The Snapping Thragg Experiment III – Dancing With Shadows Part 2

The continuation of Nick’s outstanding article investingating the ins and outs of a two-on-two team draft with Champions of Kamigawa.

[Part I of this article can be found here.]

Pack Three

Jeremy Darling

The final pack starts out with a very interesting decision for Mr. Darling.

Rend Flesh, Earthshaker, Nezumi Ronin, or Seizan, Perverter of Truth?

Jeremy makes another odd judgment call here and takes the Earthshaker (which ended up being alright, since it possibly would have been nuts in Martel’s deck) over what I consider to be the right pick, Rend Flesh. This is simply because I was pretty sure that Jeremy would know to give up on Red at this point after not seeing any during the whole draft and Earthshaker isn’t really that good with the spells he already has. This is all without mentioning that his curve is already top heavy, and adding a double Red mana guy doesn’t seem like the right thing to do here. Seizan is generally overrated, and not very good in practice, since your opponent just seems to get the better end of the deal usually.

Try him out for yourself and I think you’ll agree.

Second pick presents Jeremy with a Petals of Insight, since he doesn’t have enough Spirits to really use the Devouring Greed to good effect. So, as you see, the splash card has arrived and I know Jeremy is wishing he wouldn’t have just first-picked Earthshaker.

Jeremy picks up an Akuba over Consuming Vortex, which is fine, and then a Sire of the Storm out of Martel’s pack. Jeremy’s pack comes back and still contains Seizan, Nezumi Ronin, and Soratami Seer. At this point, I think you have to take the Ronin as it’s excellent with the Daisho (though Jeremy forgot that Ronin was a Samurai at the time). Jeremy instead selected the Seer, which also wasn’t an awful pick since it deprived Martel from getting it and its effect is actually rather strong.

The next few picks are unexciting as Jeremy grabs Waking Nightmare and then luckily wheels the Consuming Vortex into his pile. This is followed up by a Counsel, and thankfully the Nezumi Ronin tabled for his deck since he was short on three-drops and really needed another Samurai for his Equipment anyway. He finishes off the draft with Reweave over a 3rd copy of River Kaijin as the only relevant pick.

Overall, Jeremy ends up with an extremely powerful U/B deck with an excellent curve of guys and suite of removal. Not to mention Dance of Shadows.

Jason Martel

Martel opens his pack and immediately starts grumbling as he takes Nagao, Bound by Honor as a first-pick hatedraft. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a really bad thing for his team, as if he’d have shipped it Ben would have had to decide whether or not to hate draft it, and it had a chance of making it into Brown’s deck. Overall though, I don’t think this is such a horrible choice, since the packs in this draft were of a little bit higher power level than usual and it was really hard to tell who was doing what. By shutting Nagao out right away, then, he avoided the problems that would be caused if one of his opponents managed to wind up with it. In my opinion, a decent pick, though Sire of the Storm or Moss Kami would have also been acceptable.

Jason then correctly takes Rainshaper over Seer for his secpmd pick, and passes along the other good cards that were in Jeremy’s booster. He picks two Sakura-Tribe Elders third and fourth which really turn his deck from solid into amazing. He now has the one-two punch which will allow a turn 3 Order of the Sacred Bell consistently. These guys also facilitate his Red splash and were crucial to the development of his deck.

Jason picks up Reach through Mists when his pack comes back around, and then promptly hates up Seizan before somebody grabs it late. He gets an extremely late Moss Kami somehow and finishes off with a River Kaijin as the only other notable playable.

His deck is a solid U/G/r build that really benefited from the double Elder he got in pack 3.

Ben Peebles

Ben’s third pack presents a tough decision right off the bat, which again proves that my pick of Pain Kami over Gutwrencher Oni would have been far superior. Ben’s choice is between Glacial Ray and Sosuke, and without many Snakes in his deck, the Sosuke is only good instead of insane. Really, had he taken the Pain Kami, he could easily take Glacial Ray here and I think his deck would be much better overall. Such is life though, and Ben takes the Sosuke and ships along the Glacial Ray to Brown, which ended up being a huge issue in the actual games since it was Brown’s 2nd copy of the powerful removal spell.

Ben second picks the Moss Kami after Martel hated Nagao, and then grabs the Rend Flesh that Jeremy passed over. Fourth pick is a nice sight, though hard on the mana for Ben, in the form of Devouring Greed.

For his next pick, he hates a Ghostly Prison – an excellent move in my opinion, since Mr. Brown was clearly trying to table it since he noticed the lack of White drafters in pack two. Ben finishes up with a Villainous Ogre, Blood Speaker, Devouring Rage, and Commune with Nature while also hate drafting Otherworldly Journey.

His deck is solid, but would have been much better in my opinion had he taken the Pain Kami in pack two. As it is, the mana is going to be somewhat rough in his G/B/r build.

Andrew Brown

Brown manages to pull it all together in the third pack, and cement himself into a solid R/W deck by first picking Kabuto Moth #2 and then getting shipped Glacial Ray #2.

He then makes a very odd pick of Kami of the Hunt third, which I can’t understand at all unless it was a complete hate draft (in which case, Sire of the Storm would’ve been a better card to hate). I’m guessing he was still toying with the Green idea, which was simply stupid at this point, as he should clearly just take the Kami of Ancient Law or Frostwielder from this pack and stay on target. He then takes Burr Grafter, which is equally dubious although there wasn’t much else to take in the pack anyway.

Kami of Ancient Law makes its way back 5th and Brown takes Soulblast after that. I think Soulblast is a little bit overrated from my experience, but it’s still a fine card, especially in Green where you can get lots of power onto the board and use the Blast to end a stalemate.

Brown finishes off the draft with a Houndmaster, two Uncontrollable Angers, a Hundred Talon Kami, and a Kami of the Painted Road and ends up with a very strong WR aggro deck despite a number of missteps during the draft.

Overall Draft Overview and Analysis

So let’s talk a bit more about the important parts of the draft, and who has the advantage before we even get into Deck Building or the actual matches themselves.

Obviously the Dance of Shadows issue was a huge deal, and I think I’ve gone over it enough for most of you to realize what a turning point it was in the draft before we see how much it actually influences the matches. Ben’s pick of the Soilshaper wasn’t so hot either, as well as Brown’s indecisiveness in terms of what colors he was playing.

Despite all of this though, one thing kept happening that really kept the draft in balance: Brown kept getting late-pick powerful White cards despite the fact that he was constantly taking Green cards and other stuff over them, when he should’ve known there was no way he’d end up being Green. Maybe this was a product of the packs being more powerful than normal, but what actually ended up happening as a side effect was that Brown weakened Ben’s deck by taking those Green cards and wasn’t punished for it, since he still got the White ones back later. This kept his deck just as strong as the others, while taking away some of the edge from Jeremy and Ben.

Another important stopping point was the Pain Kami pick in the 2nd pack where I really believe Ben messed up by taking Gutwrencher Oni, and therefore making his deck more inconsistent and clunky. Not that the Oni is a bad card by any means, but taking the Kami and going for a more sleek G/r deck that also abused Kami of Fire’s Roar and his Soilshaper and South Tree seems like a better approach to me.

Overall though, while all the decks are solid, I felt initially that Jeremy and Ben had the advantage by a slight bit, but not enough to say the draft was over before the matches were even played.


Team A

Jeremy Darling

Nezumi Cutthroat

Cruel Deceiver

Wicked Akuba

Nezumi Ronin

2 River Kaijin

Callous Deceiver

Cursed Ronin

Gibbering Kami

2 Scuttling Death

Soratami Seer

Sire of the Storm

Kokusho, the Evening Star

Consuming Vortex

Rend Flesh

Rend Spirit

Counsel of the Soratami

Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho


Dance of Shadows

Petals of Insight

Pull Under

10 Swamp

7 Island

Relevant Sideboard:

Waking Nightmare




The only real decision to be made when building Jeremy’s deck was whether to play Waking Nightmare or Counsel of the Soratami as the 23rd card. While either will do just fine, I think that the Counsel in the maindeck is correct because this is more of a controlling deck that wants to get out a Horned Turtle and then power up to its bombs. Counsel ensures smooth draws and helps you find Dance or Cocoa Puffs.

Ben Peebles


Dripping-Tongue Zubera

Nezumi Cutthroat

Orochi Ranger

Bloodthirsty Ogre

Kami of the Hunt

Matsu-Tribe Decoy

Villainous Ogre

Kodama of the South Tree

Feral Deceiver

Burr Grafter

Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

Blood Speaker

Gutwrencher Oni

Moss Kami

Iname, Life Aspect

Devouring Greed

Serpent Skin

Rend Flesh

Blind with Anger

Devouring Rage

Commune with Nature

Kodama’s Reach

9 Forest

6 Swamp

2 Mountain

Relevant Sideboard:

Wicked Akuba

Soulless Revival

Venerable Kumo

Jade Idol

Kami of Fire’s Roar

Ben’s deck has some nice interactions going for it, though the mana is a bit annoying. He made the correct decision at the last minute to cut Wicked Akuba for Commune with Nature in order to make the mana work better and also considering that he only has about six actual spells, the Commune won’t misfire as often as usual.

Team B

Jason Martel

2 Sakura Tribe Elder

Orochi Ranger

Soratami Cloudskater

2 Soratami Rainshaper

River Kaijin

Pain Kami

2 Order of the Sacred Bell

Kashi-Tribe Reaver

Soratami Mirror-Mage

Teller of Tales

2 Moss Kami

Reach Through Mists

Mystic Restraints

Counsel of the Soratami

Honden of Infinite Rage

Kodama’s Might

Consuming Vortex

Strength of Cedars

Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang

1 Mountain

8 Forest

8 Island

Relevant Sideboard:

Floating-Dream Zubera

Kami of Twisted Reflection

Ronin Houndmaster

Kami of Fire’s Roar


This manabase seems somewhat tenuous, since you really want to get the Red Honden out early if you draw it. I think Martel could’ve probably run 8 Forest, 7 Island, 2 Mountain and still been fine. The problem with running only one Mountain is that you have to fetch it with the Elder if you use one, and sometimes you really need to get something else. You also can’t play Pain Kami and activate it in the same turn, which is sometimes necessary. The Blue cards aren’t really that concentrated that you need the 8th Island so badly. I’d personally have run 2 Mountains in this list, but otherwise it seems correct.

Andrew Brown

Hearth Kami

2 Kami of Ancient Law

Kitsune Blademaster

2 Kabuto Moth

Ronin Houndmaster

2 Mothrider Samurai

2 Kami of the Painted Road

Hundred-Talon Kami

2 Glacial Ray

Call to Glory

Candles’ Glow

2 Cage of Hands

Yamabushi’s Flame

Honden of Cleansing Fire

2 Uncontrollable Anger


9 Plains

8 Mountain

Relevant Sideboard:

Kitsune Healer

Battle-Mad Ronin

Quiet Purity

Tenza, Godo’s Maul

The only beef I really have with Brown’s build here is that he only has 12 guys in the maindeck and is running double Uncontrollable Anger. Personally I’d have run the Kitsune Healer over one of the Angers just to get another guy in the deck – there are already plenty of tricks and with double Moth, your men should be able to get through anyways.

Now that you’ve seen how the draft went, and how all of the decks turned out, let’s see how they fared in the actual matches which I tried to cover as best as possible. Remember that two matches are going on at the same time so it’s hard to get exact details, but hopefully my summaries will help us to determine what we can learn from the actual team draft itself.

Matches, Round 1

Ben vs. Brown, Game 1

Ben starts off with a mulligan on the play while Brown keeps an opening hand of 4 land and 3 spells, but no actual creatures. Ben’s opening hand is weak, but he peels two lands in the first few turns and curves into a good draw by Communing with Nature for a Soilshaper that is then played on turn 2 and followed up by a turn 4 Sosuke. Ben then drops a Bloodspeaker, which adds to the assault as Brown still hasn’t played a creature.

Out comes Kami of the Painted Road for Brown and it tries to defend/race with two Uncontrollable Angers on it, but the initial onslaught of Ben’s creatures is too much for Brown and he loses to a swarm of small men.

Ben – 1 Brown – 0

Ben vs. Brown, Game 2

Brown’s draw is much better in the second game, as he deploys a turn 3 Moth, which is followed up by an aggressive Ronin Houndmaster. Ben musters a Bloodthirsty Ogre and Feral Deceiver, but they aren’t much help against Brown’s super curve, which contains both Blademaster and Kami of Ancient Law as turn 5 plays. It looks grim for Ben as the Kabuto Moth is really screwing over his Blind with Anger plans, and the creatures really aren’t giving him much room to breathe. Ben somehow manages to hang on by getting Bloodthirsty Ogre up to a few counters and dropping Gutwrencher Oni, but by this time Brown has acquired a 2nd Kabuto Moth and is making life difficult on the Ogre Assassin.

Ben makes a nice play with Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Serpent Skin to fend off the attackers, but finds himself at a precarious four life and facing menacing board of guys. The game stalls out slightly for a little until Brown starts playing more fliers, and then comes the crucial turn where Ben makes the mistake of tapping out for Moss Kami instead of leaving up mana to “fog” with Blind with Anger, and Brown has just enough damage to kill him with 2 fliers and 2 Moths against the Bloodthirsty Ogre. So here, Ben lost to cards that were on the board, simply because he thought too hard about the complicated board position and would’ve ended up winning on his next turn when he drew a land to play a Spirit and Devouring Greed Brown for the victory. Rack up one loss to a play mistake.

Ben – 1 Brown – 1

Ben vs. Brown, Game 3

Ben is on the play again and gets an excellent draw starting with Nezumi Cutthroat and Soilshaper, which are then followed by the powerful Sosuke on turn 4. Brown’s only play is Mothrider Samurai, which is forced to chump Soilshaper on the following turn when Ben plays a Zebra and animates a land. This allows a ton of damage to get through, and Brown has no real answer to this quick draw.

Team A – 1 Team B – 0

One thing that I really noticed about this match was that Brown was constantly plagued with draws that didn’t contain enough creatures. This is why I believe the Healer should’ve certainly been in place of one of the Angers, and it’s possible that Battle-Mad Ronin should’ve also made the deck.

Jeremy vs. Martel, Game 1

In the parallel match, much banter and trash talk was being traded before the games even started.

Jeremy started out playing first and this game immediately took a weird turn. Jeremy lead out on turn 2 with a Cruel Deceiver and Martel responded with Sakura-Tribe Elder.

At this point Martel’s hand contained another land along with Soratami Rainshaper and Order of the Sacred Bell. When Jeremy dropped River Kaijin on his third turn and obviously didn’t attack into the Elder, Martel just untapped and took his turn instead of saccing the Elder and going to get a land. Clearly this isn’t correct no matter what, though Martel’s defense was that he wanted to keep the Deceiver off of his back for another turn and just get the Rainshaper out there on turn 3. This isn’t the worst idea in the world, but if you ask me, it’s far more important to get the Sacred Bell out on turn 3 instead. Regardless, Martel dropped Rainshaper and then Jeremy untapped and attacked with the River Kaijin.

Jason, in a minute of infinite stupidity, didn’t block with his Elder for some reason and everyone watching started laughing. After defending his plan by arguing with me on the previous turn, he didn’t even chump block the Turtle by accident. What an idiot.

After this humorous incident, Jeremy deployed Cursed Ronin and Martel responded with Soratami Mirror-Mage. The race began between the Ronin and the two fliers, and Martel bounced the Ronin with the Mirror-Mage’s ability one turn to stem the bleeding. The game promptly ended the turn after though, when Jeremy tapped out to recast the Ronin and Jason flew in for ten via Strength of Cedars.

Jeremy – 0 Jason – 1

After the game Jeremy commented to me that he should’ve played it differently and killed the Rainshaper the one turn Martel tapped out with the Befoul that had been stranded in his hand instead of casting Cursed Ronin. Had he done that, he may have had a better shot, but it’s still debatable as Strength of Cedars combined with fliers is pretty tough to beat.

Jeremy vs. Martel, Game 2

Martel starts off with a mulligan on the draw and Jeremy promptly gets stuck on two lands and starts getting mad. He draws out though, and amasses Cruel Deceiver and Nezumi Ronin. They bash for a few turns until Martel finds some help in the way of Order of the Sacred Bell. Martel then drops the Red Shrine which looks like it could steal away the game, but the following turn Jeremy rips a sixth land and drops out Cocoa Puffs which draws a concession from Martel who was at seven life.

Jeremy – 1 Jason – 1

Jeremy vs. Martel, Game 3

Martel gets what Jeremy describes as the “God Draw” this game, by casting Elder on turn 2 on the play and following it up with Order of the Sacred Bell on turn 3 and Teller of Tales on turn 4. Jeremy is slightly flooded and can only muster a Turtle and a Daisho that is far too slow to impact the game, and he dies on roughly turn 7 this game which prompts him to begin complaining about Martel’s lucky draws.

Martel responds by making a loud, high pitched crying noise, which gets a laugh from everybody.

Team A – 1 Team B – 1

So at this point the match is dead even, and either team will need to win both matches in Round two if they want to win the draft without facing a tiebreaker match.

Matches, Round 2

Ben vs. Martel, Game 1

Martel starts off with his signature Elder into Sacred Bell Curve on turn 3 and Ben responds with Cutthroat and Soilshaper. Martel builds a Rainshaper and Teller of Tales and Ben’s draw is really going nowhere fast with a few too many lands. Martel easily pummels him into the ground.

Ben – 0 Martel – 1

Before the 2nd game, about ten minutes of pure shuffling time occurred between these two, and Martel wanted everyone to know that he likes to shuffle. Dear God, the man slow at everything he does.

Ben vs. Martel, Game 2

Ben opens with a mulligan on the play and Martel again has an excellent curve. This time it’s only Rainshaper followed by Sacred Bell, but Ben’s first play is a turn 6 Moss Kami which is promptly Vortexed back into the grip by Jason. Ben tries to stabilize with a couple of guys by Martel’s draws are just too fluid and he moves up the chain to a Moss Kami and easily stomps over for the win.

So, the quiet deck from the draft ends up going 2-0, who woulda thought?

Team A – 1 Team B – 2

Jeremy vs. Brown, Game 1

While Jason was stomping Ben’s face, Jeremy was still steaming from losing to Martel.

Jeremy makes an expert Magic decision this game though, by mulliganning a hand that I’m pretty sure very few of you would’ve thrown back when drawing first:



Rend Spirit

Cursed Ronin


Pull Under

Sire of the Storm

Most people would look at this hand and say, “I’m drawing first and I’ve got two lands, I’ve gotta keep.” This hand has absolutely no game, with its first real play being a turn 4 Cursed Ronin, should you be lucky enough to rip two lands out of four available draw steps. This isn’t even a good play, especially considering that Brown has a number of aggressive White men that may have the game already locked up by the time this guy comes out. Ship this one back, folks, just like Jeremy did.

Jeremy’s 2nd hand is much more playable, and he begins with Wicked Akuba and Nezumi Ronin. Brown will have none of it though, and casts Glacial Ray splicing Glacial Ray on turn 4, killing J’s team. Jeremy responds with the Dragon but it’s immediately Caged up and Hundred-Talon Kami plus Uncontrollable Anger takes the win along with a few other guys.

Jeremy – 0 Brown – 1

Jeremy vs. Brown, Game 2

Jeremy starts this game with both Blue and Black Deceivers on the curve, followed by Soratami Seer. Brown’s side has a Mothrider Samurai and Kabuto Moth. At one point Jeremy’s hand contains Pull Under, Dance of Shadows, Befoul, and Kokusho. Brown stops the Pull Under with his Moth and Uncontrollable Anger, but Jeremy just untaps and Befouls it. He then builds his board and the game stalemates for a turn until Jeremy untaps with the Dragon in play and casts Dance of Shadows for the win. It’s worth noting, that without the Dance, Brown would’ve had a decent shot at winning this game with all of the good spells in his hand.

Dance of Shadows – 1 Brown – 1

Jeremy vs. Brown, Game 3

Game three is a huge disappointment as Brown’s draw is simply nuts with two Mothrider Samurais, removal, Candles’ Glow plus Glacial Ray, and of course, Soulblast for the death knell.

Team A – 1 Team B – 3

And that’s the match.


Well, if you’ve made it this far, I thank you for sticking with me because I know it’s been a long haul. Reflecting back on the actual matches, it’s still hard to say what really happened. One thing I know for sure is that Jason got excellent draws in virtually every game, which made his deck seem that much better, and also that much harder to beat. Not to say that his deck wasn’t good, but he did get almost perfect curves of guys every single game I watched.

Did the Dance of Shadows pick matter? I still believe that it did, and that the sample size of games that are used in these drafts is just too small to really see the effect of passing such an influential card. While the card only ended up winning one game, and Jeremy’s powerful deck ended up going 0-2 without any major misplays on his part, I still think that there’s a lot you can learn from analyzing drafts and picks like these.

My hope was to shed some light on this excellent team-drafting format (though my favorite format will always be three-on-three booster, it was simply too much information to cover for this article), even though it’s not used officially in tournaments. Team booster is one of the most skill-intensive formats in Magic and hopefully you learned some of the ins and outs from reading this experiment.

If nothing else, I hope it was an enjoyable read and something different from everyday card evaluations and pick orders.

Nick Eisel

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