The Gitrog Monster | Jason Kang

Sometimes drafts fall apart due to your own mistakes; you misread the signals, you tried to force a color because you opened a sweet bomb, you mistook what archetype was open, etc etc. Other times, the packs are so weak that signals get muddied and it’s difficult to find your lane. This is one of those drafts. It’s not a complete trainwreck, and there are a few picks that could have gone either way, but the first pack is pretty ugly, and it sets the tone for the entire draft.

P1P1

This pack has four really good cards, but he pick is definitely between Sinister Concoction and Fiery Temper. As I’ve played the set more, I’ve come down on the enchantment a little bit, since it’s essentially BB to use it on the same turn you play it, and double-color casting costs can be unwieldy. That said, being both a Madness and Delirium enabler, and also being able to kill anything, still makes it the pick here.

P1P2

With no good black cards to pair with my first pick, I just take the best card out of the pack, which is easily Breakneck Rider.

P1P3

I’m looking at no really good black cards again, so I’m starting to think that maybe black is getting drafted from the right. All the red cards here are mediocre or belong in niche decks. On the other hand, there are two very good green cards in the pack, so I don’t think it’ll hurt me too much to speculate a third color.

I really like Hermit of the Natterknolls, but despite being a werewolf, it plays best in a more defensive deck that can leverage its defensive stats and card draw ability over a longer game; I don’t know what deck I’m going to end up in, but two packs’ worth of data seem to be pushing me toward red, and RG is more of a midrange beatdown deck. On the other hand, Quilled Wolf goes in any green deck. Since 2-drops are always in short supply, I decide to take the wolf.

P1P4

Dead Weight is a card that can easily be first-picked in a light pack of playables, so its presence on pick 4 means this pack was pretty stacked. Whether the three cards that were picked first were black or not is completely up in the air. But with so many green cards left in the pack, and a second Quilled Wolf staring me in the face, I decide to pick it up instead of hoping that black is still open.

P1P5

I had a hard time with this pick, and I’m still not sure I made the right call. I love Vessel of Nascency, but its impact is far smaller in a non-delirium deck. At this point I think I might be RG wolves, so I take the Howlpack Wolf, but it might have still been correct to take the Vessel to “stay open” as it were.

P1P6

That’s a pretty late Silverstrike, but all the white cards I’ve seen thus far have been pretty middling picks, so this is really the first signal I have that white might be open. Instead of speculating, I decide to take Graf Mole, since I’m likely to get some clue generators in green, regardless of what I pair it with.

P1P7

By now I realize I haven’t seen much in the way of good red come around for a few picks, and I’m not entirely sure what to take from this pack. Wicker Witch is the safest pick, slotting into any deck, even if it’s not a very good card. I decide to pick up Indulgent Aristocrat on the off-chance that black is still open from the other direction.

P1P8

Nothing really left in this pack, so I edge toward taking a black card, and pick up Stallion of Ashmouth, a mediocre, but serviceable, delirium payoff.

P1P9

The best card in this pack is Ghostly Wings, but I’m not even close to being in blue, so I take the only green card in the pack and hope I don’t have to play it.

P1P10

I haven’t completely ruled out the idea of playing red at this point, so I decide to take a dual land so I can splash if my draft ends up going that way.

P1P11

Even if I end up in RG, none of these cards are spells that I want in my deck. Since both black and red may have been relatively cut in this pack, I speculate in a mediocre white playable, hoping I can figure out what I’m doing at the start of pack 2.

P1P12

Merciless Resolve is marginally playable in black, especially if I end up in some sort of Abzan delirium deck.

P1P13

Since I took a black card last pick, I decide to take one again, in a feeble attempt to signal that blue is open and black is not.

P1P14

I’m actually pretty happy to see a Loam Dryad wheel around. My draft isn’t looking fantastic right now, and this should help me with my color fixing if I end up in 3 colors.

End of Pack 1

I feel like the first pack was just exceptionally weak. I got a couple great cards i the first couple picks, but the packs seemed to dry up very quickly. I’m pretty sure I’m in green at this point, but red was cut off pretty hard, and I’m not entirely sure black was open either. The white I was passed didn’t look great either, but I saw a number of mid-pack white cards slide by, so there’s a chance that either there’s only one white drafter at the table, or that white was pretty bare in most of the packs that were open.

I’m hoping that black is open, but I might have to pivot into white in pack two, much like I did during my last draft. It’ll really depend on what I open.

P2P1

This is an extremely tough decision. The safest pick in this pack is Pack Guardian, since I’m pretty sure I’m already in green. It’s not too far behind the other options in power level, either. But really, it’s just a vanilla creature once it’s on the board. There are potential blowout situations if you can surprise your opponent with it, but the average case scenario is that it’s just a 4-drop that I can play at the end of my opponent’s turn, and that’s something far more replaceable than what the other cards on the table offer me.

The other three cards I’m looking at are Gryff’s Boon, Angelic Purge, and Dead Weight. Both Boon and Purge would be great if I pivoted into white, and I’d probably actually take the enchantment just because it pulls double duty, helping activate delirium and being a recurring threat to turn my beaters into fliers. But since I have so many more black cards in my pool, I decide to go with Dead Weight instead, figuring I can still splash it if necessary if I get some mana fixing.

P2P2

With a few good green options in this pack, I opt to take another 2-drop. I pick up Hinterland Logger since I already have two Quilled Wolf in my pool. There’s a chance the Moldgraf Scavenger could wheel, and I would rather not hobble myself by picking up middling delirium payoffs over solidly playable cards when I’m not entirely sure what my deck is going to be doing yet.

P2P3

The pick here is probably Fork in the Road, but I’m hoping to capitalize on getting black from my left in pack 2, so I take Crow of Dark Tidings as a solid playable that pushes me more towards delirium.

P2P4

If I were definitely in white, I’d pick up the Apothecary Geist here and be happy with the pick. Since that’s not the case, my choices are a couple middling green cards and a dual land. This second pack hasn’t been kind to me for black either, so I’m starting to feel like I’m going to need to swap into white, but I don’t know that I’ll have enough playables if I make the switch now, so I decide to take the dual land to help me splash.

P2P5

I’m a little sad that it’s too late to move into blue, because I’ve just seen great blue cards for the last three picks. With no playable green or black cards, I decide now’s the time to try pivoting into white. It’s not a great pick, but Vessel of Ephemera will almost definitely make the cut if I end up with some delirium payoffs.

P2P6

If I wasn’t considering white before, I would be now. A 6th pick Dauntless Cathar would be nuts by itself, but a Nearheath Chaplain in the same pack is just crazytown. This pack was either stacked with white, or there are literally zero white drafters to the left of me.

P2P7

Although I like Paranoid Parish-blade in the delirium deck, Dauntless Cathar is always good, even when delirium isn’t turned on.

P2P8

Since it looks like I’m pushing hard into white, the Moorland Drifter is an easy snap-pick. Farbog Revenant would be okay if I weren’t, but I’d probably take Biting Rain for the sideboard instead, were I leaning in that direction still.

P2P9

I’m considering Shard of Broken Glass, but I don’t think my deck is aggressive enough, or evasive enough, to make it worth running at this point. I’m more than willing to run a Kessig Dire Swine as a curve-topper in this deck though, delirium or not.

P2P10

I already have a Merciless Resolve in my pool, so I opt for Not Forgotten, a marginal sideboard card whose name is extremely misleading, since I constantly have to re-read the card after having forgotten what it does.

P2P11

With no madness cards and very few ways to affect the board, I decide on Strength of Arms over Stern Constable.

P2P12

I’m hoping I can replace it by the end of the last pack, but I take Cathar’s Companion as a marginal playable.

P2P13

I don’t know that it’ll make the final cut since I already have a good number of 2-drops, but Unruly Mob is far more likely to see play than Ethereal Guidance.

P2P14

There’s just no reason to give the person to my right a free vampire.

End of Pack 2

With the new focus on white, most of my mediocre black cards can go to the sideboard. Unless I get a lot of good stuff in pack 3, I’ll probably still be running Dead Weight and Sinister Concoction, since they’re the two strongest removal spells in my pool right now. That means I’m going to need to look out for more mana fixing; and if I do that, I can probably afford to splash for other strong black cards I happen to see as well.

P3P1

After passing a Pack Guardian earlier, I can’t bring myself to pass another. Accursed Witch is a good card, but I’m not sure I want to take a splash card here when there’s another 4-drop in my primary color in this pack.

P3P2

Normally I’d snap up the Veteran Cathar, but my pool at this point has very few humans, which makes its ability far less relevant. Since I’m short on ways to interact with the board, I’m pretty happy taking Tenacity instead.

P3P3

As much as I like Tooth Collector, I’m just not sure I’m going to have delirium consistently enough to be worth splashing him. I also don’t have enough wolves to abuse Silverfur Partisan. I decide to take another 2-drop to finish fleshing out my early curve.

P3P4

If I’m going to splash any bomby black cards, The Gitrog Monster is definitely one of my top picks.

P3P5

With my lack of delirium enablers, Apothecary Geist may be the better pick as a consistent 2 / 3 flier, but with over half a pack left I decide that the ceiling on Obsessive Skinner is high enough that I’d rather take it instead.

P3P6

There’s another dual land here that would be fantastic for my deck, but Topplegeist is one of the best delirium payoffs in the set.

P3P7

With my delirium count being so low, I need to shore it up any way I can, even if it means playing a mediocre removal card.

P3P8

I don’t know that I’ll end up playing it, but Shard of Broken Glass might help me shore up my delirium problems. Hope Against Hope might have been under consideration if I didn’t already have 2 enchantments in my deck.

P3P9

The dual land is worthless since I know I’m not playing any blue cards. Nothing here is really good for me, so I take Grotesque Mutation as the best card in the pack.

P3P10

WE DID IT!! Getting Fork in the Road to wheel makes me feel so much better about my deck. I feel a lot more comfortable, both as a 3-color deck, and as a delirium deck.

P3P11

Nothing here, so I take the only card that might be playable if I decide to lean harder on black.

P3P12

Ditto for Hound of the Farbogs.

P3P13

I’m not quite sure what my final deck is going to look like yet, but Inquisitor’s Ox is pretty good for more defensively-oriented decks.

P3P14

And an Ethereal Guidance for the sideboard.

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Final Deck

Here’s what I ended up with.

The last few cuts in this deck were a little tough, especially when it came to the Loam Dryad. After taking a long look at my curve, I decided that the bulk of the lower side of my curve was green, with only Sinister Concoction, Moorland Drifter and Dauntless Cathar serving as my non-green “early drops.” Since I can lean harder on my green until turn 4+, I decided that I could get away with cutting the Dryad and make up for the mana fixing by running 2 Swamps instead of just 1.

Despite being 3 colors, its starting curve is very aggressive. With the inclusion of a few fliers, Shard of Broken Glass does just enough work to be worth running here, especially with my lack of filtering and card draw.

This deck has some good cards, but it’s pulling in two different directions, with 3-color delirium and low-curve aggro. It can get off to some fast starts, but a lot of games are going to come down to getting fliers online or getting my bomby cards like The Gitrog Monster and Obsessive Skinner to completely take over the game.

Match #1

Match #2

Match #3

I’ve looked over the draft a number of times, and I’m almost positive that I ended up in the “correct” colors. Green was relatively open. I got passed some great blue cards in the beginning of pack 2, but every jump-in point during pack 1 was matched up with another card I wanted (usually in green). Red was cut off pretty quickly. Black and white seemed to be the two colors that weren’t completely dry, but neither of them appeared to be really obscenely open. With 4 of the 5 colors not making any great showings in the first pack, the only conclusion I can draw is that the first round of packs were exceptionally low-powered. If the other colors were truly as locked down as they appeared to be, I would have ended up with enough playables for a mono-green deck by the end of the draft, which obviously didn’t happen.

Drafts like this are hard to quantify. The power of your deck stems from your flexibility and your knowledge of the format; being able to piece together a cohesive game plan despite a weaker-than-usual deck will give you the edge before you ever draw your opening hand. Lacking proper delirium enablers, edge-case roleplayers like Shard of Brokeb Glass and Explosive Apparatus made quite the difference in this deck. Many drafters may have looked at those cards and said, “Those cards are bad, I don’t want them in my deck,” but sometimes those “bad” cards are just what your not-so-great deck needs to function.

Low powered drafts are also where mechanical play really shines. It’s easy to slam a bomb or big removal spell and run away with the game, but when you don’t have a lot of those in your deck, maneuvering the board state and eeking out every last ounce of value from your cards becomes much more important to your overall win percentage.

It’s easy to look at a deck like this and think, “Wow, what did I do wrong? What did I miss?” But sometimes, things just go wrong that are out of your control, and the end result has nothing to do with you. What’s important is that you go back and review what you did have control over so you can adjust for next time. Everything else, just chalk it up to variance and walk it off.

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.