This week, I was in Los Angeles visiting friends I hadn’t seen in almost two years because of the pandangit. They’re both immuno-compromised, and I’m a giant ball of germs and two shots of a Pfizer vaccine, so it worked.
It was special.
It was 2 AM when Sara told me she had bought a tattoo gun during quarantine after I pressed her about what she had been doing to keep herself sane. On the spot, I decided I would get a heart tattoo on my wrist. It would be my first. Then I googled “wave icon” and got the worst clip art the world has ever seen right where I shake hands. I have no regrets.
I thought I’d be in love with Silverquill forever. Asked its dad Orzhov if he approved. But the demanding thing about living the Quick Draft life is taking what the bots give you.
So here I am, a brand new tattoo and a new number one. I’ve created a metric for this column called BADBOT: By Average, Deviation By Overall Taken for this column. It isn’t convoluted at all.
BADBOT is (in parenthesis below) the number of picks a card has moved up (-) or down (+) based on the week before the format came to a close (5/14 – 5/21) versus the new bots (5/28 – 5/31). I know it seems backward but think about it like golf scoring. Or chastise me on Twitter.
- Notable Losses: Academic Dispute (-2.89), Study Break (-1.6)
- Notable Gains: Lorehold Apprentice (2.88), Blood Age General (2.7), Pillardrop Rescuer (2.21), Thrilling Discovery (1.69), Stonebound Mentor (1.54)
Like Kumail Nanjiani training for a Marvel movie, this list is all gains. So why the paltry ranking? First, these gains are Bitcoin-a-month-ago levels of deception. Getting a Lorehold Apprentice three picks later does less than nothing for me. Am I supposed to be excited about a Stormbound Mentor at Pick 10? Premier drafters still have it at 11.63.
This gets to the biggest issue with the college: the bots love Lorehold like a fat kid loves when you don’t use their weight as a punchline in a rap song because it’s 2021, and we don’t need to body shame people for cheap laughs. When you look at the top three uncommons in Lorehold (Quintorius, Field Historian, Returned Pastcaller, Rip Apart) the bots take them 3.56, 2.88, and 1.77 picks higher than human drafters, respectively. It’s hard to get a foot in Lorehold when they’re constantly stepping on your toes.
It would make sense if the bots liked key uncommons higher as you’d imagine AI trying to find a lane, but this seems to be a programming error. In this same range are colorless, college-less cards like Zephyr Boots and Team Pennant, replaceable effects from Mystical Archives like Defiant Strike and Village Rites, or cards where the archetype never really came together like Dueling Coach and Revitalize.
That being said, I don’t think there’s a better time to attempt cracking Lorehold Control than now. Just don’t blow a lot of equity trying it, okay?
(there is no tier 3, Lorehold is just that undesirable)
Notable Losses: Cram Session (-2.87), Leech Fanatic (-2.08), Specter of the Fens (-1.65), Scurried Colony (-1.6), Unwilling Ingredient (-1.47), Infuse with Vitality (-1.38)
Notable Gains: Pest Summoning (0.99)
You can argue that of the losses, only Infuse with Vitality is a true Witherbloom staple. This is technically correct (the best kind of correct). Overall, though, this is a gut punch to a middle-of-the-road college that could rely on getting late seshes to go to their lessonboard early and often.
The irony of Pest Summoning being more available is not lost on me. Also, who in their right mind decided Lessons needed to go later?
Your key in drafting Witherbloom at this point is to shore up these numerous two-mana value losses with Hunt for Specimens and a robust set of Lessons. I’m all aboard the Field Trip bus, as the bots are still drafting it a full pick behind humans. Must have forgotten their permission slips.
My favorite builds lately revolve around making Blood Researchers that get out of hand quickly. Against slower Prismari and Quandrix decks, they can’t stabilize with a single body. Silverquill can handle the menace better but leave themselves open to big blowouts that leave them without the bodies they need to take advantage of their buffs.
- Notable Losses: Rootha, Mercurial Artist (-1.66), Expressive Iteration (-1.5), Mentor’s Guidance (-1.47)
- Notable Gains: Pillardrop Warden (1.96), Explosive Welcome (1.33), Maelstrom Muse (1.3), Pigment Storm (1.53)
Pour one out for the days of last picking Expressive Iteration and Mentor’s Guidance. Tragically, they were gunned down in their primes.
The clear signal in the shift here is that when drafting Prismari, avoid aggro/tempo builds when possible. Big spells, like big jeans, are back. You won’t catch me in either, as they’re vulnerable to fast decks (I think this is a reference to getting your pants caught in your skateboard?) and have a miserable win rate currently. Perhaps that changes.
Regarding person/AI disconnect, you’re getting Elemental Masterpiece at pick 8.82 and Arcane Subtraction at a cartoonish 10.33 (7.9 and 8.86, respectively, for us blood bags), so there’s value here. The prototypical deck relies on a Draconic Intervention or abundant early removal plus a suite of late-game spells like this example.
Sadly, that’s also my current workout plan: easier said than done.
- Notable Losses: Duress (-2.57), Agonizing Remorse (-2.48), Humiliate (-2.14), Leech Fanatic (-2.08), Specter of the Fens (-1.65), Study Break (-1.6), Silverquill Apprentice (-1.27), Eliminate (-1.18)
- Notable Gains: Spiteful Squad (1.95), Detention Vortex (1.79), Arrogant Poet (1.13)
Oof. These are ‘90s Beck levels of losing.
The fact that I have to include Detention Vortex as a positive tells you how few and far between the positives were for us. I’m coming around on Spiteful Squad in a deck that can throw those counters on a flyer, but overall, Silverquill was nerfed. So how is it still Tier 1?
Fortunately, most of these adjustments come at the expense of uncommon hand disruption, where Silverquill had an embarrassment of riches. A couple of two-drops bump up to where they should be, but Killian, Ink Duelist, and Professor of Symbology make this a slot that wins for us more often than Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in “Hacks.” (There was literally not a better link to the reference but if you saw “Hacks” you get it.)
This is still the best aggro deck in a format where players are often looking to go three-plus colors and spend early turns doing a lotta nothing. While credit is due for fixing several bot-related issues, they simply didn’t go far enough in this instance. Thinking discard spells are the problem is like thinking your bad breath is why you didn’t get into Julliard.
The best decks have three Lessons in their sideboard: Inkling Summoning, Expanded Anatomy, and Introduction to Prophecy. Introduction to Annihilation, Necrotic Fumes, and Reduce to Memory are the one-ofs that round it out in order. With Guiding Voice and Study Break still being end-of-pack picks, you’re getting to your lessonboard faster than most decks.
- Notable Losses: Leyline Invocation (-2.1), Scurrid Colony (-1.6), Vortex Runner (-1.14)
- Notable Gains: Biomathematician (2.66), Kelpie Guide (1.9) Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy (1.83), Eureka Moment (1.56)
A new number one? You love to see it.
The shearing of Silverquill leaves Quandrix alone at the top as the deck that can go toe-to-toe with aggro while still having enough card advantage to win the long game.
Even with Squirrels not finding a nut as often as before, you still have access to two-drops that scale with the game in Scurrid Colony and Reckless Amplimancer. Needlethorn Drake trades up so often Bill Belichick hates it. Having Zimone available almost two picks later is a real win, and Quandrix Pledgemage as an Anticipate for lands helps you smooth out rough draws or even dig for lands when you need to hit that magic eight.
Early in the format, I underrated getting to the promised number of lands. It felt like a bonus for something I should already doing. Cue Chris Rock.
But with so much learn/Lesson, you love being able to double spell on critical turns down the stretch. With campuses, you’re not mad if you have access to a scry here and there. And Fractal Summoning never feels good for three, just like Marcus Smart (sorry, it’s the playoffs).
Late-game? Eureka Moment needs the right deck, but it can absolutely shine as a stunted Growth Spiral. Later, you’re going to be tapping Zimone for two cards while your opponent hopes to top deck. Leyline Invocation is still going at 7.35, so think of it as your not-so-Colossal Dreadmaw with an upside that you’ll pick up late.
I think Quandrix has something real and spectacular going for it here and can’t wait to run it back to Mythic.
Decks I Wish I Drafted
I know that Codie decks lay by the roadside, destroyed like so many robots outside of Philly. That does not stop me from stanning them unapologetically and forever. I haven’t felt this way about a one-eyed brainiac since Leela from Futurama.
Name me a better build-around in Strixhaven. I’ll wait.
The idea that Code (my nickname, very personal) has to be one deck is ridiculous. First up, a curve-based quasi-aggro and very hyphenate look at what the book can do for you:
This is a thing of beauty, even without Mascot Exhibition lurking in the sideboard. Great ways to generate tempo while building toward a Serpentine Curve means this works with or without Code. That’s what you’re going for: a self-sustaining deck that gets a massive boost when you draw your synergy monster.
With two different sweepers and a lessonboard that clearly says, “I can take an early punch,” I cannot tell you how fun this deck must have been to play. Rootha is an excellent backup plan to not drawing Codie, and leaving Maelstrom Muse in the sideboard is the type of restraint that even I, a handcuffophobe, respect.
Until next time, I’ll see you at the discount tattoo parlor.