The Open Draft Project: Innistrad: Crimson Vow Episode #2

The Open Draft Project returns with another round of Innistrad: Crimson Vow. Will anyone deviate from a strong rare Pack 1, Pick 1? Will anyone try for the double-rare deck that shows up later?

Cemetery Gatekeeper, illustrated by Livia Prima

Before I get into any spoilers, if you’d like to attempt the same draft as our eight friends, click here before reading any further. This is your last chance to put yourself to the test.

If I gave you a pizza crust with sauce and asked you to make dinner, what would you do? Most people would add some mozzarella. A monster might toss on some pineapple. Some might pull a Ben Wyatt and make a calzone. But would anyone toss it out halfway through and decide to make pho?

Welcome to this episode of the Open Draft Project, where everyone starts with the option of selecting one of red’s strongest rares. Usually, I try to leave our intrepid heroes with multiple paths to victory. A Choose Your Own Adventure book of a draft. So, if I’m being perfectly honest, this one scared the hell out of me. What if everyone wound up in the same deck? 

So be it. The project has never been about the destination. Like karaoke night in hell, we’re all journey, folks.

My wrench for this round? What if there was a chance to take not one, but two copies of a controversial build-around rare? Are you scrapping the pizza or hoping to find some pepperoni down the line? Pepperoni, in this case, represents a fine but unexciting common that will fill out your commitment.

Joining me on this episode:

Let’s see what they picked.

Pack 1, Pick 1

Stensia Uprising Bloodsworn Squire Parasitic Grasp Arm the Cathars Aim for the Head Rural Recruit Diregraf Scavenger Selhoff Entomber Pyre Spawn Supernatural Rescue Wedding Invitation Bramble Armor Moldgraf Millipede Kindly Ancestor

Ben Stark: I actually haven’t played with Stensia Uprising much. It looks like a decent card, but really a 1/1 a turn is not that strong. My thinking is that I would probably take Parasitic Grasp here over it. It’s a very efficient removal spell. The creatures aren’t all that big in this format. Three damage is very effective. It’s possible Stensia Uprising is better than it. I’m not really sure. 

Pick: Parasitic Grasp

Deathsie: Two cards stand out to me here: [Stensia Uprising] and Parasitic Grasp. I’m pretty okay with either of these cards. I would pick Uprising. I don’t think red is one of the strongest colors but it’s been a lot of fun. It just kind of does everything you want.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

JustLolaman: The cards that I’m seeing here are Stensia Uprising, Parasitic Grasp, and that’s kind of it. I like the Scavenger. I like the Ancestor. I’d be happy with those a little bit later. I would go with the Uprising here. One of the big reasons is because if I take the Grasp, somebody else is going to be happy with the Scavenger. 

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Kenji Egashira: Only two real choices in this pack: Parasitic Grasp and Stensia Uprising. But Uprising is just way too good. We’re going to slam dunk that.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Kyle Rose: I’ve never even played with this Stensia Uprising. It seems like it’s okay. I like red. Looking at that and maybe Grasp as the best card in my opinion.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Ryan Saxe: We’re at the point in the format where I basically look at less cards in the pack. I’m only really looking at Parasitic Grasp and Stensia Uprising. I’ve been really, really impressed with Stensia Uprising, but also I will note my experience with Stensia Uprising has been alongside other rares. I do think I like red more than I like black. Not by some massive margin, though, but I’ll just take the rare.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Sierkovitz: This pack there are realistically four cards to consider, but one is a clear winner for me. There is the Kindly Ancestor, which is one of the better commons here. Diregraf Scavenger, which is a really good black common as well, but not good enough. Parasitic Grasp is removal, which is always nice to have, but I would take Stensia Uprising. It’s a card that can win the game on its own just by generating enough 1/1s, and frequently you can activate the sacrifice clause and that usually ends the game.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Voxy: I actually really like [Stensia Uprising]. I did a couple of decks last night and I actually lost two games to somebody throwing it at my face. So that was a lot of fun. I definitely pick [Stensia Uprising] here even though I really also like Parasitic Grasp because removal is really hard to come by, no matter what it is, in this format. So Parasitic Grasp is also up there for me. I like that it poops out the 1/1s.

Pick: Stensia Uprising

Pack 1, Pick 2

Cemetery Gatekeeper Biolume Egg Laid to Rest Undead Butler Heron-Blessed Geist Blood Petal Celebrant Blood Fountain Steelclad Spirit Toxic Scorpion Moldgraf Millipede Bloody Betrayal Unholy Officiant Desperate Farmer

Ben Stark: Cemetery Gatekeeper is good. It’s very efficient, more like an uncommon than a rare. Undead Butler has been excellent. I love anything that you can get value from for cheap and that replaces itself. It’s a nice way to go up cards without going down on the battlefield. 

Pick: Undead Butler

Deathsie: Much less interesting of a pack. I think the only card I really care about is the Biolume Egg. Cemetery Gatekeeper is kind of a Magic card. Not really. That’s one of the weirdest mythics I’ve seen in a long time. 

Pick: Biolume Egg

JustLolaman: If you’re super-aggressive, the Gatekeeper makes more sense, but it can hurt you. It’s a fine card. I’m not super-happy about taking anything in red here because there is the Egg. If you have a few ways to sacrifice it, it’s pretty broken. I think I’m between the Egg and the Gatekeeper. Sure, it can hurt you if you’re a defensive deck, but you know what you’re going to exile with the Gatekeeper and on defense, a 2/1 first striker has always been good in Magic history. The Egg is much better than Gatekeeper and there is no knowing for sure if I’m going to be ending up in red.

Pick: Cemetery Gatekeeper

Kenji Egashira: Actually, I’m going to take Biolume Egg here. This is kind of an interesting pick but Cemetery Gatekeeper is just a 2/1 with first strike for two. It has moderate upside if you’re extremely aggro but I don’t think it’s a make-it-or-break-it in your deck and I think that Egg is fantastic with any exploit and just good otherwise.

Pick: Biolume Egg

Kyle Rose: Well, I’ll follow it up I guess with this Blood Petal Celebrant. I think it’s probably better than the [Cemetery Gatekeeper]. It is first strike, though. I do value the Blood. I don’t think anything is that strong in this pack in another color. 

Pick: Blood Petal Celebrant

Ryan Saxe: Cemetery Gatekeeper is not a mythic-quality level card. It’s a like a good uncommon. But still, when you start with this rare, it’s probably the correct follow-up. If I had taken the [Parasitic Grasp] I would actually take the Biolume Egg here. Biolume Egg is a really good card and it goes really well with Dimir, but it’s playable in other colors. As is, it’s probably correct to stay mono-red. Something that is really nice to know for most people on Pack 1, Pick 2 is basically if a common is missing, you know it is better than whatever the best common in this pack is. I mean potentially. You don’t know what people actually do. But generally, Pack 1, Pick 1, they’re going to follow a pick order. So let’s say this format is such that Abrade and Flame-Blessed Bolt are better than Bleed Dry. Let’s say that we’re in a format where that’s explicitly true and everybody knows that. If I see that a common is missing and a Bleed Dry is in the pack, I can deduce that the person to my right took a red card, even if there are other red cards in this pack. Anyways, that was an aside and I’ll take Cemetery Gatekeeper.

Pick: Cemetery Gatekeeper

Sierkovitz: Biolume Egg is a very good card and I would definitely go out of my way to play it, but this doesn’t seem to me, based on the first pick, that this is a card I want. Cemetery Gatekeeper is just a very solid creature and how it works, it will allow me to bring my opponent down to a substantial life total even if I don’t manage to squeeze damage through the battlefield. You can combine it with some tricks to make it a potent threat and it will probably ping them for something like six damage through the ability so I’m going to take this one.

Pick: Cemetery Gatekeeper

Voxy: I opened this on stream the other day and three people were like, “That’s a bomb.” And I was like, “Do you know what a bomb is? That is not a bomb.” The Cemetery Gatekeeper also hits you. I don’t think people realize that. So I don’t know why people call it a bomb. Blood Petal Celebrant is in here too and it might be just about the same. I really like Blood Fountain though. If I already picked the Uprising, I guess I can always grab the Gatekeeper and treat it as a 2/1 first striker that might be damaging to my opponent’s game. So I guess I grab that, but it’s not a bomb.

Pick: Cemetery Gatekeeper

Pack 1, Pick 3

Sigarda's Summons Cartographer's Survey Skulking Killer Chill of the Grave Selhoff Entomber Daybreak Combatants Crushing Canopy Gryff Rider Skywarp Skaab Hungry Ridgewolf Serpentine Ambush Fearful Villager

Ben Stark: Sigarda’s Summons is a really, really powerful card. If you have anything that gets a +1/+1 counter, it turns into, what, a 5/5 with flying? That’s incredible. Black doesn’t put counters on things that well. Skulking Killer is pretty efficient and we only have two black cards. I think I’m probably just staying the course here. If Sigarda’s Summons were a white rare that would be as good in Orzhov as it would be in Selesnya, I would definitely take Sigarda’s Summons here over Skulking Killer. 

Pick: Skulking Killer

Deathsie: Ooh. Sigarda’s Summons. That’s an interesting one but that’s really a Selesnya gold card. The red and blue options are not that exciting. Maybe sometimes I’ll be this really weird Boros deck kinda thing. This format is all about bombs and rares. I can’t pass the rares and complain about not getting rares.

Pick: Sigarda’s Summons

JustLolaman: I don’t think the Summons is very good. Question: do we stay in red? What is going to be our main color? I’m fine with the Ridgewolf. I’m fine with the Villager. And I’m fine with a Chill. I don’t think I’m looking at much else. Gryff Rider is okay, but I don’t want to go into a third color because of that. I’m going to go with the Ridgewolf. If we’re going to end up in anything aggressive, even Rakdos, can have a few Werewolves. Just a 2/2 can be fine in this format.

Pick: Hungry Ridgewolf

Kenji Egashira: Not much here. I’m actually going to take the Fearful Villager third pick over maybe Chill of the Grave. I think there are a lot of comparable cards but I’m just going to stick with red for now. 

Pick: Fearful Villager

Kyle Rose: This is another pack that doesn’t seem that great. I would take the Ridgewolf. I’ve liked Gruul a lot. I mean, I’ll play a Blood Petal Celebrant [in it].

Pick: Hungry Ridgewolf

Ryan Saxe: I don’t see any card quality jumping out at me, which means I’m probably supposed to stay mono-red. So the question is, which of these three filler mono-red cards is better? If I’m Gruul, it’s definitely the Ridgewolf. If I’m Izzet, it’s definitely Fearless Villager. And if I’m Rakdos it’s hopefully none of them. And if I’m Boros, it’s probably the Combatants. I think, overall, the thing about this note, is when I settle these things, it might sound like a wash. They’re all hopefully better in different archetypes, right? But it’s not of equal weight because the Combatants and Ridgewolf are actively bad outside of most of those scenarios, where the Villager is fine in more.

Pick: Fearful Villager

Sierkovitz: Nice card from this pack in Hungry Ridgewolf, which is a solid two-drop if you are into the Wolf tribal or you have enough Wolves/Werewolves where it will reliably be a 3/2. Chill of the Grave in a vacuum is the best card from the pack, but in this format I would rather be hard on one color and then decide on the second color once I see what’s more-or-less open. So I think I’m going to be picking Fearful Villager because that’s an evasive threat that will allow me to ping my opponent for those small, incremental pieces of damage and prepare a setup for the Stensia Uprising later.

Pick: Fearful Villager

Voxy: It feels like training, there’s not a lot to give to it. I do like Gryff Rider because they’re flying and can get the counters easily. I think I’d still stick myself in red. So I think I’d pick the Fearful Villager. I don’t hate it.

Pick: Fearful Villager

Pack 1, Pick 4

Wedding Security Circle of Confinement Lacerate Flesh Rot-Tide Gargantua Unholy Officiant Gryff Rider Scattered Thoughts Toxic Scorpion Falkenrath Celebrants Nature's Embrace Weary Prisoner

Ben Stark: This is a pretty easy Wedding Security for me. Even if you don’t make a lot of Blood tokens, you’re not expecting to attack turn after turn, sacrificing token after token. If you get in with one attack with that, it’s a 5/5 that drew a card. I think Wedding Security is probably the best card in the pack and definitely with three black cards already. 

Pick: Wedding Security

Deathsie: Wedding Security, Circle of Confinement, and Falkenrath Celebrants are really the three I’m looking at here. I probably will just pick up Circle of Confinement. I feel like it’s not that disciplined of a pick, but yeah. Just pick the higher-rarity stuff. Screw it.

Pick: Circle of Confinement

JustLolaman: We got a Celebrants, we got a Circle of Confinement. Scattered Thoughts? It’s pretty easy to get some card advantage spells so I don’t think they should be picked very highly. The Celebrants are just pretty good in any deck. It’s funny because when you make two Blood tokens, it looks like, “Oh, I want to make that in a deck that can exploit that.” But it’s usually much better in a deck that doesn’t have access to Blood tokens like Gruul or maybe Boros. I think Celebrants is by far the best in Gruul. You get to five [lands], maybe you have some ramp, you don’t want to draw any more lands.

Pick: Falkenrath Celebrants

Kenji Egashira: I think I’m happy sticking with red for now and taking Falkenrath Celebrants. I would say Circle of Confinement and Wedding Security are probably better cards overall but Celebrants again is going to keep me in red.

Pick: Falkenrath Celebrants

Kyle Rose: I’ve never drafted Boros. The Circle is good. I would just take the Falkenrath Celebrants.

Pick: Falkenrath Celebrants

Ryan Saxe: I still can’t particularly read many signals from here. I don’t really like Lacerate Flesh that much. I do really like Falkenrath Celebrants. Circle of Confinement is by far the best card in this pack. So this is really between the Celebrants and the Confinement. So the question is how far should I be pushing myself to be open? Missing out on Confinement is kind of a big deal. If Stensia Uprising were a bomb rare—it’s a good rare, but if it were a bomb rare—I’d definitely be on the Celebrants. Stay mono-colored. I can figure out what I’m doing with it. I’m really not a huge fan of Boros. It’s fine. Simic sucks, but all of the other color pairs—and maybe Golgari, too—all of the red color pairs are solidly playable. But I think Boros is my least favorite of all of them.

Pick: Falkenrath Celebrants

Sierkovitz: There are definitely some cards in the pack here. Best card in the pack I think is Circle of Confinement, as it is a good removal, it would also pair nicely with the red cards so far because based on how the draft data is looking. People tend to draft the enemy color pairs, for example Boros, less than the allied color pairs, so there’s something to think about. Still, with my previous philosophy, I would take the best red card if it’s not too much weaker than the white one and I think Falkenrath Celebrants have shown they’re really, really powerful in the format.

Pick: Falkenrath Celebrants 

Voxy: Ooh. I really like Wedding Security. F***, there’s another f****** Gryff Rider and a Lacerate Flesh. I like Rot-Tide, too. And a Circle of Confinement. Oh, f*** me. And the Celebrants? This is a good pack. What the hell? I really like Wedding Security. I’m not in black yet but it’s a very good uncommon. But I really like the Celebrants. I would put it in any red deck. Lacerate Flesh is good, it’s fine, I guess. Circle of Confinement is also really good; it’s like a Glass Casket. I think I pick the Celebrants here and stick myself more in red.

Pick:  Falkenrath Celebrants 

Pack 1, Pick 5

Gutter Skulker Markov Retribution Spore Crawler Chill of the Grave Skywarp Skaab Traveling Minister Honored Heirloom Steelclad Spirit Grisly Ritual Hookhand Mariner

Ben Stark: We’re probably going to have to make our first non-black pick because I don’t love Grisly Ritual. You can play one as a curve-topper. I like Markov Retribution a lot, especially if we end up Rakdos, which at this point in the draft we’re pretty much going to play black. Rakdos has a lot of Vampires in both colors. Overall, it’s a good removal spell. It’s a “bite” that pumps your team.

Pick: Markov Retribution

Deathsie: I’m not that interested in any of these cards. There’s a Traveling Minister, which I think is fine. Unless your deck really cares about attacking I don’t think Traveling Minister is that exciting. Sigarda’s Summons decks kind of care about attacking, not really. They care about surviving until Sigarda’s Summons. 

Pick: Traveling Minister

JustLolaman: There’s a Gutter Skulker, which I like. There’s a Minister. I don’t think I pick a Grisly Ritual that highly. This whole pack feels better than some of the packs we had previously. Retribution is not good yet, I think. I don’t know how many Vamps I’m going to end up with. If we end up in black, it’s going to be one of the better removal spells because it enables so many attacks. +1/+0 is pretty huge after removing their largest threat. I think this is just going to be Gutter Skulker. Spore Crawler and Mariner are great but it’s not like we’re getting very huge signals to be in any color here. It’s a little bit too early to tell.

Pick: Gutter Skulker

Kenji Egashira: We wheel the Retribution? I’m going to take the Hookhand Mariner here and try to wheel something.

Pick: Hookhand Mariner 

Kyle Rose: I mean, I do have two Vampires. I could consider just taking this Retribution. I could take maybe the Spore Crawler. I’ll take Retribution.

Pick: Markov Retribution

Ryan Saxe: If I had taken [Circle of Confinement] I’d definitely be on Traveling Minister. I like that card a lot. I have two Vampires already to go with this Retribution and it gives me the opportunity to cut red. But Retribution tends to be bad if you’re not exactly Rakdos. I do really like Rakdos, though. Outside of that, there’s Gutter Skulker which is fine but it’s kind of at its worst in Izzet. There’s filler green which is fine. But I’m just going to take the Retribution. It can be playable in non-Rakdos.

Pick: Markov Retribution

Sierkovitz: Sporecrawler is a good card if I’m going into Gruul. Traveling Minister is amazing. Hookhand Mariner is really good. But I would still pick Markov Retribution and continue my mono-red plan. I already have a couple of Vampires. It works really well with that and helps to push damage through if I have menace creatures as well.

Pick: Markov Retribution

Voxy: That’s kind of a late Mariner. Markov Retribution, I also really like it in a Vampire Deck. Grisly Ritual is good. I like Spore Crawler. Also, I really like Gutter Skulker but I’m not a huge fan of Izzet myself. I think I’m going to take the Mariner because it’s later but Markov Retribution is probably the right pick.

Pick: Hookhand Mariner 

Pack 1, Pick 6

Frenzied Devils Undying Malice Serpentine Ambush Sheltering Boughs Wanderlight Spirit Kessig Flamebreather Bloody Betrayal Unhallowed Phalanx Weaver of Blossoms

Ben Stark: I would probably take the Weaver of Blossoms and just keep green open as option. Again, that Markov Retribution is a good card but we’re very committed to black and we clearly have no second color. I think at this point I would just take Weaver of Blossoms. 

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Deathsie: At this point, I’m still leaving myself open to some sort of multicolor deck. Four- or five-color deck. This pack is pretty miserable. No real overlaps with anything here. Undying Malice gives a counter for Sigarda’s Summons but I don’t know how reliable that is. There’s a chance I’m Selesnya I guess so I’ll pick up Weaver of Blossoms here.

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

JustLolaman: The only card that I really, really like is Weaver of Blossoms. We still don’t have to be red or blue. The Flamebreather can be alright in some decks. Right now, it’s not fine in this one. The interesting thing is if we do end up in Gruul for example, we can get the Retrieve with the Stensia Uprising and usually that can be our gameplan. Deal that fourteen damage, with the help of a few Blood tokens.

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Kenji Egashira: I’m pretty happy with that Mariner choice now as I think Weaver is the clear slam dunk.

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Kyle Rose: I’ll just take Weaver of Blossoms. I don’t like any of the red cards.

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Ryan Saxe: I really don’t like Frenzied Devils. Even if it was a common we saw all the time, we wouldn’t end up playing it. I’m actually pretty sad about the card. If I end up Izzet, I’m really going to miss this Kessig Flamebreather. Kessig Flamebreather is totally fine in quite a few decks. I only like Undying Malice in Dimir and I hate this Unhallowed Phalanx. Bloody Betrayal can actually be pretty good in versions of Rakdos that have quite a few exploit cards. The best card in this pack is definitely Weaver of Blossoms in terms of card quality. If I end up in Izzet, I’ll miss this Flamebreather. If I end up Gruul, I’ll miss this Weaver of Blossoms. What’s the probability I end up in either of those and which one of them am I going to miss more? I would expect I would miss Flamebreather more if I’m Izzet than I would miss Weaver of Blossoms, but Weaver of Blossoms is, on rate, a better card. Then again, the Flamebreather has been relatively impressive and Weaver of Blossoms hasn’t.

Pick: Kessig Flamebreather

Sierkovitz: Here we probably have the first pick where I’m going to veer off my red strategy. So far I have three creatures, two spells, so I’m not particularly interested in Kessig Flamebreather. I’m pretty sure it’s a very excusable pick but Weaver of Blossoms is a good card.

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Voxy: Okay, that’s a late Weaver of Blossoms and I like that card. I think Frenzied Devils is way too expensive for what it is. 

Pick: Weaver of Blossoms

Pack 1, Pick 7

Sigarda's Summons Bloodsworn Squire Laid to Rest Dawnhart Geist Piercing Light Unhallowed Phalanx Bramble Armor Boarded Window

Ben Stark: Wow. Was not expecting to see another Sigarda’s Summons here this late. Wish we were in Selesnya Training. That means there’s a chance we can table the other one, although we can’t count on that. This is a pretty tough pick. I think it’s only between [Sigarda’s Summons and Bloodsworn Squire]. On the chance that we table the other one and the upside, I think I want to take Sigarda’s Summons here. It is just an incredible card if you put counters on a lot of your creatures. And I know we don’t do that yet, but we could still audible into Selesnya. We do seem to be seeing a little bit of green. If we do get two, then that’s just incredible. We can build around that. And if we don’t, we can always just draft Rakdos.

Pick: Sigarda’s Summons

Deathsie: Well, we’re hard committing to Sigarda’s Summons and the counters stuff. The Sigarda’s Summons here is kind of a double-edged sword. It is a blessing and a curse. It gives complete direction to what I’m trying to do. Now, anything with counters is good enough. But it’s also locking me into maybe a strategy that’s not the most exciting or whatever.

Pick: Sigarda’s Summons

JustLolaman: Another Summons! Someone’s going to have a lot of fun, at least. Laid to Rest can make some Gruul decks sometimes. Your Werewolves are pretty good if they’re flipped. If they’re not flipped, Laid to Rest can get you some card advantage. I also like that as the top end in my Selesnya decks but it can work in Gruul. Still, I think I’m just going to go for a Bramble Armor. It makes even more sense in Gruul. It’s much better in this set than previous ones. I think people think of it as training but there’s a good number of big butts and there’s not that much use of your mana in the late-game.

Pick: Bramble Armor 

Kenji Egashira: I don’t even care that we’re passing Summons. I don’t think that card is very good. Yikes. This pack is pretty bad, too. I guess I’ll take the Laid to Rest but I don’t plan to actually play it.

Pick: Laid to Rest

Kyle Rose: I’ve never played it but I’ll take the Bloodsworn Squire just in case I go Rakdos and need a card.

Pick: Bloodsworn Squire

Ryan Saxe: Boarded Window, if I end up an Izzet control deck, is actually pretty good, but I don’t necessarily have a reason to be Izzet Control here and there’s no blue card in this pack. Squire is a fine four-drop but there’s nothing particularly special about it and the four-drop slot gets clogged. Especially in black with the great commons in Scavenger and Bleed Dry and [Bloodcrazed Socialite]. They’re all better than [Bloodsworn Squire]. But I guess, for the most part, what I have goes best with black anyway. It’s not like Boarded Window is some crazy premium card.

Pick: Bloodsworn Squire

Sierkovitz: Here we have a slightly empty pack already. Sigarda’s Summons is basically a trap, even if you’re in Selesnya, so I would not think very hard about it. Other cards are not really fitting what my plans is so I would just pick the Bloodsworn Squire as a Vampire and potentially the possibility of going into Rakdos, although I’m not really hoping to play it. I’m just picking it because it opens some lanes unlike other cards here.

Pick: Bloodsworn Squire

Voxy: Another f****** Sigarda’s Summons? Okay. I think I saw Tweets from Mr. Metrognome and Lord Tupperware saying they liked Boarded Window and I put two in one of my decks just to see how they did and they were actually not that bad. They won me a game because they just kind of shut my opponent down. But I think in Gruul you don’t really want a Boarded Window so you’d take Bloodsworn Squire in case you go into Rakdos instead.

Pick: Bloodsworn Squire

Pack 1, Pick 8

Arm the Cathars Toxic Scorpion Vampire's Kiss Unholy Officiant Dawnhart Disciple Wretched Throng Desperate Farmer

Ben Stark: This is a pretty clear Desperate Farmer. If we knew we were going to go Selesnya we could consider Unholy Officiant or Dawnhart Disciple. Or Scorpion for that matter. But we’re still black and don’t have a second color yet. Desperate Farmer is a common I like a lot. Creatures trade, you have exploit. Even if you don’t, what do they do? Not attack or block? I think Desperate Farmer pretty much just plays as a 4/3 lifelink.

Pick: Desperate Farmer

Deathsie: Well, Unholy Officiant does say +1/+1 counter on it but that one’s kind of expensive. But I basically never need Arm the Cathars because if this deck pans out, I have double Sigarda’s Summons. I will pick up the Officiant. I have not put that card in a Magic deck yet but if there’s a deck for it, it’s probably this one.

Pick: Unholy Officiant

JustLolaman: Wow! What is the Farmer doing here? There’s also Throng. You’re going to play it in every blue deck. I’m basically always playing two but it doesn’t have to be [a] high pick. I don’t know if we’re going to be wheeling a lot of black because of it or if there were six black cards here and then people don’t value it highly enough. I think we’re getting more signals that we should be green so I’m going to go for Disciple. 

Pick: Dawnhart Disciple

Kenji Egashira: Very easy Scorpion over nothing.

Pick: Toxic Scorpion

Kyle Rose: I’ll take Desperate Farmer.

Pick: Desperate Farmer

Ryan Saxe: So Desperate Farmer wheeled, which is a pretty good card. But it’s at its worst in Rakdos. Wretched Throng is fine. It has been underperforming but I like it more in Izzet generally because having twos is important and card advantage is important. If I end up Izzet, I already have two twos I’m happy for, so I don’t have to prioritize Throng as much. I think in the green decks I don’t like—Simic and Golgari—Scorpion is better than Disciple, but in the green decks I do like—Selesnya and Gruul—Disciple is better than Scorpion. I could easily still be in some Gruul aggro deck. I’m definitely red at this point, as it’s probably too hard to pivot out of red even though there are no red cards in this pack, so if I’m red, Disciple probably has a higher probability of making my deck than the Farmer, but the Farmer is definitely a better card than Disciple. I’ll take Disciple.

Pick: Dawnhart Disciple

Sierkovitz: There are four cards that are actually pickable from this pack, namely Wretched Throng, Desperate Farmer, Dawnhart Disciple, and Toxic Scorpion. I looked at some data on Gruul and Dawnhart Disciple is not doing pretty badly as a two-drop because very often you have a three-drop Werewolf which, on the front side, is Human.

Pick: Dawnhart Disciple

Voxy: I like Toxic Scorpion a lot. It’s a good little two-drop with deathtouch.

Pick: Toxic Scorpion

Ben Stark

Draft Log

Defining Pick: Sigarda’s Summons (Pack 1, Picks 7 and 11)

One of two players to wind up in the Selesnya Sigarda’s Summons deck, this highlight feels a little on-the-nose. Speculating on the second Summons after selecting four black cards in his first six picks was a bold decision he lays out below. Chalk this up as another move that shows why Stark is in a different league from most when it comes to cracking open packs.

Final thoughts: “People often ask ‘When do you jam on a build-around or when do you stay open?’ since I’ve been known for ‘stay open’ drafting. It’s really about navigating the waters. I didn’t take the first Sigarda’s Summons because we already had a black deck. It was Pick 5. I had no reason to believe we’d get a second, right? But then a couple picks later, I saw the second. I’m like, ‘Well, we’ll probably table the first then because if somebody was going to draft Selesnya around us, they wouldn’t have passed us a Sigarda’s Summons seventh pick. That’s not guaranteed. But it’s about opportunity cost. What are you taking it over? How much upside is there if you get there?'” (Author’s note: Ben tells a great story about a World’s draft and a build-around Burning Vengeance that won’t fit here but I’d recommend checking out the video to hear it.)


Draft Log

Defining Pick: Unholy Officiant (Pack 1, Pick 8)

It’s never a dull draft with Deathsie and we’re here for it. Committing early to Sigarda’s Summons, quickly the priority became, “Does this card contain any text with the word ‘counter’ on it?” Deathsie values direction above everything and that’s personified in this strategy where you can coast. The only question is, are you coasting to victory or off a cliff?

Final thoughts: “I’ll be very interested to see how many decks end up looking like this. I don’t think people rate Sigarda’s Summons very highly, but that pack, there just was not that much there in terms of direction. Then double Sigarda’s Summons is obviously a highroll, but that’s Magic I guess.”

Luka “JustLolaman” Mandić

Draft Log

Defining Pick: Weaver of Blossoms (Pack 1, Pick 6)

This was an overwhelmingly popular pick by those in this seat, but only Mandić was staring down an even mix of red and blue cards when he made it. There’s an argument to be made that there’s a very strong Izzet deck to be had in this seat, but it would take hard-forcing it to get to the goods in Pack 2. Here, Mandić makes the pivot at the perfect time for the Gruul deck he winds up in. Sometimes, you have to crack a few Biolume Eggs to make a great draft deck.

Final thoughts: “I think it’s fine. I would be happy with having maybe one or two more tricks. That would be about it. It’s a pretty simple deck. It’s just smash and get on the battlefield as quickly as you can, and finish the game with Stensia Uprising and Piper. That’s a little bit different but it doesn’t really go against any Gruul plan that you have. It has enough Blood tokens that you don’t lose any game to the floods later on. I think it’s a pretty good Gruul deck, especially if this is a high-level pod where people could have problems against aggressive decks.”

Kenji “NumotTheNummy” Egashira

Draft Log

Defining Pick: Angelic Quartermaster (Pack 2, Pick 2)

It’s easy to throw shade on a speculative pick, so I’m going to take the low road on this one. Honestly, I’m not sure if I laughed harder than when Egashira is presented with a second Quartermaster in the next pack and quips, “I didn’t even want the first one.” At the end of the day, it cost him very little (a third Blood Petal Celebrant or a Snarling Wolf I’m not sure makes his 40), so this is me trying to find anything to quibble with. Another solid draft from the self-proclaimed reigning champ.

Final thoughts: “I mean the first real decision was deciding to take the Uprising I think over Parasitic, although that wasn’t maybe the biggest decision point. But that affected the rest of the draft. As you can see, or at least from what I consider, my red cards are actually not very good. I kinda just latched on to the Stensia and took a bunch of what I consider more filler red cards than anything else. Thankfully, there were a lot of good green cards that ended up mattering. We did have the option to take an early Sigarda’s Summons but I don’t like that card. I think it’s very powerful, but I don’t think the Selesnya deck is very good in general, and so I think it’s okay to pass that. On average, the Selesnya deck or the Sigarda’s Summons deck is going to be worse than your average any other deck.”

Kyle “TheHamTV” Rose

Draft Log

Defining Pick: Blood Petal Celebrant (Pack 1, Pick 2)

First, I need to thank Rose for participating when he admittedly had done very few Innistrad: Crimson Vow drafts to this point, a fact he mentioned a few times. Second, even if he hadn’t done a single draft, I’d trust his instincts over most folks out there. He is, as they say, a natural. You get a feel for how important he thinks Blood tokens are here when he takes the fairly benign common in Blood Petal Celebrant over the mythic Cemetery Gatekeeper, even if many called it The Gatekeeper in Uncommon’s Clothes.

Final thoughts: “I think the deck is reasonable as far as I can tell. I didn’t see any of these bombs everyone talks about. Once I found out that I was going to be Gruul, so early, early Pack 2, I kind of tunneled in so I couldn’t tell you what other deck I might have missed out on or anything like that. I don’t know. I think it looks okay. But I don’t think it looks great. I would say solid and unexciting.”

Ryan Saxe

Draft Log

Defining Pick: Hookhand Mariner (Pack 1, Pick 13)

After Saxe’s draft was over, we took a look at what forcing an Izzet deck would look like and it’s fairly disgusting, even if it folds like a newly printed foil to End the Festivities. While I’m not sure, I think the nail in his Gruul coffin is likely an egregiously late Hookhand Mariner at the end of Pack 1 that shuts the door on what could have been. As such, taking Kessig Flamebreather over Weaver of Blossoms Pick 6 feels much worse.

Final thoughts: “I think I made a few decisions to stay mono-red in order to be rewarded that made my green deck slightly worse. Reflecting on it, I think I still stand by those decisions. I don’t know if there was a way to end up with Lantern Bearers in a blue deck and end up with a better Izzet deck. The sad thing, kinda, about this, is my reward for being green is this Dormant Grove and this Howlpack Piper basically. But my deck is definitely not maximizing the Piper at all. It’s just a good card here. Overall, I think this deck is fine.”


Draft Log

Defining Pick: Blood Petal Celebrant (Pack 2, Pick 4)

Again, I’m nitpicking because so many drafts wound up so similar, but after picking up two “cares about Wolves” cards later in the draft, I have to imagine Sierkovitz wouldn’t mind having a Sporeback Wolf over this Blood Petal Celebrant. Overall, the data is down on both Epicure and Celebrant in Gruul decks.

Final thoughts: “I think that I didn’t really draft this deck the extreme hard way. I think the mono-red start was defining and then I saw just enough in the green to go into it. It could have easily been Boros. I’m relatively happy. I think it is a decent deck. This is sort of a deck that will pretty handily deal with decks that are based on commons and uncommons. It will have significant problems when someone drops a bomb rare because we don’t have big removal. Basically, that’s the problem. We will have to really lean on the Wolf Strike to remove something bigger. That’s a problem with Gruul in general. But I think the format is generally rock-paper-scissory and you can’t have a deck that deals with everything equally well.”


Draft Log 

Defining Pick: Packsong Pup (Pack 3, Pick 3)

There is no one I’d rather listen to in Magic when the cards are flowing than Voxy. Find someone who is as excited about you as she is when Packsong Pup comes. Voxy stayed disciplined early when there was an inkling Gruul was open and gets paid off with a healthy Wolf count for the mythic uncommon in the archetype. Ja Rule bless this draft.

Final Thoughts: “At first, I was worried I was in the wrong lane. It didn’t seem like Pack 2 kind of gave us much, but Pack 3 with the Kessig Wolfrider, the Howlpack Piper… a late Infestation Expert, and Mariner, I felt like we were in the right lane 100%. I think that this deck looks really good and I really wish that it was real because I want to play with it.

With six Gruul decks representing the largest consensus in Open Draft Project history, you have to wonder how the Sigarda’s Summons decks would stack up here. Still, with seven players all selecting the same rare to start and six winding up in the same deck, our hope for at least one identical draft was shattered at Pack 1, Pick 6. Even when we’re close, every card matters.

As always, for full analysis of picks from each drafter, check out the full video on my Uncle Cardboard YouTube channel. Best of luck to everyone participating in the Arena Open’s first foray into Draft this weekend. I hope you picked up something here that will translate into some cold, hard cash.