ike many Magic players, my gaming heyday occurred when I was in college. There's a time and a place for everything, and that happened to be the time and the place for gaming. Living with a houseful of gamers is the first step towards a full-blown game addiction. I won't say that it had a, uh, deleterious effect on my education (after all, I can apparently use the word "deleterious" without embarrassment), but back then, I could successfully navigate every level of GoldenEye with my eyes closed, but never could manage to find the location of my calculus tutorial. (They just had to go and put it in the math building.)
That was a few years ago, though. Things change. People grow up, move away, graduate (or not), get married, and/or get a job. Nowadays, with all of our adult responsibilities (like, uh, playing and writing about Magic), it's tougher for all my Magic cronies to find the time to get together and play cards. Still, we try to get together for a weekend, once every few months. Lately, we've been playing formats that are friendly to those who haven't been keeping up on all the latest technology. One of these formats is the Reject Rare Draft.
Doing the Draft
In case you've never done a Reject Rare Draft before, I'll explain how it works. First, you get a bunch of reject rares together (say, 45 of them), and then you shuffle them into 15-card packs, and then you draft them. When you hear the phrase "reject rare," you'll naturally conjure up visions of One with Nothing, Mudhole, and Norin the Wary. If you're my friend Greg, and the odds aren't great that you are, you're probably conjuring up visions of Righteous Aura. Of course, a card doesn't have to be in the pantheon of all-time worst cards to qualify for a Reject Rare Draft. All that matters is that the card is a rare and that someone donated it to the draft (i.e. "rejected" it). The great thing about this format is that if you enter once, you can basically "go infinite" by resubmitting the 45 cards you drafted last time. Reduce, reuse, Null Profusion, as I like to say. (I'm allowed to recycle Null Profusion jokes.)
With that said, of course, some uncommons managed to sneak their way in to our latest draft, just like they did the last time we had one. We don't get someone to oversee the whole rare-submission process. We use the honour system, or for those of you south of the border, the honor system. Sometimes, though, the honour system ends up being the "didn't bother to look it up in Gatherer"-system, and we end up drafting with Abbey Gargoyles, Yavimaya Ants, Yavimaya Gnats, Yavimaya Gnus, Festering Evil, and Eron the Relentless, and other cards without the convenient gold-silver-black rarity markings. In keeping with our (apparently) budding tradition, a single lowly common made it into someone's (Greg's) pile: the mighty Staff of Zegon. It sounds rare. A Mono Artifact, eh? You don't see those around too often. And who is this Zegon fellow, anyway? I've never heard of him (or, for all I know, her). Man, it's too bad that Zegon didn't get his own card when all those crazy old legends gained cardboard avatars as they transported through the Time Swirl. Oh, wait, I forgot. He did.
I first picked a Words of War and ended up drafting a controllish red and white deck (with a small black splash). Here's what I ended up playing, followed by a few of its nifty combos:
R/W/b Reject Rare Draft Deck
This isn't really a "combo." It's more of a "nice interaction." You can stall the ground with your caribou tokens, forcing your opponent to commit creatures to the board in order to bust through your antlered army. Then use your white caribou tokens to convoke out Selesnya's Wrath of God. Okay, that's not even close to a combo. I included it here mostly because it makes me chuckle to think that caribou would be spared in the hour of reckoning. (We didn't put one on the Canadian quarter for nothing.)
Speaking of chuckling, I had to stifle some guffaws (and Phage the Untouchable's comes-into-play ability) when I added Festering Evil to a pile of cards that already contained Humility. Make all creatures 1/1s? Check. Deal one damage to each creature and player? Check. Add "Make opponent's cry" to checklist? Check.
Ignore, for a minute, the horrible, uh, nega-synergy between Rivalry and my land-destroying 1/1s. With Copper-Leaf Angel's ability to eat lands for fun, profit, and +1/+1 counters (which are both fun and profitable), you can always ensure that you come out on top in the Rivalry.
Pursuit of Knowledge is a very fair, very white, and very underrated "draw seven." The best part about it, and the reason it works so well with Words of War, is that it costs no mana the turn you use it. Play Words of War, play Pursuit of Knowledge, skip your next three draws, burn your opponent for fourteen. It's like trading ten cards for two Searing Fleshes!
I had Marble Titan sitting on the bench, but I probably should have been playing it (instead of Mine Layer or Seismic Mage). It shuts down creatures that dwarf it, like Elementals and Leviathans (but not so much the dwarves). The cool thing about Evolution Vat is that it taps a creature and makes it bigger, so creatures won't be immune to Marble Titan's marble-tightening for very long.
I took the Ion Storm in the first pack, hoping to pick up some counter-laden goodies in the next two packs. Besides the Evolution Vat, I managed to grab the Menacing Ogre and the Copper-Leaf Angel, but I figured that wasn't nearly enough to warrant playing the Storm. Maybe I should have.
Round 1 vs. Rob
In Game 1, I pull off my very sneaky Caribou + Hour of Reckoning combo and win with He Who Hungers and Abbey Gargoyles. In the middle of this game, Rob makes a very curious play:
Mountain, Norin the Wary.
I believed I gasped (or laughed out loud), and this conversation ensued:
Will: "You're playing with that guy?"
Rob: "Yeah, why?" (reads card)
Rob: "Huh?" (rereads card)
Rob: "So he's just a blocker?"
Since I had the exact same reaction, I have to conclude that the human brain can only comprehend one level of Norin's badness at a time.
Game 2 was much the same. Rob played Norin and removed him (voluntarily) from the game (forever). Once again, it was Da Abbey G Show, this time featuring Wayward Angel and musical guest, Tower of Champions.
R/W/b Reject Rare Draft Deck
Just about anything "combos" with Repercussion. Heck, Turn the Tables turns the tables even further when you've got a Repercussion on the board. I mention this pair of cards because it seems like it could form the basis for a decent deck. Just add some creatures with protection from red (like Subterranean Spirit), or some task mages (like Jaya Ballard), and go to town. While you're there, can you pick me up some eggs and milk?
All of the Planeswalker's [Blank] cards are pretty good in Reject Rare Draft, since the average mana-cost of a card is higher than usual. Planeswalker's Fury has been put on our unofficial banned list, because it just wins games on its own, and in a way that's not particularly fun. Planeswalker's Mirth, on the other hand, just engenders more, uh, mirth. Especially when you take that hard-won mirth and use it to unleash upon your enemy a squadron of flying ponies.
If you looked in the dictionary under "overkill," you might find this pair of cards.
This one's a doozy, but it requires a bit of set-up. Basically, you have to play out every other card in your hand, so that only Norin remains. Then activate the Hell-Bent Raider by discarding a card at random. Since Norin will be the only card in your hand at this point, you will get to randomly select it. Voila! You've now transformed your friendly, neighbourhood, and bent-all-to-hell barbarian into a barbarian with protection from white! I have a good feeling about this.
Round 2 vs. Justin
Justin ended up drafting a "four-colour special." It's a bit of a mish-mash with a few random chaos-causing cards like Timesifter and Planeswalker's Mischief. I won Game 1 on the back of a Menacing Ogre and He Who Hungers. I was winning Game 2 thanks to Humility and Rivalry. Unfortunately, Justin's Overgrown Estate turned a race I was winning very slowly into a race I couldn't possibly win, and I died to my own card. Game 3, I used Desolation Giant to sweep the board and used Evolution Vat to neutralize his Avenger en-Dal while I rode Wayward Angel to victory.
UGWb Reject Rare Draft Deck
The Insect Druid has protection from black and at threshold gets +1/+1 for each black permanent your opponents control. If your opponent is playing black, the Blightcutter is unblockable and enormous. If your opponent isn't playing black, the Blightcutter is just a green Gray Ogre, blockable and, uh, normous. However, with Blind Seer using his other four (super-heightened) senses to redecorate the world, your opponent will always be playing black.
If only Dralnu's Pet counted the discarded creature's power and toughness. As it is, pitching Free "Chilly" Willy to the Pet will make it a 9/9 flyer! Besides, who wouldn't want a leviathan for a pet?
When the tattooed storyteller isn't turning Iname, Life Aspect into a cantrip, he's doing his best to hold the fort with his measly 1/2 body. Well, after he tells a particularly delightful tale called The Shaman and the Frog (Mutant), he can hold the fort with a 3/3 body. This is truly the way the fort would want to be held.
Round 3 vs. Greg
Greg had a pretty solid black and green deck, but our games weren't terribly competitive. In Game 1, I got an early Humility and dominated the board with Evolution Vat and Caribou Range. Apparently, when you humble a caribou, you just make it stronger, more powerful than you could possibly imagine. Unfortunately, Greg was mana-screwed in Game 2, and I managed to Muse Vessel away most of his hand before he could cast anything. My Wayward Angel flew over his morph for the win. Here's Greg's deck:
BG Reject Rare Draft Deck
Staff of Zegon + not knowing what a Mono Artifact is
This is perhaps the most powerful combo of all. First you need an opponent who won't read the card. If you're playing me: check. Then just keep pumping all of your mana into the Staff, turn after turn. Use it to nullify wave after wave of attacks. When your opponent gets home from the tournament and looks up Staff of Zegon for the article he's preparing to write, you can freely laugh your head off. (Seriously, keep giggling until that thing is all the way off.)
Round 4 vs. Will
Quite conveniently, both Will and I were undefeated at this point. Our match would be for all the marbles, which in this case was zero marbles. We used to play for marbles, but then someone ate them. Hippos, I believe.
No, this would be for bragging rights. The winner would be able to walk up to anyone in the world (hopefully someone who'd heard of Magic: The Gathering before), and say in a voice dripping with pride: "I beat this other guy this one time."
I ask you: Is there any better prize than that? Besides marbles?
I was very much looking forward to this match. You see, Will was playing not one, but two copies of my arch-nemesis, arch-demon Yukora, the Prisoner
. If you remember my last foray into the Reject Rare Draft, you'll remember that Yukora has betrayed me in so many ways. He caused me to lose my whole team to an Oblation
, to an ill-advised block of a traitorous (and Menacing) Ogre, and, worst of all, to a Righteous caribou! Well, times have changed. The Ogre and the Caribou work for me now. Better still, I know that Yukora has been up to his old tricks. In a previous match with Rob, the demon caused the premature deaths of Waterspout Elemental
and Veldrane of Sengir
during an alpha-strike that went horribly awry due to Turn the Tables
Sadly, my plans for sweet, sweet vengeance were not meant to be. I was crushed in two quick games. First, to a morph, Yukora, and Drinker of Sorrow. Then, in the second game, Will's deck came out like the Reject Rare Draft equivalent of Suicide Black, curving out with Vebulid, Drinker of Sorrow, Yukora, Larceny, then double Pulse of the Dross. I managed to squeak in a couple points with Kentaro, the Smiling Cat, but he wasn't smiling for very long.
After taking such a (muck) drubbing at the hands of Mr. The Prisoner, I revealed my hilarious anti-Yukora sideboard tech: Flickerform. We all had a good laugh, and I drowned my sorrows in a few Yukora the Pilseners. Here's Will's deck:
Can't say I see a whole lot of comboliciousness in this deck. Although I wish I would've picked up the Vebulid when/if I had the chance. It's a bit of a powerhouse when combined with Ion Storm. And judging by the art, it's also the World's Scariest Piñata.
Until next time, practice your yodelling.