a. A test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth, examine the validity of a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy of something previously untried.
Well, I dunno what all of that is about, but the past month’s articles have been an experiment for me.
What I mean by that is that I was using a format that is pretty common in the writing community, but not something I’d done before : The Set Review. When I say this was an experiment for me, I mean that by doing it I knew I’d be limiting my creative powers and also forcing myself to write under the same structure for at least five weeks. While I can say that I’m glad that I finished them out instead of just stopping in the middle like I wanted too, I definitely learned a few things from the experience.
First, I learned that I really don’t like the format at all. I think it’s far too constricting in terms of reviewing new cards since I ended up just listing my thoughts for each card rather than showing why it was good in a certain archetype, or why it stood out when compared to the rest of the set. Second, it actually felt tedious when I was doing it because I actually had to have an entry for every card instead of just writing about the cards that I think are being evaluated incorrectly or are format defining. I enjoy writing about Magic and the last thing I want to do is feel like I’m doing busy work by filling out a form with an entry for each card. You could argue that I could’ve thrown in more creative entries such as decklists or weird uses for cards into my card valuations, but when you get down to it, it’s still an entry for each card and feels more like a job application than an actual strategy article.
So the result of this “experiment” is that you shouldn’t be expecting any set reviews from me in the near future.
Enough about that though, we have better things to talk about now that I feel like I’ve been let off my leash. I know it was a self-imposed leash, but whatever.
I did an article a few months ago about a draft that went sour and it didn’t come out as well as I’d have liked it to. So lately I’ve been taking notes on a lot of drafts in search of one where I felt I made a mistake or the draft just didn’t work out too well.
This deck came out fine in the end, but I did make a significant mistake during the draft, and also was faced with some tough picks. Out of the 12 drafts I’ve taken notes on, this came out on top as far as picks and close calls came, so I decided to do a Walkthrough on it this week.
This Walkthrough is from an 8-4 Queue on Magic Online that contained a group of mainly solid, but not pro players.
Pack One, Champions
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho, Honden of Infinite Rage, Ghostly Prison, Soilshaper, Pull Under, Order of the Sacred Bell, Ember-Fist Zubera, Quiet Purity, Scuttling Death, Burr Grafter, Counsel of the Soratami, Soul of Magma, Kabuto Moth, Gibbering Kami
What a busted pack to start out the draft.
We have Oathkeeper, Honden, Prison, Soilshaper, Scuttling Death, and Kabuto Moth all to choose from. There are also plenty of other good cards in the pack that don’t even warrant consideration as my first pick here.
So I guess I should start by comparing the White cards since there are two good ones, Moth and Prison.
If you’d asked me which was better when I was on my Dampen Thought kick, or when Champions had first come out, my answer would’ve been Ghostly Prison for sure. After playing with the cards for quite some time though, I’d definitely say Moth is a much better overall pick. The reason for this is because it’s the first pick of the draft and you don’t know where you’re going to be aggro or control. Moth works wonders in both of these decktypes while Prison isn’t really helpful in a deck like R/W where you’re trying to curve out guys and win as quickly as possible. This makes Moth the better overall White card for this pick and narrows down the choice just a little.
So which one of these three cards is the best overall pick?
This is actually one of the tougher picks I’ve had to make in a while, because by taking Red Honden first you’ll usually be able to pick up a second Shrine pretty easily. I also really like U/W in this format, and Moth is great in that archetype.
MODO does only allow a small period of time for each draft pick though, so I had to make my mind up. I ended up going with the Daisho for a few reasons. First, it’s colorless and can be played in any deck. While it’s obviously insane on a Samurai, it works just fine as a cheaper to equip Vulshok Battlegear. That wouldn’t be very exciting back in Mirrodin because there was artifact removal all over the place, but there is barely any in Champions and that makes the Daisho into a bomb more often than not. I think it’s the most flexible and also most powerful card overall from this pack, though you could make arguments for Moth or Honden as well.
My Pick : Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho
Thousand-Legged Kami, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Lantern-Lit Graveyard, Kami of Ancient Law, Ethereal Haze, Yamabushi’s Storm, Kitsune Healer, Cruel Deceiver, Venerable Kumo, River Kaijin, Devouring Rage (rare missing)
Thank God for Thousand-Legged Kami.
Wait, has anyone ever played this?
I consider myself to be the master of casting large stupid creatures like Myojin of Seeing Winds, and I’ve personally never cast this man of many legs.
Anyway, what were we talking about again? Oh, right, this pack.
Unfortunately, the best card here is Samurai of the Pale Curtain, especially in combination with the Daisho.
Why did I say unfortunately, you ask?
The other good cards in this pack are Kami of Ancient Law (also White), River Kaijin (not taking you second), and Cruel Deceiver (yeah, okay), so I guess I’m taking the Pale Curtain and just Hoping I get hooked up in White in this pack and Betrayers.
My Pick : Samurai of the Pale Cutain
Hm, no White cards.
Well, nothing huge here, but Rainshaper and Kodama’s Might are both fine picks. I ended up taking the Rainshaper because I’m not a huge fan of G/W and he’s a decent flier to put the Daisho on. I also haven’t passed anything in the way of Blue so hopefully I can get more than usual in pack two.
My Pick : Soratami Rainshaper
Well, here are my White cards.
Sadly there are two really good ones here so I’m still sending bad signals to my left and probably won’t get anything in the way of White in the second pack. It’s tempting to take the Mothrider here to go with the Daisho, but the White Shrine really is too good to pass, especially if it’s going in a U/W deck. Wish I’d taken that Red Shrine now, but what are ya gonna do, the equipment was the right pick.
My Pick : Honden of Cleansing Fire
Kami of Old Stone, Dampen Thought, Kami of Lunacy, Dripping-Tongue Zubera, Peer Through Depths, Battle-Mad Ronin, Callous Deceiver, Unearthly Blizzard, Lantern Kami, Cursed Ronin, Kashi-Tribe Warriors
Pretty slim pickings here, especially for this early in the pack.
The only things I see here that I’m even considering are Lantern Kami, Old Stone, and Callous. Since I’m still shooting for U/W and hoping to get passed some good Blue pack two, the Old Stone is a better card here. If I was drafting R/W or G/W I’d certainly take the Lantern Kami, but I’d rather have the 1/7 in a controlling deck. That’s not to say that Lantern Kami isn’t playable in U/W, because he certainly is, and gets better with Ninjas.
As a side note, other people have mentioned it, but I feel the need to note that Dampen Thought isn’t playable anymore unless the packs come perfectly for you. It’s something that’s too unlikely to even consider.
My Pick : Kami of Old Stone
And the mundane picks continue.
Yep, I’ll be taking another four-drop with a big behind, got a problem with that?
My Pick : Harsh Deceiver
Guardian of Solitude has gotten much better with the inclusion of Betrayers, especially in U/G or U/B with ninjas. Because of the existence of Phantom Wings, Student of the Elements has also become more playable and this in turn makes Guardian a higher pick.
It’s not great in the deck I’m drafting though, so I’m going with the often maligned Otherworldly Journey. It’s a decent trick that can be useful in a bunch of different ways depending on how the game plays out.
My Pick : Otherworldly Journey
Defiance is a card that I always want a copy of in my Blue decks. I wasn’t sure about the card when it first came out, but I’ve long since warmed up to it and consider it to be almost a necessity nowadays. It’s nice to pick one up late as it’ll definitely be in there if I end up playing Blue like I’m hoping to.
My Pick : Hisoka’s Defiance
On the lap I grab Pull Under over Ember-Fist Zubera, Counsel, and Burr Grafter. I took the Pull Under here because my U/W decks are usually flooded with three-drops and Counsel is usually not going to make the cut anyway. Taking Pull Under leaves me an option to go into Black, though I really didn’t see much of it in this first set of boosters and I’m assuming the guy feeding me is in the color. I also pick up a Yamabushi’s Storm, Kitsune Healer, and Unearthly Blizzard
So right now the deck looks alright, but not amazing, and pack two probably isn’t going to be too kind to me after shipping all of that White and having to go into it anyway.
Pack Two, Champions
Reverse the Sands, Time of Need, Soratami Mirror-Mage, Rend Flesh, Feral Deceiver, Kami of Twisted Reflection, Devouring Greed, Orochi Ranger, Eye of Nowhere, Lava Spike, Lantern Kami, Cruel Deceiver
This was a really difficult pack for me at this point in the draft. I suppose the main reason for this was because I’m currently unsure about my second color.
The first step in narrowing down the field is removing Reverse the Sands from this list of choices. Because this is an 8-4 draft, it will usually make the lap around since most of the better players tend to undervalue it.
After removing Reverse as a potential option, I’m left with a pick that will go a long way in deciding my second color. This pick could easily prove to be the turning point in the draft if I end up guessing wrong on my second color.
I don’t really have that many spirits for Greed right now, but I do like B/W with Greed in terms of archetypes. Rend Flesh is probably a safer pick at this point if I want to go Black because it doesn’t put pressure on me to get a high number of Spirits, and doesn’t cost double Black. Mirror-Mage is a nice creature, especially in U/W, though he’s gone down in value with the addition of Betrayers because of Frostling and First Volley.
With what I have in the draft so far, I think you can argue for either the Flesh or Mirror-Mage here depending on preference. I went with the Mirror-Mage partly because of my fondness for U/W, but also because I didn’t pass any good Blue in pack one and am hoping to get some good cards in this set of boosters.
My Pick : Soratami Mirror-Mage
Samurai Enforcers, Petals of Insight, Kumano’s Pupils, Kitsune Riftwalker, Rend Spirit, Peer Through Depths, Hundred-Talon Kami, Villainous Ogre, Orochi Sustainer, Brutal Deceiver, Indomitable Will (rare missing)
This may be the beginning of a lot of Blue coming my way.
I’m happy to take the Petals here and there’s nothing even close in power level. The next best card in the pack is Indomitable Will, which is not even close to being as good as the card drawer. However, most of you will be happy to know that I am warming up slightly to the combat trick, though I still don’t like it as much as many of the guys I play with.
My Pick : Petals of Insight
Strength of Cedars, Kodama of the North Tree, Honor-Worn Shaku, Struggle for Sanity, Kami of Fire’s Roar, Soulless Revival, Hearth Kami, Nezumi Ronin, Humble Budoka, Soratami Cloudskater, Uncontrollable Anger
Okay, what just happened?
Somehow there is still a Cedars, North Tree, and Kami of Fire’s Roar in here. So maybe the Fire’s Roar isn’t a huge deal, but the other two certainly are! This is also kind of odd because if you remember back to the first pack I shipped a Kodama’s Might with nothing else good and clearly one of the two guys on my left should be in Green.
There’s nothing in this pack on-color for my deck save a Cloudskater which I’m not taking this early. That makes the best overall pick the Strength of Cedars. I want to make it clear though that the main intention behind this pick is for splashing the Strength, not as a hatedraft.
My Pick : Strength of Cedars
Nezumi Cutthroat, Pinecrest Ridge, Ragged Veins, Orochi Leafcaller, Kami of Twisted Reflection, Call to Glory, Kami of the Waning Moon, Orochi Ranger, Callous Deceiver, Devouring Rage, Devoted Retainer
This pack is horrible.
If I went with the Black plan I’d end up with a late Cutthroat here, but other than that there really isn’t much to choose from. I guess I’m stuck taking lowly Callous Deceiver since Call to Glory does nothing in my deck.
Interesting to note that this is then second copy of Devouring Rage, something that I like to keep in mind during the games in terms of whether or not I should be playing around it.
My Pick : Callous Deceiver
Wow, this is bad. I was hoping to get some Blue cards this pack, and I’m getting nothing.
It turns out that going into Black would’ve been great as I’d pick up Gibbering Kami here and the Cutthroat last pack. There is absolutely nothing here for me so my only pick is to take the Gibbering Kami. I could take something like Puppetry or Eye of Nowhere, but neither of them really offers any help to my cardpool.
My Pick : Gibbering Kami
Finally something I can use.
Vortex is infinitely better than Soratami Seer could ever hope to be and I doubt I have to explain why to anyone. This pack is quite the contrast to the past few in that it has a large number of playables.
I’m kicking myself for not going Black as well as Scuttling Death stares back at me but I guess Vortex isn’t a horrible substitute.
My Pick : Consuming Vortex
This pack couldn’t possibly be worse for me as I’m forced to “hatedraft” something else that isn’t even that scary of a card. The reasoning of course being that there just isn’t anything else! Would be nice if I could actually play this Nezumi Ronin in combination with my Daisho.
My Pick : Nezumi Ronin
Another empty pack. Noticing a pattern?
I’m taking the Bo just as a possible sideboard card, but I’m not happy about it.
Again the Black would’ve paid off with a Waking Nightmare here, and it turns out not taking Flesh was a big mistake.
My Pick : Nine-Ringed Bo
Reverse and Riftwalker go right in the deck but right now I’m looking pretty light on playables. Gonna need some help in pack three for sure and I’m not sure if it’s gonna come.
Pack Three, Betrayers
Higure the Still Wind, Ogre Recluse, Body of Jukai, Scourge of Numai, Uproot, Minamo’s Meddling, Stir the Grave, Terashi’s Grasp, Horobi’s Whisper, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Ribbons of the Reikai, Frostling, Kami of Tattered Shoji, Mistblade Shinobi
(Insert obligatory comment about Nick always having a bomb rare in the drafts he covers.)
Yeah yeah, but my deck is still bad.
Anyway, Higure will obviously go a long way to helping my sad stack of cards.
This pack also contains plenty of goodies in Ogre Recluse, Scourge, and Horobi’s Whisper. Just goes to show that sometimes mistakes are rewarded as I opened a bomb Blue card after not going into Black. Granted, I’d just take Whisper here, but Whisper and Higure don’t even compare in terms of power level.
My Pick : Higure, the Still Wind
Slumbering Tora, Forked-Branch Garami, Ronin Cliffrider, Traproot Kami, Shimmering Glasskite, Minamo’s Meddling, Heart of Light, Torrent of Stone, Kami of False Hope, Takenuma Bleeder, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Goblin Cohort, Okiba-Gang Shinobi
At least these packs actually have good cards in them.
Another nice card for me here in Shimmering Glasskite. There’s also Bleeder, Garami, and friggin’ Torrent of Stone for everybody else. At least I’m getting some Blue in this pack and hopefully rounding out my deck.
My Pick : Shimmering Glasskite
Mistblade Shinobi is so good in any deck containing Higure.
Hamburgers are better with cheese.
The sky is blue.
And yes, I’m good at stating the obvious. Just in case you were wondering.
Something interesting to note is that I’m not getting shipped White in this direction either which means I’m probably getting sandwiched for White cards. Either that or there just aren’t any in the packs, which is also possible. Not sure how it makes sense because I did get passed a pack with White Shrine and Mothrider Samurai pretty late and didn’t pass a single White card in pack two.
While I’m clearly taking Mistblade Shinobi here, the rest of this pack is also pretty good.
I do want to comment that one card that I like even less than when I did my set reviews is Enshrined Memories. I’ve had the chance to play with it a few more times and it really isn’t consistent enough to be playing in most of your draft decks.
My Pick : Mistblade Shinobi
Jetting Glasskite, Kami of Honored Dead, Terashi’s Grasp, Call for Blood, Traproot Kami, Toils of Night and Day, Ire of Kaminari, Skullsnatcher, Child of Thorns, Kami of Tattered Shoji, Psychic Spear
Everytime I cast Jetting Glasskite the game ends in the next five or six turns tops. Untargetable dragons are quite silly and it’s hard to believe I’m getting this fourth in a draft full of respectable players. Not gonna complain though, I’ll take it.
Not much else worth mentioning here either, though hopefully the Tattered Shoji will table as it’s still slightly underrated. I never mind playing one in my U/W decks.
My Pick : Jetting Glasskite
I guess I got my wish as my deck is filling out quite nicely and I keep getting great cards passed to me.
It’s worth mentioning that the Club is quite sick with the two Glasskites as it just hops on them and doesn’t target. Hundred-Talon Strike is also here, and it’s playable but not great. I usually like it in R/W since it’s an aggressive trick, but I’m completely happy not playing it in a lot of my U/W builds as it doesn’t really add anything to my game-plan of stalling the ground and winning with evasion.
My Pick : Ronin Warclub
I don’t have the slightest idea how Squire got to me this late given the way the packs have been. Maybe they just didn’t have any White cards in them after all if I’m getting one of the best White cards in the set this late.
It’s not at full potential in this deck since I’m pretty low on ways to trigger it, but it will still flip often enough to make it a near-bomb. Petals also helps here as multiple Ki counters if the game stalls out and I can cast it a few times.
My Pick : Faithful Squire
Another decent card here in the Palliator.
Phantom Wings is usually fine in decks with Mistblade Shinobi, but I only have one, and I do have Higure to also enable it. If I had another Mistblade I’d probably go with the Wings here though. I also don’t like Shuko in U/W for the same reasons I don’t like Hundred-Talon Strike or other aggressive cards.
My Pick : Kitsune Palliator
Nothing here for me, so the pick is Okiba-Gang as a hatedraft that I could possibly board in or splash in combination with Higure. The only bad thing about doing that is that I don’t really have any cheap fliers to Ninjitsu it and hardcasting it is nigh impossible on the splash.
I also like Heart of Light more than most people as a sideboard card against big men or a maindeck card when you have multiple Waxmanes and or Kami of Fire’s Roar to “neutralize” the infinite blocker.
My Pick : Okiba-Gang Shinobi
So the deck ended up alright, though I feel that I made a few mistakes during the draft. I got pretty lucky in Betrayers to get some of the stuff as late as I did. The end product is U/W/g splashing the Strength of Cedars, though I really feel I should’ve moved into Black in pack two and been W/B/g.
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho
Kami of Old Stone
Honden of Cleansing Fire
Higure, the Still Wind
Petals of Insight
Strength of Cedars
Kami of Tattered Shoji
Reverse the Sands
A few notes on deck construction :
- Only one Forest for Strength because the mana is pretty demanding in this deck with lots of early double White and also Higure and Jetting Glasskite. Usually I’d play two Forest to support a splashed Strength but because this is a control deck and we also have Petals to go get the Forest, I felt I could get away with only one Forest. Strength is a late game card anyway
- Twisted Reflection wasn’t included because the three-slot is flooded, it costs double Blue, and it doesn’t really do anything helpful.
- It’s possible that Heart of Light should’ve made the maindeck, but maybe I just like it too much
I ended up winning round one against a G/W deck pretty handily, and with the help of Higure and my equipment.
Round two I actually lost game one because of a misclick that eventually cost me the match because I got manaflooded in game three. An unfortunate ending to an interesting draft, but also a draft with a fair number of mistakes.
Hopefully this was an interesting draft and you can see the turning points which were most important. You can call it a mistake or merely a judgment call, but the deck would’ve at least made it to the finals if it weren’t for the misclick. I also did get savagely lucky in Betrayers, but feel that I did a decent job setting myself up to do so by cutting Blue in pack two.
Until next week, good luck in your drafts and may you always choose the right second color.