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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jul 29 2008 12:17am
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Drafting the Reaper King Archetype
I have been drafting Shadowmoor for over a month now, and have been pretty close to going infinite on packs, despite the fact that I have not sold any Shadowmoor cards. I think I have this format figured out. (Must be about time to start drafting Eventide...)
I want to talk a bit about my pick orders and archetypes – and about one favorite “archetype.” I have recently done quite well with Reaper King decks. I seriously do mean decks with Reaper King and scarecrows – but very special decks with a very specific selection of scarecrows.
Let me elaborate, because I don’t mean that you can win by simply busting a Reaper King and the drafting every scarecrow you see. That way lies, well, not madness, but certainly not victory.
Reaper King can fit in well with a tight draft strategy – something that does a decent job of maintaining tempo and laying threats. Like any format, you win Shadowmoor drafts by having a decent mana curve, a decent removal suite and some tricks. In this format, with it’s heavy reliance on colors, color changing is a very goods trick. This brings me to one of my favorite cards in the format, and the reason that I can play Reaper King at all.       
Scuttlemutt is a perfect third pick. It is completely splashable. It is a decent body for the cost. It is mana acceleration. It is also a color changer.


I cannot count the number of times people have attacked with something enchanted with Steel of the Godhead or Shield of the Oversoul when I have a blocker and an active Scutts. People just forget that a Thistledown Duo with Shield of the Oversoul is going to be both blocked and killed by a Sootwalker once I turn the Duo green.   You would think that people would figure that out, but far too often, they just don’t. Then they lose.
People seem to think I must have the trick in my hand, when it is right there on the table. 
Okay – this does not happen all the time, or even all that often, but I do seem to completely steal about one game every other draft in which I have Scutts. 
I have also noticed that a significant number of drafters overvalue the god auras, like Steel of the Godhead, and undervalue the answers. For example, assume you are UW, and are looking at the following third pick in pack two. Which card would you take? 
Steel of the Godhead, Glamer Spinners, Aethertow, Last Breath, (Kinsbale Balloonist), junk, junk, junk, junk, Reflecting Pool, junk, junk, junk, FOIL Bloodshed Fever.
Okay, truth be told, I might take the Reflecting Pool. I need one more to complete my playset, and it is still worth a ton of TIX. Let’s assume you are not rare-drafting, however.
In my opinion and experience, the only answer here is AEthertow. Steel of the Godhead is nice, but AEthertow kills it, bounces an attacker or blocker and negates an opponent’s draw phase – and often it can negate two draw phases. As for Glamer Spinners -  it is a fine, fine creature, but it is not AEthertow.
I loves me a nice AEthertow, and it loves me right back. 
Actually, I am quite high on all the removal – although it is difficult for me to get behind most black removal, other than Incremental BlightGloomlance is nice, but very expensive.
Here’s how I break down the best common, non-creature spells in the format.
Tier One:

Aethertow: potent, and it works well in either GW or UW.
Burn Trail: three damage, it can go to the head, and sometimes it can do it twice.
Puncture Bolt: It is a solid removal spell, killing the annoying little witches, and it can also mess up Persist
Curse of Chains: any Pacifism is good.
Consign to Dream: really good, but only works in base blue
Tier Two:

Turn to Mist: fine way to save a creature from removal, stop a blocker or
Gloomlance: can be devastating against the right colors, but five mana is a lot.
Scar: combat trick, kills x/1s and stops Persist, but
Last Gasp: the four life is nothing much, but being unable to kill Hill Giants (or a Silkbind Faerie) is.
Barkshell Blessing: excellent combat trick, but does nothing against problem creatures – like Mistmeadow Witch – that don’t attack.
And let’s look at some of the uncommons that really make me happy.
Biting Tether: splashable, and a solid reason to go blue if you open it early.
Incremental Blight: is a three for one, and devastating, but I don’t really like black
Jaws of Stone: Amazing – especially since mono-red is a great archetype.
Corrupt: Great as removal or as a finisher – but it makes you play black, and that is sad.
Firespout:  There is a reason that it is played in constructed.  It is better than Pyroclasm - and Pyroclasm won me a ton of packs in base set drafts.  
Mass Calcify: close to better than Wrath of God, since most of your creatures survive.   Of course, it is not an uncommon.
The secret to drafting Shadowmoor is a fast deck with a solid curve and enough answers.  The curve is important - to the point that I really don't like having more than two or three creatures with casitng costs of five or more.  Small is good.
Let me illustrate how I rate cards by looking at a sample pack.   I busted a few paper pack for this example. 
Augury AdeptInkfathom WitchGuttural Response, (Gloomwidow)
Goldenglow MothElvish HexhunterScuzzback ScrapperManaforge Cinder
Gloomwidow's FeastMorselhoarderPuncture BoltGloomlance
Wildslayer Elves, Ghastly DiscoveryMedicine Runner
This pack has some nice black, but it is not enough to bring me into the color.  Black just doesn't have enough power, except as a weak second color in a RB deck.   It takes something like Incremental Blight to pull me into black - Corrupt is not quite good enough.
Augury Adept seems okay, but it is not worth much.  UW is also a great color option, but i want to see a Silkbind Faerie, Aethertow or UW rare to get me into the color - the risk of startig with a mediocre UW card like this is that i will be fighting with too many other drafters for UW and not getting anything really solid.
For me, the best pick is the cheap removal spell, Puncture Bolt.  Even if I don't eend up in red, I might spalsh the P-bolt.   If that was not available, I would probably look at Gloomwidow.  It is a 3/3 for three mana, and I love clocks. 
If Morselhoarder tables, I might take it, but I am not a fan of the card.  It is a fine Craw Wurm, but I have no ptroblem leaving it out of my deck.
Pack two has another interesting mix:
Reaper King, Boggart Ram-GangHollowsage, FOIL Loamdragger Giant,Toil to Renown, Crimson Wisps, Fate Transfer, Apothecary Initiate, Cinderbones, Kinscaer Harpoonist, Raven's Run Dragoon, Boggart Arsonists, Medicine Runner, Scuttlemutt
 No, you do not take the Reaper King here.  Reaper King is worth less than a quarter - if you need one for constructed, just buy it.   It is not good enough to justify a second pick.  However, it might well table, and if it does, then it's worth taking.  One reason it is worth taking is that the best card in this pack is Scuttlemutt
I have been in this situation, or a situation where I got the Reaper King in the middle of a later pack, and ended up playing it.  I have almost never Vindicated anything, and games have generally not gone far enough to actually play the Reaper King, but I have ended up in the finals with it at least three times.  The important point is that the decks are good without  RK - and the King is primarily present as a fattie finisher.   Here are three typical decks which include Reaper King.
Green White Reaper King

Silkbind Faerie

Raven's Run Dragoon

(Wilt-Leaf Leige)

2 Ballynock Cohort

Elvish Hexhunter

Seedcradle Witch

Safehold Sentry

2 Rune-Cervin Rider

1 Farhaven Elf

Reaper King

2 Scuttlemutt

(Lurebound Screcrow)

2 AEthertow

Mercy Killing

Curse of Chains

Gleeful Sabotage

Puncture Bolt

Ember Gale

8 Forest

7 Plains

2 Mountain

The goals of this build were to beat down with small dudes.  Normally, I would want far more evasion and a few more fast, hard hitting creatures, like Hungry Spriggans.  I didn't get them.  I also generally would not splash, but I wanted the removal and I wanted Ember Gale.  Ember Gale wins so many games when the opponent cannot block, and it can also double as removal for the Witches and so forth - little 1/1s that don't attack. 

I could also find the splash Mountains with the Farhaven Elf, and it did help power out Reaper King.  I did have one good draw with this deck where I dropped all three land types, then Scuttlemutt, and played the King on turn five. 

The game plan for this deck is pretty simple:  I try to curve out with efficent stuff, and swing.  With any luck at all, I'm probably swinging with a 2/2 on turn three and a 3/3 first striker on turn four.  if you drop blockers, I'll probably be able to put one on top of your library at a critical time.  Sooner or later, a flier, the Liege or the Witch is going to show up and make your life difficult - or I'll draw Ember Gale and negate your blocking plan.   Or, if I'm really lucky, I may draw Reaper King and some Scarecrows.

I maindeck Gleeful Sabotage.  It is very occassionally  dead, but it can often hit a Chains, a Scarecrow, a Power of Fire or a Trip Noose - and sometimes both.  I have had it save a half dozen games for every game where it was dead in hand.


Blue White Reaper King

Swans of Bryn Argoll

Silkbind Faerie

2 Thistledown Duo


2 Briarberry Cohort

(Parapet Watcher)

2 Kinscaer Harpoonist

Glamer Spinners

Reaper King


2 Watchwing Scarecrow

Lurebound Scarecrow

Spectral Procession

2 Consign to Dream

Curse of Chains

Prison Term


Trip Noose

8 Island

9 Plains

This is the one deck where I drafted and played a Scarecrow that I normally would have passed.  I am not overly found of the Lurebound Scarecrow- it dies too easily to everything from Wisps to bounce spells, but it can vindicate something when Reaper King is in play.  I will admit I was influenced by the Reaper King.  I was more influenced by the fact that I had the Curse of Chains and Prison term.  Naming white when those, plus a white dude or two, makes Lurebound pretty safe. 

Watchwing Scarecrow, on the other hand, is an important part of my UW decks.

Silkbind Faerie is really, really good.  That is probably not news to anyone.    

I also had a Elvish Hexhunter in the pool, and this is one of the few decks where I did not play him.  He is usually maindeck material, both because he is a one drop, (and if you stick a one drop on turn one, it often deals 1-2 points before the opponent gets a blocker out), and because he is a simple answer to all the stupid god auras.  However, this deck has Consigns, AEthetow, Chains, Prison term and Trip Noose - it should not lose to an enchantment.

Sad fact - I lost the last game in the finals to a player with double (Armor of Ascension) and white dudes.  I dealt with the first Armor easily, but could not find an answer to the second fast enough.  Just bad luck - the odds say I should have drawn an answer.

BTW, I passed two Steel of the Godheads in this draft.  I took Aethertow and Trip Noose over them.


Green Red Reaper King

2 Gloomwidow

2 Mudbrawler Raiders

Mudbrawler Cohort

Boggart Ram-Gang

2 Hungry Spriggan

Rosheen Meanderer

2 Rustrazor Butcher

2 Scuzzback Marauders

Elvish Hexhunter

Murderous Redcap

Reaper King


(Scrap Basket)

Blazethorn Scarecrow


2 Mercy Killing

Smash to Smithereens

Power of Fire

Puncture Bolt

Ember Gale

Jaws of Stone

8 Forest

9 Mountian

The red green build started with an early Jaws of Stone.  I would have preferred to go mono-red, but the cards just were not coming.  For example, I never saw a Burn Trail, which is a staple in the archetype.  However, once I started finding the solid green cards, I was happy to run RG.  

I did dismiss Boggart Ram Gang above, but I gladly picked and played it here.  I picked it in pack two, once I was firmly RG.  It is a fine card, but committing yourself to RG pick two, pack one can bite you in the ass. 

Power of Fire  is good, and not just because I had a Pili-Pala.  I actually was motre likely to put it on a Rustrazor Butcher, since the Wither ability make Power of fire really, really good.   Not quite Pili-Pala machine gun good, but close -- and better than waiting for the Pili-Pala that I may or may not draw. 

The archetype is basically fast, hard hitting dudes.  This deck will almost certainly attack for at least 4 damage on turn four.  It also has some really unfair tricks.  One backbreaker from the semi-finals was stacking damage with the Scxuzzback Marauders, then hitting it with Mercy Killing.  I killed his blocker, then got my 4/1 trampler and five 1/1  green white elves.  What made the trick even better was that it turned out he was holding Mass Calcify, which I didn't know about.  The white elves meant he could not gain an advantage in creatures with the pseudo-wrath, and it killed him.

In this draft, I would have played pretty much the same cards with or without the Reaper King.  The one concession I made to the King was to play Scrap Basket.  I think I had a Morselhoarder as well, and I usually would have lplayed that. Scrap Basket dies to practically any blocker, but it is almost a hill giant, so it is not terrible.

I did not have a Gleeful Sabotage in this draft, and I was not happy about that.  I did maindeck Smash to Smithereens, though.  A lot of players run scarecrows, and Trip Noose can be really, really good.  Smash deals with all that, and deals damage as well.  It is occassionally dead, but genearlly pays its way.

Playing Against Steel
A quick game recap, because it shows how some of the cards that I talked about above can work together, and because it features Scuttlemutt.  (Even though I misplayed him.)
I had a reasonable RB deck with a bunch of weenies that i didn't see, and a gang of 3/3s for four mana, like Sootwalkers.  And Scutts.  It was in the finals of a 4-3-2-2. (I play those because they fill faster, and because I often play early mornings, and occassionally have to concede the later rounds if the draft runs slowly and I have to head for work.  And because I'm a wuss.)

He dropped something early - maybe a Somnomancer - and I Scarred it. 
I dropped a Scuttlemutt. 
He dropped a Barrenton Cragtreads.
I Wisped his Cragtreads, drew into a land and played a Sootwalkers.
He dropped a Steel of the Godhead on his Cragtreads and flew over for 5.  Life totals were 25 / 15 in his favor.
I swung with everything (stupid - should have kept Scutts back, etc.), then made a 3/3.  Life totals 20/15 him.
He played the UW Liege, then swung with his 7/7 lifelinked guy.  Life totals were 27/8, and I was not happy.
(I think he was pretty confident at that point, especailly since I was screwing up.)
I dropped my sixth land (third mountain), Scuttlemutt made his Cragtreads green and I killed it with Jaws of Stone, then swung for 3.
He made a Watchwing Scarecrow and passed.
I Smashed it to Smitereens, swung with the team, then made another 3/3.  Life totals were 11/8.
He tapped out to drop two blockers and passed.
I cast Ember Gale and swung for the win.
I was playing around counters that match - and I was glad he didn't play more lands.  I could have tried to ambush the Cragtreads, (change color after attackers, then block with a 3/3), but I was worried about Wisps or other tricks. 
I love telling this story.  Beats last Saturday, when i lost three straight drafts in the first round, to mana flood, mana screw - but at least one to bad play on my part.  I need to learn that, when i am distracted and way off my game, I should stop playing until I get my head together.  But that's another article.
Bonus Track: Morselhoarder as Machine Gun
This is one of those once in a blue moon ideas, and certainly not something to build a deck around, but it is cute. 
Morselhoarder + Sinking Feeling + Power of Fire
Tap Morselhoarder to deal one damage. Pay one mana and put a counter on the Hoarder to untap it. Remove the counter to generate one mana. Repeat until your opponent is dead. 
It works pretty nicely with Presence of Gond, too. 


Then they lose... by Gamma at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:52
Gamma's picture

"I cannot count the number of times people have attacked with something enchanted with Steel of the Godhead or Shield of the Oversoul when I have a blocker and an active Scutts. People just forget that a Thistledown Duo with Shield of the Oversoul is going to be both blocked and killed by a Sootwalker once I turn the Duo green.   You would think that people would figure that out, but far too often, they just don’t. Then they lose."

I believe if you block an indestructible 3/3 Thistledown Duo with your Sootwalkers, not only will it not be killed, but I also feel you would be the only one to 'just lose' in that scenario. With Shield of the Oversoul, a better color choice might be red, or black, or maybe even blue. As for Aethertow being one of the top commons, I would have to disagree. After a few weeks, everyone came to expect it when their WU opponent left 4 open, epecially if they kept a couple dudes back, which made it a very easy trick to play around, while Barkshell blessing, which only costs one, is difficult to play around, even if you know it's coming, which is often not the case. Just my two cents.

by iceage4life at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 15:58
iceage4life's picture

In your example pack the clear pick is Glamer Spinners.  Have you played with the card its nuts!  It also answers auras which is why I assumed you were talking about it in the example....

You also seem to really overrate Aethertow in general as it seems like its your #1in a list THAT DOESN"T HAVE POWER OF FIRE?

Interesting by Trumpetman at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 19:18
Trumpetman's picture

I have drafted a LOT of Shadowmoor.  Porbably more than anyone I actually know, and this is the first article I've read on RK.  Strangely I've seen about a total of three RK's in about the 150+ SSS drafts I've done (holy shit that's a lot I know).  I like the ideas presented here, but have trouble seeing how the King 1: ever tbales, as it seems solid enough and 2: how you can rate Scuttlemutt a 3rd pick.  I do a lot of 8-4's so this may be different in 4-3-2-2, but over the past month or two on MODO, people have realized just how good Scuttlemutt really is.  Yes, I would love to see a Scuttlemutt 3rd pick, but all too often I find myself 1st picking him (obviously a weak pack).  If that's the case, then building an entiire archetype around him seems near impossible.  Another point I want to make is in your top common slot list.  I agree with some of it, however, I think you rate Aethertow far too highly, and Glamer Spinners just trumps it.  I can't really ever seeing picking Aethertow over a Steel either, unless you have very few UW dudes, and in that case Aethertow probably isn't the right pick anyways.  To reply to someone else's comment on Power of Fire: it's not what it's cracked up to be.  Power of Fire used to be my #1 common slot, but the problem with the card is that it is an archetype card.  In fact, its not even really a red card.  It's a Pili-Pala card/ Silkbind Faerie card.  Unless you are already going the route of the combo deck, Power of Fire just isn't as good as other commons in my oppinion.  I'd happily pick Burn Trail over it if I was heavy red, and most the time Silkbind Faerie is a better pick (and I think is my new #1 common).  My final rant is on Barkshell Blessing.  This card is not Tier 2.  It is easily Tier 1.  The card has a value of diminishing returns for those of you economists out there.  For the rest of you, that means the first one has infinite value and it goes down from there.  Early in a draft, I've had to face the issue of picking Blessing or W Cohort, as both are complete houses.  I've come to the conclusion that Blessing is correct here.  As the draft moves toward pack 3 however, and I see the print run again I switch my pick over to Ballyknock Cohort to flesh out the curve.  Any card that can beat out a W Cohort on my list has to be a top notch common, and I pick Blessing very highly.  Alright I think that about concludes this post check out my article comming out within the next few days!

by one million words at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 14:44
one million words's picture

With a 2 or 3 color deck and a Scuttlemutt, reaper King costs 5 or 6 - a fine cost for a finisher.  He pumps Scutts, and the vindicate is nice if it happens.  The point is that he is a nice alternative win condition in a decent deck, not that he is a deck in himself. 

by AJ_Impy at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 14:47
AJ_Impy's picture

What you're not seeing is the 'Other scarecrows you control get +1/+1' clause. Whilst not in the same class as the lieges, a 6- or 7-mana 6/6 which pumps a good number of your creatures can be worth it.

 Reaper King will never cost 10 in a draft deck. A 2-color deck with a splash color or a Scuttlemutt takes him to 7, which is a decent price for that size and ability set. If you've already played your Scarecrows, they still benefit. If not, there's the opportunity to vindicate. If you have space for a fatty, the card is largely upside.

by Reaper9889 at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 05:16
Reaper9889's picture

I assume you mean Last Breath, but I would pick Inquister's Snare over it (why can't it kill a Silkbind Faerie tho?) It's a removel spell vs over 60 % of the field (over since you are playing white which should lower the amount of other white players) and a (pretty bad) combat trick vs the rest. It's proberly about on pair with Consign to dreams vs it's favored enemies (perhaps a bit better - I would prefer to redraw most of my large RG creatures then having them destroyed), it's cheaper but it's worse vs it's none favored enemies (while you would keep Consign in vs UW and BU you wouldn't do so with Snare)

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 07/29/2008 - 10:12
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OK, maybe I'm dense (it's certainly a possibility considering how poorly I do at drafts), but I don't really see anything about a Reaper King strategy in here......

Heck, the decks you've listed would have to jump through some major hoops to even have a chance at coming up with all 5 colors of mana.  And if you're seriously talking about hard casting him for 10, I'd think there are much better things to be doing with your mana.

By the time you could get RK out, the game will already be over or else you've long since dropped all your scarecrows and he won't be doing anything other than being a very overcosted fattie.

It seems to me that the decks you've listed would be just fine, or actually even better, with something other than RK in them.  At which point, what was the purpose of putting him in there or calling it an RK strategy?

Am I just not seeing it or what??????