Thanks for all the feedback on the last Over My Shoulder article. So many people liked it that I'm planning on a series of these over the next few weeks. By the way, I apologize to anyone who happened to put me on their fantasy team for Pro Tour--Venice. It's a long story involving busted knees and expired passports, but I ended up not being able to go. Regardless, I'll definitely be in Yokohama.
Note that I decide before the draft starts if it will be the subject of an article. That way you get an honest look at my drafting process, with just as much of a chance of seeing one that went horribly wrong as one that went completely right. Unfortunately, I ended up drafting blue-black for the second time in a row, but I think it's enough different from the last one that it's still pretty valuable. I do draft other color combinations, I promise.
Draft Round 1 (Onlsaught
) - Passing Left
Visara the Dreadful, Haunted Cadaver*, Mistform Wall, Naturalize, Leery Fogbeast, Tranquil Thicket, Barren Moor, Daru Lancer, Battlefield Medic, Pinpoint Avalanche, Sunfire Balm, Snapping Thragg
Well, no questions here. All that's left to do is scan the pack and see what I think the person after me might take. Since I'm grabbing the rare, it's reasonable to think the person after me will ignore any perceived signals, but it's still valuable to know what they likely took from the pack. I guess Pinpoint Avalanche or Daru Lancer will be the pick.
Dirge of Dread, Screaming Seahawk*, Disciple of Malice, Crown of Suspicion, Grassland Crusader, Charging Slateback, Screeching Buzzard, Dive Bomber, Wirewood Lodge, Frightshroud Courier
Here we find a pretty weak second pack. Nothing makes me want to enter a second color, so the only question is what black card to take. Dirge of Dread and Screeching Buzzard are the two strongest, but Dirge gets the nod because of its importance in the creature-heavy Legions environment. Every black deck likes to have at least one Dirge, and green-black decks almost need them to win consistently, so I'm comfortable with this pick. I am passing a lot of black, but I'm hoping that the drafter after me will take the Dive Bomber since white doesn't look like much of an option for me.
Swat, Mage's Guile*, Spined Basher, Gravel Slinger, Mistform Dreamer, Barkhide Mauler, Pearlspear Courier
My initial thought was to take Barkhide Mauler, as I was thinking about green-black and it's a very nice third pick. However, I realized there's no need to choose a second color while a strong card like Swat is still available. There's always time to pick up creatures later.
Riptide Shapeshifter, Grassland Crusader, Aphetto Dredging, Goblin Sledder, Spitting Gourna, Goblin Machinist, Bloodline Shaman
And here's the crucial pack, because it has absolutely nothing in black that I would consider taking at this point. There's a Spitting Gourna if I choose to follow the green route, but I did just pass Barkhide Mauler. There's a Goblin Machinist for the black-red option, but this is the first good red card I've seen so it's likely that someone just undervalued it. That leaves me with Riptide Shapeshifter, which is an even better pick than normal since I already have one of the best creature bombs of the format in my pile. It looks like it's going to be blue-black again.
Mistform Shrieker, Riptide Biologist*, Vitality Charm, Wretched Anurid, Pacifism, Symbiotic Elf, Anurid Murkdiver, Glory Seeker
Fifth-pick Pacifism is a little worrisome, and I would actually consider taking it to keep the white-black option open if a strong flier like Mistform Shrieker wasn't still in the pack. It's very unusual for a Pacifism to make it this far if there are a decent number of white drafters at the table, as it's certainly the best white common. Regardless, it's best to just reward the drafter to my left, who is hopefully in white, by shipping it along.
Severed Legion, Slipstream Eel*, Leery Fogbeast, Treespring Lorian, Pacifism, Aven Soulgazer
Now this is getting ridiculous. Another Pacifism and a 3/3 flier, and I'm second guessing myself on the decision to avoid white. Again I consider going into it or at least hedging by taking the Pacifism, but there's a fine card in my colors. I decide it's best to cement the drafters on my left in white and green by passing Pacifism and Treespring Lorian along. A couple people are going to get late gifts from this pack, but what can you do?
Voidmage Prodigy, Aphetto Dredging, Backslide, Wretched Anurid, Leery Fogbeast, Daru Healer, Astral Slide, Dwarven Blastminer
Voidmage Prodigy was never as good as people thought it was, but it's certainly better than seventh-pick quality. It's a two power creature in blue for just two mana as well as having a useful late game ability that can win games, especially when combined with mistforms. This and the next pick are my rewards for staying in blue.
Complicate, Treespring Lorian, Demystify, Lay Waste, Mistform Mask
Another random Treespring Lorian that I'm certainly passing in favor of the Complicate. The value of Complicate depends partially on how much your opponents are willing to believe that you have no three drop in this format of morphs, but I find that more often than not they are willing to commit a morph to test the waters, at which point you find yourself up a card and even on tempo.
Draft Round Two (Onslaught) - Passing Right
Smother, Backslide*, Lavamancer's Skill, Riptide Biologist, Crown of Fury, Birchlore Rangers, Shock, Disruptive Pitmage, Venomspout Brackus, Shaleskin Bruiser, Words of Wisdom
At first all I see is Shock, Lavamancer's Skill, and Venomspout Brackus, and I'm cursing the luck of opening a pack with nothing in my colors. Then I spot the Smother and all is well again. There's little question that Smother is the right pick here, with the closest contender being Riptide Biologist or maybe taking Shock for a splash.
Lonely Sandbar, Lay Waste*, Spined Basher, Daunting Defender, Backslide, Wirewood Elf, Barkhide Mauler, Tribal Unity, Goblin Machinist
Speaking of packs with nothing in my colors, this one is atrocious. My choices are Backslide, Spined Basher, or the cycle land which I go ahead and draft. I like the cycle lands more than most, but I'm still not terribly happy to take one second pick. Regardless, it's nice to pick them up as they always make your deck and don't take up the slot of a spell like other cyclers.
Festering Goblin, Disciple of Grace*, Erratic Explosion, Slipstream Eel, Forgotten Cave, Elvish Warrior, Battlefield Medic, Shade's Breath, Crowd Favorites, Airdrop Condor
Another poor pack, but there's nothing wrong with Festering Goblin. Its value has risen over time as people have realized that a fair amount of power is packed into this one-mana body, in addition to its nice tribal qualities.
Mistform Wall, Sandskin, Wirewood Herald, Wellwisher, Birchlore Rangers, Secluded Steppe, Frightshroud Courier
This is starting to go horribly wrong, as I haven't picked up any good evasion or aggression in this second round of packs. Now I'm forced to take Mistform Wall, a weak card in blue-black. I thought that the white and green goods that I passed to the left earlier would pay dividends here, but it's turning out not to be true. Regardless, there's not much I can do at this point except hope things get better fast.
Choking Tethers, Fade from Memory*, Wellwisher, Daru Cavalier, Battering Craghorn, Skirk Commando, Fallen Cleric, Broodhatch Nantuko
I'm happy to see Choking Tethers here because, although it's not the evasion creature I was looking for, it can essentially give all your creatures evasion on one crucial turn. Tethers is a versatile card that I'm always happy to have.
Doomed Necromancer, Sage Aven, Shepherd of Rot, Mistform Dreamer, Chain of Vapor, Shaleskin Bruiser
This pick makes me pause somewhat, as I have to decide if I want the reanimation of Doomed Necromancer or the quick evasion of Mistform Dreamer. Although I like the Necromancer better in green-black, several things make me take it here. I enjoy its interaction with Slipstream Eel, a card I already have, giving me both a quick huge blocker and as a fast game winner against other blue decks. In addition, the Necromancer provides a way to get Visara back if someone ever manages to destroy her. As it's almost impossible to lose with Visara on the table, so ways to keep her there are pretty valuable.
Discombobulate, Lavamancer's Skill, Soulless One, Lonely Sandbar, Crown of Fury, Treespring Lorian
Here I was debating the merits of taking the seventh-pick Lavamancer's Skill for a splash against taking the cycle land when I ran out of time. It takes a while to write down the cards in the pack (my shorthand needs some work) so I can't concentrate as much as I could normally. The pick was tough, with Discombobulate and Soulless One also possible options, although I only had three or four zombies at this point. Still, I can always count on the Legions packs to up the zombie count, and Soulless One is strong in the black mirror match.
In the end I think Lonely Sandbar was the right pick, as it turns out that none of the other cards would have made the cut, but luckily I randomly got a Discombobulate for my sideboard when the game picked for me.
Blackmail, Aphetto Dredging, Daru Healer, Snarling Undorak
Eighth pick Snarling Undorak? This shouldn't happen, but I suppressed my initial urge to hate draft and took the Blackmail that might make the cut. Instead it ended up as a sideboard card against late game bombs, which is still probably more valuable than hating the green beast.
Draft Round Three (Legions) - Passing Left
Mistform Seaswift, Crypt Sliver*, Glintwing Invoker, Shaleskin Plower, Gempalm Avenger, Infernal Caretaker, Bloodstoke Howler, Sootfeather Flock, Skirk Outrider, Branchsnap Lorian, Swooping Talon, Totem Speaker, Magma Sliver
I love Mistform Seaswift. Three-power fliers that can start swinging on turn five (or turn four if you use the morphing ability) end games quickly in your favor. Similar to Ascending Aven, the Seaswift simply trades a point of toughness for the mistform ability, a cheaper morph cost, and an easier casting cost overall. The fact that it's a mistform allows it to be regenerated by Crypt Sliver, so I was happy to get one back out of this pack. The only other card I could have taken originally was Sootfeather Flock, but there's just no comparison. White may be the new color of flying, but blue is still a lot better at it than black.
Mistform Seaswift, Skirk Marauder, Berserk Murlodont, Hundroog, Crypt Sliver, Sootfeather Flock, Stonewood Invoker, Whipgrass Entangler, Gempalm Incinerator, Spectral Sliver, Skirk Drill Sergeant
Another choice of Seaswift or Flock, although this time there's a Spectral Sliver as well. The Spectral Sliver is a strong card on its own, as it can rarely be blocked safely, in addition to allowing you to enhance your mistforms for only one mana plus two per pump. However, I didn't feel that I could take it over the Seaswift, which is such a strong and aggressive evasion creature. If I had picked up a couple Mistform Dreamers out of the Onslaught boosters, Spectral Sliver may have been the right pick.
Riptide Mangler, Deftblade Elite, Covert Operative, Battering Craghorn, Stonewood Invoker, Daru Sanctifier, Mistform Wakecaster, Daru Mender
Here the decision is between Riptide Mangler and Covert Operative. This time I don't take the evasion creature, instead opting to fill in the two-mana slot in my deck. Mangler can block early ground creatures for several turns before starting to attack, often as a 3/3 or 4/3 creature. Covert Operative is a fine card, but I'll probably get the opportunity to pick one up later--as in the very next pack.
Covert Operative, Glowering Rogon, Goblin Turncoat, Starlight Invoker (x2), Berserk Murlodont, Krosan Vorine, Needleshot Gourna, Gempalm Strider, Wall of Hope
This time the two drop is Goblin Turncoat, which is a poor creature unless you have at least one Festering Goblin for it to munch on. It's fine simply because it has two power for two mana, but I'm looking to pick up a Covert Operative here.
Crookclaw Elder, Krosan Vorine, Voidmage Apprentice, Patron of the Wild, Warbreak Trumpeter
Bleh. This is pretty much a waste of my fifth pick, although I can possibly sideboard in Crookclaw Elder against slower defensive decks.
Echo Tracer, Starlight Invoker, Macetail Hystrodon, Gempalm Polluter, Vile Deacon, Aven Redeemer, Wirewood Hivemaster
One thing I'm lacking right now is a couple of morph trigger creatures, and Echo Tracer luckily fills that hole. Some say Echo Tracer is the second-best common in the format. While I'm not convinced of that yet, it certainly is a versatile and powerful creature. I probably shouldn't have gotten one sixth pick, but who knows what happened?
Willbender, Goblin Turncoat, Nantuko Vigilante, Glintwing Invoker, Infernal Caretaker, Stoic Champion, Wall of Hope
One of the few creatures that could be better than Echo Tracer is Willbender. I like both of these cards because they are so versatile that they give an advantage to players who know when and how to use them, as opposed to something like Skinthinner which is pretty straightforward. Then again, sometimes Willbender is pretty easy also. Destroy my creature? No, destroy your creature. Lavamancer's Skill on your wizard? No, how about Lavamancer's Skill on my Willbender. The possibilities are endless.
Voidmage Apprentice, Hundroog, Whipgrass Entangler, Daru Sanctifier, Enormous Baloth
Enormous Baloth continues the tradition of large green beasts in pack eight, but it's going to be too slow to do much against my deck so I'm fine with taking the Voidmage Apprentice. It rarely makes the maindeck, but can be sideboarded in if I feel I need some additional countermagic.
I got little worthwhile back out of these packs except for the Crypt Sliver, but I had more than enough playable cards.Final Deck04/08/2003
Round 1 vs. mikani82 (g/r)
This is obviously a new player, as the deck is forty-eight cards and filled with the much-loved elves. I keep a five land hand with Echo Tracer and Smother and play out a few creatures like Mistform Wall and Crypt Sliver while my opponent goes off with Bloodline Shaman and Wirewood Hivemaster. Not under any immediate pressure, I sit on the Smother and eventually also the Swat I draw later. Meanwhile, I'm attacking for two each turn with Severed Legion and wondering what mikani's red splash is for other than Skirk Prospector. Eventually my opponent plays a Wellwisher, which I Swat. An attempt to put Lavamancer's Skill on an Elvish Warrior met with Choking Tethers in response. After that my opponent never activated the Skill, although I had a face-down Willbender on the table so that would have ended up zapping the Shaman. My victory came two turns later with Mistform Seaswift and the Legion.
This game is a good argument for not using removal until you know you have a good target. It was tempting to Swat both the Bloodline Shaman and the Hivemaster, but if I hadn't had removal when the Wellwisher arrived, I would have never been able to beat my opponent.
This time I Smother the Wellwisher on turn three after an attempt to Crown of Vigor it. Skirk Prospector shows up again and I still have no idea what the Mountains or Plains are for. Regardless, my opponent is land flooded and I beat down with an assortment of creatures for the win.
Round 2 vs. Drumm (b/r)
Druum mulligans to six and leads with Shepherd of Rot and Smokespew Invoker while I drop Mistform Wall to stem the bleeding. My opponent starts aggressively using the Shepherd and keeps the life totals fairly even by dropping a Pinpoint Avalanche on my Covert Operative. A 3/3 Soulless One is a little worrisome, but I have Doomed Necromancer to get the Covert Operative back. That reestablishes my clock along with a Mistform Seaswift off the top. I've been sitting on both a face-down Willbender and Mage's Guile in hand, so I'm feeling pretty confident about my chances despite Druum's ability to make land drops for eight straight turns. When I attack for six my Willbender ensures that the Smokespew Invoker commits suicide when its ability is activated. The Shepherd of Rot is activated in response, but my opponent's at eight life with six damage coming across, which is further compounded when my opponent concedes the match instead of the game. Oops.
Round 3 vs. plinker (u/w)
This is the only game I've ever played where there was not a single valid target for my opening-hand Smother. A 3/3 Daru Stinger (showing Catapult Master and Swooping Talon) is rather annoying, as my plan for winning involved Covert Operative. I wait until both of the other soldiers come out and then use Echo Tracer to bounce the Stinger and attack for three. On the next turn plinker solves a problem for me by attempting to Pacify the Operative, with Willbender stepping in to drop the enchantment on the Swooping Talon. The next turn Daru Stinger returns again as a 3/3, this time showing Gempalm Avenger and a Daru Cavalier, which is also cast that turn making it four soldiers on the board. Wingbeat Warrior morphs into the fifth soldier, but Choking Tethers on all four of the possible blockers convinces plinker to pack it in, as removing one of my creatures isn't enough.
Again my opponent mulligans to six but I decide to go one better and drop to five after tossing back consecutive one-land hands. The nice thing is that my hand includes Visara along with four lands, although three of them have oceans in the art. The early turns are rough as plinker leads with Starlight Invoker, follows it with a facedown creature, two Daru Cavaliers (fetching a third), and a Grassland Crusader. I cycle Dirge of Dread and Slipstream Eel to find two more swamps, so Visara arrives just in time to save the day. My opponent's response is to play Mistform Ultimus and morph Whipcorder, putting me under even more pressure. Mage's Guile saves me from a potentially devastating Pacifism on a Mistform Seaswift that plans on trading with the Ultimus.
Instead, plinker ends up cycling Gempalm Avenger, so the Seaswift chumps and Mistform Wall blocks a Cavalier with me falling to five. That's the last point of damage against me, as I leave Visara back for enough turns to clean up most of the opposing army while playing around any possible combat tricks. This game shows the power of having a ridiculous bomb in your deck, especially against a deck without removal, as well as the usefulness of mulliganing.
Since I didn't get as much of a chance to test out the deck as I would have liked, I played five more games against a draft deck that a fellow member of Team CMU, Ryan Dhuse, had lying around. My deck performed admirably, winning three games (one with Visara and two with fast evasion) and losing two (one to double Vile Deacon beats and another to manaflooding). Complicate was key, as well as the combination of Crypt Sliver and Mistform Seaswift. He did stumble on land a few times, missing his fourth or fifth land drops, but that's exactly what I like about aggressive decks. They punish less than perfect draws.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed drafting and writing it. Let me know if you're still enjoying this article format, as I plan on continuing it for awhile.
Yegg on Magic Online