Online, the Alara Reborn release events are allowing us to draft Shards / Conflux / Reborn, or triple Reborn. Since we have pros looking at the more normal formats, I decided to take a look at drafting pure gold. What works, what doesn’t, and what happens when you draft a whole lot of a small set (besides seeing visions of Reborn cards as you are falling asleep).
First, some background. The weekend of the online prerelease was rainy and cold, so I stayed in and played in a couple of the online Prereleases. The weekend of the online release events was not much better, so I played in a couple of the sealed events. I did okay — maybe even better than okay.
Once drafts became available, I decided to head over to the queues. First, though, I checked my collection for packs and Tix. Tix were okay, but draft packs were a problem.
Shards of Alara packs: 1
Conflux packs: 9
Alara Reborn: 50 (yes, fifty)
Like I said, I did okay at the release events.
It was also pretty obvious what I would be drafting: triple Reborn. I would also be drafting in 8-4, 4-3-2-2 or 321-Swiss queues — whatever fired first. My goal was: when I had time to do a draft, to do a draft. The main criterion was to avoid waiting for a queue to fire. Since I occasionally get up at 4am to get in a draft before leaving for work, wait times in the off hours can be significant.
Going into the drafts, I heard some people recommending drafting five-color good stuff, since mana was going to be a mess anyway. That advice is garbage. Yes, you can draft five-color decks. They tend to get run over pretty fast. I have seen a number of opponents with five-color decks, but never in the final rounds (okay — I lie. I did see one in the final round of a 321-Swiss, where I tried a really weird approach, that bombed. We were both 0-2 going into that round.)
The format has few sweepers, but a lot of “3/2 for two mana” creatures. If you try to draft a five-color deck, unless you get lucky enough to get a lot of early blockers out, you will likely be on the back foot all match. It’s the same old math — if your opponent plays a Grizzly Bear every turn, starting on turn 2, and your deck is all Craw Wurms, you are going to be dead. It’s worse in this format, since the Grizzly Bears are mainly 3/2s.
You can draft a Shard. This is Alara block, after all. Here’s one of my early drafts, where I did just that. It works, but I’ll talk about a better approach later on.
Pack 1 pick 1: Colossal Might, Pale Recluse, Naya Sojourners, Singe-Mind Ogre, Deadshot Minotaur, Talon Trooper, Nulltread Gargantuan, Blitz Hellion, Swamp, Valley Rannet, Crystallization (FOIL), Sanctum Plowbeast, Demonic Dread, Mask of Riddles, Vithian Renegades
My pick: Blitz Hellion
I had just drafted a couple of Blue decks, and really didn’t want to do it again. And I’m rare-drafting a bit — Vithian Renegades might be a better pick.
Pack 1 pick 2: Bant Sojourners, Ardent Plea, Double Negative, Sages of the Anima, Mountain, Cerodon Yearling, Jhessian Zombies, Grixis Sojourners, Valley Rannet, Sanctum Plowbeast, Igneous Pouncer, Bant Sureblade, Terminate, Leonin Armorguard
My pick: Terminate
Pack 1 pick 3: Deny Reality, Rhox Brute, Fieldmist Borderpost, Sewn-Eye Drake, Kathari Bomber, Vectis Dominator, Brainbite, Trace of Abundance, Grizzled Leotau, Marrow Chomper, Dragon Appeasement, Predatory Advantage, Swamp
My pick: Sewn-Eye Drake (3/1 hasty flier for 4 mana — this is not rocket science.)
Pack 1 pick 4: Winged Coatl, Putrid Leech, Qasali Pridemage, Colossal Might, Jhessian Zombies, Violent Outburst, Grixis Sojourners, Ethercaste Knight, Captured Sunlight, Kathari Remnant, Mind Funeral, Swamp
My pick: Putrid Leech (It’s Jund time.)
My pick: Giant Ambush Beetle
My pick: Colossal Might
My pick: Kathari Bomber
Pack 2 pick 1: Talon Trooper, Grixis Grimblade, Soul Manipulation, Qasali Pridemage, Jund Hackblade, Magefire Wings, Sigil of the Nayan Gods, Arsenal Thresher, Offering to Asha, Godtracker of Jund, Kathari Remnant, Vengeful Rebirth, Sanity Gnawers, Sen Triplets, Forest
Pack 2 pick 2: Putrid Leech, Colossal Might, Pale Recluse, Naya Sojourners, Singe-Mind Ogre, Deadshot Minotaur, Valley Rannet, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Demonic Dread, Mask of Riddles, Marisi’s Twinclaws, Flurry of Wings, Plains
My pick: Marisi’s Twinclaws
Pack 2 pick 3: Sigiled Behemoth, Morbid Bloom, Soulquake, Plains, Jund Hackblade, Winged Coatl, Godtracker of Jund, Breath of Malfegor, Jund Sojourners, Vedalken Ghoul, Cerodon Yearling, Deny Reality, Glassdust Hulk
My pick: Jund Sojourners
Pack 2 pick 4: Terminate, Cerodon Yearling, Deny Reality, Glassdust Hulk, Godtracker of Jund, Breath of Malfegor, Jund Sojourners, Vedalken Ghoul, Sigiled Behemoth, Bituminous Blast, Sigil Captain, Island
Pack 2 pick 5: Architects of Will, Fieldmist Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Captured Sunlight, Breath of Malfegor, Etherium Abomination, Demonic Dread, Lorescale Coatl, Flurry of Wings, Soulquake, Plains
My pick: Breath of Malfegor (Lava Axe is better as an instant. Not great, but better. Still after seeing a choice of Terminate and Bit Blast last pack, I could have let it table. Demonic Dread is okay, but so far all I have to cascade into is the Terminate.)
My pick: Breath of Malfegor
Pack 3 pick 1: Talon Trooper, Sangrite Backlash, Winged Coatl, Deadshot Minotaur, Veinfire Borderpost, Esper Stormblade, Offering to Asha, Firewild Borderpost, Winged Coatl (FOIL), Sigil of the Nayan Gods, Shield of the Righteous, Sigil Captain, Tainted Sigil, Nemesis of Reason, Plains
My pick: Nemesis of Reason
He just wins games. I can’t pass him — my only answer so far is one Terminate. Besides, I might be able to splash him.
Pack 3 pick 2: Monstrous Carabid, Shield of the Righteous (FOIL), Rhox Brute, Sewn-Eye Drake, Mistvein Borderpost, Igneous Pouncer, Esper Sojourners, Grizzled Leotau, Brainbite, Thopter Foundry, Dragon Appeasement, Illusory Demon, Deathbringer Thoctar, Mountain
My pick: Deathbringer Thoctar
The guy is a machine gun. I almost pulled out the finals solely on the back of this guy — along with some serious Devour action from a Gorger Wurm.
Pack 3 pick 3: Pale Recluse, Soul Manipulation, Stormcaller’s Boon, Veinfire Borderpost, Sangrite Backlash, Gorger Wurm, Vectis Dominator, Firewild Borderpost, Jund Sojourners, Giant Ambush Beetle, Unbender Tine, Lich Lord of Unx, Forest
My pick: Sangrite Backlash (This is removal.)
Pack 3 pick 4: Jund Sojourners, Skyclaw Thrash, Tainted Sigil, Anathemancer, Necromancer’s Covenant, Island, Veinfire Borderpost, Gorger Wurm, Vectis Dominator, Firewild Borderpost, Soul Manipulation, Stormcaller’s Boon
My pick: Skyclaw Thrash (Whereas this is a mistake. I was still thinking about splashing the Nemesis of Reason, and — well, no. The Sojourners, either Borderpost, or the Gorger Wurm are all better picks.)
My pick: Madrush Cyclops (Really good, and 3/4s are powerful in this format. A 3/4 can block most Blades and live.)
My pick: Mayael’s Aria (Raredrafting beats hate-drafting the Bolt. I was certainly not going to be able to play RGBuw with almost no mana fixing.)
My pick: Trace of Abundance (Finally getting around to drafting mana fixing. Too late, and I couldn’t play it anyway.)
Giant Ambush Beetle
2 Monstrous Carabid
A few notes: I decided that my mana was bad enough with three colors — I could not splash Blue. I could not even play all my Green cards — Green was almost a splash. I didn’t even run Trace of Abundance, since that requires Green early, and it sucks late. I did have a bunch of cyclers, which helped, and 18 lands. That is almost too many lands, but my curve was terrible.
The deck worked, and sometimes it worked extremely well. A game from the second round illustrates how explosive this deck, and format, can be. It was turn seven. I was at 8 life, with my opponent beating down with a 3/1 flier. I had a 6/6 Gorger Wurm and lands. My opponent had a Goblin token and a random little dude, and 15 life. I dropped a land, cast the Blitz Hellion and swung. He chumped the Wurm with the goblin, and Colossal Might let me trample over for lethal +1. Fast. I noticed that few of the games all match went much beyond turn 6. That is not atypical for the format — although the format also has a lot of removal, so empty board stalls also happen. Getting mana flooded or screwed, though, is often quickly fatal.
The finals came down to a battle of Cascade effects. His Cascade went Enlisted Wurm into Bloodbraid Elf into Behemoth Sledge. Mine went Bituminous Blast into Borderpost. It was close, but in game three, having 18 lands probably killed me. I drew 10, and he didn’t. Still, without the Sledge, I would have got there. I did almost 40 damage to him in the final game, and knocked him to 1 three times.
A Better Approach
I have drafted a shard a number of times. It works, especially if you concentrate on getting cheap, fast guys. The Blades are great, especially with Borderposts. However, in the draft above, I saw a total of five, in all colors, and three of those were in the first packs. Drafting weenie speed is not always easy, and drafting a slow speed deck is not a recipe for success.
I have found that a better option is to concentrate on drafting a two-color deck. This gives you a stable manabase, and lets you use the land cyclers well. In most cases, you can develop steady pressure and have some decent finishers. In each case, of course you want to value common removal highly. Terminate is great in RB. RG has Sangrite Backlash and Colossal Might. White/x decks want lots of Crystallizations. The base Blue decks don’t have quite as much, although they do have one of the better three-color cyclers in Esper Sojourner. It is an uncounterable Twitch. Actually, all the Sojourners (except Black) are worth considering, even if you are not splashing for their third color. The cycle abilities are semi-playable tricks, and cycling is still okay. They are 23rd cards, but playable 23rds.
Surprisingly enough, one of the best combinations is UW, which is insane unless at least two other drafters are fighting over color pair. The goal is to get a bunch of the Ethercaste Knights for early Exalted beats, Talon Troopers and other fliers for mid game, and Glassdusk Hulks for late game. With a couple of Exalted guys and an artifact to play, Glassdusk can easily be an unblockable 6/7, which is pretty good. He also makes the land cycler — Sanctum Plowbeast — playable in the late game.
Here’s an example of a UW draft.
Pack 1 pick 1: Rhox Brute, Fieldmist Borderpost, Sewn-Eye Drake, Putrid Leech, Colossal Might, Pale Recluse, Violent Outburst, Naya Hushblade, Vectis Dominator, Firewild Borderpost, Mask of Riddles, Zealous Persecution, Flurry of Wings, Aven Mimeomancer, Plains
My pick: Aven Mimeomancer (I went into this draft intending to draft a two-color deck. The 3/1 flier pointed me at UW. Besides, it is a rare, and decent. It would be insane with a pinger, since it can also turn the opponent’s 5/5s into 3/1s.)
Pack 1 pick 2: Singe-Mind Ogre, Deadshot Minotaur, Talon Trooper, Grixis Grimblade, Soul Manipulation, Jund Sojourners, Captured Sunlight, Breath of Malfegor, Etherium Abomination, Arsenal Thresher, Gloryscale Viashino, Ardent Plea, Mind Funeral, Mountain
My pick: Talon Trooper (fliers are good.)
Pack 1 pick 3: Singe-Mind Ogre, Bant Sureblade, Pale Recluse, Soul Manipulation, Stormcaller’s Boon, Veinfire Borderpost, Bant Sojourners, Sigiled Behemoth, Etherium Abomination, Esper Sojourners, Drastic Revelation, Morbid Bloom, Plains
My pick: Pale Recluse (A land cycler, an annoying reach dude I don’t want my opponents to have, and he is fine if I end up GW or UGW. The Sureblade is tempting, but I will have other early drops, and this deck is going to win through the air or with Glassdusks. I don’t want to see the Sureblade late game — but he still might have been a better pick that the Recluse.)
Pack 1 pick 4: Demonspine Whip, Vithian Renegades, Nulltread Gargantuan, Swamp, Colossal Might, Pale Recluse, Naya Sojourners, Violent Outburst, Naya Hushblade, Vectis Dominator, Fieldmist Borderpost, Sewn-Eye Drake
My pick: Nulltread Gargantuan (No UW in the pack, but I might end up UWG)
My pick: Ethercaste Knight (bingo!)
My pick: Glassdust Hulk (more bingo!)
My pick: Ethercaste Knight
My pick: Lorescale Coatl (I could still end up UWG — not my choice, but UW is sparse so far.)
Pack 2 pick 1: Gorger Wurm, Singe-Mind Ogre, Bant Sureblade, Pale Recluse, Soul Manipulation, Stormcaller’s Boon, Bant Sojourners, Sigiled Behemoth, Etherium Abomination, Esper Sojourners, Messenger Falcons, Unbender Tine, Dragon Appeasement, Finest Hour, Mountain
My pick: Finest Hour (Messenger Falcons is good, but Finest Hour is playable in Constructed — and just fine in a deck with four Exalted effects and 2 unblockable creature in the first 16 cards. Of course, I only managed to cast this once.)
Pack 2 pick 2: Offering to Asha, Shield of the Righteous, Vengeful Rebirth, Reborn Hope, Swamp, Cerodon Yearling, Deny Reality, Demonic Dread, Magefire Wings, Sigil of the Nayan Gods, Arsenal Thresher, Crystallization, Architects of Will, Terminate
My pick: Crystallization
Pack 2 pick 3: Colossal Might, Jhessian Zombies, Ethersworn Shieldmage, Naya Sojourners, Gorger Wurm, Brainbite, Grixis Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Igneous Pouncer, Lorescale Coatl, Wall of Denial, Predatory Advantage, Forest
My pick: Wall of Denial (I love the Shroud Wall in this deck. It is darn hard to get rid of, and lets you set up Glassdust smashing. I should note that I also hate playing against said Wall.)
Pack 2 pick 4: Terminate, Leonin Armorguard, Jhessian Zombies, Grixis Grimblade, Ethersworn Shieldmage, Grizzled Leotau, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Lorescale Coatl, Mask of Riddles, Etherwrought Page, Forest
My pick: Skyclaw Thrash (I have no idea why I picked this over the Shieldmage. Misclick? Or maybe I just expected the Shieldmage to table.)
My pick: Naya Hushblade (I’m UWg, so there is a slim chance this might see play. However, this deck can rarely capitalize on a non-evasive 3/2.)
My pick: Sanctum Plowbeast (mana fixing, late game wall and Glassdusk enabler.)
My pick: Talon Trooper
Pack 3 pick 1: Naya Sojourners, Singe-Mind Ogre, Deadshot Minotaur, Talon Trooper, Grixis Grimblade, Qasali Pridemage (FOIL), Sanity Gnawers, Fight to the Death, Island, Captured Sunlight, Breath of Malfegor, Etherium Abomination, Arsenal Thresher, Enlisted Wurm, Skyclaw Thrash
My pick: Enlisted Wurm
Pack 3 pick 2: Naya Hushblade, Marrow Chomper, Anathemancer, Nulltread Gargantuan, Retaliator Griffin, Island, Stormcaller’s Boon, Rhox Brute, Wildfield Borderpost, Demonic Dread, Offering to Asha, Firewild Borderpost, Jund Hackblade, Monstrous Carabid
Pack 3 pick 3: Veinfire Borderpost, Gorger Wurm, Leonin Armorguard, Architects of Will, Ethercaste Knight, Godtracker of Jund, Breath of Malfegor, Jund Sojourners, Vedalken Ghoul, Zealous Persecution, Intimidation Bolt, Sanity Gnawers, Forest
My pick: Ethercaste Knight
Pack 3 pick 4: Leonin Armorguard, Cerodon Yearling, Jhessian Zombies, Grixis Grimblade, Ethersworn Shieldmage, Grizzled Leotau, Valley Rannet, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Skyclaw Thrash, Tainted Sigil, Mountain
My pick: Grizzled Leotau (I might want the mini-wall. I don’t want an opponent to have a turn two mini-wall.)
My pick: Winged Coatl (Hoping the Hulk would table. That was a mistake.)
My pick: Glassdust Hulk
My pick: Arsenal Thresher
My pick: Glassdust Hulk
I have had slightly better UW decks, but I had this one handy. The finals were an exercise in frustration. At one point in game 2, the board was clear. My opponent was at one life, and my topdecks were Finest Hour, Sanctum Plowbeast, land, Stormcaller’s Boon into Borderpost, land, Plowbeast #2, land, Crystallization, land, land, die to a third flier. (Flier #1 was blocked when Stormcaller’s Boon lofted a Plowbeast, #2 turned to Crystal.) Awkward.
That was the only time all draft that I cast Finest Hour.
For Sale: One Finest Hour, single owner, good condition, rarely used.
The next game involved taking some fast beats, only to stabilize behind the Wall and a Plowbeast. My opponent was dead in two attacks to a Hulk, and I had the artifacts to make it work. However, my opponent dropped an eleventh mana source and Lavalanched away my board.
When drafting two-color decks, here are the cards (commons and uncommons) you want:
Great: Crystallization, Esper Stormblade, Glassdusk Hulk, Talon Trooper, Wall of Denial
Good: Sanctum Plowbeast, Esper Sojourners, Messenger Falcons, Ethercaste Knight
Okay: Offering to Asha, Arsenal Thresher (its value is inversely proportional to the number of Walls and Troopers you have. The more of those, the fewer artifacts, the suckier it is), Stormcaller’s Boon (most of your stuff already either flies or is unblockable).
Great: Slave of Bolas, Terminate, Sangrite Backlash, Bituminous Blast
Good: Sewn-Eye Drake, Giant Ambush Beetle, Kathari Bomber, Jund Hackblade, Grixis Grimblade, Igneous Pouncer, Jund Sojourners, Monstrous Carabid, Singe-Mind Ogre
Okay: Breath of Malfegor, Grixis Sojourner, Sanity Gnawers
Great: Bloodbraid Elf, Colossal Might, Sangrite Backlash, Vengeful Rebirth
Good: Gorger Wurm, Jund Hackblade, Marisi’s Twinclaws, Rhox Brute, Vithian Renegades, Deadshot Minotaur
Okay: Naya Hushblade, Jund Sojourners, Valley Rannet, Violent Outburst (depends on what you can get — better with more Jund Hackblade).
Great: Slave of Bolas, Illusionary Demon, Mask of Riddles, Sewn-Eye Drake
Good: Brainbite, Deny Reality, Grixis Grimblade, Etherium Abomination, Jhessian Zombie (fear is nice), Mind Funeral (can mill a lot of cards, sometimes pretty much ends the game) , Soul Manipulation
Okay: Architects of Will, Kathari Remnant, Vedalken Ghoul (okay is pretty wide, here).
Overall, I have found myself winning a fair number of packs drafting two-color decks. I like drafting UW, and find I drop into that pattern most often. I will draft GW whenever I open a Behemoth Sledge (one draft I busted one, and was passed a second!) or I open good rare in those colors, but GW can often get spread among too many players. RB is a fine archetype, and I like it — and getting a Slave of Bolas often pulls me into the colors. GR is okay, but too many people fight over it, and it has no evasion. UB is not so hot, unless you get a rare that supports it. Something like Nemesis of Reason is fine, as is the Lich Lord of Unx, if you can keep him alive. He is great at breaking stall, especially with an Illusionary Demon (and Wall of Shroud) blocking.
Triple Reborn drafts will stick around until June 5th online. If you are looking for something different, give it a try. Just don’t expect to make any money in the format. 8-4 drafts fire only occasionally, and the only real money card is Maelstrom Pulse. Lord of Extinction, Meddling Mage, Sen Triplets, Thought Hemorrhage, and Dauntless Escort are worth slightly more than the price of a pack, but the rest of the rares are worth a buck or less. The only money uncommon is Bloodbraid Elf. So don’t draft for money — but if you want to draft for fun, go for it.
One More Thing:
This is for those of you who are going to be in Hawaii for the Pro Tour, or Pro Tour public events, and who might want to become a judge. On Sunday, at the venue, Falko will be running a seminar on how to become a judge. The time is still to be determined, but this is worth checking out if you have any interest. Sunday, at the Pro Tour, time and location to be determined. There should be signs, or ask at the public events stage for directions.
See you in Honolulu. Until then, see you online.
“one million words” on MTGO.