The Magic Online Community Challenge is now just a week away. We are trying to nail down decks and learn the format. The community has been a big help, so now it comes down to us doing the work to learn the four formats. It would be easier if we all didn’t have lives.
For those that may have missed it, what I’m talking about is a mini-invitational tournament: eight writers / community leaders against 8 Wizards employees. Here’s the announcement.
The first format is Zendikar draft. Some of you may have heard of that. I’m reading everything anyone writes about it, and drafting when I can. So far, I suck.
Some people who don’t suck at this drafted Zendikar in Tampa last weekend. I’ll look at their decks, then look at one of my drafts. I want to look at their decks by mana cost, because the format seems really fast. I’ll list the cards by the mana cost that players generally pay. For example, I have rarely seen Gatekeeper of Malakir cast without kicker, so it is in my table as a three cc.
Gaudenis Vidugiris: Winner (Congrats, Gau!)
Lands: (18) 6 Island, 2 Piranha Marsh, Soaring Seacliff, 8 Swamp, Verdant Catacombs
1cc: (6) 2Guul Draz Vampire, Vampire Lacerator, Bloodchief Ascension, Quest for the Gravelord, Soul Stair Expedition
2cc: (4) Aether Figment, Blood Seeker, Vampire Hexmage, Welkin Tern
3cc: (5) 2 Gatekeeper of Malakir, Reckless Scholar, Hideous End, Paralyzing Grasp
4cc: ( 5) 2Crypt Ripper, Hagra Crocodile, Guul Draz Specter, Merfolk Seastalkers
5cc+: (2) Malakir Bloodwitch, Sea Gate Loremaster
Conley Woods: Finalist
Lands: (18) 10 Forest, 8 Swamp
1cc: (1) Disfigure
2cc: (3) Oran-Rief Survivalist, Nissa’s Chosen, Vines of Vastwood
3cc: (6) Giant Scorpion, Greenweaver Druid, Oran-Rief Recluse, Tajuru Archer, Turntimber Basilisk, Hideous End
4cc: (5) Bala Ged Thief, 2 Mold Shambler(6?) 2 Nimana Sell-Sword
5cc: (4) Territorial Baloth, 2 Marsh Casualties, Mind Sludge
6cc: (2) Baloth Woodcrasher, Terra Stomper
7cc+: (1) Heartstabber Mosquito
John Skinner: Semifinalist
Lands: (17) Emeria, the Sky Ruin, 6 Island, 9 Plains, Sejiri Refuge
1cc: (2) Kraken Hatchling, Trusty Machete
2cc: (7) Aether Figment, Kor Skyfisher, Ondu Cleric; Arrow Volley Trap, 2 Into the Roil, Luminarch Ascension
3cc: (10) Kor Sanctifiers, 3 Makindi Shieldmate, Reckless Scholar, Bold Defense, 2 Paralyzing Grasp, Pitfall Trap
4cc: (2) Windrider Eel, Summoner’s Bane
5cc+: (3) Seascape Aerialist, Shepherd of the Lost, Whiplash Trap
John May: Semifinalist
Lands: (17) 7 Forest, 7 Island, Kazandu Refuge, 2 Mountain
2cc: (9) Aether Figment, Ior Ruin Expedition, Khalni Heart Expedition, Lotus Cobra, Nissa’s Chosen, Oran-Rief Survivalist, 2 Welkin Tern, Whiplash Trap
3cc: (7) Cancel, Harrow, Grazing Gladehart, Paralyzing Grasp, Turntimber Basilisk , 2 Umara Raptor
4cc: (2) Mold Shambler, Khalni Gem
5cc: (3) 2 Territorial Baloth, Lavaball Trap
6cc: (1) Rampaging Baloths
Gabriel Nassif: Quarterfinalist
1cc: (1) Adventuring Gear
2cc: (8) 3 Cliff Threader, Goblin War Paint, Kor Aeronaut, Kor Outfitter, 2 Kor Skyfisher
3cc: (7) Goblin Ruinblaster, Hellfire Mongrel, 2 Kor Sanctifiers, 2 Magma Rift, Slaughter Cry
4cc: (3) Bladetusk Boar, 2 Kor Cartographer
5cc: (3) Torch Slinger, 2 Tuktuk Grunts
6cc: (1) Celestial Mantle
Alex Majlaton: Quarterfinalist
Lands: (18) 12 Forest, 6 Mountain
1cc: (4) Burst Lightning, 3 Primal Bellow
2cc: (4) Nissa’s Chosen, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Khalni Heart Expedition, Punishing Fire
3cc: (3) Goblin Ruinblaster, Harrow, Turntimber Basilisk
4cc: (3) Mold Shambler, 2 Timbermaw Larva
5cc: (4) Geyser Glider, 3 Torch Slinger, Baloth Cage Trap
6cc: (3) Terra Stomper, Territorial Baloth, Vastwood Gorger
Martin Juza: Quarterfinalist
Lands: (17) Kabira Crossroads, 7 Plains, 9 Swamp
1cc: (6) 2 Vampire Lacerator, 2 Disfigure, Quest for the Gravelord, Soul Stair Expedition
2cc: (5) Blood Seeker, Bloodghast, Cliff Threader, 2 Kor Aeronaut
3cc: (3) Stonework Puma, Vampire Nighthawk, Hideous End
4cc: (6) Guul Draz Vampire, 2 Kor Cartographer, Nimana Sell-Sword, Pillarfield Ox, Windborne Charge
5cc: (2) Emeria Angel, Mind Sludge
7cc: (1) Heartstabber Mosquito
Tom Ross: Quarterfinalist
Lands: (19) 16 Mountain, Soaring Seacliff, 2 Teetering Peaks
1cc: (4) Blazing Torch, Burst Lightning, Explorer’s Scope, Goblin Bushwhacker
2cc: (7) Highland Berserker, 2 Goblin Shortcutter, Plated Geopede, 2 Goblin War Paint, Zektar Shrine Expedition
3cc: (3) Ruinous Minotaur, Stonework Puma, Slaughter Cry
4cc: (2) Bladetusk Boar, Demolish
5cc: (2) 2 Spire Barrage
6cc: (2) 2 Murasa Pyromancer
Let’s look at the entire draft as a whole. Here are the averages.
Average casting cost of nonland cards: 3.07
That is a pretty flat curve. Let’s look at some other current formats.
Average casting cost of non-land cards: 3.36
Hmmm — that is not that big a difference. Of course, the M10 deck was soldiers, which is a pretty flat-curved deck in itself. Still — I expected a slightly greater difference. I have watched some very quick matches at Austin and elsewhere. I also lost to an opponent that dropped a turn 1 Vampire Lacerator, then four straight Plated Geopedes and a fetchland. Swinging for 22 on turn 5 — after burning out my blocker – seems a bit quick.
Some of my Alara block decks had a bigger delta, but that was mainly because I had a couple land cyclers in the deck. Those cards have a nominal casting cost of six, but in reality they will be cast for two to fetch a land. Not quite the same.
Let’s look at a real draft. Tell me where I messed up, please. This was my second serious draft. It’s a train wreck, and I don’t understand it. What should I have seen, and when?
Zendikar 8-4 Draft
Pack 1 pick 1: Desecrated Earth, Explorer’s Scope, Kazandu Refuge, Ruinous Minotaur, Hideous End, Murasa Pyromancer, Swamp, Into the Roil, Predatory Urge, Timbermaw Larva, Lethargy Trap, Nissa’s Chosen, Goblin Bushwhacker, Vampire Hexmage, Bold Defense
My pick: Hideous End
Removal. Everything here looks pretty straightforward, with the exception of Explorer’s Scope and the Pyromancer. The scope appears to be highly playable — or, at the least, I have seen good players maindecking it. At GP: Tampa, Nassif did not maindeck it in his RW deck, while Tom Ross did. Ross’s deck also had a higher curve, but about the same number of landfall cards. Maybe the biggest difference was number of lands — Nassif ran 17, while Ross ran 19. Ross’s odds of triggering the Scope are a bit higher. Or maybe the Scope is just marginal.
In short — I don’t know, yet.
The Pyromancer is, obviously, really good in an allies deck. It also costs a lot of mana, and the one Tampa player who ran two was eliminated immediately. The question is, is this better than Hideous Laughter?
Pack 1 pick 2: Kor Skyfisher (FOIL), Magma Rift, Relic Crush, Quest for the Gemblades, Swamp, Savage Silhouette, Nimbus Wings, Spell Pierce, Mindless Null, Reckless Scholar, Blazing Torch, Feast of Blood, Giant Scorpion, Kabira Crossroads
My pick: Blazing Torch
My reasoning: Mindless Null isn’t a second pick. Feast of Blood may table if no one is playing Vampires — if not, I probably wouldn’t get enough Vampires to make it castable, anyway. Reckless Scholar, Magma Rift and Blazing Torch are all good, and Torch does not lock me into a color.
Pack 1 pick 3: Pillarfield Ox, Kor Aeronaut, Plated Geopede, Greenweaver Druid, Nimana Sell-Sword, Explorer’s Scope, Oran-Rief Recluse, Seascape Aerialist, Vines of Vastwood, Surrakar Marauder, Sky Ruin Drake, Heartstabber Mosquito, Plains
My pick: Heartstabber Mosquito
Nekrataal was always good. My only question is whether I can get to seven mana, but it is a 2/2 flier for four, if necessary. I probably would be happier in red. Pyromancer / Magma Rift / Plated Geopede — next pack Spire Barrage, than Puma. It’s easy with hindsight, but should I have seen that, and when?
Pack 1 pick 4: Spire Barrage, Slaughter Cry, Kor Outfitter, Vampire Lacerator, Trapfinder’s Trick, Shoal Serpent (FOIL), Soaring Seacliff, Vampire’s Bite, Island, Beast Hunt, Goblin Ruinblaster, Quest for Pure Flame
My pick: Vampire Lacerator
Fast Black seems good. I also see a red burn spell. Is that a signal the Red is open, or is Spire Barrage just too expensive to pick early?
Pack 1 pick 5: Stonework Puma, Ruinous Minotaur, Paralyzing Grasp, Pillarfield Ox, Turntimber Grove, Gomazoa, Swamp, Narrow Escape, Grazing Gladehart, Desecrated Earth, Jwar Isle Refuge
My pick: Grazing Gladehart
Here’s the first pick where I was really uncertain. No good Black — Desecrated Earth isn’t exciting, is it? Turntimber Grove is playable just as a sorcery-speed pump, while Stonework Puma is at least a grey ogre. Gladehart is often worth a few life points, but means that I would be black green. Is Black/Green a good combination? No idea.
Pack 1 pick 6: Adventuring Gear, Cancel, Mire Blight, Zendikar Farguide, Cliff Threader, Shieldmate’s Blessing, Hedron Crab, Bog Tatters, Jwar Isle Refuge, Plains
My pick: Zendikar Farguide
Is Bog Tatters the pick? I thought that, in a format with lots of 2/1s and 2/2s, that a 3/3 can be a decent wall, if nothing else. Is Hedron Crab a signal? Should I have taken something else? Tell me in the forums.
Pack 1 pick 7: Trapmaker’s Snare, Island, Tempest Owl, Quest for the Holy Relic, Ior Ruin Expedition, Khalni Heart Expedition, Mindless Null, Sunspring Expedition, Soul Stair Expedition
My pick: Khalni Heart Expedition
I’m cementing myself into GB. I have had very good results / luck with KHE. Soul Stair Expedition is nice for returning bombs, but I have had more use for a double landfall trigger than a double Raise Dead. KHE also enables a splash, if I get passed more burn spells, for example.
Pack 1 pick 8: Graypelt Refuge, Blood Seeker, Quest for Ancient Secrets, Tanglesap, Lethargy Trap, Ondu Cleric, Forest, Goblin Shortcutter
My pick: Blood Seeker
Nothing to exciting about the pick — the 1/1 comes down early, and usually pings the opponent for a couple points. I just wonder if I should be reading any kind of signals here. There are decent red and white cards here — not great, but decent. Does that signify a color being underdrafted, or is Zendikar a lot deeper than the sets I have been drafting recently (namely M10 and MEDIII)?
Pack 1 pick 9: Desecrated Earth, Swamp, Into the Roil, Lethargy Trap, Nissa’s Chosen, Goblin Bushwhacker, Bold Defense
My pick: Nissa’s Chosen
Pack 1 pick 10: Relic Crush, Swamp, Savage Silhouette, Spell Pierce, Mindless Null, Kabira Crossroads
My pick: Mindless Null
Pack 1 pick 11: Explorer’s Scope, Oran-Rief Recluse, Seascape Aerialist, Sky Ruin Drake, Plains
My pick: Oran-Rief Recluse
Is it strange that a 2/5 flier is still here? Should I take the Scope?
Rest of the pack: Shoal Serpent (FOIL), Swamp, Plains, Sunspring Expedition
Pack 2 pick 1: Goblin Ruinblaster, Adventuring Gear, Heartstabber Mosquito, Brave the Elements, Bladetusk Boar, Kor Skyfisher, Oran-Rief Recluse, Plains, Nimana Sell-Sword, Whiplash Trap, Vampire Hexmage, Tuktuk Grunts, Umara Raptor, Arid Mesa, Vastwood Gorger
My pick: Arid Mesa
If I hadn’t gone with the rare-draft, should I have gone with the Mosquito or Sell-Sword? I would have taken the Mosquito.
Pack 2 pick 2: Caller of Gales, Torch Slinger, Tajuru Archer, Mountain, Oran-Rief Recluse, Needlebite Trap, Caravan Hurda, Narrow Escape, Kraken Hatchling, Hellfire Mongrel, Steppe Lynx, Umara Raptor, Goblin War Paint, Seismic Shudder
My pick: Oran-Rief Recluse
Here’s where my ignorance is probably showing. I don’t think I can splash for RR for the Slinger. Archer seems marginal without a lot of other allies. I simply have no idea if Needlebite Trap is playable. What should I have taken?
Pack 2 pick 3: Vines of Vastwood, Torch Slinger, Bold Defense, Sky Ruin Drake, Shatterskull Giant, Mind Sludge, River Boa, Nimana Sell-Sword, Soaring Seacliff, Expedition Map, Into the Roil, Crypt Ripper, Forest
My pick: River Boa
About this time I was kicking myself for not taking the first Sell-Sword, since I could have had three straight allies. I figured this pack came down to Boa, Mind Sludge and Vines. My curve was short of early drops, here, so I took the Boa. Is there a better option?
Pack 2 pick 4: Trailblazer’s Boots, Tanglesap, Stonework Puma, Shatterskull Giant, Spreading Seas, Ravenous Trap, Into the Roil, Makindi Shieldmate, Mark of Mutiny, Mountain, Grazing Gladehart, Bold Defense
My pick: Grazing Gladehart
In the What Could Have Been — another ally. Still, 2 Gladeharts and the KHE could make opposing beatdown decks sad…
Pack 2 pick 5: Geyser Glider, Tuktuk Grunts, Soul Stair Expedition, Island, Quest for the Gemblades, Steppe Lynx, Molten Ravager, Hagra Diabolist, Trapfinder’s Trick, Shieldmate’s Blessing, Shoal Serpent
My pick: Hagra Diabolist
What should I have seen? Should I have switched to red, and had Torch Slinger, Torch Slinger, Geyser Glider or Tuktuk Grunts? Should I have gone Allies earlier?
Pack 2 pick 6: Island, Graypelt Refuge, Giant Scorpion, Merfolk Wayfinder, Adventuring Gear, Tuktuk Grunts, Ior Ruin Expedition, Savage Silhouette, Khalni Heart Expedition (FOIL), Blood Tribute
My pick: Khalni Heart Expedition
I’m way to short on Vampires for the six mana Drain Life. Yet another Grunts — these are put here to remind me that I could have been drafting Allies. Giant Scorpion is another option — is it better? I seem to be setting up a lot of landfall, but don’t have much to do with it, yet.
Pack 2 pick 7: Goblin Bushwhacker, Goblin War Paint, Lethargy Trap, Quest for Pure Flame, Expedition Map, Spire Barrage, Forest, Hedron Scrabbler, Ondu Cleric
My pick: Forest
I so should have switched to Red. Is Hedron Scrabbler ever playable?
Pack 2 pick 8: Windrider Eel, Turntimber Basilisk, Giant Scorpion, Torch Slinger, Spidersilk Net, Plains, Savage Silhouette, Unstable Footing
My pick: Turntimber Basilisk
Should Windrider Eel still be here? This is/was an 8-4! Yet another Torch Slinger — the change to red would have been awesome.
Pack 2 pick 9: Goblin Ruinblaster, Adventuring Gear, Brave the Elements, Plains, Whiplash Trap, Tuktuk Grunts, Vastwood Gorger
My pick: Adventuring Gear
Both Red and allies are tabling. Should I have known? Where did I miss the signal?
Pack 2 pick 10: Caller of Gales, Mountain, Caravan Hurda, Narrow Escape, Goblin War Paint, Seismic Shudder
My pick: Caravan Hurda
Not playing any of these, and Hurda is just a pain to face.
Pack 2 pick 11: Bold Defense, Sky Ruin Drake, Soaring Seacliff, Expedition Map, Forest
My pick: Sky Ruin Drake
This is the sort of thing that has me really confused about drafting Zendikar. This is a 2/5 flier for 5, and no one wants it? Is everyone stuck in other colors? Is it really that bad or do mana curves top at 4? Second question — should I have taken the Seacliff here, to loft one of my dudes?
Rest of the Pack: land, land, land, Goblin War Paint
Pack 3 pick 1: Joraga Bard, Spidersilk Net (FOIL), Merfolk Wayfinder, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Slaughter Cry, Roil Elemental, Sunspring Expedition, Shoal Serpent, Steppe Lynx, Grim Discovery, Swamp, Umara Raptor, Sejiri Refuge, Vampire Lacerator, Vampire Nighthawk
My pick: Roil Elemental
Vampire Nighthawk is nuts, but Roil Elemental is awfully good, and I still have just one terror, plus the kicker on the Recluse, to kill it. Raredrafting it seems the best option — at least for my collection.
Pack 3 pick 2: Forest, Vastwood Gorger, Spidersilk Net, Nimana Sell-Sword, Welkin Tern, Adventuring Gear, Greenweaver Druid, Punishing Fire, Kor Sanctifiers, Guul Draz Specter, Sky Ruin Drake, Highland Berserker, Turntimber Basilisk, Journey to Nowhere
My pick: Guul Draz Specter
It’s the rare, but it is also probably the best pick in my colors.
Pack 3 pick 3: Cliff Threader, Mind Sludge, Baloth Woodcrasher, Hagra Crocodile, Mold Shambler, Magma Rift, Kabira Crossroads, Windrider Eel, Mire Blight, Zendikar Farguide, Seascape Aerialist, Khalni Heart Expedition, Plains
My pick: Baloth Woodcrasher
Look at the Red…
Pack 3 pick 4: Piranha Marsh, Sky Ruin Drake, Mountain, Baloth Cage Trap, Spreading Seas, Landbind Ritual, Guul Draz Vampire, Journey to Nowhere, Seismic Shudder, Nissa’s Chosen, Cliff Threader, Windborne Charge
My pick: Baloth Cage Trap
I think I had given up at this point. Guul Draz Vampire is better, but the Cage Trap is uncommon.
Pack 3 pick 5: Crypt of Agadeem, Teetering Peaks, Forest, Kabira Crossroads, Expedition Map, Reckless Scholar, Hagra Crocodile, Territorial Baloth, Arrow Volley Trap, Vastwood Gorger, Trailblazer’s Boots
My pick: Territorial Baloth
Pack 3 pick 6: Brave the Elements, Island, Ruinous Minotaur, Tempest Owl, Pillarfield Ox, Hedron Scrabbler, Windborne Charge, Mire Blight, Scythe Tiger, Archmage Ascension
My pick: Archmage Ascension
Pack 3 pick 7: Spidersilk Net, Caller of Gales, Desecrated Earth, Ior Ruin Expedition, Narrow Escape, Forest, Primal Bellow, Turntimber Grove, Gomazoa
My pick: Primal Bellow
This is the first pump spell I picked, and the first I saw, if I recall correctly, in the entire draft. Looks like I was being cut. No – I lie, I passed a Vines, above.
Pack 3 pick 8: Makindi Shieldmate, Caller of Gales, Turntimber Grove, Kor Aeronaut, Aether Figment, Teetering Peaks, Mountain, Whiplash Trap
My pick: Kor Aeronaut
Pack 3 pick 9: Joraga Bard, Spidersilk Net (FOIL), Merfolk Wayfinder, Slaughter Cry, Sunspring Expedition, Shoal Serpent, Swamp
My pick: Joraga Bard
Pack 3 pick 10: Forest, Spidersilk Net, Adventuring Gear, Greenweaver Druid, Sky Ruin Drake, Turntimber Basilisk
My pick: Turntimber Basilisk
Pack 3 pick 11: Kabira Crossroads, Windrider Eel, Mire Blight, Zendikar Farguide, Plains
My pick: Windrider Eel
Another 11th pick flier. Is this right, or is this draft strange?
Pack 3 pick 12: Mountain, Spreading Seas, Landbind Ritual, Nissa’s Chosen
My pick: Nissa’s Chosen
Rest of Pack 3: Forest, Tempest Owl, Caller of Gales
This draft was a mess. The deck had a fair curve, a pair of removal spells and a single pump spell.
I won the first round, 2-1, through a combination of lucky topdecks, some good plays and my opponent’s mana issues. It was close. Round 2 I died to turns 1 and 2 Hedron Crabs, plus turns 2, 3, and 5 fetchlands. Nice draw. Game 2 was less fluky — I was simply run over by a better deck. Both opponents were also Black: WB and UB, IIRC.
At what point should I have concluded that black was being cut — or was I right to stay in Black? When should I have spotted that I could shift into red?
Does Blue really suck that badly, or was seeing a 2/2 flier for 4 mana that late strange?
Any help or advice is appreciated.
With any luck, I may get to draft again this weekend. If I have lots of time, I may do a 321Swiss, just to get more feel for a deck. Otherwise, I’ll be in the 8-4s, providing easy wins to my opponents.
“one million words” online
“CC_1M_Words” for the Magic Online Community Challenge Cup