Before I get into Black and the Screeching Buzzard dilemma, I wanted to clear up some stuff about my last column.
I made an egregious error in my calculation. The actual probability of getting two green by turn 2 with nine forests in a forty-card deck is 59%. The odds are still in your favor… But obviously not overwhelmingly as I had initially said. Sorry about this misunderstanding. Thanks to Bantor Gaah for pointing out my error.
Another point I need to clarify is my stance on Dragon Roost. Gary Wise and I were discussing my article and he said I was absurd for taking Elvish Warrior over Roost. I am not sure if he was serious, but if I gave anyone this impression I am truly sorry. Roost is a very good card. In Green/Red it is among the best – the top 25 cards from this set. While I did downplay the Roost and support the Warrior, I did so because they were over- and underrated respectively. You take Roost over Warrior. In fact, you take it over all of the Green commons, save Undorak.
The final point from the previous article I wanted to address was brought to my attention by Ben Stark. When I refuted Nick’s point about the Warrior getting”hosed by two morph creatures,” I neglected to mention that if they double-block the Warrior on turn 4 with two Morph creatures, they can outright lose the game if you have Shock or Swat.
Now that the past is out of the way, let’s focus on the newest dilemma. The card in question this time is Screeching Buzzard. My dilemma with this card, which I discovered while doing a Rochester Draft at CMU: Rachel took a Buzzard over a Severed Legion, and it was unanimously decided that this was a mistake. A little later, I stopped to think. Was this such a bad pick? I brought up the idea to Crosby that perhaps this was not such an error.
In Rochester Draft, you ideally have a set up where alternating players are Black and Red. While it seems strange to try and get a whole table to agree on this, it will happen on its own at a table of competent players. No one wants to share colors, and everyone wants to be either Black or Red. You can’t depend on this setup, but it is a good guide… So this means, on average, you will face a Black deck three out of every seven matches if you are Black. Now in these matches, it is easy to see why the Buzzard is better than the Severed Legion. Buzzard is far from bad against the other decks.
Buzzard is almost guaranteed card advantage. Flying, while easier to stop than Fear, is still difficult to stop in this set. You may be shocked that I am supporting the higher casting-cost creature in a set I have said is so tempo oriented – but the fact is, there are plenty of quality three-drops in the set, and the single black can be significant as I realized earlier.
That was the easy position to defend. I think you can put Buzzard over Legion and not get a lot of argument. Now I get to the part where most people will disagree with me.
It is generally accepted drafting principle to take Swat highly. It is cheap, efficient removal, and it can get you out of mana screw. However, this card is not all it appears to be. It isn’t cheap enough for its uses; it costs three mana, which means that it will usually be used on turn 3 instead of establishing your board. You can’t even consider killing a morph creature while they are untapped, as they can unmorph and wreck you. It doesn’t deal with any of the bombs. The best thing Swat has going for it is Cycling.
Don’t get me wrong: Kill is scarce in this set, and you want to get it where you can – but evasion is just as tough to come by, and Buzzard is just more bang for your buck. Perhaps where Swat is most useful is dealing with Sparksmith – but there is another quality card you can get late, Crown of Suspicion, that also combos with the Buzzard. I am not saying that the Crown is by any means near Swat in power, but it is more versatile, and has a place in any black deck.
That is why I like the Buzzard. So why don’t I like it? It sends bad signals. I am in the minority – and if you go around passing Swats for Buzzards in booster draft, you can get yourself in a heap of trouble. Swat sends a signal, like it or not: Buzzard, while it should send a signal, often doesn’t.
Buzzard can also be clunky; it does cost four and is completely shut down by Spitting Gourna. Often times, you need to stop the bleeding for four mana and he does not accomplish that. In Black/Green, where you need evasion the most, you also need removal; your picks are much tougher. This is one of the reasons I don’t like Black Green. All of the black commons are essential to the deck, and you never know what to take early because you never know what you will get late.
In any case, I have kept you in suspense long enough; here is my Black common pick order:
1. Cruel Revival
2. Nantuko Husk (this is situational, and it can move up)
3. Screeching Buzzard
4. Severed Legion (swap with Buzzard in booster draft)
5. Swat (moves up if you’re light on removal)
6. Festering Goblin
7. Crown of Suspicion
8. Shepherd of Rot
9. Haunted Cadaver
10. Dirge of Dread
11. Fallen Cleric
12. Spined Basher
13. Disciple of Malice
14. Wretched Anurid (Moves up significantly in R/B, or in G/B with multiple Wirewood Savage)
15. Anurid Murkdiver (There should be one in every sideboard.)
16. Profane Prayers (Moves up with eight or more Clerics)
17. Misery Charm
18. Aphetto Dredging
Mana curve is so important when drafting Black. Things, especially near the top, can vary a great deal. Nantuko Husk, while widely accepted as the 2nd best common, is still underrated. There are, in fact, times it is better than Revival. Black may be the hardest color to draft, simply because of the variance involved in pick orders; just try to figure out what benefits your deck the most.
So draft black, but draft it carefully. There is a lot to take into account, but if drafted properly it is every bit as powerful as red.