Now that the qualifiers for PT: Barcelona are beginning, it’s time to start brushing up on those Invasion drafting skills. I try to draft once a week when possible, and I’d like to think I’m getting fairly decent at figuring out what’s good and what’s not. And you’d be surprised (or at least, I’m surprised) at what some people think is the cat’s pajamas and what they consider to be utter dreck.
Funny how I can win games with what some people call dreck. Just because it’s not sexy doesn’t mean it’s not good. For example…
From the plethora of Invasion drafting articles circulating around the Internet, there seems to be a common theme: Cursed Flesh is suboptimal compared to most other removal. I disagree; it qualifies as one of my hidden gems. I have never regretted having this card in my deck. It kills a lot of the annoying 1/1s in an opponent’s deck, such as Quirion Elves, Crimson Acolytes, Tidal Visionaries and the like. It can also be used as a post-combat trick to kill the 3/3 that blocked your 2/2. What most people forget is that it can be played on your own creature to be made unblockable under the right circumstances. Cursed Flesh + flying now-unblockable Dragon is "some good." You won’t even care if it’s only a 5/5. In draft Cursed Flesh will often fall to you very late, but given how many people are following "The Rule" (always draft U/B), sometimes the supply will dry up after the sixth pack. If you are playing black, try and pick up one or two of these. In Sealed, I’m always happy when I get one.
Perhaps the best non-Apprentice 1/1 in the set, and a bomb in U/W. You want combat tricks in a set filled with color-specific spells? Turn an attacker red and block with your Galina’s Knight. Make a black creature white and blow it up with Annihilate. Protect a creature from Plague Spores. Fizzle a Wallop. Turn a Djinn from a 3/3 to a 5/5. All that, and it fills in that often-empty 1cc drop beautifully (and a bag of chips). (Listen to the man, here — I feel the same way — The Ferrett)
The Visionary is underappreciated and underutilized. I’ve seen them drop all the way to 12th picks in draft. If you have a lot of pro-color spells and creatures, then the Visionary is a great fit. However, if you don’t have these, then the Visionary becomes a rather vanilla 1/1. It works best in U/W but also in U/B if you have a lot of black removal, like Annihilate and Agonizing Demise, and you’re going up against another black-heavy deck.
I love to run two of these in a deck if I can, especially if I’m running a three- to five-color deck. Better than Harrow in my opinion (albeit more expensive), Frenzied Tilling will tip the tempo clock in your favor dramatically, and they tend to slide down to lower picks since Harrow is more popular. When I can get a Tilling off on turn four, with the help of a Fertile Ground or Quirion Elf, I’ve set my opponent back a turn in terms of mana development, accelerated mine by a turn, and thinned my deck. I can get that third color into play while denying my opponent his or hers. This is also one of the few ways to get rid of a Keldon Necropolis, too.
Against three-, four-, and five-color decks, Frenzied Tilling is devastating. Against a tight, focused two-color deck, especially a B/R deck packing multiple Maniacal Rages, then I probably sideboard these out.
While I have yet to build the six Frenzied Tilling deck (akin to the seven or eight Turf Wound decks), I have no doubt that it would be at the very least, "interesting."
Stun: Reading the Grand Prix-New Orleans reports, I saw that Stun was showing up in a decks, including runner-up Michelle Bush’s Top 8 deck, and probably not just because they needed a 23rd card. Stun is very limited, but it does two things very well: One, it’s a cheap cantrip at only 1R, and two, it screws up combat math, especially towards the endgame. Removing a key blocker from combat can often mean that last few points of damage, especially in aggressive B/R decks often foiled by those accursed Acolytes.
Yeah, most of the time it’s dross, but sometimes it’ll win you the game. Remember, people used to think Falter sucked as well. Sometimes those 23rd cards make all the difference. It’s certainly better than Vigorous Charge. Then again, a poke in the eye with a pointy stick is better than Vigorous Charge.
Pledge of Loyalty:
While Zvi Mowshowitz has his rule, I have mine, which is "Never draft white if you can at all help it." There are times, however, when you end up going white anyway, and if this falls to me late, I’ll be more than happy with it. Most people pass on it simply because they read the card, can’t figure out the wording and assume that it sucks. I’ve had it win me more than one game, though.
Essentially, Pledge of Loyalty is a great card in the mirror match. Against another W/U/G deck, for example, a creature enchanted with Pledge of Loyalty can’t be Repulsed, can’t be tapped, and can’t be blocked by green fatties.
You can also have a lot of fun with the aforementioned Tidal Visionary and Sway of Illusion with Pledge of Loyalty. Don’t let the text confuse you-this card can be a beatstick.
This card can’t be that bad, can it? Landwalk of your choice? That’s a good thing. Unlike other cards that are more situational and grant a singular type of landwalking, this one is always optimal no matter what colors your opponent is playing. And it’s a cantrip, no less.
When you’re staring at a creature stalemate and you need something to break through, then the Cloak is a good card. So why isn’t it played more? Is the 2U casting cost prohibitive? Or maybe because most blue decks prefer other ways to win, usually via flyers?
I usually end up with one or two of these when drafting, filtering down to 12th-14th picks. And quite frequently they’ve turned out to be useful, allowing a 3/3 that might otherwise be tied up in combat to come over for a few turns of beatings.
Another card that tends to filter down to the later picks. Admittedly, it’s not that great when compared to the superior Dismantling Blow. But if you didn’t get a Dismantling Blow, you could do worse than the Unicorn. Think of it as a Seal of Cleansing (which is good) that can attack and block. Remember, at least until Planeshift comes out, the Unicorn and Dismantling Blow are the only two Disenchant-quality cards in the Invasion environment.
And since most people tend to think this card is suboptimal, they often ignore it, using removal on what they consider to be more dangerous targets.
While there aren’t that many truly dangerous artifacts or enchantments in Invasion, aside from the obvious bombs like Meteor Storm, it’s always good to have some sort of defense against artifacts or enchantments if you’re playing G/W or U/W. Sometimes trading a Unicorn for an Attendant works out pretty well.
This is all based on my personal playing style and observations. Your mileage may vary. But don’t pass up cards that may end up being useful just because everyone else says they suck – or, as my Dad used to say, "Don’t knock it ’til you try it."