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By: Godot, Ryan Spain
Jun 23 2009 11:42pm
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WaitingForGodotSmallI hit the draft room and sorted by player count to see what was close to firing. Swiss was at 7 players, so I jumped in and started drafting. But Swiss? Swiss is for n00bs.

The notion that Swiss is for beginners is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the payout structures were kept the same but we flipped coins to determine match winners, it would make no difference in the long run whether you played Swiss or 84, you would average 1.5 packs per draft (12 packs distributed to 8 players each draft). 4322 is the real dog in the scenario, where you would average 1.375 packs per draft.

The knock on Swiss and the allure of 84 both surround the dream of "going infinite." How can you chase the dream of never putting money into Magic Online again if you are playing in a format where your best-case scenario is breaking even on packs?

You can't. But here's the big secret: the vast majority of drafters are not good enough to go infinite at 84, either. Once you accept that you can't go infinite, if your goal is to make the best return on packs (and matches played, for that matter), a skilled player in Swiss is going to win more than the 1.5-pack average, while a skilled player in 84 is going to make just around the 1.5 pack average. Combined with reselling singles and playing nix tix when possible, a solid player can reduce the expenditures to a trickle in the Swiss queues.

Packs aren't everything, of course. If your top priority is to play magic at the highest possible level against the highest-quality opponents, there is no substitute for 84. If you are a good player looking to maximize your return and reduce your drafting costs, though, give Swiss another look if you have dismissed it.

The Draft

I went into the draft ready to go with the flow, but looking for reasons to go Naya or Jund out of personal preference, setting me up for a powerful pack three that I'm extremely comfortable drafting. The general power level is so much higher in Alara Reborn that you really have to be thinking ahead to that pack.

The draft capture missed the first pack, which is a bummer. I know there was the classic Branching Bolt/Oblivion Ring pick, and that there was also a Vithian Stinger. The rare was Manaplasm—solid, but not better than the removal in the pack. Oblivion Ring is really close to Branching Bolt with my Jund/Naya mindset, and if those are my shards of choice, Branching Bolt is actually the more flexible pick, fitting into both Jund and Naya.

However, the O-ring deals with, like...everything...and just because I'm looking for Naya/Jund doesn't mean I wouldn't go Esper or Bant if that's what was flowing, and the O-ring is very splashable. Gimme the ring...

Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:

If I'd taken the Branching Bolt it's a tougher pick and I probably take the triland. As it is, I love Wild Nacatl in Naya, and it's a fine play in Jund or Bant as well. I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the Akrasan Squire and staying fully on-color, but I’m a sucker for one-mana 3/3s.

Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:

I'm sending Naya signals downstream no matter what, but as always, the signals I'm sending aren't as important as the ones I'm receiving. If the neighbor to my left goes into Naya it will hurt some of my Conflux picks, but then I'm back in the driver's seat in juicy, juicy Alara Reborn. The important signal is that the drafters to my right seem uninterested in Naya. Of course, that's what the player to my left may be thinking...

As long as I'm committing to Naya, I take the amazing triple threat Naya Charm over the Vithian Stinger and Naya Battlemage. What a thick pack for Naya! In the alternate universe where I first-picked the Branching Bolt, I take the stinger here.

Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:

Easy fixing pick, especially Wild Nacatl-buffing fixing. Mental note that I have now passed a third pinger. I'd be taking my second pinger in the Blood Cultist on the Jund path.

Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:

Fifth-pick Topan Ascetic continues the red-green signals. In the Jund path I’d take the Bone Splinters, especially with one unearth guy already in my pile.

Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:

Wow, sixth-pick Magma Spray with five other Naya playables in the pack? I read you loud and clear, neighbors! I have to believe I'll be taking the Jund/Naya leftovers in Conflux, though, as I've been taking and passing good Jund options so far.

Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:

I will not be passing pinger #4. "You'd never see that in 84," you say? Probably true, but again, depending on why you play, this is an argument for Swiss, not against it.

Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

The correct pick would be to cut Goblin Deathraiders, but I like to take the rares floating by in weak packs, even if they are worthless—it's the collector in me. There's also the positive angle that shipping the 3/1 trampler sends a "Jund" signal that is potentially worth more to my Conflux picks than cutting it is worth to my matches.

If I'd gone Jund, I'd have Branching Bolt, 2x Vithian Stinger, Blood Cultist, Magma Spray, Bone Splinters, Savage Lands, and now Goblin Deathraiders. That would be excellent, but I can't complain about my Naya pile, either.

Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

In retrospect, the Rockcaster Platoon or Bant Battlemage had more chance of seeing play in my deck than the Sighted-Caste Sorcerer did, but it's a minor mistake.

Oh, Cloudheath Drake...[Grandpa Simpson Voice] "When I was a boy, we windmill slammed 3/3 flyers for five first pick! Sometimes they had drawbacks! You kids today with your wheeled Cloudheath Drakes have no idea how good you have it!"

Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

I don't want to be playing the Thorn-Thrash Viashino, so I'd rather set up the possibility of splashing a black or blue bomb while denying fixing to my opponents.

Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

A nice gift from that insane Naya pack. I have first-picked Hissing Iguanar in some packs, thrilled to take one 11th.

Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

He could make the cut if I get a run of good 5cc fatties. That's the end of relevant pack-one cards.

Pack 2 pick 1:

My Pick:

Isn't it nice to check the rare of a PxP1 and know immediately it will be your pick it? I glance at the rest of the pack for reference before clicking the Apocalypse Hydra.

Pack 2 pick 2:

My Pick:

The Paleoloth is conditionally solid, but with removal being a pillar of any limited format and fixing being a pillar of Alara drafting, it really isn't close. Maybe if the Paleoloth didn't say "another" creature with 5 power, he would be good enough to trump the Fiery Fall.

Pack 2 pick 3:

My Pick:

I wavered on the Armillary Sphere over the Aven Trailblazer, but figured that between this and the Jund Panorama, I could potentially splash a black or blue bomb. Obviously, the sphere's real power is in 4c and 5c, but it's good in any shard-based deck.

Pack 2 pick 4:

My Pick:

The Vagrant Plowbeasts are a pain to get rid of, but seven mana is too oppressive without evasion—eight if you want to be able to regenerate it when it hits play. Meanwhile, two-powered flyers for three are a limited staple.

Pack 2 pick 5:

My Pick:

I was thinking at this point that domain might still be a possibility, and that 2/2 first strike isn't shabby even without it. Kranioceros might have been the better pick, but I'd hope not to have to run it after picking up some beef in Reborn, the land where Gorger Wurms can wheel. We also have another spurned 3/3 flyer for five that might have been the correct pick. Sorry Grandpa.

Pack 2 pick 6:

My Pick:

I am happier to run Sylvan Bounty than many others. Obviously fixing is its primary role and that's how I treat it, but every once in a while, gaining 8 life at instant speed can throw off racing math and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Rhox Meditant is a better card, but Sylvan Bounty is more likely to be important to this deck.

Pack 2 pick 7:

My Pick:

I'd love a Molten Frame for the inevitable Esper match, but Gleam of Resistance is excellent.

Pack 2 pick 8:

My Pick:

Rare draft, or board card? Board card.

Pack 2 pick 9:

My Pick:

Unsummon gets no respect. My pick was clear, though.

Pack 2 pick 10:

My Pick:

The blades in Alara Reborn can make a 3/3 for 3 seem downright expensive, but I'll happily add him to my pile 10th pick.

Pack 2 pick 11:

My Pick:

Excellent. It can start in the main or the board depending on deck depth.

Other relevant Conflux picks:

Pack 3 pick 1:

My Pick:

If you really want to succeed in Magic drafting, you have to hone your pack-opening skills. The Behemoth Sledge a pretty sight. Maybe the Captured Sunlight or Jund Sojourners will table...

Pack 3 pick 2:

My Pick:

I have yet to play with Enlisted Wurm despite being Naya and Bant in a few of my triple Reborn drafts. I'm looking forward to my first six-mana cascade...

Pack 3 pick 3:

My Pick:

This was tough! I had all the tools to splash for the Bituminous Blast, and I came into Reborn ready to take one, but the Retaliator Griffin intrigued me and I wanted to give him a try. A 2/2 for 4 mana is way below the curve, but it's an absolute lightning rod for any opponent that would like to attack without giving me a dragon in the process. And how annoying is he for a removal-free opponent? "Come on, let's race!" Finally, even though I can splash, I have an excellent, consistent Naya deck shaping up and I don't need to mess that up with a fourth color.

Replace the griffin with a crap rare and I splash the Bituminous Blast without a second thought.

Pack 3 pick 4:

My Pick:

Jund Sojourners would go well with my pinger, but I went with a solid two drop instead. Good Esper heading downstream in the Glassdust Hulk and Ethercaste Knight.

Pack 3 pick 5:

My Pick:

I wanted that post, but my fixing is pretty solid and removal is removal.

Pack 3 pick 6:

My Pick:

In triple-Reborn I'm all about the Jund Hackblade here, but this deck needs the Rhox Brute more than it does an unreliably-hasty blade.

Pack 3 pick 7:

My Pick:

I went down to the last few seconds on this pick. Both Qasali Pridemage and Vithian Renegades serve similar functions, but each has important pros and cons. Pridemage can be played without a target on board, is never stuck in hand because you control the only artifact, and can hit enchantments. On the flipside, he doesn't stick around after the dust settles like the renegades. T3 renegades hitting an opposing borderpost is a crippling play. A tough call, but I take the Qasali Pridemage.

I wave at the Vedalken Heretic I seem to see in every draft.

Pack 3 pick 8:

My Pick:

This Trace of Abundance is the cherry on top of my fixing, and probably means I won't have to play the Sylvan Bounty.

Pack 3 pick 9:

My Pick:

Captured Sunlight is difficult to evaluate. Enlisted Wurm, Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf are obviously great because their worst-case scenarios all produce a reasonable effect on the board for the cost. Captured Sunlight’s worst-case scenario is the type of effect you coax your n00b friends out of playing in their decks. Is four life plus one of my cheaper spells better than the Leonin Armorguard? It’s going to depend on the cheaper spells, but the presence of Apocalypse Hydra in the deck is a knock against the sunlight. On the other hand, Hill Giants with non-evasive, one-shot abilities are not great in a format with 3/2s for two, so I think it’s close.

Pack 3 pick 10:

My Pick:

My desire to test Captured Sunlight led me to pick it again, but I definitely prefer the Naya Sojourners in retrospect, particularly with one Captured Sunlight already.

The next four picks:

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My Final Deck


imageI’m not loving the Captured Sunlights given the hydra, but overall I think the deck looks quite solid. My big concern is the nutty Jund deck I was passing, despite sharing two of its colors.

The M10 Experiment

Much has been said now about the upcoming change to combat damage. While I will miss pulling damage-on tricks, I believe the motivation for the change—changing counterintuitive rules to reflect player expectation—is good game design. If a rule in your game seems wrong to virtually every new player that encounters it, there is a problem with your rule, not with your new players.

Those predicting a massive strategic loss to combat are blowing things out of proportion. Having to choose between combat damage and sacrifice effects creates a choice that wasn’t there before, and more choices mean more chances for the superior player to outplay the inferior player. This is particularly true online, where damage-on timing is driven home pretty quickly, and understanding it is not an advantage over very many players. Having a better grasp of when to deal damage and when to take out an artifact with Qasali Pridemage, on the other hand, is a genuine advantage.

Another big outcry is over how nerfed pump becomes under M10 rules, and I’m telling you now: the reports of the death of pump are being greatly exaggerated. The only scenario in which pump, bounce, and sacrifice effects will be weaker than they are currently is when you are trading creatures in combat against an opponent with untapped mana, or a sacrifice creature is blocking a creature with trample.

Reading forum comments, you’d think these scenarios happen every combat step, when in my experience, they don’t happen all that much. When it does come up, the impact is definitely rougher on bounce spells, but even in my first article where I ran two Unsummon and played them often, it never came up. It’s certainly a factor that weakens this category of cards, but not to the massive extent many players are claiming. Besides, having to reassess power levels given new circumstances will again favor superior players.

As for the experiment: while I’m not suggesting I represent a statistically-relevant sample, from now until M10 rules take effect online, I will note in my walkthroughs every instance where combat would be affected by M10 rules. I encourage everyone to look out for the M10 Effect, particularly those concerned about the falling sky. Personally, I’m hoping M10 panic causes Colossal Might to start tabling…


My opponent wins the roll and keeps, and while I'm assessing the seven below for the draw, he responds to my "gl" greeting with, "hi u2, I'll need it with my draft."


I'm not thrilled about this hand given the flood potential, but I was leaning keep anyway when his comment pushed me over the edge. If my card quality is higher, I should be able to withstand drawing some unwanted land, and at least I can crack the panorama on T2 to thin it by one.

"Some unwanted land" turned out to be quite the understatement. I ripped three straight basics, and the first spell of the game was his T4 Angelic Benediction.

I draw Topan Ascetic, and can either play him out or take my chances with the Captured Sunlight. What's the play on this board? Here are the cards I can hit with the sunlight:

image image

Given the possible pulls, the obvious choice is to play out Topan Ascetic. The first three columns represent results I'm happy with, the fourth column represents non-blanks I don't want to flip, and the fifth column contains straight-up blanks (I count returning the panorama with Naya Charm as a blank). That makes eight good flips and seven bad-to-awful flips. I should really only be casting Captured Sunlight when Villain has a 2-toughness creature, leaving only one total blank to pull in the Apocalypse Hydra.

I didn't look at my deck during the game, though, I just roughed it. My quick thinking at the time was that Topan Ascetic was weak without buddies, Captured Sunlight would maximize my mana, and that most of my flips were good (technically true). I sunlight, and while it doesn't blank, it comes close with Trace of Abundance.


Ouch. One of those things I don't always do but should is open the draft deck I'm playing in the deck editor for easy reference in spots like this. I guessed that my odds of getting a desirable card off of Captured Sunlight were solid, but looking would have quickly convinced me otherwise.

I recommend saving out your limited decks during deckbuilding under your own filing system, but failing that, all submitted limited decks are saved out with a date-and-time naming convention to:

C:\Documents and Settings\[YOUR.PC.USERNAME]\Application Data\Wizards of the Coast\Magic Online\3.0\Decks\TournamentDecks

It's a good habit to save out and load up any limited deck before your first game, but it's all the more important when you are packing mechanics like cascade.

It ended up not mattering. He summoned a Waveskimmer Aven, I used the Oblivion Ring on it, and he followed with Behemoth Sledge. The only spells I drew for the rest of the game were a Rhox Meditant and a Fiery Fall that was too little too late.



Time to win two straight. My opening seven on the play:


I might consider keeping this on the draw with the two pulls at a land, but you have to send this back on the play. Six?


Easy keep.

We both fix mana on turn two, my panorama to his Rupture Spire, and I draw Enlisted Wurm and play Matca Rioters having hit Nayatron. He casts a T3 Tidehollow Strix and passes. I draw a Plains, and face the Captured Sunlight decision again. Sunlight, or Hissing Iguanar? I have the same possible pulls, except Oblivion Ring and Topan Ascetic are now possible, and Hissing Iguanar is not:

image image

It's a much closer call this time since removal won't be a blank, but I opted for the sure thing in the iguanar. I swung in with the Matca Rioters, happy to get the pesky strix out of the sky or hit for 3, whatever Villain wants. He declines to block.

He drops a Knotvine Paladin and hits me for 2, and I pull land number six, guaranteeing a T6 Enlisted Wurm. Now is the time to roll the dice on Captured Sunlight, and it turns up...Trace of Abundance. This is where a cascade spell attached to a body or removal feels vastly superior.

I swing in with the rioters and the iguanar, he declines to trade for his Knotvine Paladin, drops to 11 and I pass. He leaves the Tidehollow Strix behind and hits for 3 with the paladin. He taps out for a Sphinx Summoner, and I wince and wait while he searches.


He finds:

Vectis Dominator

Sometimes, there is a defining moment in a draft game where you know you have only two choices: win the match, or quit Magic. This was one such moment. The pressure went up dramatically, with my license to continue playing the game I love now on the line.

I untap and draw Cerodon Yearling. Obviously the Enlisted Wurm is coming out to play, but before or after combat?


The argument for “before” is that I may get removal for one of his flyers. However, we would love nothing more than to trade for either or both of his flyers with a 5/5-plus-something coming into play. I want to offer him trades before unleashing the wurm. Happily, he accepts Hissing Iguanar for Tidehollow Strix, taking a point in the process. I cast my first Enlisted Wurm moments later.

image I hit removal, but I wouldn't change my play even knowing Magma Spray was coming. He draws, attacks, and passes without playing a land, obviously up to something, but it’s a trap I’m going to have to spring. I draw into my other Captured Sunlight and this time there’s no reason not to do it before combat. In a hasty move, he responds to my sunlight by casting Winged Coatl for no gain. He is punished for the play when I flip Sangrite Backlash, use it on the coatl, and swing for the win.

image R1G3

Villain mulligans to five, and I have these seven on the draw:

image Lovely. Between his mull to five and this grip, I feel like this is not going to be my last Magic match. I cast a T2 Armillary Sphere and crack it on T3 over using the panorama to ensure T4 Nayatron for the Retaliator Griffin. Unfortunately, I have to ditch the Molten Frame as a result.

His first non-borderpost play is a T4 Behemoth Sledge. It’s a concern, but with two instant-speed removal spells, I’m hoping to burn in response to equipping for some big tempo swings.

imageHe casts a T5 Sphinx Summoner fetching Tidehollow Strix, which all seems manageable, particularly when I draw a Magma Spray. I can Naya Charm his sphinx and attack, sit back and Naya Charm in response to equipping, or play Vithian Stinger, letting him either hit with a sledge-wielding sphinx or cast and equip the strix before my pinger is on line. What’s the play?

imageI think he would have already killed the Retaliator Griffin if he could, and since the Fiery Fall can still kill a Sphinx Summoner equipped with the dill hammer, I should give him a chance to make me a 7/7 before I shoot the sphinx out of the sky. I would go with the Vithian Stinger play on a do-over, but I elect to sit back on the Naya Charm in the actual game. He tries to equip, I shoot it down, and he plays out the Tidehollow Strix.

I draw a Forest, play it out, and check my options. I can play the Enlisted Wurm, play the Vithian Stinger with Magma Spray mana up, or sit back on Fiery Fall.

image What I want him to do is equip the Tidehollow Strix and attack me, making a 6/6 Retaliator Griffin. If I play the wurm I might hit removal when I actually don’t want the strix dead yet. I’d rather play the Vithian Stinger and pressure him to equip his strix. If he attacks, he’ll probably sit back on defense the following turn to trade his strix for my griffin, and that’s when I can take it out. He obliges.


His play allows me to untap, drop a Plains, and play Enlisted Wurm while leaving a Mountain up to spray and ping his strix at the end of his next turn. I could do it now, but I don’t want to give him a window to play and equip Winged Coatl. This cascade goes much better.image

He casts no spell, keeps the strix back on D, and I take it out as planned. He concedes when I draw and cast Behemoth Sledge, and thankfully I don’t have to quit Magic.


I win the roll and assess for the play.

image Looks good, plenty to do while I wait for white. I face my first decision on T3: play Vithian Stinger or Topan Ascetic?

image In many circumstances, I would lead with the ascetic, here. However, I passed two Vithian Stingers and a Blood Cultist in this draft, and if he was the recipient of those gifts, I want to play the first pinger. I have other removal in hand, but I’d rather not have to use it on an opposing pinger just to make way for my own.

He shows Esper with a T3 Island and an Ethercaste Knight. I pull a Plains and can go with the ascetic, leaving Magma Spray mana up, or just tap out for the Retaliator Griffin. What’s the play?

image This is very close. I even started to cast the griffin, then decided against it and brought down the ascetic instead. I’d like to give him another turn to use removal on a lesser creature, and the Magma Spray/Vithian Stinger combo is a nice, flexible play to have at my disposal for his upcoming turn.

He swings into me with the knight and four mana up. What’s my combat plan?

image I can take out the knight in response to the exalted trigger, or block with Topan Ascetic and buff him up, but saving two damage just isn’t worth tripping the telegraphed trick. Most players in my position are just going to take the two, here, so don’t miss out on opportunities to bluff through a couple points against solid opponents when you are in the Villain's position without a trick. He Agony Warps the Topan Ascetic in response to my end-of-turn ping, and I pat myself on the back for leading with the ascetic.

I draw Naya Charm, and now Retaliator Griffin is the clear play. If he has more removal, I’ll tip my cap and dig for additional threats. Indeed, he has Crystallization for the griffin and swings with the knight. I ping him before untapping, draw a Plains, and plan my turn. What’s optimal, here?

imageI have no shortage of removal, what I need is a threat. Fortunately, I have removal removal, and play the Oblivion Ring, targeting the Crystallization. This frees up my now-4/4 griffin to do some damage. If I had drawn any kind of threat, I would have let the griffin sit on board for some additional growth until I could de-crystallize for a game-winning attack. I could take out the Ethercaste Knight as well, but why? He’s not going to attack with anything until the griffin is dead.

He drops a couple of flyers to set up a gang block after I play out Matca Rioters. I ping him down to 8, and plan the next turn. Assuming you aren't going to draw anything relevant, what's your play for the upcoming turn?

image The win is actually on the table regardless of my draw: untap, tap his team with Naya Charm, ping him, and swing for the final 7. There are also more complicated wins by killing the flyers and using Sangrite Backlash on the griffin. If you didn’t see one of the multiple checkmates in this spot, you have room for improvement in your board awareness, and need to consider all the uses of your spells.


I swapped out one or both Captured Sunlights to accommodate Molten Frame and Nacatl Savage from the board. I keep a fine starter and there is some light back and forth early, but he can’t find black mana and succumbs to my superior forces by turn 7 in a game not worth the play-by-play.


I can’t find R3G1 anywhere in my replays, and don’t remember much about it except that Villain has a very solid Esper deck, it was extremely close, and my Behemoth Sledge trumped his skillful use of Ethersworn Shieldmage. I’ve sided in Molten Frame and Nacatl Savage again for game two.

My seven on the draw after Villain mulls to six:

image Nayatron and the dill hammer alone make this a clear keeper, the rest is gravy.

Villain plays Island and Plains while I draw Hissing Iguanar and a Forest, accelerating with a T2 Trace of Abundance. He hits Espertron on T3, but passes suspiciously. I draw a Magma Spray and can play the Behemoth Sledge or Hissing Iguanar. What's the play?


On the one hand, we want to get our attack on. On the other hand, his most likely holding is something that deals with the iguanar but not the hammer. However, playing Mjolnir here is only super awesome if it specifically leaves him with three unspent mana that he would have otherwise used on the Hissing Iguanar. Those chances aren't high enough to warrant getting cute. I play the iguanar leaving Magma Spray mana up, and he passes without a response.

These are the spots where Magma Spray has the potential to shine, despite not triggering the iguanar. There are so many one- and two-power creatures he could play where Magma Spray creates a tempo blowout at the end of his turn. Unfortunately, his play is Unstable Frontier into Esper Cormorants, and Magma Spray stays in the holster. I draw another Forest, take out his cormorants with the Sangrite Backlash, swing for three and bring the hammer down.

He plays an Island and passes, I draw into a Molten Frame, and despite the trick hanging out of his sleeve, my course is fairly straightforward:


Equip the Behemoth Sledge leaving the Mountain and the traced Forest up, and swing away. With no other plays, I’m springing the trap regardless of what he's up to. Turns out it’s Drag Down, which wasn’t preventable.

We play lands back and forth for a turn and a half, and then he makes a Vectis Agents leaving UW up. I make the obvious Molten Frame play and he nails me with Hindering Light.


Have you ever locked your keys in your car? You know, when you realize as you are slamming the door shut what you’ve done, but not in time to stop yourself? Your autopilot has failed you completely, and you are left staring wistfully at the keys in the front seat. My next play was a lot like that.


I respond to the Hindering Light by wasting a Magma Spray that my autopilot had decided would kill it, and I’m left staring wistfully at the Magma Spray in the graveyard. Compounding the mistake, I take a point of mana burn because of incorrect land tapping for the Molten Frame. I would not have bet that mana burn would be my first example of M10 rules affecting the result of a play, but there you go.

Suffice it to say, this is a spot where neither I nor the Magma Spray shine.

Buck up, carry on, still have a Behemoth Sledge. These mistakes happen to us mortals, it's just that most of us mortals don't then post screen shots of them on the internet. The main thing is not to tilt over it—that will simply lead to more mistakes.

I draw into Oblivion Ring and send away the Vectis Agents before it starts taking four-point chunks out of my life total. He answers right back with an Esper Sojourners, but with a clock twice as long as the Vectis Agents', I'm not hugely concerned, almost any creature will do.

I rip Qasali Pridemage, who definitely fits the description. He suits up with Mjolnir and waits his turn.


Villain plays Esper Stormblade and passes with two cards in hand. I draw a land and swing in with Gleam of Resistance mana, which actually won't even save my pridemage in the face of an Ethersworn Shieldmage. I have to take the risk, though, as my worst case scenario is trading my Qasali Pridemage for his Esper Stormblade, which is not a terrible result.


He does have the Ethersworn Shieldmage and I'm forced to trade without even gaining life.


This was almost my first case where M10 combat rules would have altered the result of a play, but not quite. He swings me down to 15 and passes, and I pull another body to wield the sledge in Matca Rioters. In his first main he cycles an Esper Sojourners tapping my Matca Rioters, which seems like odd timing for the effect until he completes the play with Controlled Instincts.


“Nice play!” (Incidentally, that is the least-used autophrase online). I untap and pull a Rhox Meditant. What's the plan, here?


The straightforward play is Rhox Meditant, then either equip it or play whatever I pull off the draw. The other play is to pass quickly, let him attack into me, and Gleam of Resistance to bring up a 6/7 blocker with lifelink. I decide taking out one of his creatures, gaining six life, and then gaining another five with my follow-up attack is the move that really puts the game away for me, but maybe it's a little fancy-play syndrome. It probably doesn't matter as long as I have the sledge equipped to a creature that can attack.

He correctly plays his Sludge Strider precombat, and I gleam into the blocker as planned. Fancy plays feel great when they work.


I untap, draw a land, play the Rhox Meditant and draw into Apocalypse Hydra for the first time all draft. I could leave the rioters up to block, but I opt for the aggressive play and swing for 5 points of lifelink damage that go unblocked. I move the sledge to the meditant, drooling in anticipation of my next turn.

In his next main, he taps all but three mana to make another Vectis Agents, but declines to pay for the Sludge Strider's trigger. He either has a three-mana, instant-speed play, or he is giving up a two-point life swing for the bluff—highly unlikely. My draw produces a Plains, and I have to decide whether or not his telegraphed instant affects my play, here. Does it?


The correct line starts with an attacking Rhox Meditant, which I failed to do. He's not going to pass on a two-point life swing when racing a Behemoth Sledge for a bluff, so he must have a three-mana play in hand. The possibilities are: Drag Down, Esper Charm, Lapse of Certainty, Resounding Wave, Soul Manipulation, Spell Snip, and Ethersworn Shieldmage.

The soul-crushing possibility here is Soul Manipulation, which is why attacking with the meditant is correct. If he has Ethersworn Shieldmage or Drag Down, he will use them during combat, and it will clear the way for resolving a monstrous Apocalypse Hydra. If I swing in with the meditant and he doesn't have a response, I can reassess what I may need to play around to resolve the hydra.

In the actual game, I didn't think this all the way through, I was just excited to play out the Apocalypse Hydra and I hadn’t fully processed his decision to decline the Sludge Strider activation. Luckily, he was not on Soul Manipulation and I resolve the biggest creature I've ever had in limited Magic.


Yowza! He untaps, draws, and passes, and I attack next turn prepared for an Ethersworn Shieldmage. He obliges, but not only are 11 power and 11 toughness worth of undamageable creatures not enough to take out the hydra, he takes 7 points of lifelinked trample damage in the process. Seems good.


He fails to draw an answer, and thanks to some nigh-broken equipment, I survive voluntarily discarding Magma Spray to 3-0 the draft.

The win makes me 2-0 in ACR drafts after being brutalized by AAA and AAC for so long. It was “only a Swiss queue,” but I remain convinced that Swiss is the optimal format for solid players looking to maximize their return and reduce drafting costs.


Wow.. Great Article! I just by Lenney (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 00:24
Lenney's picture

Wow.. Great Article! I just knew that Hydra would be a bomb, and a Hydra equipped with Sledge should be considered a hate crime.

Just one question.. What are your final thoughts on Captured Sunlight?

Captured Sunlight: meh by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:25
Godot's picture

My current take on Captured Sunlight is that it is playable but not great, but how playable depends on what it can flip and what you are playing it over.

If it can only flip removal, creatures, and maybe an annoying borderpost or two but no pure blanks, and you have a shallow 4-hole and only marginal cards to play over it, it's solid. It just pales in comparison to the removal- and permanent-based cascade spells, and in future drafts I hope to avoid running it main deck. There are worse cards to have to run due to playable count, though.

At least I hit Trace of Abundance in this draft and not the Apocalypse Hydra.

So true.. A Hydra flipped by Lenney (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 21:01
Lenney's picture

So true.. A Hydra flipped over by Sunlight would've made me want to vomit.

So, I'm looking but I can't really tell if the 4 points of life were relevant. I'm just wondering because, at Common, Captured Sunlight seems like a great pick if its in your colors, but nowhere near Butt Blast or some of the others which force me sometimes to splash.

I think 4-3-2-2 is still more by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 00:36
Anonymous's picture

I think 4-3-2-2 is still more optimal on the aspect of reducing costs, since a win nets you 2 packs outright. you need 2 wins in swiss just to get 2 packs, and 2 wins in 4322, well, gets you 3 packs.

A bit of draft math by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 00:52
Anonymous's picture

If you believe you're a 2-1 favorite over the field in either a 4322 or Swiss, then your raw EV on 4322s is higher: your EV on the Swiss is (obviously?) just two packs, but your EV on the 4322 works like this: you have a 2/9 chance of winning exactly two packs (a 2/3 chance of winning the first round * the 1/3 chance of losing the second round), a 4/27 chance of winning exactly 3 packs (2/3 * 2/3 * 1/3) and an 8/27 chance of winning 4 packs (2/3 * 2/3 * 2/3), for an EV of 2*(2/9) + 3*(4/27)+4*(8/27) = (12/27)+(12/27)+(32/27) = 56/27 = 2 2/27 packs. More relevantly, though, your Swiss winnings force you to sit through 3 full rounds (of 4 games each), whereas you have a greater than 50% chance of playing no more than 2 rounds in a 4322, and even when you do play all three rounds the last two will often go substantially faster than they do in Swiss, so your expected 'packs/hr' rate is even higher than this.

Math *and* Data Support Swiss by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:26
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You did a quick thumbnail of Swiss as a 2-1 affair, then a big breakdown of 43 that includes 3-0 scenarios. Let's do a quick thumbnail of each with an expectation of going 2-1. Let's represent which round the loss is in like this: 0-1-1, 1-0-1, 1-1-0.

In Swiss, each of those patterns wins two packs, for 2.0 packs per draft (ppd).

In 43, 0-1-1 wins 0, 1-0-1 wins 2, and 1-1-0 wins 3, for 1.67 ppd.

Obviously, a deeper study would take into account the frequency of 3-0 in Swiss vs. 43, and how often you are going to 1-2 or 0-3 Swiss. I don't have a huge Swiss sample size (maybe 15-20 drafts?), but I have yet to 0-3 Swiss, and have only gone 1-2 once. I would guess I'm about 20% 3-0, 75% 2-1, and 5% 1-2.

But let's not guess. Here's a significant sample size to analyze, posted in a previous comment thread by manzanill: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pcahsA9RlwScuTNnOm94YEw

In 372 43 drafts, he won 619 packs, for 1.66 ppd
In 29 84 drafts, he won 44 packs, for 1.52 ppd
In 33 Swiss drafts, he won 69 packs, for 2.09 ppd

Note how closely his results reflect my "quick thumbnail" look at Swiss and 43 with an expectation of going 2-1.

His numbers are hard to argue with, and makes my point quite well. I haven't contacted manzanill to ask his rating, but note that he is almost exatly at 1.5 ppd in 84, suggesting he is an "average" 84 drafter, or somewhere in the mid-1700s.

The sample size for Swiss is small, but Swiss is far less volatile than 84 or 43, and will produce more accurate numbers than 43 would with a small sample size. Meanwhile, his 43 count is enormous, and quite statistically relevant.

Also note that he is making 39% above average (1.5 ppd) returns at Swiss compared to 21% above average (1.375 ppd) returns at 43, which also reflects what you'd expect from an "average" 84 drafter.

I'm thrilled that manzanill has been keeping such careful records, and has shared them. It really drives home in practice the math that's right there: 43 has tougher opponents and pays out fewer total packs. Swiss has easier opponents and pays out more total packs. That scenario favors Swiss, and Manzanill's results bear it out with a 1.66 pack-per-draft average at 43, and a 2.09 pack-per-draft average at Swiss.

Well, my analysis of Swiss by Shaterri at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 19:52
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Well, my analysis of Swiss wasn't based on the assumption that you *always* go 2-1; the claim is just that if you think you're a 2/3rds favorite against the field, then your EV for a Swiss tournament is 2 packs. This is pretty straightforward: your three rounds are independent events (we're making a simplifying assumption for both cases here that your opponents don't get harder as you progress), each with EV 2/3rds of a pack, which means that your total EV is 2/3 + 2/3 + 2/3 = 2 packs.

The one assumption that's most likely to be wrong, though, is the glaring one: that your quality of opponent is going to be the same from 4322 to Swiss. Looking at the spreadsheet above (and restricting only to formats where he played both styles), his overall record in 4322s was 174-128, for a 57% win percentage; meanwhile, his record in Swiss drafts was 69-30, for a 70% win percentage. That's a pretty drastic difference, and unsurprisingly it leads to a major difference in results. (Again, sample size issues mean that you can't really trust the swiss results -- he's played fewer swiss drafts total than he did AAA 4-3-2-2s! -- but with 100+ matches they should be accurate to within about 10%.)

I'll see if I can't share out the spreadsheet of 'actual' vs. 'expected' EV for the 4322s later, but the short version is that his overall EV there (1.68 packs/draft) was more than close enough to the expected EV based on a 57% win percentage (1.74 packs/draft), with the one real anomaly being RRR draft, where a ton of 1-1 drafts drastically skewed the final results.

(And congratulations on getting me to finally register for an account here. :-)

Win Percentage by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 21:41
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I would think a big factor in the higher win percentage in Swiss is, well, the fact that it's Swiss. When you lose in round one, you go on to play another player who lost. Your run in the loser's bracket is going to be inherently easier. There is no loser's bracket in 43--after round one, you either play against another undefeated player, or you are done.

Data behind that link is by manzanill at Fri, 06/26/2009 - 02:43
manzanill's picture

Data behind that link is updated everytime I finish a draft or any event.

On the right side theres monetary stats and also my rating which btw went all time high yesterday 1840 (ACR has been very good for me). But yea I am "average" drafter and I have twice played IRL.
I see no reason to play 8-4s since my main goal is to cut the bleeding:
I would play more Swiss if they only fired more often.

Swiss is also very good if one plays 2 or more drafts same time since rounds take full time so I won´t be slowing others play.
I played yesterday LLM 4322, ACR Swiss and SSE 4322 almost same time and I was slowing down the Swiss match a bit. I did win 2 of them and in LLM lost in 2nd round.
Only way to get those QPs with my limited time and only drafting is to play multiple sametime

And yes nice articles!

So in retrospect... by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 01:09
Anonymous's picture

...Griffin or Bit Blast? I think Griffin's excellent, obviously, and you kind of needed the guy, but I'm pretty sure that blast is the right pick there every single time. I like most of your picks (and agree with a few of the comments about missed picks -- Platoon over Sighted-Caste Sorcerer would've had a good shot at making your deck, for instance), but I'm pretty sure Blast is 100% over Griffin. One Swamp gives you 4 good black sorces (Panorama, two landcyclers) without even trying, and that's before you pick up the Trace a bit later in the draft. The only other ones I might've done differently are P2P4, where I like Slavedriver marginally more than Trailblazer and think you can expect to splash him, and P3P4 where I like Sojourners over Yearling -- the latter gets outclassed fast (and isn't as hot in a deck where the one color you consistently want early is G), whereas a cycler that can pick off the occasional random Strix/Stinger/Squire and even catch Blades every now and then is going to be early or late. Congrats on the win, though, and thanks for another great play-by-play!

Bit Blast was correct by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:27
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I think you are correct, Bit Blast was the correct pick as a single Swamp makes it splashable with negligible damage to my mana base, and helps the Matca Rioters to boot.

From a personal perspective, I don't mind my pick, though. Too often, I pass up opportunities to test drive a rare that seems to have potential in favor of a known quantity, and I've been trying to correct that a bit. I probably overcorrected in this spot, because Bit Blast is *that* good. I don't hate experimenting with the rare, though, particularly when I'm going to be making a walkthrough, and am therefore experimenting on behalf of others.

Now that I've tried out Retaliator Griffin, I would take the Bituminous Blast if faced with this pick in this scenario again.

Nice Article! by Paul Leicht at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 03:42
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I agree that Swiss is great if you actually want to play 3 rounds (and have the time) and know you are slightly superior to the crowd. However I have had a few swiss drafts where it was clear sharks were in the waters. I don't understand why anyone would slum if they are that good but it happens I guess.

"The Rhox Meditant is a better card, but Sylvan Bounty is more likely to be important to this deck." this struck me as an odd statement. Particularly since you ended up not playing the Bounty and running another Meditant that you picked later.

My feeling about (Trace of Abundance) is that it is a continuation of wild growth which I have always associated with junk even when the format allows for that kind of strategy. A personal prejudice I know but it seems borne out by the Cascading into it twice. On the other hand I don't think either Cascade hurt you much. The few swiss I have played not to mention the ARB Prerelease (where I top 8ed but scrubbed out in the quarterfinals) Trace has seemed a weak card and I have been glad to see my opponent play it. Just curious what the rational is. Clearly it did not hurt your games here.

The other card that has seemed less than good in my own experiences with it is the Yearling. 2/2 haste for 2 in most formats is probably a solid creature being a bear+ but with Blades abounding it seems weak. I can see that it fit your curve but I wouldn't have played with it, preferring maybe the sigil I would have picked instead of the Trace.

I want to say that I enjoyed your article and the fact that you put screenies up to show us the board position (ala Chess Diagrams). Reminded me of my first Chess book in fact. "Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess" which is a great intro for a young player. (I got mine at age 8.) Let me feel that I was actually participating as a spectator. Thanks for illustrating it for us.

Meditant, Trace, and Yearling by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:31
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Re: meditant vs. bounty: at that point, I don't know what kind of fixing I'm going to get for the rest of the draft. What I mean by my comment is that I'm more likely to be in desperate need of a 2cc fixer than I am a 2/4 vanilla cantrip man for 4. It also frees me up to take powerful spells over fixing in Reborn, which is a position I relly like to put myself in.

Re: Trace: cascading into it twice sucked because you would never want to play a 4-mana enchant land that gained you four life and allowed the enchanted land to tap for extra mana of any color. The biggest problem with Trace is that is is ideal on T2, and that is not the play you are hoping for

Consider all the turn-two mana fixing plays in Alara: panoramas, Druid of the Anima, Rupture Spire, five basic landcyclers in Conflux, five basic landcyclers in Reborn, and Trace...if you assume the ability to do the fix on turn two, Trace is actually the best of them, accelrating you to 4 mana on turn three and fixing all colors.

That's a big assumption, though, and the big knock is that it is "fixing" that requires GR or GW to pull off. However, in base-green Naya, fixing W with GR or fixing R for GW should happen often, and don't underestimate the raw power of moving Naya's mana curve up a turn. turn-three Rhox Brutes, turn-four Rakeclaw Gargantuans, and turn-five Enlisted Wurms are pretty good. It's hard to call Trace "fixing" in anything but base GW, base GR, or Gwr Naya, though.

Re: Yearling: yeah, he's not great, and I agree with you and others that Jund Sojourners was the better pick there, although Yearling both turns on your blades and trades with all but Bant Sureblade.

Great draft report and by ErikuKun (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 04:36
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Great draft report and congrats on the win!

I especially like the "whats the play?" sections of your articles

Another advantage of swiss is by adhuin (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 05:11
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Another advantage of swiss is that you always get to play 3 matches, even when you or your shuffler sucks.

R2G1, unless I'm missing by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 05:27
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R2G1, unless I'm missing something, you only have 1 win on board with naya charm unless you draw another mountain.

And Don't knock Vectis Dominator until you've played with it, as it is quite good at racing. Underrated, IMO.

The Other Win by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:34
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The other win is less efficient, but you can Magma Spray the screecher at EOT, burn out the cormorants with naya charm, and enchant the griffin with Sangrite Backlash to swing 7/1, then ping. That's a strictly worse play than simply winning with the charm, though.

Vectis dominator gives your opponent choices, which is not good unless either choice is great for you. Compare him to Fatestitcher, for example.

Since I see him going 14th a lot I can't argue against him being underrated since there's no way to go but up from there, but I would hope to never have to play him, and if he's the best you can come up with against me after a Sphinx Summoner, I like my chances in the match.

I think the point is that you by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:30
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I think the point is that you don't have the RR that you would need, at least based on those screenshots, to cast Naya Charm and Sangrite Backlash on the same turn to get the Griffin through for the win. Backlash may have some flexible color requirements, but they're not flexible enough to let you cast it for GW. :-)

My Bad. by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:39
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Oops! Correct, the Naya Charm is the only on-table win there.

Great article - really well by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 06:36
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Great article - really well written. More please :)

great article by rumbagod (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 07:19
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i like your presentation and the "what's the play" aspect. and as noted, the M10 rule changes on combat came up once in 3 games...fairly impressive.

Did I miss something? When by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:36
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Did I miss something? When did it come up? I didn't see any outcome being different under M10 combat rules.

I think he means the time you by JBushEsq at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:41
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I think he means the time you mana burnt for 1.

I thought that might be what by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:49
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I thought that might be what he meant, but he specifically cited "combat" rules.

M10 combat by rumbagod (not verified) at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 07:23
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unless i took it out of context, you wrote:

"This was almost my first case where M10 combat rules would have altered the result of a play, but not quite. He swings me down to 15 and passes, and I pull another body to wield the sledge in Matca Rioters. In his first main he cycles an Esper Sojourners tapping my Matca Rioters, which seems like odd timing for the effect until he completes the play with Controlled Instincts."

Bad sentence placement. by Godot at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 11:29
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I should have put the sentence, "This was almost my first case where M10 combat rules would have altered the result of a play, but not quite," as the last sentence in the previous line, above the image. You read it as being about the upcoming play, when I meant it about the previous play.

I should have said, "He does have the Ethersworn Shieldmage and I'm forced to trade without even gaining life. This was almost my first case where M10 combat rules would have altered the result of a play, but not quite."

Because his creatures could not actually be damaged by my lifelinked Qasali Pridemage, it didn't actually matter whether or not I sacrificed the Pridemage with damage on the stack or not. If there had been a gang block by artifact creatures able to take damage, then M10 rules would have changed the result of the play.

Another awesome article! by Ikoma_Aze (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 09:50
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Thanks for another awesome write up! It's so good, I've started telling my friends to read you!
(Another one, and I'll have to put it on my FB Status!).

In particular the play by plays, screen shots and "what's the play" are such a great learning tools, for making crucial decisions. Keep them up! :-)

I did have one question... R2G1, when "He swings into me with the knight and four mana up. What’s my combat plan?":

I would have blocked with Topan Ascetic, and tapped him to pump himself up. Then wait, and see what villain plays.
If nothing, ping his 2/4 at end of turn. If you need to, pump your Topan up with Vithean.
What's wrong with this play? What else could he have that makes this worse than taking 2 free damage, given that you want to draw out any removal anyway.

Oh yeah and: "Buck up, carry on, still have a Behemoth Sledge. These mistakes happen to us mortals, it's just that most of us mortals don't then post screen shots of them on the internet." made me LOL.

Your articles want to me try by draconias at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 09:57
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Your articles want to me try to draft more :) Good job.

But since I'm a casual player, without much time so 4322 is my favorite. I like it when I don't make the best deck to be booted and move on. But I also don't win very much (I got second place once) so getting 2 packs is fun. I can definitely see Swiss as a good way to reduce the cost.

One more thing I forgot to by draconias at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 09:59
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One more thing I forgot to ask. How do you do the half size cards? I know (pic= and (tmb= how do you go inbetween?

Draft Converter by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:38
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You mean the cards in the draft? That's from the Benjamin Peebles-Mundy draft converter. http://www.zizibaloob.com/. You could probably trick it into producing half-card html for non-draft stuff by changing the cards in a draft output file to be the cards you wanted half-size graphics for, but for me it's just the magic box that turns my text drafts into picture drafts.

That magic box is exactly by draconias at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:50
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That magic box is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

i love naya charm so far in by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:05
Anonymous's picture

i love naya charm

so far in the last three drafts 4322, i have drafted the charm usually falling into R/G/w/b and using the tapping all crits ftw during land stalls.


Nice article, only pick I by MaSTaFLaSH (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:23
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Nice article, only pick I really disagree with is griffin over blast. Blast is just so much better, and with all your fixing you could've splahed for it easily and it would also have made rioters better now that you are playing a fourth color. Lastly I would have run another land and the Outlander instead of two captured sunlight, sorry I'm just not a fan of captured sunlight.

Outlander vs. Paragon by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:48
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See response above, I agree on Bit Blast. With no blades to turn on, though, I don't like maindecking the outlander and upping my land count to remove the two sunlights. If I could do it over again, I'd cut one sunlight for the Paragon of the Amesha. I think the Paragon's first strike and single-color requirement make it a better main deck play than the outlanders. It's close though, outlander isn't much worse main deck than the yearling.

I agree with draconious by Scartore at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:18
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Really makes me wish I had time to draft more, or I'd get leagues back.
ACR is turning out to be an awesome limited environment. Much better the the previous multicolored block (Ravinica/Guildpact/Dissension) because the third pack really compliments the first two, whereas in RGD the dissension pack almost always clashed with what I'd managed to draft.

Your articles are really by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:29
Anonymous's picture

Your articles are really good. I only play constructed right now but I'm getting the itch to start doing some drafts, you look like you are having an awesome time in yours.

Pack 3 Pick 1 only displays by quetzilla at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:51
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Pack 3 Pick 1 only displays 14 cards, with a rare missing, so it looks like you dropped something somewhere.

No Basics by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:55
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I deleted the basic land option out of all the picks. Your P3P1 rare was Time Sieve.

Wow, i'm blind. I triple by quetzilla at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 16:16
quetzilla's picture

Wow, i'm blind. I triple checked it too but hey...

acr is terrible by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 13:33
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"ACR is turning out to be an awesome limited environment. Much better the the previous multicolored block (Ravinica/Guildpact/Dissension) because the third pack really compliments the first two, whereas in RGD the dissension pack almost always clashed with what I'd managed to draft."

ACR is pretty bad. Much worse than RGD or Invasion Block. The sheer number of bombs make any game a toss up. i.e. making a game changing mistake, but still winning because u have behemoth sledge, which obv shouldnt be uncommon.

Disagree by scrappykid at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 13:56
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I don't feel ACR is terrible. I agree that there are some really bomby cards, but there are interesting angles of attack against those cards. The presence of powerful equipment with a substantial equip cost increases the value of artifact removal and "bad" instant-speed creature answers like bounce and tappers.

Since ACR, i've moved Naya Battlemage up in my pick order, as well as picking Vithian Renegades and Stun Sniper even higher than i had them in triple-Reborn. (maybe the fact that i played triple-Reborn points out that i'm a very, very bad player) Naturalize and Filigree Fracture were terrific in AAR, and they're even better now that they can instant-speed Stone Rain and destroy critical pieces of the Robot Army you pretty much have to defeat to 3-0 a draft these days.

I think you can make the point that all those answers are just fine without Sledge distorting the environment, but for myself, I'll disagree.

I agree. I don't care so by quetzilla at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 16:19
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I agree. I don't care so much about the bombs as I do the terrible mana fixing compared to RGD. RGD you could (and should) draft 3-4 bounce lands every draft and that by itself leads to excellent mana bases. I was really good at RGD and had an awesome time drafting that, but ACR consistently leads to frustration for me so I've stopped wasting my money on it.

Terrific article by scrappykid at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 13:48
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I've really enjoyed both of your articles so far. It's clear you put a great deal of work into them, and accurately capture both your uncertainty and the subtlety of board positions from your opponent's point of view.

I also appreciate that you own up to your mistakes.

Re: Cascade and Trace of Abundance. Do you feel that the interaction with Cascade pushes up the value of the landcyclers (the X-cycling creatures in Reborn and the basic landcyclers in Conflux)? Every time i get to dodge an unfortunate cascade on a landcycler, or topdeck a landcycler in the late game, i do a little fist pump for flexible cards.

In a vacuum, is the acceleration from Trace worth the trade-off with good Cascade misses and instant-speed search? (if you knew you were going to hit that card twice with Cascade, you probably would have played the Sylvan Bounty instead)

Very Nice article, I love by ArchGenius at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 13:57
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Very Nice article,
I love how you show the opening hands to several of your games. I think deciding on the mulligans is one of the most crucial skills there is in playing this game and having extra practice at it is great. It's also one of the skills where I want to improve the most.

I also really like the way you analyze certain points in the game and whether or not you are going to try to trip your opponent's trap. That seems to be a critical choice we make over and over again in this game and it's another very useful skill to practice.

Very nicely done. You've inspired me to use similar "What would you do" situations in my next article. I'm thinking that would be especially useful in analyzing what to get with tutors in 100 singleton games.

Easily my favorite draft by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 15:47
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Easily my favorite draft walkthrough that I've read on this site. You obviously know your stuff, you explain situations and thought processes clearly and have a nice subtle humor about it all. Well done.

We were actually clanmates back in the OTJ era. I remember when you simulated opening like 700 OTJ sealed sets for league practice. Sniff... leagues...

Spooooooooooooooooon! by Godot at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 16:15
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Who are you? Still playing? Come on back to Spoon clan! We've rotated out seemingly-inactive members here and there so maybe you were cut if it seemed you were no longer playing, but I'm sure we can make room if you want back in.

I still have those sealed-deck files, and still have a complete OTJ set online. I'll throw down with "free" OTJ sealed any time. ;)

heh, I suppose it would have by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 16:38
Anonymous's picture

heh, I suppose it would have been convenient of me to mention who I was, sorry about that. I think my screen name back then was simply my name, Jason Chorman. I'm currently inactive, but like all MTG players, I will be back at some point.

About building the deck: did you consider dropping the land enchantment for the green forestcycling-lifegain spell? You keep the fixing aspect of it, lose the ability to ramp to 4 mana, but you eliminate the chance of revealing that enchantment on a cascade effect. Kind of a toss-up I guess. Playing 4-drops a turn early is always good.

Another home run. by MConstant (not verified) at Wed, 06/24/2009 - 15:50
MConstant's picture

Man this has quickly become my favorite Magic thing to read on the net, period. I get more out of one of these articles than I do out of most of the Magic reading I do for a whole week. The way the article goes over every step, from cracking the first pack to when to mulligan to tough tricky play arounds, it's just invaluable for someone learning the ins-and-outs of drafting.

I am a proponent of Swiss drafting as well, and I draft almost exclusively Swiss at this point. After probably 40+ drafts in RRR and ACR, I have only once gone 0-3, have won my fair share, and go 2-1 the majority of the time. For me, the return on packs is much better, but also just the fact that Magic is a high variance game, where flood/screw are absolutely part of the equation means that I want to lower my variance as much as possible.

I can think of many times where I drafted a really solid deck in a 4322 only to have it epic-fail in round 1 and then I never even get to try it out, let alone win any packs with it.

I would also like to add another point in regards to the benefits of Swiss. You just get to play more games with the decks you draft. People have mentioned getting bang for buck by playing more games vs the slowness that exists with Swiss, but my angle on it is that you get to actually use the cards and the deck you drafted for a longer period of time. This means that you get to see which cards are working and which aren't. It also teaches you to sideboard well and really hammers home what works and what doesn't.

If all you play are 4322 and 84, you get significantly fewer games in, and in a format that is fairly new, this is a big disadvantage.

Anyway, keep up the good work and keep these great articles coming!

Agreed by mattlewis at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 11:06
mattlewis's picture

I agree with MConstant here, some of the best new MTG writing on the net. It's not just a draft walkthrough where you have to read the tea leaves to figure out what the author is doing. In particular, the mulligan and play analysis is great.

Godot is raising the bar for article content and preparation.

Excellent article, made me by Cantripping (not verified) at Thu, 06/25/2009 - 06:51
Cantripping's picture

Excellent article, made me think (especially back to the 3 Griffins I have drafted so far, which did me absolutely no good at all :p)