Walk With Me: The Three-Color Deck That Coulda Been A Winner

I received a number of drafts that needed analyzing. Unfortunately, I can only do one at a time if I wanna do ’em right, so we might as well start with one of the more interesting ones I received… A draft where someone got lured away by powerful cards that left him relying on luck to salvage his mana base.

New Year’s Day is a time that means different things to different people.

For some people, it’s time for their yearly”resolutions”, which are really just their feeble attempts to get their ass back on track. The most common, of course, are New Year’s diets and weight loss plans.

For others, it’s the start of new things. Maybe a new job, or a promotion in your current one, or something like that.

Some people are busy setting new goals for the year to come, planning families and businesses alike, riding on high hopes.

But for the rest of us, I guess it’s just time for another Magic article…

The response to last weeks article was pretty good, and I received a number of drafts that needed analyzing. Unfortunately, I can only do one at a time if I wanna do ’em right, so we might as well start with one of the more interesting ones I received. This draft was done by James Stoddard, who gives a good set of notes for the games afterwards. But enough of that; let’s see how he did, shall we?

Also, sorry if the order of the cards is kinda out of whack; I am merely copying them directly from James’s email, and the bold card is still the one he chose, no matter where it appears in the list. Also, I will provide my own comments underneath regarding the quality of the picks. Any other questions can be directed to the Charging Slateback, a.k.a. [author name="Nate Heiss"]Nate Heiss[/author], who may or may not respond.

Pack One

Pack 1

Leery Fogbeast, Wretched Anurid, Severed Legion, Renewed Faith, Goblin Sledder, Imagecrafter, Spitting Gourna, Barren Moor, Crude Rampart, Airdrop Condor, Ironfist Crusher, Silklash Spider

Not really a debatable pick here, as the Spider is obscene when it’s in play. Most of the time the only way the green deck loses is to a force of evasion creatures that are simply faster than the beef on the ground. This guy makes sure things like that don’t happen.

Pack 2

Leery Fogbeast, Riptide Biologist, Vitality Charm, Spined Basher, Profane Prayers, Daru Healer, Goblin Sledder, Dive Bomber, Akroma’s Blessing, Avarax, Soulless One, Enchantress’s Presence

And here, things start to get interesting. There are really only three possible cards to be picked from this pack – those being Vitality Charm, Avarax, and Soulless One. Mr. Stoddard goes with the Soulless One… And already we are at odds. There is, however, a lot wrong with this pick, and it goes far deeper than card quality.

Obviously, the Vitality Charm is the weakest of the three cards, so we pretty much have to lean towards a second color already in pack two, which is something that isn’t so hot. However, ya gotta do what ya gotta do – which is why I believe Avarax is clearly the right pick here for a few solid reasons. Not only does Soulless One commit you to black, but it commits you to Zombies far earlier than you’d like. It’s not a card that is very good if you have under eight Zombies in your deck. Later in the draft, when you’ve already collected a bunch, sure, it’s golden. But pick two, pack one? I’ll settle for the hasty beast here every time. It’s really a matter of commitment, and Avarax has few strings attached.

Pack 3

Wellwisher, Lavamancer’s Skill, Riptide Biologist, Daru Lancer, Taunting Elf, Fallen Cleric, Battlefield Medic, Reckless One, Graxiplon, Contested Cliffs

There is exactly one card in Onslaught that I would take/consider taking over Cliffs at any point… And that card is Slice and Dice. So why exactly is this card in here 3rd pick, of pack one! Obviously this is the correct pick, and it looks even better if you’ve taken the Avarax second because it can pump and pretty much kill anything. Regardless, even if you did take the Soulless, now would be the time to move into Green/Red – because obviously, no one in front of you is drafting it if they shipped you a cliffs third (disregarding the possible Slice and Dice – because this is, after all, Magic Online….). The green/black splash Cliffs deck has never really worked out in the drafts I’ve had it or seen it be used, and my good friend Jeremy Darling has a lot of experience with the deck – especially the double Cliffs variety. The card is simply nuts in green/red though, so take it and build around it!

Pack 4

Disciple of Malice, Vitality Charm, Ascending Aven, Krosan Tusker, Charging Slateback, Mage’s Guile, Bloodline Shaman, Shade’s Breath, Symbiotic Beast, Riptide Laboratory

Well as of now it definitely seems like James is on the right track, moving right into GR beasts to fully exploit his late Cliffs. Clearly, there’s no other pick here at this point.

Pack 5

Treespring Lorian, Aphetto Dredging, Piety Charm, Mistform Mask, Birchlore Rangers, Lonely Sandbar, Barkhide Mauler, Chain of Smog

Going straight down the line into the beast deck, as we all know the Mauler is far better than the Lorian could ever hope to be. Another pick that I cannot really debate at all because there really isn’t anything else in the pack that’s any good.

Pack 6

Naturalize, Dirge of Dread, Demystify, Barren Moor, Festering Goblin, Daru Healer, Fade from Memory

Okay, until this point I thought James was doing exactly what I would do: Switching into the GR Beast deck. Apparently he has other ideas, though – though maybe I’m just reading too far into it and there just isn’t anything else good in this pack, which seems to be the case. However, maybe he should take the Naturalize and ship the Black cards down the line in hopes of someone else going into it. This makes it less likely that you’ll be fighting in pack two – but either way, I guess it’s a good pick just because there is nothing else here.

Pack 7

Shepherd of Rot, Foothill Guide, Elvish Warrior, Ghosthelm Courier, Everglove Courier

Well we all know how I feel about this guy. Regardless, it’s clearly the right pick – and c’mon, I don’t hate him that much!

Pack 8

Screaming Seahawk, Disciple of Grace, Lay Waste, Weird Harvest

Well maybe I’m wrong, maybe he is gonna run the GR route. Guess we’ll hafta wait and see.

Now here is where I have some issues: The packs that come back. Usually I don’t list picks after 8th, but there are a number of interesting ones that I’m gonna talk about. When the first pack comes back around (James’s 9th pick), there are two relevant cards for his”colors”: Leery Fogbeast and Wretched Anurid. James ends up taking the Anurid, which I really can’t agree with. If you’ve got the Cliffs, you gotta be going green/red to get the maximum effectiveness out of it. Either that or you’ve gotta be the mana god and never get colorscrewed, which I really don’t feel comfortable doing.

Fogbeast is a fine card to begin with, and I’ve run as many as three in a deck with Cliffs, where I also had ways for them to get through like Wave of Indifference. With the Cliffs though, the Fogbeast is merely cannon fodder for taking out annoying creatures – and for that he is very valuable. The other picks are all okay, with James picking up two Vitality Charms, one of which is over a second Fogbeast – a fine pick, if he’d taken the first one over the Anurid.

Pack Two

Pack 1

Misery Charm, Crown of Fury, Daunting Defender, Sparksmith, Lonely Sandbar, Mistform Mask, Symbiotic Elf, Anurid Murkdiver, Crowd Favorites, Custody Battle, Dawning Purist, Artificial Evolution

Now that’s more like it. A clear pick here, which is sort of annoying because I have nothing to talk about! All these easy picks with really no debates – boo!

Pack 2

Shepherd of Rot, Foothill Guide, Erratic Explosion, Nosy Goblin, Choking Tethers, Elvish Warrior, Mistform Dreamer, Barkhide Mauler, Boneknitter, Aphetto Grifter, Tempting Wurm

Finally, somethin’ to talk about.

The relevant cards here seem to be Erratic Explosion, Elvish Warrior, Barkhide Mauler, Boneknitter, and Tempting Wurm. Let’s eliminate the Warrior and Knitter – because the Warrior is simply outclassed by the big guys, and I really wouldn’t wanna be moving in the direction of black as I’ve stated far too many times already. So the debate is between the two big guys and the Explosion.

In any regular deck, the Tempting Wurm is clearly better than the Mauler. This is for a number of reasons. First of all, the Mauler can’t be cast until turn 5 if you discount cycling, at which point the Tempting Wurm starts to look very good. Sure, there are problems with the Wurm – but when you play it correctly, it is more often than not a very undercosted 5/5 and a very solid card. The Explosion is worth talking about simply because it is amazing in green red due to the concentration of lots of high casting costs, and James really doesn’t have any burn at this point. I think I would seriously consider taking the Explosion here… But Barkhide Mauler is definitely a better pick than the Temping Wurm in this case only because of the Contested Cliffs and would most likely be the same pick I would make. Good call, James!

Pack 3

Demystify, Naturalize, Haunted Cadaver, Foothill Guide, Grassland Crusader, Charging Slateback, Choking Tethers, Frightshroud Courier, Whipcorder, Aurification

Hey now. I thought we’d decided we were moving away from the Black route? Even though there was no real reason to get in to begin with, please don’t start now! The correct pick here is clearly Charging Slateback. It’s a beast, and a big one for cliffs, and a morph guy for the deck. I really don’t know if James has some ulterior motives here or what… But Soulless One on an empty deck is no reason to go into black, and neither is the black courier here. Takin’ the Heiss here every time.

Pack 4

Daunting Defender, Goblin Taskmaster, Sage Aven, Krosan Tusker, Nantuko Husk, Secluded Steppe, Glory Seeker, Sunfire Balm, Thoughtbound Primoc, Endemic Plague

Hmm. Okay, there are a number of things wrong with this pick, even if James is planning on going the black route. First of all, assuming he is going to splash the cliffs in a green/black deck, the Krosan Tusker is definitely the right pick here for that route because of the land fetch ability as well as being a big beast for late game. However, I wouldn’t go this route as I’ve already said – and I’d clearly take the Primoc here, it being a great flier as well as a beast. I really don’t know what is up with this black stuff here, but it’s really a bad idea from my experience.

Pack 5

Spined Basher, Gravel Slinger, Goblin Sky Raider, Battlefield Medic, Lay Waste, Heedless One, Daru Encampment, Riptide Entrancer

Well there’s really nothing here, and whether you’re following James’s plan or mine, the Basher is the right pick for both being a morph creature and a Beast and Zombie respectively.

Pack 6

Wirewood Pride, Disciple of Malice, Renewed Faith, Wave of Indifference, Tranquil Thicket, Mage’s Guile, Nantuko Broodhatch, Discombobulate

Mmmm, cycle land. A good level to be taking cycle land, as the only things you’re missing out on are the Wave and Nantuko guy, both of which are pretty much unnecessary at this point. Though a Wave would be okay, we can get them far later usually.

Pack 7

Piety Charm, Wave of Indifference, Fallen Cleric, Sandskin, Essence Fracture, Shaleskin Bruiser

Bleh, the black again. The only pick for James’s deck, while the only pick for mine is the Wave, of course. I’d be happy with that.

Pack 8

Slipstream Eel, Misery Charm, Birchlore Rangers, Profane Prayers, Grassland Crusader, Secluded Steppe

Not much to debate yet again; a fine morph creature in the colors if the need comes up.

Nothing of note happens when the packs come back around, as they were relatively weak packs in terms of depth, which you can see if you take a closer examination. James doesn’t really get anything playable for his deck on the way back.

Pack Three

Pack 1

Daru Cavalier, Battering Craghorn, Mistform Wall, Spurred Wolverine, Wirewood Pride, Wirewood Elf, Crown of Suspicion, Forgotten Cave, Imagecrafter, Tribal Unity, Wirewood Lodge, Bloodline Shaman, Silent Specter

I hate when stuff like this happens. Honestly though, this doesn’t make the Soulless, Husk, and other black picks right. Despite the fact that yes, this guy is a ridiculous bomb, it still doesn’t make earlier picks right… Unless, of course, you have the power to see into the future. I can’t say I’m blessed with that power – and therefore I stick to my analysis of picks earlier and out of this pack I would either take the Tribal Unity or hate the Specter, depending on my mood.

Pack 2

Syphon Mind, Disciple of Grace, Goblin Taskmaster, Screaming Seahawk, Wirewood Herald, Anurid Murkdiver, Sandskin, Nosy Goblin, Screeching Buzzard, Dive Bomber, Slice and Dice, Chain of Silence, Goblin Machinist

Well, thankfully there is a voice of reason… And that voice determined that James should be shipped slice and dice. Funny enough, this makes the G/R deck look all that much better and helps to deter those of you that would be swayed by James’s route and the lucky Silent Specter. Regardless, I’m not a fan of the three-color special when all colors have double manacosts. It’s still the right pick by any means though, for any deck.

Pack 3

Daunting Defender, Goblin Taskmaster, Sage Aven, Goblin Sky Raider, Secluded Steppe, Solar Blast, Taunting Elf, Crown of Suspicion, Crowd Favorites.

Well, as we can see here, James has thoroughly entrenched himself in the 3color deck. But for our cause this just shows how good the RG deck would be getting at this point – though James’s deck will be very powerful, it will definitely need some help from luck to draw the right mana.

Pack 4

Secluded Steppe, Vitality Charm, Spined Basher, Profane Prayers, Daru Healer, Goblin Sledder, Swat, Dive Bomber, Krosan Groundshaker

Bleh. This is definitely not the way you want to go. The Groundshaker is the way to go on this pick, as it is a decent guy for the deck as well as for the beast land. Three-color Swat is not my ideal situation.

Pack 5

Wirewood Savage, Aphetto Dredging, Daru Cavalier, Disruptive Pitmage, Tranquil Thicket, Backslide, Explosive Vegetation, Mistform Stalker

A very necessary Savage, at a pretty late pick. However, in James’s situation, it might even be worth it to just take the Vegetation to ensure less mana problems. This is twice that he’s passed up on mana fixers for more powerful cards, basically throwing caution to the wind. For the GR deck, the Savage is excellent and very needed.

Pack 6

Battering Craghorn, Sage Aven, Wretched Anurid, Disruptive Pitmage, Spitting Gourna, Commando Raid, Sunfire Balm, Entrails Feaster

This is just a blatantly awful pick in almost every way. First of all, no matter how you’ve drafted the earlier picks, Spitting Gourna is always the right pick here. Whether James’s Route, or mine, you still take the Gourna here. Entrails Feaster…..Didn’t I just write an article on this? This guy is much better than the Anurid could ever hope to be, and clearly the superior black card.

Pack 7

Mistform Wall, Wirewood Herald, Shaleskin Bruiser, Ebonblade Reaper

For James’s route, the right pick here is Ebonblade Reaper; for mine, it is the Herald. This is because the Herald isn’t even very good in James’s three-color build, but in the GR it might be of use to get the Savage or won’t even make the cut which is the more likely occurrence.

Pack 8

Disciple of Malice, Vitality Charm, Mage’s Guile, Taunting Elf, Crown of Suspicion, Invigorating Boon

Gotta love the charm, and Yes, I’d run all 3. I don’t think there were near enough cycling cards for the boon to be effective in this deck, and I’d definitely just run all three charms. They are nuts with the Cliffs, because you can kill bigger things or use them to regenerate your beasts from the cliff effect, and all that jazz.

Again, unfortunately, nothing is picked up in the rounding out of the packs, which is indeed rather annoying and unusual. Oh well.

James didn’t give me a list of the deck he played – but I’m sure you can piece it together, as there aren’t an overwhelming amount of playables. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to know when to switch colors and to not go so overboard on the three-color thing. The deck would be much more consistent and effective if it was only red/green, and I still have trouble understanding the Soulless One pick in only the second pack. Basically, the moral of the story is that the cards were definitely there for a nice R/G deck, and I wouldn’t be the one to go and ruin that by adding in the black even if it does up the power level just a tad bit. The tradeoff in consistency really isn’t worth it.

James did include some notes from the matches he played so I might as well paste them here:

round 1: vs. MelissaD (1722-RW)

game 1: silent specter

game 2: stall and I slice and dice and its my spider vs. her morph, her@5 me@8, i draw 7 lands + dirge and lose to a new swarm of soldiers

game 3: tusker and crew vs. rampart and crew standoff, i punch through with frightshroud+basher

Round 2: vs. Mike Long (1623-RW)

game 1: silent specter

game 2: long stall due to aurification, crowd favorites, his sparksmith (with crown of awe), but alpha strike via dirge with solar blast capper ends it – I should have lost but he made many mistakes not attacking and not using sparksmith

Round 3: vs. Crosby (1886-UB)

game 1: double husk, cruel revival, shapeshifter, pangolin bring me to 3 (him 20), I slice and dice and delay the end but not by much

game 2: silent specter

game 3: ascending aven+husk racing vs. wretched+husk+fallen. turn 5, he essence fractures followed by pangolin and I get run over

As you can see, the Silent Specter did steal some games, which is normal. However, I’d love to know how many times the Cliffs couldn’t go online because he didn’t have the red mana to go with it. I think that if the build was more green/red, you’d find that the Cliffs would be mentioned a lot more and probably win crucial matches.

Anyway, hopefully this proved as a learned tool as to knowing when to switch colors (or never go into them to begin with). If you are gonna email me this week, I warn you that I won’t be able to respond until next weekend, as I’m going to my wonderful girlfriend Mandy’s house for the week. By the way, I love you Mandy and you really are amazing.

Happy New Years.

Nick Eisel

Team CMU

[email protected]

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