The Compleat U/R Drafter’s Guide, Part 3: The Legions Picks

The Legions pack is a veritable treasure trove for the U/R drafter, and even with several U/W mages at the table, you can still clean up on quality U/R cards. Enemy mages will be grabbing Stingers and Deftblade Elites, and you should happily let them. With Echo Tracer, Willbender, Wall of Deceit, Keeneye Aven, and Mistform Seaswift all ripe for the plucking, you’re the real kid in this cardboard candy store. After a while, the cracking of pack two might start to trigger an almost Pavlovian response.

The Legions Pack

The Legions pack is a veritable treasure trove for the U/R drafter, and even with several U/W mages at the table, you can still clean up on quality U/R cards. Enemy mages will be grabbing Stingers and Deftblade Elites, and you should happily let them. With Echo Tracer, Willbender, Wall of Deceit, Keeneye Aven, and Mistform Seaswift all ripe for the plucking, you’re the real kid in this cardboard candy store. After a while, the cracking of pack two might start to trigger an almost Pavlovian response.

Chromeshell Crab? Chow time.

U/R Commons Pick Order

1. Echo Tracer

2. Skirk Marauder

3. Keeneye Aven

4. Mistform Seaswift

5. Crested Craghorn

6. Flamewave Invoker

7. Covert Operative

8. Skirk Outrider

9. Macetail Hystrodon

10. Voidmage Apprentice

11. Bloodstoke Howler

12. Shaleskin Plower

13. Glintwing Invoker

x. Goblin Grappler

x. Hunter Sliver

x. Goblin Lookout

x. Goblin Firebug

x. Cephalid Pathmage

x. Merchant of Secrets

x. Aven Envoy

x. Fugitive Wizard

x. Mistform Sliver

Echo Tracer

Open Echo Tracer and Skirk Marauder in the same booster? There’s a song I was taught as a child that helps me in these situations. Let’s see if I can remember how it went:

When a tricky pick appears,

this song should always reach your ears,

something something

then you’ll see

you’ll avoid catastrophe!

D’oh! >_<

Oh well. Rather than relying on nursery rhymes, I could go with what testing has shown me, and that is that Echo Tracer is the better card. I’m not just mindlessly agreeing with established canon here, either – it really is more versatile than the Marauder, especially with every white deck pounding on you with enchanted Soldiers that don’t tap to attack. BOING!

Skirk Marauder

The red commons are a queer lot – the gap between Skirk Marauder and Crested Craghorn is so big that Evil Knevil once tried to jump it. You certainly don’t want to be first-picking Crested Craghorn, even though it will probably make your deck. Really, there is only one red common you want to see, and it’s this guy. I have seldom lost a game that started with a Marauder two-for-one special, and in the late-game he’s just like a Shock that beats for two while you’re waiting.

Keeneye Aven

Seaswift vs. Aven has long been a tough question for U/x drafters – but with a number of common removal spells in Scourge sending the Seaswift into the bin, the Aven is now the better card. Don’t forget that, like Ascending Aven, this guy is a Bird Soldier, and thus immune to Frontline Strategist and Gempalm Avenger shenanigans. Turn 3 face-down Raven Guild Initiate, turn 4 Keeneye Aven is a rock-solid defensive opening in any game, except on MODO where every opponent can tell you have an Initiate face-down because of the”Cuts” tell. Sigh. Even then, he or she won’t be attacking, so keep developing your board.

Mistform Seaswift

The best defense is sometimes a good offense. Given the straight-up choice between Seaswift and Keeneye Aven, I usually take the Aven (mostly due to higher toughness and its excellent turn 4 interaction with the Pack 3 sleeper common, Raven Guild Initiate) but the difference in card quality is small. Three damage in the air is nothing to be sneezed at – and as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, the Mistform ability has synergy with a ridiculous number of other cards. The addition of Scattershot and Spark Spray to the format hurt the Swift, no question, but I still want it in my deck, and have never had a deck good enough that I’d consider cutting one.

Crested Craghorn

He’s the Pinpoint Avalanche that beats down. Though you’ll usually be sending this beasty out to trade with Barkhide Mauler, Krosan Vorine, or that damn Zealous Inquisitor with Dragon Scales on it (tapped out, are you?), he can also burst onto the scene and hit for four if the coast is clear. Don’t underestimate what this burst of damage can do for your tempo. More importantly, don’t forget that any creature with first strike makes this guy as useless as teats on a bull.

Flamewave Invoker

You want one in your deck, but probably not more than that. The Flamewave can burn people out in the late game, and he gets some mileage out of the fact that he’s a Goblin (Sparksmith and Gempalm Incinerator will thank you later) but a 2/2 on turn 3, one with essentially no ability – that doesn’t really blow my socks off. He will, however, draw a lot of removal as you approach eight mana. A middling card in a Legions booster filled with middling red cards.

Covert Operative

If the blue commons above were in an office building, Echo Tracer would get the top office with the busty secretary, Mistform Seaswift and Keeneye Aven would get the corner offices with a great view of the river, and Covert Operative would be about seventy floors down, in the janitor’s closet. That’s how big the difference in quality is. That said, I’ve played Covert Operative many times, and this sneaky sorcerer does put the enemy on a definite clock. In the drafts I’ve done, he’s been in the sideboard about 50% of the time, and has made the maindeck the other 60% of the time, proving two things:

A) Covert Operative is quite playable

B) I’m no good at math.

Skirk Outrider

No rocket science here: If you have a good number of Mistforms and Beasts, he’s quite playable. If not, he’s awful. Use your better judgement as you ask yourself,”Is he going to be a 4/4 trampler most of the time in my deck?” If the answer is yes, then Outrider should probably make the cut. Don’t forget to factor the fact that this guy is a Goblin into the equation if you’re stuck as to which way to go.

Macetail Hystrodon

Pretty solid. If you couldn’t get an Aven Fateshaper or Goblin Dynamo to fill your 7cc slot, the Macetail will serve you well. No surgical precision needed in this case – just play him on offense or defense as appropriate, and don’t forget that with the Macetail leading the charge, your Torrent of Fire now hurts a lot more, and Rush of Knowledge is sick like a lungful of asbestos. At worst, he cycles.

Voidmage Apprentice

This guy is called the”Voidmage,” because that’s what your opponent does when this guy pops up to counter Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Void. As in, his bowels. Involuntarily. Playable if you need number 23, this utility player will never shine in the bigs, but sometimes he has that moment of bomb-countering glory we all know and love.

Bloodstoke Howler

The Howler is about as good as the Plower is – and if you’re thinking to yourself that that isn’t exactly the most ringing endorsement in the world, you’re a smart cookie. All things being equal I like the Howler over the Plower just because it can sneak through a good chunk of damage by surprise (especially in conjunction with Mistforms or guys like Macetail Hystrodon and Battering Craghorn) and the Plower just doesn’t have that sort of late-game power. That said, they’re both pretty mediocre.

Shaleskin Plower

If your opponent is running a shaky mana base or has a Contested Cliffs, this guy will gladly come in off the bench. Take the Plower only as instructed by your physician – sparingly and according to directions.

Glintwing Invoker

Close to unplayable, if you’re following my pick order, 98% of the time this will be in the board. If you’re really hurting for deckfuel, though, you could find a worse Lavamancer’s Skill target. The Glintwing can also push through those last few points in the late game, though any U/R player worth his salt would prefer a more elegant method.

U/R Uncommons Pick Order

1. Wall of Deceit (1.5)

2. Willbender (1.6)

3. Gempalm Incinerator (4.5)

4. Frenetic Raptor (4.6)

5. Goblin Clearcutter (5.5)

6. Master of the Veil (5.6)

7. Primoc Escapee (5.7)

8. Goblin Dynamo (5.8)

9. Blade Sliver (6.5)

10. Skirk Drill Sergeant (8.5)

11. Warbreak Trumpeter (10.5)

12. Warped Researcher (12.5)

13. Ridgetop Raptor (12.6)

14. Shifting Sliver (13.5)

15. Mistform Wakecaster (13.6)

16. Gempalm Sorcerer (13.7)

x. Goblin Assassin

x. Crookclaw Elder

Wall of Deceit

So good. Wall of Deceit is a card that is very underrated by intermediate and even some advanced drafters… But I’m here to tell you, right now, shooting straight from the hip, that Wall of Deceit is nuts, it’s gas, it’s as good as Echo Tracer. Really; Wall of Deceit is the Zombie Cutthroat of Legions, a morph that doesn’t hurt your mana curve while simultaneously providing rock-solid defense.

Usually, the Wall will come out on turn four with a blue mana untapped, and then proceed to block whatever happens to attack, especially if it has two toughness.

That’s when things get insane. Opponent lets his morph die? You’ll get two-for-one, as he’ll have to use another card to kill the Wall later. Opponent unmorphs Daru Lancer? That’s a Time Walk. Battering Craghorn? Time Walk. Skirk Marauder only gets one-for-one. Hystrodon? No card, no damage. Opponent casts Vitality Charm? They wasted a card. Aphetto Exterminator only gets one-for-one. Zombie Cutthroat? That’s a Lava Axe. Putrid Raptor? Thanks for throwing out that Zombie! No damage for you.

If you haven’t been taking Wall of Deceit high, you should start. You will learn to love it – and don’t even get me started on the fun you can have with Aphetto Runecaster!

The only reason I don’t take this card over Echo Tracer is that the Wall is way underrated and will sometimes come all the way around the table.


It’s a close call between Willbender, Echo Tracer, Wall of Deceit, and Skirk Marauder – but you have to give the Willbender the nod over Marauder just because there is so much potential in this card. Willbender can turn around games that no other card can. One flip and a carefully planned combat phase turns into disaster for the enemy. Prevent two to your guy? No, prevent two to mine! Piety Charm your guy? No, Piety Charm my Ascending Aven! Echo Tracer on my fatty? Nah, you can return your 3/3 Aven Farseer instead. I don’t think I need to draw you a diagram. Take it high like LeBron James – the ‘Bender has got game.

Gempalm Incinerator

If you’ve got a nice pile of Goblins already, this guy is the sugar. There are precious few card advantage removal spells in OLS, but this is one of them. Unfortunately, the Incinerator is not unconditionally good. If you don’t have any Goblins or Mistforms (this happens rarely, but still often enough to depress me) then it’s tough to justify taking this possibly-dead card over alternatives like Frenetic Raptor or Keeneye Aven. The best recommendation I can give you is to do a quick check of your prior picks when you open this up. If you can expect to have a Goblin or two in play on a regular basis, this is your pick. If not, pass it.

Frenetic Raptor

It’s big! You’ll come to love Frenetic Raptor in U/R because it nullifies defensive juggernauts like Needleshot Gourna, allowing you to bust through for damage with your fliers. You’ll start to love it even more you get to turn it sideways and the enemy camp takes six or throws a midget in front of it to stay the wrath of the raptor. Unfortunately, if you happen to draw it when you need a blocker, you’ll hate it. Love it or hate it, it’s still worth it – especially against Green.

Goblin Clearcutter

Orcish Lumberjack has been reading Atlas comics, he’s had sand kicked in his face one too many times, he’s bulked up, and he’s back. Of course, playing U/R, you have no forests for this environmentally unfriendly guy to munch on. No worries – a 3/3 body for 3R is all you need be concerned with. And a Goblin, to boot!

Master of the Veil

I had an aversion to drafting this card long ago, because in my mind it was like Backslide – a card I’d never found useful. Well, those days are over. Master of the Veil is actually a fine card upon further review, and in conjunction with Aphetto Runecaster or even Bonethorn Valesk, the game state can get degenerate as you spend 2U to draw a card and deal one damage to whatever you choose (I have in fact done this). The more conventional use for this is to aid you in creature combat. Attack into a Treespring Lorian, and then morph the Master to eat him for breakfast.

Primoc Escapee

Like Aven Fateshaper, Goblin Dynamo, and Macetail Hystrodon, the Escapee is a nice late-game finisher and a fine target for your mid-game Riptide Shapeshifter (most U/R decks have precious few Beasts). Though luckier players will have legitimate bombs like Day of the Dragon to play with seven mana, you just have to throw down the Escapee, relax, and let the 4/4 flier do the work. You could do a lot worse for a turn 7 play, truth be told. I’ve seen Elvish Pioneer make one of his rare appearances around that time, and trust me – my opponent was none too pleased.

Goblin Dynamo

He’s a big, fat dynamo! A nice target for Riptide Shapeshifter (name”Mutant”) and great for filling that late-game 7cc slot, usually the contest ends quickly after the Dynamo appears. Once he’s on the table on your side, examine your options. Take a long-term view of it. And please, for the love of God, man – if you do decide to go right to the dome, make sure there’s no Willbender around to leave you with egg on your face. With X-spell power comes X-spell responsibility.

Blade Sliver

The Blade Sliver is more playable in U/R than in any other color combination. Works well with Imagecrafter and Mistform creatures, and is fairly efficient on its own. Sure, it trades with a morphs, but it also trades with a three-toughness enemy stooge, and even I know that isn’t something you find just around the corner. Sometimes you’d rather have something more versatile or more durable, but men beating down with 4/1 Mistform Seaswifts shouldn’t complain.

Skirk Drill Sergeant

Ever play B/G? Sometimes on those decks, you’re low on cards and you have to run Goblin Turncoat. You’re never too happy about it, but since it’s a 2/1 for two mana you just shrug and say,”Well, it could be worse.”

On that note…Skirk Drill Sergeant. He’s playable, but you almost never want him to be. Usually sees two-drop duty when Sparky needs backup.

Warbreak Trumpeter

That’s not really a trumpet noise – more like the sound of someone desperately scraping the bottom of a big barrel. The Warbreak is playable because it is a Goblin and a morph. The morph ability will seldom get you anything worth anything, but you could do worse in the late-game. In the jungle or cardboard that is Legions, Warbreak Trumpeter is a shining bastion of mediocrity. Need a playable card, and all other options exhausted? In he goes. I’d feel sorry for you, but according to Tupac, we’re all in the struggle. I have my own problems to take care of.

Warped Researcher

Though it seems at first glance that Warped Researcher might be a”cycling theme” card on par with, say, Stoic Champion, he really isn’t that good. Wizards this big don’t come around often, sure, but with that size comes the 4U price tag that relegates this card to”average” status. If you have a good pile of cycling cards, you can get some mileage out of his ability to gain flying (though in hundreds of drafts I’ve never seen the”untargetable” portion do anything), but despite the fact that he might look good in your Rift deck, you have no business taking the Researcher over a more powerful card like Keeneye Aven or Mistform Seaswift.

Ridgetop Raptor

At one toughness, this guy is liable to last about as long as a celebrity marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever had a U/R where I was forced to play a creature of such dubious quality, but sometimes a man has to do what a man has to do, and that includes biting the pillow and snagging the Beast to pump up those Outriders. The Raptor is also good (unfortunately) with Enrage, another card I try to avoid. You will lose to that combination at least once in your career, but you should nonetheless avoid playing it.

Shifting Sliver

A poor man’s Covert Operative – and if that isn’t damning with the faintest of praise, I don’t know what is. If all goes well, Shifting Sliver will not be in your maindeck. Certain circumstances render it somewhat playable. One such example situation would be a U/R deck that is light on solid playables, but sporting Mistforms, a Synapse Sliver and an Imagecrafter.

Mistform Wakecaster

Never good, sometimes you just can’t find anything else. Though the Wakecaster is extremely good with Slivers (particularly Magma Sliver and Shifting Sliver), the ability is cumbersome and casting a 2/3 isn’t high on my list of things to do when my fifth turn rolls around. I almost always leave this card in the board – my deck would have to be pretty strange for this Mistform to see the light of day.

Gempalm Sorcerer

Eventually, after digging through the trash-littered alleys of your brain for a good ten to fifteen minutes and coming up empty, you hit the stone-cold realization that there is no new or interesting way to say”This card makes your maindeck only in an emergency.” So instead of subjecting you to yet another hackneyed attempt to say just that, I’ll do the classy thing and just continue on. The important thing about Gempalm Sorcerer isn’t its (low) power level relative to the better cards in Legions, but its power level relative to some of the other 23rd cards in the set.

U/R Rares Categorized


Imperial Hellkite

Chromeshell Crab


Lavaborn Muse


Goblin Goon (4.5)

Clickslither (5.5)

Magma Sliver (2.5)

Kilnmouth Dragon (2.5)

Rockshard Elemental (2.5)

Skirk Alarmist (9.5)

Unstable Hulk (9.5)

Dermoplasm (9.5)

Keeper Of The Nine Gales (9.5)

Mistform Ultimus (4.5)

Riptide Director (9.5)

Riptide Mangler (4.5)

Synapse Sliver (7.5)

Weaver Of Lies (4.5)


Dreamborn Muse

Imperial Hellkite

I heard that 6/6 fliers were good! On the Dojo. Now, I’m passing that information on to you, the consumer. I’d make a Trogdor joke here, but without much doubt now, Homestarrunner.com is simultaneously the finest goofball humor site and the most tiresome geek-culture reference on the planet. All you need know is that this thing wins games. It’s enough.

Chromeshell Crab

Yoink! Like Quicksilver Dragon, this card can go in pretty much any deck as a splash, often with very favorable results. If you’re base U/R though, Chromey the Chromeshell Crab will serve you in a proportionately greater fashion, often allowing a savvy player to win games that just wouldn’t be possible to win otherwise. Probably the best possible target for cards like Backslide and Master of the Veil (I remember one game I stole Needleshot Gourna and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, offering a couple of useless morphs in exchange), you can rest assured that the Crab will have a large impact on any game where it appears. If you’re an OTJ fan, you’ll find that this card unleashes beatings in much the same way that Cultural Exchange wrecks people – but Cultural Exchange never beat down on the side.

Lavaborn Muse

A solid body even at the worst of times, Lavaborn Muse is often a deadly finisher. Most novice-intermediate players ration their cards in hand very poorly in this block, and it usually comes back to bite them hard when the Muse hits the table. Having to hold spells in hand to avoid three to the face isn’t much fun, either. There’s no Red or Blue card in Legions I’d take over this, not even Echo Tracer.

Goblin Goon

*knock knock*

“Who is it?”



“Hired Goons.”

The hands-on touch (something you only get with Hired Goons) is a powerful addition to your limited deck if the conditions are right, but when the chips are down and you need something off the top to save you, this is like drawing a blank. In other words, it’s”win more.” Still, some”win more” cards (and by that, I mean cards that are most useful when you’re already winning) are worth having in your deck simply because of the sheer power level of the card in question. Words of War and Goblin Goon are two such examples. Still, you shouldn’t take this over Skirk Marauder or Echo Tracer under any circumstances.


Hi, I’m Clickslither. You may remember me from such board situation analysis videos as”I Wish I Had My Third Mountain” and”1RRR: The Virtual Mulligan”!

In the very rare U/R deck that is nearly all red with many Goblins, Clickslither is a viable option and a strong card. Unfortunately, that is not how most good U/R decks are built. I’d say you need ten Mountains and a mountaincycler, minimum, to play the ‘Slither, and probably a few Goblins and Mistforms for seasoning.

Magma Sliver

Think of this guy as Goblin Clearcutter, but about twice as good, and you’ve got a good handle on his power level. Magma Sliver interacts well with a lot of blue cards, most notably the Mistforms and Imagecrafter, and he provides an efficient body that can block and kill a four-toughness creature. In other words, Magma Sliver is a bargain to say the least, and in the right situation can end a game almost out of nowhere (I’ve hit for twenty-six in the air with a Mistform Skyreaver before).

Kilnmouth Dragon

There’s a big, big difference between a 5/5 for 5RR and a 6/6 for 5RR. I’m not sure why one point of power and toughness should be so crucial, but whatever the reason is, it is worth nothing that while Imperial Hellkite is an unconditional first pick, Kilnmouth Dragon goes behind Echo Tracer, Skirk Marauder, Wall of Deceit, Willbender, and depending on your mana curve, you might even want to take a faster flier over it.

Rockshard Elemental

So slow. I’ve tried taking Rockshard Elemental over Echo Tracer a couple of times, and it doesn’t really work – the Tracer is just better. Rockshard Elemental packs a wallop, but so what? So does Polar Kraken. That said, this double-striking beastie is a very solid card for your U/R deck and you should take him – provided there is no Wall of Deceit, Willbender, Echo Tracer or Skirk Marauder in the pack.

Skirk Alarmist

You could do worse. The Alarmist will never make your opponent defecate helplessly in mortal terror, but sometimes the ability is surprisingly useful, especially when the morph in question is toast anyhow (free Skirk Marauder two-for-one?), or when you care more about the morph trigger ability itself as opposed to the mediocre creature it leaves behind (this is most often seen with Willbender or twenty-third card workhorse Voidmage Prodigy). This card is a Wizard, not a Goblin. Take note.

Unstable Hulk

About as playable as any other morph, the Unstable Hulk is a little better than your typical 23rd card in that it can punch through for big damage to end the game…if the opportunity arises. Though I am damned sure going to try, I cannot stress the following enough: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, UNMORPH THIS UNLESS YOU ARE GOING TO WIN THE GAME AS A RESULT. I have seen two or three people unmorph this guy just to kill a larger blocker, or (believe it or not) force through some mid-game damage. BZZZZZT. Wrong. Someone vote these guys off or something.


Why not? It’s a morph at worst, and that sweet, sweet three colorless fallback cost makes for some strange bedfellows. Though Dermoplasm was made for a combination like U/G (a strange archetype where some cards are far more useful than usual, Accelerated Mutation being another good example), it is playable in your U/R deck is you don’t have much else to go with. It’s doubtful you’ll be able to use the ability with anything but rare morphs, but if the opportunity is there (and with cards like Rockshard Elemental and Imperial Hellkite floating around, it certainly is) you might as well take it and run with it.

Keeper of the Nine Gales

At first, everyone thought of Tradewind Rider and swooned. Then, everyone saw how terrible it was compared to Tradewind, and got riled. The truth of the card can be found somewhere in between the respective extremes of stupendous beatery and ineffable uselessness. With a great many Birds, Keeper of the Nine Gales is surprisingly good, and will even take games for you, especially against annoying U/W decks that think they own the table with Deftblade Elite + any other card in their deck. With less than seven Birds/Mistforms/Imagecrafters you leave this one by the wayside, but toting a greater number of the feathered folk you’re set up to take advantage of the Keeper. With that figure in mind, you simply need to make an estimate when you see this card in a pack. If you can reasonably expect to meet the requirements discussed above, it is a viable pick. If not, it’s not. Simple.

Mistform Ultimus

Every synergy known to man, and then some. The Ultimus probably causes more misplays in Limited than any other card, and that combined with a sizable 3/3 body for 3U means that he’s going to make your deck. If you have a Lavamancer’s Skill, in fact, I’d recommend you take this big Wizard over Keeneye Aven and other comparable cards. Few Wizards shrug off Cruel Revival and Clutch of Undeath so readily. The Ultimus works with your Raven Guild Initiate, doesn’t fear many pieces of Black removal, pumps up your Sparksmith and Skirk Outriders, ignores or benefits from enemy Frontline Strategists and Gempalm Avengers, and does a hundred other neat little tricks, many of which your opponent will doubtless overlook. Make him or her pay for it!

Riptide Director

Sloooooooooooooooooooooow. Don’t take this over a high pick under any circumstances – but you may want to consider the Director, a card that dominates a stalemated late game, as a viable choice for your maindeck if you find yourself in poor position. Given the choice between this and other cards of middling to low power level, I might try the Director if only because it has so much potential. That said, card drawing comes in Pack 3 in the form of Rush of Knowledge, an infinitely superior card. Hope to get that, and leave the Director on the sidelines.

Riptide Mangler

A stellar early defensive creature with late-game potential, the Mangler will hold down the ground until you decide to trade it for something – and when you do, there’s no creature better at trading! Even Enormous Baloth goes down when the Mangler blocks and changes power. I see the Mangler as essentially a 2/3 for 1U, with the drawback that you have to pay 1U for it to start doing damage. That’s fine by me.

Synapse Sliver

Never an early pick, when Synapse Sliver falls into your hands far later in the pack, you have no business complaining. With flying Mistforms and Imagecrafters at your disposal, you can get squeeze a surprising amount of tight-osity out of this unassuming one-legged wonder. Turn that Dreamer into a Sliver, draw a card!