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By: a small child, Ralph Wiggum
Aug 12 2010 12:02am
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            My first order of business today is to briefly wrap up my archetype analysis. From the initial list that I spelled out early on in the series, there are three archetypes that I haven’t yet touched on: U/B Levelers, U/x Levelers, and U/G Aura Gnarlid. While I could string this out longer and give a more detailed take on each of these archetypes, I think we would be better served if I hurried it up a bit and gave these guys a more cursory treatment before moving on to the finale. So here they are: the stragglers.

 

U/B Levelers

 

            The U/B Leveler deck is basically the same as the U/W Leveler deck except that the colors are different, obviously. The basic game plan is still the same, and the same basic game-play questions that I explored in my U/W Levelers article also apply here. The main difference is that the Black levelers tend to require more mana per level but fewer levels overall. This makes Venerated Teacher a bit more powerful here, but Champion's Drake a bit less powerful. The Black levelers in general are a bit more resilient to Black removal (as they cannot be targeted by Vendetta or Corpsehatch but more vulnerable to Red removal (as they tend to have lower toughness in general). Zulaport Enforcer is the better of the two common levelers as he ends games very quickly once he reaches level 3. Null Champion is much less impressive to me because it’s so vulnerable to removal until it reaches level 4, and even then it is often outclassed by bigger creatures. It’s still a fine man, but I’ve seen quite a few more blowouts resulting from an early champion getting burned out in response to level 1 or level 4 than I have from turn three four power beats carrying the day. You also lose out on Time of Heroes but I think you get a bit more value out of Training Grounds if you are lucky enough to get one. The main benefit to going Black, of course, is that you gain access to removal spells, which is very important in this format. I’ve discussed the fundamental weaknesses of White several times before, and being able to kill a Dawnglare Invoker can easily be the difference between a win and a loss. That said, you do need to be careful about when to use your removal in this deck. It can be awfully tempting to burn your Vendetta on something to keep your Null Champion bashing, but sometimes this really isn’t the right course of action. Generally I think that these decks are best when most of the levelers are Blue.

 

U/x Levelers

 

            This archetype is extremely rare, and is a catch-all for any leveler deck that includes neither White nor Black. Both Green and Red have some interested levelers in the uncommon and rare slots, so theoretically it’s possible to have a leveler deck with a very strong blue base and a few Beastbreaker of Bala Ged or Brimstone Mage thrown in for good measure. I wouldn’t try to make this happen on purpose though! I don’t have much to say about this deck other than I’m sure it could be fine if it actually comes together, and that the U/G version will have many of the same weaknesses as U/W, while the U/R version enjoys the advantage of access to removal.

 

U/G Aura Gnarlid

 

            Basically everything I said about U/W Aura Gnarlid applies here with the exception of the bits that are explicitly about White cards. The deck has the same advantages and vulnerabilities, although adding Blue to the mix changes things a bit. Domestication and Narcolepsy are obviously top picks in this archetype as they both remove blockers and pump your Gnarlids. You don’t have access to the same number of auras, but honestly Eel Umbra is just as good as Hyena Umbra except insofar as you can’t stack it with Snake Umbra on turn 4. That said, it can function as a very nice combat trick or act as a counterspell against removal. Speaking of counterspells, Deprive plays an important role in protecting your investments in this deck. Gnarlid decks share a fundamental strength in their ability to build almost unstoppable creatures but also a fundamental weakness in that those creatures make you vulnerable to card disadvantage laden blowouts should they die. Deprive can stop this cold, but it requires you playing your hand out a bit more slowly so as to leave up mana. So you could make the argument that U/G Gnarlid decks are slower but potentially more resilient than their U/W cousins. A word of advice when playing against this archetype: consider avoiding the temptation to go for a two for one and just kill their gnarlid at the first chance you get. You don’t want to get Eel Umbra’ed or Depriveed, and sometimes killing the gnarlid will be enough to foul up your opponent’s plan.

 

 

Wrapping It Up

 

At the time of the writing of this article, here is the list of deck types that I am actively thinking about when I sit down at a table for a ROE draft:

 

U/W Levelers

U/B Levelers

G/x Ramp

G/x Tokens

R/x Tokens

B/R Tokens

U/R Kiln Fiend

G/W Aura Gnarlid

W/x Hartebeest

U/G Aura Gnarlid

U/x Mnemonic Control

 

Of those decks, the following are considered to be likely contenders:

 

U/W levelers

G/x Ramp

G/x Tokens

B/R Tokens

U/R Kiln fiend

U/x Mnemonic Control

R/x Tokens

 

While these are archetypes that I’m open to but aren’t necessarily possible at every table:

 

G/W Aura Gnarlid

U/G Aura Gnarlid

W/x Hartebeest

U/B Levelers

 

Additionally, I’m open to trying B/R Kiln Fiend and U/x Levelers but understand that such archetypes only come together very rarely.

 

So most of the time I’ll end up with something in the first group but that doesn’t stop me from actively considering the viability of choices from the second group.

 

Lets look at each color and how it relates to the above-mentioned lists:

 

Blue: Blue is a main color in three of the seven “Group A” decks and in two of the “Group B” decks. Additionally, it can be a secondary or splash color in all but one of the “Group A” decks (B/R Tokens) and one of the “Group B” decks (G/W Aura Gnarlid). If you start with a very flexible Blue card like Narcolepsy you can fit it into almost any archetype from that point, whereas a more heavy commitment to blue (such as Sphinx of Magosi) likely narrows your choices to U/W Levelers, U/R Kiln Fiend, U/x Mnemonic Control, R/x Tokens, U/B Levelers, W/x Hartebeest, and maybe even the Green ramp and token decks. In other words, Blue has its fingers in almost every pot, so it’s a very flexible starting point for a draft.

 

Green: Green is a much more focused color than Blue. Of the major archetypes, it really is only a part of G/x Ramp and G/x Tokens. It’s also a main color in either Gnarlid deck and can play a part in the Hartebeest deck as well, although that’s a bit rarer. Luckily, G/x Ramp and G/x Tokens are both very flexible archetypes and are both very important to the format. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Green is a narrow choice. It does eliminate a lot of archetypes but the archetypes that it enables contain a great many variations. Still, this makes taking good Green cards early a bit of a risk in this format. Something like Joraga Treespeaker or Pelakka Wurm is surprisingly close to being a cornerstone rather than a fork. I’ll still happily grab these cards early, but know that in making this choice you are sacrificing some flexibility for power. I think when you draft Green in this format you have to commit earlier and be a bit more decisive than some of the other colors.

 

Black: Black is a pretty open color in this format just like many others seeing as almost any deck can consider splashing Black removal, especially thanks to the presence of Prophetic Prism and Evolving Wilds. So taking something like Vendetta early leaves you open to almost anything, although there are some decks where splashing is definitely sub-optimal. Black can be a main color in quite a few archetypes: G/x Ramp, G/x Tokens, B/R Tokens, U/x Mnemonic Control, and U/B Levelers. So the only time you need to really be concerned about cutting off your options with a Black card is with a heavy Black card like Pestilence Demon. Even then you are still quite open, but you can kiss a few archetypes goodbye.

 

Red: Red is even more open than Black. Its removal features the same splashability but it’s also a potential main color in every single one of the Group A decks except U/W Levelers. Of course, it doesn’t really fit into any of the second string decks with the exception of the Hartebeest deck, where it can actually be a main color. Taking Red cards early leaves you extremely open, even something with double Red like Disaster Radius or Conquering Manticore

 

White: White is even more narrow than Green. It only fits into one of the Group A archetypes and two of the Group B ones. Granted, some of its cards can be splashed in other decks – a fact that I think is important to remember if you are going to take a White card early. If you do take a White card early, you need to be prepared to do one of three things: force Levelers, be open to splashing the White card, or be open to abandoning White. If you are going to have problems doing these three things, then just don’t take White cards early. Seriously.

 

So overall, we have three colors that are very flexible, one color that is relatively narrow and one color that is comically limited. That means that the fundamental question that every ROE drafter must answer early on in the draft is:

 

Wait for it....

 

 

“Am I drafting Green?”

 

This is, in essence, the heart of Rise of Eldrazi Draft. It’s likely the most important decision you will make in each and every draft that you enter. Green is an exceptionally deep and powerful color in the set and allows you to play a few of the format’s best archetypes. It also allows you to take advantage of the Eldrazi in a way that other colors can’t (or at least, can’t as consistently as green can). So you can’t really write off Green in the same way that you can write off White. You have to seriously consider it every time. Because its power is now well known, you will likely have to pull the trigger on Green earlier in the draft than you will on other colors. So really this is the first question you have to answer, and once you have decided that piece everything else can fall into place. Once you decide to draft Green, there are basically two separate packages in the color. One package ties together the ramp and token decks and the other package ties together the Aura Gnarlid decks. So consider that question 1b. I think usually you are going to end up going with the Ramp/Tokens side of things, although you might switch into aura mode if the right cards start coming late.

 

Keep in mind that the importance of this question is driven by the metagame and not by the format in some abstract sense. In my first two articles I laid out a strategy in which players are encouraged to keep their options open by taking forks early and then moving in on a specific archetype late in pack one depending on what cornerstones are flowing. I still stand by this strategy – it’s just that Green’s popularity dictates that you pull the trigger on it or pass earlier in pack one. Early on I struggled with the question of whether something like Pelakka Wurm is a cornerstone or a fork, and I think that dilemma was prophetic of the environment as it exists at the time of this article’s writing. If at some future point or in some specific local metagame Green is much less popular, then you can feel free to kick the can down the road a bit and wait until late in the first pack to decide if you want to be a Green drafter or not. So I stand by my strategy, but understand that the strategy must be adapted to the dictates of the metagame.

 

If you have decided that you are not green, you either know exactly what you are drafting (because you are White) or you have a ton of options open (because you are some mix of Blue, Black, and Red). This is perhaps the purest expression of my initial strategy recommendation as you really can start with very flexible cards early and hone in on a particular archetype based on what is available late.

 

If Mnemonic Wall or Surreal Memoir is coming late, you can go for that deck.

 

If Bloodthrone Vampire is coming late, go for B/R Tokens.

 

If token generators and Raid Bombardment or Shared Discovery is coming late go for R/x tokens (or possibly B/R tokens if you already have some of the important cards).

 

If you see Kiln Fiend and Distortion Strike aplenty then you can jump onto that boat.

 

You might start in on a control direction only to find yourself with some Black cards in your pile and (Venerated Teachers) flowing. Time to experiment with U/B levelers!

 

Loosely speaking these decks break down into two categories – the token decks and the spell decks, with Levelers not really fitting into either. Kiln Fiend and Mnemonic Wall need the spells to operate while the other decks are focused around tokens.

 

So all in all, the decision tree looks like this:

 

Am I in Green or White or not?

            *If YES (Green)

                        Am I focusing on Ramp/Tokens or Gnarlid?

                                    *If Ramp/Tokens, which one?

                                    *If Gnarlid, U/G or W/G?

            *If YES (White)

                        Start praying. (I kid!)

            *If NO

                        Am I focusing on Spells or Tokens?

                                    *If Spells, control (Mnemonic Wall) or aggro (Fiend)?

                                    *If Tokens, pick your colors and go from there

 

And that is how I see Rise of Eldrazi draft as of the publication of this article. I hope you all have enjoyed this series of articles and have learned something reading them – I’ve certainly learned a lot writing them! I haven’t entirely decided what’s next yet. I’m usually not a big fan of Core Set Limited but I might work up a few draft walkthroughs (or do some ROE walkthroughs). I also might lie dormant for a bit and come back in the fall with our next exciting new set, Scars of Mirrodin. I’m looking forward to it! Until then, good luck and have fun!