With one of the more chaotic weekends of the year finally drawing to a close, and our fears of a potential apocalypse officially subsided, we can again get to work on reading some strategy articles. This week, I’ve got some fresh situations for –
Wait! Back up the bread truck just a minute there, chief..
Did you say Apocalypse?
As in… The End of the World?
What the hell are you talking about?
Well, dear reader, pull up a chair and allow me to explain.
Rumors of the coming doomsday actually began on Saturday night, shortly after the completion of day one of Grand Prix: Kansas City. With the ending of the first day of competition came a fact that could only be logically interpreted as an advance warning of the approaching Armageddon (and no, do not destroy all lands, pass Go, or collect 200 dollars).
The suspicious information was that one Nathan Heiss was in fact 8-0 in the Grand Prix.
“DEAR GOD, Nate is 8-0, adkDFldjfKDSJDSsdfFKJlkasljf”
-Aaron Vanderbeek (more commonly known as BEEK)
Nate Heiss method of playing Magic is extremely unconventional, to say the least. THE HEISS has a long track record of using cards that many consider to be unplayable – the first in this line being Manakin, followed by Zur’s Weirding, a deck he dubbed”Mafia King,” and most recently, Power Conduit.
How then, you ask, could a man who most closely resembles a Charging Slateback ever be undefeated after day one of such a major tournament? There really is no rational explanation.
Such an event causes the waters to part, ATM machines to go berserk and spit money into the streets, and God himself to come down from the heavens and question the existence of mankind.
Many preparations were made in an attempt to neutralize the forecasted oblivion. Dogs and Cats were sacrificed at an altar as tribute to a higher power, planes dispatched for Ireland where there was a four-leaf clover festival, and the United States government declared a code red state of emergency.
Naturally, if people were this frightened after day one, they were begging for salvation when THE HEISS somehow clawed his way into the Top 8. When the draft concluded and Nate had in some way managed to compile a pretty powerful deck, all hell broke loose…
Free-for-alls broke out in department stores everywhere, with everyone trying to steal as much cash and merchandise possible before THE HEISS won the GP, and the world subsequently ceased to exist. Milli Vanilli actually composed and sang a song of their own and Eminem removed his costume, confirming the suspicion that he is actually a black man in disguise. Elvis resurfaced, proving to fans that he was in fact alive all these years, and Zvi Mowshowitz was crowned GQ model of the year.
Needless to say, hysteria had reached an all-time high.
“APOCALYPSE ON THE STACK!”
– Aaron Vanderbeek
“If he wins, there really is no reason to live.”
– Jeremy Darling
Once THE HEISS had advanced to the finals, I personally gathered my belongings and flew to Hawaii. At least I’d die happy, right?
“I think a Pig just flew over my house.”
– John Eardley
“We truly are in Oz and not Kansas. Nate Heiss is in the finals of a Grand Prix.”
– Brian Kibler
Tension continued to ride high during the sixteen hours it took Sideboard.com to update with the results of the final match. When it eventually updated, our fears were finally assuaged; Antonino De Rosa had stood his ground, and in effect, saved the world from deletion.
“Anyway, the world can continue now.”
“OH THANK GOD.”
Antonio as Superman, savior of our society and Nate as the antichrist and end of life as we know it. That’s an interesting picture.
Anyway, all jokes aside, I’d like to congratulate Nate and Antonio on their finishes. Good job guys.
I guess I should actually talk about some Magic in this article too, huh?
Before we jump into the actual substance this week, I wanna give you all an idea of what’s likely to be coming down the pipeline in the next few articles. Since I’ve finally figured out a way that I can do a Mirrodin walkthrough before it’s actually up on MODO, that article was originally slated to be completed this week. Slight complications, however, have pushed it back to the next article and after that we should be full throttle into the interesting world of Mirrodin.
This article came about when I was cleaning out some of the files on my computer and noticed that I’d saved up quite a few situations since the last time I wrote one of these pieces. I see no reason to waste valuable analytical material and since a couple of the predicaments are from environments other than Mirrodin, I figure I should get them out now before we are totally concentrated on the new set.
Situation 1: What’s the Build?
We’ll begin with one of the two Mirrodin examples I’m bringing to bear today, how to build a very difficult set of cards from a draft full of overpowered packs. When you look at all the possibilities I’ve got below, I think you’ll agree with me that the packs were ridiculous. Incidentally, I only listed the playable cards (somehow I ended up with thirty-seven good cards; the other ten were chaff like Disciple of the Vault, Omega Myr, and the like). See how you’d build the deck before proceeding to the commentary…
Grab the Reins
Journey of Discovery
Mask of Memory
Goblin War Wagon
Tree of Tales
Vault of Whispers
If those aren’t options, I don’t know what is.
Basically, what happened was that I was sure I was running red for most of the draft, and my second color continued to evade me as I was continually passed high picks in other colors. In the end, as you can see, I accumulated an excellent set of cards to compliment my red, with the problem being that I had about an equal number for each of the other four colors. Quite a predicament!
If you don’t believe me that the majority of the packs in this draft were simply insane, just look at the fact that I have thirty-seven highly playable cards – a number much higher than the norm, even in a format full of artifacts. As you’ll notice, some of the cards that are listed in colors are actually artifacts but are listed there because of their activation costs. Hopefully, this is self-explanatory.
To begin, we’re almost definitely playing Red so we should set aside those cards and see where we go from there:
Grab the Reins
Add to those the five powerful artifacts, Copper Myr, and Wizard Replica – cards that are almost always going to make the maindeck regardless of what our second color is.
Playing off-color Myrs is really good to accelerate your mana base, boost affinity, add more creatures to use equipment on, and also allow you to run fewer lands. Hopefully, most of you have figured this out already and are beginning to implement it in your own drafts. Wizard Replica is one of those cards that is plenty good on its own, providing a flier to a deck that may not have one, and at an efficient cost. It is worth noting that he becomes much better when playing blue, but I think for now we can almost assume he is making the maindeck no matter what. With those additions, we have:
Mask of Memory
Goblin War Wagon
Grab the Reins
That’s nineteen cards. Usually in this format, I like to run sixteen land, as long as I have a combination of at least two Myr or Talismans. That means we get to add an additional five cards from the bombtastic selection we have left.
At this point, I’d like to mention, that there are an extremely large number of possible builds for this deck and it would take entirely too long to look at each and every one of them. What I’m going to do is go over the cards and the merits they offer to the red base, and then give the build I used with the reasons behind it. While I did 3-0 this draft, I’m still not sure if I built the deck correctly, as there are a number of plausible solutions. Figure out what you’d do from here and post it in the forums where we can discuss it together.
My initial hope in this draft was to concoct a R/W monstrosity, as some of my early picks were the Slith Ascendant and Skyhunter Cub. Shortly after that, however, White was cut off and while I did pick up a late Den-Guard and Patrol, I couldn’t grab enough to solidify it as my second color.
Obviously these cards have a lot of synergy with the red ones that are already making the cut. Each of the four creatures white provides have excellent synergy with the Equipment already in the deck, and they also provide a much-needed evasion base.
The only problem these cards would introduce into the deck is the double-white required by the Ascendant and Patrol. Upping the land count to seventeen and just adding the four white cards easily solves this problem. This build of the deck seems to be the most fundamental and solid to me, and one that many players would use in this case.
Journey of Discovery
(Tree of Tales)
The green cards are pretty self-explanatory: One of the best cards in the format, and a good mana fixer. If we run green, we will clearly have to be splashing a third color along with it, as there are not nearly enough cards to complete the deck with red and green. The real motive for using these cards would be to play with the overpowered bomb, as well as help out our Atog and Myr Enforcer by including the artifact land. The Journey helps to run three colors as well, as it’s much easier to find the land you need. I often find myself running more than two colors in this format, and the Journey has proved to be worthwhile. Since we also have Copper Myr in the maindeck, it’s much easier to justify using the Green as he’s a painless addition.
The easiest colors to splash along with green would be black and blue, simply because of the lack of double-colored mana in any of the cards of those colors. (We’ll talk more on this later)
These four cards scream power in a tight little package. None of them require more than a singleton blue mana to operate, and the Spellbomb can even cycle without it. The Spies are probably the best evasion creature for Limited that we’ve seen in the common slot in years. They are almost always unblockable and very hard to kill in this format since they’re not an artifact (read: Spikeshot Goblin). Lumengrid Augur is a bomb. Remember Cephalid Looter? This guy is Looter on steroids, and he will win the game in a matter of turns if left unchecked. All in all, the blue splash looks very profitable to our base of red, and provides some evasion as well as power and control in the Spellbomb and Augur. Using the blue also helps to power up our already-maindecked Wizard Replica into a more potent threat.
Seeing a pattern here? Each of the prospective complimentary colors features a suite of powerful cards. Here we have a bomb in Skeleton Shard, some potent removal in Terror and Irradiate, and an Twisted Abomination-like creature in the Pewter Golem. Of the four colors, Black provides the least in terms of creature support and evasion, but also helps the deck by adding more removal and a recursive engine. Black also allows us to play another artifact land in Vault of Whispers.
If you’re still scratching your head on this one, allow me to sympathize with you: It took me almost a half an hour to go through all of the potential builds in order to determine which one I felt was the best (usually, it takes ten minutes tops). Going through the characteristics of each construction is unrealistic as I’ve already stated, so instead I’m going to give some basic guidelines I have for building decks in this format in contrast to environments of the past:
1) Have at least thirteen creatures, some with evasion
2) Some form of removal
3) Three or four good pieces of Equipment
4) Play your bombs if possible (as always)
5) Build for strength and efficiency, not solely tempo
Boy, do I wish this draft was on MODO so I could have done a walkthrough on it. There were certainly some interesting picks.
Anyway, now we’ll move on to the actual build that I used and I’ll attempt to explain why I think it’s better than all of the others.
The first obstacle in building the deck is whether to play two colors or three. Obviously you can go a number of ways here, and there are an abnormally large amount of cards that permit splashing the third color in an already powerful pool. Some of the more prominent examples are Lumengrid Augur, Skeleton Shard, Irradiate, and Terror. If I’m going to build the best possible deck, though, I figure I should use as many potential bombs as possible without wrecking the mana base.
I really wanted to play that Glissa and I figured I could reliably cast it by using two Forests, Tree of Tales, the Copper Myr, and the Journey of Discovery. When I came to this conclusion, I immediately discarded all of the two-color builds. Glissa is that good.
After that, it came to the decision I talked about either – do you solidify the deck with the blue cards or the black ones, since either would be a good third color? White has to be eliminated if you choose to include Glissa, simply because of the double-white casting costs involved.
Let’s back up for just a minute and examine the base deck. It currently is looking for a source of evasion – the only present occurrence being Wizard Replica. It also stands at a healthy eleven creatures right now (and twelve after we include the green for Glissa). However, by going three colors, we have introduced a problem: The initial red base is nineteen cards, and then Glissa and Journey of Discovery bring that total up to twenty-one. Both the blue and black splashes have four solid cards to add to the deck, which will require us to cut one of them, or an initial card from the deck to make it fit. This is fine and can be worked with, but I’d like to point it out ahead of time. Most likely Hematite Golem or Atog is going to have to go for our final list, as they’re the worst two cards in the deck when playing three colors. Both are still fine, but Hematite becomes suboptimal (in comparison to the rest of the powerful cards we’ve got) when you screw with the mana base, and Atog can’t come out early enough to be reliable anymore. At this point we’re building more for power and have to sacrifice some speed to get there. We’ll talk more about this when we get down to the final cuts.
Now we can get down to examining the two promising splashes in terms of the guidelines I outlined above and how far along the deck is already in terms of fulfilling them.
We’ll start with black – which offers removal, a large regenerator, recursion through the Shard, and an artifact land to our deck. The best targets for the Shard at this point are the Goblin Replica, Myr Enforcer, Goblin War Wagon, Hematite Golem (which may or may not get cut), and the Pewter Golem. Since we have to cut one of the creatures I talked about above, and we’re adding Pewter Golem, that leaves the overall creature count at twelve (two of which are Myrs). This splash just doesn’t seem to fit when I lay the deck out, and it seems like the deck is lacking in a lot of areas when built this way. There is virtually no evasion, and we don’t gain any kind of brute offense by adding the black cards. We basically become a control deck with a lot of removal. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it is in stark contrast to the red part of the deck, which suggests some sort of tempo oriented attack, featuring the pair of Vulshok Berserkers, Spikeshot Goblin, Goblin War Wagon, and Wizard Replica (for aggro evasion).
It seems to me, then, that the Blue would make a more appropriate fit to the rest of the cards. Turn 3 Neurok Spy, turn 4 Berserker seems like a powerful curve and we have two copies of both. The Augur will also help us get out of manascrew or flood, and since we have two copies of Artifact Lands (Great Furnace, Tree of Tales), he will just go nuts. Another important factor is that he will dig to our Glissa or Grab the Reins, which will surely win us a number of games once we draw them. Aether Spellbomb helps to cycle into a good draw or provides bounce in a pinch, and by adding blue we activate the Wizard Replica’s relevant ability.
Now that we’ve decided on blue, we can cut that crucial card I mentioned earlier. Since we’ve added Glissa and the Augur, we’ve upped the number of four-drops to six, which is far too many without at least three or four Myrs. I see no problem cutting Hematite Golem here, as Atog will be much better than another four drop.
At this point, we have yet another decision to make that I haven’t even brought up yet: Whether or not to play the Stalking Stones. Obviously, this guy is an auto-inclusion in a two-color build, but with three colors, we may already be stretching it too thin to include his presence. Let’s see where we’re at now in terms of mana concerns.
We have both a Red and a Green Myr, which helps, so looking at the deck now it looks like we’ll need two Forests, Tree of Tales, at least four Islands – and that would leave us with eight or nine red lands, depending on whether or not we want to run a fifth Island or not. In this case, I decided to play it a little risky and run seven Mountains, Great Furnace, four Islands, and the Stones. The mana considerations aren’t really there to justify nine red lands, and I think we should be fine with only four Islands for three”real” blue cards, as the Spellbomb cycles and the Replica is fine on its own. This is certainly risky, but it ended up paying off as the Stones won me a game even though I was slightly colorscrewed. Again, so many of these decisions are very close calls and making the correct decision is what determines a good player from a bad one.
All in all, I think R/U/g is the best way to go with this deck. You get the most power, best attack force, and get to play a high number of your best bombs (Skeleton Shard being the only one missing except possibly Slith Ascendant). You could easily justify building this deck a number of other ways… And I encourage you to do so in the forums. Without further ado, here is my final build:
Mask of Memory
Journey of Discovery
Goblin War Wagon
Grab the Reins
1 Great Furnace
1 Tree of Tales
1 Stalking Stones
Even though I won this draft, I’m not sure this is the best possible build. What do you think?
I took the deck to CMU on Tuesday to see what everyone else thought, and a few people built it almost exactly as I did, while Mike Turian built R/U/b, and one other person built the standard R/W seventeen-land deck.
Situation 2: A Penny for My Mistakes?
For the second situation in question, we are forced to retreat back into the depths of Onslaught Block Limited. A format that has been all too unkind to me lately, if I might add.
My deck is an uneasy build based in green and black, but splashing a Rush of Knowledge, Whipcorder, and Aven Liberator off of a Flooded Strand and a basic land of each type. Not exactly the optimum deck to be running with in a 9-5 MODO queue.
My opponent was with a much more unwavering archetype: Blue/Red. The first game began innocuously as I dropped a Gempalm Strider and he countered with a Mistform Wall. I then went on to miss my third land drop for two turns and by that point he’d built a Bonethorn Valesk with Crown of Fury. What was normally an easy to kill threat became a monstrosity against my land-light draw, and soon it also gained Pemmin’s Aura and flew in for the kill. My opponent also revealed the Lightning Rift that he had in this game. I sided in Break Asunder for game two.
Game two started out quite badly for me, as I mulliganed a one-land hand into five Forests and Wirewood Channeler. Thankfully, I drew some spells off the top and we were off to the races. I made a Barkhide Mauler, which got Echo Tracered. On the next turn, I morphed Aven Liberator and flipped it up after damage – but his morph was Wall of Deceit, which survived. At this point, I replayed the Mauler and searched up a Wirewood Guardian with Fierce Empath and the only thing he had beating me down was a Shifting Sliver.
So, it was my Liberator against his Shifting Sliver, though he was at sixteen and I was already down to twelve. At this point he dropped Lavamancer’s Skill on his Tracer, and I started to worry. On the next turn, however, my deck offered up a Dragon Shadow, which I dropped on the Guardian – and in two turns had effectively pulled a win out of an otherwise impossible damage race.
My opponent gets to play for the deciding game. My opening hand was quite a disappointment:
Patron of the Wild
Rush of Knowledge
Gotta keep, unfortunately. Hopefully I’ll draw the Island or Plains..
He leads off with an Island and Imagecrafter, which is quite annoying since that guy is insane with his two copies of Raven Guild Initiate. It’s also bad, because he’s gonna get at least two hits in before I can drop a Morph to stop him.
I draw a Forest and briefly consider casting the Patron face-up to stop the ‘Crafter, but dismiss it as a bad idea since the Imagecrafter is still going to cause me problems and he’s not going to trade it with my awful Patron anyway. Maybe I’d do it if I had a Wirewood Symbiote in my deck, as I have been known to run the turn 1″Wild One.” Don’t ask.
There’s simply not enough gas in my hand to justify saving two points of life though, so I pass the turn.
He beats me down, plays a Mountain, and passes back.
On my turn, I draw Dragon Shadow and play a Swamp before again shipping the turn without action.
He cycles a Lonely Sandbar on my end step.
Imagecrafter bashes me again down to eighteen, and he plays a morph which I’m relatively certain is a Raven Guild Initiate. Incidentally, all of his morphs have been ones that survive combat so far, with him revealing Wall of Deceit, two Raven Guilds, and Echo Tracer in the first two games.
On my turn, I draw a Snarling Undorak – and since I’m not gonna block his morph, I play the Patron face-down instead of using the Liberator as a chump. This should be evident given the morphs we’ve seen so far, and I think it’s the only play you can make here.
His turn consists of attacking with the morph, and dropping me to sixteen, and then passing the turn after playing a fourth land. He now has two Islands and two Mountains untapped as I enter my fourth turn.
I draw an Island (YAUSS!), attack with my Patron, and cast the Undorak face up since I don’t recall seeing a Complicate in the draft. He could easily have Discombobulate, Hindering Touch, or Voidmage Apprentice here, too, but I really don’t think he does. He played pretty aggressively in the first two games and it seems silly that he’d just not play a guy to keep a counter open on my fourth turn (unless he was that afraid of the Graveborn Muse in my deck that I played in game 1 before dying). I figure that he just has a bad draw and drop the Undorak. It resolves, and all seems to be going well.
He drops a fifth land and swings with his morph, which I decline to block since it could easily be a number of things that trade with my Undorak here. Since he didn’t play anything last turn he has effectively passed the tempo off to me and I can clearly win this race if he keeps it up. I drop to fourteen, and he passes the turn again… What is going on??
At this point, we can enter the in-depth coverage so that you can see if you’d have played differently than I did and possibly won where I lost.
Me (14 Life)
Hand: Forest, Forest, Island, Dragon Shadow, Aven Liberator, Rush of Knowledge
Board: Forest, Forest, Swamp, Swamp, Morphed Patron of the Wild, Snarling Undorak
Opp’s Board: Mountain, Mountain, Island, Island, Island, Imagecrafter, Morph (tapped from attacking)
On this turn, I’m pretty sure I make my first mistake of the match. I’m worried about him having Skirk Marauder or Shock and blocking my Undorak (which can’t pump because of his Imagecrafter) and then finishing it with a Shock. So since he obviously doesn’t have anything to kill my Undorak (he’d have done it on his turn for sure because I have a morph which could be – and actually is – Patron of the Wild), I drop the Island and cast Rush of Knowledge before the attack just in case he has that Shock to finish my Undorak.
At this point, he starts tapping mana and I get worried, as he could easily just counter it (though I’d still be ahead in the damage race, I really wanted to power up with that Rush). What he does, though, is actually just as bad if not worse than countering it: He copies it to himself with his morphed Mischievous Quanar! Now, granted, I’d not seen this guy in the first two games, I still think I made a misplay here, and certainly should have just dropped Dragon Shadow on my Undorak and attacked with both guys. After combat, I can then Morph the Liberator or even leave up mana to Patron my Undorak if he draws a burn spell. This play is just so much better than what I did, and now he’s gone and drawn four cards in his more powerful deck while I drew Swamp, Graveborn Muse, Sootfeather Flock, and Gempalm Strider. Not bad, but his deck is also much better than mine…
I attack him down to thirteen, then discard a Forest since I have eight cards in hand. My hand before I pass the turn is this:
Him (13 Life)
Play: Lightning Rift, cycle Macetail Hystrodon killing my Morph, attack for four, pass the turn after discarding a Mountain
Me (10 Life)
Draw: Barkhide Mauler
Hand: Forest, Swamp, Gempalm Strider, Sootfeather Flock, Graveborn Muse, Dragon Shadow, Aven Liberator, Barkhide Mauler
Board: Forest, Forest, Swamp, Swamp, Island, Snarling Undorak
Opp’s Board: 3x Island, 3x Mountain, Lightning Rift, Imagecrafter, Mischievous Quanar
Now that’s what we call decisions. Since I can play a land, I’ll have six mana to use on my turn – so what’s the most effective way to do that? I think you should be able to see right away that I’m definitely going to cast Graveborn Muse and either Dragon Shadow on my Undorak or the Gempalm Strider. While there are a number of other options, these ones use the mana most effectively and will be more beneficial to us in coming turns (as in, the next turn I cast Mauler and the other two-mana spell). At this point I’m wishing I would’ve just played the game correctly back on turn 5 so that he virtually couldn’t win. He would’ve had five unused mana on the turn he copied my Rush, and my Undorak would be on the beats with Dragon Shadow. Granted, he still is on the beat – it was still a mistake. So let’s break this down.
Since we most likely want to attack with our Undorak here and keep the damage race up, we will need to have a Blocker to deal with his Quanar if he sends it. Graveborn Muse seems fine for this job, but what if he kills it? At this point I think we need some insurance in a potential chump blocker and should definitely cast the Strider. Casting Dragon Shadow only does one more point of damage this turn and he can’t block it anyway so we should just save it for when he’s holding back blockers and sneak through at that point. While there are a lot of options here, I think this is clearly the best one.
My Play: Attack with Undorak, cast Graveborn Muse and Gempalm Strider
Him (10 Life)
Play: He drops a 7th land and casts Shoreline Ranger before passing back the turn.
Me (10 Life)
Draw: Swamp (from Graveborn), going to 9 life, Needleshot Gourna for draw step
Hand: Swamp, Swamp, Sootfeather Flock, Dragon Shadow, Aven Liberator, Barkhide Mauler, Needleshot Gourna
Board: 3x Forest, 2x Swamp, Island, Snarling Undorak, Graveborn Muse, Gempalm Strider
Opp’s Board: 4x Island, 3x Mountain, Lightning Rift, Imagecrafter, Mischievous Quanar, Lightning Rift
Thank God for that Gourna! This turn seems relatively easy in my books, as we definitely want to stave off that Shoreline Ranger. This should give us time to draw enough cards from Graveborn Muse to swing the game back in our favor.
But wait – did you see that? I messed up yet again. He doesn’t know I have the Gourna, so I should definitely swing with my Undorak here before casting it, since I can pump twice and get around his Imagecrafter and he can’t reliably block. I was far too engulfed in the idea that I was going to get Barkhide Mauler out with Shadow on it and kill him in one turn with Undorak pumps. Misplay number two. Did you make it as well?
My Play: Swamp, Needleshot Gourna
Him (10 Life)
Play: He drops an 8th land and casts Decree of Silence. Dear Lord, that’s not good for us.
Me (9 Life)
Draw: Break Asunder (from Graveborn), going to eight life, Swamp for draw step
Hand: Swamp, Swamp, Sootfeather Flock, Dragon Shadow, Aven Liberator, Barkhide Mauler, Break Asunder
Board: 3x Forest, 3x Swamp, Island, Snarling Undorak, Graveborn Muse, Gempalm Strider, Needleshot Gourna
Opp’s Board: 4x Island, 4x Mountain, Lightning Rift, Imagecrafter, Mischievous Quanar, Lightning Rift, Decree of Silence
Break Asunder, off the Muse? Irony, anyone? Seriously, though, that’s bad times for our hero and now we’ve gotta fodder three spells before we can even get one to resolve.
Damn, I’m awful. I wish I woulda just played turn 5 correctly.
So now the name of the game becomes casting the worst three spells possible in the quickest amount of time, since we’re on a clock from our own Graveborn and his potential cycling cards in combination with the Rift.
Since I’ll have eight available mana this turn, let’s consider the options. First of all, he’s tapped out, so we should definitely get in there with the Undorak since we missed it last turn. As predicted, he takes three damage, dropping to seven life (which should be four, even though he might have chumped with the Quanar on one of the turns had I attacked twice).
Now, back to what spells to cast. It seems fairly evident that we can afford to lose the Liberator, so we should morph that and let it get countered. After that we still have five mana, and since we don’t have a seven-drop in hand to return the Shadow, we can’t afford to let it get countered. Our options then become Mauler, Asunder, or Sootfeather.
Asunder seems good to get rid of the Rift and keep us at a healthy life total – so should we sacrifice the Sootfeather or the Mauler to the Decree? Somehow I brain fart again and morph the Sootfeather. I’m still stuck on that pumping the Mauler plan. Maybe this was just a bad game for me, but it really seems like there’s a lot of possibilities and I’ve already thrown the game away at least twice in retrospect.
My Play: Swamp, Morph Liberator (countered), Morph Sootfeather Flock (countered)
Him (7 Life)
Play: His turn consists of a ninth land, and THREE morph creatures.
Me (8 Life)
Draw: Scion of Darkness, Plains (from Graveborn, he turned my Undorak into a Zombie with the ‘Crafter on Upkeep), going to 6 life, Wirewood Herald for draw step
Hand: Swamp, Plains, Sootfeather Flock, Dragon Shadow, Wirewood Herald, Scion of Darkness, Break Asunder
Board: 3x Forest, 4x Swamp, Island, Snarling Undorak, Graveborn Muse, Gempalm Strider, Needleshot Gourna
Opp’s Board: 4x Island, 4x Mountain, Lightning Rift, Imagecrafter, Mischievous Quanar, Lightning Rift, Decree of Silence, THREE Morphs
Well now my back is against the wall. Soon he can swarm me and there’s not much I can do about it. I need to get that last Decree counter off, and the real dilemma is how to do it. What would you do here? I have nine Mana and five possible spells I can play.
If I wouldn’t have been stupid yet again and cast the Sootfeather, I could go, Herald (countered), Morph Sootfeather, Dragon Shadow on Undorak, win next turn. Or, if we’re worried about the Rift, just cast Break Asunder third, which will give us plenty of time to win…
Unfortunately, though, I let the Break Asunder get countered and then play the Mauler, hoping to be able to pump my way through for the win next turn.
The mistakes that happened before this turn were difficult to see during the game and a lot of complex things were going on. What actually happened next was that he returned his Shoreline with a Raven Guild Initiate (something I didn’t even think about), and then cycled twice and finished me off with the Imagecrafter trick on my Graveborn. There were multiple opportunities to win this game, and hopefully you can see where the mistakes were made along the way.
The point is, that even though I made three crucial mistakes, I think there were a lot of turns where it was difficult to actually see the right play, and hopefully you can learn something from considering the options.
Situation 3: What’s the Pick?
With Mirrodin being the Artifact set, one can naturally assume that there are going to be some difficult choices to make during a draft. This is obviously because of the high number of cards that everyone can play, and a lot of the card values are so close that sometimes there are a number of selections that can be justified. One pack that was opened in a two-on-two last week sticks out in my mind as being one of the best Mirrodin packs I’ve seen so far, and I’d like to see what you think on the matter. When the pack reached me, it was already third pick and it still contained each of the following:
That’s after two cards were already taken out of it! The missing two were a common and uncommon to be exact. My first two picks of the draft were Spikeshot Goblin and Electrostatic Bolt, and now I had a real decision on my hands.
The best three cards in the pack hands-down to go with what I’ve already got are Broodstar, Battlegear, and Shatter. Shatter is just better than Spellbomb, and the only reason I consider Broodstar an option is because it is a bomb if you get it early enough to draft the deck for it (which, in this case, I am).
While Shatter keeps me on track in red here, I really can’t see considering it with the other two highlights of the pack for a few main reasons. Battlegear is nuts in general, and even moreso on Spikeshot. Broodstar is the kind of card that makes a draft for you. So now that we’ve narrowed it down this far, what’s the right pick? I’m still uncertain today, even though this happened over a week ago – and though I went with the Broodstar in the actual draft, it still may not have been correct. As for the actual draft, I ended up with nine artifact lands, two Myr Enforcers, and some other stuff, so the Broodstar definitely pulled his weight in gold for me. Not to mention that I opened Lightning Greaves in packs 2 and 3, which are highly beneficial to this strategy.
Now, what if we take the same pack and go back to when it was originally opened to see what we’d take. The first two cards picked out of it were Spikeshot Goblin and Grab the Reins. The Goblin went first – which I strongly disagree with, as Grab the Reins is easily the best card in the pack. After that, I guess it comes down to Goblin, Battlegear, and Broodstar. See what I’m talking about now?
Another example occurred just this past Tuesday, as another ridiculous pack was opened in a three-on-three:
Not nearly as insane as the other pack, but it’s still up there. It’s worth noting that I don’t think Reiver Demon is that great, and the Bolt is the nuts. The player who opened the pack took Battlegear, and I was presented with the choice of Bolt versus Dirigible. I went with the Bolt, even though I was unsure about it. These picks come up all the time in this format, and the difference between winning and losing can easily come from making the best pick in every situation instead of just making a good pick. While this seems self-explanatory, it’s much more ambiguous than you’d think and this set has offered up some of the toughest calls I’ve ever had to make in draft.
While both of these example packs had the uncommon Battlegear, I’m almost positive that Bonesplitter is simply better than it. It’s decisions like these that take lots of playtesting to figure out.
I’ll leave you with some other pick one pack one close calls before I wrap it up for this week…
Loxodon Warhammer or Solar Tide?
Grab the Reins or Scythe of the Wretched?
Bonesplitter or Lightning Greaves?
Shatter or Electrostatic Bolt?
Somber Hoverguard or Skyhunter Cub?
And believe me, this list is nearly endless.
As any of you who followed the coverage of Grand Prix: Kansas City closely know, Nate Heiss was lucky enough to receive two copies of Mindslaver. Here’s what Eugene Harvey had to say about that:
“Nate is so good with Mindslaver because he really knows how to mess up turns.”
Soooooo & ThatsGameBoys on MODO