Hello and good luck.
Those of you who have followed my work over the past few years will likely have noticed that I try to push the envelope in my writing, to stretch outside the boundaries of the standard Magic article, to innovate. Nothing evokes this sense of adventure and discovery like a bajillion draft walkthroughs. Sure, the Eisels and Willses of the world might give you umpteen or even eleventy walkthroughs, but I’m the first and last to break the bajillion walkthrough barrier – and they said it couldn’t be done.
Still, I’m not sure that’s enough, so this week I’m going to blow your mind. This means I’m going to do the same old thing, but also do some slightly different things. Shazam!
While you’re still reeling from that last paragraph, I’m going to throw something at you. A pile of cards! Voip!
If you haven’t already guessed by the title of the article and the picture was no help, those are the cards I opened for a Magic Online league I started. Hey! Wait! Don’t leave now; things were just getting good.
For most “serious” players, leagues have often been seen as the bastard child of drafts. Or maybe the harelipped half-brother of sealed Premier Events. They require less skill; the competition is weak; the prize support is abysmal; blah blah blah. Fine, the prize support is pretty weak if you don’t go 20-0, but the other two things – well, okay, they might be true as well.
Yet there are several aspects of leagues that make them unique among the other Limited formats out there, paper Magic included. List time! Fwoosh!
Leagues and You: You and Leagues
Infinite deckbuilding time: It’s a bit of a mathematical stretch to equate four weeks with infinity, but remember, I also claim to have written over a bajillion articles.
Play at your leisure: Two pluses in one! You don’t you have to set aside ten hours in your already busy schedule (mine revolves around sitcoms and Everquest). You don’t even have to set aside two. You can play your games at any time of day or night, any day of the week. You can play all five of your “real” games in one day. You can wait three and a half weeks and play twenty games in four days. Like your imaginary Latvian gymnast girlfriend, leagues are very flexible, and they only exist on some distant server.
You’re not restricted to one build: How many times have you been in a sealed PTQ, and you agonize over your build for the scant time available, and you submit your deck only to realize seconds later you probably shouldn’t have gone with Ryusei and thirty-nine Swamps and then a meteor crashes into the card shop, severing your spine and pinky toe? This will never happen in a league, as you can easily modify your deck between rounds. Also the meteor thing probably won’t happen either unless you live in Siberia in 1908, in which case you probably don’t own a computer anyway.
Mildew is a thing of the past: With Magic Online leagues, you just spray and watch the unsightly fungus disappear before your eyes. Elapsed time 60 seconds. Some scrubbing required. Dancing bubbles may bite.
Leagues are fun: No explanation necessary here. Actually, this brings me to my next major point –
Leagues are Fun!
Yes, they certainly are.
Well, enough goofing around. I guess the thing to do here is to actually write out each card in my pool, because the picture might not even work or something, and a bunch of words is equal to a thousand kilobyte picture, or so the phrase goes.
Also, I’ll sort these by color and mana cost instead of by color and god-knows-how-Magic-Online-sorts-those-things.
Surge of Zeal
Rain of Embers
Sabertooth Alley Cat
Multicolored and etc.
I tried to think of a better model of doing gold/hybrid cards than to just lump them together, and I think I succeeded! Behold the Guild Model for Sorting Gold, Hybrid, Artifact and Land Cards Model Model!
The Lone Non-Guild-Affiliated Artifact
That certainly is a bunch of cards. If only there were yet another way of presenting all that information for your perusal.
Don’t ever say I don’t ever think of my readers. Now you can feel free to open that .dec file in Magic Online and play with my cardpool to your heart’s content. Remember, no diving. That floor’s slippery. Do not enter the hot tub if you have a heart condition or don’t like looking at fat, sweaty gentlemen. Or both.
No, seriously. Play around with the deck. I need your help.
You see, I’ve come to realize I’m not a very good player. Some months back I stubbornly decided I was decent enough to draft exclusively in the 8-4 queues. After a brief winning streak, I went on a 10-or-so-match losing streak. Bowmph! And ouch. Yes, that was painful.
This isn’t to say I’ve given up on drafts entirely. No, I’m still a drafter at heart, and yes, you’ll probably see a walkthrough or two this week (the results of which may or may not be comically disastrous, not to mention disastrously comical). No more 8-4s for me for a while, though. I’d much rather pick on someone my own size, or at least someone not twenty times better at Magic than me. No fun picking on those people.
I probably would have done a league article much sooner if it weren’t for the fact that leagues were really messed up during Kamigawa block. Some silly bug involving the two different Brothers Yamazaki pictures made it impossible to add Champions boosters in the later weeks of the league, instead forcing you to add Betrayers (and later, one Saviors) boosters instead. I didn’t think that was very fun at all. Seems to me that it should have been fairly easy to fix, but what do I know about computers. I just try to keep the little man in there well fed. That’s as far as I go in terms of debugging.
Get On With It!
Sorry. Whenever I open a new card pool, the first thing I like to do is find all the bombs. Afterwards, I let the robot recharge and look for the best of the best; the gamebreakers; the cards that you make every effort to play regardless of how they screw up your colors. Examples of such cards in past sets include:
Sometimes they’re artifacts; sometimes they’re splashable. Sometimes they’re Flame Wave. They’re usually rare. They often give you a warm fuzzy feeling whenever you see them.
Let’s see how many of those suckers I’ve got.
0 results found. Did you mean to search for: Bombastic?
Failing that, I seek out the next best thing – very good cards that are among the best in their colors, just not as gamebreaking. In draft, these cards are likely to be taken anywhere between first and fourth pick, but this isn’t draft. That’s why I have to call this section:
Very Good Cards
Sorry for all the question marks there, but it’s difficult to rate all these Green cards since so many of them are only really good in the context of other cards. Enablers, if you will. Either that or I just have a very strong Green pool. Or a very weak one. (The question marks make me look less stupid.)
So where does that leave us? Not very far along, I’m afraid, but I’m reasonably sure I can make a few general claims about the strength of the cardpool:
The Green is very, very good. It has strong cards and it is deep. It is difficult to imagine a build in which Green is not a major player.
The White is pretty bad when examined by itself. It has some splash possibilities in the Selesnya cards and Faith’s Fetters, but nothing screams “build a deck around me!” I hate it when they scream.
The Black has some good offerings, but many of its better cards are Black mana intensive.
The Red is unimpressive. The Arc and possibly the Embermage make decent splashes, and the two good Boros cards yearn to be played, but it’s not likely it will play a major role in the deck.
The Blue has few standouts, but it’s not entirely unappealing. It’s got some of the playable mill cards, but Vedalken Entrancer is woefully absent.
Based on this analysis, surely the correct build is G/B/w with a possible Red splash, right? Maybe. I don’t know. Actually, when I first laid eyes upon the pool, my instinct was to go mill, something I’ve never done before, not even in draft. Here’s how I might build that deck:
[file not found]
Okay, it was a bad idea. I started building it, and it was terrible. While I was doing so, however, I started toying around with the idea of a five-color deck. Actually, that’s my favorite draft archetype (more on that later in the week!) and this pool offers some possibilities in that arena. It’s got some synergistic effects spread across several colors. For example, the Aura theme. Fetters, Arc and Strands play nicely with Mark of Eviction, Drake Familiar, and Dowsing Shaman. Or at least they would if their combined mana costs weren’t an abomination.
Still, it’s worth a shot.
What a disgusting mess. Still, I’m tempted. Let me say that I adore the bouncelands. (I’ve heard them called the lair lands, the Karoo lands, the s***y duals [or duels], and the two mana thingies, but to me they’re bouncelands.) I would play them at every opportunity, and I’ve been blessed with three in this cardpool. (More on the bouncelands later this week! Kerpow!)
Unfortunately, the thing about the bouncelands is you generally wanna play them on turn 2, which means you can’t play anything for two mana that turn. So you either have to hold off on playing the bouncelands or you have to play something that costs two on turn 3. Neither solution is perfect, and I’d frankly much rather have fewer two-mana cards.
Oh, but there are more problems still. The Legionnaire and the Trumpeter were late additions to the build, and they should probably go. I can probably count on having either White or Red available early enough, but not both.
There’s also all that nasty double Black mana, which forces me to play with more Swamps than I’d like. Yes, this deck is a disaster in the making, but I still feel it’s got some potential. If it can survive the early game, it has several ways to create virtual locks in the lategame. Still, it has problems breaking through and it’s short on creatures to boot. Tweak, tweak, tweak.
I suppose I should try out the so-called obvious build. Green Black White. How boring.
Hm. The mana’s far more stable, as is the creature base. (Well, slightly more stable.) I get to play with Svogthos, one of my pet cards. (Heeeere Svogthy Svogthy Svogthy.) Yet it lacks the charm and some of the synergy of the abomination. Perhaps a compromise is in order; perhaps the build is actually G/B/w/r with none of that meddlesome Blue.
The final option I’d consider is going two colors, but I don’t think it’s a very good idea here. Only in the best of situations are two colors viable. If I were to go straight black/green I’d probably be forced to play Mortipede, Sadistic Augermage, Sewerdreg, and Woodwraith Corrupter (none of which are utterly terrible, and each has a potential use, but I’d just as soon leave them all in the board if I could). If I went Green/White I’d pretty much be stuck with playing every card I have in those colors. Get in there, Gate Hound! Arf!
A Neat Little Package
Frankly, I’m a little lost. If left to my own machinations, I do believe I’d go five-color at this point (just probably not with the build listed above). This is where you come in. I’m not asking you to build my deck, but – oh, I suppose I am. As a ward of the state, I’ve been deemed legally incompetent, and I’m fairly certain that extends into Magic. It just has to.
So gimme a hand, willya?
Make sure not to miss the rest of this week’s Star City Games Daily! I’ve got a few surprises in store, and maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two along the way.