Walk With Me: My Draft Picks, And The Decisions Behind ‘Em

This week, I thought it would be cool to do a sort of”looking over my shoulder” perspective during one of my drafts. I wrote down the relevant cards in each pack, and discuss my thought process as I create a solid draft deck.

This week, I thought it would be cool to do a sort of”looking over my shoulder” perspective during one of my drafts. Now keep in mind, this was not looking back on a draft that happened a few days or weeks ago; I just fired up Modo and Notepad and started a draft, taking as many notes as possible as I went. This is much harder than it sounds, because you have to type all of the relevant cards in Notepad at the same time you are deciding which card to draft. That in itself may not seem difficult – but consider the small timeframe you have to pick a card, as well as the tough picks you sometimes have to make, and it will make a little more sense.

Regardless, I knew going in that I was going to have to work fast and think in a vacuum in order to do everything properly. But hey, maybe I will make some mistakes and give myself something to reflect back on for the future, who knows. So I jump in the queue and see some players with decent ratings, which will hopefully make for a good draft. I numbered the packs in each round of packs for easier reference while the draft was going on, and I will provide some thoughts after each pick. The bold card in each pack is the one I picked, while the relevant cards are just in italics, but not in any particular order as I was basically scrambling to type them and get my pick done in time.

After the draft, I’ll also give the decklist I used and some brief coverage of the matches, however many there are (hey, I could lose round 1, who knows!).

Pack One

Pack 1

Solar Blast, Pacifism, Erratic Explosion, Catapult Squad, Astral Slide, Sandskin, Fallen Cleric, Lonely Sandbar, Foothill Guide, Riptide Biologist (bad rare: Words of Wind)

This pick was pretty easy, considering the amount of good white in the pack. A lot of times I will take Astral Slide over a red card if there is a lot of red in the pack and just ship the red and usually end up white black. However, this pack is loaded which good white cards with Pacifism, Squad, Slide, and Sandskin, so the signal is much clearer by taking the Blast – as well as the fact that the Blast is a better card overall.

Pack 2

Lavamancer’s Skill, Aven Fateshaper, Gravel Slinger, Wirewood Pride, Elvish Warrior, Disciple of Grace, Screeching Buzzard, Wall of Mulch, Dwarven Blastminer, Profane Prayers

My pick for this pack was made pretty quickly, although there are a few other options like taking the Fateshaper (a worse”blue” card than skill) because it can be splashed, or taking the Buzzard based on the fact that both of these packs were pretty much devoid in Black cards and I could easily reap the rewards for that in pack two. I think taking the Skill with my sights pointed towards UR is the best pick, though. This pack also sported a miserable rare that I didn’t take the time to write down, with an uncommon missing.

Pack 3

Sparksmith, Goblin Taskmaster, Disciple of Malice, Snarling Undorak, Nameless One, Lonely Sandbar

This pack was most likely nuts, with a rare and uncommon missing, but regardless it pretty much gave the go ahead to me for Red. Third-pick ‘Smith in pack one is the stuff dreams are made of.

Pack 4

Embermage Goblin, Festering Goblin, Dirge of Dread, Gravel Slinger, Searing Flesh, Lay Waste, Graxiplon, Battlefield Medic, Naturalize, Disruptive Pitmage

I’m offered another chance to dip into black for Festering Goblin and Dirge of Dread, but I see no real reason to when I can take a solid card like the Embermage Goblin. He is also at his best in a Blue/Red deck where you can use things like Aphetto Alchemist and your other pingers (Sparksmith, Skill) to take out the bigger guys. Not to mention how insane he is when you get a second one to search for…

Pack 5

Aphetto Alchemist, Riptide Biologist, Anurid Murkdiver, Symbiotic Elf, Aphetto Dredging, Unholy Grotto, Unified Strike

Well, speak of the devil! The only debatable pick here is the Biologist and the Alchemist – and I surely want the alchemist because of my last pick of Embermage Goblin, as well as how good he is with a guy with Skill on it. The other reason is that I’ll almost definitely see another Biologist, as they’re common, while the Alchemist is uncommon. I really don’t know how or why I had time to type in the last two cards either, as Unholy Grotto is awful, and Unified Strike is a sideboard card at best for the white-on-white matchup; I guess I was just typing faster during this pack or something.

Pack 6

Goblin Machinist, Mage’s Guile, Barren Moor, Wirewood Elf, Slipstream Eel, Wave of Indifference, Annex, Vitality Charm, Wirewood Pride

A nice addition to my solid deck, the Machinist is a great card. It’s a huge blocker and once you get the time and mana to start activating it, kills very quickly. Not to mention if the game is stalled, you can continuously use his ability to stack your entire deck if you have a good memory or are taking notes.

A good point to note is that I really don’t like Wave of Indifference in any decks but Green/Red, or sometimes White/Red. It doesn’t do enough when your men are smaller, and it’s just a better plan to remove their guys or evade for the win than to waste a card slot in your deck on the Wave.

Pack 7

Choking Tethers, Dirge of Dread, Daru Cavalier, Cabal Executioner, Headhunter, Information Dealer, Crown of Awe, Nosy Goblin

The black keeps coming, but I decide to stick to the plan and take a great card for Blue Red, the Choke (which is particularly nuts with Skirk Commando). My options are still fairly open for Black/ Red if the Black flows in pack two, but I’d certainly rather be Blue/Red if I can pick up another Skill and the goods keep coming, because there is much more synergy in U/R than in B/R.

Pack 8

Rummaging Wizard, Renewed Faith, Demystify, Fever Charm, Chain of Acid

Scraping for playables already in this pack, I take the wizard just to keep the blue out of the packs seeing as it rarely ever makes the cut in the maindeck. The only other plausible pick being a Fever Charm for my sideboard, I’d rather get the Wizard out of the pack, he is at least somewhat playable if I’m that short on cards (which I rarely am in this format – an entirely different subject).

To finish up this pack, I get a Lonely Sandbar back (which I’m very happy about), as well as a Disruptive Pitmage and Dwarven Blastminer. Blastminer is good for a morph guy if I need him, or a good sideboard option against things like Contested Cliffs or Daru Encampment. Right now my deck looks solid, with a Smith, Solar Blast, Skill, and some good guys. If things go right, the red should flow in the next set of packs due to it being cut so hard. I try not to get my hopes up, though, as Modo has a tendency of being very random with these types of things. (i.e. players don’t switch colors when they should)

Pack Two

Pack 1

Tephraderm, Swat, Primal Boost, Snarling Undorak, Symbiotic Elf, Mistform Dreamer, Shepherd of Rot, Wellwisher, Fleeting Aven, Cabal Slaver

How lucky! Looking at my notes from this pack, it is incredibly deep, which leads to me definitely getting something on the way back around, which is exactly the type of pack I wanna open. Not to mention the bomb for my deck.

Pack 2

Words of War, Astral Slide, Flamestick Courier, Disruptive Pitmage, Choking Tethers, Tranquil Thicket, Glory Seeker, Spined Basher, Mistform Wall

Well, no reason to stop now, more rares for my deck! Another bomb, and my deck is starting to look very good. Lots of blue in this pack too, so some will hopefully make the trip back.

Pack 3

Skirk Commando, Wellwisher, Gustcloak Harrier, Goblin Taskmaster, Anurid Murkdiver, Symbiotic Elf, Headhunter, Piety Charm, Screaming Seahawk

Nothing special here, although it doesn’t really look like the guy on my left went White in pack one since he’s shipping harriers – but who knows? The Commando goes well with my Tethers nonetheless.

Pack 4

Mistform Wall, Renewed Faith, Wave of Indifference, Crafty Pathmage, Inspirit, Ironfist Crusher, Shade’s Breath (good in Mono or near Mono Black, an archetype I draft A LOT)

Well, this pack does a couple of things. It gets me the necessary second half of the Lavamancer’s Skill engine, and it clearly shows that my neighbor on the left is not in white, but most likely in black due to the lack of it in this pack. He most likely sucked up the late stuff from the first pack, which is very logical.

Pack 5

Mistform Shrieker, Ascending Aven, Information Dealer, Headhunter, Chain of Plasma, Forgotten Cave, Crown of Fury, Disciple of Malice

Beep! Back up the draft bus right now, Son. This is the first pick I can really disagree with myself on. At the time, my deck only had one five-drop, the Goblin Machinist, and so this pick is really not as bad as it could be. In general though, Ascending Aven is a better and faster card than the Shrieker, and I definitely should have taken it considering the number of playable five-casts Blue/Red usually has (Pinpoint Avalanche, sometimes Seahawks, Airdrop Condor, etc), and the fact that the Aven is just better. The Chain is also a possible pick – though I have a lot of removal already and I’d really just rather have the big flier. My logic with the Shrieker was that it can’t be Shocked or Cruel Revivalled, and it can help out Sparksmith and what not, but I still think the Aven is the right pick there.

Pack 6

Imagecrafter, Secluded Steppe, Sandskin, Fade from Memory, Daru Encampment, Disciple of Grace, Shieldmage Elder

This pack I pick up the necessary Crafter’ for every blue red deck, in a very thin pack full of decent white cyclers and a Sandskin.

Pack 7

Mistform Stalker, Barren Moor, Foothill Guide, Searing Flesh, Head Games

I could arguably take the Searing Flesh here – but I like the Stalker, and in this case, neither would have made the maindeck anyway. But if one did, I’d rather have the stalker.

Pack 8

Spitfire Handler, Crafty Pathmage, Aphetto Dredging, Battlefield Medic, Backslide

The Handler is a good two-drop, helping the Smith and taking out larger men in the late game, as well as doing massive points when he gets through and you have extra mana. A good man to trade for morphs as well.

On the way back around, I get the choice of Mistform Dreamer or Fleeting Aven, which I take the better flier in the Dreamer. I also get a shot at a second Mistform Wall, or a second Choking Tethers, or a Disruptive Pitmage. Pretty safe to say the Wall is the right pick there, which is what I took. I also pick up a Stupid Seahawk, as I call them, and a Crafty Pathmage for the board.

Pack Three

Pack 1

Pinpoint Avalanche, Daunting Defender, Gustcloak Harrier, Skirk Commando, Goblin Taskmaster, Gustcloak Sentinel, Mobilization, Commando Raid, Festering Goblin, Sage Aven, Daru Healer, Airdrop Condor

A solid removal spell for Blue/Red – and again, a busted pack in the White department. Doesn’t really matter though as my deck is shaping up nicely and Blue/Red is very good against white in general.

Pack 2

Erratic Explosion, Cruel Revival, Undead Gladiator, Gustcloak Sentinel, Glory Seeker, Disciple of Grace, Lay Waste, Backslide, Slipstream Eel, Cabal Slaver, Daru Cavalier

Annoyed to pass a Revival and Gladiator, I’m still contented with another removal spell for my deck, which is fine with me.

Pack 3

Sage Aven, Disruptive Pitmage, Screeching Buzzard, Towering Baloth, Tranquil Thicket

This was mostly a deck based pick, as I had few four drops and I also wanted a way to manipulate my Explosions (if I got any more, that is), and my Machinist as well as smooth my draws. The Aven is also a fine flyer, as it can block morphs with ease and is a decent Skill target. I’m also less and less of a fan of the Pitmage as time goes on and people know to play around it, which isn’t very hard to do.

Pack 4

Cruel Revival, Severed Legion, Renewed Faith, Fever Charm, Daru Lancer, Ancestor’s Prophet, Crown of Suspicion, Taunting Elf

At this point, I’d about had enough of the fluidity of the Black cards in this draft. The guy I was feeding was certainly not getting a Revival this late, regardless of whether I was splashing or not. The only way he would get it is if there was a card I needed for my deck. Revival is too powerful to give as late as this; it’s practically a freebie.

Pack 5

Forgotten Cave, Nantuko Husk, Haunted Cadaver, Goblin Sledder, Screaming Seahawk, Invigorating Boon, Blackmail

Well, you can’t hate ’em all, and I’ll gladly take a cycle land for my deck that already has plenty of playables. Such a late Husk, though…

Pack 6

Riptide Biologist, Treespring Lorian, Barren Moor, Dispersing Orb, Crafty Pathmage, Demystify

Just the man I was looking for! A house against green, and a welcome addition to any blue deck. I’m also happy that it was at the level I like to pick them at and not too much higher.

Pack 7

Mistform Dreamer, Choking Tethers, Feeding Frenzy, Fallen Cleric, Doubtless One, Spined Basher, Wirewood Lodge, Taunting Elf

Another”nothing special” pick; an aggressive Dreamer for my already-solid deck.

Pack 8

Lavamancer’s Skill

Yes! The only good card in the pack, and it’s exactly the one I needed. Very lucky indeed. That right there took the deck from pretty good to very good.

Also, on the way back around, I grabbed an Airdrop Condor, Goblin Taskmaster, Lay Waste, Slipstream Eel, and Crown of Fury. Also, a second Stupid Seahawk, just in case I was dumb enough to play them over my better cards.

Below is the decklist I played, with relevant sideboard cards that could have been maindeck; see what you think.

The Deck

1 Imagecrafter

1 Goblin Taskmaster

2 Lavamancer’s Skill

1 Spitfire Handler

1 Aphetto Alchemist

1 Riptide Biologist

1 Sparksmith

1 Erratic Explosion

1 Words of War

2 Mistform Dreamer

2 Mistform Wall

1 Skirk Commando

1 Sage Aven

1 Embermage Goblin

1 Solar Blast

1 Choking Tethers

1 Pinpoint Avalanche

1 Goblin Machinist

1 Mistform Shrieker

1 Tephraderm

Relevant Sideboard:

1 Lay Waste

1 Dwarven Blastminer

1 Disruptive Pitmage

1 Slipstream Eel

1 Crafty Pathmage

1 Mistform Stalker

1 Information Dealer

2 Screaming Seahawk

1 Annex

1 Crown of Fury

I think there are a few things that can be argued about the maindeck, such as possibly the Pitmage in there – but I cut it for Lay Waste, as the only people that will play into it are the ones you are gonna beat most of the time anyways, and it doesn’t really help. The situation where the Pitmage wrecks someone is so hard to come by that it really just becomes another morph guy with Skill target potential, and that’s not enough for me.

The Lay Waste and Eel could both also be maindeck, with both serving a different purpose: The Eel is good against another blue mage (which is hard to come by), but its main purpose is to power up the Explosion and Machinist. I definitely would sideboard it in against any blue deck, though. The Lay Waste I usually board in when I’m going first, as Creature, Lay Waste gives you a ridiculous tempo advantage and sometimes even steals games through manascrew or colorscrew; not to mention they both cycle, which is the main reason they are good at all.

The Pathmage is also a good sideboard card for matchups when the ground will stall out easily and is also nuts with Commando.

On to the matches!

Round 1: robert cards Vs. Soooooo

I knew this would be a good match, as he was one of the two other high-rated players in the draft.

Game one he wins the roll (and goes first, of course), but I have a pretty good opening hand according to my notes. (I could just watch the replays of these games, but I’m lazy.) Anyway, he starts with a Headhunter and a morph, which I match with a Biologist and Spitfire Handler while cycling two lands. He then plays out Invigorating Boon and I drop a Sage Aven. I get Embermage Goblin down and a Skill on my Biologist, and things are looking up…

When he drops Centaur Glade with six lands out, four of them green. Things could get ugly fast.

For now, I make a Machinist, bash with the Aven and hope to slow his flow of tokens with my two pingers. This plan works until he gets to eight land and starts making two. The problem is, I can’t hit him for enough with the Aven to stop the Glade nonsense. Anyway, the game stalls out at the point where he is one forest shy of making three guys a turn, but it’s pretty much irrelevant. I keep drawing lands, and am using the machinist to filter through my deck and stack it appropriately since it can’t really attack. Eventually he builds up a critical mass of guys and starts swinging, due to me having to shoot his Severed Legions he was casting since he had eleven lands and could cast one and still make two guys.

In a few attacks, I’m reduced to two, and on the final turn the top three cards of my library are the only ones I haven’t Machined through yet – and one of them is Choking Tethers. I have a 33% chance of winning by Choking the guys he makes and killing him with machinist, based on the order of my deck… But, the Choke doesn’t come, as it was the third card down, and we head to sideboarding.

For Game two, I board out a Mistform Wall for the Crafty Pathmage as I know I’m gonna need some way to get through if he gets that damned Glade out again. This game starts off fine with me playing a Taskmaster and morphed Alchemist and him starting to cycle on turn two. He gets a third land but no more after that, and in spite of his cycling efforts he has to discard for a turn. The cards he is cycling are scaring me, though, since his two Barkhide Maulers and a Swat could make like difficult in game three. Regardless, he finally gets land and tries to stabilize around five or six life, but I get a Wall armed with Skill out and kill his attempts to stop me. He Infests this time, but I drop a flier or something and kill him before he can get back in the game.

Game three, I boarded in an Airdrop Condor for something; I don’t remember what. I get the Spitfire Handler on turn 2 and Pathmage on turn 3. He get a slow start with cycling, and when he plays a morph off of two forests and a swamp, I drop Skill on my Pathmage and blast it – since I know he has cadavers, and he had already cycled Swat (the only other removal I’d seen was Infest). However, I was fully aware that he could Infest and crush my team if he peeled a swamp, and I had a backup plan in hand…

Sure enough, he did exactly that: Infested away my team. On my turn I drop the Condor and pass back. He plays a Severed Legion, and I drop Sage Aven. I set up my deck for an Explosion for five to his head with Machinist two cards down – and with Solar Blast, Words of War, and Pinpoint Avalanche also in the grip, he is soon to be burnt to a crisp.

But he has other ideas and taps out for Gourna. This causes a change in plan, and I have to Pinpoint it in my main phase instead of Exploding him for 5 – but all is good. This becomes even better when he taps out for Barkhide Mauler, and I just cast the Machinist to stop it and bash him in the air. The game ends with an Explosion and constant attacks in the air.

I think to be fair, though, his draws were pretty bad and mine were fine, and overall his deck was probably better – though fairly close to mine in power level.

Round 2: TomX Vs. Soooooo

This match is a breather compared to the last one, as Game one I open with Sparksmith and face-up Commando to shoot down his morph. He plays a Leery Fogbeast and I know things are lookin’ good. In fact, I Tether it on my turn and swing into his green mana because my hand is so good that even if he has the Vitality Charm, it doesn’t matter. He does, and takes out my Smith in short order. The game continues with me playing good creatures and him playing nothing but Nosy Goblins and Goblin Taskmasters. It didn’t take very long to plow through those.

Game two, I board in the Crown since none of his awful creatures can fight anything I put it on. I get a really slow draw and he drops an Elvish Warrior. I have Tephraderm, Pinpoint, and Machinist in hand, and Shrieker face-down on the board trading hits with his Warrior. All he does is lay Taunting Elf and lands, which gives me plenty of time to find the fifth land and start dispatching the troops. That warrior did get me to ten, though, but that was all he had…

Finals: Fires Vs. Soooooo

Fires had a pretty good rating, so I expected a decent match. My opening hand is three cycle lands, two Mountains, an Island, and a Taskmaster playing first. I keep and bust out Tasky, then send cycling two lands on turn 2. He plays Wirewood Elf.

Normally, it’s a good play to block the Taskmaster when I swing here so that I can’t play a morph guy on my turn – but my intent was to cycle a third land, so this play didn’t work out for him. On his turn, he misses his land drop and plays another Wirewood Elf. This makes his block a little curious, as he’s obviously landstalled.

The game stalls out, with me playing morphs and him playing Wirewood Herald and Elvish Warrior… And then I get Sparksmith and Imagecrafter in the same turn, and the game takes a huge turn. I kill his Wirewood Elf, stranding him at three lands, and begin to plow through. It’s all over when I draw a second Island and morph the Shrieker.

Game two we trade early morphs, and I get a Dreamer while he gets a Soulless one and Husk. I Pinpoint the 3/3 Soulless One (his morph was a Fallen Cleric), and lay a Mistform Shrieker. He bashes back with Husk and Morph guy, bluffing Lorian; I don’t block and he doesn’t morph. This is curious, ‘cuz maybe he has Revival or something. Anyway, I play it safe and bust out Tephraderm to hold the ground – and he doesn’t even have the Revival! He swings with just the Husk with one card in hand… And when I block with Tephraderm he concedes. His morph guy turned out to be Boneknitter, and with my hand being all gas, it was virtually impossible for him to win that game.

So I guess I picked a good draft to cover, as it was interesting (to me at least), and I won it. Hopefully this wasn’t too long, and you could get something out of it. Anyway, I’m off to GP LA this weekend, so hopefully I’ll get a repeat from Philly with any luck.

(Author’s Last-Minute Note: After finishing writing this and doing a Rochester draft, I managed to compile one of the sickest decks I’ve ever seen consisting of such goodies as Triple Riptide Shapeshifter, Visara, Quicksilver Dragon, Infest, Death Pulse, and tons of other goods. Maybe I shoulda waited and covered that one, eh?)

Nick Eisel

Team CMU

[email protected]

ThatsGameBoys and Soooooo on MODO