The Online Outlook #18 — A Tale of Two Drafts

Read Craig Stevenson every week... at StarCityGames.com!
This is the story of my personal performance at last weekend’s UK National Championship. In particular, it looks at the highs, and lows, of my Limited game, and sees me in part soaring with the eagles, and in part snouting with the truffle pigs. In short, it is the tale of two drafts…

This is the story of my personal performance at last weekend’s UK National Championship. In particular, it looks at the highs, and lows, of my Limited game, and sees me in part soaring with the eagles, and in part snouting with the truffle pigs. In short, it is the tale of two drafts…

My preparation for this year’s Big Show was, I felt, pretty good. I settled on my Standard deck early. In fact, given my choice, you could say I settled on my deck a full twelve months in advance. That’s right… I played Green/White Glare.

For reference, here’s my decklist. I’m not gonna dwell on it long, I’ll just tell you what I liked about the deck… and what I hated.

What I Liked

  • I liked the fact that I was comfortable with the archetype.
  • I liked the fact that Hierarch was an obvious house in the face of Rakdos and Gruul beats.
  • I liked the three creature tutors main. One of each may seems a little random, but they each do something different for different matchups, while still essentially being the same card. Congregate for three Elephants is a ballbreaker against Aggro, while end-of-turn Chord to fetch Troll Ascetic is the cod’s pods versus Control. And the Pact is really useful early if I’m mana-screwed (I played against a few burn-free opponents and made turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 land and Pact for Yavimaya Dryad. Yes, it usually Time Walks the next turn, but it helps the mana, and sometimes I can lay a land and drop a Watchwolf off the Elves.
  • Maindeck TrollHammer just mises wins.
  • I like the singleton Harmonic Sliver maindeck, as there were many targets. It acts as a fifth Putrefy for artifacts, which is pretty cool.
  • I liked the three Stonewoods in the sideboard. They were last-minute additions, and they helped in three of the matchups I played.
  • I loved the three Slaughter Pact. No more scoopage to Magus of the Moon, and much more fun kill against Gruul and similar.
  • I liked Teneb. MOAR TENEB.

What I Hated

  • I hated the Riftwatchers. Sure, I only boarded them in once (against Gruul in my “final” round), but they proved to be weak at best. Without Momentary Blink to abuse them, they’re rubbish. I probably should have realized this, but I was finalizing my sideboard at 2am the morning before kick-off, after drinking a fair few pints of Guinness.
  • I hated that Tarmogoyf was actually poor in this deck. I ummed and ahhed in testing, vacillating between Mr T and the Watchwolves time and again… but the Wolves won out, as Tarmogoyf would often be noting more than an 0/1 or 1/2 for the first five or six turns… my deck puts nothing in the graveyard.
  • I hated the fact that this deck didn’t feel as strong as last year’s winning build. Man, I miss Yosei and Kodama of the North Tree.

I posted a 2-1 record in the first Standard portion. Round 1, I beat Quentin Martin Angelfire deck 2-0. You can read about the match here, and I apologize in advance for the hideous bottle-gobbling photo. Round 2, I bested a Blue/Black Dralnu deck that stuttered to mana issues, and I lost round 3 to a Lightning Angel control deck that out-powered me in game 1 and started with two more cards than me in game 2.

After the Standard dust had settled, we progressed to the first draft pod for four rounds of forty-card play. I recognized some of the names in my pod, including Grand Prix Top 8-er Basem Tabet and one-time Israeli National team-member Johnny Chapman. Going in, my preference was for either White/Blue and fast beats, or Red/Black and removal galore.

Here’s my deck:

Sideboard options included Mana Tithe, D’Avenant Healer, Lumithread Field, Auger il-Vec, Delay, Revered Dead, and Might Sliver.

During the draft itself, things went very smoothly. I started with a Psionic Blast, and simply grew from that. The colors came thick and fast, and as usual Future Sight was insane. By the end of pack 1, I was still open for a second color (it was basically Psionic Blast versus Might Sliver going into pack 2, with the Blast being the better option). Pack 2 saw me open a weak fifteen from which I pulled a Rough/Tumble. I got a Shaper Parasite in the fourteen from my right, which tipped the scales into Blue. I knew, in U/W, that I should have decent five-drop flyers from Future Sight, with Whip-Spined Drake and Lucent Liminid, so I concentrated on fleshing out the early guys until then. From FS came the double Knight of Sursi and the double Liminid, as well as a miser’s fifth-pick Horizon Canopy. Hell, it’s a Plains that cycles. Gotta love that.

Going into the first round of the draft, I knew my deck was something special. That’s why my loss in the first game, to my own idiocy and nothing more, was a bitter pill to swallow. Here’s what happened.

The game, versus GP Top 8 competitor Basem Tabet, saw me take initial command with flyers while being beaten down on the ground by idiots. Eventually, when I’d removed a few guys, Basem nuked the skies with a Tumble. So here’s how things stood at the beginning of my turn:

Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Chromatic Star
4 Plains
1 Island

In hand:

Life total: 3

Thallid Germinator (1 counter)
Yavimaya Dryad
7 Lands (all tapped bar 1 Forest)

Two cards in hand.

Life Total: 1

What would Finkel do?

It’s safe to say that I made quite possibly the worst set of plays imaginable. Here’s how.

Feeling under the cosh, I decided I needed to pop the Star in order to draw a card. For a start, that’s a questionable play, as if I draw a land I burn for one and am dead to a swing the following turn. My reasoning told me that I could top the Psionic Blast and end the game right there. Thankfully, luck is with me, and I draw my Jedit’s Dragoons. With one mana in pool, four lands on the board, and one in hand, I have a plan. I can cast the Dragoons to gain some life, and swing into Basem’s team in the knowledge that he’s forced to block (and lose a guy). I make my land.

And then I attack with my Knight.

“Erm… burn for one?” says Basem.

I become very confused and try to cast Jedit’s Dragoons in my attack step, before immediately scooping to my own idiocy. With only five untapped mana, I couldn’t make the Dragoons in my second main phase, and I was dead. Basem asked me why I’d scooped after the game, as he’d not realized I couldn’t cast the Dragoons after combat… I’m so poor.

I sat and composed myself. My deck was gas, and I wasn’t ready to go out like a chump.

From one down, I won the match 2-1.

Next round? 2-0.

And the next? 2-0.

And the final round of the four-round pod? 2-0.

So far, so good. I was 5-1 on the day, and feeling fantastic. Time for curry and good company.

The second draft pod saw four players from the same testing team sat in a line. Tom Harle fed me, while I fed Stuart Wright, while he fed Craig Jones. It was obvious that carnage would ensue… thing was, would I be the predator or the prey?

Going in, I wanted to play White, preferably with Blue. However, I knew that Tom, feeding me in packs 1 and 3 (with Future Sight being the big one), was also a fan of the White cards. Stuart to my left also likes a Plains or two, so when I opened a Draining Whelk, I shipped a Temporal Isolation and a Rift Bolt in order to slam the counter-dragon. When Tom shipped me a Fathom Seer, I couldn’t hep but smile. So far, so good.

Then things turned to scribble.

My third pick saw me take a Cloudchaser Kestrel over little of importance. Nothing Blue, and the White cards may still come my way if Tom’s opened Sengir or Hellkite or Force or something equally nasty. However, with no more White to be seen, I started taking Green cards — Fourth pick Nantuko Shaman, fifth pick Search for Tomorrow. Green/Blue is a fine archetype, if you pick up the Giant Dustwasps and other goodies from Planar Chaos. Time Spiral dried up quickly. I picked up a late Icatian Crier in case White flowed, and a Havenwood Wurm for my top end, but I rounded out the pack with little of consequence.

For Planar Chaos, I opened a choice between Sporoloth Ancient and Shaper Parasite. Of course, I took the morph. “Bring on the Green!” I whispered to myself. I’d passed no Green at all, and Stuart Wright would never be so uncouth as to run with the Forests.

At the end of the Planar Chaos pack, I felt like crying.

It was obvious early that the Green was nowhere. I saw nothing. At the end of the fifteen, my only Green pull barring late dross was an early Evolution Charm. I passed semi-decent White, including a pick 2 Calciderm in favor of an Erratic Mutation, trying my best to stay on my plan. I ended up filling out my curve with Synchronous Slivers and Veiling Oddities, with nothing remotely powerful (or even playable) coming my way. At one stage, full of panic and bile, a grabbed a Shade of Trokair with the insane notion that I could splash it. It was safe to say that my draft had gone tits up at this point.

Future Sight offered a little solace, but by now I was openly weeping. I first picked a Sprout Swarm, and picked up a Nessian Courser, Infiltrator il-Kor, and Thornweald Archer. There was hope at this point, but very little. I was defeated, deflated, and dead.

Here’s my deck. Those of you of a nervous disposition should look away now.

Relevant sideboard cards include a second Synchronous Sliver, Wrap in Vigor, Vedalken Aethermage.

Hideous, isn’t it.

On reflection, it appears that while the deck is underpowered, it’s about one or two cards of a passable forty. The Augur and the Wings are obviously poor, but I thought the deck was so bad that I needed some way to win, however janky. If I were to build this again, and I do so every night in my nightmares, I’d swap the Auger and the Wings for the Wrap in Vigor and the second Synchronous Sliver.

I was hoping to pick up one win from this deck. I felt a 1-2 score was fair. Here’s how I could win:

Sprout Swarm
Opponent’s manascrew
Veiling Oddity
Arcanum Wings on Havenwood Wurm

Did it work? In a chimp’s ass.

I fell 0-3, and out of contention.

Match 1 saw me dispatched 2-0 by Matteo Orsini-Jones, where his terrible Blue/Green/Black deck proved to be slightly less terrible than mine.

Match 2 saw me fall 2-1 to a Black/Green deck that packed Nihilith and Teneb. Suspend Nihilith, sacrifice Augur of Skulls is pretty filthy. The game I won was rather tricky, and although my opponent was slow to develop his board I needed to pull out a few mental somersaults in order to deal the final damage. With my opponent on nine life, and tapped out with no blockers, I sacrificed my Llanowar Augur to pump my Dream Stalker to a 3/8. I then hit in with my Veiling Oddity and the said Stalker, flipped my Melancholy-clad Shaper Parasite to pump the Stalker to 5/6, then used Piracy Charm to make it a 7/5 in order to deal lethal damage.

When you can only win game via such chicanery, you know you’re in trouble.

Match 3 was my bubble match, and saw me paired against Stuart Wright and his playable Red/White deck. This was a feature match, and the coverage can be found here. I lost game 1 pretty quickly, but managed to rip game 2 from the jaws of defeat (fading lethal, I made a Sprout Swarm guy at end of turn without kicker, looked to the heavens, and savagely ripped the Evolution Charm in order to grant my Nantuko Shaman flying and swing with the team for exactly lethal).

Game 3 came down to a coin-flip. Literally.

Stuart make a turn 2 Orcish Librarian, and lost no time in stacking his deck. The board stalled pretty quickly, however, and soon time was ticking down for both of us. We had masses of guys, but no evasion. While either side would die to an unimpeded strike, judicious blocks would mean that the return volley would be lethal. Cagey play all round.

With nine cards left in his library, Stuart looked me in the eye.

“Do you feel lucky, Craig?” he asked.

He had one out in his deck (apparently), and he needed to draw it before he decked himself. So he activated his Librarian in his upkeep, and I split eight of his nine-card library face down into piles of four. His one out was either in one of those piles, or it would be the bottom card of his deck and therefore useless (you’ll see why in a second).

I tapped the pile on the left. “Remove these from game,” I said. Stuart did so, flicking through them before relegating them to the showers.

“Well,” he said with a smile, “it’s not in there.”

He took up the other pile. “There we go!”

After some hasty rearrangement, he drew his Marshalling Cry, cast it to make all his guys considerably bigger than mine, and wrecked my team. Next turn came the flashback… good game.

As I said, literally a coin-flip.

Actually, it was more a 47/53 split in my favor, as if the Cry was his ninth card I could’ve weathered the storm while he decked himself.

Draft 1, 4-0.

Draft 2, 0-3, and out.

I played two more rounds of Constructed, and managed a 1-1 result. My heart wasn’t in these games. I let the second match (my loss) slip away with nary a whimper, keeping bad hands and playing like a chump. Stuart went on to make the final table, and I wandered home. Defeat tastes like copper. On the way, I threw my 0-3 draft deck into the sea.

In the aftermath, I suppose it’s prudent to examine what I’ve learnt. The thing is, it’s not important. Time Spiral Draft is irrelevant now, for me at least. I’m not even bothering with it on MTGO. Nope, it’ll be the Tenth Edition Release Events for me, and then a long wait until Lorwyn. In the meantime, I hope to break Extended wide open. I wanna get to Worlds, you see… and my only hope is a huge performance at Valencia.

Next week, it’s back to the Block Constructed Metagame breakdown.

Until then, remember… you can’t stop the signal.

Craig Stevenson
Scouseboy on MTGO
Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2

PS: Congratulations to Craig Jones and Stuart Wright, team-mates and deserved finalists. Now go do us proud in New York!