have to start this week's column with a little announcement. This will be the last Limited Information column I'll be writing. Magic these days is simply not as high a priority for me as it was when I started the column. Since my first column way back in February of 2004 I've switched jobs to a job that is far busier, and requires much more of my attention. I've also gotten married and while my wife is as considerate and undemanding as any wife could be, I still nevertheless want to spend lots of non-Magic related time with her. I'm also now in the final stages of our emigration to Canada (where my wife's family live).
In short, I just don't have the same number of free hours in a week any more to both write the column and play enough Magic to be at least fairly competent at it. I can only really do one or the other and there's no way on earth I want to see the quality of the articles decline significantly. With that in mind, I think you, the readers, deserve someone with more time to commit, and who may also bring an entirely fresh perspective on things.
There's an archive of eighty or so articles that I'm leaving behind covering many different topics from mulligans to team-sealed, and from signalling to card evaluation. I'm proud of those, and many of the articles I've written should hopefully stand the test of time and still be useful in the future.
You'll still have something new to read next week. Our esteemed editor has asked Matt Vienneau to fill in to the end of the year and Matt has already written some great limited articles for the site so I hope you all look forward to that.
With that out of the way I still have today's final column to give you. The draft walk-throughs are always popular and that seemed to me a good way to finish things off, so let's crack open the first Ravnica pack.
Pack 1, Pick 1:
Barbarian Riftcutter, Greater Mossdog, Courier Hawk, Dimir House Guard, Fists of Ironwood, Necromantic Thirst, Goblin Fire Fiend, Perplex, Selesnya Signet, Snapping Drake, Golgari Signet, Voyager Staff, Perilous Forays, Divebomber Griffin, Gleancrawler.
Pack 1, Pick 2:
Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Boros Garrison, Tattered Drake, Ordruun Commando, Golgari Rotwurm, Tidewater Minion, Rain of Embers, Dryad's Caress, Dromad Purebred, Sell-Sword Brute, Elves of Deep Shadow, Twisted Justice, Vindictive Mob, Blockbuster.
Pack 1, Pick 3:
Convolute, Golgari Rot Farm, Dogpile, Stinkweed Imp, Sparkmage Apprentice, Leave No Trace, Drake Familiar, Shred Memory, Conclave Equenaut, Golgari Signet, Undercity Shade, Frenzied Goblin, Rolling Spoil.
Pack 1, Pick 4:
Mortipede, Torpid Moloch, Terrarion, Scatter the Seeds, Benevolent Ancestor, Surveilling Sprite, Dizzy Spell, Thoughtpicker Witch, Seismic Spike, Elves of Deep Shadow, Ethereal Usher, Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion.
Pack 1, Pick 5:
Farseek, Woodwraith Stangler, Induce Paranoia, Ordruun Commando, Zephyr Spirit, Boros Recruit, Smash, Transluminant, Clutch of the Undercity, Voyager Staff, Pariah's Shield.
Pack 1, Pick 6:
Stasis Cell, Roofstalker Wight, War-Torch Goblin, Boros Fury Shield, Surveilling Sprite, Dromad Purebred, Grayscaled Gharial, Sell-Sword Brute, Wojek Apothecary, Golgari Germination.
Pack 1, Pick 7:
Wojek Siren, Convolute, Dimir Aqueduct, Incite Hysteria, Conclave's Blessing, Quickchange, Selesnya Signet, Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, Seed Spark.
Pack 1, Pick 8:
Votary of the Conclave, Vedalken Dismisser, Clinging Darkness, Necromantic Thirst, Perplex, Dryad's Caress, Boros Signet, Sins of the Past.
Pack 1, Pick 9:
Barbarian Riftcutter, Necromantic Thirst, Goblin Fire Fiend, Perplex, Selesnya Signet, Voyager Staff, Perilous Forays.
Ordruun Commando, Shred Memory, Surveilling Sprite, Boros Recruit, Sell-Sword Brute, Wojek Siren.
No late pick gifts this week although Shred Memory might be playable if there are a lot of things I might want to Transmute into.
After pack one the playable cards amount to:
1CC: Elves of Deep Shadow
2CC: Roofstalker Wight, Clinging Darkness, Farseek, Selesnya Signet
3CC: Stinkweed Imp
5CC: Golgari Rotwurm
Lands: Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
Not the worst of starts certainly. There's an easy option here for splashing a white card or two so I certainly will be looking out for anything from that colour I might want to play.
Pack 2, Pick 1:
Gaze of the Gorgon, Goblin Spelunkers, Greater Mossdog, Sadistic Augermage, Scatter the Seeds, Lurking Informant, Sewerdreg, Smash, Veteran Armorer, Dimir Signet, Brainspoil, Darkblast, Stoneshaker Shaman, Root-Kin Ally, Eye of the Storm.
Pack 2, Pick 2:
Strands of Undeath, Barbarian Riftcutter, Terrarion, Gather Courage, Sparkmage Apprentice, Nightguard Patrol, Rally the Righteous, Dromad Purebred, Grayscaled Gharial, Fiery Conclusion, Siege Wurm, Dimir Machinations, Instill Furor, Cyclopean Snare.
Pack 2, Pick 3:
Wojek Siren, Terraformer, Consult the Necrosages, Gather Courage, Boros Fury Shield, Vedalken Dismisser, Elvish Skysweeper, Conclave's Blessing, Dimir Infiltrator, Shambling Shell, Transluminant, Belltower Sphinx, Clutch of the Undercity.
Pack 2, Pick 4:
Roofstalker Wight, Torpid Moloch, Sadistic Augermage, Thundersong Trumpeter, Dimir Infiltrator, Grayscaled Gharial, Shred Memory, Votary of the Conclave, Flight of Fancy, Junktroller, Overwhelm, Oathsworn Giant.
Pack 2, Pick 5:
Convolute, Dimir Aqueduct, Goblin Spelunkers, Muddle the Mixture, Sadistic Augermage, Goblin Fire Fiend, Sundering Vitae, Leave No Trace, Conclave Equenaut, Compulsive Research, Conclave Phalanx.
Pack 2, Pick 6:
Farseek, Boros Garrison, Incite Hysteria, Surge of Zeal, Sundering Vitae, Veteran Armorer, Flight of Fancy, Boros Guildmage, Pollenbright Wings, Copy Enchantment.
Pack 2, Pick 7:
Coalhauler Swine, Dimir Aqueduct, Ordruun Commando, Nightguard Patrol, Muddle the Mixture Infectious Host, Rain of Embers, Stone-Seeder Hierophant, Fiery Conclusion.
Pack 2, Pick 8:
Coalhauler Swine, Sparkmage Apprentice, Nightguard Patrol, Vedalken Dismisser, Zephyr Spirit, Boros Recruit, Smash, Transluminant.
Pack 2, Pick 9:
Gaze of the Gorgon, Goblin Spelunkers, Sadistic Augermage, Lurking Informant, Smash, Dimir Signet, Stoneshaker Shaman.
Rally The Righteous, Vedalken Dismisser, Shred Memory, Dimir Aqueduct, Incite Hysteria, Coalhauler Swine.
The Aqueduct is the only late-pick that I'd play here but with one Roofstalker Wight in the deck I'll likely include it over a Swamp.
The cards that might get played now amount to:
1CC: Elves of Deep Shadow
2CC: Roofstalker Wight, Clinging Darkness, Farseek, Selesnya Signet, Transluminant
3CC: Stinkweed Imp, Shambling Shell, Sundering Vitae
4CC: Gaze of the Gorgon
5CC: Golgari Rotwurm, Brainspoil
6+CC: Gleancrawler, Siege Wurm, Pollenbright Wings, Overwhelm
Lands: Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, Dimir Aqueduct
Once again, it's solid, but certainly not amazing. I'd like to pick up a few more solid creatures along with another removal spell or two. That seems like a reasonable goal for the third pack.
Pack 3, Pick 1:
Civic Wayfinder, Votary of the Conclave, Terraformer, Fists of Ironwood, Centaur Safeguard, Tidewater Minion, Surge of Zeal, Golgari Brownscale, Gate Hound, Boros Signet, Selesnya Signet, Watchwolf, Lightning Helix, Pollenbright Wings, Excruciator.
Pack 3, Pick 2:
Golgari Rot Farm, Consult the Necrosages, Tattered Drake, Vedalken Entrancer, Thundersong Trumpeter, Lurking Informant, Sewerdreg, Smash, Selesnya Signet, Snapping Drake, Dimir Signet, Seed Spark, Cyclopean Snare, Breath of Fury.
Pack 3, Pick 3:
Swamp (Foil), Wojek Siren, Incite Hysteria, Centaur Safeguard, Screeching Griffin, Caregiver, Drake Familiar, Thoughtpicker Witch, Sell-Sword Brute, Elves of Deep Shadow, Vindictive Mob, Blockbuster, Reroute.
Pack 3, Pick 4:
Terrarion, Votary of the Conclave, Drift of Phantasms, Thundersong Trumpeter, Gather Courage, Goblin Fire Fiend, Sundering Vitae, Leave No Trace, Faith's Fetters, Compulsive Research, Last Gasp, Dark Heart of the Wood.
Pack 3, Pick 5:
Stasis Cell, Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Viashino Slasher, War-Torch Goblin, Skyknight Legionnaire, Vedalken Entrancer, Gate Hound, Zephyr Spirit, Lurking Informant, Seeds of Strength, Remand.
Pack 3, Pick 6:
Mortipede, Dogpile, Selesnya Sanctuary, Sabertooth Alley Cat, Dizzy Spell, Infectious Host, Rally the Righteous, Compulsive Research, Reroute, Nullmage Shepherd.
Pack 3, Pick 7:
Goblin Spelunkers, Woodwraith Strangler, Muddle the Mixture, Seismic Spike, Stone-Seeder Hierophant, Fiery Conclusion, Cyclopean Snare, Instill Furor, Molten Sentry.
Pack 3, Pick 8:
Woodwraith Stangler, Strands of Undeath, Elvish Skysweeper, Boros Recruit, Quickchange, Peel from Reality, Glass Golem, Light of Sanction.
Pack 3, Pick 9:
Votary of the Conclave, Terraformer, Centaur Safeguard, Surge of Zeal, Gate Hound, Selesnya Signet, Excruciator.
Golgari Rot Farm, Reroute, Terrarion, Viashino Slasher, Dogpile, Seismic Spike.
A late Rot Farm is nice as is the Terrarion. I anticipate that both of those will make it into the main deck.
Putting all of the picks together gives the following selection:
1CC: Elves of Deep Shadow x 2, Terrarion
2CC: Roofstalker Wight, Transluminant, Clinging Darkness, Last Gasp, Seeds of Strength, Farseek, Selesnya Signet x 2
3CC: Stinkweed Imp, Shambling Shell, Centaur Safeguard, Sundering Vitae
4CC: Nullmage Shepherd, Strands of Undeath, Gaze of the Gorgon
5CC: Golgari Rotwurm, Brainspoil
6+CC: Gleancrawler, Siege Wurm, Pollenbright Wings x 2, Overwhelm
Lands: Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, Dimir Aqueduct, Golgari Rot Farm
This draft there aren't the high number of playables I had the luxury of last week, and that will make deck-building easier in some respects. Whereas last week was all about cutting playable cards this week it's about deciding on the final cards that will be included.
I already know I'm running 16 lands as I have five mana accelerators that I'm certain to play. So that leaves room for 24 spells in total. My initial pass through the cards gives me the following inclusions:
1CC: Elves of Deep Shadow x 2, Terrarion
2CC: Roofstalker Wight, Transluminant, Clinging Darkness, Last Gasp, Farseek, Selesnya Signet x 2
3CC: Stinkweed Imp, Shambling Shell, Centaur Safeguard
4CC: Nullmage Shepherd, Strands of Undeath, Gaze of the Gorgon
5CC: Golgari Rotwurm, Brainspoil
6+CC: Gleancrawler, Siege Wurm, Pollenbright Wings x 2
All of those are pretty obvious inclusions I think. That's 22 spells in total so only two more are need. There really aren't a lot of options for this deck and looking through the remaining cards gives only the following choices: Overwhelm
, Seeds of Strength
, Shred Memory
x 2, Sundering Vitae
I already have two late game cards in the two Pollenbright Wings, and I also have a fairly low creature count. Both of these count against Overwhelm. It's possible to look at the deck and assume that the Wings can make Saprolings which can then Overwhelm the opponent. The problem there is that if I have a Pollenbright Wings'd creature hitting the opponent I'm not likely to need the Overwhelm. It'll just be a “win more” card. There'll be other times when I'm stuck on four mana and have both Wings and Overwhelm in hand and that's the sort of situation I want to avoid. The Overwhelm gets cut.
With the Nullmage Shepherd main I feel that I can relegate the Sundering Vitae to the sideboard and therefore do just that.
I haven't enough cards to Transmute two copies of Shred Memory into useful things but one is fine as it can go and fetch either Last Gasp or Clinging Darkness. One Shred Memory and the Seeds of Strength are the final two cards to make the deck. This gives a final decklist of:
It's light on creatures but I'm not sure there's too much I could've done about that. It does have a decent number of powerful cards in there along with some discard, some removal and some late game bombs. It's not a bad draft deck at all; it's just a little on the shaky side.
Time to find out how it played out.
I curved out nicely in game one with Roofstalker Wight
, Stinkweed Imp
and Nullmage Shepherd
. An Infectious Host
(not a card I'd recommend playing by the way) held the Wight back but the other two attacked into the Host while my opponent developed his board with just an Elves of Deep Shadow
A fifth turn Siege Wurm from my opponent blocked my Nullmage Shepherd when I attacked with all of my guys on the subsequent turn. I had a choice of either Gaze of the Gorgon or Last Gasp to take the Wurm down but Gaze is clearly the correct play there. A Last Gasp could be met by a Convoked Gather Courage, which would be very, very bad news! Gaze on the other hand definitely saves my creature and definitely kills the Wurm and also allows me to keep back the cheaper removal spell.
A Centaur Safeguard joins my opponent's board and I'm happy to just swing with old Stinky for a turn while dropping a Terrarion.
My opponent Scatters some Seeds at the end of my turn and follows up in his with a Rootkin Ally.
I sacrifice the Terrarion on my next turn to allow the Wight to fly over for two. While holding Last Gasp and Seeds of Strength, I leave the Shepherd back along with the Stinkweed Imp, which I plan to throw in front of the Rootkin Ally.
My opponent's next turn is a good one – play land number seven and tap them all for Overwhelm! With the Host, the Elf, the Safeguard, three Saprolings and the Ally in play I'm looking close to dead, but I'm able to Last Gasp the Centaur Safeguard in response to prevent some damage (another fine reason to hold it back over the Gaze – instant creature kill is much better when that kill doesn't require blocking). The Stinkweed Imp blocks the Rootkin Ally, and my Nullmage Shepherd blocks the now 4/4 Host and takes it down with the help of Seeds of Strength. I still take 16 damage from the four unblocked creatures and then another two when the Host dies and suddenly my life total is just one tenth of what it was!
I dredge back Stinky and sit on my three guys against my opponent's four men hoping he doesn't rip the Gather Courage I feared earlier. He swings with all three Saprolings and I block three, trading one for the Wight, and drop to just one life.
My opponent just draws a land while I pull my Transluminant which gives me three guys (four including Svogthos, the Restless Tomb which sits in play to chump block if necessary) to his lone Saproling and I start attacking with two men each turn. I'm very aware that I need to end the game quickly before he draws something. I make a great rip on my next turn though and pull Pollenbright Wings, which I can drop on the Nullmage Shepherd to create two more blockers. My opponent draws nothing relevant over his next two turns and with Stinky, the Transluminant and an ever-growing horde of Saprolings there's just no way for him to force through the last point of damage he needs. Game one is mine.
Game two starts off with Transluminant for me that my opponent trades for a Gather Courage when he drops a Fists of Ironwood on it and blocks with one of the resulting Saprolings. Farseek and Elves of Deep Shadow accelerate me over the next few turns and I drop Stinkweed Imp again followed by a fifth turn Gleancrawler.
My opponent scares me a little with Scatter the Seeds and a second Fists of Ironwood and I start to get worried about the Overwhelm again. He chooses to block Gleancrawler with all eight of his men though, perhaps fearing a Gather Courage but I show him the Gaze of the Gorgon that I had in my opening hand and that's the end of the game really. The blocking decision was quite bad, as he'd seen the Gaze in game one and he would've been better waiting a turn or two to see if he drew a removal spell before making such a risky block. With all his men dead, it doesn't take many turns for Gleancrawler to finish things off.
My round two opponent is playing Dimir. I win the flip this game and start with Farseek, Centaur Safeguard and can safely tap out for a fourth turn Golgari Rotwurm without fear of being Convoluted when my opponent only has a Compulsive Research on his third turn.
A fourth turn Vedalken Entrancer makes my opponent's intentions clear but I drop the Pollenbright Wings on my Rotwurm and sail over for a ton of damage and a lot more guys. He now also can't use Brainspoil as an out if he has it and Dismisser would be too slow so I'm feeling confident about this game already.
My opponent makes a Belltower Sphinx which can chump for one turn but my own Brainspoil doesn't even give him that luxury. The Saprolings and Rotwurm swing in and drop him to just three while facing 11 creatures. An easy first game, made even easier due to winning the coin flip.
My first few turns in game two are all about accelerating my mana with Farseek on turn two and both Signets on turn three while my opponent shores up his defensives with a Drift of Phantasms. Although I have both Golgari Rotwurm and Gleancrawler in hand that I could potentially play, I just drop a Centaur Safeguard on turn four as I want to play around Convolute and Induce Paranoia.
My opponent drops his Belltower Sphinx again on his fifth turn and I make my Gleancrawler to see if he has the Brainspoil that he'll most likely need. He taps five but drops Followed Footsteps on the Gleancrawler, giving him a potential infinite supply of 6/6s!
The cards I have give me a suitable answer though. I attack with the Gleancrawler next turn and my opponent chumps with the Drift of Phantasms. This is probably correct as he wants to keep his life total pretty high so he can get a couple of Gleancrawlers in play before having to deal with mine. I drop the Golgari Rotwurm after combat and keep a black mana back for the end of my turn. At the end of my turn I simply put the Gleancrawler's ability on the stack and then sacrifice it to the Rotwurm before resolving the ability. The Gleancrawler only checks what creatures get brought back when its ability resolves so doing this makes the Gleancrawler's ability bring itself back to my hand! No more Followed Footsteps to worry about now and my opponent has one less blocker as well.
My opponent makes his Vedalken Entrancer again but has nothing to deal with the Rotwurm, never mind the Gleancrawler, and game two ends pretty soon in my favour.
Both myself and my Boros opponent drop Signets on our second turns. My Centaur Safeguard is trumped by his Nightguard Patrol on turn three. My Signet allows a fourth turn Rotwurm while he makes an Ordruun Commando, probably looking for the trade. I drop Strands of Undeath on the Rotwurm ending any chances of that trade and taking two spells from his hand.
A Skyknight Legionnaire arrives and along with the Patrol lets him hit me for four. The race is on.
The Rotwurm takes another quarter of my opponent's life total the following turn and Stinkweed Imp makes an appearance to hold off the Legionnaire. The Patrol can keep swinging and does so dropping me to 14 and is followed by a Thundersong Trumpeter that threatens to hold off the Rotwurm.
My opponent blocks the Rotwurm on my next attack with the Commando and I'm forced to regenerate. I'm still sitting on just five mana at this point and can't use the Brainspoil in my hand as a result. Instead I just make my Terrarion, hoping to draw into a land via the cantrip effect next turn.
I draw the land naturally and am able to Brainspoil the Trumpeter in my next turn. My opponent also draws his sixth land that allows him to drop something a lot more threatening.
The first-strike of the Angel combined with the Nightguard Patrol holds off the Rotwurm and I just develop with my Shambling Shell. An Oathsworn Giant then allows the Angel to attack into the Stinkweed Imp and I need to find a way through very soon so I formulate a quick plan to allow me to do that.
During my next upkeep I sacrifice the Shambling Shell to make the Rotwurm a 6/5, and then I draw the Shell via Dredge and play it again. I sacrifice it a second time to make the Rotwurm a 7/6. I then blow the Terrarion and use the card draw from that to Dredge and play the Shambling Shell for a third time. I can now freely attack with the Rotwurm as the Shell can be sacrificed again to make the Rotwurm an 8/7, which would be tough enough to get past all the first-strike damage.
My opponent chumps with the Patrol and I in turn chump the Angel with my Stinkweed Imp to avoid going too low and losing to a Boros Fury-Shield.
Over the next couple of turns I chump with Stinkweed Imp while my opponent eventually runs out of blockers and the Rotwurm only has to hit once to allow a couple of sacrifices to drain the last few points away.
My opponent starts game two with a Boros Guildmage
and Nightguard Patrol
. A Signet allows me to drop a third turn Nullmage Shepherd
but my opponent has a neat play. He makes his Thundersong Trumpeter
and then gives it haste with the Guildmage so he can tap it to prevent the Advocate from blocking.
I have to take out the Trumpeter with my Brainspoil on my fourth turn but my opponent is still on the attack as a fresh Skyknight Legionnaire sails over the top of the Shepherd.
At this point I'm down to just 12 life already and have no answers to the Legionnaire so need to start racing quickly. I tap the Advocate and all my lands during my next turn to drop a Siege Wurm and just hope my opponent doesn't have anything that allows him to attack into it.
The Siege Wurm starts to race but a Viashino Fangtail from my opponent threatens to end the race before it's even really begun. I stall the ground with a Transluminant and drop my Shambling Shell into play in the hopes it might suck a point of damage from the Fangtail. My opponent doesn't bite though and the next Legionnaire attack drops me to eight.
I actually have one of those rare experiences where something relevant jumps to the top of my deck as one of the two Pollenbright Wings makes an appearance. I obviously drop this onto the Siege Wurm and it sails freely over any potential chump blockers, dropping my opponent to 10 and creating some useful blockers.
The Fangtail drops me to seven and the subsequent Legionnaire attack takes me to just five. Any burn spell would win it for my opponent at this point in time so I can't afford to give him an additional turn and also need to block the Legionnaire if I can.
On my next turn I attack with the Wurm, all the Saprolings, and the Transluminant. My plan is to sacrifice the Transluminant and hope my opponent doesn't kill the Shambling Shell with his Fangtail. If he doesn't then the Shambling Shell will protect the Spirit Token and I can then chump the Legionnaire during my opponent's next turn. If I were to just randomly sacrifice the Transluminant during my main phase my opponent will likely wonder why. However, by attacking with it along with the Saprolings I lose all my men but the sacrifice of the Transluminant won't be so obvious and the Saprolings will be replaced anyway. The Wurm deals five and creates replacement Saprolings while all but one Saproling dies to his blockers and the Transluminant gets sacrificed when it dies too.
This tactic pays off, as my opponent doesn't realise he should probably kill the Shambling Shell. My end of turn rolls around and the Spirit token enters play. My opponent pauses for a second but aims the Fangtail at the Spirit token anyway. The Shell gets sacrificed to keep the Spirit token alive and my opponent suddenly gains nothing by attacking with the Legionnaire. This means cards like Rally the Righteous no longer kill me and my opponent still has the Wurm to deal with.
On only four life I Dredge back the Shambling Shell and attack with everything once more. With the Spirit token, the six Saprolings and the Trampling Wurm my opponent just doesn't have enough to block with and I manage to take a very close second game.
It's clear from the above games that Pollenbright Wings was the standout card in the deck, but all sorts of cards had their effect on the matches at various stages. Strands of Undeath and Shambling Shell were both key in winning the first game of round three for example. Stinkweed Imp also did some great work although there was a game or two where it would've been much better as something that was better at attacking.
Gleancrawler was also obviously ridiculous but mostly just because it's a six mana 6/6 Trampler. The ability was relevant in one game but I think I could've still won that game without it.
This deck didn't draw that much removal but seemed to do okay without it. There were very few games where I drew more than one removal spell. The slightly low creature count was improved as the two Dredge guys meant I could draw more creatures if I needed to.
The mana in this deck was just about perfect I think. With six ways to get white mana I was never missing it and the two Signets along with the Farseek gave the deck a good chance at getting an early mana boost. You can see in the above games just how important the acceleration is in this deck. With the large quantity in the deck I was regularly able to get down fifth turn Gleancrawlers and fourth turn Rotwurms.
So long, and thanks for all the fish
On that note I bid you all farewell. I've very much enjoyed my time writing this column and I hope you've enjoyed reading it too. While I am sorry to be leaving I do think it's the right choice now.
All the best, and see you at the draft tables.