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By: Godot, Ryan Spain
Oct 22 2009 10:55am
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WaitingForGodotSmallest It’s Friday night, the kids are sound asleep, the wife is happily doing her own thing, and the online Zendikar prerelease is waiting for me. I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long for one to fire; I’d checked in on the queues when they went live, and counted 56 prerelease events in progress after only 13 minutes!

image Sure enough, when I logged on to play, the “players” column in the event queue was ticking upwards like a stopwatch, and less than half a minute after entering, I was looking at my first online Zendikar sealed pool! A rarity sort showed me both Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet, so I figured I’d be playing black barring a complete absence of support cards. My black was actually pretty light; two Giant Scorpions, two Crypt Rippers, and a few other playables, but no Disfigures or Hideous Ends. I almost bailed on black despite the mythic bombs, but decided to look at it with the other colors and see if there was a good fit.

When I checked blue-black, I liked what I saw. Blue had the depth black was missing, but wasn’t heavily demanding on blue mana, which was exactly the kind of partner color my black cards needed. With two Welkin Terns, two Into the Roils, a Windrider Eel, and some long-game enablers in Kraken Hatchling, Paralyzing Grasp and Gomazoa, I thought it image would play well in the format, especially with my Adventuring Gear, Trusty Machete, and Grappling Hook making my attackers that much better. It was light on hard removal for a black deck, but I felt it could put on some early pressure and take over a long game.

I lost match one after both of Villain’s Baloth Woodcrashers showed up in games two and three, but felt like I still had a great shot to go 3-1 with the pool. I was on my way to doing just that in round two against a friendly regular reader (ggs, Kriterian!). I’d started a memorable comeback in game two that required a series of intense blocking decisions in which I let my life total slip to 1 to his 26, but me with a Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet that had stopped the bleeding, and Ob Nixilis, the Fallen about to go to town with my freshly-drawn Grappling Hook. With Villain down to just under twenty after my first post-takeover attack, I would win if I could pull a land to deal three and make Ob Nix a 6/6…


Apparently, Magic Online has the capacity to handle a PTQ without a problem, but not a prerelease for a hotly anticipated new set! Magic Online crashed good and hard right at that moment, and it was about a half an hour before anyone was able to log on again. By then, all prerelease events active at the time of the crash were cancelled (you keep your cards), and the reimbursement request link was making its way around the Magic community faster than the swine flu at PAX.

Freeroll! It was a bummer to have to restart a prerelease event at 11:30 PM, and I honestly want Magic Online to succeed more than I want twelve packs of cards for the cost of a six-pack event, but I looked at the bright side, banked my cards, and started over again on the house. I felt for those who didn’t have the means to secure 30 more tickets, as reimbursements for lost events don’t go out for a couple of days after filing a request.


I’m going to look at my rares and then evaluate each color individually, but for some mechanical suggestions on how to tackle a sealed pool in twenty minutes, check out my article on the M10 prerelease, where I divulge my secret tech for building a sealed deck online. OK, on to rare check number two:

image Rite of Replication, Bloodghast, Kazuul Warlord, Rampaging Baloths, Magosi, the Waterveil, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood

Rite of Replication is a serviceable Clone variant that is unlikely to be kicked, and while happily playable, I don’t consider it a draw to play blue. I’m not sure how good Bloodghast is in limited yet: on the one hand, blocking is awfully useful, but on the other hand, so is a creature that won’t stay dead as long as you have a land drop. I’m definitely running it in any aggressive black deck, but I’m preparing for occasional frustration when I do.

A true ally deck is unlikely in sealed, but Kazuul Warlord is playable if unexciting as a 4/4 for 5 in red, with additional playable allies being gravy. Rampaging Baloths is quite good—certainly enough of a bomb to pick over removal in a draft—but landfall suffers on permanents with high casting costs since you are less likely to have lands when they hit. A 6/6 trampler for is very good without a landfall ability, though, and it only takes a couple of landfall triggers for it to become back-breaking. It’s the only rare I’ve opened that has me actively hoping for the depth in its color.

Magosi, the Waterveil isn’t likely to be too much more than an Island that enters the battlefield tapped, but it has some upside for that relatively small cost. Turns are powerful, so manipulating who takes them and when can also be powerful, even if you have to be fair about it. For example, storing a turn with mass removal in hand and then taking an extra turn after you blow up the board is a potent play. Magosi also improves counterspells in hand, since you can store a turn, tap out for something worth protecting before taking an extra turn, then untap, ready to protect your investment. I’m not expecting amazing things from it, and it still doesn’t make me happy to play reactive spells in limited, but it’s a low-risk, low-gain card that I will try out if I end up in blue.

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood has the same relatively small drawback as Magosi, but more potential to be relevant to a given game with its pure-upside ability that only requires a new green creature and a spare mana to use.

Before I check each color, I note my lands and artifacts, which include Adventuring Gear, Akoum Refuge, Piranha Marsh, Turntimber Grove and two Soaring Seacliffs. Since green is the color I’m hoping contains some depth, let’s start there.


imageGrazing Gladehart, Harrow, Nissa's Chosen, Oran-Rief Recluse, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Primal Bellow, Rampaging Baloths, Relic Crush, Savage Silhouette, Scythe Tiger, Tanglesap, Turntimber Basilisk, Vines of Vastwood

Ouch, major bummer. Only six creatures that I’d play, here, with only eight or nine total playables. As much as I like the Rampaging Baloths, green doesn’t look like a strong contender for a main or support color, unless there is a complimentary color that is extremely deep.


imageBladetusk Boar, Burst Lightning, Demolish, Goblin Bushwhacker, Goblin Shortcutter, Goblin War Paint, Kazuul Warlord, Magma Rift, Plated Geopede, Seismic Shudder, Shatterskull Giant, Spire Barrage, Unstable Footing

Also a bit light on creatures, but it has three solid removal spells, and I like several of the creatures I do see, with Plated Geopede emerging as one of my favorite two drops in the set, and Bladetusk Boar representing a great finisher against anyone not playing red. There are definitely some unexciting cards at the low end, but Demolish is the only card I can’t see myself ever playing main, although I’d also hope to start Seismic Shudder and Goblin War Paint in the board as well. With 12 cards I’d be willing (if not thrilled) to maindeck, red is a solid option.


imageBlood Seeker, Bloodghast, Bog Tatters, Feast of Blood, Giant Scorpion, Grim Discovery, Guul Draz Vampire, Heartstabber Mosquito, Marsh Casualties, Mind Sludge, Nimana Sell-Sword, Quest for the Gravelord, Surrakar Marauder, Vampire's Bite

A deep color in terms of sheer quantity, there are some solid early drops to compliment the red we just looked at, particularly the two Surrakar Marauders, and to a lesser extent the Guul Draz Vampires, who end games in a hurry once your opponent is "bloodied" (at 10 or less life). Feast of Blood is not playable with this vampire count, and Vampire's Bite is either a Lava Spike or a voluntary 2:1, so I would hope not to play it, either. Grim Discovery is best with land-sacrificing effects and bomb creatures, but could fill out any black build in a pinch. Giant Scorpion is a very solid card in the format, sometimes bringing entire offenses to a halt. Nimana Sell-Sword is a fine creature without a high ally count—it turns out Hill Giants are actually pretty good in a world where so many creatures deflate when it’s not your turn.

Seven mana is a lot, but unconditional removal that leaves a 2/2 flyer behind is clearly quite strong, so Heartstabber Mosquito will make any black deck I run. Quest for the Gravelord is nice as far as quests go. A 5/5 for is a great deal, and unlike a lot of quests, this one is going to be good even when dropped turn five or six, as there is typically a lot of creature death yet to come at that point. Blood Seekers seem pretty marginal to me. They are terrible in combat, an awful topdeck, and not as aggressive as I want to be on turn two. I can see them being the “meh” part of a successful vampire draft deck, but I’m unconvinced of their worth in sealed. Mind Sludge is playable in a heavy-black two-color deck, but it wants all Swamps (i.e., draft) to shine, and Bog Tatters is purely a sideboard card against black.

image Sadly, there are no Hideous Ends or Disfigures in my second pool, either, but there is my early contender for “best non-rare in Zendikar limited” status, Marsh Casualties. One-sided mass removal is incredibly powerful, and even the newest players can see one obvious reason why: theirs die, yours don’t. The more subtle value of that result, however, is how it allows you to play the early turns compared to regular mass removal when you have the spell in your opening hand.

With an Infest in your opener during Alara-block limited, for example, you have to balance committing creatures to the board with setting up for your sweep spell, all while avoiding telegraphing your sweeper by suspiciously sandbagging creatures despite no mana problems. You end up altering your board development around setting up an optimal progression into your sweeper, which frequently involves losing a creature or two of your own anyway.

One-sided sweepers don’t warp your early board development in this way. You can dump creatures to the board safe in the knowledge that they won’t die to your sweeper, which also disguises its presence in your hand. In a limited format where many of the playable creatures are cheap and have an “at rest” toughness of two or less, a kicked Marsh Casualties is an absolute beating, producing three-for-ones or better regularly upon resolution.

Marsh Casualties compares favorably to other recent one-sided sweepers like Flame Wave and Plague Wind by being much easier to cast. It is really more directly comparable to the five-mana three-for-ones Incremental Blight and Cone of Flame, both acknowledged bombs in their respective formats. Given the history of this kind of effect, Marsh Casualties represents the most aggressively-costed one-sided sweeper spell in the modern limited era.

It’s my Zendikar Overrun: first pick it in draft, lean towards it in sealed, build around it, and win a high percentage of the games in which you resolve it. It is a strong pull into black in this pool.


imageÆther Figment, Caller of Gales, Gomazoa, Into the Roil, Ior Ruin Expedition, Lethargy Trap, Merfolk Seastalkers, Paralyzing Grasp, Quest for Ancient Secrets, Reckless Scholar, Rite of Replication, Spell Pierce, Spreading Seas, Summoner's Bane, Trapfinder's Trick, Trapmaker's Snare, Welkin Tern

The near-worthless one- and two-drops make blue questionable out of the gate, with only Welkin Tern making me happy at the low end. Paralyzing Grasp and Gomazoa are solid quasi-removal for blue, and the rumors of looting not being good in Zendikar have been greatly exaggerated. Card quality is still improved even if you don’t always want to ditch lands, and Reckless Scholar helps you find whatever it is you need most, and gets rid of useless, topdecked quests. He can also join in more effectively for an alpha strike than his merfolk cousin. (Check out the third Limited Resources podcast for my promised in-depth discussion of looting, and learn why you should loot basically every turn in which it’s an option.)

I love Into the Roil, too, but let’s face it, there’s not enough good blue in this pool to make it worth playing. We’re looking red-black so far, can the white change the plan?


imageBold Defense, Brave the Elements, Caravan Hurda, Cliff Threader, Kor Aeronaut, Kor Cartographer, Kor Hookmaster, Kor Outfitter, Kor Sanctifiers, Landbind Ritual, Narrow Escape, Ondu Cleric, Quest for the Holy Relic

That would be a big “no.” Cliff Threader, Kor Aeronaut, Kor Cartographer, Kor Hookmaster, Kor Outfitter, and Kor Sanctifiers are all playable, but they are just guys. Pitfall Trap, Journey to Nowhere and bomby rares are the types of cards that draw you into white, not conditionally-good or color-intensive two drops.

The Deck

My color-by-color analysis put me pretty quickly into red-black, and here’s what I submitted:

image The deck has an odd curve (adjusted for expected kickers), with only one three drop I actually want to cast on turn three, and five five-drops. I expect that my third turns will frequently involve casting a two drop and a one drop, or a two drop and equipping Adventuring Gear. I went with 17 land because of the generally low curve, but Mind Sludge was never very good for me at half strength, and in hindsight, I would rather start the Goblin Bushwhacker, Grim Discovery, or another land over it.

This deck wants to play first, hit fast, then finish with intimidate, Unstable Footing, or Marsh Casualties. Let’s see how it works out.


I lose the roll and check my seven for the draw after Villain keeps.

image This looks too slow. Sure, I might draw into early plays, but this hand is counting on a stumbling Villain or multiple, specific draws to be good. I would rather take my chances with a fresh six.

image That looks somewhat better. I still don’t have any early defensive capabilities, but I can’t complain about a starter containing two Swamps, a Marsh Casualties, and another land or two, so I keep.

Villain leads with a turn-one Scythe Tiger. In most games, I’m going to be fine seeing that across the way on the first turn, but this one is a little more nerve-wracking. My two-drop doesn’t block, so unless I draw some help, I’ll be taking 12 from the tiger before I can sweep it, plus whatever else joins it on offense in the next three turns. My deck doesn’t cooperate, and I pull land off the top for three straight turns. Villain manages a turn-two Trusty Machete (the shroud on Scythe Tiger is almost equal parts drawback and bonus), but nothing else until a turn-five Windrider Eel. I have the Marsh Casualties two-for-one at that point, but I’ve taken 12 from the tiger now.

image R1G1 #1

I cast the kicked Marsh Casualties and swing for 2 before passing. Villain recovers nicely with a River Boa that will soon be wielding a Trusty Machete (one of the best things equipment has done for the game is to provide some extremely comical creature/equipment pairings). With no Disfigure, I’ve already used up my only means to kill the boa besides killing it multiple times in one turn, and I don’t have anything big enough to block a 4/3 and live. I untap and pull a Guul Draz Vampire. What’s the play? I haven’t dropped a land yet.

image R1G1 #2

I make a mistake here and cast the Mind Sludge precombat. There’s no way Villain blocks if I swing in first, and if he does, no big deal, landfall puts it back in play. Instead, attacking post-sludge is worthless. It ends up not mattering, as I don’t draw another spell, and eventually relent.

image R1G1 #3

I don’t like Scythe Tiger, but it’s worth noting that the two times I’ve seen it across from me on turn one so far, I’ve lost the game. Normally, the Scythe Tiger opponent is going to come up with something that can trade with it fairly quickly, rendering it not worth the huge, tempo-crippling drawback. In this case, I just flooded and couldn’t deal with it until it had already softened me up for the kill. The other time, I lost to a turn-one Scythe Tiger when I was playing Allies and declined to trade early, then lost to Zektar Shrine Expedition and a flying Ruinous Minotaur. Results not typical.


On the play now, I look at my seven:

image If any of those red cards were a Mountain, I’d keep. As it is, I need to ship this back.

image No pressure, but I can’t really ship this back, either. Hopefully my one-sided sweep will come through. My first draw is a Mountain, and on turn two Villain casts a River Boa. Should I use up my Burst Lightning on it?

If I had two Swamps, or if I had a creature coming up that could at least hold it off, I wouldn’t use removal on the boa with Marsh Casualties in hand. As it is, I have no guarantees that I will be casting the casualties in a timely fashion, or that I will find a creature to hold it off, so I burn it out while I can. It’s a fairly conservative play, but the format can be so explosive, the six points of damage I save here could easily be the difference between winning and losing after a turn-four Windrider Eel and a turn-five Harrow. The bolder play is to let it live and stunt its controller’s development, assuming Villain keeps up regeneration mana.

I immediately draw a Swamp, and now I’m hoping for more sweeper targets. Villain obliges, playing out a Grazing Gladehart on turn three. I have nothing but additional land on turn four, and shortly I’m taking two and staring up at a Windrider Eel. With nothing but Marsh Casualties and Goblin War Paint, I’m assuming I’ll cast casualties next, but I draw Shatterskull Giant to make things a little more interesting. What’s the plan this turn?

image R1G2 #1

I could take the simple 2:1 with Marsh Casualties and set up for a Shatterskull Giant/Goblin War Paint play next turn, but I could also get a little greedy and play out the giant now, stop the gladehart attacks, and hopefully turn the 2:1 into a 3:1 with a little help from my enemy. If he casts and equips Trusty Machete I’ll be sad, but I decide it’s worth getting greedy, since most of the creatures I’ve seen from Villain die to casualties. I play out the giant and pass.

Villain misses the fifth land drop, and hits me for 2 in the air before dropping an unkicked Mold Shambler, thwarting my plans to 3:1 next turn. I untap and draw Guul Draz Vampire. What’s the best course of action, here?

image R1G2 #2

I could again casualties for the 2:1, but I’m at a steady life total, and I feel if I give this opponent a chance, I should be rewarded with a more-profitable Marsh Casualties. I don’t want to put the Goblin War Paint on the giant and attack because it just offers a 2:2 involving a creature that will die to Marsh Casualties. Villain doesn’t have pump or I would have been attacked by the gladehart last turn, though, so I can still play the Goblin War Paint on the 4/3 and create a creature that the Mold Shambler can’t attack into either.

I’m risking Into the Roil with the play, but it continues to set up a good Marsh Casualties, so I paint up the giant, drop the Guul Draz Vampire and pass. So far, Goblin War Paint is uninspiring, with the haste ability not mattering, turning the spell into Giant Strength.

Once again, I wait anxiously, hoping my Marsh Casualties slowplay will become worthwhile. Instead of a two-toughness creature, though, Villain drops a Beastmaster Ascension, and I’m staring down a new kind of clock. The ascension can seem tough to turn on, but the key is that it triggers during the declare attackers step, so if you can swing in with what would normally be a suicidal attack and put the seventh counter on Beastmaster Ascension, those suicidal 1/1s become 6/6s before combat damage. I take two from the eel again, the ascension gets its first counter, and I untap, hoping to draw some help.

Instead, I draw more conundrums with a Quest for the Gravelord. The plan now?

imageR1G2 #3

A 5/5 black creature for one mana is a pretty great deal, and it loves Marsh Casualties, but needs to be on the battlefield before the casualties goes off. If I had three Swamps here, I’d drop the Quest for the Gravelord, stop messing around, and blow the Marsh Casualties. With Villain continuing to be stuck on four lands, though, I decide I can wait again, getting the quest set up for the sweeper spell. I play the quest and pass.

Villain hits a fifth land drop, and it’s a doozy: Soaring Seacliff, which triggers the gladehart’s lifegain, launches the Mold Shambler, and buffs the eel. The subsequent attack cuts my life total in half and puts three total counters on the Beastmaster Ascension. Yikes. Villain does me a small favor, though, finally playing another two-toughness creature, this time Lullmage Mentor (who seems terrible to me). Regardless of my draw, it’s finally going to be time to Marsh Casualties.

I draw Akoum Refuge, cast the casualties, complete the gravelord quest, attack for 7, and drop the land, bringing the life totals to 8 - 17. You never know, maybe Villain will forget about the instant-speed 5/5 and attack with the shambler next turn. He does not, casting a Zendikar Farguide and passing the turn. I make a 5/5 token before untapping, and draw a Swamp. Am I attacking here?

imageR1G2 #4

Yes, I swing in with the 6/5 giant. Villain has shown no bounce or pump, so the 5/5 zombie giant token should be able to hold down the fort, and now I’m happy to offer a 2:2 with the ascension at three counters. I’m also interested in bloodying Villain to turn on the Guul Draz Vampire, who can then end the game in a few swings. The giant goes unblocked, bringing life totals to 8-11, and I pass. An Oran-Rief Recluse joins the opposing army, but there are no attacks before I untap and draw another Mountain.

Nothing much has changed, since the recluse still doesn’t allow for a profitable block and Villain is still over ten life. I swing in again with the giant, since an all-out counterattack isn’t enough for an alpha, nor is it enough to turn on the Beastmaster Ascension. No blocks, and it’s now 8-5, and my vampire becomes a 3/2 intimidate.

I have a moment of panic when Villain untaps and casts Tempest Owl, but inexplicably doesn’t kick it. A mistake, a bluff, or is that last card in hand something to be concerned about? I’m thinking it was a bluff, because even kicked I wouldn’t be facing an alpha strike, and I could then counterstrike for alpha on my turn. May as well leave the mana up to scare me. No attacks, and I pull yet another land. What’s the plan on this board?

image R1G2 #5

If the fail to kick was not a mistake or a bluff and I’m facing Into the Roil, Whiplash Trap, or some other combat-nullifying trick, I’m going to lose no matter what I do, so I should play as though I'm not up against those cards. If either my zombie or giant connect with my opponent, the game is over, so I can swing with everything, knowing I will at least force a double chump and hit for 3. In actuality, I leave behind the 5/5 token, and I’m not sure why, sitting here now. Reflexive conservatism? That’s unlike me, as while I can be conservative in what I play around, I’m typically looking for reasons to attack with more men.

It doesn’t change things too much since there is still no counterattack that can activate the ascension, and I still win on my next turn with the vampire unless Villain does something about it. The recluse jumps in front of my giant to take one for the team, and I earn a concession after the next draw step.


Back on the draw, I look at my seven after Villain mulligans to 6:

imageI’d feel better about this hand if one of those Mountains were a Swamp, but this is keepable, if vulnerable to a fast start, given that I have removal I don’t want to use until after turn four, and a two-drop that can’t block.

The first play of the game is my Adventuring Gear on turn two after drawing a Mountain turn one. A Grazing Gladehart lands across the battlefield, and I prepare to outrace the lifegain. I can’t find a Swamp, instead finding a Mind Sludge that is currently masquerading as a five-mana, retrace-free Raven's Crime. Pretty terrible, and I vow at that point to side out the Mind Sludge on the draw in the future unless I've seen an expensive bomb in game one.

Villain plays a land, gains some life, hits me for two, and passes the turn curiously, with four mana up and four cards in hand. Does that untapped land change anything about the play this turn?

imageR1G3 #1

My main concerns are Summoner's Bane and Into the Roil, but I can’t really play around either, I have to push through them. Nimana Sell-Sword comes down over the Bladetusk Boar since the sell-sword can hold off the gladehart. Into the Roil it is, though, undoing my turn and keeping my back on my heels. Love that card!

That pesky River Boa makes another appearance across the table, this time with regeneration mana ready, which is going to be supremely annoying. I take 2 from the gladehart, and the life totals stand at 16 – 24 as I untap and draw Guul Draz Vampire. The play?

image R1G3 #2

If I had three Swamps, I might consider taking another four points from the next attack to clear out Villain’s three-card hand, but if I can’t strip them all, I’d rather build up my board. I think the right play is to drop the Mountain, replay the sell-sword, than add the vampire. I decide against dropping the Mountain, and the sell-sword meets a Cancel.

Thinking ahead to landfall, I decide not to play out the Mountain at all, which I think is an instance of the allure of landfall tempting me into making a suboptimal play. If I played the turn straight, I’d have a vampire out and a land draw would get me the Bladetusk Boar and the Bloodghast next turn, although that still leaves me in a bad position for blocking. Losing that three-toughness creature is starting to look like a pretty big deal as I stare down a River Boa.

No play from Villain, just an attack for 4, and I draw into Goblin War Paint. Now what?

image R1G3 #3

I’m hoping that if I build my own 3/3, I’ll be able to hold the ground until I can develop my board a bit more. Once again turning Goblin War Paint into Giant Strength, I play out the Guul Draz Vampire, paint him up, attach the Adventuring Gear, and this time play out the land.

My play works as intended, with Villain passing his turn without an attack or a play of any kind. What four spells am I up against, though? Confusing. I draw my second Guul Draz Vampire, and cast it and the boar before passing the turn. Villain finds a land, plays it, but again has no action, and passes it back to me. I pull a Plated Geopede and have some choices to make.

image R1G3 #4

Since the 3/3 vampire is holding off attacks, it’s safe to send in the boar on offense. After combat, I play the geopede and the Bloodghast to add more threats to the table. I move the Adventuring Gear over to the boar in hopes that he will begin swinging for big chunks of life each turn. Those hopes are dashed shortly after by a Paralyzing Grasp, and my evasive win condition is neutralized. I draw Heartstabber Mosquito and assess my options:

image R1G3 #5

The anti-synergy between the mosquito and the Magma Rift is fairly annoying, but even more so is having two Swamps instead of three for the Mind Sludge. If I could strip Villain’s hand completely, I would again love the Mind Sludge play, but leaving the best card in hand makes me sad. One option is to give up on seven mana for the kicked mosquito, take out the Grazing Gladehart with the Magma Rift, and apply some pressure. I can also attack with the painted vampire and the Bloodghast and sludge after combat to at least hit for a couple damage and a couple cards.

Assessing this now, I like being more aggressive. I’ve got a big life gap to make up, and if I stop worrying about kicking the mosquito, I can take out the gladehart, attack, and either make a 2/2 flyer or sludge for Villain’s hand next turn. With evasion and Adventuring Gear, if I can start hitting land drops, the damage should begin to pile on despite the regenerating blocker.

Instead, I opt for a very passive turn, casting Mind Sludge for 2 (hitting Beastmaster Ascension and Island) and passing. I fell in love with the idea of a kicked mosquito, here, when I would give myself a better chance of winning if I become aggro and make Villain play control.

A Windrider Eel joins the opposition, and I draw a Swamp to put me in a tough spot, with six land and the Magma Rift and Heartstabber Mosquito pulling me in opposite directions, and the threat of a land drop looming large on the other side of the battlefield. What’s the most likely path to victory now?

image R1G3 #6

I liked going aggro over my choice of plays last turn, but now I really think I need to hit seven land and utilize both cards in hand as removal to be able to win this one. I still have a solid attack, though, by moving adventuring gear onto the Bloodghast, dropping a land and swinging with the Bloodghast and the geopede. I have to get the licks in that I can while maintaining a solid defense, and that is accomplished with this play, connecting for 3 as the boa blocks the Bloodghast.

If I’d waited another turn for the sludge, I’d likely be facing the same board right now, but Villain would have an empty hand. I really want a land next turn. No landfall from the enemy, and I take 2 in the air from the eel and see a Scythe Tiger enter the battlefield before attempting to mise myself into a kicked mosquito or a devastating Marsh Casualties. No luck, I pull my Goblin Shortcutter instead. Cast it?

image R3G1 #7

The shortcutter seems destined to render the boa unable to block, but I don’t really want to do that until I’m landfalling on the same turn. My ideal sequence (that doesn’t involve drawing a disgusting Marsh Casualties) is to draw a land, cast a kicked mosquito targeting the eel, swing with the geopede and the Bloodghast for 3, draw another land, move the gear onto the painted vampire or the flyer, Magma Rift the gladehart, cast Goblin Shortcutter targeting the boa, play the land, and hopefully drop Villain to 10 or force some awkward blocking. Two land in a row is not some miracle draw, so that’s what I play for, passing the turn once again.

I dodge another landfall bullet and take just the 2 from the eel before getting the turn back. Come on, topdeck! Nope, Unstable Footing. Yuck. My plan goes unchanged, although with each passing turn it becomes less and less likely that it will work.

My luck finally runs out as Villain topdecks a land to gain more life and double the damage from the eel, making it a 4 – 22 game. In a terrible oversight, I fail to cast Unstable Footing before untapping, distracted by the greater problem of a possible four-powered eel attacking me next turn. I once again fail to rip land, and my Kazuul Warlord wonders why I’m not happy to see him. What’s the right play for desperation time?

image R3G1 #8

Gotta kill the eel or risk losing to a landfall attack next turn. I play the Magma Rift and pass. Villain drops a Seascape Aerialist, which is terrible unless there are five other allies I just haven’t seen in that deck. No attack, and I get the turn back. Naturally, I draw a land. Is it too late to turn this game around?

image R3G1 #9

Maybe not! I can still apply some pressure here, so I drop the land, swing with the Bloodghast and the Plated Geopede, than cast the warlord. With another land, I can really turn the tide, taking out a creature, hitting for more damage, and setting up for an alpha strike as soon as I can get Villain at 10 or less life.

Unfortunately, a kicked Tempest Owl puts a monkey wrench in my plans for a Big Comeback:

image R3G1 #10

Ouch. That’s enough to clear away my blockers, and Villain deals 9 points to my face, 13 points to my rating, and 25 points to my ego. I was so close to turning that one around, but just couldn’t hit the cards I needed in time. Did I miss a play? I’m left wondering how the game might have turned out had I waited on the Mind Sludge until it could take out the entire hand, or if I’d used the Magma Rift earlier and simply played out the mosquito as a boring 2/2 flyer.

There were definitely some tough choices in this one, but just because some different plays might have won me the game in this specific case, it doesn’t necessarily make them the right plays in the abstract. “Decisions, not results,” is my poker mantra, where it’s a common occurrence to make the correct play and lose or make the incorrect play and win, and it’s a mantra that holds for Magic as well. I’m not as concerned with whether or not I won this game as I am with whether or not my decisions gave me the best chance to win.

Next week, I’ll wrap up the other three matches in this prerelease, and we’ll see if I was able to salvage any packs after an 0-1 start.

A Timmy Is Born

Oliver’s passion for Magic has remained strong since his introduction to the game at the Zendikar prerelease, and in my column last week I mentioned that he’d requested a monogreen deck to make use of the two promo Rampaging Baloths we had. Happy to oblige, I explained the landfall mechanic to him, and we put together a landfall deck with a core of Baloth Woodcrasher, Harrow, Khalni Heart Expedition, Grazing Gladehart, Rampant Growth, Rampaging Baloths, and Terramorphic Expanse, with a mix of other green landfall and “cares about Forests” cards to give it some variety and flavor.

image He edged me out of the first game we played, landing a Rampaging Baloths and generating enough 4/4 tokens to overwhelm me before I could deal with the pesky mythic. Clara joined in for a game of Dad vs. the Two-Headed Giant, but Oliver hardly needed the help. His turn sequence against my green-red deck was:

Not much my red-green deck can do about that. I scooped up my cards and extended a hand to the winners.

“Wow! I love landfall, Dad!”

A couple days later, Oliver and I played again, and this time I managed to notch a win with a white-blue deck. He got stuck on two land for a couple turns while I curved out into some flyers he just couldn’t deal with, and by the time he landed Rampaging Baloths and popped a Khalni Heart Expedition, it was too late, I had lethal flying damage coming.

“Good game dad, you finally beat me! My record is still pretty good, though, I’ve won 7 and only lost once!”

Who was this child, and where was my son? You know, the kid who, despite holding a Pacifism in hand, nearly wept when I resolved a Shivan Dragon against him two weeks ago. The kid who’s allowed to keep his resources in Settlers of Catan when he rolls a 7 and redraw tiles in Carcassone because it’s far more pleasant to allow some light, open cheating than it is to suffer through his gamer rage. Where did that kid go? Wait, don’t answer that, I’ll just stick with this new one.

I tucked Oliver in that night, and with a big grin on his face, he again expressed his disbelief that I’d finally managed to win one, but not without mentioning his overall record again. I kissed him on the forehead, told him nothing had made me more proud during his first three weeks of Magic than the way he’d taken his first loss, and turned out the light. Hopefully, this new kid is here to stay.

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I think you are often too by pierrebai (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 11:40
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I think you are often too greedy with your cards. Not satisfied with 2-for-1, too fixed with kicking the mosquitoe, wanting too much out of the mind sludge. Personally, I'd have burned the eel on sight. You were lowish in life and it threatens to attack for 4 (or more! he's playing green) every turn, giving you a 3-turns clock at best.

Kinda envious that you got both Nixilis and the chief in that first pool *and* got a refund on top!

Yes, I'm very greedy, I want by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 13:29
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Yes, I'm very greedy, I want to eek the maximum value out of every spell I have, and will freely spend the life resource to do it. Sometimes this tendency leads to incorrect decisions, and when it does I try to acknowledge and learn from it. That being said, being greedy is a solid baseline stance. It is mostly correct to wait and use non-random discard when it can clear out a hand, as there's a huge difference between "lose all your cards" and "lose all but your best card."

There is also a big difference between a 2:1 and a 3:1, and if you can control the board in a way that forces your opponent to over-commit into your sweeper, that's a good thing. Five damage to a creature, a Dark Banishing effect and a 2/2 flyer for two cards is much better result than five damage to a creature and a 2/2 flyer for two cards.

In all of these examples, it basically comes down to me being more interested in board control and winning the war of attrition than in life totals, particularly against a GU opponent who isn't going to dome me for 5 out of nowhere. The moment the eel had the potential to actually kill me and not just reduce my life total, I dealt with it, but when I see a four-turn clock, I see a three-turn window to maximize my spells.

Again, I try to be honest with myself about when I've taken the tendency to far, but the tendency to value board control over life, and to want to maximize spells is, in general, the correct baseline mentality.

Thanks for the shout out, it by Kriterian (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 11:45
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Thanks for the shout out, it was awesome to play someone "famous". I was actually about to concede when the stupid thing crashed, and all I could think was: "Oh God, I have to get back online so he doesn't think I disconnected on purpose." Thankfully it turned out to not be my crappy computer, and was the server crashing.

So after paying 30 tix, and going 0-2, I got to keep the 6 packs of cards and got back 33 tix. That's a blessing in disguise for someone that sucks like me.

Hopefully I'll get to play Godot again, so I can see if I make an article worthy blunder or maybe accidentally make an awesome play.

Good Article as always. I'm by ArchGenius at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 11:47
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Good Article as always.

I'm curious as to your current opinion of Gruul Draz Vampire. I was never very thrilled with the card and reluctantly put it in as the 23 card in my sealed deck yesterday. I was never excited to see it early, and in sealed, since black is so deep, the Intimidate ability didn't make that much of a difference in most late games.

I can see the Vampire being useful in a very aggressive draft deck, but it just doesn't seem that great in sealed.

I thought my deck was by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 13:47
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I thought my deck was aggressive enough to warrant their inclusion, and I had to play *something,* and RB was the clear color choice to me.

My experience has been that they are not amazing, but if you have an aggressive enough build and your opponent isn't in black, they get the job done. It's like your opponent is starting at 10 life, because once they do hit ten, they simply end games in a couple of swings.

I liked them in this build given the 2x marauders and 2x geopede, as a T1 guul followed by a t2 marauder or geopede was usually good enough to drop Villain to under 15 in the first few turns. Find a little more damage after that, and suddenly it's 3/2 intimidate, and the one-mana investment ends up doing 8 damage in the game.

Terrible when back on your heels, though. Then he's just a waste-of-space speed bump. Anyway, I think I need more experience with the format to form a full opinion, but my current stance is that it's a solid inclusion in a very aggressive sealed deck, but will disappoint if you don't get off to a fast start.

Nice Article by NightAngelRj (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 11:54
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I have a distate for discard spells in limited. THey always hit me when i'm holding my bombs, I always draw them when my opp has lands or noth in hand. When they hit me early I discard lands and never draw more, or discard spells and draw lands. In short, I'd avoid Mind sludge as much as possible in sealed unless I'm running like 10+ swamps.

Differences in deck build:
I don't like goblin war paint at all and would avoid playing that card if possible.
I think blood seeker is better than you give him credit for, and would happily play it over more situational cards like unstable footing, sludge and war paint. I'd replace those 3 cards with 2 blood seekers and goblin bushwacker, giving u a much more powerful early and late game.

Also.... by NightAngelRj (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 12:25
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How can you say vampire bite is a lava spike, and refuse to consider it, then play unstable footing, which is a lava axe? I might actually play unstable footing , your deck could use the reach, but it seems like a contradiction to dismiss vampire bite and automatically maindeck footing. Granted, footing is not vulnerable to 2 for 1s (while it also fails to offer significant lifegain opportunity), but that argument is valid for... goblin war paint! I'd say you were a bit inconsistent there in your deckbuilding.

Because 5 > 3, and Unstable by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 15:28
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Because 5 > 3, and Unstable Footing is legitimate reach while bite requires a creature going unblocked and opponent not having any tricks in response.

War Paint is not something I'm actively looking to play, but it is better than the bite for filling out an aggressive BR deck, in my opinion. Played carefully, war paint is almost always going to produce more damage than the bite, and an ongoing +2/+2 is obviously superior to a one-shot +3/+0. Bite's potential for life gain isn't completely irrelevant, but it's not at all the heart of the matter when comparing the two.

Really, I don't want to play either in general, but I did want to give it a try to see if the haste feature was as relevant as I thought it might be, and a RB aggro weenie deck (or mono-red) is really the place for it if it's ever going to see play at all.

War Paint by NightAngelRj (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 15:48
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War Paint goes strictly against what I considered your philosophy. It is an aura that does not grant evasion, replaces itself or protect the creature. Meanwhile, you're playing to maximize card advantage with marsh casualties, mosquito and such, all the while playing in your deck cards that a) offer 2 for 1 or b) have 0 board impact. How can you justify running that and sludge/footing over the 2 blood seekers (or other useful cards) is beyond me and just doesn't fit with the experienced and careful player I considered you to be. It just doesn't fit.

I can't explain it much by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 16:22
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I can't explain it much better than I did below. It's about the game plan of the deck, and my sense of how much damage I can expect from a given spell given the game plan of the deck. Technically war paint offers a 2:1, yes, but if played correctly, it does so after it has already led to 4-8 extra damage, at which point it has paid for it's card disadvantage in damage.

Ideally, as with all "buff" auras, I would not maindeck them, but bring them in against decks against which they are most effective, namely red and green. I didn't have that luxury with this pool, and liked its damage potential more than the seekers.

I've already expressed my disappointment with the sludge, but a sure-fire, instant-speed, condition-free five damage in unstable footing is a superior play to the high-variance seeker, who's best-case damage scenario isn't much better than what footing offers anyway.

Interesting read on overcoming the disadvantage by Rick B (not verified) at Fri, 10/23/2009 - 10:40
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Slight topic shift here - if the 4-8 damage overcomes the card disadvantage, where does Scythe Tiger fall? How much damage does it need to punch through before it was worth the loss of tempo?

I've played it a couple of times now, and if you drop it turn one, it can easily hit for anywhere from 6-12 damage, plus it can block and kill much in the format (or attack into much int he format and kill it) once the path is no longer clear.

Combined with some low-cost removal it can be devastating, but that's simply stating the obvious.

Comparing it with saccing a land for removal, where does it fall between "top tier," "playable" and "junk?" How many hits does it need to get in before it's earned it's keep? Curious what your thoughts are there.

So obviously in game one, the by Godot at Fri, 10/23/2009 - 12:17
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So obviously in game one, the turn-one tiger was an all-star for my opponent, as it will be whenever your opponent mulligans, floods, and can't come up with a body that can block. The problem is, the format is filled with common and uncommon two drops with two power, and when it fails to work out, it can just lose you games.

In a draft last night (which I may or may not cover here, we'll see), I went mountain, go, and Villain went Forest, Scythe Tiger, go. I dropped that 2/1 highlander ally for 1R, he played out a new land and passed. I dropped my *third* land, attacked, he declined to block, and I dropped a Goblin Shortcutter. He played a second land and passed. I dropped a fourth land, attacked with both, he traded his tiger for the highlander, and I played the 4/3 vanilla for 2RR.

Anyway, my point is that this kind of turn-one tiger failure case is pretty devastating, and not unlikely. If you are on the play and your opponent stumbles, a turn-one tiger could effectively win you the game with just a little backup pressure, as in R1G1 here. The flipside is that it can effectively lose you the game, and I prefer to avoid that kind of extreme variance in my cards. I'll take the solid double over the strikeout/home run card any day, which again goes back to why I would run Goblin War Paint and Unstable Footing over Blood Seeker as well.

I endorse cutting the footing by pierrebai (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 13:30
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I endorse cutting the footing and paint for both blood seekers. They come down early, make your feast of blood playable (5 vampires) and are very good against some type of decks (*cough* cobra trap *cough*). Having two in play really hurts your opponent.

I disagree about the mind sludge: it's amazing exactly because it hots 2-3 late cards that are usually either answers or costly fatty or bombs. I love mind sludge like I loved voices from the void in Alara.

I disagree with feast of blood by NightAngelRj (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 14:23
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5 vampires is not enough to make sure you have 2, especially considering that his vampires are all tiny and very vulnerable. As for mind sludge, its my very personal preference to avoid running costly discard spells (mind rot is more playable in my opinion because of its 3-mana cost). But I can see why some people would like it.

Um no? by MConstant at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 18:58
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Blood Seeker is far from a good card. It's a classic card that people mis-evaluate in my mind because of it's annoying effect on the game state. First things first, you are playing a 1/1 creature for 2 mana. For an epic failure of the vanilla test like this, the special ability had better be quite good. Blood Seekers special ability SEEMS better than it is because your opponents will complain or bemoan the extra point of damage they take just for casting a creature. The problem is, at the end of the day, this will sometimes (IF dropped on the earliest turn possible) do 3-6 damage, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. In the meantime, it is a nearly useless 1/1 that will end up as a chump block most of the time.

Compare this with some of the other cheap black creatures.

Vampire Lacerator: 2/2 for B? Crushes the Vanilla test and the drawback isn't even *that* bad. And to be honest, in limited this creature often doesn't cut it.

Guul Draz Vampire: 1/1 for B is on par for the vanilla test, and if you can aggro your opponent down to 10 life or less, it becomes a black Bladetusk Boar. Not amazing but a nice finisher and a pretty good bargain in the right deck.

Surrakar Marauder: 2/1 for 1B is ok, but with a reliable Intimidate trigger, it's a great early beater capable of getting in for 8-10 with ease vs non-black decks.

When you put Blood Seeker in contrast to these other guys, he fails miserably.

I think that those who are advocating running this card are making another classic mistake; they are viewing by it's best case scenario. Sure, getting this guy down on turn 2 he might have some potential for some damage, but what if you rip him in a late game situation? Awful.

What do I like about this card? I like that nobody wants to blow removal on it, and that casting creatures is usually an inevitable part of limited play. This means that if it does go down on turn 2, it can make a decent difference in a race. I also like that it has a certain clock aspect to it. It makes people rethink which creatures to cast and when they do.

Overall though, that card is far from good, it's conditional, and you should look to play other stuff first.

Alright, I'll bite (pun intended) by NightAngelBr (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 19:34
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Lacerator is VERY good. Gruul Daz is playable. Surrkar is solid. But you know what? He either already is playing those cards or doesn't have it, so how does comparing those to the seeker helps here? My argument is that blood seeker is better than war paint and mb sludge/lava axe. Also, combined with bushwacker, it can do some extra damage, helping his 2 gruul daz intimidator finish the job. And the argument about topdecking it being awful, u could say the same about a lot of tiny creatures. Ever topdecked a llanowar elf in the late game of a m10 match? its horrible. And still, its a solid card. (not comparing elf to seeker, im saying that being useless in late game does not make a card crap). Lastly, everyone says that u dont attack with blood seeker, and why the hell not? it is quite possible that opp wont leave a blocker every single turn. Buswacker allows it to trade with a bear on attack. And it can trade with some X/1 creatures as well. And u know what, an early drop that can do 3-6 damage (unblockable, unsoakable) is a-ok in my book.

Various comments by Shaterri at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 13:37
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I agree that you were much, much too greedy with your Casualties in R1G2; the *possible* extra card advantage isn't worth the substantial loss of tempo that letting the creatures live costs you, especially given that you're hitting the point in the game where both Blue and Green are starting to hit their guys with big butts (whether it's Green's 4/4s for 5 or Blue's 2/5 fliers or 3/3 unblockables or... etc etc. Your odds of getting better than a 2-for-1 are honestly pretty slim here, and you should be happy to have such a perfect opportunity. As it was you gave Villain at least 3-4 more turns than they should've had this game, and IMHO you're lucky to have won at all.

Also, while I agree the blue isn't deep enough, I'm surprised to see no mention at all of Merfolk Seastalkers. In my experience they've been absolutely nuts, a top-10 uncommon for sealed (the only cards I'm happier to see are Baloth Woodcrasher, Inferno Trap, Living Tsunami, Marsh Casualties, and Vampire Nighthawk -- I put them ahead of Frontier Guide and Geyser Glider and on a par with the Khalni Gem) and an active push into blue. As aggressive as Zendikar purports to be, running so many lands means that you really want something to do with your mana late game, and 'tap two guys' is everything you could hope for.

Classic Shaterri: you make by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 14:44
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Classic Shaterri: you make some excellent, insightful points but way overstate them. From a decision standpoint I can concede that casting casualties on T5 was probably correct in the abstract, but I think you are being results-oriented and hyperbolic in your assessment of the degree to which my line was a mistake.

God, I can't wait until you finally post an article so I can just rip it to pieces.

(Don't worry folks, Shaterri is a Magic bud of mine, he's been brutally attacking my play decisions for years. I can't seem to make him go away...)

re: seastalkers: I just didn't spend a lot of time on blue because it was clearly not going to cut it. I like the seastalkers, but you value it more than I do. Maybe I'll come around to your view after I've played with/against it more than I have to this point. Three mana is a lot, and I hate that it doesn't tap flyers, but it is definitely going to take over in a late game against ground creatures, particularly with the "tap two at your eot, tap two more on my turn, swing for win" trick.

possibly overstated by MConstant at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 19:04
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I really like waiting to blow my sweepers and don't mind trading some life to get that extra creature dead. Some opponents will foolishly over commit to the board creating a situation where they almost can't come back. It's worth the risk in those cases.

At that point in the game I didn't really see it as a major risk to wait.

Re: Merfolk Seastalkers. I really like this card as well. It can totally hose G, R, B, and W decks sometimes, and is even good vs blue as it has islandwalk. However looking at Godot's pool, I don't think they are enough of a force to warrant looking to play blue.

Interestingly... by moerutora (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 14:27
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I was in the same boat in my swiss. I had magma rift and mosquito in hand with 5 lands out while facing an Eel and other creatures.
I actually rifted the eel to ensure my safeness and then played the mosquito for evasion. Worked out well and won me the game.

My 2 sealeds were much more aggressive than my draft. I chose Red with Burst Lightning over Inferno Trap and then a 4/4 Landfaller came my way so I grabbed it and it was R/G from there on with 3 Burst Lightnings, Rift and Spire for removal/reach. Im going to do another sealed and draft later today and see the difference of speed.

Good Article. Thank You

Night, I agree, in fact I had by pierrebai (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 14:33
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Night, I agree, in fact I had written "borderline playable" and then changed it. I would still run it as it can be very good. Most people don't go after small vampires with their removal, in my experience, at least not until it's too late. :)

I agree that the seastalkers are awesome. I'd put them higher than you. They completely shutdown entire decks until taken care of. One can still race a living tsunami, and in some circumstance, bouncing the land can become a liability.

Blood Seeker by MT206 (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 14:46
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I agree with pierrebai that you should have played both Blood Seekers for the reasons he stated. It would also help activate your Gruul Draz Vampires, helps you play control while still dealing some damage, and hurts decks with creature recursion or token generation.

Blood Seekers by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 15:43
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I remain unconvinced that blood seekers were a better play than war paint or unstable footing. First off, running the seekers certainly doesn't make the feast playable, nor do they help me play control, and being good against cobra trap barely registers on the scale of things to consider.

With all of this bottom-end stuff (basically Blood Seekers, War Paint, Unstable Footing, Mind Sludge, Vampire's Bite, Goblin Bushwhackers, and Grim Discovery), it becomes a question of how much damage I can expect the card to produce. Villain cast between three and six creatures each game by my count, which seems fairly typical, and since I'm unlikely to attack with a Blood Seeker, six-ish damage feels like the high end. Its low end is zero, and I hate that kind of variance if I have a consistent option like Unstable Footing, which is going to do its 5 every time.

Again, I try to avoid being results-oriented, but as an example, in R1G2, the war paint effectively produced 18 points of damage in the course of three attacks by making a 6/5 giant that was too big to trade with. While that's not a result I am counting on every game, I feel that between haste, making big guys out of weenies, and huge guys out of big guys, war paint is going to generate considerably more damage on average than a seeker, even if the enchanted creature only gets a couple of licks in before being neutralized.

Accordingly, I would still rather run war paint, bushwhackers, and unstable footing for sure over blood seekers with this pool, and it's a close call on blood seeker vs. vampire's bite.

R1G2 is a bad example by NightAngelRj (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 15:56
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You were playing against a pretty bad opponent. He refused to block for no good reason, he could have easily traded 2 cards for your 2. And if he had, as he SHOULD have, blue bounce, you could have suffered a massive tempo loss for your troubles. Into the roil kicked against a creature with war paint? game over.

good stuff as always by MConstant at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 19:14
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Sealed is hard. Picking between one crappy color base and another is confusing. And you often have to run subpar card like the War Paint. It is frustrating to read people saying that you shouldn't run the Paint, and that it sucks. It's pretty obvious that you aren't happy to run it from the way you talk about it. You know the inherent risks with cards like that and play around them as best you can. I mean war paint sucks, but if you can get it on a 3 toughness guy bringing him to 5 toughness, that can be tougher to remove.

Totally agree with your assessment of Marsh Casualties. It's really good and will go up in draft/sealed value more as people realize it. It can totally wreck a lot of the highly touted aggro decks in the format, even on turn 2 without kicker. (some stuff that aggro plays that die to an unkicked MC: Plated Geopede, Surrakar Marauder, Goblin Bushwhacker, the 2/1 red ally, Goblin Ruinblaster, Steppe Lynx, Guul Draz Vampire, Hagra Crocodile, River Boa.. ETC).

in the two drafts ive played by ShardFenix at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 23:03
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in the two drafts ive played i have had great luck with the paint especially against green white opponents. Though knowing they arent running Journey to Nowhere and only one Kor Sanctifiers makes it a very tempting card to play t2 on a t1 Goblin Guide...

ok well i know i said i by ShardFenix at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 19:24
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ok well i know i said i disliked the use of 'hero' and 'villian' last week, but i think that was only from seeing the same word repeated so often...readin this week i agree villian flows very well in match walkthroughs and is more interesting than he did this and i did this and he did this...etc. Keep up the amazing drafts although you are now costing me cash from how fun you make it sound that now im drafting more.

Thanks! I made a deliberate by Godot at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 19:35
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Thanks! I made a deliberate effort to not overuse "Villain," which as you said was part of the distraction/problem last week. Like, "I was staring at a turn-one Steppe Lynx" instead of "Villain cast a turn-one Steppe Lynx." Hopefully that's a happy medium, and the detractors won't find it so grating that they stop reading...

i never saw it as grating per by ShardFenix at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 23:01
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i never saw it as grating per say and i agree its better than using actual names. I just like to switch back and forth between articles and writing papers..lol. All the villians last week just made it hard to remember where i left off. Though truth be told i should probably finish the paper then read, but the articles are a nice break into between the pages i write.

Play for the Landfall by beer (not verified) at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 21:38
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R1G3: I think after you decided to play for the long game with the Mind Sludge for two, you have to hold out for the 7th land. When you played the magma rift, I think that's the low percentage shot. Villain has a 50% shot of pumping the eel (I'm assuming he's not holding a land or he would have pumped earlier). If he doesn't pump, you have a 50% shot of drawing a land that shifts the board much more in your favor.

Playing the magma rift is winning the turn but losing the war.

That's an interesting line to by Godot at Fri, 10/23/2009 - 12:38
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That's an interesting line to take. My sense is still that I win more often by magma rifting the eel there, though.

If I don't burn the eel, I have a roughly 50% chance of just losing on the spot. Then I have a roughly 50/50 chance after that of *not* drawing a land or alternative removal. So half the time I lose, and a quarter of the time I'm in the same boat a turn later. Sometimes, Villain doesn't mise a land, and I do. I now have some % chance of winning from there, but it is certainly not 100%, so in the pie chart of possible outcomes by not burning the eel, the slice where I win because of the risky play starts to look pretty small to me.

Meanwhile, with the other choice, I burn out the eel, and against UG I'm actually in pretty solid shape. Sure, Villain rips the owl to tap my team for the win, but I think that was a topdeck and a slim chance. I'm thinking only the owl and something like a whiplash trap really give him the win on the spot, and if he doesn't, I'm going to drop more guys, work back up to 7 for the mosquito, make his boa unable to block for a turn, and really begin to apply serious pressure.

Risking death to landfall and taking another hit from the eel is a very interesting line for sure, but I'm not convinced that my chance of winning the game from that spot--given all possible shuffles of both decks--is higher by risking another attack from the eel.

Another Thought by Lpettro (not verified) at Fri, 10/23/2009 - 15:08
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I think there is even a more pressing problem with the game state in question. If you do not remove the eel or play the mosquito you can count on taking 2 and will likely be in the same position next turn even if you risk it.

At 2 life you pretty much just lose. Villain has river boa, grazing gladehart, and scythe tiger to attack and our defenders are what? a 3/3, a 1/1 first strike, and a 1/1. Alpha strike is a serious problem at 2. If his next attack is the eel as 2/2 and the tiger we will be forced to trade our 3/3. That makes the outlook very bad for the next time around and even worse if they play a 2 power creature like seascape aerialist.

Life totals are even more important in this format than normal. At four you are at great risk but going to 2 you pretty much lose to anything. Really any 2 power creature, bounce, or removal will kill you if you take 2 from the eel.

Of course the tempest owl kills you no matter what.

About the new Oliver/Timmy by BoogieElAceitoso (not verified) at Sat, 10/24/2009 - 19:29
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Your comments on the progress of your son's Magic play are great, please keep them up. I think we were all Timmy's in the beggining, I remember when I started playing I bought a bunch of 4th and 5th edition packs and boosters to crack open with my friends, and learned how to play from the booklet inside. I recall I had a Necropotence, which I knew from a magazine I bought along with the cards that it was really valuable, but couldn't for the life of mine figure out why, but the most feared card from that first pool of cards was, far and away, Colossus of Sardia. Man, when that fatty came down on the table you could hear the thud and my friends gasping, that was awesome.
I don't have sons of my own, but I've tried to engage my two sons in law into playing Magic. They are a bit older than your son (10 and 11) and switch back and forth between Magic and the other dreadful japanese games like Bakugan, Yu-gi-oh and Dragonball Z. I wish your son stays on course. Best of luck.

Isn't that the truth! Just a by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/24/2009 - 20:17
Paul Leicht's picture

Isn't that the truth! Just a matter of degree how quickly we overcame our initial "wow 6/4 rocks!" reactions.

hmmm you should totally link by ShardFenix at Sat, 10/24/2009 - 22:56
ShardFenix's picture

hmmm you should totally link the landfall deck ive been looking for some landfall plays on a budget, the best i have so far is a similar deck but using blue for living tsunami