Final Iteration | Nils Hamm

Now that we’re a little outside the pre-release window for Eldritch Moon, we’ve started hitting that snag where half of drafters are getting used to the set’s pick orders, while others are still floundering around. The result is a weird series of mixed signals that makes it difficult to figure out which colors are open and which cards just happen to slip through as a fluke. This put me in an interesting position at the end of this draft: having two viable decks in my card pool.

P1P1

As much as I love Choking Restraints, I’m not passing up the opportunity to first pick Tamiyo, Field Researcher. Putting aside the fact that she’s worth a few tickets, taking her first pick means I can put a higher priority on color fixing to guarantee I can splash her if I end up in any two of her three colors.

P1P2

I have to imagine the person to my right took a foil rare or mythic, because Docent of Perfection is just a bomb. A 5/4 flier for 5 is a ridiculously good rate, and getting to put out 1/1 tokens is a good upside even if you never get him to flip. It should be noted that there are other wizards in blue as well, helping him to flip even if you are short on Instants and Sorceries.

P1P3

Vexing Scuttler is very good, and it might even be worth sticking to blue to take here, but Spreading Flames is bomb-tier removal and I’m willing to speculate on it and push toward the UR spells deck. That said, with a blue bomb under my belt and a good reason to stay open, it may have been correct just to take the Scuttler.

P1P4

After seeing another Brazen Wolves in the previous pack alongside Spreading Flames, I feel good about taking the Wolves here over Drag Under. The Wolves are about the best red 3-drop you’re going to find in the set, and as much as I like Drag Under, I’d rather take the punchy creature here.

P1P5

With two solid red picks under my belt, I feel confident about taking a Thermo-Alchemist. I mentally note, however, that a 5th pick Choking Restraints is a pretty huge signal that white is open.

P1P6

There are a lot of very solid white cards here, but I’m still mentally married to my pick 2, and Unsubstantiate is still a solid card, so I decide against speculating and just take the bounce spell.

P1P7

With nothing in blue or red I care about, I decide this is the perfect time to speculate white with a very, very late Blessed Alliance.

P1P8

Blue’s looked a little dry the last few picks, but there are three solid playable cards in the color here, so I feel like it’s probably safe to continue pushing into blue. There are two decent white playables here, but I like Scour the Laboratory.

P1P9

I haven’t seen a decent red playable in several picks, so I decide it’s probably dried up and start pushing into white. Guardian of Pilgrims is unexciting, but I like having a good curve if I end up in UW tempo, so it’s fine. Plus, it’s a Spirit in case I get any Spirit payoff cards.

P1P10

I wouldn’t mind grabbing a Tattered Haunter for my 2-drop slot, but I’m not going to pass up a chance to snap up a wheeled Spontaneous Mutation.

P1P11

Depending on how many fliers I get, Lunarch Mantle may make the mainboard, though I’m going to hope I don’t need it.

P1P12

There’s nothing here for me, so I hate out the Borrowed Hostility. There’s another red card in the pack still, so sending signals isn’t an issue here.

P1P13

I doubt it’ll see the mainboard, but if I have any sort of Delirium stuff going on Contingency Plan might be fine as a 23rd card, especially since it can help me splash for Tamiyo.

P1P14

That is a super late Geist of the Lonely Vigil. It’s not amazing, but a 2 / 3 flying blocker for 2 mana is an excellent rate if you’re looking to hold down the board.

End of pack 1

Even though I said red looked cut off, it’s pretty heavily better than my white. White looked the most open toward the end of the pack, and I’m not sure if the blue came through was due to blue being open, or the other drafters’ pick orders are just different than mine. The way things currently stand I’ll probably end up in WU, but if red was cut off from the right, pushing UR spells for the second pack might not be a horrible idea. Plus, I let a number of white cards through in the first pack, so white could definitely be cut off from the left, which would leave me in a bad spot for playables come pack 3 if that’s the cast after deciding on pushing WU instead. Overall, my direction seems highly reliant on the first 3 or so picks of the next pack.

Get better at Drafting

Magic Draft Set Selection Screen

Download Magic Drafter now. It's a great tool for practicing drafts. This is an app that players can use to improve their game every day.

P2P1

My mindset right now is to bank on WU being open, so I take Sanctifier of Souls and hope it’s the correct pick. Since there are strong cards in both other colors, it’s difficult to stick to my original plan, but flip-flopping around after pack one is a sure-fire way to end up with a bad deck.

P2P2

With no great cards in any three of the colors, I decide to take Desperate Sentry. This is an odd pick because I’m not typically very high on the card, but it was recently brought to my attention that WU turbo-delirium could be a thing, with the likes of Laboratory Brute and Contingency Plan. With no other great picks, I figure it’s worth speculating on.

P2P3

I’d love to take a second Blessed Alliance, but I passed a Lone Rider in the previous pack and I don’t want to let a second one get away.

P2P4

Notably, blue’s been pretty barren the last couple picks, and I just passed a Thermo-Alchemist. I haven’t picked up any blue cards yet from this pack, so I feel like I still have time to pivot into WR, leading me to take the Bedlam Reveler.

P2P5

There are a lot of very good red cards here, but even if it’s a gold card I highly doubt Ride Down will wheel, so I decide to snap it up.

P2P6

Suddenly we’re back to no red cards in the pack. It could just be that this pack was red-weak, but this is an especially late Nebelgast Herald if blue were really being cut from the left. Since I already have a Borrowed Hostility I decide to tentatively take the blue flier.

P2P7

A second pack in a row with no red to speak of, and a very good blue card. I have no clue what’s going on with blue and red, but I’m always happy to see Faithbearer Paladin and I’m almost positive I’m in white. Plus, it combos with my Lone Rider.

P2P8

I already have a Desperate Sentry and it’s starting to look like I’m not going to get that whole turbo-Delirium thing rolling, so I take a Terrarion to hopefully help splash for Tamiyo.

P2P9

Cryptolith Fragment would also help splash for Tamiyo (and it’s just a decent card besides), but if I end up in WU I’m not sure I’ll be control-oriented enough to warrant that sort of slow play. Plus, I know I’m going to absolutely want the Wretched Gryff.

P2P10

I don’t prize Enlightened Maniac particularly highly outside of heavy Emerge decks, so I grab Cultist’s Staff, which does a decent True-Faith Censer impression much of the time.

P2P11

I already have a Lunarch Mantle and without a lot of token generators I’m not especially happy to be running Thirsting Axe, so I grab Borrowed Grace. It hasn’t played especially amazing for me, but a fail case of a 3 mana combat trick isn’t horrible.

P2P12

I’m not playing any of these cards, but at least Displace is playable out of the sideboard.

P2P13

Nothing in my colors, so I cut the card that would most likely make somebody’s deck.

P2P14

Poor little Strange Augmentation, nobody gets you.

End of pack 2

I have no idea what’s going on with red or blue, but I seem to have approximately the same number of playables in both colors. I still think blue is more likely to be open due to seeing those later picks in the second pack, but it could still go either way at this point. I’m pretty solidly in white however, and I’m hoping that the third pack will either settle this issue once and for all, or give me enough white playables that I can just decide after the draft section is finished.

Get better at Drafting

Magic Draft Set Selection Screen

Download Magic Drafter now. It's a great tool for practicing drafts. This is an app that players can use to improve their game every day.

P3P1

With flying, lifelink and first strike in my deck, Odric, Lunarch Marshal looks like a solid inclusion. There isn’t much else in my colors to pick over it anyway.

P3P2

It’s easy to flip-flop again and consider taking a red card here, but I’m fortunately spared the frustration with an easy Nearheath Chaplain. There are a couple new cards in EMN that hit 1-toughness creatures really well, but they’re not enough to drag down the Chaplain’s power level.

P3P3

I get to put off trying to figure out what I’m going to do about my second color again with a snap Dauntless Cathar. Breakneck Rider would be better if I knew for sure I was going to be in red, but the Cathar is close enough in power level that there’s no reason for me to make a risky pick like that.

P3P4

With no good options in white this time, I decide to push into blue with Jace’s Scrutiny. I like the flexibility of the card more than Voldaren Duelist, and I’m going to want it if I end up in blue.

P3P5

Another great white pick with Angelic Purge. Of note, there was a UR dual land a couple pics ago and now a WR dual land. If one or both of those wheel, I’d be far more likely to play blue and splash red for some of the powerful removal spells I’ve picked up.

P3P6

Although I’d love to grab Just the Wind, I already have one bounce spell in my deck, and I’m light on 2-drops. Moorland Drifter ends up being my pick.

P3P7

I wouldn’t mind another Moorland Drifter here, but Dauntless Cathar is a much stronger card, and my 3-drop slot is a little light as well.

P3P8

With so many spirits in my deck, I decide to pick up the Apothecary Geist over the filler 2-drop.

P3P9

I’m pretty happy taking a Strength of Arms on the wheel, since I don’t have any cheap pump spells yet.

P3P10

With no cards I want, I take the Reduce to Ashes in case the extra removal spell pushes me more toward WR.

P3P11

I know I’m not going to play Nagging Thoughts, so I do the same as my last pick, taking Spiteful Motives since I know it’d make the WR version of my deck.

P3P12

Always nice to have an Ethereal Guidance in your back pocket.

P3P13

Nothing I’m going to play here, so I take the only card that’s even remotely ever going to make somebody’s deck.

P3P14

Ditto on the Neonate.

Get better at Drafting

Magic Draft Set Selection Screen

Download Magic Drafter now. It's a great tool for practicing drafts. This is an app that players can use to improve their game every day.

Final Deck

Here’s what I ended up with.

After looking at my red and blue side by side, I come to the conclusion that my blue is a better fit for the white I’ve drafted. My white plays a lot closer to a tempo style than an aggro style, with more value-oriented creatures than aggressive ones. Additionally, I have quite a number of Spirits in my deck, making Nebelgast Herald extremely good, and enough instants/sorceries to give Docent of Perfection a real shot at flipping from time to time. And if I’m being honest, I really like the extra fliers blue brings to the table.

Notably, despite the bulk of my deck being white, I’ve decided to go with a 9-8 land split. Since the entirety of my white cards can run off a single Plains, I want to increase my chances I’m not stuck for colors when I have one of my double-blue cost spells in my hand.

Match #1

Match #2

Match #3

At first glance, it looks like I lost round 2 due to variance; my opponent drew better than me in game 3, resulting in a tempo match that I just couldn’t fight against. But if we rewind things a bit, we’ll see that what really happened is I punted the second game, forcing a third game that may have not ever needed to happen.

EMN Draft screenshot

At this point in the game my opponent is on zero cards, with a looter I can effectively wall out just by keeping mana open. Spontaneous Mutation is at its best when it can be used as a combat trick, and I’m going to lose some of its power by exiling creatures to make 1/1 spirit tokens, so my first instinct is to just hold it for the moment when I can use it to blow out one of my opponent’s creatures. The problem with this idea is that the moment those werewolves flip, my opponent’s board becomes much, much better than mine, and I can no longer use my spirit tokens as chump blockers.

Since both werewolves are completely blocked out by both my creatures, the best bet is to drop my Spontaneous Mutation on the Vexing Scuttler so it can no longer profitably attack either. Even after dropping 2 spirits on the board, it’ll still be shrunk down to a 2 / 5, which is plenty small enough for me to double block and kill with my current board. There’s no telling how the game would have turned out if I’d made this play, but with Jace’s Scrutiny also in my hand I could have bought myself another 2-3 card draws before I had to face a bigger, badder, more trample-y board from my opponent.

With my opponent at only 9 life, and with a lifelinker on my side of the board, there’s every chance a few key blocks could have given me the win. And with a game 2 win, I never would have been subjected to the variance of a third game. Sometimes just allowing variance to take its hold is enough to turn a potential win into a definite loss.

A photo of Jason Clem Jason Clem

Jason Clem has been playing Magic on and off since Mirrodin, but only found his love of Limited after playing a few months of Hearthstone. After rejoining the Magic Master Race, he created Draft Factory in hopes of creating an analysis and step-by-step breakdown of a format often eclipsed by Constructed discussion. Jason also has a soft spot for JRPGs and will emphatically deny that CLANNAD made him cry like a little girl.