Clue Token | Cliff Childs
With Eldritch Moon just around the corner, today I’ll be closing the book on Triple Shadows over Innistrad with a deck archetype I haven’t gotten to show off yet. This week, through some foresight and no small amount of luck, I land in a very good UW tempo deck.
This is an archetype that’s given me no shortage of problems since SOI started; I’ve never looked at a UW deck I’ve pieced together and thought, “Wow, this one came out really bad,” but my performance with the deck has varied wildly from one draft to the next. It took a while to recognize that the main issue was that I was completely blind to the deck’s main weakness: both white and blue have really, really bad 2-drops in the common slot.
After a couple 0-3 showings at my LGS with this deck, I only recently managed to internalize this little niggling issue of mine. So, let’s take a look at how I managed to approach drafting the archetype once I knew what weaknesses I had to cover.
This draft starts out with a difficult choice, since both Elusive Tormentor and Ongoing Investigation are fantastic cards. I wouldn’t fault anybody who wanted to take either of them, but I sided with the enchantment just because I’ve been getting consistently cut out of black lately while drafting on MTGO.
Plus, blue is almost always ridiculously open in the first pack for SOI.
Now, with a second pick black card, I wish I’d taken the Tormentor. Accursed Witch is just the strongest card in this pack, and everything else is pretty mediocre.
I haven’t seen much in the way of signals yet, and Angelic Purge is by far the best card here, so I decide to go ahead and snap it up. Veteran Cathar and Howlpack Resurgence are both very good, but they both require a specific archetype and color pairing, neither of which I’m pushing for right now.
If I want to push into black, Ghoulsteed is the pick. But my experience with the card leaves me a little underwhelmed; with no evasion, it comes down late enough in the game that it can often just get blocked out from profitable attacks, even if you can consistently recur it.
Niblis of Dusk will work fine if I want to stay in blue so I can play my Ongoing Investigation (which I very much want to). Alternatively, Rise from the Tides is an interesting speculative pick that has a lower chance of payoff, but has a high ceiling if I end up in a Spells deck.
Since I just took a white card however, I decide to snap up Thraben Inspector, which will serve me well as long as I end up in white.
I’d like to play my first pick, but my experience with UW tugs me away from taking Just the Wind here, and I feel like that may be the direction I’m heading. The deck can be difficult to piece together, with both colors lacking good 2-drops in the common slot.
This may be an incorrect pick, but I decide to take Ghoulcaller’s Accomplice and hope I can push myself in the direction of WB Delirium.
Since I’m already hedging toward white, I decide to take the Inspiring Captain as a decent filler playable, as long as I get a enough 2-drops and 3-drops. Explosive Apparatus would be fine if I knew for sure I was going to be in a Delirium deck, but I can likely pick up one later if necessary. Had I been pushing blue, I may have given consideration to Ghostly Wings, since it usually makes at least half my blue decks.
This pack just slaps me in the face and screams “BLUE IS OPEN!!!!” I can’t ignore an Aberrant Researcher and Reckless Scholar in the same pack. As much as I like the flier, I decide to take the Researcher just because looting is less replaceable, and because it’ll give me the option of playing Madness cards if I pick any up.
Even though I like Ghostly Wings, and Strength of Arms is a perfectly serviceable combat trick, I decide the opportunity cost is low enough that I can take the dual land in case I decide I still want to splash black for something.
This is a pretty late Malevolent Whispers, but I know there were a couple other red cards in the pack when I first opened it. I also feel like this card isn’t nearly as high on other drafters’ pick list as it is on mine. It’s a little late to be speculating red since I didn’t see much in the way of good red cards in the previous 7 picks, so I go ahead and stick with white by taking Emissary of the Sleepless.
Humble the Brute isn’t a high pick due to the lack of big, beefy creatures in this set, but it’s by no means a card that should regularly go 10th. I take this as a good sign that I’m probably fine sticking with white, and take it over Nagging Thoughts.
I’m pretty happy to see this Seagraf Skaab come back around. As I said earlier, 2-drops are hard to come by in UW, so anything I can get could be useful.
End of Pack 1❮ ❯
I’ve only picked up 3 playable blue cards so far, and one of them is pretty bad, so there’s still the chance I might end up in black, depending on pack 2. That said, I shipped Elusive Tormentor to my left, so I wouldn’t bet on it. Knowing the weakness of UW, I’m going to be snapping up any really good 2-drops I find much, much higher than I would in any other color pairing. I also need to be on the lookout for more fliers, Stitched Manglers, Press for Answers, bounce spells, and any other tempo plays I can find.
Well, speaking of 2-drops. Even if I weren’t desperate for them, Hanweir Militia Captain is just the best card in the pack. I’d really like to see Uninvited Geist or Vessel of Ephemera wheel, though I don’t hold high hopes for that since they’ll be the best cards in their respective colors as the pack goes around the table.
Declaration in Stone is a fantastic removal spell, and I’m happy to snap it up. It sucks to pass on Reaper of Flight Moonsilver, but as a UW deck I’m not sure I could get Delirium turned on often enough to matter anyway.
Yes, I will gladly take a Vessel of Ephemera, thank you! Nephalia Moondrakes looks big and bad, but a 7-drop isn’t really where I want to be when I’m playing a tempo deck; I’m hoping to close out the game by the time I hit 7 mana, and I’m hoping that enough of my creatures will have flying that its graveyard ability won’t be all that relevant either.
Gone Missing is another option, but I just passed one in the previous pack, so I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to wheel one if I absolutely want it.
This pick gave me a little trouble. I really like Silent Observer, being a great defensive creature that can also swing in the air when I don’t need to hold back. But I like having as much removal as I can to keep my opponent from out-racing me, so I decide to take the Sleep Paralysis.
There’s nothing I really want in my colors, but Furtive Homunculus will serve as a curve filler if I can’t get any more good 2-drops for the rest of the draft.
Silburlind Snapper really isn’t a card I want in a UW tempo deck, so I decide to take the mana fixing for potential splashing. Since both white and blue have been dry the last few picks, I’d rather leave myself the option to splash black in case pack 3 isn’t kind to me.
I don’t mind Gone Missing, but it’s slow enough that I would just rather have the cheap flier. Neither pick is especially flashy or exciting, but the creature helps bolster the evasion that my deck is currently lacking.
I don’t mind taking a Nagging Thoughts to serve as filler, especially since I’m going to have at least one discard outlet.
Cathar’s Companion is relatively weak, but I’ll run it if I have to. It’s a little better in UW than in other white decks, because the archetype tends to be heavy on tempo plays, which activate its indestructibility a little more often.
End of Pack 2❮ ❯
The deck is starting to come together, but my 2-drop slot is still exceptionally weak. I’m also a little light on fliers, so I need to keep an eye out. I have some creatures I’d like to upgrade, and I’d love to pick up a Stitched Mangler or two.
Sadly, I completely wasted this pick. While I was trying to resize my draft window after the previous screenshot, I accidentally dragged Senseless Rage over to my pick window, rather than dragging the edge of my deck window.
This pick felt pretty tough when I was first considering it, but as the clock was winding down it dawned on me that I was just overthinking it. I already have an Angelic Purge, and Silverstrike is a rather good card, but eventually I realized if I were going to take a removal spell, I may as well just take the better removal spell rather than getting cute about it.
I considered Confirm Suspicions, but I didn’t feel my curve was low enough for it to be worth taking over one of the better removal spells.
This pack is just filled with cards I want. I’d love to be able to take Compelling Deterrence, Spectral Shepherd and Moorland Drifter. But since I have to pick one, I go with the best 2-drop in the pack, Rattlechains. Hopefully I’ll manage to get one of these cards back on the wheel.
I went back and forth about this pick over and over again, and in the end I think I made the wrong pick. I took Daring Sleuth because it has more punching power and can single-handedly get me more Clues once it’s flipped. But without at least a half dozen Clue generators in my deck, it’s just too hard to flip the first time, and ends up being a 2/1 that gets easily blocked out of attacking way too often.
Erdwal Illuminator has the same issue with wanting more Clue generators to really generate value, but being a flier means it can get in for damage on most board states, even if it’s only for 1 damage per swing.
I considered Apothecary Geist for a while, since I felt like I should get more fliers, but I chose to just grab the stronger creature. Even if I don’t end up with quite as much evasion as I would like in the deck, Evangel puts in a ton of work, whether that be buying time against an aggressive deck, or turning a board stall into a winning game by forcing your opponent to take damage regardless of how they block.
Even though I’m not running a dedicated humans deck, I’m pretty happy getting a True-Faith Censer. The bonus damage and vigilance makes it difficult for the opponent to race, and helps shore up one of the big weaknesses of UW decks: small creatures.
I already have an Emissary of the Sleepless and they aren’t so good that they get especially better in multiples; this is especially true in UW, where you’re not sending a lot of your creatures in to die, just so you can trigger its ability. I don’t have any good combat tricks yet, however, so I don’t mind picking up Strength of Arms.
I’m really curious what I missed in the pack I opened if Just the Wind made it all the way around the table. Oh well, I’m happy to take it.
I’m not entirely sure it’ll make the final deck, but I don’t mind snapping up Confirm Suspicions. If my curve is low enough, it may make the final cut. It’s definitely powerful enough, with all the extra card draw it offers.
It was the worst of the bunch, but one of the cards in the pack that was filled with playables manages to come back around. Devilthorn Fox will almost definitely make my final deck.
A very late Drownyard Explorers, which I’m pretty happy to see. It’s not a top-tier card, but the only way I’d cut it is if I had a glut of better 4-drops.
Not Forgotten is approximately the same power as Shamble Back in my eyes, and I can count the number of times I’ve sideboarded into either of them on one hand, combined. I’d rather just take the filler creature to guarantee I make playables.
Here's what I ended up with.
With all the 2-drops in the last pack, I managed to lower my curve considerably, and cut all the bad 2-drops that I picked up earlier in the draft. I have a few solid tempo plays (although no Stitched Mangler, sadly), but a lot of my punch is wrapped up in my removal suite, which is rather impressive for a UW deck. Since I lowered my curve, I decided that Confirm Suspicions can do some work in the mainboard, but with Strength of Arms and Humble the Brute in the sideboard, it’ll probably be the first card to come out if I decide I need more ways to deal with on-board threats.
I ended up a little light on fliers, but hopefully an early curve and multiple ways to draw more cards, in conjunction with my solid removal suite, will be enough to punch through in most games.
I’ve had a lot of problems drafting this deck over the course of SOI. It took me bombing out multiple times (I can be a bit slow, sometimes) before I realized why I was doing so poorly even though my decks looked to be high quality. It was only after a lot of reflection that I realized how incredibly weak the deck’s 2-drop slot was, and how crucial it was to have a play on turn 2 that would allow me to tempo out properly. You can compensate for that kind of thing by increasing your number of defensive 3 / 4 drops, or putting a stronger emphasis on hard removal, but it’s still a flaw in the deck that has to be taken into consideration over the course of the draft.
A large part of getting better at drafting is learning all the nuances of each archetype; knowing what the biggest holes are in your deck’s game plan and putting a stronger emphasis on patching them up, rather than just tossing the biggest, bombiest cards over them like a throw-rug and hoping you won’t fall through. Every time I’m waiting between packs, I look over my card pool and ask myself, “What do I still need to make this deck come together?” The first few times you pass a great card to take something your deck needs will be almost painful (like the time I passed a pack 3 Emeria Shepherd for a 2-drop, because I was playing WR Allies), but the more you do it, the more you’ll feel comfortable and confident in filling those holes in your deck.
I hope you guys have enjoyed Triple SOI as much as I have, this set really helped me improve my approach to drafting in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to drafting for synergy and knowing the strengths/weaknesses of a particular deck. The next time one of my drafts goes live, we’ll be playing with a whole new set of horrors in the twisted abominations of Eldritch Moon!