After some prodding from last week, I decided to take the draft into the 8-4 arena to show off a more competitive environment. It’s always easier to find your lane with the other drafters know what they’re doing, but it also often leads to lower quality decks since, once again, the other drafters know what they’re doing. This usually leads to some interesting card choices, and a lot of great sideboard possibilities between games.
This week we move away from the synergistic supernatural pairings and go straight for a basic tempo deck.
This starting pack is fairly weak. Half the best cards are blue 4-drop fliers, while the others are a red removal spell that really plays best as a gold card, and a roleplayer for the green-based delirium decks.
Since every card has its decks it prefers to be in, I decide to go with Aberrant Researcher. A Cloud Manta that has the potential to get bigger will go in any blue deck, even if it has a low chance of flipping, and while I like Stitchwing Skaab, the cost to repeatedly recur it can be pretty steep unless you have a lot of Clue generators (especially in matchups against decks that generate 1/1 spirit tokens).
The Golem is great if you end up in a green delirium deck (mostly when you plan on decking yourself with Crawling Sensation), but that essentially makes it a green card; and a very archetype-specific green card at that. Geistblast is in the same situation, where it’s only sort of mediocre if you aren’t in the UR spells deck.
There are a couple really good cards here, between Topplegeist for the delirium decks and Olivia’s Bloodsworn for the vampire decks. Even Thraben Inspector is a solid pick that doesn’t commit to a specific archetype. But after taking a blue card in the first pack, I decide to go all in on blue and take Ongoing Investigation. Even if I don’t end up in green, getting a clue every time one of my fliers hits is very, very powerful, granting me pure card advantage just for turning my creatures sideways.
I’ve always wanted to try playing with Invocation of Saint Traft, but I don’t really want to commit to a narrow gold card when I haven’t even decided on my second color yet. Niblis of Dusk is a pretty safe blue pick here, but after picking up Ongoing Investigation, I decide passing it is a low enough opportunity cost to speculate green with Vessel of Nascency.
This pack looks fairly weak as well, so I’m happy to see Compelling Deterrence. The 2-cost bounce spells are easily among my top picks for blue.
The strongest card here is probably Voldaren Duelist, but I’ve not really seen a reason to believe that red is open thus far. Since I already have a Vessel of Nascency in my pool, I decide to pick up the Moldgraf Scavenger.
A second Moorland Drifter tempts me, but I passed the first Niblis of Dusk and I don’t really want to pass the second. Besides, if I go deep into blue on the first pack, I can basically pick up any bomb I crack and just cut that color hard in pack 2 and end up with a great deck.
I feel like I’ve missed my chance to jump into white with the previous two picks, and Expose Evil isn’t enough to rope me back in. I decide to take the mediocre blue 2-drop, hoping I’ll be able to replace it later.
I consider Wicker Witch for delirium purposes, but there are just too many token generators out there for me to feel good about slotting it into my deck when I’m not even sure I’m going to need to activate delirium to begin with. Instead I side with the big, flying wall.
I’m pretty sure it won’t make my deck, but I pick up Silburlind Snapper for signaling purposes.
Gone Missing usually goes pretty late, so I’m not surprised to see it here, but I’m definitely happy to get one when it’s not going up against any other cards I care about.
I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m going to be some sort of tempo deck, and I won’t have much in the way of madness, so Catalog is a bit too slow and clunky for my needs. Stoic Builder is fine, but I don’t really have any consistent way to pitch lands, so it’s mostly just going to be a vanilla 2 / 3 for 3, and I think I can do better than that.
On the off chance I end up in black, I’d rather have an expensive Thoughtsieze over an expensive Mind Rot. I especially think that discard is weak in this set because of all the clues running around, granting “free” card draw.
Nobody is going to put a card like this in their deck. I may as well save somebody else the misery of having it in their draft pool.
End of Pack 1❮ ❯
I’ve got a decent start on a blue tempo deck, and while I’ve picked a couple green cards as well, they’re not powerful enough to guarantee that my second color needs to be green. I’m in the enviable position of being deep into a single color, which means I could easily crack a bomb in any color in my next pack and just cut that color hard throughout the second pack. But if I do end up in green, I’ll want to keep an eye out for delirium enablers and payoffs.
No bombs to be had here, either. Rise from the Tides is very strong in the appropriate deck, but I haven’t been drafting a spells deck to abuse it with. On the other hand, Solitary Hunter is a great 4-drop, and runs very well in a UG tempo deck.
And with this pack, I solidify myself in UG. It pains me to pass a Rabid Bite, but Altered Ego won’t wheel. With so few clue generators in my pool right now, Erdwal Illuminator is quite a ways behind these two in my current pick order, even if I’m lacking 2-drops.
Cult of the Waxing Moon is a lot of fun in the werewolves deck, but I doubt I’ll have enough flip cards here to abuse it. I take the safe pick, taking the combat trick that replaces itself, but True-Faith Censer may have been better for a tempo-style deck, regardless of its final human count.
I’d really like to take the Blob here, but I’m short on card draw and Pore Over the Pages is one of the strongest draw spells in the set. Sleep Paralysis would be a fine pick too, but it loses a lot of power in a set with Aim High, Tenacity and a lot of creatures that generate value just by being on the board.
Press for Answers is a solid little tempo card, and it combos well with the combat trick I picked up earlier.
He’s fallen off a lot of people’s radar, but Daring Sleuth is a solid little 2-drop in a color that generally doesn’t get good 2-drops. If I can get some more clue generators, he could be a real source of card advantage.
Without a lot of removal or bounce to shore up my tempo game, I’m happy to take a second Press for Answers.
I don’t have much in the way of human synergies, but I could use something on the top end of my curve, so Thornhide Wolves is the pick here, if unexciting.
With so many crazy build-around enchantments running around, I like having some enchantment hate in my sideboard.
I’m hoping to replace it in the third pack, but for now the Hasselhoff will serve as a placeholder for my 5-drop slot.
With the Fork, I’m pretty confident with any splash I may want to make. I’m actually hoping for a bomb to splash at this point.
End of Pack 2❮ ❯
I have a few defensive creatures I’d like to swap out for more tempo-oriented creatures, but mostly I really need to flesh out my 3-drop slot. I could use some hard removal, but I’m not going to be too upset if it doesn’t come to me, if I end up with enough fliers and bounce/tap spells. I also need to keep an eye out for white or black bombs/removal to splash, since I have a decent amount of fixing and a full pack of cards left to pull more if necessary.
WOW, this pack is stacked with great green cards. This is the second Rabid Bite I’ve had to pass, but Tireless Tracker is pretty great and slots into my curve nicely. Unfortunately, there’s almost no chance Lambholt Pacifist will wheel, even with Rabid Bite in the pack, but there’s a decent chance I might get a blue card back.
It’s tempting to take the Blaze to splash, but Obsessive Skinner shores up my 2-drop slot while furthering my delirium game plan. It can also take over any game where it goes unchecked, so I’m not losing too much power with this pick.
In a slower deck I’d take the big, fat flier as a finisher, but there are better choices for my tempo-oriented deck. Were this a normal delirium deck I’d favor the creepy crawlies, but it’s too slow for this deck to really want to play (not to mention not having any other synergies with it). The only other options here are Gloomwidow, Harvest Hand and True-Faith Censer.
My biggest issue with Gloomwidow is that it doesn’t play both sides of the fence much of the time, since it can only block fliers, which makes it a dead card in most board stalls. Were my deck really low curve, and very aggressive, it might be worth running just to have a solid 3 / 3 for 3 in my deck that could beat in early and quickly, but that’s just not the case.
Since my remaining options are between two pieces of equipment, I opt for the one that also fills a creature slot. I love cards that can generate value by playing multiple roles, and while the Censer may be the stronger equipment, I like that Harvest Hand can trade for a card before I start moving it around the board to improve my attacks.
Wow, it seems I’m really piling on the 3-drops. But the Hermit is a solid card, making it difficult for the opponent to play instant-speed spells. Many times, it just forces them to play spells when they normally wouldn’t want to, losing the option of ambushing you during your own turn.
That said, I have enough fixing that I wouldn’t fault somebody for taking the big-ol’ slug horror here. That thing just wins games, and with so few ways of getting lands into the graveyard currently, it wouldn’t be a bad addition to the top end of my curve.
I’ve got a few more humans since I saw the last one, so now I’m willing to take Intrepid Provisioner as a tentative pick for my 4-slot. It helps that it’s not really going up against anything important.
This pick paralysed me for a while, but I had to go with Watcher in the Web. He’s just such a great blocker that I can’t afford to pass up what might be my last chance to pick one up during this draft.
Well then. That just figures, doesn’t it? Oh well, I already got my spider, so I’ll have to aim a little lower and take a combat trick. All I have so far is Confront the Unknown, and Aim High plays well on both offense and defense.
Thankfully, one of the blue cards wheels, and I snap it up without hesitation. I’ll happily replace one of my mediocre 5-drops with a Stormrider Spirit.
It’s a bit clunky, but Ghostly Wings isn’t a horrible pick here. It can blank removal, bounce a creature at sorcery speed, or just give flying to one of your ground beaters. It may not make the mainboard, but it’s definitely something I’m happy to have in my back pocket against decks with a good ground game or a lot of removal.
I took the enchantment under the assumption that it would help me go into beatdown mode against removal-light decks, but the more I think about it, the more I believe I should have taken the Shard of Broken Glass. It’s a very mediocre card, but I had some trouble turning on delirium during my matches since I didn’t have a way to reliably get land into my graveyard, and this could have been the fix I needed.
I’m not playing the draw card that’s likely to whiff every time I play it, so I may as well hate pick the blocker so it can’t annoy me in an actual match.
Here's what I ended up with.
Though I didn’t come away with any more bounce or removal, I did manage to pick up a solid curve with a strong stable of fliers. I’m not a heavy delirium deck, though I do have a couple payoff cards, so it’s something I want to be able to activate semi-regularly. I would have really liked a couple Jace’s Scrutiny instead of Press for Answers, since green does a lot more blocking than most other blue color pairings, but the important part is that I can buy myself some tempo without sacrificing a card.
With my third pack, I managed to pick up the more aggressive creatures I wanted, and was able to cut the defensive stuff like Silent Observer and the Hasselhoff. They’re fine for their purposes, but walling up is not what this deck is looking to do. The only real concession I make to that is Watcher in the Web, because it’s like a Blocker Octuple Deluxe; it just locks down the board more often than not, and makes it very difficult for the opponent to make profitable attacks.
Probably the weakest part of this deck is its 2-drop slot. I didn’t manage to pick up any Quilled Wolf or Hinterland Logger to make up for blue’s lack of 2-drops, so my game plan is going to revolve around just not getting run over in the first few turns, then getting my fliers online and beating down in the air.
I’m always happy to see UG be a playable color combination; since I started playing again during Dragons of Tarkir, the pairing has been the red-headed stepchild of the Limited formats. Even Kiora couldn’t pull most drafters into playing it during Battle for Zendikar, though green being extraordinarily weak in that set didn’t help matters.
After reviewing that last game, I realized that it was still very winnable. Remember the turn I drew into Press for Answers?
With a minute and a half left on the clock, my immediate gut reaction was to tap down the creature that could be the biggest issue on the crackback and just swing with the team, hoping to brute force my way into a win. Had I had a little more time to play with, I would have taken the time to reconsider and realized that the best line of play is to swing first, then decide where to play my freeze spell.
Since my opponent has only one card and is spending most of his mana every turn on pumping his Aristocrat, there’s every chance that he just chumps my biggest threat with his graveyard cycler and takes 8, relying on his lifegain and chump blockers to buy him more time in the following turns. If that happens, I can just Press his lifelinker post-combat, forcing him to have removal or Reach for my fliers to not just die next turn.
If he decides to double block my Scavenger, I can eat his wolf (denying him the crackback I’m concerned with in the first place), putting him down to 8 life, then still Freeze his lifelinker post-combat. He can replay the 4-drop I bounced earlier and recycle his skeleton on 8 mana, but he can’t gain any life that turn, and can’t sac any of his creatures to his Aristocrat when I attack in the following turn, guaranteeing that he goes down to 3 life before he can even begin a counterattack. Since I eventually got him down to 2 life at one point during my original line of play, keeping on the pressure could have bought me the win before the timer ran out.
Unfortunately, playing online means playing against the clock. I ran a lot of my time out in the first game, and that hurt me when the third game was coming down to the wire. I’m used to playing straightforward aggro decks, so I don’t have a lot of mental heuristics set up when dealing with tempo/control, which forced me to tank a lot more often than I would have otherwise.
But the most obvious take-away from this draft should surprise nobody:
MTGO’s user-interface blows.