rand Prix–Kansas City has come and gone, and I had a lot of fun playing Limited and eating awesome barbecue. When I was in Kansas City, some of the local players that I met told me to check out Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue. The main non-Magical thing that I was looking to do while I was in KC was to eat some good barbecue. Jack Stacks did not disappoint, easily ranking with some of the best barbecue that I've ever had. As good as it was, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't hoping that will change when I go to Memphis for Worlds this December.
Anyway, I don't want to get sidetracked talking about delicious, juicy, sweet, tender prime rib with awesome cheese filled sides...
Wait a second... I almost did it again. I guess I'm hungry right now. I better channel that into hunger for Magic. I guess I'll get started with a Magic appetizer.
Be careful when you're counting how many sources you have for each color when thinking about your ability to cast multicolored cards. If you have, say three separate white sources and three blue sources, then it would probably be ok to splash Bant Charm. If those sources were instead condensed into three Obelisks of Jund then Bant Charm would be far too difficult to cast to warrant its inclusion.
That was an easy, light way to get thing started. Now we can start diving into the heart of the
Day 1 Sealed
I posted my Grand Prix Sealed pool last week so you would have an opportunity to build your own version before you saw mine. If you didn't catch the pool last week, or you don't have a perfect memory that allows you to have immediate access to a 73 card Sealed pool that you saw a week ago, here it is again:
Grand Prix–Kansas City Sealed Pool
Looking at the deck, it's pretty clear that the blue just wasn't worth considering as a main color. That left us with four colors to choose from.
The black, the red, and the green are highlighted by Broodmate Dragon, which is easily one of the best cards in the set for Limited play, and then we have white which is highlighted by Scourglass. The pool's crippling lack of mana fixing is one of its most glaring features. The two Obelisk of Bants, the Obelisk of Jund, and the Esper Panorama are all that we have to work with. This means that it would be quite difficult to fit both of our biggest bombs into our deck.
While we're thinking about mana fixing, I noticed that a lot of people put Lush Growth into their decks. Don't be upset with yourself if you did include it, as it can look quite appealing, but this is not a card that I consider playable except for in the most extreme of scenarios.
Think about it this way: you already have a green if you were able to cast Lush Growth, so the "enchanted land becomes a Forest" part of the card will generally be irrelevant. With that part out of the picture, you have a card that for one green mana makes a land into a Mountain and a Plains in addition to its normal land types.
This is a full card worse than the come into play tapped duals, such as Savage Lands and a full two cards worse than the "Karoo lands" such as Dimir Aqueduct from Ravnica Block. If you find yourself tempted to play a Lush Growth to help you splash either white or red, do yourself a favor and just run another basic land. You won't be disappointed.
Once we're aware of that we can start figuring out if it's worth it to play four colors, or if there is a better two or three color deck to be found. After looking at the pool closely, I realized that there simply weren't enough good white cards to make it worth it. At this point I kept open the idea of possibly splashing white for the Naya Battlemages, Sanctum Gargoyle, Naya Charm and maybe, just maybe, Scourglass.
Next I saw that the black made for a much better splash than it did for a main color, so I set aside all the black cards except for Infest, Scavenger Drake, Broodmate Dragon, and the two Executioner's Capsules. At this point I had to decide if I wanted to play a red-green-black deck, a red-green-white deck, or a red-green-black-white deck.
While considering those options, the first thing that was clear was that a red-green-black deck was strictly superior to a red-green-white deck. This meant that the only color decision I had to make was whether or not I wanted to splash the white.
After comparing what the deck looked like with and without the white splash, I decided that the three color version would be able to get a lot more aggressive victories so I chose to go with that. While there are three fixers that would help us play white and blue in our deck, I ultimately decided that it wasn't worth playing either. This left me with an Obelisk of Jund and some basic land to build with.
Even though I really only wanted to play 18 mana sources in the deck, the only way that I could comfortably fulfill my color requirements in a timely manner was by running 18 lands and the Obelisk of Jund. The last three cuts I had to make from the deck were Volcanic Submersion, Goblin Assault, and Infest. When I chose to play 19 mana sources I cut the Volcanic Submersion (lots of cyclers + lots of mana sources = not enough spells) so that was fairly easy. But cutting the Goblin Assault and the Infest were not easy decisions.
I haven't gotten a chance to play with Goblin Assault yet, and while I can see it being awesome (especially in draft where you can craft a plan around it) I just couldn't tell if it would be consistently good enough to be worth including. What do you think about Goblin Assault?
The Infest was the very last card I cut, and it was pretty painful to do so. I ultimately didn't think that I had enough black sources for me to be able to reliably plan for it. Because I had so many two-toughness creatures, I saw myself running them all out, then drawing my second Swamp for Infest and not being in a very good spot at all.
Infest is always a good card, but it's really only great if you can plan around it.
Grand Prix-Kansas City
In the forums and in my emails I noticed that a lot of people were trying to spread their mana way too thin. Now don't get me wrong, there are times when it's worth it to bend your mana to fit in your most powerful cards. But, if your deck doesn't get much better by trying to squeeze in another color, then it probably isn't worth it.
After reading that last paragraph you're probably thinking that I'm talking about people who chose to add the white to their decks and made the pool into a four color special. I'm not. Even though I didn't think it would give me as a high a chance of winning matches at the Grand Prix, I think that adding a small white splash is a completely legitimate thing to do with the deck.
The place where I generally saw people spreading their mana too thin was in versions of the deck that had heavy red, heavy green, and heavy black. If you choose to run Rip-Clan Crasher in this deck, then you just aren't going to be able to run Dregscape Zombie. These cards are really only good if you're able to cast them early in the game, and if you have a 6/6/6 manabase, then you are going to have trouble doing that consistently.
Back to Kansas City. I had three byes, so I thankfully didn't have to start playing until Round 4. I was able to put up a 4-2 record in played matches with the deck, which was enough to launch me into the Top 64 and allow me to come back for Day 2.
If I had to attribute my wins to elements of the deck, I'd say that a third of my game wins came almost solely on the back of Broodmate Dragon, a third of my wins to good creatures and good removal, and a full third of my wins to having a strong aggressive strategy that was able to finish the game with a cycled Resounding Thunder or a Hell's Thunder.
Of my losses, about half came from mana problems (either too many lands or a missing color), a quarter were to powerful cards I couldn't kill, and a quarter were to getting generally overpowered by my opponent's deck.
If I had run the white splash I think I would have fared a little bit worse overall. I would probably have won a little bit more thanks to my deck's inherent power level but I would have lost a little bit more to mana problems and I think I would have lost a lot more to bombs or by getting generally overpowered by my opponent's deck. You see, by adding the fourth color I wouldn't have been able to win as many games thanks to a strong aggressive start, leaving me in significantly more danger to lose to my opponent's bombs or generally high quality of cards (such as their own splashes).
All in all, I was happy with my decisions.
This Draft started off as an absolute disaster. I opened up an Ajani Vengeant, got passed an Akrasan Squire, and then things went way downhill. I was put into a position where I would have to spend the rest of the draft scrounging for playables. This happens sometimes; you're down to your last few picks and you know that you need to grab another card or two to round out your deck. Unfortunately for me I reached the scrounging stage before I had even opened my second booster.
At the end of my first pack I had a mere five playable cards. There just wasn't anything for me to take, ever. Fortunately I was able to turn things around and draft a pretty good exalted deck. But this was easily one of the scariest drafts of my life.
Grand Prix-Kansas City
In my first round I lost a very close Game 1 where my opponent got me with an active Rockcaster Platoon. I figured I had a decent chance to take the match, but then I mulliganed down to 4 in the next game and I found myself with enough time to grab some lunch. My next match was incredibly close, and I was able to win it by stalling the board long enough to shoot my opponent with Ajani Vengeant then bounce my planeswalker with Resounding Wave to fire off a second shot and kill my opponent. My third match was over pretty quickly, I took the first game on the back of a Naya Charm tapping down my opponent's board the turn before he was going to kill me. Then, in the second game I played a turn 1 Akrasan Squire, turn-two Sighted-Caste Sorcerer, turn-three Kathari Screecher, turn-four Rafiq of the Many, prompting my opponent to pick up my mythic rare, read it, and say "Is that even a real card?" before conceding the game.
After somehow surviving what looked like it was going to be a disastrous first draft, I sat down for the second draft with high hopes.
My first pick was very color intensive; I wound up taking Kresh the Bloodbraided over Waveskimmer Aven and Grixis Charm. I hate to open up my draft on a tri-colored card even if it is very good, but unfortunately the pack didn't give me much of a choice in the matter. My second pick was Resounding Thunder over Agony Warp, my third pick was Tar Fiend and my fourth pick was Carrion Thrash. I was certainly on the right track at this point, and my draft continued going fairly well. However, nothing particularly special happened to me through the rest of the draft. I, unfortunately, didn't see any more removal to supplement my Resounding Thunder or even enough mana fixing to allow me to play my three-color cards with ease. What I did pick up was three copies of Blightning. Now Blightning is certainly at its best in an aggressive deck, but it's still a welcome addition in any deck that can cast it easily.
Grand Prix-Kansas City
Another card that I had initially misevaluated is Necrogenesis. That card is seriously awesome.
I won my first match with the deck thanks to a 10/10 Thorn-Thrash Viashino fighting alongside an 8/8 Thorn-Thrash Viashino. After that dizzying high, things just weren't able to come together for me and I lost my last two matches to land myself in 37th place. All in all it was a great tournament and I can't wait for Grand Prix–Atlanta.
I want to thank everyone who has been submitting their completed Sealed pools on the forums and via email. I want you to know that I spend quite a bit of time looking at them, and I look to incorporate things that people did right (once again, a big thanks to everyone who pointed out how good Angelic Benediction is to me) and ways to fix common misconceptions in my articles.
We've been doing practice Sealed pools for the last couple of weeks, but this time I want to try something a little bit different. In a Booster Draft, you're presented these cards for your first pick in the first pack. What do you take?