The Bell or Hunt Dilemma: A Tribe Called Flesh

Somewhere within Tim Aten’s review of Grand Prix: Chicago team names on Monday was a legitimate article discussing the merits of Kami of the Hunt vs. Order of the Sacred Bell. Today the man who chose Glacial Ray over Kokusho, the Evening Star flips that bad boy around and tells you why the hunky monks are exactly the men you want to be choosing when you’re at the draft table.

Sorry Tim, I can sympathize with your Chambers situation. I just spent that past weekend rooming in Nagoya with Jon Becker. We passed the time on our fourteen-hour flight doing one-on-one drafts of Ch/Ch/Be. I won one of the first drafts with an aggressive Samurai deck that featured Sensei Golden-Tail. Jon seemingly became fixated with the card and spent the remainder of the week singing the card’s name to the tune of Sister Golden Hair by America –

Well I keep on thinking about you Sensei Golden Hair…

Of course, when the tune replays in my head it slowly morphs into something far more insidious and I lay all the blame at Jon’s aching feet.

Here comes Sensei Golden-Tail

Hopping down the Sensei Trail

Last week’s dilemma came in very handy for me over the course of our countless drafts. On the flight home I opened up a pack with Kokusho, the Evening Star, Glacial Ray, and Devouring Greed. I knew that if I passed the Ray to Jon, he would ship me back the Greed and would be working from my short list of rares as he tried to figure out what I picked.

“What could you have taken over Glacial Ray. At least I know it wasn’t the Evening Star…”

I opened a second Glacial Ray in the second pack, wasting an opportunity to double up on my favorite card. I did get to take a dragon and Devouring Greed out of that first pack so I felt pretty good about he decision. Obviously one-on-one draft is a completely different animal than any other draft format with such a small card pool that I could not not take the dragon.

I still believe very strongly in the power of Glacial Ray over all but the elitist of rares in the format, and I think that the results from the Pro Tour bore that out. It seemed like every time I turned around someone was drafting a completely degenerate deck based around the splice onto arcane mechanic – sometimes Dampen Thought, but far more often than not Glacial Ray was the card that made the decks go.

I had a couple of players tell me that they thought my side of the argument was the correct one. Jeff Cunningham was one of them and the other was Top 4 competitor Murray “The Mauler” Evans. Murray took a lot of grief over his card valuations all weekend so he may not be the best name to throw out there when it comes to trying to defend pick orders.

Murray came into the event with a common White pick order that placed Kabuto Moth not only below Kitsune Blademaster and Cage of Hands, but below Mothrider Samurai as well. In the third draft of the weekend – the only one where he did not draft Blue/Red – Murray took Blademaster over Moth, which brought his pick orders to light, and the Moth made it to Anton Jonsson as a third pick. Anton used the Moth to good effect against Murray in the last match of the day and moved to a perfect 7-0 on the weekend.

Murray defended his pick and even in the Top 8 continued to express his disdain for the Moth in his Top 8 profile under most overrated card in Champions draft. One of his trademark cards on the other hand is Battle-Mad Ronin. He relies on the Ronin and untap tricks to control the board. In Blue/Red he pulls the string with Psychic Puppetry and in White/Red with Call to Glory. In fact, he feels he could have won his match with Anton had their been any Calls to Glory or Indomitable Wills at the draft table.

Said Mr. Murray of his beloved samurai, “If I play Battle-Mad Ronin…what can they do?”

He also took me to task when I asked him about how highly he drafts Lava Spike and Unearthly Blizzard in a Red/White jank deck. He claimed to eschew Lava Spike for the Call to Glory – I believe they are next to each other on the common run – and explained, “You are obviously drafting Battle-Mad beatdown while I am drafting Battle-Mad control.”

While not everyone agreed with Murray’s picks (Paul Sottosanti said of the Mauler’s Top 8 deck, “I have seen better bottom right drafts!”) the Mauler drafts his decks based on an internally consistent pick order that seems to work for him – it got him into the Top 4 didn’t it?

Another player with controversial pick orders in the Top 8 of the event this past weekend was Finland’s Jarno “The Baron” Harkonen. The Baron drafted Green all week but caught some heat for twice choosing Matsu-Tribe Decoy over Kamis considered to be worthy of higher consideration – Kami of the Hunt once and Moss Kami the other. Jarno’s drafts throughout the weekend relied on drafting the snake tribe with a smattering of monks and spirits at different spots along the curve. Again he seemed to benefit from having an internally consistent order even if it flew in the face of the Magic community’s group think.

Green is certainly a color that offers you many different possibilities from spirit craft to a tribe called flesh, which can basically be either snakes or monks. I certainly like the Kami of the Hunt that Tim Aten so nobly defends in his half of this debate, but I have to make a run for the border and support the man that the kids call Taco Bell.

Order of the Sacred Bell is a solid four-drop strictly better than your average Hill Giant with the bonus point of power. In Green, Spiritcraft can be very powerful, but Kami of the Hunt is not the guy that sends me in that direction. I am looking for a power rare like Kodama of the South Tree or my personal fave, the uncommon Soilshaper to kick that off. Otherwise, people don’t generally draft Green, they just end up that way. Failing one of the big four or five cards – Kodama of the South Side, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, Jugan, Soilshaper, or Kodama’s Might, I am looking at every other slice of the color pie for my deck.

Order of the Scared Bell is big enough and fast enough to signal me into Green. He plays out favorably on turn 3 and turn 4 against most of the of the other cards in the other decks. One of many players’ criticisms of him is that he gets blocked all day long by a lone Kitsune Blademaster. Let me tell you right now that if you send your 4/3 into a Blademaster with untapped mana on your side of the table, it is unlikely that your opponent is going to block.

The same is not necessarily true of a Kami of the Hunt. You need two spirit/arcane to get over the top of a Blademaster unless one of them is Kodama’s Might, but with Might you can accomplish the same thing with your monks with a 6/5 vs. a 5/5 Kami coming out slightly ahead in my book. Another card that does the trick for Sacred Bell is Serpent Skin – probably the most underrated trick in Green’s arsenal. Serpent Skin gets your guy over the threshold to kill the Blademaster and if it doesn’t – say if they have a counter-trick – you can still regenerate and get your Abyss on with your mean, Green, regenerating machine.

Much more frustrating than Blademaster for the Green mage is the White deck packing spirit hate in the form of Kitsune Diviner and Kitsune Riftwalker. They can usually tie up your tramplers and block your Kami of the Hunt all day long. Order of the Sacred Bell gives that deck fits. They are wearing these tailored, bullet-proof vests and you get to whack them in the side of the head with a baseball bat.

If you opened a bomb card for Green spiritcraft, then by all means pick the Kami of the Hunt. If you opened up Kodama of the Southside, you can scarcely do any better than to pick up every Kami of the Hunt you see, since they will trigger twice and get trample for every spirit arcane. The same is true of Soilshaper, especially in this case, since you want to leave mana untapped each turn to send it into the red zone and the Kami fits nicely into this delayed curve – two-drops on turn 3, three-drops on turn 4, etc.

The rest of the time you are simply looking for a mixed bag of the best creatures at every step along the way. If you are going to end up with your share of two-drop mana accelerators then Order of the Sacred Bell fills that vacancy nicely on both the third and fourth turn. Back him up with some decent removal, pump, Serpent Skin and you are in business. One last thought on Serpent Skin… The Skin is essentially a four-mana Green counter spell for either of the Rends and the only removal spells that can get through your Skin are Befoul and Reciprocate.

Hopefully I have convinced you to put Order of the Sacred Bell higher than Kami of the Hunt in your own personal pick orders. If not, that’s fine – just be consistent and implement the strategies that work for you. If something doesn’t work then you should revisit your strategies and adjust accordingly. Murray Evan can pick Blademaster over Moth because it works for him and he made it to the Top 4 of a Limited Pro Tour. If you are drafting Blademaster over Moth and not winning at Friday Night Magic, you might need to rethink the order you are taking those two cards.

In drafting with Becker this weekend – I think we did ten or eleven one-on-one’s over the weekend – we decided to make Magic slang for at least one card a tad more erudite than your average card nickname. We dubbed Seizan, Perverter of Truth “Father of Cubism” after Paul Cézanne. Hey, it was a fourteen-hour flight home… Besides it gave me a nice segue into this week’s edition of “Lyrics to Songs From the Tarpits of Brian’s Youth”.

Well I had an aunt and she was in a coma

So we loaded up her bed and we took her up to MOMA

We got through the door, you wouldn’t believe what began

She sat up and started screaming, “Hey, where is that Paul Cézanne?”

Cézanne, Cézanne, the miraculous father of cubism

Paul Cézanne is famous now and I think that’s really nice

’cause his melons look like footballs and his apples look like dice

So all you would-be painters, get out your brush and can

You may be the next Paul Cézanne, Cézanne

Cézanne, Cézanne, the father of cubism

Cézanne, Cézanne, the original father of cubism

Paul C̩zanne РFive Chinese Brothers