Author: andrewkiene (Page 2 of 3)

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Mastering March

I didn’t do a ton of drafting this week, but I did manage to make master with my first draft of the week, so that’s exciting. To be honest, I just didn’t feel a lot of motivation to play, and it showed in some of my post-master drafts. I suppose that’s what happens when we’ve had the same format for almost 4 months now, with no end in sight. Maybe I just need a week off or something. After drafting in the event last week, going back to scraping barely-playable decks together just didn’t feel great.

Still, I’ve made a commitment to this weekly report, so I draft! Maybe next week I’ll try something different, if I can come up with something. Perhaps a constructed article.

Deck 1: Siraf Saves the Day

Spoiler for uess my record...

7-0!!!

 

I don’t know what else to say about this deck other than it was a classic, great midrange draft deck, and Siraf made it even greater. I pulled off the rare 7-0, catapulting myself to master without a ton of contributions from Siraf other than being a removal magnet in the first six games. I never activated her in those games, but a 3/4 Overwhelm for 3 is still a great card.

Boy did she pull my ass out of the fire in game 7, though. I was dead-on-board to flyers, topdecked my 8th power, hit a Rolant’s Honor Guard off Siraf, and suddenly I could not lose. Luv ya, girl.

I am not usually high on a card like Detain, but I was really able to leverage it in this deck. Siraf, Unseen Commando, and Sureshot are almost must-blocks for an opponent if you offer a trade. Even if they are pretty sure you have a trick, they also know that they probably can’t beat those cards if they don’t go for it. In those situations Detain basically becomes Swords to Plowshares, which, if you aren’t a Magic player, is a pretty good card. They are forced to block to try and kill your bomb (bonus points if you get the two-fer), and you can blow them out for a single power. It’s one of those cards that looks defensive on the surface, but it’s actually at its best in an aggressive deck that is forcing the opponent to either race or block. I won a couple games by just giving my opponent’s giant thing -6 attack when they thought they were winning a race. I don’t advocate taking or playing Detain over much of anything, but it’s worth noting the situations where it’s slightly more playable than usual and might sneak in as a 27th or 28th card.

Draft 2: Combrei Splash

(On the next page: Crest of Cunning)

Spoiler for uess my record...

5-3

 

I actually first-picked Crownwatch Traitor in this draft, followed by Extinguish, but shadow dried up quite quickly. A couple of late Trail Makers pushed me into Combrei, with the ability to easily splash anything I wanted, which turned out to be Extinguish and Pteriax Hatchling. You don’t generally want to splash 3-drops, but Hatchling is still a solid play later in the game, so I ran it. I got a very late (i.e., 4th pick) Waystone Infuser in pack 2. That’s not the first time I’ve seen it go so late. Sure, maybe Time was just wide open, but I think people criminally underrate the card. It’s not flashy, just a 2/6 for 5, but it draws tons of extra cards and helps you chew through power pockets and avoid flooding out too badly, while still holding down the ground. It might be one of my favorite rares to draft. It’s not oppressive, but it’s incredibly fun to play with.

This deck was a lot of fun to pilot. It played the grindy game really well, and splashed for both Pteriax Hatchling and Extinguish with no problems. The powerbase was a little awkward, in that I wanted to play the Crest of Cunning, but also needed to play the Primal and Shadow Sigils to be able to fetch them off Seek Power. Maybe I should have just cut one of them for an additional Time Sigil, as I did have several TT cards, as well as Initiate of the Sands that I want to play reliably on 1.

Still, the deck checked a bunch of boxes. Double Reinvigorate and Vanquish provided good ways to remove opposing threats for relatively low cost, Waystone Infuser, Valkyrie Arcanist, and Emerald Ring helped grind out longer games, and it also had the busted Ageless Mentor draws.

The highlight of these games was beating a Failed Reflection with a lifestealing Ageless Mentor (from Spirit Guide) that I kept on loading up with weapons from Emerald Ring. I kept drawing chumps to throw under the bus, and the lifesteal eventually pulled me ahead of the 12/12 monster. I managed to silence it before it got any bigger, and the Mentor eventually outgrew it and ate the reflection thanks to a Reinvigorate.

Deck 3: Stonescar Aggro

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-3 =(

 

I don’t know what happened here. This deck was wide open, had a ton of removal and a good curve. I was a little light on units, rarely drew any in my opener, mulliganed most games, and got faction-screwed once. The two games where the deck performed the way it was supposed to, I crushed my opponent. The games I lost really highlighted the weakness of aggro in a draft format. If your plan A doesn’t get there, you have no way of coming back from behind.  Sometimes it just ain’t your day.

Cabal Slasher was a card I wanted to try out here, but I never drew it. I needed a final playable, so I fit one in. I actually had a second, but I’ve had no experience with this guy outside of a dedicated Xenan deck, so I’m not sure. He looked like he’d be pretty serviceable with double Extract, Xenan Destroyer, and Devour as possible synergies. Especially if I could slap a weapon or a Rampage on that Destroyer. Alas, I hit my third loss before I ever got to try him out.

Deck 4: Combrei splash Shadow

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-3

 

This deck is what happens when you waffle too long on factions in draft, the dreaded 6-8-4 powerbase. It didn’t help that Skycrag seemed to be the only open factions in pack 4, but still, this deck was bad. I did punt one game away, maybe, but I don’t think this deck deserved much better than a 3-3 finish. I didn’t draw Rooftop Vigilante or Ageless Mentor in any of my games =(

The game I punted involved Rakano Sheriff. I had an opportunity to eat a Stormcrasher early in the game by ambushing it with Desert Marshal to block with Spiritblade Stalker. I’ve been playing a lot of Reinvigorate lately, so I must have just brain farted my way into thinking I could attack and still block (thanks to endurance from Reinvigorate). I ended up just silencing the bird and declining the trade with Marshal (thinking at that point that I was the beatdown). That, too, turned out to be a mistake, as the Sheriff came down a turn later. I was able to assemble a large Triggerman plus weapon to possibly outpace the Sheriff, but the Stormcrasher that should have been dead provided an extra body to wear a weapon and pump the Sheriff out of range of me getting through.

I got to play one particularly interesting game. My opponent led with Unpredictable Outlaw on 2. I played Copperhall Porter, with Crownwatch Longsword in hand. My opponent played Backpacker’s Machete on the Outlaw, exhausting my Porter and attacking. I had no 3-drop, so I just played my longsword and passed. It’s possible I should have attacked, but I was getting beaten down pretty hard already, and I really wanted to keep back and try to trade, as my hand had Spiritblade Stlkaer and Town Watchman for when the game went long.

Unfortunately, my opponent had Ornate Katana to draw a card and exhaust my guy again, though they missed their 4th power. I took my medicine, played my Spiritblade Stalker and once again held up the trade.

They had Blackguard’s Sidearm to make an 8/5 quickdraw. I took another 8 and was already at 7 life!

I had a pair of cheap dorks to chump, so I got in for 6 with my Porter and Stalker. Sadly, I had already missed out on 8 damage by trying to block on those earlier turns. I chumped as planned, then spent the next turn making my Porter into a 5/4 Lifesteal with the Stalker’s ability. Feeling farily safe, I attacked, and they chumped with a stranger they’d drawn. That put me up to 12 and leaving my opponent under a lot of pressure.

Then they played a Morningstar. Ugh. I took 11 and was right back at 1, and now that stupid thing had overwhelm! I cracked back to buffer my life up to 6, but I now had to chump with Town Watchman to stay alive. Things were going downhill, fast. I had a second Watchman to chump again, then I finally topdecked Desert Marshal to silence that stupid Outlaw. From there I was able to force them to stop attacking because they were out of ways to chump my crack-back. Time Weaver helped keep them power screwed and doing nothing, and I eventually found myself a Rapid Shot to slay Goliath when she finally had to block. Phew.

Final Tally: 17-9 (88-53 overall)

Not the worst week, but my sick 7-0 deck really carried me. I made master, though, which is generally my goal for a given month. I might try to climb onto the leaderboard by the end of the month, but I’m not too worried about that. I think maybe I need a break from this format. Last week’s event was quite fun, but going back to regular drafting has made the reality of the situation sting a bit. We just got a new campaign, meaning Set 4–and thus a shakeup of the draft format–is a long way off. I love drafting Eternal, but this format wears thin on my nerves sometimes. It’s just so light on playables that you can do everything right, find the open lane, and still wind up playing some atrocious cards to make ends meet. I don’t enjoy losing because I drew some terrible card that has no place in a limited deck, all because pack 2 gave me 2 playable cards. This, by the way, was my pack 2 open when I drafted my last deck:

Apparently, a playable card in either of my factions is too much to ask of Set 2. Yeah, fixing strangers are generally fine, but I didn’t yet have a specific need for those factions, and first-pick is when you want a really quality card, not a 2/2. The other option there was Sand Viper, since I wasn’t locked into Shadow by any means, but Rooftop Vigilante is a card that makes me want to do everything I can to stay in Shadow. I will be honest, I almost raredrafted this pick out of spite, but took the stranger in the end.

Card of the Week probably goes to Detain. Siraf is the obvious choice, but we all know how great she is. I like to make a note of when a card wildly out-performs my expectations, and Detain hit that spot for me this week.

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Requiem for a Cube

Good night, sweet prince. You were always so kind to me. I’ll try to remember you, and I’ll try not to judge your little brother, Masters 25, by your standards.

Oh, who am I kidding? Cube is great. We want more Cube! Down with the tyranny of “real” sets!

This edition of Legacy Cube was particularly kind to me. Coming into this week, I was 20-7, which is a fantastic win-rate on MTGO. I was definitely sad to see it go, but all good things must end. Did I close things out on a high note?

Draft 1: UB Reanimator-Control

Spoiler for uess my record...

1-2 =(

 

This deck had some real quick potential kills off of Entomb, but not a whole lot of interaction. Daze was my only reactive protection for the combo. I did have a reasonable suite of proactive disruption in the form of Inquisition of Kozilek, Collective Brutality, and Vendilion Clique, and Gitaxian Probe at least let me know when the coast was clear. I had to be very aggressive with my combo, though, as I had no way to really win a long game.

Round 1, I had the pleasure of running the ol’ turn-1 no plays line again, and a turn-2 Sundering Titan was able to close, even through my opponent killing it once, as I had the Animate Dead to bring it back. In game 2, I set up to reanimate a Griselbrand via Buried Alive, but my opponent cast Hymn to Tourach, which hit my Exhume, and I couldn’t muster anything quickly enough to come back. Game 3, I hymned them right back. Unfortunately, this hit their reanimator target (which I had not seen in games 1 or 2!) and a Living Death put it away for them.

Round 2, I had Entomb into Reanimate on Griselbrand. My opponent had Cyclonic Rift to delay their demise a bit. But I just drew seven in response, discarded the Griselbrand again on cleanup, and had another reanimation effect on turn 3. Game 2, I whiffed on my turn-3 Inquisition of Kozilek, but that was because they were holding Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and lands. They drew out of it well, but Baleful Strix eventually put Jace down (they never plussed, for some reason…), and I hit Mirari's Wake off of Gonti, Lord of Luxury that let me hard-cast a Griselbrand, which I rode to victory.

Round 3 showed it was just not my draft. My opponent led on Swamp, Swamp. I cast Buried Alive. They cast Animate Dead on my Griselbrand. I conceded.

Game 2, I Entombed into a Reanimated Griselbrand. They conceded.

Game 3, they mulled to 4. I kept a hand with Search for Azcanta, Daze, and Griselbrand. Surely Search will find me gas. I wound up spending Daze on their turn-3 Buried Alive, figuring that the only way I lose to a mull to 4 is if they go off with Griselbrand, and I wasn’t likely to be able to Daze a cheap reanimation spell.

Naturally, I died 3 turns later to a turn-4 Phyrexian Obliterator off the mull to 4, followed up by a Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Sometimes it just ain’t your day.

Draft 2: Boros Raaaaage

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

This was a really interesting draft. My first three picks were Snapcaster Mage, Venser, Shaper Savant, and Underground Sea! I followed up with Mana Confluence, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Spell Queller, picking up Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Geist of Saint Traft and an absurdly late 8th-pick Lightning Bolt later in the pack.

Notice how many of those cards wound up in my deck at the end? Three, if you count Mana Confluence, which I do, since it was basically the deck’s MVP alongside Inspiring Vantage. After pack 1, I thought I would probably wind up some weird UW tempo-style deck, perhaps splashing red. On the wheel, I had gotten, Journey to Nowhere, Reflector Mage, and Seeker of the Way.

I had a notion that red, particularly red aggro, was wide open, on account of that Lightning Bolt going 8th. That meant that nobody else at the table had wanted it. While it was possible that some red aggro player took something like Hellrider or Goblin Guide over it, I think it’s a major sign that red is there if you want it.

Pack 2, I opened on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which is one of the more powerful cards for the other good aggressive color, white. Some RW duals and a FOURTEENTH-PICK Hellrider later, and I was locked into RW. I don’t like this position, normally. Aggro decks tend to be quite demanding on colored mana requirements, since all of their cards are cheap, and you want to be playing multiple spells on fewer lands. If you’re going to play aggro, it’s usually best to stick to a single color.

This deck’s raw power is insane. It has some of the best 4-drops in the whole cube, plus the lower drops to back them up. This might just be the best deck in the cube, if you have the mana for it. Honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled by that part of things. Yes, I have four duals that help, but one of them is Arid Mesa, which doesn’t actually tap for both red and white without Sacred Foundry or Plateau. Needle Spires is great against control decks, but it enters tapped and won’t help me play my million one-drops. Playing Mutavault was insanely greedy and probably wrong. It probably should have been another colored source, but I am lucky enough that it didn’t punish me.

Round 1, I got paired against a UB player running Ancient Tomb. They did deploy a turn-5 Wurmcoil Engine in the face of my Goblin Rabblemaster, which let them gain 6. Didn’t matter. This party don’t stop. I managed to attack for enough that my Stormbreath Dragon finished the job. Game 2, they had a similar plan, but this time I had Journey to Nowhere to clean up the Wurmcoil with a little less sweat. As a note, I had the option between Banisher Priest and the Journey. Banisher Priest would develop my board more, and it was also a much more efficient use of my mana, particularly my colored mana. However, I was playing against a tapped-out UB opponent. They have very few ways to remove Journey to Nowhere, and a lot more ways to remove a Banisher Priest. If they were able to kill the Priest after I attacked, that would be curtains for me, as the Wurmcoil would come back and get to eat a creature (and gain them 6 life) before I could remove it again. It was much safer (and correct, IMO) to take the tempo hit and play Journey to Nowhere against an opponent about to be at 10 life, who has an Ancient Tomb in play.

Round 2, I played against GB ramp-n-stuff, with a turn-2 Bitterblossom. Unfortunately for them, I had a turn-1 Mother of Runes, which kept my Hellrider from getting blocked to death, and that was all she wrote with Bitterblossom dinging them every turn. Game 2, I had the Arc Trail out of the sideboard to answer their turn-2 Pack Rat, but the follow-up Managorger Hydra ran away with things. Game 3, I curved out with Goblin Rabblemaster, and they conceded before they even let me drop my Hero of Bladehold 🙁

Round 3, I mulled on the draw, but it turns out that Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is a Human, which has a bit of trouble blocking Stromkirk Noble, despite my opponent trying several times. They fought back with the flipped Jace finding and recasting a sweeper, but they were too low, and a Needle Spires activation ultimately did them in. Game 2, they again had the turn-2 Jace, looting away Sheoldred, Whispering One and Angel of Serenity, which had me quaking in my boots a little. Evidently they never found a way to reanimate them, as I hit the Jace with a burn spell and ran roughshod over them to the trophy.

Draft 3: UB Control

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0*

 

Ahh, back to my roots. This draft started off on Consecrated Sphinx, and I never looked back. I had the Gifts Ungiven + Unburial Rites combo, but nothing quite big enough to make it worth playing. My mana wasn’t the best, but Dragonlord Ojutai is a strong enough card that it’s worth splashing, in my opinion. It’s exactly the kind of finisher the control deck wants.

Round 1, I played against Grixis reanimator. I opened on a turn-1 Ancestral Vision. They blew their Force Spike on my Baleful Strix, which allowed me to resolve Phyrexian Arena, which put me ahead on cards. I was looking like I was about to lose when they dumped Griselbrand into the ‘yard, but they targeted Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite with their Dread Return. They were at 16. I was at 9, and they had a 1/3 in play, so they got to attack me down to 6, but…Griselbrand would have buried me in card advantage. As it was, I calmly untapped, smoked the Elesh Norn with my Noxious Gearhulk and took the game.

I must have tilted them, because they straight-up conceded when I resolved a Vendilion Clique on my own end step. They had tapped out to Electrolyze my face. I resolved Clique, took their Izzet Charm and left them stranded with a hand full of bombs and no way to get them into the ‘yard. They scooped after drawing for the turn.

Round 2, my opponent got stuck on lands, but did have the Animate Dead for my Noxious Gearhulk, killing my Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Unfortunately for them, Gonti had dug up a Desecration Demon, which I rode to victory. I love Gonti. Game 2, Gonti hit Dragonlord Silumgar, which stole their Liliana, Death's Majesty, and that was all she wrote. I love Gonti.

Round 3 was a strange one. In the first game, my opponent resolved Sword of Body and Mind. I was not pleased. I did manage to string together enough black removal to not die to it, however, and took game 1. I sideboarded for a blue-white tempo-creature type matchup because that’s what I had seen from them. In game 2, they had Sword of Light and Shadow to go with their other sword. On one critical turn, I tapped low to kill two of their things and promptly got met with an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which destroyed me. Not what I had expected out of a deck packing a pair of Swords, but hey, sometimes that happens.

Game 3, they ground me down with Sun Titan, forced me once again to tap out, and Ugin’d me. The following turn, they bolted me with Ugin down to 3, made some tokens with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and I that actually almost gave me an out. I had previously stuck a Liliana Vess. I was able to tutor for Massacre Wurm, cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, draw the Wurm, and play it. This would deal them 6 damage from their tokens dying, and I had a Gonti that would knock them to 2. Not quite there, and I was at 3. All they had to do was plus Ugin.

I honestly don’t know what happened here. They had a little over 2 minutes on their clock. I activated Liliana to tutor, then put Jace on the stack. I knew I was dead, but I thought hey, might as well play it out.

Jace never resolved. They timed out while he was on the stack. If their internet went out, they picked a hell of a time for it, since all they had to do was F6 and win on their turn. I never got any messages about them disconnecting, and they never said anything about having to leave. I like to think that I bluffed them into thinking I actually had outs, and my convoluted way of drawing said outs put them on such tilt that they walked away. Or something.

In reality, they probably did disconnect, or something important came up. Lucky for me, we live in 2018, and I’m free to make up whatever narrative I want. Anybody who says I lost that match is FAKE NEWS.

Final Tally: 7-2 (27-9 overall!)

So it goes that I end this edition of Cube with a 75% winrate. I can’t recall a format where I’ve done that well. Of course, this is a pretty small sample size in the grand scheme of things, but five trophies in twelve drafts means I’ve got to be doing something right.

What is that something? Well, I really drafted two primary decks: blue-black reanimator and white aggro. While I did score trophies with WR aggro and 4-color control, the majority of my good drafts fell into the other two archetypes. I only drafted green a couple times, and one of those was one of my pair of 1-2 finishes. Green never felt open, to me, except when it was far too late. I never saw Rofellos if I didn’t open it, and the only time I saw Natural Order get passed was the tail end of pack 3. I think people really over-draft green, in part because that’s what you’re supposed to do in cube, right? Take fast mana!

Except I didn’t find it to be that scary. I played against a disproportionate number of green decks, or at least it seemed that way, but they didn’t have the threat density you need, most of the time. I touched on this last week, but I’ll reiterate here.  I think that this shortfall actually happens because we are in Legacy Cube, not Vintage Cube. In Vintage Cube, you probably only have one green drafter at a table, since fast mana is available to everybody.

In Legacy Cube, your fast mana is limited to a single color or a very small set of artifacts like Coalition Relic. And what is every first-time cuber taught? This ain’t your grandma’s draft format! People are gonna be killing you fast! You have to be faster! Take fast mana!

So everyone does. And because it’s Legacy Cube, they all wind up green. They all fight over the big green creature payoffs like Craterhoof Behemoth and Avenger of Zendikar. Then, at the end of the draft, they have a few mediocre mana dorks, but very little in the way of actual threats. If you can deal with the few they can find, they just don’t have the teeth left to beat you.

I also found reactive counterspell-leaning decks to be pretty bad. For one, we’ve got things like Remove Soul instead of better counters like Mana Leak. It feels real bad to be holding a Remove Soul in the face of a Gideon or some other impactful planeswalker. When I play control in this format, I want proactive disruption and tap-out threats. Thoughtseize, Vendilion Clique, Supreme Verdict. Those type of things. I just want to slam planeswalkers and win that way, rather than playing draw-go. I’ve seen cubes where draw-go works, but I generally did not have much success going that route. That’s why Gonti is so high, in my opinion. They block well and provide sometimes insane amounts of value by stealing a large threat from your opponent.

I like having access to some countermagic in my control decks, but I won’t build around it. Forbid is a great one to have, as it lets you turn anything into more counterspells if that’s where you want the game to go. The drawback isn’t as impactful in such high-powered formats, since you have powerful draw engines of your own, and the things you are countering often involve large investments of resources from your opponents as well.

Not that any of that is going to stop me from slamming Cryptic Command every time I see it. Just something to keep in mind for the next time cube rolls around. There will be changes, of course, but the previous state of the format is definitely something to keep in mind when looking at the changes in context!

Next week I’ll dive into some Masters 25. I’ve already done a draft and a half, but I figured I’d save those for next week to make these articles a little more cohesive.

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Top 20 Event Edition

This weekend marked the first Draft event in Eternal. As someone who mostly drafts, I was quite excited by the prospect, especially once I heard that they would be tweaking the format a bit. For this event, we wouldn’t be drafting 3-2-1-3 as normal. Instead of drafting individual packs of Sets 1 and 2, we got two curated packs of cards from those sets mixed together, with a stronger focus on tribal synergies that would mesh with Set 3’s themes.

Personally, I’m hoping that this was a dry run to see how the format would shake out, to see if it would be worth drafting this full-time. Because it was great! Of the three decks I drafted, each one felt more cohesive than any deck I’ve had in a long time. I wasn’t afraid to go in on tribal payoffs in Pack 1, and I got rewarded in Pack 4 for leaning a little harder on tribes than I normally would. That’s what the format should feel like.

Unfortunately, an expensive entry fee (7,500 gold), combined with poor prize support, took what should have been an incredible event and made it frustrating, even for someone who did a great deal of winning. I finished 24-6 overall in the event, good for an 80% win rate and a top-15-ish ranking. I say “ish” because I was 10th as of the writing of this article, but I will likely drop at least a slot or two before the end of the event.

The payout for top-100 is three free draft tickets, 10 packs, and 3 premium copies of Strategize. Considering the draft tickets at 5,000 gold each, that’s 15,000 gold Not bad, right?

Wrong. If I kept up a similar win-rate in normal drafts, I’d be getting three diamond chests per run. At three runs, that means I get paid out 9 packs, 9 random premium cards, and an average of 18,450 gold. I put in 15,000 gold for those three drafts, so I’m up 3,450 gold, 9 packs, and 9 premiums.

In the event, I put in 22,500 gold to enter three times. I will come out 10 packs, and 4 premiums ahead, but 7,500 gold down. I’ll call the premiums a wash, since Strategize is a very widely-played and desirable premium, versus what will likely be a bunch of chaff. There is still about a 10,000 gold delta there.

I will probably finish between 15 and 20. Of ten thousand players. Let me make that clear: I finished in the top 0.2%, won 80% of my games, and I am still 10,000 gold in the hole from where I would have been normally.  I can’t think of an event in any game that has had a worse payout than this one. I’m an avid drafter, so I don’t mind losing the gold to play in a special event, but it’s just plain not good design to have the expected value be so low. If you are an average player (i.e., you go 15-15), you’re better off just lighting some cash on fire. I’m fortunate enough to have a bit of disposable income, but if DWD wants to attract the people who can put a few bucks a month here or there, the ones that make up the backbone of a playerbase, they need to adjust these payouts significantly.

The game is overwhelmingly generous in other areas. They clearly intend for events to be a moneymaker. I get that. But if they want people to keep playing in those events, they need to make them more friendly to the average player. Paying out per run would be a huge step forward. I sank 22,500 gold into this thing, and I won’t see any return until the event ends. If I had just done one run, even if I went 10-0, I would have put 7,500 gold in for a crappy return (no diamond chests, remember), and I wouldn’t be able to draft again until they pay out my free ticket at the end of the event. That’s a pretty negative experience. Rewarding players for strong single runs, as well as giving a few extra rewards to the top performers at the end of the event, would be a much better prize structure, especially when the entry fee is so steep.

They gave little-to-no warning for people to save up gold, which may have been intentional because they wanted us to buy gems. It was made doubly painful by the fact that there wasn’t really a point to entering if you didn’t intend to play your full three runs.

Well, enough ranting about the awful prize structure. Time to show off my sweet decks.

Deck 1:  Praxis

What’s this? A Praxis deck with an actual good curve and plenty of sentinels/explorers? I had no idea such a thing existed!

I first-picked Seasoned Spelunker out of a mediocre pack, followed up with a couple Into the Furnace, and then I was off to the races. Packs 2 and 3 were very kind, showering me in above-average playables, and I was able to focus on picking up synergies in packs 1 and 4. This deck didn’t do anything particularly special, but it also had a very high floor. Serene Excavators did a ton of work, which is not a phrase I expected to ever utter.

The highlight of this deck was, at 7-2, mulliganing into a hand that did actual nothing until turn 7. Seriously, the only play I could legally have made before turn 7 would have been to Refresh my face. I mulled into 4 power and drew nothing but that and weapons to go with my Dormant Sentinel. Fortunately, the event didn’t seem to pair by record or MMR or anything, since I was facing a player who was pretty obviously new at drafting. Their deck didn’t do much of anything in the early turns, and even a lonely Dormant Sentinel was enough to get me to 8-2 despite them playing a Scouting Party that drew 3. Phew.

Deck 2: Grenadin!

This deck was a work of art. I got to make so many sweet plays with the sacrifice outlets and had fun burning people out with double Rapid Shot. I got to draw cards, make huge dudes, beat down, and just generally put a whuppin’ on people. I don’t actually remember how I lost in the one game that I did lose, but this deck was just absurdly powerful and deserving of going 9-1. Look at all those Set 1 and 2 cards in the deck. You’d never see that many in a regular draft; the sets just aren’t deep enough, particularly Set 2. Prickly Grenadin was a bit of a stinker alongside all of the Nightfall cards (we call that a non-bo), but I had enough sacrifice outlets that any warm body was good enough.

The sweetest play I made with this deck was to attack with my 3/4 Powderkeg Rider. Recognizing (correctly) that they needed to get it off the table because they were a bit low on life, my opponent gang blocked it with the whole squad. Five creatures. I Devoured another grenadin, then had Rapid Shot to complete the 5-for-1. Granted, had they just not blocked, they would have died, but it still felt real, real good.

Deck 3: More Grenadin!

If you do the math, you’ll come to the conclusion that I went 7-3 with this deck. I feel that’s probably about right, maybe even over-achieving by a win. Again, this one had a ton of raw power, but it was markedly less consistent than the previous two. I did not strictly have to splash, but I think it was correct for an event of this type. At 17-3 already, I was almost a lock for top 100, even with a mediocre finish. However, to crack the top 10, I needed to hit 8 wins or better most likely. A card like Rooftop Vigilante can just straight-up steal games you had no business winning, especially when you have a copy of Dark Return to force it through their only removal spell. I think it was better to raise the ceiling on the deck’s power level to try and spike my way to 8 wins, even if it lowered the consistency a little bit.

I did not like that I had to play Heroic Bravo, though he put in some fine work. I didn’t quite have the density of Gunslingers I might want. Ruincrawler Yeti is another card that’s fine, but not exciting. I never hit anything with it, of course. He was hiding on the bottom of the deck when he mattered and soaking up warcries when I would have rather they went on something like Xenan Destroyer!

Nonetheless, I started 6-0. At 23-3 overall, I felt like I had a real shot at the top of the leaderboard. Sadly, the deck’s inconsistency caught up with me. I had some mediocre draws, while my opponents had good ones, and that was enough. The most frustrating thing was losing my final game to a Mystic Ascendant that I had zero ways to remove. Had I won that game, I could have locked up a top-10 finish. Ah, well.

I only drew Memory Dredger in two games, both of which I was winning handily. Sadly, it was nowhere to be found in the two games where I was getting nibbled to death by Pteriax Hatchlings.

The highlight of playing this deck was Dark Returning an already 7/6 Scrap Hound. I paid 2 mana to deploy an 8/7 and still had enough leftover to also deploy a Xenan Destroyer! A few chump blocks later, an adorable 13/12 metal dog ate my opponent’s face.

Final Thoughts

I really had fun playing through the event, though I wish it had been a little less stressful. I’m fine with losing money on an event, but I feel like it shouldn’t take a 99.9th-percentile finish just to break even, and that’s where we are now. /u/_AlpacaLips_ on reddit intentionally finished 0-10 with an alternate account to suss out the bottom of the standings, and it’s currently near 10,000 players, so you have to be in the top 0.1% if you want to hit that top-10 break even point.

To be honest, if I hadn’t started out 8-2, I wouldn’t have bothered to enter again. There isn’t a point to risking so much gold on a very minor potential improvement in prize support. I don’t think that is where DWD (or any of us, for that matter) want this to be, so I really hope they consider adjusting the payouts in the future, namely basing the rewards on each individual run, with a little icing on the cake for the top finishers.

The actual draft format, on the other hand, was incredible. I really hope that people can get that message through to DWD, even despite our disappointment in the prize structure.  I haven’t enjoyed the drafting portion as much as I did in this event since it was just Set 1. The gameplay, too, was much better than it has been. It felt much less like a cripple fight where you both have bad, non-synergistic  and much more like a real game of Eternal. If this became the normal, every-day draft format, I would be dancing with joy. I really hope that’s where DWD was heading when they designed this event.

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Love Ya, but I’d Rather be Cubing

I didn’t have a ton of time this week, and I spent most of it focused on Magic. This edition of cube has treated me very well. Still, I drafted a couple of decks, including one just now so that I could fill out my weekly post.

Draft 1: Elysian Dinos

Spoiler for uess my record...

7-1

 

I started the week off on the right dino-sized foot. I snapped up Frenzied Omnivore and Sandbinder Sentinel with my first two picks, but the rest of pack 1 was very mediocre. I ideally wanted to be Praxis with those first two picks, since Frenzied Omnivore pairs well with actual removal (as opposed to Stuns), and Sandbinder Sentinel pairs well with explorers and other sentinels that are more plentiful in Praxis. I took an Into the Furnace, along with a few mediocre fire cards, before rounding out the pack with a late Freewing Glider and two copies of Bellowing Thunderfoot, which is a card I have yet to play despite my numerous drafts in this format.

Pack 2 showed me where fate wanted me to be when I opened Evelina, Valley Searcher. I had no other explorers yet (and would only get one), but she alone is a fantastic 2-drop for the Dinosaur deck. I got some decent Primal cards out of pack 2, but Time did not seem all that open. Looking at my final list, I did not play any time cards out of packs 2 or 3 (which come from the same player) other than the Evelina I opened and an early-pick Xenan Guardian.

It didn’t matter, as pack 4 contained lots of dinos for me to snap up, along with Scaletender. I wound up having to play a couple of top-end stinkers in Timeworn Sentinel and Scourstone Sentinel. The payoffs for those just weren’t there in this deck, but the sheer amount of beef on the ground, combined with a bit of flying pressure, made up for having unplayable cards stuck in my hand.

I crushed everyone I faced, losing my only game to an absurd flood. Bellowing Thunderfoot was incredible, especially Bonding it out on turn 6 off a Fishing Dinoch. Nocturnal Kyrex was as bad as I thought it would be, but sometimes he helped make a turn-5 Dinoch into a 6/6, so I can forgive the cute little monster.

Draft 2:  Praxis splash Shadow

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-3

 

This is another one of those decks where I feel that it was wide open in both directions, but the packs sometimes just aren’t deep enough to fill out a deck, even when you find the right lane. I got late Into the Furnaces and Spark Hatcher in packs 1 and 4, and late Purifies and Praxis Displacer in packs 2 and 3. Yet, somehow, despite clearly being in the right seat to draft Praxis, I wound up thin on playables and had to splash. I had a good deal of fixing, which made it less painful, but I don’t really want to be splashing things like Obsidian Golem and Vainglory Patrol. These are good cards, but they can’t really dig you out of bad situations, which is where I want my splash cards to be.

I also had to play a pair of Temple Raiders. Don’t try this at home. They were real bad, especially with only 3 sentinels, one of which I’m pretty sure was legally uncastable in this deck.

3-3 is about where I expected to wind up. The deck definitely had the raw power to do better than that, if it fired on all cylinders, but it was just as likely to lose to itself.

Draft 3: Argenport Valkyries (1-3)

I tilted off so hard at losing with this one that I forgot to take a screenshot of it. I drafted a very good Argenport deck with Rooftop Vigilante, Spiritblade Stalkers, and Valkyrie Arcanists and proceeded to lose 3 of 4 to nothing especially powerful. Sometimes the cards just don’t line up for you.

Draft 4: Rakano splash Shadow

Spoiler for uess my record...

4-3

 

I focused on Magic for a couple days, then tried to get back on track with this one. Justice was clearly open, and an early Whirling Duo pushed me toward Rakano, but after Pack 1 I was mostly Justice. Rolant’s Choice midway through pack 2 made me waver on that, which punished me a little when I took Argenport Banner over a decent Fire card. I wound up barely scraping by on playables, but the deck had some real nice curve-out potential.

Basically, I won every game where I played Whirling Duo on 3 and lost every game where I didn’t. Frontier Confessors never really lined up for me to get good value, and I lost my last round after drawing 15 of my 17 power in my top 30 cards. I feel like this deck deserved maybe one more win, but I hit upgrades on two of the gold chests so I can’t complain too much.

Besides Rolant’s Choice, which is one of the most powerful uncommons in the format, Combust was definitely worth the splash in this deck, as I always had some random idiot that was getting bricked by something on my opponent’s side. I would gladly have traded the Entrapment for another Into the Furnace or other proactive removal/pump spell. It was okay, but an aggro deck like this isn’t really looking to play cards like Entrapment, since if you’re getting attacked, things probably aren’t going too well. You still get to get ’em if they try and stack weapons on something, but it’s certainly less amazing than it would be in a slower deck.

 

Final Tally: 15-10 (71-44) overall

It’s hard to complain about a positive week, but I didn’t feel too great about it. Outside of that great Elysian deck, I was 8-9 on the week, which is definitely not where I want to be. I’m currently hanging around low diamond. I’m still confident in reaching master this month, but I’d like to have made a little more progress this first full week.

Card of the Week goes to Bellowing Thunderfoot. This big guy really impressed me. I’ve avoided drafting non-justice Ally decks, since I feel the density of low-cost enablers just isn’t there, but when you get there, you really get there. Jarrall’s Frostkin is already an insane tempo play, and when he’s a 5/5 with overwhelm that can chain out another one in the same turn, you have a recipe for killing your opponent out of nowhere.

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Green is not a Real Color

It’s no secret I love Cube, but I definitely love it more when I’m winning, and I did a bit of that this week. Cube leaves MTGO next Friday, which makes me sad, even if Masters 25 looks like it’ll be a fun format. Horseshoe Crab + Heavy Arbalest is a cute combo, but it’s no Pestermite + Splinter Twin.

Draft 1: Blue-Black Reanimator-Control

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

Sorry about the weird organization here. I didn’t take a screenshot until the league was over, and, MTGO being a quality program, I couldn’t move any of the cards around. I love this style of deck in Cube because you have the crazy combo potential of early Ulamogs, but you can also play a grindier game and actually cast a lot of your threats. I actually find the premium reanimation targets to be Titans, Myr Battlesphere, Massacre Wurm, and Griselbrand. With the exception of Griselbrand, they are all quite castable if you have other ways to draw out the game. I like to have the “fair” options because, if you devote a bunch of resources to making an early Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, for example, and your opponent can untap and cast Swords to Plowshares or Journey to Nowhere on it, you’ve exhausted a significant amount of your combo potential. If you don’t have any easily castable threats, you now have to assemble both 1) A reanimation threat, 2) A discard outlet, and 3) a way to reanimate it. You’ve already gone through a couple of those things, and you don’t have tons of time to assemble that contraption a second time. If you can just cast a Grave Titan on 6 mana, you might be able to win that way, but if you’re leaning on Terastodon, you’re out of luck.

Griselbrand is the exception to the rule because he provides so much card advantage that you can easily re-assemble the reanimation combo, even if he dies immediately.

Some notable emissions from the main deck here are Volrath's Stronghold (I want my things in the ‘yard), Lightning Greaves (I don’t want do-nothing cards if I can’t find my combo), and Whip of Erebos.  For Whip, I like to have a few more value targets like Baleful Strix or Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Having to invest 8 mana into reanimating the first creature is a little steep, and I’m already trying to play a bit more of a controlling game, where I might not be able to afford to do nothing on 4.

Round 1, I ran into the buzzsaw that was Geist of Saint Traft. I didn’t have any good answers to that card, and I lost both games where my opponent played it on turn 3, though I won the middle game.

Round 2, I ran into someone who must have been fairly inexperienced at Cube, playing a BG midrange deck. Game 1, I got stuck on 2 lands and eventually discarded Myr Battlesphere. My opponent played Scavenging Ooze and…exiled my other two cards. I introduced them to the wonders of Cube by Exhuming the BattleBall. Game 2 was painful as I had a hand of double Looter and Vendilion Clique. My opponent had Liliana, the Last Hope on turn 3 on the play, which just proved too much for my hand full of X/1s.

Game 3, they again had Liliana to trump my Merfolk Looter, but I had a follow-up of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. They had Maelstrom Pulse for that, and I was stuck doing nothing. They followed up with Pernicious Deed and Scavenging Ooze, and things looked pretty dire for me. I was able to Frost Titan to keep them from doing too much, and I used Vendilion Clique as a Lava Spike to keep Lili from ultimating. My opponent then had Thragtusk and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, ticking Lili up to 7, and I was already resigning myself to the 0-2.

Then I topdecked Cyclonic Rift with 7 lands in play. Big Frosty locked down one of their lands, and they couldn’t recover. Phew. They were also at 2:20 on the clock when I cast the Rift, so I maybe could have timed them out before I died, since I was holding Crux of Fateand Snapcaster Mage to flash it back and buy a few turns. The Nissa ultimate would have killed me in short order, though. Timing out isn’t really how I want to win, anyway.

Round 3, I was greeted with this sweet little opener, on the draw:

Now, if you’ve never seen Manaless Dredge do its thing in Legacy, you might not register this play, as it’s completely unintuitive to “normal Magic.” But Cube ain’t normal Magic. My opponent opened on a tapped Blood Crypt, so what did I do?

I passed my turn without even playing a land, went to my cleanup step, and discarded the BattleBall because I now had 8 cards in hand.  Black-Red doesn’t have too many good answers to Myr Battlesphere. On my second turn, I played my Swamp and Reanimated the BattleBall. My opponent’s turn 3 play? Liliana of the Veil. Which, if you were wondering, does not match up well against a Battlesphere and friends.

Game 2, my opponent once again had Liliana on 3. This time, they were kind enough to plus her, and I was able to plunk Frost Titan into the ‘yard, with Exhume in hand. I flashed in a Nimble Obstructionist to protect my incoming Titan, as well as pressure the Lili. They actually fought back quite well, landing an Opihiomancer and Inquisition of Kozilek-ing away my Exhume. I hit Ophiomancer with a Control Magic and began pressuring Lili with the snake token, but they found Anguished Unmaking for the Control Magic, and stripped both of our hands down with Liliana. I found a Looter il-Kor, though, which not only kept Liliana from ticking up too high, but also gave me the option to hit the opponent to loot away any bad topdecks. Eventually I found Animate Dead for Frost Titan, and they no longer had enough resources to deal with it.

Draft 2: Sneak and Show

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

Hoo boy, this is my favorite cube deck I’ve drafted in a long time. This was the easiest 3-0 I’ve ever had, I think. Game 1 of the first round set the tone, as I was able to curve turn 2 Thoughtseize into turn 3 Show and Tell for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. My opponent was some GW midrange creature deck and never stood a chance. I boarded in some cheap burn spells for Lotus Cobra and friends, and sneaked some Wurmcoil Engines and Noxious Gearhulks and Bogardan Hellkites in until they conceded.

Round 2, I played against a player named Limited_Agent. I name them because they tried to scum me out of the round, and I have no tolerance for people like that. If you ever have someone try to do this to you, please report them. I won a long game 1 against Esper control on the back of a turn-2 Search for Azcanta just out-valuing them. Game 2, I remanded their turn-3 Jace Beleren, following up with Search + Thoughtseize on my own turn 3. Thoughtseize saw nothing that could stop the Sneaking, and I put an Emrakul into play with them on exactly six permanents.

Then they went AFK, with 16 minutes on the clock. Okay, some people disconnect sometimes, but not only did they force me to wait for the 10-minute inactivity timeout on MTGO, they came back just after their clock went under 10 minutes, passed priority once, and then went away again. This forced me to wait for another 10 minutes instead of 4. They came back one more time at 2 minutes remaining, passed one more time, and then let the time run out with Emrakul’s trigger on the stack. No doubt they came back each time hoping that I had walked away, thinking I would win by default. Then they could pass priority to me and let my 10-minute timeout happen to score a free win. The fact that they came back every so often to pass one single step is the scummiest thing I’ve ever seen on MTGO. Report people like this, please.

Round 3, I played against another ramp-ish deck. I had Forbid with Buyback to counter their 3 payoff spells, and a Grave Titan to close the game. Game 2 got a little dicey, as I kept a speculative hand that basically had no choice but to run a naked Show and Tell for Bogardan Hellkite to clear a Ral Zarek to which I otherwise had no answer. They put down a Keranos, God of Storms off the S&T, but that could not answer Hellkite, and I followed up with Phyrexian Metamorph on the Hellkite to close out the 3-0, 6-0.

Draft 3: White Weenie

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

I opened a very weak pack in this draft and took Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I followed up with Batterskull, hoping to pick up a Stoneforge Mystic along the way. Now, those two cards don’t necessarily lock you into White Weenie, but they are a very solid start.  A few anthems and an Armageddon later, and there I was. This isn’t my favorite archetype to play, but it is a strong one, usually good enough for a 2-1, which is indeed where I ended up. The Ajani Vengeant splash was basically free with a pair of fetches and a Plateau, and I needed a little more oomph on the top-end. Missing on Stoneforge and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben really hurt, but I cobbled together some more mediocre 2-drops.

Round 1, I played against a green ramp deck that was mostly ramping with things that put lands into play, and not creatures. I Armageddoned them right out of existence in game 1. Game 2, they kept a one-land hand with Avacyn's Pilgrim and a Fauna Shaman to fetch more mana dorks. Problem was, I kept a Wasteland, and their land was an Overgrown Tomb, not a Forest. Avacyn’s Pilgrim tried really hard, but could not make green mana, and I was soon off to round 2.

Round 2, I lost to a monored deck that had Outpost Siege on turn 4 both games. I feel White Weenie is favored in a straight-up aggro mirror, but the Outpost Siege just generated too much value for me to overcome, and I never drew my Batterskull.

Round 3, I played against a blue-black player who made some…questionable deckbuilding decisions. They were able to take game 1 when I mulliganed and couldn’t find any way to exile a Phyrexian Obliterator. Which, I don’t really know why they were playing that, being that they didn’t ever show me any UB duals, and they were also running Rishadan Port. I got my justice in games 2 and 3, where they drew lots of Islands and Port and played Bloodghast and Thassa, God of the Sea, which are, shall we say, not too good against little white idiots. Maybe they misread Bloodghast and thought it could block.

Draft 4: White A-Little-Less-Weenie

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

I once again opened on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This time, however, I saw plenty of 4- and 5-mana monowhite payoffs, but very slim pickings at 1 and 2. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but it turns out that Spectral Procession, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Cloudgoat Ranger still combine really well with Honor of the Pure et al. Who knew?

I lost round 1 to a deck that made me believe in the rumor of late-night, eight-person cabals that all jump into the same draft, pick an archetype beforehand, and get all the cards they want. I say this because I don’t think you could open up the entire 450-card cube and put together a better Splinter Twin/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker combo deck than the one I faced. Except Force Spike. I don’t like that card, as it too quickly becomes outclassed, but I guess it’s pretty good when it’s in your opening hand all three games ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Round 2 went much better, as I faced an opponent who mulled to 5 in game 1, then led on Gaea's Cradle as their opening land. Yikes. Game 2 had a little more play to it. They brick walled me with a Linvala, the Preserver, but I had a Linvala of my own, in the form of Linvala, Keeper of Silence, that shut off their mana dorks. I was eventually able to hit their Linvala with an Unexpectedly Absent and fly over for the W.

Round 3, I got to capitalize on a pretty big blunder from my monoblack opponent. Cube has a lot of strange interactions, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. I stumbled on lands for a turn or two, wherein my opponent was able to land a Gatekeeper of Malakir to kill my Isamaru, Hound of Konda. Eventually I was able to stick Thalia, Heretic Cathar. My opponent played Gonti, Lord of Luxury and passed. I attacked with Thalia, intending to follow up with a Brimaz. They chumped with the Gatekeeper, which was surprising. I ran the numbers and figured they probably had Volrath’s Stronghold or some other way to get the Gatekeeper back to their hand.

(Aside: Volrath's Stronghold is bad. So is Land Tax. I see tons and tons of people playing these cards, and they just are not what Cube is about. They taunt you with visions of card advantage, but they really just don’t do anything most of the time. They are situationally good, but they belong in sideboards 99% of the time. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t play them unless you have very good reason.)

So, my opponent played Emeria Angel, which Gonti stole from me, and made a bird by playing the Stronghold I’d suspected. I untapped and played Fiend Hunter on Emeria Angel, which basically locked out the Gatekeeper of Malakir play they had planned to make. Sorin Markov came down and picked off Thalia, but I had Banishing Light to answer that. Then, on their upkeep, they made the Gatekeeper play anyway, which not only gave me an Emeria Angel when I sacrificed Fiend Hunter, but also ate their draw step for the turn. I think they had it in their head that they would get the Angel back if I sacrificed the Fiend Hunter, but it returns under the owner’s control. So their plan was to kill Brimaz with the Gatekeeper, but I wound up running away with the game thanks to the Angel.

Game 2, I kept 4 plains, Isamaru, Journey to Nowhere, and Brimaz. Then proceeded to draw nothing but lands and a single Spectral Procession, which turns out is not very good against Liliana, the Last Hope.

Game 3, I just curved out neatly, Thalia into planeswalkers with removal to back them up. Another 2-1, but a fairly boring one. White Weenie is a fine deck, and certainly powerful enough to be worth playing if you care about winning, but I play Cube to make sweet plays that you can’t make anywhere else, and WW doesn’t give you as much leverage in that department as I’d like.

Draft 5: Jeskai Twin

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

This was another really fun deck to play. For the third draft in a row, I opened Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but this time there was a Snapcaster Mage in the pack. I decided to cast off the yoke of fair white decks and return to some good, clean, unfair Magic.

This is another deck that shows off the importance of good mana in Cube. I rattled off another 3-0 (6-0 in games) on the back of my fantastic mana. I was able to play Counterspell, Kiki-Jiki, and white cards all in the same deck with no issues. I took all of the lands except Spirebluff Canal very highly, and I still wound up with enough playable cards to cut several.

Round 1, I faced White Weenie and had kind of an awkward hand. I was forced to try and combo off before I could replay my Spellskite that had been bounced by Unexpectedly Absent, on account of a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that made my Splinter Twin cost 5. My opponent had 2 mana open, which represented Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares, and they had 3 cards in hand, but I was dead if I didn’t win that turn, so I went for it, and they didn’t have it. Game 2, my opponent curved out with Mother of Runes into Thalia into Mirror Entity. However, they took the aggressive line of tapping 3 mana into the Mirror Entity on turn 4, meaning I was able to Searing Spear the Mom on their end step, then untap and cast Anger of the Gods to sweep up those three creatures, plus the follow-up Isamaru. They tried to recover with an Angel of Invention, but I had a Riftwing coming off suspend to eat one token, and then drew into Old Man of the Sea, which was able to steal the Angel and get the scoop.

Round 2, I played against some kind of blue-white Midrange deck. They tapped for 2 threats, I had 2 counterspells, and then I landed a Keranos. I then assembled the brutal combo of Kiki-Jiki + Riftwing Cloudskate to keep them off doing anything else. Game 2, my opponent made a…strange…play. I had suspended Riftwing on 2. They did nothing for a few turns, then played Secure the Wastes for 3 on my end step. They knew I had a Riftwing coming in, but they Armageddoned anyway. Perhaps they wanted to feed me a spell to counter? I didn’t happen to have a counterspell, but I don’t think I would have played it, even if I had one. I was holding 2 Islands, and my Riftwing was going to kill a token and block the others. They didn’t even have a land to follow up the Geddon. Eventually they hit one…and then cast Path to Exile on my Riftwing, giving me free access to a Mountain. Not a play I would have made! It let me land Keranos and have Treachery if anything ever happened.

Final Tally: 12-3 (20-7 overall)

This was a hell of a week for me. Three trophies in just nine drafts is a good place to be. I don’t expect to keep up this pace, but I’m about 60 play points up from where I started, and any time you’re positive on MTGO, it’s a lot more fun!

I didn’t play a single green card this week. I think green is very overdrafted, and for good reason. There aren’t many sources of fast mana outside of green in Legacy Cube, as opposed to Vintage Cube, where you get things like Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Moxen, Signets, etc. in all colors. Green in Legacy Cube is almost a combo deck, where you have to assemble both a critical mass of mana ramp effects and a critical mass of big payoff spells. I tend to avoid it unless I get one of the more powerful cards, or I get some sign that it’s very open, like a sixth-pick one-drop mana accelerant. I don’t like to force green ramp in Legacy Cube by taking an early mana dork, unless that mana dork is something like Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. In Vintage Cube, you can force green if you want it, because people will be busy taking non-green ramp effects. In Legacy Cube, your mana accelerants often get poached by fair midrange decks that will happily play a random Lotus Cobra or Cultivate in order to cast their planeswalkers a turn or two sooner. In Vintage Cube there are both fewer midrange decks that would want such an effect and also more colorless fast mana for those that do.

 

 

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Merry Cubemas!

It’s always Christmas when Cube is here! While I prefer the ridiculous shenanigans of Vintage cube, I’ll draft damn near any cube you could think of and be thrilled about it.

Drafting Cube is a lot different from drafting ordinary formats. Every single card is playable on some level, and everyone’s deck is powerful by default. You can certainly wind up with mediocre, or even below-average decks, but it’s a lot easier to wind up with some kind of playable pile that can squeak out a win or two.

Because it’s so deep in power level, Cube also offers you the unique opportunity to draft according to your own preferred style. If you enjoy playing aggro, you can almost always find an open lane to draft some kind of aggressive deck. The same is true with grindy, planeswalker-centric midrange decks,  ramp decks, blue control decks, and even combo decks like Splinter Twin or Sneak & Show.

Also because of Cube’s power level, prioritizing mana fixing is a very good strategy. It may not seem like Misty Rainforest is the most powerful card out of a pack containing flashy planeswalkers, wrath effects, and burn spells, but a lot of the time it will be. Casting all your powerful spells on time makes the difference between turning the corner and dying to a well-crafted aggro deck. Furthermore, because Cube contains such a high density of powerful cards, picks you spend on manafixing aren’t as impactful as they might be in a regular draft format where you might only see 26 playable cards in your colors.

Cube also rewards sideboarding, again because there are so many playable cards. If you know how to sideboard, and draft the good sideboard options, you have a leg up on the competition.

So with that introduction, let’s check out my drafts for the week!

Draft 1: 4-color tap-out Blue

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

This draft shows off the power of mana-fixing, fetchlands in particular. I don’t even think my mana was particularly good, but if I drew the Wooded Foothills, the world was my oyster, as it fixed for black (Badlands) and blue (Steam Vents) in addition to the default of red or green.

My first pick was Treachery, followed by Consecrated Sphinx. Both of these are, in my opinion, two of the most powerful cards in the cube. Legacy Cube is much more creature-centric than Vintage Cube, and being able to steal a big threat while leaving up interaction or doubling up with a big threat of your own makes Treachery a high pick in my eyes. Consecrated Sphinx is one of the best finishers for any blue deck, because even if it gets removed, you’re up two cards most of the time. If it sticks, you claw so far ahead that you can bury your opponent in raw cards. Just don’t deck yourself.

Splashing the two cascade creatures was a little suspect, but I actually had quite a lot of value lower on the curve, Ancestral Vision being the biggest target. I was only main-decking one counterspell (Remand), so I felt okay playing the cascaders.

Round 1, I played against a weird UR tempo deck that was playing Lightning Greaves. While it did win the game for my opponent in game 2, it was effectively a mulligan in the other games. They were playing Chandra's Phoenix, Stormbreath Dragon, and Thundermaw Hellkite, along with burn spells. You don’t need Lightning Greaves for those guys to do their thing. I would advise against playing das boots if you can avoid it.

Round 2, I played against RG ramp, which is a pretty good matchup for a planeswalker-centric control deck. I lost game 1 to an unchecked Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, which is one of the most potentially broken cards in the cube. Game 2, I had the Roast for their turn-2 Rofellos, and Hour of Devastation to clean things up, both out of the sideboard. My opponent’s last effort, an 8/8 Verdurous Gearhulk, made a juicy little Treachery target and went the distance. Game 3, I opened on Ancestral Vision and had a Thing in the Ice that I flipped for a mid-combat blowout after my opponent tapped mana in their first main phase.

Round 3 I 2-0’d a monowhite aggro opponent. Thing in the Ice took over game 1. My opponent had a turn-1 Mother of Runes in game 2, which is a major problem for control decks. However, I was able to target the Mom with Izzet Charm on their end step, then untap with Hour of Devastation after they tapped her to lock up the 3-0. Off to a good start!

Draft 2: Opposition

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

Opposition is one of my favorite cube cards. Green ramp strategies are already powerful because a lot of the colorless fast mana of Vintage cube is gone. Spitting mana dorks onto the table and resolving the game’s best 5-, 6-, and 7-mana spells before your opponent is capable of dealing with them is a great way to win. Opposition is another of the game’s most powerful spells, capable of locking your opponent out of ever casting another spell if you can put enough bodies onto the table, which the green decks are trying to do already.

Unfortunately, I ran into a pretty bad matchup in round 1, a BW midrage deck with Bitterblossom, lots of other token-makers, and a pile of removal. The ramp decks are light on threats, with much of the deck devoted to making mana. They opened on turn-2 Bitterblossom in game 1, which pretty well invalidates Opposition. It doesn’t invalidate Master of the Wild Hunt, however, and I was able to steal game 1 with an unchecked Master that ate the Bitterblossom tokens every turn. My opponent stole game 2 right back. They had been going off with Emeria Angel and had a pile of birds. I was able to resolve both Dragonlord Atarka and Dragonlord Dromoka. Selfless Spirit saved the Angel and pals from Atarka, but I was hoping that Dromoka was going to stabilize me. A nicely-placed Collective Effort from my opponent killed Dromoka and also put +1/+1 counters on all the birds, and they swarmed around poor Atarka, who just wanted to fry some chicken 🙁

Game 3 my opponent had Bitterblossom again, and this time they had removal for my first few threats. Selfless Spirit came down the turn before I was going to Atarka, and that was that.

Round 2, we played just one game. My opponent conceded the match because they had only 3 minutes left on the clock after decking on only turn 8. They had gone off with Consecrated Sphinx and had a billion cards in hand, but I had a Whisperwood Elemental that was keeping them from sweeping the board. They were new to Magic Online, I think, and took a long time to make plays. It would have been interesting to get more games of this matchup, but alas, we only got one.

Round 3 was against a Naya Midrange deck. I never saw a Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, but I did see Zealous Conscripts and Restoration Angel, so they probably had at least Kiki in there somewhere. Game 1, Opposition was just too fast for them and locked them out.

Game 2, they had Dromoka's Command to kill Opposition. I followed up with Inferno Titan, which they answered with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Dragonlord Atarka cleaned up the Elspeth, but they had Eternal Witness to get her back, and I was unable to produce any more threats. Game 3, my opponent had an early Qasali Pridemage, but I sandbagged the Opposition until I was ready to win tap them out and win the game off of an unchecked Whisperwood Elemental. My opponent chose to kill my Sylvan Library with Dromoka’s Command, rather than have their 4/6 Courser of Kruphix eat my Whisperwood, which proved a costly mistake.

Draft 3 – URw Kinda-Twin

Spoiler for uess my record...

1-2

 

I hesitate to call this a Splinter Twin deck because I mostly won on the back of Dragonlord Ojutai. It turns out I am very good at hitting both Splinter Twin and Pestermite off of a Fact or Fiction, and not one of my opponents was nice enough to put them together in the split.

I played some pretty fun and interactive games, but ultimately came up short against a pair of aggressive monowhite decks. Besides Ojutai, the deck didn’t have any good ways to turn the corner, and it didn’t have any sweepers beyond Slagstorm to claw back from behind. No redundancy made the combo very inconsistent.

I did make one sweet play, which was untapping Ojutai with Pestermite’s trigger in response to removal.

Not much else to say here. Reactive cards like counterspells are fine in Cube, but you really need some sort of catch-up spells, especially against decks like monowhite that get on the board fast and early.

Draft 4 –  Bluuuuuuuuuuue

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

Now this is podracing. My first picks were, in order: Underground Sea, Misty Rainforest, Consecrated Sphinx, Cryptic Command, and Jace Beleren. This is exactly where I want to be in draft, and getting the both Treachery and Snapcaster Mage early in pack 2 was just icing on the cake.  I wish I’d had a few more early plays, but I had a pair of sweepers that let me come from behind, and some threats that would clean up very quickly.

As a side-note, this was some of the best mana I’ve ever had in Cube. Even had the Creeping Tar Pit as an uncounterable, unblockable threat in grindy mirrors.

Round 1 was a blue control mirror, but my opponent’s threats were Frost Titan and Icefall Regent, while mine were The Scarab God and Dragonlord Ojutai. They were unable to compete with the raw card advantage.

Unfortunately, as Magic sometimes does, I mulliganed thrice in two games in round 2 and got manascrewed both times against a creature-based midrange deck that could never in a million years have beaten me in fair Magic. That’s why we play the games instead of just comparing decklists!

Round 3 was odd. Game 1, my opponent played a pile of RW lands, a Coldsteel Heart on black, a Chromatic Lantern, and a Mind Stone. Before dying to Monastery Mentor and friends, they revealed a Tetzimoc, Primal Death but I countered it and we were off to game 2.

I mulliganed and never hit land 3. They killed me with Restoration Angel and Zealous Conscripts, which made me think they were on some sort of Twin combo, but without any countermagic to back it up. I felt pretty good heading into game 3.

In game 3 they played a Blossoming Marsh. I hadn’t yet seen any green cards. On the play and without fear of dying to Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch, I was able to tap out for a Nahiri the Harbinger, but it was met with Anguished Unmaking for my opponent. I got stuck on lands and was unable to deploy threats while keeping myself protected from potential combos, so I just sat on a hand of Counterspell and Snapcaster, with a cycled Censor in the yard.

I let a Resto Angel resolve and hit it with Murderous Cut on their end step. They also seemed to be stuck on 4, so I took a calculated gamble and slammed Dragonlord Ojutai when I made it to 5. They didn’t kill me, and Ojutai quickly cleaned things up when backed up by countermagic.

Final Tally: 8-4. 

Not a bad start, averaging a 2-1. That’s all you really need to do in Cube, since each 2-1 gets you your entry fee back, so it’s a good place to be. I drafted lotsa blue and lotsa green, which is pretty typical for me in cube. I’ll draft aggro decks occasionally, but I tend to shy away from midrange decks because I just feel like it’s so easy to go over the top of them in such a powerful format. Plus, they just aren’t as much fun to play as some of the other archetypes. I either want my opponent dead, or I want to be the one doing the fun stuff. Monoblack is the exception to that, since it packs proactive disruption like Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize, and Liliana of the Veil.

Cube is here for another several weeks until the 25th Anniversary set drops. While I don’t like the lack of key reprints, I am stoked to force Horseshoe Crab + Quicksilver Dagger or Heavy Arbalest in the phantom queues.

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Splish Splash

Between an exhausting workweek and the return of cube to Magic Online, I didn’t have a ton of time for drafting this week, but I did manage to put together a couple decks.

Draft 1 – Praxis splashing Shadow

I somehow don’t have a shot of the final deck, but I did take screens of most of the picks, so I’ll walk through things. I opened a pretty easy first pick, where the only reasonable cards were Vainglory Patrol and Frenzied Omnivore. The Omnivore is a much stronger card, so this was an easy choice.

My second pick put me to a choice immediately, by offering a choice between Grenadin Bellower, Reinvigorate, and Into the Furnace. Combrei has some very strong cards, but it isn’t directly supported by Set 3 synergies, or in Set 2. If you get lucky enough to get a bunch of Awakened Students out of Set 1, it’s great, but I don’t like committing to it yet. Grenadin Bellower is great, but not at its best if I wind up in Xenan, since it’s more of a go-tall deck instead of go-wide like Stonescar would be. Into the Furnace is a very versatile little spell after the buff to Fast, and I haven’t drafted Praxis in a while.

Third pick, I had a choice between Disassembler, Seasoned Spelunker, and another Into the Furnace. I like Omnivore more than Into the Furnace, so I was more inclined to commit to Time. Seasoned Spelunker is quite a bit stronger after the buff, so I took him and moved in on Time.

My next few picks were pretty unexciting, though I snagged a 6th-pick Stonescar Sawed-Off, which is a great way to push through damage.

Oni Cavediver 9th pick showed me that Fire was pretty open.

I opened trash in pack 2, with a pair of Justice cards and an Argenport Banner as the only things I’d ever consider playing. I raredrafted. Noble Firemane was the follow-up, a card that’s still quite powerful but less so now that Praxis is more concerned with going big instead of wide.

Waystone Infuser made an appearance third pick, which is both a huge benefit and a nice signal that Time is open. It looks pretty innocuous as a 5-power 2/6, but it’s one of the best cards in the set. Drawing yourself through your power pockets later in the game is a major advantage, and it blocks well and has warp itself.

I picked up Amber Ring next, which is not a very good card in most cases, but the Praxis deck wants both relics and explorers. If I get there on payoffs, it can certainly make the deck.

Pack 3, I got punished for not being Combrei, as I opened both Awakened Student and Paladin Oathbook. Pack 3 was pretty thin for me. I picked up a Pyroknight and a splashable Smuggler’s Stash, along with a Stonescar Stranger, so it wasn’t all bad.

Pack 4, I opened a very slim pack that contained Monolith Guardian and Recycler as the only two reasonable cards for me. I didn’t have enough relics to make Guardian good, so I took the Recycler in case I needed a splash, though I hoped not.

Splashing started to look like it was happening, as I followed up with Extinguish from another pack containing no Praxis cards.  I picked up some Trail Makers late in the pack, so I wound up splashing the Smuggler’s Stash and Recycler, along with Extinguish. Recycler was a little suspect, but I needed a final playable, and he has a pretty high upside if you can get there on the factions. I had plenty of fixing, and it didn’t turn out to be a problem.

I wound up 5-3 with this deck, but should have been at 6+ if not for a massive punt in the final game. I had a Dormant Sentinel wearing Stonescar Sawed-off, along with a Waystone Infuser wielding a Fixit from Recycler. My opponent had some favorable blocks that would put them at 1, or some unfavorable blocks that would put them at 3. I had drawn Baying Serasaur and played a power off the top so my Sentinel had Overwhelm. I figured they might take the good blocks and go to 1, then I’d get ’em with Serasaur for the last point off Nightfall.

I spaced out and forgot they were Justice. My Sentinel ate an Entrapment that I easily could have prevented by playing Serasaur before attacks and making Nightfall. It’s something I definitely should have seen. Even though playing out Serasaur would make it so that I didn’t win that turn, they would have had to make some bad blocks that meant that their outs were very slim. Instead, they made good blocks, killed most of my threats, and then killed me. Ah well, lessons learned.

Draft 2 – ??????

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-3, somehow

 

It took a lot of discipline to share this one. Frankly, I don’t know where it went off the rails. I started off on Duskwalker and Extinguish. Fine Xenan start. That dried up very quickly, and I was getting some late Valkyrie love, so I moved in on Justice and also picked up some late Fire cards. After pack 1, I had no damn idea what was happening.

Pack 2, I opened Plated Goliath and Gun Down. These are on a similar power level, in my opinion, but Gun Down is more easily splashed if I wind up there, so I took that. I regretted it, as I got passed another Goliath, but I settled with a Xenan Stranger instead, intending to draft some sort of FJS pile.

More regret followed as I got a Blistersting Wasp next. Because playables are thin in this draft format, I had some discipline and took a Talon of Nostrix. The time for waffling on factions was over. Maybe I should have been Xenan, but after pick 2 in pack 1, I saw nothing in those factions.

I picked up a late Mortar over nothing, then opened another bad pack 3. I took a Shimmerpack and consigned this draft to oblivion. Pack 4 was pretty kind, giving me a Crest of Chaos, Valkyrie Arcanist, and Rooftop Vigilante.

I considered splashing the Mortar as well as a Jarrall’s Frostkin that I picked up in Pack 3, but despite a Hooru Stranger, I didn’t really have any other way to get Primal influence. I wound up with some pretty mediocre cards at the top-end as my final playables. I didn’t have high hopes for the deck, but maybe I’d freeroll a few power-screwed opponents.

Truthfully, 3-3 was above my expectations. Silverwing Rallier was as atrocious as I always suspected it was. Most of my Valkyries (and most Valkyries in general) were pretty small, meaning this guy cost 7+ most of the time. And even if you manage to play him, he doesn’t stabilize the board. For his cost, he doesn’t block well (and you exhausted a blocker to play him!), and if you’re behind on life, 5 damage doesn’t race that well without lifesteal or endurance. This was the first time I’d ever tried it in the deck, and it’ll take something special to make me do it again.

Final Tally: 8-6 (56-34 overall). 

Not a great week, but it’s early in the season and that’s okay. It was pretty frustrating because I don’t feel like I made too many mistakes in drafting, especially in the second draft. This format pressures you to commit hard, but when signals get crossed or playables simply dry up, it’s difficult to stay the course. And even when I did commit, correctly both from my perspective at the time, and from how the packs actually played out, I still wound up very short on good playables. Weak packs, and even weak drafts happen sometimes. Eternal only has 8 commons per pack, but when so many commons are wildly unplayable, sometimes you just roll packs with nothing good in them. Personally I don’t like that design choice, but that’s what we’ve got, and we have to make the best of it, even if it results in a miserable deck from time to time.

Card of the Week goes to Entrapment. Play around this thing, people! Even if it got nerfed.

 

Why the solution to balancing Dusk Road draft is buffs, not nerfs

Update: Some folks over on reddit have pointed out that this analysis doesn’t quite do justice to some factions. The biggest reason for this is that a 0.0 and a 1.0 aren’t fundamentally different in terms of whether or not you’re going to play them in draft, but one hurts a faction’s score significantly more than the other. I’m going to leave this article as it is, but I’ll be posting a follow-up (will be linked here) with some more data that better shows that some factions have too high a density of bad cards.

In the last month, Dire Wolf Digital has released two balance patches for Eternal. In each patch, one of the major objectives was to tone down the dominance of Justice in draft. This was much needed, in my opinion, as it was often correct to force some sort of Justice deck, even if it wasn’t particularly open. You’d often end up splashing, or a full-on three factions, but that was fine because the multi-faction Justice cards (e.g., Awakened Student, Whirling Duo, Rooftop Vigilante, Slay) are powerful enough to make up for a shaky power-base, and Justice as a whole is not as reliant on its tribal synergies as other factions.

So, Justice needed to take a step back. The first round of nerfs didn’t quite get the job done, so DWD hit it again. It’s still a little early to tell if this will be enough to finally end Justice’s reign of terror, but were nerfs ever the right answer in the first place?

I’m not so sure. With the exception of Valkyrie Arcanist, I didn’t feel that any of the Justice cards were under-costed, and certainly not oppressively so. Arcanist needed to get hit with the nerf bat because allowing decks to play too many of them created bad play patterns by which you keep chaining 6/6 flying threats until your opponent finally can’t deal with one. None of the other nerfed cards had that kind of problem.

Will the nerfs succeed in putting Justice back in line with the rest of the factions? Maybe. But will it make the format better? That’s the question I asked myself when I began this analysis.

The Data

For the data used here, I took the draft tier list ratings produced by the folks over at rngeternal.com. You may not agree with all of their ratings. I certainly think some things should move up or down a little. Still, this represents a sampling of multiple high-level drafters that is the best available data set outside of my own biased rankings.

The cards are each rated between 0 and 5, at increments of 0.5. Thus, we expect an average card to have a rating of 2.0 or 2.5. These are the bread-and-butter type cards in draft. The majority of your deck will (hopefully) be between 2.0 and 3.0. If you’re playing any cards at 1.5 or below, you’re not feeling too great about it, usually. That’s not to say you should never play 1.5s. Sometimes you just have to fill in that last slot, or sometimes you’ve really gotten there on whatever synergy the card is asking for, or sometimes you just really need something to do before turn 4.

Ratings of 4.5 and 5.0 are generally reserved for absurd bombs like Mystic Ascendant or Ijin, Imperial Armorer. Cards of lower rarities should never be 4.5s or 5.0s because that would create a very skewed draft format toward whatever faction held that 5.0 uncommon. Indeed, no common or uncommon holds a rating higher than 4.0 in the RNGEternal spreadsheet.

The first thing I did was to hack and slash that wonderful spreadsheet, cutting out all the rares and legendaries. These just don’t make a huge difference to the health of a draft format because they show up so infrequently.

I then sorted the cards by set and faction. I plotted the number of cards at each rating, for each faction, at both common and uncommon. Multifaction cards are grouped all together in the plots, but I consider each faction pair individually in my further analysis, which includes variance and total strength of individual factions in an average pack of each set.

The Ideal Format

What does an ideal spread of ratings look like for a draft format? Or, rather, what spread do we expect a good draft format to produce? For commons, this is a fairly simple question to answer, since we expect most of them to be between 1.5 and 2.5, with a few above and a few below. Commons should almost never be 4.0s, and only a few per set should even go to 3.5 because we don’t want them to overshadow uncommons in terms of power level, and we don’t want too many of a single, powerful card showing up to warp the format. We also don’t want too many low on the scale, since having too many bad cards showing up frequently will lead to people failing to scrape together playable decks at too high a rate. A regular bell-curve type distribution entered at 2.0  is probably the “ideal,” but it obviously isn’t the only criteria for a good format.

At uncommon, things are a little less clear. The high-value uncommons should obviously be higher on the rating scale than the best commons. But the uncommon rarity also tends to introduce more complex, “out there” cards, as well as more build-around type cards. If you’re drafting competitively, and not just for the memes, you probably want to shun all-in build-around strategies because they’re inconsistent. The “out there” cards tend to be over-costed because the developers don’t want them accidentally breaking the format. Thus, at uncommon, you not only tend to have more 3.5s and 4.0s, but you also have more unplayable cards at 1.0 and below. So, we expect more of a double-peaked distribution, with maxima near 3.5 and 1.0.

I haven’t analyzed rares and legendaries here (perhaps later), but I would expect those distributions to be even more skewed.

Set 1 – The Empty Throne

I thought Set 1 draft was a great format. I always felt like I could draft whichever supported faction pair was open, and I never really felt as if one was better than the other. Combrei did get the one single 4.0-rated common in Awakened Student, but Student never felt completely oppressive, thanks to a variety of efficient answers. Playable count was rarely a problem, unless I really waffled on my factions deep into pack 2. Do the numbers bear out that assessment?

Set 1 starts us off strong. The average value of a common is 1.996, which is pretty much spot on in terms of what we’d expect. The distribution is somewhat skewed, with a large spike at 3.0, meaning there are more premium commons, but also more fringe playables, and fewer average commons. Fire appears to be weaker than the rest, with a wide spread in power level, while Primal seems to be the most evenly-distributed. Now let’s have a look at the uncommons.

Once again, Set 1 has an absolutely beautiful distribution, with the expected peaks at 3.5 and 1.0. The average uncommon rating was 2.31, a reasonable amount higher than the commons. The factions appear to be fairly balanced, with the exception of Primal, which has fewer weak cards overall, and thus will have a higher average.

Let’s look at some more detailed numbers. The table below shows both the averages and standard deviation of the commons and uncommons, along with the expected average rating of a card in that faction that you’ll see in a pack. For those who aren’t familiar with statistics, the standard deviation is a measure of the variance in a set of data. Larger standard deviations mean that the data is more spread out; smaller standard deviations mean that the data is more clustered.

FactionAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Fire1.751.132.320.97
Time1.951.112.111.36
Justice1.880.922.091.14
Primal2.030.902.611.16
Shadow1.901.002.331.09
Multi-Faction2.400.742.601.01
Neutral2.391.021.33--

 

These numbers show that Fire has the weakest commons, while Primal has the strongest by a margin of 0.08. Worth noting is the larger standard deviation of the Fire commons, where we have a couple of really premium options like Torch, along with a lot of really bad ones like Ruin.

Primal also wins at uncommon, by quite a large margin. Looking back at the distribution once more, this isn’t due to any excessively powerful uncommons. Rather, Primal just has fewer unplayable ones. As long as these uncommons aren’t oppressive–and they aren’t–having a high average score at uncommon won’t break the format.

Of course, multi-faction cards have a large impact on how strong or weak single factions are as well. For the following table, I’ve assumed that we know we are drafting each two-faction pair. With that in mind, I combine the cards from both of the factions in that pair, along with the relevant multi-faction cards to compute what kind of power level we’re likely to see, depending on our faction pair.

Faction PairAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Combrei1.951.062.171.27
Elysian2.011.082.421.22
Rakano1.861.072.201.03
Stonescar1.851.142.311.05
Feln2.001.072.511.11
Praxis1.851.182.221.19
Hooru1.951.002.351.13
Argenport1.891.012.211.14
Skycrag1.891.182.471.16
Xenan1.931.092.211.26

 

These numbers bear out my experience with the format. The spread in all factions is only 0.16 at common and 0.34 at uncommon. Even the pairs that weren’t directly supported, receiving no multi-faction cards, are decently strong. The median lies at 1.91 at common and 2.27 at uncommon. Keep these numbers in mind as we compare the other sets to Set 1.

Set 2 – Omens of the Past

I enjoyed Omens draft, but I didn’t find it quite as balanced as Set 1. I almost never drafted Praxis. I did draft Skycrag sometimes, but I never had much success with it. Usually I stuck with Argenport, Xenan, or Hooru. The format was much lower-power than Set 1, both in terms of the raw power of each card, and because Set 2 rendered moot the powerful multi-faction cards found in Set 1. There were far more payoffs for drafting a critical mass of cards from a Set 2 faction, as well as a higher density of multi-faction cards at Common, so you usually found yourself heavily committed to one of the Set 2 faction pairs. This reduced the value of the multi-faction cards from Set 1, because you would often have to splash if you wanted to play them, and things like Awakened Student have much less impact when you can’t consistently land them on turn 2.

The ratings here for Set 2 have been taken in the context of Set 3, so many of the synergistic cards have been lowered in value from where they once were. These numbers aren’t reflective of the health of the Set 2 format, only Set 3. Let’s have a look…

The average rating for commons is 1.88, which is significantly below that of Set 1. This distribution is also less pretty than that of Set 1. Not only is it misshapen, but the factions are also poorly spread.  Primal, Shadow, and Fire, have zero mono-faction commons that rated at 2.5. Shadow only has two commons above that; the rest are below-average cards. Time’s biggest concentrations are at 3.0 and 1.0. Fire has nearly as many cards at 0.5 or 0.0 as it does everywhere else combined. Justice is the only faction with a nearly-even distribution between 1.0 and 3.0.

The average uncommon rating is 1.92, which is well below Set 1. The distribution looks a little more like the two-peak distribution we’d expect. The higher peak is down at 3 instead of 3.5. Once again, Fire is in the doghouse, with only three uncommons at 1.5 or better.

FactionAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Fire1.461.191.130.58
Time1.821.172.291.09
Justice2.040.642.131.04
Primal1.860.911.421.15
Shadow1.460.901.421.11
Multi-Faction2.130.932.650.98
Neutral3.000.00----

 

Yowza. Justice is top dog at common by a long shot, with Time and Primal being tier two. Fire and Shadow are both atrocious. Remember how I mentioned that you’re really unhappy to be playing 1.5s and below? Well, the average Fire and Shadow common is nigh-unplayable. Same goes for Primal and Shadow uncommons. Shadow and Fire are complete and utter trash. Primal has decent commons, but very little punch at the uncommon slot.  Time does pretty well, with decent commons and the strongest uncommons. Justice is the clear winner, however, with above-average commons and the second-strongest uncommons. When it comes to drafting, strength at common is often the most important thing at determining which faction is dominant, and Justice runs away with it here.

Not only does Justice have the strongest average, but it also has a very small standard deviation. This means that the ratings are tightly clustered around the average of 2.04, resulting in fewer stone-unplayable cards. When you see a Justice card, most of the time it will be a 1.5 or above, meaning that, at the end of the draft, if you’re in Justice, you’re simply more likely to have more playables than a player who isn’t Justice. Somehow Fire’s average uncommon is 30% weaker than its average common .

The average multi-faction card is much stronger than the mono-faction cards (as they should be). Are they strong enough to pick up the slack in the other factions?

FactionAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Combrei1.930.992.211.07
Elysian1.841.051.851.19
Rakano1.751.001.630.98
Stonescar1.461.071.270.92
Feln1.660.961.421.13
Praxis1.731.181.661.13
Hooru1.950.781.961.16
Argenport1.810.882.001.22
Skycrag1.771.161.361.01
Xenan1.631.122.041.21

 

The short answer is no. The Fire and Shadow factions place much lower than the factions that contain neither. Argenport and Rakano are somewhat carried by their Justice half, as Xenan and Praxis are somewhat carried by Time. The latter two are hampered by the fact that they have weak multi-faction options. Praxis’s were never too good to begin with, with such hits as Brilliant Discovery and Sandglass Sentinel. Xenan’s multi-faction cards used to be fantastic, but the complete lack of lifegain support in Set 3 has knocked them down several pegs.

The median rating is 1.76 at common and 1.76 again at uncommon. This is well below the median power level of the factions in Set 1, particularly at uncommon.

Set 3 – The Dusk Road

Much maligned for relying too much on synergies that don’t come together, Dusk Road has been the primary target of the nerfs. Certainly, Justice is by far my most drafted faction, followed by Shadow and then Fire (usually because of Whirling Duo).

Set 3 has a pretty reasonably-shaped distribution. The only problem is that it peaks a little too far to the right. The average rating for a common is 1.87, on par with Set 2’s low rating. Set 3’s distribution is better-shaped, but it really lacks premium commons. Set 2, which is of a similar size, had 28 commons at 3.0 or above. Set 3 has only 12, none of which are in Primal.

Uncommon is quite a bit different from the previous two sets. The distribution is pretty much flat between 1.0 and 3.0, which isn’t really what we want from our uncommons. There are about a third fewer cards at 3.5+ when compared to Set 2, which itself was considerably weaker than Set 1. Furthermore, two-thirds of those powerful uncommons are multi-faction, compared to about 40% in Set 2. That makes it even more unlikely that you will be able to first-pick a desirable uncommon out of your Set 3 pack, since taking multi-faction cards first overall is a major risk that is usually best avoided in favor of a slightly weaker, but mono-faction card.

Speaking of mono-faction cards, let’s have a look at some numbers.

FactionAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Fire1.940.752.080.78
Time1.880.821.961.15
Justice2.190.771.570.84
Primal1.560.752.000.84
Shdow1.780.711.810.90
Multi-Faction----3.100.80
Neutral----1.0--

 

How do the faction pairs stack up? Justice is once again the clear winner at common, but it’s much weaker at uncommon. Fire is somewhat redeemed here, boasting strong averages at both common and uncommon. Time is a clear third, followed by Shadow, and then by Primal. Though Primal has relatively strong uncommons, it’s so much weaker at common than the other factions that you won’t often see Primal cards that keep you invested, even if you do first pick a solid card.

Faction PairAvg. Com.StD. Com.Avg. Unc.StD. Unc.
Combrei2.030.831.841.09
Elysian1.720.852.001.01
Rakano2.060.791.880.89
Stonescar1.860.742.000.85
Feln1.670.781.940.86
Praxis1.900.792.000.97
Hooru1.880.821.790.87
Argenport1.980.801.770.93
Skycrag1.750.892.200.97
Xenan1.830.781.941.03

 

At common, Justice takes four of the top five. That’s it, case closed, Justice is OP!

Is it, though? Look at the actual scores. Only Rakano and Combrei exceed the 2.0 threshold, and not by too big a margin. Several factions, most notably those containing Primal, are well below 2.0.

At uncommon, the Justice pairs are actually the lowest. Primal factions get a bit of a bump here, but because of the inconsistency of seeing any given uncommon, it’s not enough to help them overcome their major deficit at common. The power level of the uncommons as a whole is much weaker than that of Set 1.

The median ratings are 1.87 at common and 1.94 at uncommon. The common power level is close to that of Set 1, but uncommon is still well below the bar.

Bringing it All Together

In order to get a clear picture of how this all shakes out, let’s look at each set’s average scores side-by-side, starting at common. Since we get two packs of Set 3, I’ve included a weighted average that counts Set 3 twice.

FactionSet 1Set 2 Set 3Weighted Avg.
Fire1.751.461.941.77
Time1.951.821.881.88
Justice1.882.042.192.08
Primal2.031.861.561.75
Shadow1.901.461.781.73

 

In Sets 2 and 3, which make up 3/4 of the draft, Justice is the strongest faction, but it isn’t exceeding the 2.0 mark by that much. The more glaring departure is in how low some of the other factions are. Particularly in Set 2: Fire and Primal miss the 2.0 mark by 0.54! That is a massive margin. In Set 3, Primal misses by 0.44, and Shadow by 0.22. Both of those margins are greater than the margin that Justice is exceeding 2.0.

Can the multi-faction cards make up these deficits?

FactionSet 1Set 2Set 3Weighted Avg.
Combrei1.951.932.031.99
Elysian2.011.841.711.82
Rakano1.861.752.061.93
Stonescar1.851.461.861.76
Feln2.001.661.671.75
Praxis1.851.731.911.85
Hooru1.951.951.881.92
Argenport1.891.811.981.92
Skycrag1.891.771.751.79
Xenan1.931.631.831.81

 

This reveals what I believe to be the crux of the problem. The Justice pairs are the only ones that don’t have major drop-offs at common after Set 1. Heck, Set 2 is supposed to be THE set for Praxis, Skycrag, and Xenan, while Set 1 isn’t supposed to support those combinations. Yet, the average scores at common for those three factions take a major dip in Set 2.

Set 3, on the surface, seems as if it is supposed to support all factions. However, in my experience, Hooru, Feln, and Xenan lack any sort of identity in Set 3. Hooru seems to want to be “things with two battle skills,” but all of the payoffs are at uncommon or higher, and the cards aren’t playable on their own if you don’t get there (a 1-cost 1/1 and a 4-cost 1/5, for example).  Xenan is…I don’t even know. Dinosaurs? Nightfall? Dinos in the Dark? Feln wants to be the Unseen curse deck, but none of the payoffs are worth playing some of the terrible curses in the set. As a result, the Primal factions, Feln in particular, wind up with a major deficit in Set 3. Elysian’s score is higher in Set 2, a set which did not support that combination at all.

Remember the median scores from Set 1? At common, the median faction pair score was 1.91. Only the Justice faction pairs meet that threshold, and only Combrei really exceeds it by a decent margin.

Every non-Justice pair falls short of the mark. Praxis gets the closest, but Xenan, Skycrag, Feln, and Stonescar all miss by a larger margin than Combrei exceeds.

At uncommon, Justice is actually one of the weakest factions. However, the overall power level is quite a bit lower than we might like:

FactionSet 1Set 2 Set 3Weighted Avg.
Fire2.311.132.081.90
Time2.112.291.962.08
Justice2.092.131.571.84
Primal2.611.422.002.01
Shadow2.331.421.811.84
FactionSet 1 Set 2Set 3Weighted Avg.
Combrei2.172.211.842.01
Elysian2.421.852.002.06
Rakano2.201.631.881.90
Stonescar2.311.272.001.90
Feln2.511.421.941.95
Praxis2.221.662.001.97
Hooru2.351.961.791.97
Argenport2.212.001.771.94
Skycrag2.471.362.202.06
Xenan2.212.041.942.03

 

The median average sits at 1.97. This means that the average uncommon across the three sets is weaker than the average common should be. Time has the best uncommons at 2.08…but that is the same average as Justice gets at common! Of course Justice is going to dominate the format when its commons are just as good as the top uncommons of all factions. Again, though, this is a symptom of non-Justice factions being too weak rather than Justice itself being too strong.

Conclusions

While Justice is clearly the strongest single faction across the draft format, this analysis does not find that it is excessively strong. Rather, it finds that other factions are excessively weak, particularly at uncommon. Nerfing Justice cards will bring balance to the factions, but it will not create a more fun drafting environment. Consider two matchups, one where both players have a deck which averages a 3.0, and one where both players have a deck which averages a 1.8. In the first match, both players get to do powerful, exciting things. Even if you lose, you say to yourself, my deck was great, but my opponent’s was better. What a game! If you win, you say to yourself, awesome! I beat my opponent even though they had a really good deck!

Now consider the other case. Even if you win, you are left with the feeling that you got lucky that your dumpster fire burned a little hotter than your opponent’s dumpster fire. And if you lose, you’re left with the feeling that your deck is complete trash and you suck at drafting. Your opponent’s deck was terrible, but it still beat you.

Is that the kind of experience we want to have, especially for new players? I consider myself a skilled drafter, able to read signals and have the discipline to switch gears and abandon my first picks, and I still find myself scrambling to put together an actual deck quite often. I’ve played some real stinkers as my last few cards. It must be even worse for those who aren’t as serious about drafting.

From a design standpoint, it actually makes sense to overshoot the power level a little bit. Rather than 2.0, aim for, say, 2.2. High enough that players can build consistent, fun decks without crossing their fingers and hoping they get to 28 actual playable cards.  As long as the various factions stay balanced, that is a fine place to be. New players won’t find themselves playing complete garbage cards, and skilled drafters will be able to really put together some sweet decks.

With that in mind, Justice is fine where it is. What we need is to elevate the other factions to that level, not lower Justice to theirs. The few buffs we’ve received thus far are a good start. We need more of that. In particular, Primal, Fire, and Shadow all need significant help in Sets 2 and 3.

At the end of the day, these numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story. After all, you need to consider power curves and synergies as well. There will be times when you take a 2.5-rated 2-drop over the 4.0-rated Pillar of Amar because you already have a few 6+ drops and really need a cheap play. Plus, it doesn’t matter if a faction is stacked with 3.5-level commons if those commons all cost 6+ power, as you won’t be able to play too many, even if you can draft them. I’ll be taking a deeper look into those things with my next little project.

Until then, for all the complaining I’ve been doing here, I’ll be drafting because that’s still the best thing to do in any card game, even if I believe the format could be improved.

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Piles and Piles

At the end of last week, I was two wins away from Master. I began the week drafting Elysian, splashing Shadow for a few removal spells. Unfortunately, I forgot once again to grab a screenshot of the deck. I thought it was a powerful deck, good enough to carry me those two wins. Sadly, I got power-screwed a couple times and finished a frustrating 2-3 to start the week, leaving me now three wins from Master.

I then drafted this beauty:

Draft 2: Argenport Arcanists

Spoiler for uess my record...

7-2

 

 

I mentioned last week that the nerf to Valkyrie Arcanist might make it so that you can’t just draft a pile of them and expect to win. Turns out I was wrong.

I opened on a pair Spiritblade Stalkers and an Entrapment. Classic Justice stuff, right where I want to be, even after the nerf. Inquisitor’s Halberd followed, which pushed me into Argenport. My first Arcanist came next, then Challenge by Law. That’s a rare I’ve never played before, but hard removal is never stone unplayable in limited.

Omens of the Past was as mediocre as it usually is, giving me only 4 playable cards.  The Empty Throne was much kinder, stuffing my deck full of Lethrai Rangers and ways to get them through. The second Dusk Road pack was where things got really juicy. I picked up 2 Arcanists, Entrapment, Tandem Watchwing, Affliction, and Copperhall Marshal.

I got off to the 3-0 start I needed, which means…

Wait, did I say I was three wins away? Sorry, I meant four. ahfjagajkhgbdj

Okay, deep breaths, everything’s fine. My deck is great. I’m just going to keep playing well, and I’ll get the Master rank I deserve.

Or my opponent will get stuck on 2 power when I have a Lethrai Ranger. Whew.

I finished out this draft and climbed through Master to about rank 60. Crownwatch Press-Gang was a little suspect in the deck with only two 1-drops, but I had enough evasion that tutoring for a Minotaur Oathkeeper was a solid play. Challenge by Law proved to be playable, if not amazing. Usually the thing you want to silence is also the thing you want to kill anyway, but there were a few times I used it to kill a big ground-pounder and clear the skies for my valkyries to get there.

Arcanist might cost 6 mana now, but she’s still as annoying as ever for the opponent to deal with. And because I had so many flyers, the opponent was often in a Catch-22 position when it came to dealing with her.

Draft 3: Xenan Dredger

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-3

 

 

Riding high off my fresh Master ranking, I started off on Stonescar Sneak. I love this guy. He gives you an incredible amount of late-game inevitability for a very small cost. I followed up with some Vainglory Patrols and random gunslingers, flirting with justice along the way. When I opened Memory Dredger in pack 2, I felt really good. Pack 3 blessed me with Plague, followed by Execute. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Pack 4 was the worst pack I could possibly imagine. I first-picked Vainglory Patrol over nothing else. My second pack had zero shadow cards and no playable time ones. Other than a second, very late Vainglory Patrol, I picked up nothing but extremely mediocre junk like Duskcaller and more Baying Serasaurs than I could ever want. Serasaur is fine when you’ve got some dino synergies to go with it, but I didn’t have any of that. I wound up having to play Subvert as my last card, but I probably should have just played 18 power (since that’s all Subvert ever hits: power).

Still, I started off 2-0, peaking at rank 38. Memory Dredger was fantastic, returning all my random 2s that I traded off. Unfortunately, 2 was where the winning stopped, as I started running into players with actual synergistic decks instead of leaning on bombs.

Draft 4: Breaking Safe Return

 

Spoiler for uess my record...

5-3

 

 

After that disappointing finish, I dropped back below 100. I opened a rather unexciting pack, with some middle-of-the-road playables and a Crest of Wisdom. I took the Crest, staying open. You might notice that the Crest isn’t in the final deck, and you’d be right. I must have completely overlooked it in deckbuilding, and then totally forgot I drafted it until I looked at my notes to do this writeup. Whoops. On the bright side, I don’t think I ever flooded out, so it would have probably been only a marginal upgrade.

I second-picked Extinguish, then followed up with a Trail Maker over Vainglory Patrol. Took Nocturnal Creeper third out of a very weak pack. Auric Record Keeper came fourth, which is a card that goes later than a 3-power 4/4 with upside should go because Combrei isn’t really a supported tribal archetype. Not much else playable came out of this pack. I took a few mediocre fire cards over nothing, but I wasn’t feeling too good.

I opened a foil Crownwatch Press-Gang and a Noble Firemane as the only two notable cards in pack 2. I didn’t feel like fire was really open, so I went with the money draft/higher upside of the foil Press-Gang, even though I didn’t yet have any 1-drops. I took Streetwise Informant over not much, and it began to look like I was going fully three-color in this one. Sleepless Night came third, again over nothing. Highbranch Sentry (aka a vanilla 3/3) followed. 6th pick, I moneydrafted a Champion of Fury because there were, yet again, no playables.

Glad to be out of that horror show and back to real cards, I first-picked a Clockroach over Rapid Shot and a Lethrai Ranger. I really didn’t want to be committed to shadow if I didn’t have to be. Unfortunately, I had to take an Amethyst Acolyte second, but I got back on track with Vanquish and a pair of Towering Terrazons. Then I picked up an Awakened Student sandwiched by Safe Returns.

I still wasn’t thrilled, but it began to look like there was a decent Combrei-splash-shadow deck lining up. I took a pick-1 Duskwalker in pack 3, not ideal but not unplayable either. Frenzied Omnivore came next, followed by two Frontier Confessors.

So that’s how I ended up with this pile. Safe Return was definitely the MVP. Resetting the killer on Frenzied Omnivore won me several matches, as well as protecting a swole Awakened Student from their one way to deal with it.

It also did a fantastic job of resetting Frontier Confessors. At 4-1, I ran into a Praxis Sentinel deck with not one, not two, but three Monolith Guardians. I combined Frontier Confessor and both Safe Returns to silence two of them and a Seasoned Spelunker. I dealt with the third by trading a Nocturnal Creeper for it.

Sleepless Night was actually pretty good for me. I had enough Nightfall that I was hitting all my power drops. If it looked uncastable, I discarded it to Frenzied Omnivore. It directly won me two games where we had exchanged resources and then I got to draw 8 cards.

Unfortunately, I went from 5-1 to 5-3. My last-round opponent comboed off with Sureshot to kill me just before they were about to die. Curse you, Ornamental Daggers!

Final Tally: 16-11 (48-28 overall).

Not the best week, but not the worst either. It was good enough to get me to Master, where I’m currently hanging around in the 60s. I’ll probably do a few more drafts before the reset, but my time may be devoted to Magic for a bit, starting on Wednesday with the return of Cuuuuuuuuuube!

Card of the Week goes to Safe Return. Despite being fairly mediocre in previous formats because it’s such a negative tempo card that doesn’t generate card advantage on its own, the Dusk Road draft format is a lot slower than previous formats. When both players are struggling to assemble synergies, setting yourself back on mana to protect a big threat or generate card advantage isn’t so punishing.

Soapbox time: Set 2 should get the hell out of my draft format. I mentioned this last week, but I feel like going into more detail this time. It was already a fairly low-power set compared to Set 1, but Dusk Road rendered half of the already-scant playables useless. Lifeforce and Mentor synergy cards are garbage now, because you can’t draft enough of the pieces around them. Sure, some of the cards like Roosting Owl, Sparring Partner, Minotaur Oathkeeper, and weapons are just sold cards overall, but stuff like Voyaging Lumen is just a vanilla 5/5 for 6 most of the time. You can’t go deep on Bloodcall Invocations anymore because there aren’t enough lifegain cards to make it consistent. Many of the Xenan commons, in particular, were devoted to the Lifeforce deck, which can’t really exist in the Dusk Road format. There’s one repeatable lifegain effect in the Xenan factions in Dusk Road, and it’s a 1-cost relic that won’t do anything if you don’t have one or two of your payoffs.

A lot of the playable-but-mediocre cards lack the right tribes. Nobody wants Unseen or Elementals or Minotaurs or Mystics or Radiants or Centaurs or Warriors or Soldiers or Mages, all of which appear on multiple commons/uncommons in Omens. Omens has some nice Hooru cards…except that Hooru isn’t really supported in Dusk Road, so you’re unlikely to be prepared to take advantage of things like Aerialist Trainer or Shelterwing Rider with their demanding influence requirements.

What about Skycrag, though? That was a supported faction in Omens, and we’ve got Yeti tribal in Dusk Road! One problem…Skycrag in Omens has exactly 4 Yetis, one of them rare. None of them are real payoffs for being the Yeti deck. Sure, you can pick up some Mortars if you’re lucky enough to have them opened in your pod, but you’re not going to get much tribal help here. Fire doesn’t even have a single yeti.

Praxis in Dusk Road wants you to have Sentinels and Explorers and Relics.  Praxis in Omens has…three explorers at common, but only one is really a card worth playing unless you have serious payoffs. In my opinion, Praxis is the biggest offender because some of these cards could easily have been explorers. Excavation Assistant barely has a reason to exist as-is. Couldn’t we at least have made it into an explorer instead of a machine? It has three mages at common or uncommon. Two of the lifeforce cards are a cultist and a mystic, but could we not have found a way to make them flavorfully explorers? I’m not saying these should all have been explorers, but it would be nice to have a least a few of them. Amber Ring is the best card for the Sentinel deck here, but it’s uncommon and you may not ever even see one. Fire in Omens is straight-up worthless for the Praxis deck. Not a single explorer OR sentinel OR playable relic.

Argenport does a little better. Even though its multicolor common, Auric Bully, fails the tribe test, it’s a very playable 2-drop that synergizes with a universal mechanic, weapons. Shadow is not very deep because of the aforementioned lifeforce problem. Justice has a million playable units, but so many are soldiers or minotaurs or unseen that it’s tough to make synergies come together. There are a few valkyries, and one random gunslinger (why just one???) at uncommon in Minotaur Duelist.  Stonepoweder Alchemist is also a gunslinger, but requires a full Argenport commitment. Argenport gets by because it has decent weapons and pump spells that are always decent things to have in draft, not because it’s actually at all synergistic with Dusk Road themes.

Another thing to note is the density of Justice cards that remain playable out of Omens. The recent balance changes have been aimed at taking Justice down a peg, and rightly so. In my opinion, this is because Justice has so many generically-playable cards out of Omens of the Past. When other decks are drafting effectively three packs and Justice is drafting four, of course it’s going to be dominant. Instead of fixing the cross-set synergies, they’ve just nerfed Justice cards twice. Honestly? I still think Justice is the best faction because you’re just less likely to draw blanks in one-fourth of your draft.

So, of all the faction pairs that Omens of the Past was created to support, none of them have any cohesion with Dusk Road themes whatsoever.  And of course, if you’re in one of the other five faction pairs, you can’t take advantage of any of the multicolor cards in Omens, which are where a large amount of the power lies. Note that my analysis hasn’t considered rares or legendaries. They don’t show up often enough to matter in the overall draft environment. Empty Throne doesn’t help out as much with the synergies

I feel like, outside of bomb rares, pack 2 has added little, if anything to my deck in any of the Dusk Road drafts I’ve done. Why is it here? What’s wrong with 3-1-3-1? If you’re concerned about new players building their collections, bump the Omens of the Past drop rate from gold chests. Pay out 2:1 Omens:Empty Throne. Or, instead of just tweaking things in Dusk Road, buff some of the unplayable commons in Omens.

 

 

 

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Hello and Goodbye, RIX

After playing some more of this format, I can say it’s definitely better than triple-Ixalan, but certainly nothing special. I did three more drafts this week, and those may be my last, since Legacy Cube returns on Wednesday. There aren’t many formats that could convince me to draft them over Cube of any kind. I would have liked to get deeper into this format, but missing the first few weeks, combined with the early return of Cube means I’ll probably be bidding it goodbye.

Draft 1: RG Dinos

Spoiler for uess my record...

1-2

 

 

The week didn’t start off very well for me. In my first draft, I opened a pack where Crested Herdcaller was the clear first pick.  Pick 2, I was passed Raging Regisaur, another clear best card in the pack. I got a 6th-pick Hunt the Weak, along with some mediocre cards for the dinosaur deck. It definitely felt like RG was open.

Pack 2, Pick 1 was a pretty miserable selection. I took Path of Discovery over Goblin Trailblazer and Jungleborn Pioneer, figuring that it had a higher upside. In hindsight, I wish I had just taken the Trailblazer. Pick 2 was similarly awful, as I had to second pick a Knight of the Stampede over nothing else playable. Green was still open, as my third and fourth picks were Thrashing Brontodon and Hunt the Weak, and I even snagged a seventh-pick Reckless Rage.

Pack 3, Pick 1, I was right back in the Pit of Misery, as I had to take Fathom Fleet Firebrand. Certainly a good card, but not one I wanted to first pick. I followed up with Raptor Hatchling and Verdant Sun's Avatar, and a fifth-pick Thrash of Raptors. I also wheeled a Thrash of Raptors 11th pick.

The RG Dino theme was open, but perhaps this just wasn’t the draft for it. I got some really nice late removal spells in both red and green, yet some packs were just complete blanks for me. I whiffed on 2-drops pretty hard. Sun-Collared Raptor was atrocious. I thought, you know, I’m going a little bigger with this deck, and maybe I’ll have some free mana floating around…

Nope. It’s not like I really had a choice in playing them, since you can’t just play three 2-drops in this format. But I had some hope, at least, that they might do something. The only things they did in any of my matches were chump block and look embarrassing.

This wasn’t a very good Path of Discovery deck. It probably should have just been Storm Fleet Pyromancer, which got sided in a lot against flying pirates, or a maindecked Dual Shot. There were just too many 4s in the deck.

Round 1, I ran into Champion of Dusk, which is an absurd card, especially when paired with Legion Conquistadors and Forerunner of the Legion. I was put into a Catch-22 where I either had to trade cards like Thrashing Brontadon and Knight of the Stampede for a single Conquistador each or let my opponent draw infinite cards. But even if I do trade, now I’m down several creatures, and my opponent still draws 3 off Champion.

Though I finished 1-2, I felt like I could have won the final match if I had ever drawn a Hunt the Weak in any of my three games. I died to flyers that I couldn’t quite race, and killing a single one would have swung the games in my favor.

Draft 2: Esper Guardian

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

I wasn’t super high on Golden Guardian after last week, but I opened a pack with nothing else that was overwhelmingly exciting. Baffling End, Skymarcher Aspirant, and Exultant Skymarcher, and Moment of Triumph were all very solid white cards, but I wouldn’t be super happy first-picking any of them. I took Golden Guardian because it was colorless and would let me defer on color choice. Plus, maybe I could build around it better this time.

I picked up Moment of Craving, followed by an interesting rare in Captain's Hook. Not the kind of card that you’d think would go in the Golden Guardian deck, which is inclined toward blocking, but it has the potential to turn every one of your creatures into a 2-for-1. And it even helps your blockers trade up, if that’s what you need to do. The equip cost of 1 is great. I’m not sure how this made it to third, as it’s something I would he happy to slam first-pick.

I followed up with a fourth-pick Impale, but then playables dried up very quickly. I took a Jungle Creeper and some mediocre white cards. I did manage to pick up a Traveler's Amulet and a 12th-pick Evolving Wilds (come on, people, respect the fixing!).

I think I made a mistake in my second pack, pick 1. I took Slaughter the Strong over Recover and Waterknot, both of which were probably better picks. I saw the late white cards as a signal, but I don’t think they were, in hindsight. They were all mediocre, and I perhaps should have just taken Recover, as I was much more committed to black. Waterknot would have been a higher-risk pick, but defensible because Recover might wheel.

Deadeye Brawler was my second pick, and I settled into blue-black. The final deck was very weird, splashing two good, but not really worth splashing, white creatures. I had tons of fixing and two copies of Recover, which made them worthwhile. Ixalan was hot garbage, as usual. I picked up some cheap flying idiots, and that was it.

In round 2, I played one of the most interesting games of limited I’ve played in a while. My opponent also had Golden Guardian, and we got into a dance around trying to kill our own Guardians. My opponent had cast a Hunt the Weak on his Spire Winder, and they eventually ascended to make the Winder a 4/5. They only left up 2 mana, and tried to fight their Winder (which was their only other creature) on my end step. I hit the Winder with Swords to Plowshares Sea Legs, meaning they were unable to flip the Guardian that turn, while I finally flipped mine thanks to Captain’s Hook on a Shipwreck Looter.

They untapped and had the choice to flip their Guardian, but I was at about 10 life, meaning that the Spire Winder was maybe their best way to kill me. Because of Sea Legs making it a 2/5, they would have had to double-fight with the Guardian in order to make sure it died, which would cost them the Winder. Ultimately they declined to fight the Winder, and I was able to menace my way through everything else until they were forced to block with the Winder. They eventually flipped their Guardian, but I was too far ahead with no clock on me.

I don’t honestly remember what I lost to in the finals, and MTGO seems to have deleted all of my match history and recordings with the new patch last Wednesday.

~Quality Programming~

Draft 3: Merfolk

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

Everything went right with this draft. I had my pick of every single Merfolk that came my way, rounding out with cheap things like Siren Reaver and efficient removal. I’m not certain which final build was correct, but the deck felt completely unfair in the first two matches. I won both 2-0, and my opponents were never in any of the games.

Of note, I took the foil Jadelight Ranger over Ghalta, Primal Hunger in pack 1 because MTGGoldfish told me that foil Jadelight was 8.5 tix, but no bots are buying them for more than 3. Had I known that, I probably would have taken Ghalta there.

In round 3, I ran into the mirror, except my opponent had Deeproot Elite on turn 2 both of our first games. I managed to squeak out game 1, but got crushed game 2. Game 3, my opponent didn’t have the Elite, but started out with Mist-Cloaked Herald and River Sneak, following up with Jade Bearers and a Jade Guardian to put me low. I kept a hand with 3 Islands, a Mist-Cloaked Herald, and three Shaper Apprentices. A gamble, yes, but I had five draw steps to hit green mana. On the final turn of the game, my opponent was tapped out, at 9 life, and I had all three Apprentices in play. I was holding Merfolk Mistbinder to steal the game if I found a Forest, but alas, it was not to be.

One question I have is whether it was even correct to play Jadelight Ranger. It’s a great, efficient card, but my deck was so heavily slanted toward blue that I rarely had GG. I only cast the Ranger once. I drew it a few other times, but never had the mana to cast it, not that I needed to when I was tempoing them out with my blue cards. I could have played one more Forest, perhaps, but I felt like I really needed the 11 blue sources with four UU cards at 3 mana.

I ran a 1/1 split on Jadecraft Artisan and Spire Winder because I wasn’t sure which was better for the deck. Spire Winder was the much better performer, and I often wished that I had run the second instead of the Artisan. +2/+2 on an unblockable dork is nice, but repeatable flying beatdowns were almost always better.

Final tally: 5-4 (12-6 in RIX overall)

I’ll end the format on a decent record, though obviously this is a fairly small sample size. If cube wasn’t coming back next week, I’d certainly play more of this format, but it just has too much of Ixalan left in it to be a truly good format. RIX improved significantly upon XLN, but XLN was just too bad for RIX to elevate the format like Hour of Devastation did with Amonkhet.

As for rares, I got to re-evaluate Golden Guardian in the context of a better deck for it. It certainly performed much better in a grindier deck. Captain’s Hook was a stone-cold bomb every time I played it. Verdant Sun’s Avatar is a much better card in this slower format. Jadelight Ranger is a card that is obviously good but didn’t get to shine in my mostly-blue tempo deck.

Bonus Theros Flashback draft: Red-Green 5-drop tribal

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

Theros was a fun format for a few drafts, though it quickly gets stale losing to one big creature that you just can’t remove (Hmm…sounds like another format I know…). My favorite decks to draft were the ones that tried to go around those big dumb creatures. Wavecrash Triton was my most drafted card on MTGO when Theros was around.

With that in mind, I started off on Griptide, Nimbus Naiad, and Lightning Strike. Blue dried up after that. Fortunately, the people in my pod forgot how busted big snakes are in this format.

Nessian Asp is a hell of a card, but so are Anthousa, Setessan Hero and Centaur Battlemaster. I ran into the nuts monoblack devotion deck full of Gray Merchant of Asphodel in round 1, but bounced back to murder opponents with broken 5-drops in rounds 2 and 3. The highlight of the draft was dealing 16 damage to my opponent through two blockers, starting with just a 3/3 Battlemaster. Time to Feedate one blocker (6/6). Ordeal of Purphoros killed another (10/10). Titan's Strength finished things off for a total of 16/14.

 

 

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