Well hello again, my Magic brethren. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that it was time to try my hand at a Limited strategy article, since I’d never done one before. There are a few plausible reasons for this – but chiefly, it’s because I suck at drafting. But I’m good at playing, so that must account for something, right? Right?
Hello? Is this thing on?
I’m beating myself up just a tad. At one time I had a Magic Online rating of around 1800, and I managed to”go infinite” from December 2002 until last week when my final free booster dried up (damnable 4-3-2-2 queue… I will never again play in you for as long as I live!) and disappeared. So I was at least respectable enough for a while to play for free for almost five months; take that for what it is. I still think that I suck.
The concept of the”draft walkthrough” was not Nick Eisel innovation, as many newer players believe. His were the first to receive any widespread acclaim (and earn him a writing gig on the Sideboard to boot), but the first draft walkthroughs I ever saw available on the net were written for Theendgames.com’s website by Charlottesville’s own Limited format all-star, Sam Fog. I acquired more knowledge through studying his pick-by-pick analyses of a few OTJ drafts than I did from any Gary Wise card ranking or other article on draft archetypes. Sam’s stuff was also hilarious, featuring gems such as,”I like Mad Dog because it tells you how to play right on the card.” This article is dedicated to Sam’s unrecognized work in the field.
Knowing why you pick a certain card over another in a pack and seeing concrete examples of otherwise abstract strategy is pure diesel for those trying to learn the nuances of booster draft. Walkthrough authors often win the draft, get props from the masses for their savvy pack busting/card picking skills, and get much play from the ladies. Well, what happens when you don’t win? What happens when you misread signals or get screwed by your neighbors who jump in your colors? What happens when you misevaluate a card’s place in your deck, or when you plan to draft that one common that’ll bring the whole pile of forty together and it never comes?
I don’t know about you, my gentle readers, but I learn an awful lot more when I lose a draft than when I win one. And lose this one I did – in the first round, no less. And would you believe it if I said that I lost to Phage the Uncastable, with Dirge of Dread camouflage? It’s true, people. What did I learn? That my deck loses to a two-card, game-winning combo? That I can misread signals with the best of them? No.
I learned what type of a Limited player I am, and what style of deck best fits my pattern of play. Knowing this is just as important as knowing which cards are first picks. It’s my hope that by peeping my misadventures, you’ll be able to better figure out your own style and pick accordingly the next time you peel the foil off a fresh booster (real or virtual).
My first picks from each pack are in bold text and second picks are in italics. After each card choice and a brief breakdown, I offer a hindsight pick – the card that I probably should have taken if I had been paying better attention, or the card that better fits the signals of the pack and style of deck that I like to play. You may agree with my choices, you may not – let me know either way in the associated forum thread for this article. I need to get better just as much as the next man, so any comments are welcomed.
Pack 1: Disciple of Malice, Crown of Awe, Goblin Sky Raider, Mistform Wall, Wirewood Elf, Spined Basher, Krosan Tusker, Cruel Revival, Daru Lancer, Wirewood Herald, Crown of Suspicion, Ironfist Crusher, Daru Encampment, Death Pulse, Enchantress’s Presence
I always like to open an easy first pack, and they don’t usually get any easier than this. Cruel Revival is far and away the strongest card here, although Death Pulse is going to give the guy on my left some pause. Still, he has to take his cues from me. Should he take the Death Pulse and then I cut the black heavily, I’ll be in good shape for the next set of packs. In basketball, this play would be called a pick and backdoor cut. I make note of the two better quality green cards I passed and move on.
My pick: Cruel Revival
Hindsight pick: Cruel Revival
Pack 2: Spy Network, Elvish Pathcutter, Misery Charm, Shepherd of Rot, Foothill Guide, Erratic Explosion, Imagecrafter, Spitting Gourna, Barren Moor, Backslide, Wirewood Elf, Crowd Favorites, Elven Riders, Future Sight
There’s no denying that Future Sight is a game-breaking card in draft once it’s on the table. However, with the number of enchantment kill cards introduced in Legions, I have to devalue the tightest of sights slightly (say that six times in a row!). But nothing in the pack is on its power level, and it’s a clear blue signal from my neighbor…
Or is it? I also nod briefly at the three quality green beans, indicating that that color may be open for business. I agonize for a while and time is ticking down. I snap up the Future Sight, thinking I’m going to go U/B – not my favorite color combination, but a playable one. Regrettably, the only thing that got played here was me.
My pick: Future Sight
Hindsight pick: Elven Riders
Elven Riders would have been the best pick, given the situation. I was just thinking two minutes prior that passing the Death Pulse and then cutting black would be a savvy move. Little did I know that the same thing was likely being done to me – and on my watch. The Future Sight was shipped to me in a pack with an uncommon missing – and in retrospect, it probably was Aven Fateshaper if it was a blue card at all.
You will notice the lack of any good red or blue in the coming packs – no doubt those were my daddy’s colors. The right thing to do would have been to select Elven Riders for the team and see what developed, possibly sending me into G/B – a stronger color combination than U/B, in my opinion.
Pack 3: Severed Legion, Goblin Taskmaster, Demystify, Break Open, Ixidor’s Will, Mistform Mask, Symbiotic Elf, Anurid Murkdiver, Disruptive Pitmage, Tranquil Thicket, Blackmail, Bloodline Shaman, Kaboom!
Severed Legion is an easy choice. There are no other black cards besides Blackmail or Anurid Murkdiver, neither of which I try to run if I can help it. Murky can be a decent beater and I don’t mind bringing him out of the sideboard against another black deck, but I really don’t want to third-pick him.
Notice the complete and utter absence of any good blue or red cards. And there’s that Symbiotic Elf just kind of hanging out…
My pick: Severed Legion
Hindsight pick: Severed Legion
Severed Legion and Symbiotic Elf are really close. I give the slight edge to the zombie because of his evasion and lower casting cost, and the fact that I already have a Cruel Revival. Obviously if I first- or second-picked a Nantuko Husk, the Symbiotic Elf might be the better call. I’m still kind of sending an uncomfortable green signal to the guy on my left, even if I did pick the Elven Riders in pack 2. As of now, he’s seen two Wirewood Elves, a Krosan Tusker, a Spitting Gourna, and a Symbiotic Elf for playable greenies. None of them set the world on fire, but all of those cards make the grade. One of the great things about green is that it’s often deep enough to split, and if I’ve shut off the black as I hoped, I should get first crack at it in the next pack. I also position myself to snag any second-string green playables that he doesn’t take.
Pack 4: Treespring Lorian, Aphetto Dredging, Piety Charm, Defensive Maneuvers, Skirk Prospector, Ixidor’s Will, Taunting Elf, Fallen Cleric, Secluded Steppe, Commando Raid, Heedless One, Chain of Smog
Ugh… Talk about garbage. I fourth-picked a Fallen Cleric – how completely pathetic is that? I mean, has there ever been a worse pick in the history of man?
I do have a couple handy excuses, so try these on right quick: I type fast – about 110 words per minute – but even I felt the time pressure in jotting down all the cards for this article in Notepad, analyzing the subsequent card pool, and then making a pick. Curses! I probably would have had a much better draft if I didn’t have to write this damn article! If you continue to peruse this piece, you owe me an OOL set and two tickets. Lousy readership, I should have never… uh…
So I take Fallen Cleric. Did I mention how horrible a pick that was? There isn’t a single playable blue card in the pack, either. There isn’t even a card to cut! I hear the dulcet tones of Bill Walton’s trademark”terrrrrible” echoing in the wind.
My pick: Fallen Cleric (shoot me)
Hindsight pick: Heedless One or Treespring Lorian
The Heedless One is a tribal chia-pet that has moved up in the world thanks to his friend, Timberwatch Elf. I could have definitely grabbed this guy here and then hoped for kid Timba in Legions. A safer pick is the Treespring Lorian for his generic fatty goodness. I’d lean towards the Heedless One, simply because of how nuts he can get if you get the Timberwatch fix. It’s a gamble, but one I would feel comfortable making.
Pack 5: Riptide Biologist, Crafty Pathmage, Aphetto Dredging, Disciple of Grace, Break Open, Information Dealer, Airborne Aid, Elvish Warrior, Tranquil Thicket, Barren Moor, Airdrop Condor
Is it a good sign that your draft has gone down the tubes if you’re fifth-picking cycling lands? Can someone please verify this for me? I mean, cycling lands are dandy and every deck needs them. But I usually want to get them around the seventh or eighth pick, not here. This pack is just ass in general, like the last one…
Except for Elvish Warrior. Boy, wouldn’t it be great to be in green right about now? Oh well, I can’t possibly start taking it here. It is… too late… for me… son. Help me take… this mask off….
My pick: Barren Moor
Hindsight pick: Elvish Warrior
I’ll take a two-drop 2/3 around the fifth pick without any remorse, especially given that I’d have already stashed away an Elven Riders and Heedless One if I had a functioning brain. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Pack 6: Unified Strike, Goblin Sky Raider, Crown of Ascension, Daru Cavalier, Mistform Wall, Screeching Buzzard, Backslide, Dwarven Blastminer, Dispersing Orb, Goblin Burrows
I’m not sure why I chose Mistform Wall over Screeching Buzzard here. I wish I could remember my rationale for such a dumb decision; I think it might have been a time thing again, because the pick is clearly the 2/2 flyer. Right about now is the point where I should be thinking about abandoning blue altogether; even though I’ve got Future Sight, I’ve got no other blue cards, and hell, I haven’t even seen any other good blue. Picking a Mistform Wall here doesn’t make sense at all. Without question, it was a mistake.
My pick: Mistform Wall
Hindsight pick: Screeching Buzzard
Pack 7: Daunting Defender, Fever Charm, Screaming Seahawk, Leery Fogbeast, Wretched Anurid, Gustcloak Runner, Choking Tethers, Taunting Elf, Kamahl’s Summons
Wretched Anurid is a double-edged sword – on one hand, it provides the finest raw pressure of any two-drop in Onslaught Limited. On the other hand, if it lingers around long enough, it will kill you eventually. I like to roll the dice and bet that if I drop him on turn 2, I’ll be the one doing the killing before the Anurid’s drawback becomes noteworthy. The only other possibility here is Choking Tethers, but I’d rather have the beater.
My pick: Wretched Anurid
Hindsight pick: Wretched Anurid
Pack 8: Disciple of Grace, Spurred Wolverine, Spy Network, Sage Aven, Shepherd of Rot, Brightstone Ritual, Elvish Warrior, Fade from Memory
Shepherd of Rot is an outstanding finisher when you pair it with fast, evasive beats. Since the base theme of U/B is fliers and fear, he fits in perfectly to my thus-far very mediocre draft deck. He also plays nice with Mistform creatures, as they enable you to control the pain dosage the Shepherd doles out.
My pick: Shepherd of Rot
Hindsight pick: Shepherd of Rot
All that I picked up of note on the second time around were a late Barren Moor and a later Riptide Biologist. Let’s recap the pertinent picks from the first pack, through both lenses.
The cards in the second column look much stronger and even fit a great curve, enabling a start of Wretched Anurid, Severed Legion, and Screeching Buzzard. That’s a great sequence of drops. Even if Elvish Warrior and Severed Legion don’t often play nice together, the deck just seems much stronger to me as a green and black concoction.
Pack 1: Gravel Slinger, Lavamancer’s Skill, Crafty Pathmage, Sea’s Claim, Wellwisher, Syphon Soul, Unified Strike, Disruptive Pitmage, Tranquil Thicket, Grassland Crusader, Charging Slateback, Gustcloak Sentinel, Sigil of the New Dawn
Well then, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening up a fresh pack and finding absolutely not a damn thing in it for you. Even if I was in green like I should have been, my choices were between Wellwisher and Tranquil Thicket. Woooooooo! Not exactly the debate you want to be making for your very first pick in a new set of boosters, right?
With a heavy heart, I took a Lavamancer’s Skill, thinking that I might splash for it someday, over the rainbow. I generally hate passing Skill to begin with, so that further solidified my desire to snatch it up.
My pick: Lavamancer’s Skill
Hindsight pick: Throw dart at monitor, inspect for clues
Just kidding. I’d have taken the Wellwisher. He’s a must-kill elf, adds to my Heedless One’s size, and a general pain in the ass. In other words, the kind of kid I like to have on my side.
Pack 2: Spurred Wolverine, Trickery Charm, Elvish Pioneer, Renewed Faith, Fever Charm, Lay Waste, Backslide, Pacifism, Forgotten Cave, Imagecrafter, Mistform Mutant, Towering Baloth, Withering Hex
More hotness in this pack! Not a single black card here save for the Withering Hex, which you’d have to be criminally insane to even remotely consider. Sigh. Do I really have to second-pick an Imagecrafter here? Can’t I just cut Pacifism and be happy about it? Everything I’ve ever read on drafting strategy says never to cut if there’s still a card for your deck in the pack. Well, that was the case here… But I can’t say I’m a smart man for following that rule. Mistform Mutant is a steaming pile, and I know it will come back, so I’ll leave it alone and (ugh) try to get it on the getbacks.
It’s pathetic that I even have to make such an asinine statement. By this point I’m losing confidence, and I sense that the draft has gone horribly wrong. I’m just trying to cobble together a playable pile.
My pick: Imagecrafter
Hindsight pick: Towering Baloth or Pacifism
I thought about not even continuing the hindsight picks after the first pack because I’d most certainly be passed a different set of cards, which would then subsequently affect the hindsight picks for this pack – but I’m going to continue beating myself up. If I’m working with the hindsight picks from set one, I probably take the Towering Baloth here. For the reasoning, please refer to one of my well-worn mantras: Sometimes, you just need a thug. Pacifism’s presence here also opens up a whole new can of worms, as I did not see any or pass any white cards of significance in the first set of boosters. Could I move into white this late? I surely would get the hookup in these packs, but what about Legions? What would my colors be? Would I abandon the green to go B/W? That’d seem pretty foolish at this point… But man. I could see some sweet white cards.
Pack 3: Brightstone Ritual, Sea’s Claim, Elvish Pioneer, Syphon Soul, Crown of Vigor, Dirge of Dread, Fallen Cleric, Battlefield Medic, Pacifism, Solar Blast, Lonely Sandbar, Essence Fracture, Stag Beetle
Okay, now I’m really pissed. I’m staring down one of the sicker kids in the format in Stag Beetle, which I perceive to be a Windex-clear signal that despite all of the green I passed in set one, the dude to my left isn’t even in the color. How could he not be? Faaaaantastic.
Then there are two other excellent first pick quality cards in Solar Blast and Pacifism (again). In my current situation, the pick is between Essence Fracture and Dirge of Dread. They’re both fine cards, but I think I really need the tempo-busting 3UU sorcery here. I don’t have the type of deck tailor made for a final Dirge of Dread-powered swing – just not enough early pressure.
My pick: Essence Fracture
Hindsight pick: Stag Beetle
So angry… try to remain calm…
This is actually not as easy a choice as it appears. Dirge of Dread is simply a needed card for almost every good build of B/G I’ve ever used… But the Stag Beetle just gets to be enormous, like a 6/6 or 7/7 on the fifth turn on average. Having a creature so huge so early usually means that if your opponent doesn’t neutralize Mr. Insect almost immediately after you drop him, you become what Las Vegas bookies and popular Internet Magic writers call”a heavy favorite” to win. Also, the Pope is Catholic.
Pack 4: Naturalize, Haunted Cadaver, Foothill Guide, Lavamancer’s Skill, Syphon Soul, Skirk Commando, Ascending Aven, Birchlore Rangers, Profane Prayers, Elvish Scrapper, Headhunter, Mistform Skyreaver
I really agonized over this one. Do I take a huge, high casting-cost 6/6 flier or do I take the always dependable and highly-castable Ascending Aven? What’s the style of my deck? Do I want to put the quick aerial beats on, or do I have enough tools to stall things out and wait for a huge flier to finish the opponent in a couple swings?
I thought that I must be insane to be debating so hard over a 6/6 flier vs. a 3/2 flier, but it really is an important choice. Onslaught draft is all about tempo, and the early turns define the game more than anything else. Can I really afford to take a seven-casting cost flier? Will I ever cast the damn thing? I think I’d probably rather have the Ascending Aven if I had to do it all over, even though the huge flier probably will win me a game automatically if left unchecked.
There’s also another Lavamancer’s Skill in here, but it’s way too late to be thinking about U/R. None of the other green cards in the pack are any good, so my blood pressure drops a tad.
My pick: Mistform Skyreaver
Hindsight pick: Ascending Aven or Haunted Cadaver
Given that I would no longer be in blue when working with the full set of hindsight picks, I’d probably snap up the Haunted Cadaver. It’s a little early to be taking it, but the only other thing I could really do and not feel like an idiot would be to cut the Mistform Skyreaver. Still, it’s only the fourth pick and too soon for cuts, buts, and coconuts on a third-tier bomb flier.
Pack 5: Piety Charm, Wave of Indifference, Slipstream Eel, Wirewood Pride, Syphon Mind, Profane Prayers, Daru Healer, Goblin Sledder, Shaleskin Bruiser, Riptide Shapeshifter, Seaside Haven
This one was pretty clear-cut. No good black cards, one very good blue uncommon to select. There’s always the hope that I’ll open some huge monstrosity in Legions that doesn’t share a creature type with anything else in my deck. I’m thinking that’s probably the only way I’ll ever win a game in my lifetime with this deck.
My pick: Riptide Shapeshifter
Hindsight pick: Wirewood Pride
Wirewood Pride would’ve been a good boost for the elven team, although I’d wince a bit at taking it here. If I’m working with all the hindsight picks, I don’t think there’s anything else really to take. Riptide Shapeshifter is not good enough to cut when there’s a chance that Wirewood Pride can still make the maindeck.
Pack 6: Crown of Fury, Trickery Charm, Elvish Guidance, Accursed Centaur, Gravel Slinger, Nosy Goblin, Pacifism, Forgotten Cave, Thunder of Hooves, Psychic Trance
Did I just see a third Pacifism? Oh no.. oh God… no, I can’t… I can’t control it… [makes Captain Kirk face]
I think I about reached my flashpoint when I saw Pacifism number three on my screen. Good God, why was I not in white? And the rest of the pack is roughly as good as Eddie Murphy’s movie roles in the 1990s. Well, I might as well cut…myself. Where’s my seppuku sword?
My pick: Pacifism
Hindsight pick: Pacifism
Pack 7: Accursed Centaur, Unified Strike, Skirk Prospector, Sage Aven, Crown of Vigor, Lay Waste, Secluded Steppe, Avarax, Shade’s Breath
Fresh from cutting Pacifism, pack seven offers similar junk. Sage Aven, I knew that you and I were destined to be together one day. Now at last, that time has come. *sigh*
My pick: Sage Aven
Hindsight pick: Avarax
I’d probably cut the Avarax here if I was still G/B from the hindsight picks. However, there has been so little black passed to me in these packs that I have to think the guy on my left has jumped into it and screwed me over in the process. I definitely didn’t send any strong black signals in the first set of packs; he had to have opened a bomb like Visara to make him switch into the color. Wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck… No recess!
Pack 8: Riptide Biologist, Crown of Awe, Crown of Fury, Information Dealer, Gustcloak Harrier, Grassland Crusader, Aether Charge, Aphetto Grifter
I already have one Riptide Biologist and don’t feel like I need to punish myself by playing two. Information Dealer is crap, there are no black cards, so hey – why not… Cut again! It’s the latest sensation that’s sweeping the nation!
Right about here is where I’m thinking there’s no possible way I can salvage this draft, and raredrafting in Legions might be a good way to make back some of the cost. I hate this game.
My pick: Gustcloak Harrier
Hindsight pick: ALL RARES IN MY BINDER ONE TICKET, EVERYTHING MUST GO
I did manage to get a couple of okay cards on the way back – a late Haunted Cadaver and an easy cycler in Slipstream Eel. My prayers were answered as Mistform Mutant did indeed find its way home to me. I love it when a plan comes together. With a nod to the Boston Sports Guy, I think I just threw up in my own mouth.
The hindsight picks for this set of boosters didn’t work out as well as I thought – the green was there early but dried out swiftly, and black was totally in absentia. I think I’d still be happier with the hindsight picks from set one and then adding five to six playables in Stag Beetle, Wellwisher, Towering Baloth, Haunted Cadaver, and Wirewood Pride.
On to Legions!
Pack 1: Echo Tracer, Nantuko Vigilante, Macetail Hystrodon, Deftblade Elite, Embalmed Brawler, Skirk Marauder, Infernal Caretaker, Keeneye Aven, Wall of Hope, Merchant of Secrets, Flamewave Invoker, Goblin Dynamo, Liege of the Axe, Ward Sliver, Drinker of Sorrow
I don’t think I’ve ever opened rares as bad as these. Honestly people; Enchantress’s Presence, Sigil of the New Dawn, and Drinker of Sorrow – can that trifecta of total trash ever be topped? The choice here is between Echo Tracer and Keeneye Aven, and I don’t know that it’s much of a contest. Echo Tracer is unbelievably good and is easily the best blue common in Legions. I take it with nary a second thought.
My pick: Echo Tracer
Hindsight pick: Embalmed Brawler
None of these picks are any good for a B/G deck except for the Embalmed Brawler. To first-pick him in hindsight borders on lunacy, but there’s really nothing else to take if I’m in that archetype. I could’ve cut Skirk Marauder or the Goblin Dynamo, but it’s not like they’re bombs or anything. Okay, well, they’re very good cards, but I still don’t think it’s right to cut on your first pick.
Pack 2: Aven Envoy, Berserk Murlodont, Hundroog (don’t), Lowland Tracker, Crypt Sliver, Deftblade Elite, Skinthinner, Crested Craghorn, Stonewood Invoker, Daru Sanctifier, Merchant of Secrets, Cloudreach Cavalry, Goblin Assassin, Elvish Soultiller
Now we’re getting somewhere. This li’l Dark Banishing dunweeble is the best black common in the set, and I’m elated to actually get some removal for my lousy deck. Good times.
My pick: Skinthinner
Hindsight pick: Skinthinner
Pack 3: Crypt Sliver, Goblin Lookout, Gempalm Avenger, Fugitive Wizard, Glowering Rogon, Goblin Turncoat, Starlight Invoker, Needleshot Gourna, Flamewave Invoker, Wall of Hope, Vile Deacon, Willbender, Gempalm Sorcerer
I’m definitely not unhappy seeing a Willbender available, as the card can be completely and utterly game-breaking in the right situation. If I am to win a game in this draft, someone’s will must be bent at some point. But should their will prove unmalleable, their Searing Flesh will do me fine. And let’s not forget that he’s a wizard and a fine target for my splashed Lavamancer’s Skill! Oh jeez, someone shoot me now.
My pick: Willbender
Hindsight pick: Needleshot Gourna
Needleshot Gourna is a big ol’ beast with an ass like a pre-diet Oprah. I always feel a lot better when a green deck has a guy to lock down the skies, and six toughness is no joke.
Pack 4: Hunter Sliver, Echo Tracer, Gempalm Avenger, Gempalm Polluter, Cephalid Pathmage, Krosan Vorine, Aven Redeemer, Voidmage Apprentice, Smokespew Invoker, Patron of the Wild, Quick Sliver, Liege of the Axe
Hmm… If I keep getting passed Echo Tracers, this deck might have a chance after all. These guys are so gross in multiples that I’m starting to believe that I might even a match! Smokespew Invoker is the other possibility here, and I am awfully short on removal.
Hmmmm… Bah! I would never forgive myself for passing a second Echo Tracer, and my chances of being alive when I get to eight mana are dubious at best.
My pick: Echo Tracer
Hindsight pick: Krosan Vorine
Although I had not seen a Timberwatch Elf yet, Krosan Vorine is still the choice to make here. Smokespew Invoker is good in B/G, but the provoker is just better.
Pack 5: Hunter Sliver, Goblin Grappler, Blood Celebrant, Plated Sliver, Glintwing Invoker, Shaleskin Plower, Infernal Caretaker, Bloodstoke Howler, Earthblighter, Mistform Wakecaster, Root Sliver
There’s nothing in this pack for me at all except for Mistform Wakecaster, a solid 2/3 flier with a moderately useful ability. Hey, I’ll take what I can get at this point. Beggars can’t be choosy.
My pick: Mistform Wakecaster
Hindsight pick: My nose
I guess I’d take Infernal Caretaker here, but it’s not something I’d admit to anyone.
Pack 6: Defiant Elf, Goblin Lookout, Covert Operative, Dripping Dead, Macetail Hystrodon, Crested Craghorn, Goblin Firebug, Deathmark Prelate, Crookclaw Elder
Here’s where I think I made my second really bad pick of the draft: Taking Covert Operative over Deathmark Prelate. My problem with the cleric is that he’s a great renewable source of removal, but the tempo cost is so exorbitant at 2B and a creature and (here it comes) all at sorcery speed. That’s just… Ugh. He’d be fantastic if you could use him on your opponent’s turn, but it’s that”must be played as a sorcery” ability that makes me indescribably upset every time I pick this loser.
All of that said, I still think I should have picked him here because my deck was already struggling for creature kill and slow removal is still removal… Not to mention I had a decent number of zombies and Mistform creatures as well as an Imagecrafter to combo with him. Covert Operative is just a five-mana Severed Legion with an extra point of power. I suck.
My pick: Covert Operative
Hindsight pick: Deathmark Prelate
If in B/G, I still take Deathmark Prelate here simply because there’s nothing else. He may not make the deck, but at least he won’t make anyone else’s.
Pack 7: Glintwing Invoker, Goblin Turncoat, Nantuko Vigilante, Daru Stinger, Blood Celebrant, Sootfeather Flock, Whipgrass Entangler, Quick Sliver, Gempalm Strider
I’ve definitely had worse seventh picks than Sootfeather Flock in my long and sordid drafting history. I think I’ve been undervaluing this guy; he’s really not bad. And he’s a bird; you know what that means. Absolutely nothing! I think I’m going loopy.
My pick: Sootfeather Flock
Hindsight pick: Sootfeather Flock
Gempalm Strider is interesting, but I think here it’d be wise to abandon any fantasies of adding a Timberwatch Elf to the mix and just take the vanilla flyer. Our G/B deck hasn’t been getting a lot of love in Legions, but we’ll see how it turns out once all the cards have been snagged.
Pack 8: Starlight Invoker, Defiant Elf, Voidmage Apprentice, Needleshot Gourna, Daru Sanctifier, Skirk Drill Sergeant, Daru Mender, Branchsnap Lorian
Just the cuts, ma’am. Utterly nothing for me here, so I snap up the guy who blocks and kills my entire deck. I’ve already passed one, and I can’t let two of these suckers get on the loose.
My pick: Needleshot Gourna
Hindsight pick: Needleshot Gourna
Hindsight.dec now has two of these babies, and it’s safe to say that I probably wouldn’t have taken any damage through the air against anyone.
I added almost nothing to the deck with picks nine through fifteen except for a lone Vile Deacon that I think I ended up playing because I had both Imagecrafter and Mistform creatures and figured it couldn’t hurt to try.
So, once again:
Embalmed Brawler (how embarrassing!)
Let’s examine the final builds of each deck, side by side. Note that I count any morph creature as a three-drop, regardless of its converted casting cost.
The deck I played:
1: Imagecrafter, Blood Celebrant
2: Wretched Anurid, Shepherd of Rot, Lavamancer’s Skill
3: Echo Tracer (2), Skinthinner, Willbender, Sootfeather Flock, Severed Legion, Fallen Cleric, Mistform Wall, Riptide Biologist
4: Mistform Wakecaster, Sage Aven, Vile Deacon
5: Covert Operative, Riptide Shapeshifter, Future Sight, Essence Fracture, Cruel Revival
7: Mistform Skyreaver
You know what? It doesn’t look that bad on paper. It’s got two Echo Tracers and Essence Fracture for bounce, a Cruel Revival, Skinthinner, and the doubly-ridiculous Lavamancer’s Skill splash (both ridiculous that I splashed for it, and ridiculous in power). It’s got a lot of synergy with Imagecrafter (Riptide Biologist, Fallen Cleric, Shepherd of Rot, Vile Deacon) and decent early beats with Wretched Anurid and Severed Legion. Riptide Shapeshifter isn’t great in the deck since I always run the risk of turning up one of the other illusions when I’m going for the 6/6 flier. And hey, there’s always the chance that I’ll just win a game because Future Sight is that disgusting. So what gives? What’s all my crying about?
The deck is simply not my style.
Sometimes you just feel a deck and know you’re not going to do well with it. This deck has got a lot of tricks, card interactions, and synergy – but you know what? It doesn’t beat down. It doesn’t beat down in the ground. It doesn’t beat down in the air. It relies on trying to win a tempo race with small men and bounce spells and then dealing the final points via Shepherd of Rot. It’s certainly a viable strategy, but I probably would feel much more comfortable behind the helm of:
2: Wellwisher, Wretched Anurid, Elvish Warrior, Shepherd of Rot
3: Skinthinner, Sootfeather Flock, Embalmed Brawler, Towering Baloth, Severed Legion, Haunted Cadaver, Drinker of Sorrow
4: Krosan Vorine, Deathmark Prelate, Screeching Buzzard
5: Elven Riders, Stag Beetle, Cruel Revival
6: Needleshot Gourna (2)
That’s only nineteen cards, so there’s room for a couple more elves and the Wirewood Pride, if the situation warrants. Perhaps if I had taken that Pacifism over Towering Baloth, I could splash for the two copies of the white enchantment. Note that it’s really hard to evaluate hindsight.dec because the draft choices would’ve been different if I started out in B/G – but I think you all see what I’m talking about. This framework here is focused on creating tempo from a tight mana curve and just swinging with a bunch of thugs. The deck has great early drops with Elvish Warrior and Wretched Anurid. It’s got four evasive creatures to get the opponent’s life total in the red zone. It’s got two huge Chris Pronger-type defensemen to hold down the skies. It’s got a finisher in the Shepherd and almost enough removal to make me feel good. There’s absolutely nothing fancy or glamorous about its approach to victory. This deck may not look as sexy as the one I did draft, but it better suits my style and has, I feel, a lot more meat behind it.
Well, that’s the name of that tune. I hope at least some of you feel my pain like Bill Clinton did so many moons ago. This will be my last written word for a spell, as I must now focus all of my attention to tuning my deck for May 3. Come check me out at Mid-Atlantic Regionals and say hello, if you’re feeling it. I’ll be”rolling deep” (sometimes I can’t help myself) with the Charlottesville crew and the times promise to be outstanding.
Until then, enjoy life.
Dobbs on MTGO and IRC