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By: Felorin, Dr. Cat
Oct 03 2011 11:37pm
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So, in pack 1 of my Phantom Draft, I found myself thinking "Is the average card power level in this set really this low?"  Thankfully, in pack 2 I got passed significantly better cards.  I ended up with a nice blue/green deck and managed to 3-0 the draft without losing a game (thanks to a lucky topdeck in round 3 game 2)!  I can't show you the draft right now though, as it appears neither Raredraft nor the Benjamin Peebles-Mundy draft convertor currently support displaying the cards in this format (DPA).

Some notes on the format: This is a novice event, so you won't run into the strongest opposition here. If you're looking to challenge and develop your play skills to the top level, look elsewhere.  If you like winning, or if your skills at draft aren't very strong yet and you want to learn, this might be your place.  Pace is slower than 8 man draft pods.  In the second round of an 8-4 or a 4-3-2-2, if the only other match finishes after yours, you wait for it.  In an 8 man swiss draft, there's 3 other drafts that might make you wait.  In the Phantom draft, you're waiting for the slowest match out of 100 or more, every round will go to time.  Have something else to do while you wait.  Prize support is 1 or 2 M12 boosters, not the greatest.  But hey, it only costs you 2 bucks to win some of that.

After the draft, I took a look at the set list for Planeswalker Boosters, and was surprised to see it has just 91 cards!  That's not a "small set", that's a tiny set!  It does explain why I saw so many repeats of cards.  (Including four Flame Wave!)  While I didn't do the analysis before plunging in, that's easily small enough to review and figure out the best plans for drafting the format.  Wizard's official list can be found right here.

Let's break that down by colors though...  These are shown roughly in best to worst pick order.

White: 2 good cards, 4 filler, 2 meh. 1-2 removal.
PacifismMakindi GriffinSuntail Hawk(pic=Veteran’s Reflexes)Venerable MonkGlory SeekerTundra WolvesAngelic Blessing

Blue: 4-5 good cards, 2 filler, 1 meh. 2 removal.
Merfolk LooterSnapping DrakeCancelSky Ruin DrakeTome ScourDisorientBlind PhantasmCloud Sprite

Black: 3 good cards, 3 filler, 2 meh. 2 removal.
Hideous EndEssence DrainDusk ImpMoonglove WinnowerChild of NightBarony VampirePulse TrackerNighthaze

Red: 2 good cards,  4 filler, 2 meh. 2 removal.
Spire BarrageShockFiery HellhoundLightning ElementalDragon FodderGoblin PikerAssault StrobeRaging Goblin

Green: 4-5 good cards, 1 filler, 1 meh. 1 "removal".
Giant SpiderSpined WurmCivic WayfinderGiant GrowthPlummetGrizzly BearsWall of WoodNatural Spring

Blue and Green are the clear winners here. Some cards labeled "good" in other colors (Shock, Dusk Imp) aren't as high quality, and blue starts with 3 top notch ones.  Cancel should be above Snapping Drake if you're a strong player, as you'll be trading it for the other guy's few bomb cards.  I feel smart now that I ended up in blue/green in my draft!  Merfolk Looter and Cancel both vary highly in quality depending on your playskill though, which is not as much the case with cards like a Giant Spider or a Makindi Griffin.  Those two and the Sky Ruin Drake help make this a very board-stall oriented format, by the way.  Stallbreakers are at a premium in this set.


White: 1 removal, 1 good card, 2 filler.
CondemnAngel of MercyWindborne ChargeSoul Warden

Blue: 1 bomb, 1 stall breaker, 1 removal, 1 card advantage. Solid!
SleepPhantom WarriorDream FractureFlow of Ideas

Black: 1 removal, 1 good card, 2 filler.
CorruptZombifyDrudge SkeletonsHidden Horror

Red: 1 bomb, 2 good cards, 1 filler.
Flame WaveEarth ElementalRockslide ElementalWall of Fire

Green: 1 bomb, 1 good card, 1 sideboard, 1 crap.
Blanchwood ArmorDuskdale WurmElvish LyristStream of Life

Artifact: 5 crap. Nothing but crap.
(pic=Angel’s Feather)(pic=Demon’s Horn)(pic=Dragon’s Claw)(pic=Kraken’s Eye)(pic=Wurm’s Tooth)

Blue cements its advantage here with NO bad cards, while the other colors are more 50/50.  Red's "2 good cards" are some of the weaker "good cards" here.  If you can go mono-flame-wave though...  I passed 3 flame wave in a row pack 2, so somebody got that deck.  There was even a late 4th copy in pack 3!  Conclusion - play blue in this format if you possibly can. Also never play artifacts unless it's Hammer Time.

Rares & Mythics

White: 1 win condition, 1 sweeper
Baneslayer AngelPlanar Cleansing(pic=Gideon’s Avenger)Cho-Manno, RevolutionaryLoyal Sentry

Blue: 3 win conditions, 1 splashable removal
Lorthos, the TidemakerMahamoti DjinnPolymorphTraumatizeMind Spring

BlacK; 4 win conditions
Xathrid DemonNightmareArchdemon of UnxMortivoreCunning Lethemancer

Red: 3 win conditions (1 splashable), 1 sweeper
InsurrectionDragonmaster OutcastShivan DragonChain ReactionWheel of Fortune

Green: 2 win conditions, 1 card advantage
Rampaging BalothsMomentous FallTroll AsceticKalonian BehemothElvish Piper

Artifact: 1 playable in any color bomb!
Loxodon Warhammer

Rares shouldn't impact evaluation of what colors are strong in this format, as most of your deck will be commons and uncommons.  Still, grab the strong ones and consider playing that color, especially if you get two or more in the same color. This is a bomb-oriented format, though not all of these rares are bombs. But don't be married to that color, or at least make sure to get a highly open and/or strong color to go with it. Signaling can be weak in this format, since you can get passed a lot of mediocre cards after the early picks, or you can be in a pod with very inexperienced drafters sending unclear signals and/or switching around a lot.  Also - Always Grab Hammer.

Archetype thoughts:

Tome ScourTraumatizeWheel of FateTome Scour

Milling is a very valid deck in this format, as most people won't take Tome Scours and you can get approximately infinite of them.  You can often get some Traumatize and/or Wheel of Fate also. With only 40 card decks and stalls being frequent, draft a bunch of defense to go with those cards and you can have a winner.

Angel of MercySnapping DrakeSuntail HawkCloud Sprite

Blue White Skies seems somewhat viable, but your card quality rapidly tails off and you will be running 1/1s. White one decent flyer at common, blue has two.  The Makindi Griffin and Sky Ruin Drake are also excellent blockers. You can probably trounce novices with this deck, against strong players you may run into a wall of the Griffin & Drake plus Giant Spider and PlummetSnapping Drake was awesome in several core sets, here the many things that can block him make him not as strong. Still he can steal games where they have no answer, and I managed to pick up 3 and passed a 4th. White is also the main "combat tricks" color, and the players in this type of event will usually walk right into your combat tricks every time.

White Weenie, Red Weenie, Red/White Weenie - don't, just don't.  You'll hit them a couple times with bears, then they'll put out Real Cards and you're just stuck. There's no Blaze or even Lava Axe to help out here, you're not going to burn them out from 10 with your two or three copies of Shock.  Spire Barrage might get you there if you get enough and if you're mono-red.  There is no Goblin Tunneler or Whispersilk Cloak for your Fiery Hellhound, it WILL trade for a Grizzly Bear.  Count on it.

(pic=Grizzly Bear)Glory SeekerGoblin PikerChild of Night

Note that you probably will be running some bears as filler, since the cardpool is shallow. They aren't there to win you the game.  They are there so you don't get blown out by the other guy's early creatures, or to gang-block or chump-block his big creatures while you fly over or mill or whatever it is your deck does.

Spire BarrageCorruptFlame WaveNightmare

Monocolor decks are not likely to have the card quality of 2-color decks.  Three color decks are probably viable due to the slowness of the format, especially if you get multiple Civic Wayfinder. Cards that try to coax you heavily into one color could be a trap.  Though if you get critical mass of Flame Wave and/or Spire Barrage it might be worth it - 3+ Flame Wave is probably a real deck since few very few creatures survive it in this format.  Generally though you'll want a two color deck.  Except for maybe:

Spined WurmGiant SpiderDuskdale WurmBlanchwood Armor

Unlike more advanced magic, Duels of the Planeswalkers has always been a fairly Timmy-friendly format.  These packs are even more so, due to the scarcity of good answers for a big ol' Spined Wurm crashing in at you.  It can often swing safely or get a 2 for 1, and if your deck is loaded up with Giant Growth it's night unstoppable.  In this bear-oriented format, with no Unsummon or Doomblade, Giant Growth goes up in value and is easily the best combat trick in the set. It only needs to fear Hideous End and Condemn, for the most part & not even Condemn on defense.  Likewise Blanchwood Armor's stock goes up with the shortage of medium-sized blockers in the other colors to gang up, and the absence of Unsummon and Naturalize.  Elvish Lyrist has a one-turn delay built in that gets you an extra Armored swing, and it shouldn't even be present until games 2 and 3.  You might need to splash a second color to fill out your playables, but I think heavy smashy green is quite viable in this set.

I am curious whether mono-blue or mostly blue might be playable due to the depth of the cardpool.  Certainly Tome Scour.dec probably is, splashing red if you have the Wheel.  But mono blue control might be solid as well, if you know how to use your Cancels and Looters properly.

Red/Green aggro and Red/Blue control don't seem as strong to me as in core sets, due to red's overall suckiness in this set.  I think it's the weakest color in the format.  Red/Black removal, normally one of the strongest decks, suffers from Shock sucking, and Corrupt and Spire Barrage fighting over what color lands you want to load up on.  There's not a ton of good removal in these colors, Essence Drain is marginal and expensive.  Hideous End, Pacifism, Cancel, Dream Fracture, and Condemn are the main "kills any size" removals.  Only one of those is in Red/Black.

Black/Blue is probably decent, and certainly better than Black/Red.

Blue/Green - I have only two words to say about this archetype, quoting Koolaid Man himself.  "Oh yeah!"

Ok, here's a few more.  With Sleep, Phantom Warrior, and two strong common fliers, blue has the most ways below rare to win through a ground stall.  Green has the strongest ability to make SURE a ground stall happens almost every game, or even to have overpowering forces and just beat through or race their evasive weenies.  One Spined Wurm can often win a race, let alone two, and they come out fairly early.

Overall color preference order:  Blue, Green, White, Black, Red.  Blue & Green are close, White & Black are close.  Red, meh, though mono-red might be stronger than I think.  If you're red but NOT mono-red, Hellhound and Spire Barrage get weaker and Flame Wave gets hard to cast.

Hope this gives you some useful insights into the format.  It's not for everyone, but it's a fun change to try once, and I think it's definitely an easier introduction to draft for the novice, since there's so much less to learn than even a regular core set.  (And core sets have gone up a little in complexity the last few years).  If one of the draft viewers adds support for this format, I'll post my draft and my game summaries later.  Thanks, and may you all first-pick a Loxodon Warhammer the way I did!


I had never heard of this by StealthBadger at Tue, 10/04/2011 - 06:31
StealthBadger's picture

I had never heard of this format before. Having looked through your card lists, am I correct in saying that Planar Cleansing is the only way of getting rid of a loxodon warhammer? Because that seems....... broken!

Immortal Hammers by Felorin at Tue, 10/04/2011 - 11:32
Felorin's picture

Yes, there's no shatter effects, and no naturalize. Given that there's only 6 artifacts and 5 of them suck, there wouldn't be many targets and that may be why they left 'em out. Naturalize could at least hit Pacifism and Blanchwood Armor as well, giving it 3 solid targets. Indrik Stomphowler could have gone in the set I suppose, or Manic Vandal.

It's an odd little format. I think Green/White, a pretty weak combo in many core sets, might even be good here.

I did see someone beat Loxodon Warhammer in two out of three games by hitting his opponent with Flame Wave in one of them, and TWO copies of Flame Wave in another. The Hammer isn't very good if you can't keep any creatures in play, right?

Well, I played in 1 sealed by Thisismich at Wed, 10/05/2011 - 01:48
Thisismich's picture

Well, I played in 1 sealed and the last 3 drafts so far and I must say it's pretty boring. I personally don't believe it's a good format to learn magic; the card pool is too small, the cards themselves are pretty straightforward as there are no real mechanic involved so it can be good only if you're really new to Magic and by that I mean you hardly ever played at all.

You also aren't going to learn drafting because it's pretty much the only format where you can end with multiples of EVERY card (except rares/mythics) in your deck. A singleton of any of them means that either there are many drafters of that color in your pod or you opened VERY BAD packs but the latter option is a lot rarer than the former.

As for archetypes, in my experience, UW Skies is tied to Bx for 1st place, red is nowhere near these two even if since they fixed Rockslide Elemental things can get nasty. White has clearly the best removals (Pacifism and Condemn) as they are both cheap and can target any creature, followed by black, just keep in mind that you can't target black creatures with your main removal and the rest is expensive. You can also add Moonglove Minnower as pseudo-removal.

I don't agree with the placement of Hidden Horror in the filler group, a T3 4/4 is quite a beating in this format given that is not answered by removal or a T5 Sky-Ruin Drake (but by then you already attacked at least once with it), plus it combo very well with Zombify. T3 Horror is even better when it's paired with a T4 Mahamoti Djinn, Lorthos or whatever bomb you may have discarded for.

Red relies on big expensive bombs but you likely don't want to run it main color as Shock is a poor substitute for W and B removal as it can't kill a great deal of things.

Loxodon Warhammer is a royal pain in the arse, when it comes down (and it's not too late) you have 3 options:

1. Remove the enchanted creature before it attacks.
2. Chump until you get removal.
3. Die.
4. Get VERY lucky ripping Sleep having lethal on board before he untaps.

Anyway, the bottom line is, IMHO this format is boring and I don't like it.