Now that we’ve got our weapon of choice assembled, we can move into battle. Since it would take entirely too long (as if this article wasn’t long enough already) to cover each and every game of the draft, I decided right away that I would outline the games in which a critical mass of important and difficult decisions was not achieved, and go in detail on the games where I could have possibly made a small misplay due to tough calls. Basically, I’m only gonna go in-depth on the games that call for that type of analysis. As I said before, since I don’t want any more nasty emails, I’ll list the player’s rating but not their MODO screen name.
My first opponent boasts a healthy rating of 1768.
He wins the die roll and chooses to go first. He then proceeds to mulligan and Volcanic Hammers my third-turn Serpent Warrior. After this, I play out a Fighting Drake and Coastal Hornclaw and sit on my two Boomerangs and a Remove Soul. He doesn’t do anything else and concedes a few turns later. See why I’m not covering all the games now? Some games are just complete rollovers, just like this one. The permanents he had in play at the end of the game were two Mountains, an Island, and a Star Compass, just for reference.
I side in Sea Serpent for a Serpent Warrior and he chooses to play first again. I keep a debatable opening hand of five land, Storm Crow, and Serpent Warrior. The way I figure, my deck is mana-hungry as it is, and at least I have some form of a curve to combat whatever he throws at me. Five land is rough, though, I will admit; I’ll need to pull some gas off the top to make it worthwhile.
I find out immediately that the reason he wasn’t doing anything in game one was because he was color-screwed. He plays a Plains and follows it up with an army of white dudes, while I draw a ton of land and my only ounce of hope, Treasure Trove, is crushed by an Aven Cloudchaser.
Game three is where the real action takes place.
My first hand contains one land and has zero chance of being playable. Remember, too, that I’m going first this game and there’s no hand my deck could produce that wouldn’t be a mulligan if it only contained one land on the play.
My six-card hand is somewhat better:
This doesn’t look good. He’s already proven that he’s a fine player, and his deck is definitely up to the task so long as he doesn’t get manascrewed. This hand looks bleak if he starts with any kind of aggression as it isn’t going to do anything fast and I need to draw a Swamp to even have game (to go with the three land and Compass I’ve already drawn).
The early turns consist of me playing two Islands and a Star Compass while he plays a Coastal Tower, Plains, and an Honor Guard. At this point I’ve also drawn Diabolic Tutor and a Swamp, and on turn 4 I cast the Tutor. Knowing my decklist, what should I get here? My hand again for reference is Remove Soul, Dark Banishing, and a 4th land.
The main options seem to be Nekrataal, Ambition’s Cost, or Treasure Trove. We’ve already seen the Cloudchaser he has for the Trove, so that seems out of the question. Not to mention that Ambition’s Cost does the same thing for one-third of the mana and in a single turn instead of three.
That leaves Cost or Nekrataal as potential targets. Since I don’t have a Boomerang in the grip to make the Nek totally nuts, it doesn’t seem that worthwhile to grab. The important factor here is that I’ve already got Banish and Remove Soul in hand so creature kill shouldn’t really be an issue at this point. What I really need to do here is gas up – and the best way to do that is Ambition’s Cost.
He beats me down with the Honor Guard and casts another one before ending his third turn.
At this point, we’ll enter the in-depth coverage.
Me (19 Life)
Hand: Island, Island, Remove Soul, Dark Banishing, Ambition’s Cost
Board: Island, Island, Swamp, Star Compass
Opp’s Board: Plains, Plains, Coastal Tower, Honor Guard, Honor Guard
This is the turn I described above, where I cast Ambition’s Cost
Me (14 Life)
Hand: Island, Island, Remove Soul, Boomerang, Dark Banishing, Treasure Trove, Coastal Hornclaw
Board: 3x Island, Swamp, Star Compass
Opp’s Board: 3x Plains, Coastal Tower, 2x Honor Guard, Fodder Cannon
Those Honor Guards are looking much better now that the Cannon is out, and I’m in some serious trouble. We don’t have a whole lot in the way of options here as if we cast the Hornclaw it’s getting blasted immediately with the Cannon and I’m pretty sure that’s the worst play we can make here.
We could Banish one of his Guards or Boomerang the Cannon – but neither of those plays seems to do much, since we can save the Banish for a bigger creature, and if we use the Boomerang on the Cannon he’s just gonna recast it and we have no way of punishing him for doing so.
My Play: On his end step, I use Boomerang on the Fodder Cannon since he didn’t do anything and left all five lands untapped. This effectively slows it down long enough that I can stop the Honor Guard assault. Another important reason for doing so is that I can leave up two mana again next turn by casting the Hornclaw so that he’ll think I have Mana Leak and play around it. This slows the Cannon down enough that I can hopefully deal with it.
As I said above, my play here is obviously to just play the Hornclaw and leave up mana for Remove Soul (or a bluffed Mana Leak) just in case he has his Aven Cloudchaser for the Trove that I’m planning to win with. This should also slow down Fodder Cannon if he’s smart and plays around it. Why else would I Boomerang it?
Play: Island, Pass the turn.
I play the Island here so I can get double activation out of my Trove on his end step. Pretty self-explanatory.
My Play: Island
Well, he can now pay for the Leak. Hey, that’s fine with me; I don’t have it to begin with. Anyway, the Cannon should be far too slow to make me lose control of the game at this point so let’s see what happens.
Me (12 Life)
Hand: Salt Marsh, Remove Soul, Dark Banishing, Coercion, Storm Crow, Serpent Warrior
Board: 6x Island, Swamp, Star Compass
Opp’s Board: 5x Plains, Coastal Tower, Island, 2x Honor Guard, Fodder Cannon
Well, first things first: I cast Coercion, revealing:
He obviously sided in the Cinder Wall to deal with my Serpent Warriors that had seen play in the first two games. Obviously, I take Blaze here and let out a big grin, as his Cloudchaser is never getting past my Remove Soul. Thank god he didn’t draw a Mountain before I drew that Coercion to dump that Blaze on my head. I love Coercion.
I then cast Storm Crow and leave up Banishing/Remove Soul mana. This is important because it seems like a terrible idea to cast Serpent Warrior here simply because it won’t do anything. He had two Honor Guards to hold it off, and if it becomes a problem he’ll just blast it with the Cannon.
The rest of the game seems fundamental from my standpoint, as he plays a Seasoned Marshall on the following turn. On my turn, I activate the Trove and play another land, and when he sacks an Honor Guard at my Hornclaw on my end step I use my Banishing on the Marshall. It’s important to note that Banishing is only good when the Cannon is tapped and the Marshall seems as fine a target as any for it.
For the next few turns we battle Cannon versus Trove. When I start drawing Aven Fishers and he has to kill them with the Cannon, the end is near.
On turn 12, he makes a mistake that likely cost him the match. He topdecks Mahamoti Djinn and then proceeds to cast it! At this point my board was Storm Crow, Aven Fisher, and Horned Turtle along with a boatload of real estate. If he simply casts Cloudchaser here and baits out my Remove Soul, I need to find Nekrataal or lose fast (I’m at eleven).
Regardless, I Remove Soul the Djinn and use the Trove twice on my turn and draw into a Sea Monster, which I cast and seal the match with. It’s important to note that if I hadn’t used the Mana Leak trick (or he hadn’t have played around it) the game could’ve taken an entirely different toll. The same is true for the Djinn mistake.
I feel exceedingly confident going into this round, as my opponent’s rating only weighs in at 1578.
The round starts immediately, which is nice since I hate waiting around on MODO. I win the roll and choose to play first.
His board at this point is two Forests, but the only card in his hand my deck can’t handle is the Anthem, so I take it. My hand at the time had Banishing, Fisher, Turtle, and Nekrataal so I wasn’t worried so much about the creatures.
The game carries on for a bit, and I wreck him with a Boomerang on his Trained Armodon he Giant Growths it when my Turtle steps in front. I also Nekrataal his Disciple and it looks as if he’s pretty manaflooded. He succumbs shortly and we head to game two.
For some reason, he chooses to draw first this game.
My opening hand is:
I’m fine with that. The early turns consist of us both laying lands and he plays a Master Decoy on turn 2. How annoying.
On turn 3, I cast Coercion (I sense a trend) and reveal a hand of:
Yauss! Thankfully, shipping the Choke didn’t hurt me… Yet. Except for, well, making me waste my Coercion – but oh well. If he’d simply have played first, I couldn’t have stopped it and probably would’ve lost right then and there. So I take the Choke and we move along.
On his next turn, he casts Lone Wolf and hits me with the Decoy.
On my turn, I obviously respond with the Hornclaw. He uses his Pacifism on it, which is fine since I’ve drawn a Boomerang in the meantime and then beats me down to thirteen, keeping back his Hawk by accident thanks to a misclick.
On my turn I draw Aven Fisher and cast it, leaving up Boomerang mana. He taps my Fisher in his mainphase and remembers to bring the Hawk this time, beating me down to ten. On his end step, I Boomerang my Hornclaw.
My turn involves simply recasting it, and I’ve built up to seven lands with the eighth waiting in hand as my only card. Next turn I should be able to start firing up Treasure Trove. On his turn he casts Trained Armodon and then Peach Garden Oath for eight life (whoopee…).
I draw another land and then use the Trove, which pulls up a Serpent Warrior. Ugh; that guy sucks right now. I cast him regardless and go to seven, as I really have no choice if I wanna stop the beats. He taps my Hornclaw on end step with the Decoy. In his main he then taps the Serpent Warrior and sends the team (Armodon, Hawk, Lone Wolf). His Lone Wolf goes straight to my face instead of trading up with my Fisher and I drop to a meager one life. Though I do have one turn where he can’t”double Decoy” me since it’s already tapped. This is annoying, since I was hoping to draw a card off of the Fisher, but if I kill a guy I guess it’s all the same.
Then he drops a Craw Wurm. Uh oh.
I Trove into a Horned Turtle and play it, keeping parity at four creatures since any damage at this point will kill me. He casts a Wood Elf and sets up for the double-Decoy plan again.
My turn is an extremely lucky series of events, as I draw Storm Crow for my turn and I have to rip a three-drop or less off of the Trove in order to survive. If you look back at the deck, you’ll realize that the only possible draws here to stay alive are Deepwood Ghoul and Ravenous Rats! Luckily, I peel the Rat off of the Trove and breathe a sigh of relief.
From this point on, I continue to Trove and draw into creatures, and in the end, I’m almost going to deck before I kill him because of that stupid eight life he gained from the awful Peach Garden Oath. So close. My adrenaline is definitely pumping now and I’m ready for the finals.
For the finals, I’m matched up with a formidable opponent, as his rating is 1817. It’s also worth noting that my opponent was the guy I was feeding in the draft, so we have a pretty good idea of what he’s got.
I win the roll and choose to go first. Unfortunately, this game is uneventful as he gets stuck on two lands and only manages a Goblin Raider before my team of Serpent Warrior and a pair of Aven Fishers finishes the job. He does reveal during this game that his colors are Green/Red.
He keeps his opening seven for this game and already we have a decision to make.
My opening hand for the second duel is as follows:
While it is arguable that you could keep this hand, as we’re going second, I’d contest that you have to mulligan because it is far too reliant on drawing multiple land early and doesn’t really have any game to begin with. The hand is slow and unsynergistic and this fact is amplified when you realize that we’re playing against what is most likely an aggressive G/R deck. You can’t really justify keeping this hand with only seventeen land in the deck and a high need to draw three of the remaining ones in the first few turns.
I mulligan into a much more acceptable hand:
The first few turns of the game consist of a couple of Mountains and a Goblin Raider for him and a couple of Islands for me. On turn 3, I Remove Soul his Sabertooth Tiger. On my turn begins the relevant portion of discussion for the game.
The Serpent is a good play because it will require him to remove it or stop attacking altogether while Deepwood Ghoul will give the same sort of effect along with being nearly impossible for him to kill. Playing Puppeteer this turn is also a fine option, considering you will be able to cast another three-drop on the next turn and still use his ability.
So what’s the play?
Here I went with Serpent Warrior, because I figured I could get him on the offensive on the following turn by playing the Ghoul or Nekrataal if he dropped any good creatures. This decision is just flat-out wrong because of the Mountains on his side of the board. Serpent Warrior drops my life and only helps his aggressive stance. If he removes my Serpent Warrior (which is quite likely with either a Giant Growth effect or something like Volcanic Hammer or better) then I’m already down to thirteen and completely on the back foot. Casting Deepwood Ghoul basically halts the Goblin Raider, as he’s not going to waste a removal spell to deal me four damage this early on in the game (two from regenerating and two from the Raider attacking me). Casting Puppeteer isn’t that great either considering it is the best creature in our hand and better to save until he has exhausted some of his burn. Clearly, the correct play here is Deepwood Ghoul.
This turn we again are faced with three options in terms of possible plays we can make. We could easily just Nekrataal the Raider and stabilize the board, also negating any Lightning Elemental nonsense he could have waiting in his hand. Playing Puppeteer seems like the worst thing we could do as we’re already too far behind and he won’t help our situation until a turn later. It seems like the most reasonable decision in this case is to play Deepwood Ghoul, shutting down the Raider and also saving our Nekrataal for a more important creature.
Me (13 Life)
Hand: Island, Island, Puppeteer, Nekrataal
Board: Island, Island, Swamp, Swamp, Deepwood Ghoul
Opp’s Board: Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Forest, Forest, Goblin Raider, Hill Giant
Well, there’s the Hill Giant that we passed to him way back in the first pack. Can’t say I blame him for taking it, either.
Now we have a real-time dilemma dealing mainly with our low life total. We can play Puppeteer here and take two from his Giant, but he could easily have a Giant Growth or something like Lava Axe to punish us for being so greedy. I did see multiple Giant Growths as well as an Axe in the draft, so it’s quite likely that he’s got one or more of ’em. It was because of this logic that I determined the correct play was to Nekrataal the Giant and pass the turn. I didn’t attack because I was afraid of another removal spell like Shock or a Giant Growth and I don’t think it’s worth getting in two damage at this juncture.
So was I right?
Looking back, I have to say that I played the game too cautiously, and certainly should’ve just played Puppeteer and took my beats and then Nekrataal’d his best threat on the next turn, effectively stabilizing the game. This plan does have the same weakness to a burn spell, though, as he can easily”tap down” my Ghoul with a Shock or something and plow through, forcing me to take it or chump with the Puppet.
As it turned out, he dropped Anaba Shaman on the next turn, something I really needed to save the Nekrataal for. He then used it to crush my team of Ghoul and Nekrataal, and my draws of Ravenous Rats, Boomerang, and lands were not enough to stem the tide of green monsters. He also played out a Spined Wurm and Giant Spider before finishing me off.
This game is a perfect example of how two clutch mistakes can cost you a game, and they are the kind of mistakes you will make easily and then see clearly with hindsight. Had I played differently, I’m almost sure I would’ve dragged the game out to the point where I could take control and possibly win.
My opening grip for the final game is the nut high:
Sweet mother of God!
Since he was drawing first, his board only consisted of a Mountain and a Forest, and I happily selected the Forest with my Coercion. Cheesy? You betcha. But there’s no way in hell I’m winning this game if he draws up to six lands, so I just had to hope.
He did peel a land on his third turn, but then failed to draw the fourth for three turns, and then still missed his fifth land on the following turn. Needless to say, I was able to pull it out.
So I managed to win the draft despite a number of difficult decisions in both the draft itself and the games that followed. Could it have been done differently to the same effect? I’d have to say in this case, yes. The draft itself was dynamic enough that you could justify going a number of different routes and the one I chose is not necessarily the best one.
It’s been a long ride, hope you enjoyed it