Removed From Game – Drafting and Drafting and Drafting and Drafting With Rich

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It turns out that given a theoretically unlimited supply of boosters, starters, and tix, the only thing stopping you playing MODO 24/7 is stamina, and servers. With a little bit of downtime for both, join Rich on an epic journey through online Magicland as he Drafts… and Drafts… and Drafts… and occasionally enters a Premier Event for artistic licence purposes. It’s Drafting With Rich, but a Rich with 400 fewer ranking points than the last one…

So it’s Sunday and two of my good Magical friends are here for the day ready to do a spot of MODO action. When I say a spot of MODO action I mean that they’ve basically got assorted legal substances designed to keep them awake and playing for the next twenty four hours or so without a break lag and crashes willing. Both Neil Rigby and Andy Clayton have been part of English teams for Worlds and both are comfortably in the Top 50 in the UK which puts them about 23476th in Europe and 942059th in the World. They are at least better than three generations of Hagon’s encompassing my mother (0-0 lifetime) my wife (0-0 lifetime) and my five year old (0-0 lifetime but planning on winning a Pro Tour in the next decade apparently.) Armed with an account literally bursting with tix tourney packs and Lorwyn boosters let’s get to the action and see what our collective brains can do….Oh dear.

This is NOT your traditional look at each booster that you may be used to from the original “Drafting with Rich” series and this is not the only difference between me (1750ish) and Rich (2150?).

Draft 1 10.10am

We were quite happy with this first draft of the day. A nice Green and Black deck possibly a little costly but full of powerful stuff. The Imperious Perfect is a win condition on his own Immaculate Magistrate is potentially foolish Vigor isn’t potentially foolish – it’s just foolish. For comedy value a card like Epic Proportions is hard to argue with and to help us find them all was Liliana Vess. Not too shabby.

Round One versus dcifoil rating 1685 playing GBw.

Game 1 – Unsurprisingly our Imperious Perfect was not long for this world courtesy of Oblivion Ring. His rare of choice was Nath of the Gilt Leaf which comprehensively raped and pillaged our remaining cards away. All our powerful cards stayed firmly in the deck waiting patiently to be shuffled up for…

Game 2 – A slow start for both players brought about a surprisingly quick ending as we went :

Turn 4 – Lys Alana Huntmaster
Turn 5 – Lys Alana Huntmaster
Turn 6 – Imperious Perfect
Turn 7 – Vigor attack for 25. Attack for 25? Surely some mistake? Well yes but not ours on this occasion. Our generous opponent activated Brigid Kinsbaile Hero and unwittingly gave all our guys +2+2 because that’s what Vigor does for you. Yay.

Game 3 – Here comes our first proper misplay of the day. You know sometimes it’s good to just shut up and listen to what other people are saying. Sometimes you should listen to what you’ve said. At the monthly recording for moxradio earlier this week we were discussing the use of the Planeswalkers. We got to Liliana Vess and I said ‘At Krakow I was expecting the default option on her to be them discarding a card but it turns out that the tutor ability is the preferred way to savagely beat your opponent.’ So here we are in Game 3 and we make Liliana Vess. Because he only has 3 cards left (and yes that does seem like the flimsiest of reasons) we decide to make 3 cards 2 cards. Tutoring for Vigor was clearly the better play and not just because of what he subsequently went on to do to us with his Crib Swap and Oblivion Ring. Whilst there was no guarantee that we would have won the game a misplay is a misplay. We made one and we lost in Round 1 by 2-1.

Game Scores 1-2. Match Scores 0-1.

Draft 2 11.50am

We took a Stinkdrinker as our first pick deciding to experiment with forcing Giants. For a long time this looked like a very poor choice as we only got a solitary Hillcomber Giant out of the first pack. If anything pack two was even worse with just 3 cards making it in to the final deck. Thankfully pack three came to the rescue. Let’s be honest any time you add Thundercloud Shaman to your Giants deck the level of the deck rises significantly. Kithkin work well with Giants since it’s quite hard to get overrun when you’re playing early white men.

Round 1 versus thaos52002 rating 1740 playing Rw.

Game 1 – When you have Stinkdrinker Daredevil in play all your Giants cost 2 less. That’s not just your Giant creatures remember but your Giant spells. So when your opponent makes the rather good Brion Stoutarm turning it into a 1/1 Shapeshifter with Crib Swap at the cost of 1 mana seems a bit naughty. Nonetheless he won that won demonstrating the delightful interaction between assorted abilities and Ceaseless Searblades which are nothing to write home about alone but were a proper pain. 0-1.

Game 2 – We mulligan to 6 and his turns are bad news for us:

T1 – land
T2 – Adder-Staff Boggart winning the clash making him 3/2
T3 – Inner-Flame Igniter
T4 – Ceaseless Searblades
T5 – Kinsbaile Balloonist.

This is not a tale of sad defeat however but a tale of a turn 5 Wrath in the form of Thundercloud Shaman. I can also confirm that this Giants + Thundercloud Shaman combo worked efficiently in Game 3 also and we had our first win of the day.

Round 2 versus aethain rating 1829 playing RW

Anytime you face someone playing your own two colors there’s a tendency to think one of four things. First “oh so that’s where all the good cards went.” Second is “you can’t possibly beat me I have all the good cards.” Third is “why did you go the same colors as me now both our decks are rubbish.” And finally the neutral option “Well we’ve got some good cards but you probably have too.” We went in thinking number 4. In Game 1 he curves out nicely with the very important Avian Changeling at 3 bridging the gap between early Kithkin and stuff like Cloudgoat Ranger and Plover Knights at 5. Although he doesn’t have the Ranger he has a pair of the 3/3 first strikers and the quality combat trick Surge Of Thoughtweft sees him home. One down we were disappointed to see our Plover Knights Crib Swapped and he probably felt the same about us doing the same to his utterly silly Sunrise Sovereign. With no second Red mana though it didn’t matter and we were out.

Game Scores 3-5. Match Scores 1-2.

Draft 3 2.02pm

Now this is the kind of deck I like. 7 flyers plus 3 more 2/3 flyers for just 2 mana in the form of Boggart Sprite-Chaser. I really like what R&D have done with the dual power levels of cards in Lorwyn and the Chaser is a prime case in point. 1/2 for 2 is rubbish wherever it is in the color pie. 2/3 flyers for 2 with no drawback are terrific even for Blue. In Red that’s an amazing deal. We were always able to make them as the turbo-charged version and given that we got them 12th 12th and 8th they’re definitely a card to look to pick up for UR.

Round 1 versus mimadakatsui rating 1763 playing UW.

In game 1 things got messy. Monsters clogged up the board and MODO was just on the point of resizing everything to tiny when our Final Revels showed up saving both our eyesight. From there our uncommon Wrath effect should have taken care of things. Sadly his rare Wrath effect Austere Command took away our advantage and when we went for Final Revels number 2 he was ready with Faerie Trickery. Now one thing we wanted to keep an eye on during the day was how relevant the counterspells were. Certainly can’t argue with the result here it won him the game. 0-1. It turns out that Faerie Trickery wasn’t the only counterspell he was playing. In Game 2 we saw Broken Ambitions for 1 Scattering Stroke and the previously-seen Faerie Trickery. Generally speaking most counterspells have been sub-optimal for Draft. I guess you can make a case for Remove Soul in 10th because there are soooo many monsters to counter in that format and you can easily have 2 mana spare. In Lorwyn things aren’t so clear. The Stroke costs 4 and that’s a lot without some properly good ability like Rewind or Cryptic Command and the ability on Stroke doesn’t seem especially useful. Faerie Trickery is good but the double mana constraint means that it’s often quite easy to spot it coming and at least attempt to play around. Familiar’s Ruse can be great especially since there are decent things that you’d quite like to replay like Pestermite and Aethersnipe. Broken Ambitions? It’s hardly a universal hard counter. Given that this guy seemed pretty decent we were surprised to see so much countermagic. Then all became clear – Guile. Hmm last I heard this was the new official Finisher for mono-Blue. It certainly finished us. 0-2.

Game Scores 3-7. Match Scores 1-3.

Draft 4 3.11pm

Once again we had the Black mini-Wrath but not much else in the way of removal. One of the nicest cards in Blue that makes everything work is Paperfin Rascal. At 2/2 for 3 you’d probably play him given his Merfolk-ness but the fact that approximately 40% of the time he’s a Trained Armodon makes him a nice addition to any Blue deck. Nonetheless he’s hardly a main course and this deck doesn’t have large piles of goodness. Sentinels Of Glen Elendra are nice and of course the Flash ability is neat but be honest have you ever walked into one of these guys without consciously choosing to? It’s one of the easiest plays to read when your opponent lays a second Plains to go with his second Island and passes the turn. He either has a counterspell or the Sentinels your call.

Round 1 versus fujiwarakarn rating 1746 playing RG

In Game 1 we are reminded of the near-infinite tedium that is Mudbutton Torchrunner. Yes it’s a 1/1 for 3 and in my book that means it had better be good. The Torchrunner really is standing sentinel against a 4/4 for example. Coupled with some irritating Red elementals he has plenty of time to stall things before beating us. We lost Game 2 as well but at least this time in memorable fashion. We were on 19 when he attacked us for 24. That’s impressive in itself but the method was awesome. It begins with 6 mana and a Soulbright Flamekin. For each two mana that he spent one of his men gained trample. On the third activation he had the opportunity to add 8 Red mana to his pool. He chose to. Three activations of Inner-Flame Igniter later and he had an army of 5/1 first strike tramplers. Nice. From five utterly lame monsters (2/1 1/1 2/1 2/1 2/1) to a full-on killing machine in 6 mana. That’s the way to win. 0-2.

Games Total 3-9. Match Total 1-4.

By this point in the proceedings I am starting to feel faintly embarrassed and so are Neil and Andy. They know that I am talking about the games for my column and are keen not to look like idiots. Since the company I keep tends to mean that most people I deal with do make me look like an idiot when it comes to playing Magic I am probably less concerned with our poor run than they are. Nonetheless I have a feeling that you would rather be reading about success than failure something I find odd since my guess is that failure is more or less our constant companion and success is elusive. Given that most of the Pros haunt the 8-4 queues on MODO that would tend to suggest rather less than half of you are overall winners in the online world. It’s also true that you can probably learn more from your failures than your successes. Still I’d love to bring you some tales of comprehensive batterings that don’t involve us being the ones in deck hospital. Which brings us to….

Draft 5 4.35pm

In our BRw deck the removal stands out with 6 relatively unconditional spells plus double Neck Snap which seems to get the job done against most things that aren’t Brigid Kinsbaile Hero or Imperious Perfect.

Round 1 versus udlin rating 1752 playing GW.

Game 1 – to say this wasn’t close is an understatement. Avian Changeling is a fine card and having Wellgabber Apothecary waiting to save it is a little tedious. Add in a dash of removal and we were already in poor shape when Mirror Entity/ytitnE rorriM came to play. Next turn 4 6/6 monsters beat us about the face. 0-1. Game 2 was much better and featured a charming little combo. Make Tar Pitcher. Make Hornet Harasser. Block with Hornet Harasser damage on the stack sacrifice Hornet Harasser to deal two damage to a guy killing it. Harasser triggers in the bin give something -2-2 kill it. Damage resolves Harasser’s damage kills the guy it blocked. End of turn Makeshift Mannequin the Hornet Harasser. Next turn block with Harasser damage on sacrifice to Tar Pitcher kill a guy -2-2 to a guy kill it damage resolves kill the guy you blocked. It may amaze you reader but we won that one. Unlike Game 3 when our two-card splash of Oblivion Ring and Neck Snap failed to find a Plains and we died to all manner of fine but unbomblike spells like Kithkin Healer Avian Changeling Goldmeadow Harrier Cloudcrown Oak and Plover Knights. Solid relentless it’s yet another first round exit. Sigh.

Game Totals 4-11. Match Totals 1-5.

Alright time to switch modes and try our luck in a 4x PE.

PE Lorwyn Sealed. 5.15pm

After our 1-5 kicking in draft it was nice to turn our attention to a different discipline not that we approached it with supreme confidence given the day we were having. I won’t insult you by explaining that 6/6 haste guys are quite good or that Wort Boggart Auntie is more than a little naughty with Fodder Launch. I will however take a moment to mention Marsh Flitter. This is a really good middle of the road card (if that makes sense). In a way he’s like the Paperfin Rascal. He helps make the rest of your deck better either by giving you time to draw into better things with his two bonus guys or by leaping up to deal with a Sentinels or even better holding off Pestermite Pranksters and friends. Plus in this deck it gives us two more “free” Goblins to be launched in fodder-like fashion.

Round 1 versus koschl rating 1817 playing UWr.

Game 1 – now this ladies and gentlemen is a Combo. Sit tightly and try not to get the blood on your clothes. Hostility. Fodder Launch. There we are. Still not seeing it? Turns out that when you deposit his man in the bin the 5 damage that would be sent to his noggin is prevented by Hostility. Prevented? How tedious except that instead we got 5 3/1 haste men to mop things up. From 19 to -5 in one easy spell. Good game. 1-0. Game 2 shows that even potentially unfair cards like Hostility can be beaten. He got into a race with us left himself with very few outs and came up with Lash Out to remove our blocker deal us 3 crucial points by winning the Clash and then deal us exactly lethal damage. Now if this had been a coinflip I’d have been ranting and raving about how random Magic is. Bizarrely knowing that our opponent had considerably less than a 50% chance of winning in the situation made it more bearable. Is this just me? Do you mind losing to Clash on things like Lash Out or maybe even Pollen Lullaby as your opponents Time Walk you? If as I suspect Wizards have correctly identified that people are happy with Clash as a mechanic regarding it as having an element of skill what psychological button in us is that pushing? Coinflip – It could go either way bugger I’m so unlucky. Clash – It’s in my favor oh well sometimes you get unlucky. Weird.

In the decider his Sunrise Sovereign decided to attack not unreasonably and we snapped it’s neck also not unreasonably. From there Hostility was able to take the match. 2-1.

Game Scores 6-12. Match Totals 2-5.

Round 2 versus lo de scylla rating 1785 playing GW.

In Game 1 we are confronted by a 10/10 trampling Dauntless Dourbark. With desperate defence we are able to get rid of all his other treefolk removing the trample ability. Amazingly we are within one turn of winning when he draws Kinsbaile Skirmisher turning a now 9/9 back into a 10/10 taking us from an infinitely-better-than-zero one life down to an infinitely useless zero. 0-1.

Game 2 is the definition of curve but it’s his definition not ours:

T1 – Treefolk Harbinger fetch Dauntless Dourbark.
T2 – Land Fertile Ground.
T3 – Land Dauntless Dourbark he’s a 5/5 trampler.
T4 – Cloudcrown Oak land 7/7 trampler.

Er we lost that one. 0-2.

Game Scores 6-14. Match Totals 2-6.

Round 3 versus spideysenses rating 1622 playing GW.

I’m sure there are many reasons for loving Magic. One of mine is games like this first one where we take 11 land a Blind-Spot Giant with built-in Pacifism and a Wort Boggart Auntie we win. Wort in addition to other comedy abilities has fear and you will note that our opponent is playing GW not famed for its Fear-blocking abilities. 1-0. Another reason I love Magic is watching decks curve out. It has a certain rhythm and grace to it and while I was hard-pressed to appreciate the poetry on the wrong side of it you can’t argue with Goldmeadow Stalwart into Goldmeadow Harrier into Avian Changeling into Oaken Brawler into two removal spells into shuffle shuffle shuffle here comes Game 3.

Except it doesn’t. At this point in proceedings MODO decided that since there was substantially more than one upkeep happening simultaneously somewhere in the world it was time to pack up for a while. That meant a 1-1 draw and the end of the first part of our rather tedious journey through online Magicland.

Game Scores 7-15. Match Totals 2-6-1.

Next time on ‘Drafting and Drafting and Drafting and Drafting with Rich’ we’ll complete the saga of approximately 30 hours of non-stop Magic. It’s in the nature of sport that sometimes the storyline disappoints. In this case I can’t bring you heroic deeds of topdecked goodness in the final of a 4x PE. I can’t show you the blueprints for 7 fantastic decks that you can emulate for guaranteed success. There’s a novel called ‘The Diary Of A Nobody’ and it does exactly what it says on the tin. The central character is utterly unmemorable does nothing important and the book ends.

I’m afraid that this collection of stories isn’t as spectacular as the topdecking game threes of our dreams but then that’s what makes those games so special – they don’t come around very often in real life and you can ask Craig Jones all about that. Nonetheless reading it back I realise that I’ve learned a lot and I hope you have too. And without spoiling the storyline in any way it’s just possible that Part II could be known as The Comeback…

Until next week as ever thanks for reading.