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By: Splendid Belt, Splendid Belt
Oct 11 2010 2:23am
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Hello and welcome back to Out of the Blue.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.  That's an adage most of us are familiar with, and those of us who aren't need only step into a draft event to have the concept demonstrated clearly and definitively.  And sometimes you're crushed utterly and humiliatingly with not even the faintest glimmer of hope permitted to penetrate the dense fog of failure.  That's something I learned recently.

As a father of two young boys, my drafting opportunities are limited (there's a pun in there somewhere).  So when I finally get the chance, I want to make the most of it.  I'm reluctant to join an 8-4, partly because I'm not the world's best drafter (but don't take my word for it, have a look below), but also partly because I don't want my rare moment of drafting to result in an early loss with no reward.  I see 4-3-2-2 as optimal for me.  I'm likely to win at least a couple of packs, with a decent chance of more, and if I'm knocked out early at least I've got something to show for it, together with some more free time.

So M11 4-3-2-2 it is.  Here's how I drafted.

 

Okay, I made some questionable decisions.  Looking back I passed an awful lot of decent green fat.  And also lots of Giant Spiders and Plummets that could ruin my day.  But let's look at the deck I ended up with before we make any judgements.  Does it have game, or is it a train wreck?

 

 

The deck pretty much builds itself, I haven't left out much that was playable in my colours, and I had nothing worthy of a splash.  I deliberated for a while about whether to include Phantom Beast, but decided it just dies far too easily for a maindeck card.  I was also tempted to put a Palace Guard in for Safe Passage, or possibly one of the Inspired Charges.  But I reasoned that I had enough creatures, and precious little removal, so I needed my combat tricks to keep me afloat.

I have to say I'm happy with the deck.  I have lots of decent flyers, and two bombs in Serra Angel and Conundrum Sphinx.  I also have Armored Ascension to turn a weenie into a third bomb, and Whispersilk Cloak to break through a stalemate. 

The one thing that concerns me is the almost total lack of removal though, and I've seen and passed quite a lot of green fat.  Although I have lots of flyers, I don't feel uber-fast.  I'm glad to have both Elite Vanguard and Silvercoat Lion in there to provide some early pressure, but once something like Yavimaya Wurm comes down, I'm potentially in trouble, especially if there's a Giant Spider or two on display too.  Basically I'm a couple of Blinding Mages or Pacifisms short of real confidence.  Still, I have lots of flyers and some good pump, so let's see where we go.

Match 1 Game 1 vs.fighthemonster

Chandra's Outrage Ancient Hellkite Chandra's Spitfire Pyroclasm

Fighthemonster chooses to draw, and I decide to keep Cloud Crusader, Serra Angel, Excommunicate, Ice Cage, 2x Islands and a Plains.  My opponent Preordains on turns one and three.  By turn four I'm still stuck at one Plains, so play my freshly ripped Squadron Hawk and tutor up my second copy for free.  If only I had Honor of the Pure...  Fighthemonster plays Gargoyle Sentinel on his turn.  On turn five I finally draw a second Plains, and Serra Angel hefts her delightful frame onto my board.  She dies next turn to Chandra's Outrage... oh well.  I replace her with Cloud Crusader on my next turn.

On turn six my opponent casts Juggernaut, whose five power looks menacing.  I swing with my team to bring him to 15, and Excommunicate the fat artifact before casting Whispersilk Cloak.  Fighthemonster spends his next turn activating and swinging with Gargoyle Sentinel which is fine by me, as I'll win this race.  He adds Ember Hauler at the end of his turn though, which is less fine.  Now I'll lose the race, and the Ice Cage in my hand is effectively worthless.  I cloak my Crusader and add the second Squadron Hawk to the mix.

On turn eight Hauler beats me down to 13, then is sacced to bring me to 11.  I'm just pondering my opponent's strategy when he reveals it by casting Pyroclasm.  Now I'm left with a cloaked up Cloud Crusader to his Gargoyle Sentinel.  Life totals are 11 to 12 in my favour, and I prefer my board too.  He's holding four cards to my two however, so it's going to be tight.  Next turn I top deck and play my other bomb in Conundrum Sphinx.  I'm holding Inspired Charge meaning that I could swing for the kill next turn.  I switch the cloak on to the better creature.

On turn ten fighthemonster taps out for Ancient Hellkite, which means I've won.  I'm holding Ice Cage and Inspired Charge, both of which I cast for the victory.

Game 2

For some reason I decide to keep a terrible hand on the play of Azure Drake, Conundrum Sphinx, Island and 4 x Plains.  I suppose I was thinking that my opponent's deck wasn't fast and the Drake should be enough until I find a second Island for the Sphinx.  Or maybe I was thinking that all those Plains would make Armored Ascension a bomb if I could find it.  Or maybe I wasn't thinking.

My opponent opens with Chandra's Spitfire on turn three.  I rip a second Island, but unthinkingly cast Azure Drake over the Sphinx, as that was my expectation before the turn began.  I realised my mistake as soon as I clicked, but still... genius.  He adds Scroll Thief next turn.  I'm obviously right off my game as I decide to attack with my two power Drake into the three toughness Spitfire.  I cast my Sphinx at the end of turn and prepare myself for the Outrage... which doesn't come.  So I get away with the loose Drake play, but removal would not only have cost me some life, but also netted some card advantage for my opponent.

On his turn five, fighthemonster casts the distinctly unimpressive Armored Cancrix.  Shouldn't affect my deck much.  On my turn I leave the Drake on defence and the Sphinx is allowed through for four.  It reveals Safe Passage for me, which is sent to the bottom of my library (I named Island), which I'm not too displeased about.  I add Cloud Crusader at the end of my turn.  So far nothing dies to Pyroclasm.  So far so good.  Then I add Squadron Hawk, which changes that.  Still, it's card parity and makes me more likely to draw into something decent (or just more land).

Next turn my opponent both Foresees and Preordains.  I attack with everything except the Hawk, which puts fighthemonster down to ten.  I cast the Phantom Beast I sided in for Alluring Siren (principally due to Pyroclasm, and the fact that I feel my creatures are better so long as I just keep swinging) to keep Scroll Thief at bay.

On turn seven, once again Ancient Hellkite rears its enormous head across the board.  That potentially changes things a bit.  What's the play here?

 

I'm holding three relevant cards: two Excommunicates and an Armored Ascension.  The most obvious play is to Excommunicate the Hellkite, swing with everything, rinse and repeat next turn.  However fighthemonster blocks with his Spitfire, I'm going to win.  In fact I think that's the correct play.  However, that of course isn't what I did.

I was still fearful of Chandra's Outrage on my Sphinx.  I was pretty sure my opponent was unlikely to have Aether Adept or Unsummon in his deck, so my thinking was to stick Armored Ascension on the Sphinx while he was tapped out, then have inevitability. 

My nightmare scenario was to Excommunicate the Hellkite, swing with everything, then see my Sphinx killed on the following turn.  To be honest even with that sequence of play, assuming the Spitfire chumps the Drake or Crusader, I still bring him to two life before the Hellkite returns.  Then I could still Excommunicate it again and win.

So, loose play.  I stick Ascension on the Sphinx, which becomes an 8/8, and is shortly chumped by the Spitfire.  At this point I wasn't seeing it as especially bad play though.  After all, how could he afford to attack with the 6/6 flyer?  He'll need it on defence, and I'll still have two Excommunicates spare.  On his turn, fighthemonster does indeed turn the Hellkite sideways, activating it to cause two damage to my Drake, and two (oddly) to my Cloud Crusader.  I'm sure you all know what's coming.  That's right, Goblin Piker.  Only joking, Pyroclasm.

  

My board is swept of all but Sphinx and Phantom Beast, his is unaffected.  On turn nine I take him down to two life with the Sphinx, cast the Excommunicate I should have cast earlier, followed by Wild Griffin.  If he taps out to recast the Hellkite I've effectively won.  My opponent recognises that and concedes after his draw step.  I escape unpunished (so far) for my sloppy play.

 

Well, I may not have covered myself in glory with my play, but my deck has proven its power.  It may lack removal, but the high creature count coupled with a small amount of tempo gain appears to be strong.  In the words of the song though, 'There may be trouble ahead...'

From my scouting I see that the four of us who are progressing to round two are all 2-0 winners.  Slightly odd, but not ground-shattering.  What is rather more ground shattering is one of the decks I see from an obviously incredibly lucky drafter called Brunert.  It's better than most constructed lists.  Here's a few of its more choice elements:

Primeval Titan Fauna Shaman Cudgel Troll Protean Hydra

Fingers crossed I don't play him in the next round!

 

Match 2 Game 1 vs. Brunert

   

Well this should be fun.  I know I need to be fast, which is why I keep the fast but slightly terrible hand of Elite Vanguard, Silvercoat Lion, Safe Passage, 3 x Plains and an Island.  Brunert elects to play first.  Although with his deck he could choose to play fifth and still win.  He opens with Birds of Paradise.  I basically feel that I've already lost.  My only hope is to outrace him, as I can't even nearly compete on card quality.  Birds gives him the perfect acceleration.  I need to win by around... ooooh, turn four say?

Brunert plays Cultivate on turn two.  I beat for two and play Silvercoat Lion.  Next turn he plays Cudgel Troll.  I've lost.  Stalled on the ground, I play Wild Griffin next.  He beats with the Troll (which I don't chump), then plays Garruk's Companion, Sylvan Ranger and Alluring Siren.  I swing with me entire team because, meh, why not?  Vanguard trades with Ranger, I bring him down to 16, and add Azure Drake to my team.  Great card, but still can't deal with that Troll.  He gives me the faintest glimmer of hope on turn five by passing without attacking.  Odd.  On my turn I again attack with everything, in the air through choice, and with the Lion at the behest of the Siren.  He goes to ten and I add another Wild Griffin.  I'm starting to think if I draw Inspired Charge I could actually win this!  I have six power in the air and he's at ten life!

On turn six he swings with Companion and Troll.  Perhaps sub-optimally I trade the Companion for a Griffin.  The addition of Giant Spider to his team after combat closes to the door on my potential path to victory.  I draw land, and the Siren forces my last Griffin to commit arachnid suicide.  I keep the Drake back in an attempt to last a little longer and maybe find a game changer.  He finds the game changer instead, and casts Warlord's Axe next turn, which goes on the Troll.  I let it take me down to four.  I draw more land.  The Siren clears my blocker out of the way and I use Safe Passage to live for another turn.  I draw Foresee, and use it to see that I have Inspired Charge, Whispersilk Cloak, Plains and Island incoming.  In other words, that's game.

I spent that game slowly deflating like an old balloon.  Never mind, given that Brunert didn't even draw or need his best cards, I'm sure the next game will be better!

Game 2

I choose to play first and see this, which is a Plains short of greatness.

I send it back and keep this.

Not a bad six.  Not perfect, but better than a random five.  I play Cloud Elemental on my third turn, which is answered across the board by a third turn Garruk's Companion.  I haven't managed to draw another Plains, so my only play is Ice Cage on the Companion.  Given that I can't block it, an early cage now could save me several turns of being beaten by three, so it seems a reasonable use of my only (semi) permanent removal.  And if the game lasts long enough for him to start throwing out his better creatures I've probably lost anyway.

On turn four he shuts off my attack with your friend and mine, Giant Spider.  Still marooned on three lands, I rip and play Squadron Hawk, and find its buddy.  Brunert swings with the Spider and casts Azure Drake.  One of his worst cards, note.  I play Elite Vanguard, thinking that if I can get a few creatures out fast, draw another Plains, then cast Inspired Charge, I'll almost certainly still lose, but it'll be marginally more fun for me.  Brunert reacts to that by hitting me for two with the Spider again, then casting Protean Hydra with four counters.

On my turn seven I still don't draw a fourth land.  I cast a Wild Griffin instead, but can't attack into Giant Spider and Azure Drake.  Burnert attacks me on his turn with the Drake, Spider and Hydra.  I double block the Hydra with my Vanguard and Griffin, since neither is terribly useful at present and the Hydra is my biggest threat.  The damage will be prevented, but four counters will be removed, turning it to the rather non-viable 0/0.  But we don't get that far, as Brunert reveals that he also managed to draft a Doom Blade, which accounts for my Griffin.  So I lose both creatures, and only succeed in putting another two counters on the Hydra.  That was always a risk, but it was a case of seize the opportunity to deal with the biggest threat now, or accept a maximum four turn clock.  My opponent finishes the turn by casting Clone (yet another bomb, and especially in his deck) and targeting his own Azure Drake.

Somehow I reach turn eight and am still alive.  I finally draw a fourth land, but the bad news is it's another Island, so I can't cast either of my Cloud Crusaders, or my Inspired Charge, and my Armored Ascension would confer a mighty +1/+1.  It's luck like this which you precisely don't need against a monster deck like Brunert's.  Anyway, to make things more fun, Brunert casts his Warlord's Axe again, equipping Garruk's Companion which frees it from Ice Cage.  He turns his team sideways, and I block what I can to last at two life, for what it's worth.  I wait to see what I draw.  It's the Palace Guard I sided in for Alluring Siren, thinking the Siren was useless against such an aggressive deck, and the Guard could hold off at least some of his ground force.

I lose.

 

Conclusions

So, what conclusions can we draw from this?  Well that's twice in a row now that I've drafted a decent U/W flyers deck, and been beaten by something with superior removal and decent green fat.  Brunert was obviously lucky to see the cards he did, but at the same time he used green to its full potential.  Great, efficient creatures, acceleration, and colour fixing to enable him to play his most powerful cards across three colours.

I've been largely steering away from green in M11, as evidenced by my P1P2 avoidance of the excellent Cudgel Troll.  Perhaps this isn't such a good strategy.  I know that if I do get another opportunity to draft M11 (and given that SOM is so close, I may not), I'll be more likely to pair green with some good removal for my next deck.  If you can keep those efficient creatures coming, you're demanding that your opponent has managed to pick a lot of removal.

Having said that, I don't think any deck I've ever drafted in my life would have had a chance in that second round match.  Watching Brunert's first round match, he was paired against a G/B deck, also with some decent fat and lots of great removal (I saw Assassinate, Quag Sickness and a couple of Doom Blades.  He was still steamrollered though, with Primeval Titan appearing in both games.

So what do I learn from this?  Firstly that Wall of Frost might be a decent option in a flyers deck, at least for the sideboard.  I've been rating the Wall fairly low, believing that U/W flyers wants to be the beat down, but perhaps more ground stall would have helped me out, or at least given me another turn or two. 

Secondly I've learned to value green higher.  Part of my reluctance to draft it these days stems from my drafting history.  When I started out drafting (and this applied to my strategy for league games too), I almost always drafted Green / X, seduced as I was by the efficient fat.  Being fairly new to the game as I was, I lost quite a bit.  The bitter memory of watching my inexpertly selected and piloted green decks get annihilated by a succession of other decks has left me favouring just about anything over green.  This seems like a suboptimal point to start from when approaching any format, so it's something I need to address.

I'm perfectly happy to play green in constructed though, but that's a different ballgame.

 

Well I hope you enjoyed watching me get beaten into bloody submission by overwhelmingly superior forces.  What an article this would have been if I'd somehow managed to win against that deck.  Perhaps I should have lied, pretended to win, then made up a finals match for you all.  Hmm, you know I think my conscience could live with that.  Okay, I'll resolve to be more dishonest in future.

Until next time.

 

Splendid Belt

www.splendidbelt.com

14 Comments

Honestly I would have taken by Westane at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 03:00
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5

Honestly I would have taken the pack one Memnite in hopes of getting an aggressive- Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself... Excellent as always!

It used to be a magic maxim by Paul Leicht at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 03:31
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It used to be a magic maxim that drafting green was an autoloss. Then cards started showing up that were actually good. And other colors lost some power. Green isn't always a good choice but it can be quite viable. Now that guy was a rare drafter with incredible luck but I think you could have still won it given a better draw. Better luck next time eh?

Your P1P8 is exactly the by Lord Erman at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 04:29
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Your P1P8 is exactly the reason why I don't draft anymore. I mean, there's a Dragonskull Summit sitting there and you are "strong enough" to pick Excommunicate over it. P2P3 is the same. You have the determination to pick an Azure Drake over that nice and juicy Cyclops Gladiator. I just can't do that (Lack of will? Yeah, I guess so).

And therefore I always end up with lots of nice rares and uncommons in drafts which are sadly not playable for the deck I'm trying to draft (foil White Knight for my RB deck? Hell yeah!). Which of course lead to a first turn loss :(.

Is rare drafting something that can be cured?!

Anyway, nice article as always. I'm, however, waiting you to return to "your roots". I'm always hungry for new and fun casual stuff, and you seem to have a few nice ones.

LE

To cure rare drafting find a by JMason at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 06:42
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To cure rare drafting find a playgroup that redrafts their rares.

This is a great idea. I kinda by a small child at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 15:50
a small child's picture

This is a great idea. I kinda wish MTGO would give this option for casual drafts, not that many people actually DO casual drafts.

Generally speaking I think that rare drafting is actually fine in moderation. If I'm drafting swiss it needs to be a really good card for me to take it over something that is worth 2+ tickets simply because the expected value of the card you take over it is actually not that high. In an 8-4 my threshold does go up a bit, although I'll still raredraft there to a certain extent. If you find yourself taking .25 ticket rares over playable cards though, then yeah you should probably stage an intervention!

Yes, I can relate. I kept by ArchGenius at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 10:59
ArchGenius's picture

Yes, I can relate. I kept shooting myself in the foot whenever I draft due to my raredrafting tendancies. That's one reason why I've switched to 4-booster sealed and new set release sealed events.

Splendid, Not sure I would by Xaoslegend at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 05:25
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Splendid,

Not sure I would have been able to avoid switching into red for the big mythic maybe splashing blue for carddraw and a couple flyers. In any case I like safe passage a lot more than Ice Cage, but maybe my disdain for Ice Cage is a little pathological. I would have liked picking up that pack 3 crystal ball as well I think. Just my two cents anyhow.

X-

at least you didn't face him round 1 by unspeakable at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 11:23
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At least you didn't have the misfortune of playing the rock solid green deck in round 1. It can be a major bummer going against the top deck round 1.

Most of the drafters in MTGO are fairly good, and it is pretty well known that blue and white are both good colors. I've often found that as a result, the blue/white decks that you draft are good, but not great, because the colors are good but typically a number of people will be fighting for them. I've often seen a green deck come in first partly as a result of this, since everyone avoids it like the plague, resulting in some pretty strong green going around.

I think maybe you are overemphasizing agro a bit. The crystal ball and the warlords axe are both a bit slow, but they really enhance your late game. Since your deck didn't have a lot of card drawing, you would tend to sputter out in the late game, and if you just had a card or two two reinfoce that part of your game I think it would have resulted in a better deck.

I've noticed this trend too, by a small child at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 15:55
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I've noticed this trend too, although I think it's more exaggerated at the 4-3-2-2 and swiss tables than it is at the 8-4 tables (strangely enough). In a table of good drafters who know blue and white are the top colors and generally don't like green, you'll still usually see 2-3 green drafters because there are often enough good green cards to support that many and good players know not to categorically ignore a color.

Where you see the tables with 0-1 drafter of the "bad color" are at the less skilled 4322 and swiss drafts where you have a lot of folks who are savvy enough to read up on a draft format but also tend to take the advice way too literally. They see the pros don't like green so they will almost never draft green unless they open a sick bomb (which is ironically the worst reason to get into a weak color). This Primeval Titan guy might have been just such a drafter. He was lucky enough to open Titan which gave him the reason to jump into green at a table where it just so happened that green was very open.

It's also one of the basics by ArchGenius at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 16:49
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It's also one of the basics of drafts. Stronger colors will be drafted more heavily than weaker colors.

The trick is to find the color or strategy that is currently under-rated and go for that strategy.

Example: In Zendikar draft, black is very good and very deep. Therefore people started drafting it heavily. Then people realized that it was drafted heavily and started to avoid it. Of course, if you get enough people at your table with that philosophy, it suddenly becomes a really good strategy to draft black again.

I think you're seeing the same kind of thing with white and blue in M2011 drafts

In Match 1, Game 2, what is by Sanador at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 17:54
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4

In Match 1, Game 2, what is wrong with excommunicating both the Ancient Hellkite and the Chandra's Outrage, attacking with all fliers to reduce him to 1 life, then swinging for lethal next turn?

You picked pretty much exactly as I would have in your draft. Yeah his deck was over the top. This is what can happen sometimes when everyone passes Green.

Thanks for all the by Splendid Belt at Mon, 10/11/2010 - 19:58
Splendid Belt's picture

Thanks for all the comments!

@Westane - see you in the SoM queues, but stay away from my Koths!

@Paul - Luck definitely wasn't with me in game 2, but even if it had been I think the result would have been the same.

@LE & raredrafting in general - I suffer from the same inclination to draft value rares over something that will actually help my deck, but not down to the level of Dragonskull Summit and Cyclops Galdiator! When I'm drafting I'm more in the mindset of "Azure Drake! Fantastic!" but I'd obviously find a completely off-colour Titan impossible to ignore.

I'll be returning to 'my roots' soon! Hard to do my usual sort of article with the format about to change, but normal service will be resumed ;)

@XaosLegend - Taking the dragon would have put me in red and I didn't want to go there. Not worth it for one card that died to Doom Blade. Or Ice Cage for that matter. The Cystal Ball was a close call though.

@unspeakable - you're possibly right, but those cheap flyers kept on coming, and that's hard to ignore. And it's true, I should be grateful I didn't meet that deck in round one.

@smallchild & archgenius - I wonder how the cycle will go with SoM? White's pretty strong, will it be initially overdrafted, then more open once people realise it's overdrafted? We'll see... Though I think the shortage of removal will drive a lot of picks and make people want to keep their options open more than with M11.

@Sanador - Absolutely nothing is wrong with that play except that I didn't see it ;) As I said, I wasn't playing especially well it seems.

Interesting Read by Jarunik at Tue, 10/12/2010 - 11:46
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's really interesting and helpfull to read your draft review.

Thanks for the nice comment by Splendid Belt at Tue, 10/12/2010 - 12:37
Splendid Belt's picture

Thanks for the nice comment Jarunik.

By the way, in case anyone cares, the article title is an oblique dual reference to running away from an OP deck, and also running towards green (hills are green, right?) as an option for future drafts.