Glen Elendra, Whirlpool Whelm, Broken Ambitions. Only Ringskipper is a dubious addition to the deck, but he’s still evasion, and one time in three or so he’ll come back to be moderately rubbish for a second time. Woohoo. Given that he has Drowner Of Secrets, he can’t be happy with so few Merfolk to go with it, but there were next to no Changelings in the entire set of six, and Bill can’t know that the Drowner may not be a potent threat, and should act accordingly. Then we have the Red : 2 Giant’s Ire, Stinkdrinker Daredevil, Sunrise Sovereign, Ashling The Pilgrim, Blades Of Velis-Vel, Consuming Bonfire, Smokebraider, Ceaseless Seerblades, Faultgrinder, Inner-Flame Acolyte. There are a bunch of little synergies here, featuring the Smokebraider and Stinkdrinker Daredevil, but the deck would be immeasurably better if it had been more coherent. That’s the trouble with tribal plans in Winston. Finally we have the artifacts Moonglove Extract and Dolmen Gate, both of which make the final deck, which looks like this :

Deeptread Merrow
Ashling The Pilgrim
Dolmen Gate
Nameless Inversion
Whirlpool Whelm
Broken Ambitions
Blades of Velis-Vel
Paperfin Rascal
Streambed Aquitects
Drowner of Secrets
Stinkdrinker Daredevil
Inner-Flame Acolyte
Moonglove Extract
Sentinels of Glen Elendra
Ceaseless Seerblades
Giant’s Ire
Giant’s Ire
Consuming Bonfire
Sunrise Sovereign
2 Swamp
8 Mountain
7 Island

It’s always important to have some kind of plan in any Limited format, but that’s really true when you play Winston. Let’s recap what the plans of our two protagonists are:

Bill – use the flyers to win, while holding up the ground with assorted higher toughness monsters. If necessary generate game-winning card advantage with Final Revels. Possibly win with Imperious Perfect left unchecked, or Incremental Growth, especially on some of my flyers.

Ted – Look to get going quickly. If bogged down, win by milling via Drowner plus other merfolk. Otherwise look to finish things with a combination of flyers (Sentinel, Mulldrifter) or possibly Sunrise Sovereign, plus points to the face (Blades, Ire, Moonglove). As a one-shot win condition, make Ashling and ride her home.

It’s hard to think that Ted has much of a shot here. Bill got a couple of crucial uncommons that he’s been able to use, while Ted couldn’t squeeze in his Epic Proportions. Bill also has the closest this draft had to Wrath, and the largest tribal synergy with his elves (Jagged-Scar Archers could get very big). Let’s see what happens…

Ted opened game 1 with a turn 2 Smokebraider, and then hit for one on turn 3. Bill’s turn 2 was a Fertile Ground, and turn 3 down came the Imperious Perfect. Although Ted followed with Drowner of Secrets, Bill made the potential elvish horde even more potent with Kithkin Daggerdare. With six mana available, he was able to cast Seedguide Ash and still have a spare Green mana available for elf creation at end of turn. That Seedguide Ash never saw play however, as Ted used his Broken Ambitions to send the big Green monster packing. Ted drew the thoroughly unexciting Ringskipper, and fell to 14 as Bill piled in with elves. Next turn and Ted was on 10 as the beatdown continued, with Ted powerless to block effectively thanks to the Kithkin Daggerdare. Whirlpool Whelm did at least get rid of one elf. Nightshade Stinger can’t block, but as things stood it couldn’t be blocked either, and Bill started using the Daggerdare to make the Stinger a proper threat. Ted fell to three with the next attack, and although he continued to mill a card at the end of each turn, he was really just storing up information for game 2 after a real mauling here in game 1. Bill 1 Ted 0.

Onto game 2, and things started out better for Ted. Smokebraider was again the turn 2 play. He attacked for one on turn 3, added a Deeptread Merrow, and then with no play from Bill swung for three and added Stinkdrinker Daredevil, Bill now down to sixteen. Unfortunately turn 4 saw Bill draw his Imperious Perfect again. Still, Ted had a chance this time. He correctly believed Bill couldn’t afford to block, so swung with his team and then cast Blades of Velis-Vel, dealing Bill a hefty eight damage and dropping him to eight life. Bill went for Spiderwig Boggart, but Broken Ambitions dealt with him, leaving Bill with just one potential blocker via the Perfect ability. The freshly minted elf traded with Ted’s Deeptread Merrow, while the Stinkdrinker got in another point of damage. From seven, Bill was quickly down to three, as Giant’s Ire went to the dome. Sadly for Ted, he couldn’t get a card out of it. Still, he added Drowner Of Secrets to the table, and although that wasn’t much of a beater, Bill seemed a long way off killing Ted. Perhaps Ted could set up an alternate win. Bill cast Moonglove Winnower, and at end of turn Ted milled away a Forest from the top of Bill’s library. Ted had to pass the turn, allowing Bill to generate another 2/2 elf, and then Bill cast Dreamspoiler Witches. Ted’s next play was Streambed Aquitects, which left him wishing that he’d kept his Deeptread Merrow around. Still, he had ways to get those final points through, not least the other Giant’s Ire, or ideally Ashling The Pilgrim, the one legitimate super-card in his deck. Bill tapped out on the following turn to cast both a hefty Jagged-Scar Archers and a second Dreamspoiler Witches. He attacked for two, dealing Ted the first damage of the game. At end of turn, Battlewand Oak and Boggart Harbinger were milled away. Ted made Ceaseless Seerblades which at least put a dent in Bill’s elvish plans, but Bill had already something much bigger and better in mind. He untapped and brought out the big guns. Incremental Growth left the Jagged-Scar Archers that little bit bigger, and the Dreamspoiler Witches at 4/4 and 5/5 respectively. In they came for 9, and suddenly Ted had just one more draw. It had to be Giant’s Ire, and Ted isn’t a pseudonym for Craig Jones….a Mountain from the top and it was all over. Bill 2 Ted 0.

And there you have it, from first pick to the final turn. I’m not going to tell you that Winston is the best Magic that you’ll ever play, but if you ever have an hour spare and half a dozen boosters to hand, it’s rare that you’ll have less than a good time – I’ve probably done about 30 of these things now, and I can only remember one utter blowout. I’ve brought you a best of three encounter here, but playing a set of ten games is a good way to get a feel for most of the synergies and interactions of the decks. And if you haven’t got any more boosters, you can always shuffle them all together again and have a reverse matchup, and this time you’ll know what a lot of the cards in the draft are, which changes the whole strategic dynamic once more.

No, they’re not paying me to tell you how good Winston is, but if you haven’t done one before, now’s the perfect time. Yes, even before reading the other guy’s column. Go on now, shoo.

As ever, thanks for reading.