Category: Draft Reports (Page 1 of 2)

Eternal Limited Report – April sealed recap and the build for May

I finally got around to playing out the rest of my ranked matches for the April sealed league right about 9pm on April 30th. While the deck began as one I was excited about, I became less and less excited to play it as the weeks wore on and my packs failed to deliver anything exciting. For May’s league, DWD announced that we’ll be getting two packs per week instead of one, which is a welcome change. Hopefully we’ll get to see our decks make some meaningful leaps throughout the month this time around.

My final pack gave me one nice pickup in a Torch, but the deck was still crippled by its lack of units (especially cheap ones) and any way to deal with a threat that grew out of range of my relic weapons. Here is the final deck I played to close out the league:

My best shot to win with this deck was to pray that I had some cheap units to go with the myriad relic weapons. I absolutely had to gain tempo on my opponent and at least get them within striking distance of a Flame Blast or Flight Lieutenant kill. Games where I fell behind quickly became hopeless if my opponent had any reasonable ways to keep the pressure up on me. Relic weapons are incredible when you’re ahead because they not only trade 1-for-1 with your opponent’s units, but they also open up attacks with your own units so you can really pressure your opponent’s life total.

However, when you have to use a Magma Javelin to kill a 4/4 while still winding up behind on the board, you’re just toast. Yeah, you killed their thing, but you took effectively 3 damage to do so, and you’re going to get attacked to boot. Moreover, in a deck like this which basically has zero ways to kill a unit with more than 4 health (barring warcries landing on my relic weapons), even if you keep the board at parity with your relic weapons, you still are likely to wind up losing the long game.

I started 8-8 before playing my remaining games (though 17-3 in my tiebreaks, which is pride I will take to my grave, even if they didn’t count at all). In the 24 games I played, I went 13-11. Not spectacular. That put me at 21-19 overall, just barely over 50%. It put me comfortably in the top 5000, but without any shot at top 1000, so I didn’t bother with any tiebreaker games. If you count my tiebreaks (pride!), I went a total of 38-22 with this deck, which is quite good. I just didn’t pick a great time to do my winning. Silly me.

I do think the deck was solid, but it did break one of the cardinal rules I outlined in my first sealed article: Don’t be aggressive unless you absolutely have to. I do think the pool backed me into that corner, as I had no removal or great bombs in other factions. Still, I think I definitely could have hit top-1000 with a little extra luck. My problem was that I didn’t even do aggression that well, with the lack of units. A few more 2-drops to go with my relic weapons would have gone a long way. Playing a 3/2 on 2 and then removing their blockers turn after turn with my weapons would have been a great game plan. I just didn’t have that option.

One thing I did notice was many of my opponents playing straight-up 3-faction decks, which I suppose shouldn’t have been too surprising with how weak Sets 2 and 3 can be. Maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe I should have just gone deep on Time and played some of the greedier cards like Frenzied Omnivore. Maybe not. At the end of the month, I’m content with how I built the deck, I think, but there’s definitely an argument to be made for getting greedier.

May’s Pool

Well, no amount of whining about my streakiness is going to bring back April’s league. It’s time to move on to May and see what I’ve got to work with. Here’s the pool, sorted by faction (click to enlarge):

I abandoned my typical process for this pool. Can you guess why? It’s because Justice was about twice as deep as any other faction. There’s just no way I don’t wind up base-J with those cards. I’ve got two sweet bombs in Rolant’s Honor Guard and Crownwatch Quartermaster, as well as a solid number of cheap units and some nice late game power outside of my bombs. My building process simply became a competition to see which faction(s) paired best with Justice.

So what do the other factions have on offer? Well, Fire doesn’t have much beyond Gun Down. I could definitely splash that, however. It’s a solid removal spell that can deal with larger threats. It’s got a few solid 2s in Oni Cavediver and Spark Hatcher, but those aren’t enough to draw me into the faction completely.

Likewise, Time doesn’t have anything incredible, but it does have some very solid options, including an Amber Acolyte, which will help with any potential splashes. Clockroach is a decent card by itself, as the first one will buff the second, meaning you wind up with a 2/2 and a 3/3 in one card. Not the best for 6 power, but also still quite reasonable. Refresh is an excellent combat trick because the health buff sticks around. Trading it for a removal spell or an opposing combat trick feels great. Oasis Seeker is a pretty good 2-drop as far as those go, and Dispel is a reasonable way to deal with opposing flyers. None of these are particularly exciting, but remember that Justice is incredibly deep and I just need to fill in holes here and there to make my deck tick.

Primal has Snow Pelting and Jarrall’s Frostkin, but it doesn’t have any yetis to go with the Pelting, and none of the other cards are exciting. Pelting is playable even without Yetis, but I’m not gonna splash for it just to deal 2. Frostkin is a little more exciting, but you need to be able to deploy him on curve to really get the benefit of his tempo. Even if I had a few dinos, Clutchkeeper is just too expensive. I think they were too conservative in costing her, to be honest. You have to have a pretty damn stacked dino to even be able to play mama-saur, but if you’ve got a dino with 6 attack, why aren’t you beating down?

Shadow is just…garbage. Tock Ticks are cute with Clockroach, but where’s the removal?! That’s shadow’s main strength, and there just isn’t any. At all. Not even an Affliction. Barf.

My multifaction/neutral situation is interesting. Praxis gives me Purify and two copies of Noble Firmane. However, I don’t think the Firemanes are very good in sealed, as your deck simply won’t be focused enough to take advantage of the ability, and I won’t be able to play them on 2 in my base-Justice deck. Purify is another thing I could splash, if I wind up playing Time with the Amber Acolyte.

Skycrag Stranger would help me splash either Fire or Primal. Glad to have a faction stranger this time around. Pteriax Hatchling is an incredible card, and one I’m very keen to try and play if at all possible. It’s just everything you want in a sealed unit. Flyer? Check. Card advantage? Check. Flexibility on curve? Check.

Longhorn Sergeant is fine. If I was to play Rakano, he’d make the cut, but I don’t think I’m going to splash for him. I’m all about warcry, but it takes some work to line up a spot where a 4-cost 2/4 gets to attack, which makes him not quite worth the splash.

Deepwood Ranger isn’t going to get there. Towering Stranger is huge, and I’d play it if I was Skycrag for sure, but I don’t think I’m in for a double-splash. Same with Topaz Drake. I love the big 5/3 charge flyer, but I’ve already got a couple expensive flyers. Though this one closes out the game very quickly, I don’t think it’s quite powerful enough to stretch my faction base to play. Rolant’s Honor Guard can completely turn a lost game around. This guy can’t quite do that, and only having 3 health exposes it to a lot of removal.

Family Charter is a card I’ll play if I need a 28th playable, but I’m not thrilled. It goes up in value if I don’t have other mana sinks, but considering I’ve got a Crownwatch Quartermaster and a bunch of other 6+ drops, I’m good on big mana sinks.

Ultimately, the pool is very, very light on removal. Unlike my last pool, where I was actually flooded with relic weapons, I don’t have a single one here. Justice has a ton of solid units and a couple of combat tricks, but only Entrapment for removal. That alone pushes me toward playing FTJ for Gun Down and Purify to help out. Adding Refresh and Dispel gives me a couple more decent ways to interact. The final question is: Do I splash the Pteriax Hatchling on top of the Fire cards? I do have that Skycrag Stranger which is essentially a “free” primal source, since I would have played it for the Fire splash anyway. Amber Acolyte is another source. Adding one Primal Sigil would give me three sources for a single card. That seems reasonable to me. I’ll give it a shot for a few games, at least.

One final card I considered was the Family Charter. I wasn’t high on it earlier, but if I am going to splash two factions, it might be worth playing for both the early scout to help me find my power and the later-game digging for a missing faction. The counterpoint to that is that, by adding Pteriax Hatchling, I am upping my individual card quality, so I don’t need to draw extra cards to out-value my opponent. My cards should (hopefully) be more powerful overall, so going 1-for-1 with them should favor me. In theory, anyway. It’s choices like this that really make me long for a best-of-three mode in Eternal. Being able to bring in something like Family Charter in matchups where it would shine would go a long way to making borderline cards like Charter see more play.

Ultimately, I’m going to start Charter on the bench, but I may take another look at the deck after week 1. Here is the final product:

This deck has some beef and some nice defensive tools, as well as some cheap flying dorks to go over the top. It’s going to be weak to large ground-pounders, so I’ll have to be careful with spending my Entrapment and Ironclad Oaths, since I may need them to help stabilize a board. If I can avoid getting overpowered early on the ground, I should be able to get in enough chip shots with flyers to win.

I’m not thrilled with Soaring Guard or Silverwing Smith. However, I have a few ways to make them better in Longsword, Minotaur Oathkeeper, Crownwatch Paladin, and Roosting Owl. Plus, Crownwatch Quartermaster does have the Valkyrie Ally ability, which can help stabilize a board long enough to get his activated ability going. They will hopefully be the first cards cut (unless I open some nice relic weapons), but they should be serviecable for now.

The power base is obviously a little shaky, playing 4 factions, but I think it’s good enough. I’m only actually splashing three cards, so I may have a dead card here or there, but I should be okay even if that happens because the card quality in this deck is quite high. That’s the plan, anyway.

So that’s my deck for this week! I’ll report back once I’ve played a few matches and discuss what I opened out of my Set 3 packs. I’m hoping for some Trail Makers, Omnivores, and Entrapments!

Until next time.

Eternal Weekly Limited Report – Set 2 Sux

I’ve often opined on how Set 2’s wildly varying power level from card to card is a problem for limited, and it certainly was when it came to my sealed pool. I was hoping to get any kind of playable 2-drop, but I whiffed on that. I would’ve played a completely off-faction Stranger, even! Just anything to do on turn 2. As I mentioned last time, I don’t think it’s correct to keep trying to play my matches that count when my deck has this one glaring weakness, so I decided once again to hold off for a week in the hope that the Set 1 pack will be my salvation.

Instead, I drafted!

Deck 1 – Argenport Aggro

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-3

 

This was a pretty rough one. I thought the deck was quite powerful, but it lacked what many aggro decks lack in limited: a good way to come back once you’re behind. Outside of Umbren Reaper and Stonepowder Alchemist, I didn’t have any form of reach, and the dorky little creatures that made up most of the list were terrible topdecks on turn 7.

Pack 2, Pick 1, I took Roosting Owl over Minotaur Lighthoof. I wish I had that pick back, but at the time I had very few cheap cards, so I wasn’t so certain that I would be aggressive. I also took my first Lethrai Ranger over a Crownwatch Cavalry, which wound up punishing me as I got plenty of Lethrai Rangers later in the pack. I would have much rather two Rangers and a Cavalry than the three Rangers I wound up playing. Ah, well.

I wound up getting punished pretty hard for playing those two Crests (one of which I first-picked out of a very weak pack). I’m not saying I shouldn’t have played them – the pseudo-card advantage they bring is far too powerful – but you do have to pay a cost in the form of the Crest being depleted, and it hits a lot harder when you’re mulling into a Sigil and two Crests in your aggro deck.

Ultimately, I think this deck was a bit better than 2-3, but aggro decks can’t afford to stumble at all, and this one did a few times too many.

Deck 2 – Argenport Not-As-Aggro

Spoiler for uess my record...

6-3

 

Now this one went a lot better. I even had a few cuts to make! That’s rare in this format, where you often find yourself barely scraping by on playable cards. I whittled it down to this beautiful pile full of my favorite commons in the set (Valkyrie Arcanist, Vainglory Patrol, and Extinguish). The deck was a little light on removal, having only Extract, Extinguish, and Mithril Mace to actually kill things, but it managed to put a ton of pressure on the opponent via flyers and Lethrai Nightblade. Memory Dredger was a massive beating, as it usually is, and Beastcaller’s Amulet almost always found its way onto something that couldn’t be blocked.

I opened the draft with a Valkyrie Arcanist out of a weak pack, then immediately followed it up with Malediction Reader (wondering what someone took over this…) and another Arcanist, which set me on 6-drops for the rest of the draft. I opened Memory Dredger in pack 2, then took Emerald Ring. My third pack contained an absurd number of potential high picks for me: Stand Together, Beastcaller’s Amulet, Rapid Shot, and Dark Return. This was a tough pick. I eventually settled on Amulet because I had so many flyers, but I think I actually should have taken Rapid Shot. Stand Together was obviously the most powerful pickand I did have a Xenan Stranger (not in the final deck). However, my deck already had a lot of raw power, and I didn’t see the need to stretch my factions if I could avoid it.

What this deck had over the previous one was a way to go deep in the game and go toe-to-toe with more controlling decks. The top of the curve was not only stacked with evasive threats, but it was also full of card advantage and mana sinks. When your top-end threats can pull double duty like that, you are in great shape.

I would have loved to see this deck make it to 7 wins, but I think I needed one or two pieces of efficient removal over some of the 2-drop dorks for it to truly be a 7-win masterpiece.

Deck 3 – Stonescar Aggro

Spoiler for uess my record...

5-3

 

Sorry Primal and Time, better luck next set. I’ll have to go back through all my reports and do a compilation spreadsheet or something, but I almost always find myself in Justice, Shadow, and Fire in some combination. Maybe once Set 4 (finally) releases, I’ll write up a recap article for Dusk Road.

My first pick Into the Furnace was followed by a string of solid Fire cards. Initially, I drafted Justice late in Pack 1, but I waffled on Pack 2, Pick 1, where the only good card in the pack was Extract. I was rewarded with a 4th (!!!) pick Memory Dredger, which was signal enough for me to get the hell into Shadow. I also got what I referred to in my drafting notes as “The Latest Gun Down in History” 10th pick. Seriously, that is a splashable removal spell, people!

This deck was, I think, in-between the first two decks in power, as its record appropriately indicated. It leaned aggressive, obviously, but it had a lot more interaction than the first deck while having less late-game power and evasion than the second deck. Memory Dredger was the MVP again, winning one game that very few other units could. My opponent had a stacked-up ground-pounder, but Memory Dredger just kept on plinking in for 3 in the air whilst dredging up a repeated chump-blocker for me.

Triple Granite Waystone also did a ton of work, allowing me to go wide and keep my opponent from racing me easily thanks to free chumps.  It’s rare that I say this in draft, but I would have loved to have a Rally in this deck.

The play I’m most proud of making is slamming Dark Wisp into the red zone immediately on turn 3, pretending I’m stuck on 2 power and frustrated. My opponent declined the free block with their Stranger, allowing me to play my third power post-combat and get value out of my Sparkbot.

Final Tally: 13-9 (101-62 overall)

Another middling week for me, but such is what happens when you go 2-3. Even if my new pack is bad for me (spoilers: It was only okay), I have to play out my remaining 24 games of Sealed this week, plus maybe 20 tiebreakers if I think they’ll matter, so I’ll write up another report when I’ve finished that.

Card of the Week goes to Memory Dredger, for obvious reasons. Even if the card had no abilities beyond flying, it would be very powerful, but the ability to rebuy a stream of 2/2s or 3/2s to trade with your opponent’s stuff when they try to race just pushes it over the top. I would honestly snap-switch factions if I opened Dredger in pack 2 unless I had an extremely good reason not to. The fact that I got it 4th in one of the drafts is incredible.

Until next time!

 

Eternal Limited Not-Quite-Weekly Update – New computer and all that

So, my almost-five-year-old computer decided to finally give it up last week, which meant I had an excuse was forced to get a new one. After setting it all up, I haven’t had a ton of time to play much Eternal or Magic, so I’ve missed a couple of weekly reports.

I have yet to comb through my old, hacking, coughing hard drive for the screenshots I took, so I will simply go through a quick update on my Eternal sealed league games.

They did not go so well. At least, the ten that mattered. I went 5-5. The format was a lot faster than I was initially expecting, which I suppose is the nature of Eternal when compared with Magic. The games are simply quicker. It turns out that Lavablood Goliath was just not at all playable, which I quickly discerned and cut after my fourth game.

Honestly, my deck was better than 5-5, even after that cut. In fact, I played my 20 tiebreaker games afterward and went an astonishing 17-3, for an overall record of 22-8 in the first week. Pretty damn good, even if I didn’t win when it mattered! If I averaged that winrate in the games that mattered, I would probably finish #1 overall or pretty close to it.

After playing those thirty games, I have a much better feel for the deck. The relic weapons were definitely incredible, and when I was on the play with a few minions to lead on, I felt like I couldn’t lose. Unseen Commando was as insane as advertised, and I won every game where I played it. Even games where it died, it usually forced my opponent to devote their whole turn to Extinguishing it, which allowed me to pressure their life total.

Warcry, too, was as good as I expected. When removal is already thin, and more than half of it is damage or power-based (e.g., Torch, Extinguish), a gigantic beater is often enough to lock up a game. Just don’t walk it into Entrapment! The finest play I made in my games was not attacking with my 6/10 Town Watchman and just slowly chipping in with a Tandem Watchwing. They eventually were forced to run out the Entrapment on the Watchwing, leaning on a gang block for the Watchman. I had a relic weapon to break up that possibility and ran away from there.

My deck’s weaknesses were its glut of 3-drops with very few 2s, as well as a lack of ways to clear a big threat. As I mentioned, Lavablood Goliath was stone unplayable, though Flight Lieutenant has been putting in some serious work. At least I was right about that one…

Week Two

My Dusk Road pack for week two had a stone unplayable rare (I don’t even remember what it was off the top of my head!) and only contained two real cards for my deck. Nothing else was exciting enough to make me seriously consider other faction combinations, so I just added my Frontier Confessor and Spark Hatcher, cutting Warhelm and Rabblerouser.

Sadly, I once again couldn’t pull off the wins when they mattered. I only played 6 games this week, going 3-3 again. Two of those losses were to straight-up power screw, so I don’t feel too bad about the deck, but I have noticed some glaring weaknesses, namely that there just aren’t any 2-drops. I have two in the whole pool, meaning that I’m at a significant disadvantage on the draw. My many relic weapons don’t pull me ahead on tempo if I don’t have a board presence, only maintain parity, which isn’t where I want to be.

With that in mind, and the fact that I’ve already got a reasonable 17 tiebreaker wins, I made a strategic decision to simply not play the rest of my games this week. I’ll need to get more wins that matter in order to break into the top 1000. Top 100 seems like a lost cause at this point, so I’ll set 1000 as my goal for this league. I am hoping that this week’s pack will contain some curve fixers for the deck. If it doesn’t, I’ll once again wait a week for my Empty Throne pack and see if that gets me there.

I’ll admit it’s kind of a cop-out decision, but I think it’s my best shot at spiking a good week and moving into the top 1000. I sacrifice my tiebreaker games by doing this, but tiebreakers are at most 0.99~ wins. If, by waiting, I can get one more win than I otherwise would have, that is better than going 60-0 in my remaining tiebreakers, so that’s the correct call.

If I wind up not playing my sealed pool this week, I’ll do some regular drafts and write a regular draft report. Until then!

Eternal Weekly *Limited* Report – Building Sealed

I wrote last week that I was getting a bit worn out of this current draft format, and that I might do something different this week. Luckily, DWD had something different in store for us! Today marks the start of the first month-long sealed league, which means I’m going to have to change the title of my weekly posts!

The prize support is much improved from the previous limited event. We get a total of 11 packs: 8 to start us off, plus one new pack each week to help bolster our deck. Finishing in the top 100 will get you 15 more packs, plus a premium legendary! Even if you don’t quite get there, the top 1,000 will get 10 packs and a premium rare, which is 21 packs worth of value, plus the premium, all for your 10,000 gold entry fee. That’s more like it!

I don’t know for sure how Eternal sealed will play out, but I have a decade and a half of Magic sealed experience from which to pull. I don’t have time to build the deck, then jam a bunch of games for this week’s article, so instead I’m going to go into a bit of detail about how I approach sealed in general, then discuss my particular build for this week. I’ll play a bunch of games this week and discuss the gameplay in next week’s article.

Sealed is not draft

In Magic, if you are a constructed player who looks at a pair of decks, you might not be able to tell which one is the draft deck and which is the sealed deck. They’ll both look like inconsistent garbage to you, most likely. And you’d be right about that. However, as someone who primarily plays limited, I bet I could guess which was which with a pretty darn good hit rate.

Sealed decks are markedly weaker than draft decks, as a rule. Of course, sometimes you’ll open the nuts, but removing the agency of choosing each card naturally means that the pools will be disjointed and not high on synergy. That leads me to my first major point:

Decks are bad. In some sense, everything else I’m going to say stems from this, but don’t lose hope if you wind up playing a few real stinkers. Everyone will be. It’s simply the nature of the format. Again, you could spike a sweet pool and have 34 playables in your factions, but if you did that, you don’t need my help!

So. Decks are, generally, bad. Again, if you are a constructed player, any limited deck looks bad to you. However, draft decks can lean on synergies that sealed decks really can’t. In draft, if you need some dinosaurs to bond out your Bellowing Thunderfoots, you can prioritize those over non-dinosaur playables in your factions. In sealed, you don’t get to do that, so you’re stuck with the (probably too few) dinos that you open in your 8 packs. Even with how synergy-driven Dusk Road is, it’s going to be tough to build a deck that consistently turns on your Ally and Bond cards.

I should note that the Explorer-Sentinel dynamic is particularly egregious in sealed. It was already tough to draft a deck that actually made this shine, but your Sentinels want both other Sentinels (bond) and Explorers (ally), while your Explorers want both Sentinels (ally) and relics! That asks you to balance three card types, which will be extremely tough to do in a sealed format. If you choose to go this route, best of luck!

Avoid aggro. Aggro is a synergy deck. It might not look like it, but you do need a critical mass of cheap threats and ways to punch through before you have a good aggro deck. Your dorky 2/2s for 2 have synergy with each other because, if you don’t draw a bunch of them in the early turns, they are going to do very little for you. For this reason, aggro tends to be quite bad in sealed. You just aren’t likely to have the curve you need to play an aggressive deck. I’ve done it before, and had success with it (shoutout to my undefeated Iroas, God of Victory deck at the Journey Into Nyx pre-release where I picked black!), but it’s rare that it comes together, and I would always start my builds by looking for a playable non-aggro deck. It’s only when I can’t find a playable midrange or control deck that I start looking toward building an aggressive deck.

Expensive cards are much stronger. This is the logical follow-up to the previous point. If aggro is bad, games go longer, and more expensive cards become more attractive. In draft, there are lots of 7+ power cards that I would never, ever look at. In Sealed, those cards are the ones I’m looking at to carry my deck. In my pool, I opened a Lavablood Goliath (9FF  6/6 that deals damage equal to its attack when you play it). In draft, I’d never, ever play this card unless I had an insanely good reason, and the only reason I’d take it is that it’s a legendary worth 800 shiftstone. Most draft games don’t even go 9 turns, and you’re not even likely to hit 9 power until well after that. In sealed, however, I think this card is much closer to playable, maybe even good. I’m interested to see how it plays out.

Play your bombs, removal, and flyers (and warcry units!). This seems like baby’s first limited advice. I want to emphasize it, though. In draft, you can often cut some of these things for curve or influence considerations. Flyers, in particular, aren’t as critical to your average draft deck. However, in sealed, it’s almost always correct to play as many of these things as is reasonably possible.

In draft, it’s often too greedy to splash for a powerful card, or to play those expensive cards I discussed earlier. In sealed, you get to let your greed consume you. Because your opponent’s deck will generally be pretty slow and inconsistent (as will yours), you can play all those big, dumb beaters and go over the top. Games will often stall out, and the person to draw the biggest, dumbest stall-breaker will win. Flight Lieutenant (7J 4/4, Empower: All your stuff gets flying this turn) is a fantastic example of a card that goes from nearly-unplayable in draft to a pretty damn good finisher in sealed. In draft, you might not even get to your eighth power, and your opponents will have plenty of ways to deal with your units. In sealed, you will hit eight a lot more often, and the board is likely to be nice and clogged. Playing Lieutenant and a power will often be enough to win the game on the spot.

Now, you might be thinking that this is just reiterating the previous point about expensive cards. However, bombs aren’t necessarily expensive. Unseen Commando is a bomb. Rooftop Vigilante is a bomb. Both of those cards cost 3, but they represent the ability to just take over the game. In sealed, your opponents aren’t nearly as likely to have a way to remove these guys, and you should be trying to fit as many of these cards into your deck as possible.

Flying units are also quite powerful in sealed. Vainglory Patrol isn’t quite bomb status, but it’s very powerful simply because your opponents will only have so many ways to interact with flying threats, and it can close out a game pretty quickly when your opponent can’t deal with it.

Warcry also seems exceptionally strong, again because opponents are going to have fewer ways to deal with a big threat. Slap a few warcries on a 4/4 and suddenly you have something your opponent can’t ever beat. In that same vein, I actually think regular weapons are probably a lot better than they are in draft (and they are usually strong there).

If you can’t go high, go low. Yeah, I know I said aggro sucks. But if you have a pool that tops out at 5-drops with no prospect of closing out a game that stalls out, you’re going to be even worse off if you try to play a neutered midrange game. If you don’t have any trump cards of your own, your best bet is likely to be to make sure your opponents can’t leverage theirs. It’s a last resort in all but the nuttiest of aggro pools, but it is something you should consider if you open a very mediocre pool.

Even if you don’t necessarily build the most aggressive of decks, if you lack finishers, you should try to make plays that shorten the game. Take more gambles like betting on your opponent to not having the pump/burn to kill you if it means you can kill them next turn. A+Space even if it means your opponent gets to eat a unit or two, if it allows you to set up lethal a turn sooner. Sure, they might have that pump/burn spell or a way to stop you from winning on your next attack, but you probably weren’t winning if the game went longer anyway.

 

How I approach a sealed pool

I used to do a lot of competitive sealed events in preparation for Pro Tour Qualifiers in Magic. In these situations, you get handed a sorted, registered pool and have a relatively short time (I believe it was 30ish minutes?) to build and register your deck. Fortunately, we don’t have those kinds of time constraints in the digital space, but my approach to sealed hasn’t changed from those early days.

I’ll immediately sort by color faction, then pick out the best cards, the ones that pull me toward playing that faction. If there is a faction that has a disproportionate amount of these premium cards, I will look closest at that faction. If any of these premium cards are splashable, I will keep those in mind.

Then I go through each faction and do a rough cut, only cutting the jankiest of jank. I do this so that I can get a playable count. If a faction has a low playable count without something incredible to pull me in, I’ll eliminate it from consideration.

I then look at the power curve of my remaining factions. While I harped on how much slower sealed is, that doesn’t mean I want to be doing nothing until turn 5. I want to at least check to see what each faction looks like on the curve. If I notice that one faction has a particular lack (i.e., no 3s), I will look to see if there is a faction that compliments it well.

At this point, there should be a pair of factions that stand out as the best. Sometimes there are three, but I almost definitely have cut two of them by now.

Now, I just look at various builds and splashes to choose the one that I feel balances consistency and raw power the best. This is the hardest part. You’ll probably have to just do this by feel and sheer experience. I will say that, if you’re torn between a consistent deck of medium power and a slightly more inconsistent deck with a higher power ceiling, it’s generally correct to err on the side of power.

My event pool

1500 words later, it’s time to take a look at my pool and my process. Here is what I opened, sorted by faction (click to enlarge):

The next step was to pull out all of the cards that I thought were very powerful, including forms of removal, that actively pulled me toward their faction. Here’s where I ended up:

 

The first thing that jumps out at me is that there are zero primal cards here. Not even a primal multifaction card. At this point, I give primal a once over, which confirmed that there was nothing there that is really worth playing. I kissed primal goodbye. In hindsight, I think that Slushdumper maybe deserves to be in this list, as he can dominate a board if you have enough yetis, but it wouldn’t change my analysis of Primal. It’s garbage in this pool.

The next thing that I noticed was that there are only two mono-Time cards here. Frenzied Omnivore needs TT. There are a couple of multifaction time cards in Shadowlands Bonepicker and Purify, both of which I would consider splashing in the right deck (Purify most of all; removal is king!). Marisen’s Disciple is also splashable. It’s a 2/2 flying body that comes with a free 2/2 ground dork attached. What’s not to love?

Noticing that Time seems fairly weak here, I took another look at it. Sure enough, there isn’t much there. Certainly more than Primal, but there just aren’t many reasons to be in Time. It has a lot of medium playables, but no removal outside of the Omnivore. I kept the splashable cards in mind as I went forward, but Time is effectively eliminated from consideration as a main faction.

So I’m down to Fire, Justice, and Shadow. Of these premium cards, Shadow has the fewest. I also notice that most of my removal is located in FJ, in the form of the numerous relic weapons, plus a Flame Blast and a Frontier Confessor. Confessor turning a little flyer into a little ground-pounder or silencing a big mana-sink threat like Xenan Guardian is as good as removal in a lot of situations.

Shadow has a pair of evasive threats in Vainglory Patrols, along with Slimespitter Slug, which is an absurd bomb in many situations. I’ve lost count of how many games that thing has swung from un-loseable to un-winnable, or vise-versa. In sealed, where the most likely way to lose is an unanswered flyer, Slimespitter seems like a grade-A bomb. Recycler also seems like a great card to pair with flying threats.

Next, it’s time to look at various builds. I noted that I have a Praxis banner, which means I could splash a Time card or two in a Fire deck. That’s actually a big help if I’m short on playables because of Flame Blast, which is going to be very difficult to play if I am forced into three factions.

With that in mind, the first thing I looked at was a FJ-splash-T build that takes advantage of the double Sword of Icaria and efficient FJ threats.

I really like this deck for sealed. There’s plenty of removal, courtesy of the relic weapons, and a reasonable curve of efficient units to pressure the opponent. There are a few flyers (remember, Marisen’s Disciple counts), along with a few weapons to slap on them. It has a reasonable top-end without getting too top-heavy. Lavablood Goliath, Flame Blast, and Flight Lieutenant should do a good job closing out a game that stalls out.

The weakest cards in this deck are probably Warhelm, Wanted Poster, and Barkeep’s Friend (and, to be honest, maybe the Goliath. Good luck getting me to not play it, though, at least in the first week).

All of those cards are better than they probably look, though. I mentioned above how warcry is even stronger than normal, so Warhelm gets a slight bump. Wanted Poster is a weak card in general, but I’ve got a billion relic weapons to help me hunt down that fugitive. Barkeep’s Friend sucks, but it still kills anything with 4 health or less, which is good enough for sealed.

My unit count is a little bit low. If I could cut Warhelm for an average 2- or 3-drop unit, I would without hesitation. However, the only real option in that slot was Rampart Protector, for which I just didn’t have enough valkyries.

If I had to lock this in right now, I wouldn’t be sad. Considering some of the reactions I’ve seen on the subreddit, I’d be thrilled to have a playable deck. However, there are other builds out there. Can I do better? What about Shadow, which has Slimespitter Slug, Execute, and a pair of Vainglory Patrols?

This deck also doesn’t look too bad at first glance; however, I think it’s weaker in a few key places. First off, it’s even higher on the unit-dependent cards, in that it’s running Sleeping Draught in addition to the three weapons.

Second, the Shadow playables were just a little more thin than Justice, forcing me to play things like Stonepowder Heretic, Recogulator, Sleeping Draught, and Affliction. Now, none of these are unplayable per se, but they certainly don’t excite me without some synergy. I don’t mind a single affliction, but being forced to play the second is really underwhelming.

I do gain one flying threat, trading Unseen Commando and Tandem Watchwing for two copies of Vainglory Patrol and a Scavenging Vulture. I also get to play Recycler and Execute, but I also lose out on Frontier Confessor and the two copies Sword of Icaria, which is a bit of a downgrade. Slimespitter Slug in place of Flight Lieutenant is the major payoff. I won’t deny, Slug trumps Lieutenant handily in terms of a top-end threat. However, I’m not sure it’s enough to overcome the losses in the early game.

At this point, if I was forced to choose, I’d still lock in the first list. But we’ve got infinite time for this event, so let’s keep iterating. I can’t possibly cut Fire, can I?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that I lack a sufficient number of playables in straight Argenport. I can’t easily splash Time without the Praxis Banner, so if I’m going to splash, it should probably be the faction that gives me 4 removal spells plus a Recycler.

This build has all the flying units I could want, which is actually a major plus. Rampart Protector seems playable with five valkyries in the deck (I’m not counting Lieutenant here), but I think “splashing” five Fire cards with no fixing is a bit ambitious. I’m still playing some relatively weak cards like Spiked Buckler and Sleeping Draught, but they aren’t atrociously bad either. Sleeping Draught seems fine as a “counterspell” for removal on my flying dorks.

For completeness, what if I try out the other permutations of FTJ? Here’s the FJ-splash-S deck.

Ah, yes, the classic 7-7-4 power base. Worth noting that I gain Execute in exchange for losing Flame Blast. You simply can’t reliably play a FFF card in an almost-three-faction deck like this one. Maybe I should be greedy here and play the Blast over something like Warhelm, but I’m not thrilled with the power base to begin with. I did discuss how I like to shoot high in sealed, but that is a little ambitious even for me. It could be correct, though. Experience will tell.

This deck obviously has the highest ceiling of the decks I’ve looked at. However, I just think the power base is too terrible to make this a viable option. If I had a few shadow fixers, I would be all about this build.

The Final Verdict

It was close, and the addition of more cards later on may change my mind, but I believe that the first build that I looked at is the way to go for the first week. Praxis Banner is what pushed it across the finish line. I didn’t quite have enough playables to make a good 2-faction deck, so I have to splash something. I only had two pieces of fixing in my pool, and one of them was a Hooru Banner. Primal is atrociously bad in my pool, so that leaves me with my single sad piece of fixing.

The fact that Praxis Banner lets me play an extra Fire source is where the real value lies. Flame Blast is a powerful card, but the triple-fire requirement means I’m hesitant to play it in a deck with fewer than 9 Fire sources. Praxis Banner lets me hit that threshold and still play enough Time sources to splash my two cards. Stonescar-splash-Time would be my second choice, for the same reasons, but I feel that my Justice units are just, on average, better than my Shadow ones. Having some 3/3s for 3 is nice when you are able to clear your opponent’s units with your relic weapons and keep up the pressure.

So that’s what I’m going to be battling this week and how I got there. I hope that this article was helpful for anyone who has little or no experience with sealed formats. It can be disheartening to see people who open three bomb legendaries while you’re over here scuffling around with maybe a playable rare or two, but the beauty of sealed comes from making something out of seemingly nothing. I have 0-2’d with the most beautiful of pools and top-8’d Pro Tour Qualifiers with complete garbage pools. If you can keep calm, recognize your best path to victory, and build a deck to capitalize on it, you can polish that turd of a pool into a diamond.

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.

 

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