Category: Draft Reports (Page 2 of 2)

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Green is not a Real Color

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

Draft 1: Blue-Black Reanimator-Control

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 2: Sneak and Show

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

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

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

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

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

Draft 3: White Weenie

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

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

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

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

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

Draft 4: White A-Little-Less-Weenie

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 5: Jeskai Twin

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Merry Cubemas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 1: 4-color tap-out Blue

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-0!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 2: Opposition

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 3 – URw Kinda-Twin

Spoiler for uess my record...

1-2

 

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

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

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

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

Draft 4 –  Bluuuuuuuuuuue

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Tally: 8-4. 

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

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

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Splish Splash

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

Draft 1 – Praxis splashing Shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 2 – ??????

Spoiler for uess my record...

3-3, somehow

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Tally: 8-6 (56-34 overall). 

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

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

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – Piles and Piles

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

I then drafted this beauty:

Draft 2: Argenport Arcanists

Spoiler for uess my record...

7-2

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 3: Xenan Dredger

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-3

 

 

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

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

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

Draft 4: Breaking Safe Return

 

Spoiler for uess my record...

5-3

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Magic Weekly Draft Report – Hello and Goodbye, RIX

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

Draft 1: RG Dinos

Spoiler for uess my record...

1-2

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft 2: Esper Guardian

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Quality Programming~

Draft 3: Merfolk

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler for uess my record...

2-1

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Eternal Weekly Draft Report – And Justice for All

Note: I do not yet have a plugin to link card images like I do for the Magic articles. I’m not sure one exists. If not, I’ll work on writing one.

The Dusk Road has been here for quite a while now. I had a rocky start to the format, but since I finally learned to embrace the Justice life, I’ve had a good deal of success. I usually hover around upper diamond, into master if I have enough time during a given month.

I’ll give more detailed thoughts on the 3-2-1-3 format at the end of the article. I certainly enjoyed sets 1 and 2 more than this, but that won’t stop me from drafting as often as I’m able. It’s just a bit of a shame that they went to all the trouble of designing these cool tribal mechanics, when it’s often correct to ignore them in favor of less greedy, more consistent picks.

The recent minor nerfs to several justice cards have helped bring the format a little more into balance. I think that justice is still top dog, but not by quite the same margin.

Draft 1

Spoiler for uess my record!
6-3

This deck had a few subpar cards in it, but it also had Rooftop Vigilante and two copies of Spiritblade Stalker, which are enough to carry you to six wins, apparently. I didn’t take too many notes on this draft, but I did note that I felt very lucky to get to 6, won a lot of games I probably shouldn’t have.

Draft 2

Spoiler for uess my record!
5-3

This deck felt a a little more solid than the last one, up until that top-end. I went in wanting to draft something other than Rakano or Argenport, but…then I opened Rakano Sheriff and got passed Extinguish and Vainglory Patrol. Midway through pack 1, I thought that justice was not open, and I was right. The deck ended up mostly shadow, but I’m playing some pretty sweet justice cards.

My 6-drops really suck, but you can’t have everything. My early pressure is enough that pretty much any big dumb threat should be good enough.

Sadly, I wound up 5-3 despite feeling quite good about the deck. Inquisitor’s Halberd was a card I had yet to draft, and it was very good in combination with Rooftop Vigilante.

Draft 3

I evidently forgot a screenshot of this one, but I drafted Elysian dinosaurs, splashing some shadow cards. I had a Shimmerpack, but didn’t play it because most of my creatures were at least 3/3s, and it didn’t seem worth playing an 8-drop that might give them +1/+1.

I wound up 3-3 with this one, but the deck felt better than that. My first opponent had the nutso curve of Ageless Mentor into Xenan Obelisk. I did not win that game.

Draft 4

Spoiler for uess my record!
6-3

This draft started off with a first-pick Stonescar Sneak. He was as good as I thought he’d be, turning my stupid little dorks into real threats. This is probably the most aggressive deck I’ve ever drafted. I wish I hadn’t had to play junk like Iceberg Frontrunner. I’d rather have not played the expensive removals either, but at least I had some flood insurance from Scrap Hound, Stonescar Sneak, and Thunderhoof Warrior.

Draft 5

Spoiler for uess my record!
5-3

Stonescar Sneak did right by me last time, so I figured I’d take him out for a nice dinner and murderfest. This one was justice-flavored, and just as solid as the last one. Valkyrie Arcanist definitely still has what it takes. You just can’t draft a pile of 4 of them anymore, which is probably for the best.

 

Draft 6

Spoiler for uess my record!
7-2

Every now and then, after a hundred or a thousand tries, you create a masterpiece. This deck was incredible to play. It had lots of neat little synergies, good faction-fixing, enough removal, tons of mana sinks, and SWORD OF THE SKY KING.

Battlefield Scavenger was an over-performer in this one, several times bringing Valkyrie Denouncer straight into play and drawing me a card. Also gotta give a shoutout to Initiate of the Sands. More than once she bravely ramped me to 7 and then volunteered herself to feed the big dino, who crippled my opponent’s board.

The deck had such fantastic faction-fixing that I was always able to play Auric Record Keeper on turn 2 or 3 if I wanted, and hitting the full SSTTJJ was a piece of cake.

In case you were wondering, yes, Sword of the Sky King is a stone-cold bomb in draft. If you have any sort of blocking ability, you just slowly munch through your opponent’s stuff.

Conclusions

Card of the Week goes to Vainglory Patrol. I want at least 2 of these in any shadow deck. Yeah, they die if you look at ’em funny, but there are lots of good ways to gum up the ground, and 3 flying strength for 4 power is a fantastic rate. If you’re justice and can slap an aegis weapon on them, they’ll carry you all the way.

This week I did six drafts, falling into justice in four and a half of them. I tried not to draft it so much, I really did. But they just keep sending me cheap dudes and weapons, and their door-to-door game is strong. They just want to tell me about their Lord and Savior Rolant, who they say can prevent all the damage I’ll take for all eternity as long as I’m justice.

My final record for the week was 32-17, good enough to put me at something like 85/100 in Diamond. I have a little gold in the bank, so I might try and hit a home run with my next couple drafts, then retire them if they don’t get there. All I need to do is start 2-0 to hit Master for the month.

None of my drafts took too big of an advantage of the new bond or ally mechanics. The only one that did any of that was the Elysian draft where I went a paltry 3-3. I don’t really understand the rationale behind loading up the set with these mechanics that want you to reach a critical mass of certain types of creature, then only having two packs in which to do it.

Furthermore, Set 2 seems even more out of place, as the themes there don’t mix at all with the Set 3 themes. Lifeforce cards are god-awful in the Xenan dinosaur/sentinel tribal deck. All those cute “if this becomes a student” cards in Hooru…don’t have any mentors in any other set.

While Set 1 also doesn’t directly support the tribal mechanics, it at least had more broad, efficient cards that didn’t ask for specific synergies in other cards. Empower cards work just fine in a Set 3-focused deck because they just ask you to play some power. The Elysian theme of “play big dumb creatures and stun your opponent’s blockers” works just fine alongside the dinosaur synergies. The Stonescar theme of generating value on death just requires some combat to happen. Set 1’s themes were accentuated by having, say, Ravenous Thornbeasts to sacrifice your Dark Wisps, but neither of those cards was stone unplayable without the other like so many of the Set 3 cards are. Lots of Set 3 cards are absolute garbage unless you’re lucky enough to see enough cards of that tribe, and it’s not a winning proposition to gamble on it when you could just be taking a medium 3/3 for 3 with minor upside.

3-1-3-1 would have been a much, much better format, in my opinion. Set 2’s power level as a whole is already a lot weaker than Sets 1 and 3, and when you add to that the complete lack of any synergy cards coming together, I think you have a pretty good argument for cutting it from the format completely.

Magic Weekly Draft Report – First RIX Impressions

Introduction

Welcome to my first weekly draft report! Drafting is my favorite thing to do, both in Magic and Eternal, so I wanted to do a weekly roundup of the sweet decks I’ve drafted, along with my impressions of the format.

I got a bit of a late start on this format, on account of being in Antarctica when it was released. I got home a little over a week ago, but I was slow to fire up the draft queues. Ixalan was, shall we say, not my favorite format. Not because I was bad at it; my win-rate in Ixalan was about the same as any recent draft format. I just dislike any format where interaction is so nonexistent. Fast formats don’t bother me, though I am a man who likes to durdle around and cast 7-mana spells. Still, I enjoy fast formats so long as there are good ways to interact. And I do count blocking as interaction.

The last two large-set formats have been very low on interaction, with lots of ways to punish blocking. Amonkhet had exert creatures and lots of tokens, but Ixalan went even deeper. For one, the very playable hexproof common in Jade Guardian was a miserable beating when the opponent stacked auras on it. That alone isn’t enough to break a format, though. If you put that creature in most sets, it would just be a cute deck that could sometimes spike a draft pod.

Ixalan’s problem was that Jade Guardian was just another creature in this set. It almost didn’t matter that it had hexproof. You could stack One With the Wind and Mark of the Vampire on literally anything because there was so little playable interaction that could punish you. All in all, too many games devolved into each player essentially just tossing their hand onto the table and seeing who could count to 20 faster, two ships passing in the night.

Enough about Ixalan, though. Rivals is here to fix everything, right?

Hey guys! I’m so excited to be…why are you all looking at me like that?

…well, at least this one costs five. And, truth be told, in my three drafts, I didn’t run into any all-in Soul of the Rapids decks like I did Jade Guardian deck in triple-XLN. Five is a lot more than four in Magic. What did I play against? Let’s dig in…

Deck 1: Green-White Tetzimoc

Apologies; apparently I didn’t sort this one by curve…

Spoiler for uess my record...
3-0! Thanks, Tetzimoc!

 

It took me a while to finally get into this format, but my patience was rewarded with a Pack 1, Pick 1 Tetzimoc, Primal Death (foil!). Alrighty, draft is on rails now, just draft black and…

Yeah, black got cut hard. After pack 1, I had only Dusk Legion Zealot and a Vampire Revenant to show for black cards. What I did have was a pile of Exultant Skymarchers. When Innistrad flashbacks come back around, you’ll see how much I love me a Chapel Geist, and this one has a very relevant tribe to boot.

I picked up on a few mediocre green cards toward the end of pack 1, including a Plummet that tabled 13th pick or so, which is a sign that nobody around is in green, since it’s a very good sideboard card to pick up on the wheel. Early in pack 2, I picked up Atzocan Seer, along with an Evolving Wilds and a couple dual lands. At this point I was solidly into G/W, with the idea of splashing the Tetzimoc off all my duals. Double-color splashing is ambitious, but the final deck was able to reliably hit BB by turn 6.

After first-picking a Merfolk Branchwalker, getting passed a Sanctum Seeker in pack 3 showed me visions of the vampire deck that could have been. I counted my black cards, desperately looking for that magic number. I took Anointed Deacon and followed up with a pair of Skyblade of the Legion.

Alas, the black was not quite there. I did wind up playing the Deacon because it’s just too strong with my five flying Vamps, and Sanctum Seeker even came in off the bench once because I needed ways to gain life against early pressure. That may have been wrong, but, as you will learn, I am a greed monster.

My first round, I was paired against an aggressive black-red deck that played a turn-4 Vance's Blasting Cannons in game 1. I wasn’t able to apply enough pressure, and I conceded once it flipped rather than fight a hopeless fight, though if there were higher stakes, I would have kept playing for information. I mulliganed game 2 into a curve of Skyblade -> Skymarcher -> Hunt the Weak, which cleaned things up nice and quick. Game 3, Tetzimoc did what Tetzimoc does, which is make your opponent miserable, yet fill them with hope that mayyyyyybe you might just never make it to 6…

I made it to 6.

Round 2, I ran into an aggressive black-white deck that appeared to be splashing blue for a single Siren's Ruse. Maybe there was something else, but that’s all I saw in three games. Game 1, my opponent managed to land a Raiders' Wake that put me at 2. Thanks to a timely Moment of Triumph, I stabilized the board to a point where I could empty my hand and not be dead to any old attack, but eventually they out-topdecked me and were able to get around my blockers for the last 2 points.

This is where I brought in the Sanctum Seeker. Game 2 I didn’t need it, as I had the ol’ Skymarcher into Hunt the Weak curve again, and my opponent graciously helped me out with a Dire Fleet Ravager. A flurry of pump spells finished them off. Once again, Daddy (Mommy?) Tetzimoc made an appearance for the decider. I had a brick wall of Skyblade of the Legion wearing Squire's Devotion, along with some other dorks. I drew Tetzimoc on turn 7 and just hung out tossing prey counters around until I was able to straight Plague Wind them.

My round 3 opponent had a pretty nice blue-green deck full of Merfolk Mistbinders and Silvergill Adepts. Tetzimoc is apparently fond of sashimi and showed up early both games.

So I started out this format riding high with a 3-0. And with a fairly slow deck, by Ixalan standards. I did have a lot of X/3 creatures, which actually let me block things. And Tetzimoc put me (gently) onto his/her very spiky shoulders in several games. So I can’t make any major assessments other than Tetzimoc is bah-roken. But we all knew that already.

Draft 2: Red-White Path of Mettle

Spoiler for uess my record...
2-1.

This draft showcases why we pick removal at a premium and fill in the random creatures later. I started out with two copies of Bombard and a Luminous Bonds. I didn’t consider myself locked into , but nothing else jumped out at me, so I rode the Boros train all the way to the station. Early in pack 2, I picked up the Path of Mettle, which was surprisingly easy to trigger (shoutout to Mogg Not-So-Fantastic, Mr. Fanatical Firebrand). It also has a neat little interaction with Needletooth Raptor (another shoutout to Dr. Firebrand there, too).

At the end of it, I had a pile of bad creatures, combat tricks, and five nice removal spells (plus the Raptor).

As it turns out, nobody knows what the hell Path of Mettle, but I was able to sneak in just enough to put them to 2, and cold to my newly-drawn Frilled Deathspitter. Game 2, I had the nuts Path of Mettle hand, but drew 5 mountains. It was a close game, but eventually I died with a hand full of Pious Interdictions and Path of Mettle. Game 3, my opponent put a One with the Wind onto a Siren Stormtamer and elected to try to race the RW aggro deck. That was not smart. I cleaned it up with an Ascended Storm Fleet Swashbuckler picking up a Sure Strike.

Round 2, my opponent had a siiiiiick merfolk deck. Game 1, I put them to 1 life, then sat and sat and sat and eventually found one of my two remaining Firebrands. Game 2 I got the shame scoop after they attacked their 8/7 Forerunner of the Heralds into my Metzali, Tower of Triumph. Whoopsie.

Round 3 didn’t go as planned. I lost game 1 to Deeproot Waters going off. Game 2, my opponent played a Merfolk Branchwalker that stayed as a 2/1. On my turn 3, I had the option to play Path of Mettle to get the free kill on the Branchwalker or develop my board with Emissary of Sunrise. I went for the more efficient play and got savagely punished. First they played Hadana's Climb, putting one counter on Branchwalker. I untapped, played my Needletooth Raptor, and felt pretty good about things. Next turn I was going to play Path and get the Needletooth trigger to off the Branchwalker before the Climb flipped. And then my opponent got super aggro with One with the Wind on the Branchwalker, leaving 2 mana up. I ate my 6 damage, untapped, and slammed my Path of Mettle. Because of the Path ping, I was safe from one of the two copies Aggressive Urge I’d seen in game 1.

They had Dive Down instead. I took 14 on turn 5 from the 7/6 Branchwalker getting targeted by the flipped Winged Temple of Orazca[.card]. Ow.

2-1 seemed about right for this deck, though I would not have been surprised to go 1-2. The deck had some cool interactions with Needletooth Raptor, and Path of Mettle was easily flippable, but that's just two cards in a deck with zero card drawing effects. Most of my creatures were pretty terrible, and they had no synergy beyond the Raptor stuff. I lost to a deck that was doing powerful, synergistic things, though I did beat my round-2 Merfolk opponent. I did squeak out game 1, then flip my sweet rare and get 'em in game 2. It felt like I easily could/should have lost that match-up, too. Just goes to show that any creature can be a hero when it's backed up by a fistful of removal.

Draft 3: Blue-Green Kinda-Folk? 

[spoiler title="Guess my record..."]2-1.[/spoiler]

This was a weird draft. I once again first-picked a [card]Bombard. I followed up with a Hunt the Weak, then a few green cards, but red was getting cut. I did pick up Golden Guardian around fourth or so. Curious about how the card was, I took it. I got two laaaaaaate copies of Crashing Tide and decided to move in on Merfolk. Never saw a Mistbinder, sadly, but I did pick up Kumena's Awakening, another rare I wanted to try out.

Ixalan was fairly mediocre for me. I picked up a few mediocre playables. Dusk Legion Dreadnought was something I was unsure of playing, but I figured it was a nice combo with Golden Guardian. It’s possible I misbuilt this one and should have been playing River Sneak and Deeproot Waters. I was a little light on 2s, but River Sneak blocks so poorly for a deck that wants to be playing cards like Secrets of the Golden City and Kumena’s Awakening, and Deeproot Waters didn’t seem quite good enough with only 9 Merfolk left in the deck.

I did pick up the HOT HOT COMBO of Induced Amnesia + Release to the Wind, but I did not have the courage to try to assemble that contraption in this particular deck. Maybe if I’d had a way to kill/bounce the Amnesia on the rebound.

Round 1 Game 1, we both stumbled on lands. My opponent was able to back up a Shaper Apprentice and a Spire Winder with enough removal to get there before I got Golden Guardian online. Game 2, my opponent conceded way early at 20 life. Maybe it was a shame concession when they attacked Jade Guardian into my active Gold-Forge Garrison, but they had a Soul of the Rapids that was currently unchecked. I had a Crashing Tide and a Riverwise Augur in hand, so I was probably going to be able to find a way to block that thing and take over with my golems, but I think they definitely were not dead. Game 3, I was able to Ascend a Spire Winder and bounce/pump my way through anything that tried to stop me.

Round 2, I got my comeuppance for my first draft, as Tetzimoc (who clearly does love raw fish) showed up both games. I never had a chance. Substitute Tetzimoc for just about any other card in the set, though, and I think I can win that matchup. I felt like I had the edge in the other 39 cards.

Round 3, I played against a GW dinosaur deck that was playing swamps. I spent the whole time certain that I was going to see the dreaded “Tetzimoc, Primal Death has entered the revealed card zone.” Fortunately, that never happened. I took down game 1 with the ol’ golem factory. Game 2 got a little dicey as the board stalled out. I had an active Kumena’s Awakening and had a hard time finding a flying creature or Golden Guardian. I eventually did find Shaper Apprentice and Spire Winder in time to kill my opponent with 2 cards left in my library.

This deck did feel a little clunky. I was overloaded on 4s. I definitely should have cut the Jadecraft Artisan for a 2- or 3-drop. I did that after sideboarding in most rounds. Orazca Frillback came in off the bench and blocked very well against beefier creatures, and tried valiantly to race my opponent’s Tetzimoc in round 2.

It did feel real nice to play a Riverwise Augur followed by Evolving Wilds. I think good mana fixing is already a high pick, but I will snap up any and all shuffle effects if I have an Augur or two.

Golden Guardian might just be a trap. I misread the card at first, thinking it was 2 mana to activate on the back side. 4 mana means that you often won’t get to do anything else if you make a 4/4. Fantastic in a longer game, obviously, but if you’re getting beaten down by flying creatures, it’s not very useful. If the activation was slightly cheaper, you could both play some sort of kill spell or blocker AND make a golem, and then you’re cooking with gas.

Flipping it will usually cost you not just the 4/4 body, but also another creature, or even two. It’s rare that your opponent will make an attack that lets you flip it unless they think they can race the factory. If you’re in the market for a 4/4 for 4 with Defender, by all means, play it. Or if you have a lot of 5/5s floating around, go for it. But I found it a little clunky in most matchups. Not something I’ll take too highly in the future.

Closing thoughts

7-2 is a solid way to start the format. I drafted a good mix of colors and archetypes. The format definitely felt slower. I can’t imagine playing a card like Secrets of the Golden City or Kumena’s Awakening in triple-Ixalan. I saw a lot of Merfolk decks, and they all looked really, really good when they had a Mistbinder in play. I wasn’t super impressed by any of the other decks I ran into, nor was I that impressed with any of my own. Certainly none had any of the punch that some of the hyper aggressive Ixalan decks had. I think that’s a good thing. When everyone is doing fair things, it allows for more interesting gameplay decisions. Obviously, nine matches isn’t enough to draw massive conclusions about the format, but right now it seems like a massive improvement over triple-Ixalan.

I did get to try out some weird rares this week. Kumena’s Awakening and Path of Mettle impressed. Golden Guardian did not.

Whew, this was longer than I thought. Perhaps fewer details next time, especially if I get up to 5 or 6 drafts next week.

 

 

 

 

 

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