Another Win with Orzhov in Amonkhet Draft

Posted May 27, 2017 by Andreas Pischner
Categories: Decklists

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I’m drafting a bit more again the last couple of days, and consequently I get 3-0 results more often, which I will keep referring to as “drafts won”, even though technically they aren’t, since they happen in leagues. It has become a habit of mine over the years to post screenshots of all my winning draft decks as small data points for other drafters with a few comments, so here we go again:

I firstpicked Liliana’s Mastery, followed it up with Fan Bearer, and then somehow stubbornly forced Orzhov zombies, ignoring that Blue was wide open for me, counting on my persistence to pay off during the second half of the draft – which it did, although not quite as much as I had hoped for, but I got a Gust Walker and the Final Reward pretty late.

I realize the irony that, when finally getting those clear signals I had been missing in earlier drafts and complaining about it, I did not heed them, but I weighed the power of my early picks and the quality I would likely get in those colors during the rest of the packs against the likely rewards of switching to Blue, and at any point of the draft it seemed to me that I would likely still end up with a stronger deck if I stayed on course, carried by the high power level of my early black picks, the amounting mass of my playable white picks, the expection to push another drafter or two further down the table out of my colors by completely blocking them, and the strong synergies between Black and White in Amonkhet draft.

As you can see, I got there. This is now my 3rd win in 12 drafts (most of the others I went 2-1, although I had a couple of 1-2 results as well), and I have reclaimed a decent, while not spectacular overall win percentage in this format. (It also helped that, for a change, I did not play against Glorybringer several matches in a row lately.)

Two observations: My games took long or even extremely long to finish again, no matter what I played against; and this was the third time out of three that I went 3-0 playing Black. While with this sample size, one obviously cannot infer anything definite from the fact, I do believe that Black is just a good color to be in when aggressive decks are still overdrafted.

A Win with Orzhov in Amonkhet Draft

Posted May 26, 2017 by Andreas Pischner
Categories: Decklists

Tags: , , , ,

I’m aware that posting screenshots of decks that won a draft (or, more precisely, went 3-0 in a draft league) is one of the cheapest ways to produce content for a Magic blog, but that’s just why I do it – the alternative at the moment would be to stop posting altogether.

I think this was my 9th Amonkhet draft overall, and I’ve yet to draft one deck that turns out the way I want it too.  I’m not sure what happened to signalling, but I never get a clear impression of the colors open for me until it is too late – if at all. I find that very strange – shouldn’t leagues incentivize players to signal more clearly than in pods, because hate picks have less value?

Be that as it may, I have now achieved my 2nd 3-0 result, and this time with a deck that I would categorize as aggro, although a bit on the slower side of that strategy. I found myself unable to decide between Orzhov and Boros until the middle of pack two, and I did not manage to get more than just a few zombie synergies.

Interestingly, all three of my opponents this time had decks which fell into the aggro part of the spectrum, although only one of them tried to be hyperaggressive. In two of those matches I decided that I had to bolster my defenses (albeit not giving up on the option to go on offense) and sided in the Ruthless Sniper package. Against the Izzet Drake Haven deck however (yes – it was otherwise pretty aggressive), I decided I needed to be faster and just put in Throne of the God-Pharaoh and Forsake the Worldly. The Throne was satisfactorily good and allowed me to push through the last points of damage when my opponent just begun to stabilize behind his Haven. (Fan Bearer was a lot of help there!)

Although they were technically aggro mirrors, none of those matchups made for really fast games, especially not the ones where I went for the Sniper strategy (not that I ever got to use its ability – I think I drew it only once and then without cycling cards). While I beat my finals opponent in three games, I was also close to winning against him on time.

Dusk / Dawn, which is a great card in many matchups, was extremely disappointing this time. I sideboarded it out every match. The card which felt most powerful to me was Oketra’s Monument – it seems really hard to lose if you play it on turn three with a few creatures in your hand, and I didn’t.

Let me, for the umptieth time, reiterate this truth about draft environments: Being curve-conscious and tempo-based is not the same as being fast.

Amonkhet Draft – A Failure to Agree on Reality

Posted May 18, 2017 by Andreas Pischner
Categories: Decklists

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I just don’t see it. I mean, I hear it everywhere, and I read it everywhere, but I just do not see it: Amonkhet draft being fast. It just isn’t.

Yes, there are fast decks, mainly red/white ones. They have the tools to succeed, but they are not quite as fast as the fastest decks in other formats, and there are tools to stop them. Yes, there is the blue/white Slither Blade deck which can catch people off-guard, but that is just the type of strategy which usually thrives in slow environments, as a reaction to too much durdling around. (Remember original Ravnica block draft? Of course you do. Was that a fast environment? Most certainly not. Did people start having success with hyperaggro R/G crap decks once everyone started to spend their early turns returning lands to their hands and then discarding? Hell yes!)

I admit that may personal experience with this format sums up to a meager four draft leagues. But in addition to that, I watched about a dozen draft videos, and several additional hours of draft streaming. I watched a lot of coverage from GP Richmond, and all of the draft coverage from PT Amonkhet. I looked at the top 8 deck lists of all three Amonkhet limited Grand Prixs on that weekend, and at the collected 3-0 deck lists from the first draft round of GP Bologna. I read the features about successful drafters in all those coverages. I took an especially close look at Frank Karsten’s list of most-played commons in day 1’s draft. Oh, and I also always take notice of the screenshots of winning draft decks which players like Andreas Reling post in my timeline.

And I do not see a fast format. There is a heck of a lot of midrange decks, some controllish builds and some aggro. Creatures with exert heavily encourage you to attack, and players have begun to figure out that giving haste or vigilance to or untapping those creatures is powerful. But the games still go long, often even very long. And aggro is by no means king of the format if you just look at the results. It can be good, but it is not as good as people were led to believe during the first weeks, when Red was an underdrafted color and removal was valued criminally lowly (both of which I witnessed shockingly often).

You see, it is unlikely that draft formats will ever return to the days when you actually could spend the first couple of turns adding nothing to the board without risking to get overrun by an opponent who curved out. That is not the measurement of a slow draft format today. So forget the silly mantra that every new draft format is “great” in its first week, but “tempobased” after that. All formats are tempobased (and that is an important aspect of making them great)! Being slow or fast is about the number of lategame cards you can get away with running, not about a guaranteed number of turns you can survive while playing goldfish.

Done with my rant, I will now present you with my first winning Amonkhet draft deck after three failed attempts with a 2-1 score. I neither forced those colors nor that strategy, I just happened to end up there; and I do not even think that this is an especially great example of U/B control, but it did the trick.

Attempting an Actually Helpful Early Analysis of Amonkhet Draft

Posted April 15, 2017 by Andreas Pischner
Categories: General

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Stating the obvious: I have not played with this set yet, I just read the spoiler carefully a few times. However, I have an excellent track record of judging the dynamics of a new draft environment, so I trust that I will not be too far off in my assertions.

This is how I expect Amonkhet draft to shape up:

Speed: Slow

The fastest decks will be less fast than those in most other draft environments. However, the power level of midrange cards is high enough that Amonkhet draft will not be an extreme durdle format. You might not die on turn 4-5 too often, but you still need to prepare a solid defense if you do not want to die on turn 6-8.

Correlation between rarity and power level: Average

This correlation has been quite pronounced for quite a while now, and Amonkhet neither bucks this trend nor stands out as extreme.

Frequency of nearly impossible to beat bombs: Lower than average

“Can be beaten” does not mean “fair”, though. Amonkhet‘s bombs are still hard to beat, and a slow environment means that they will get to influence games more often.

Synergy rewards: Higher than average

This is certainly not an environment where you just take the generally strongest card, but it’s not as extreme as some others.

Manafixing: Slightly better than average

Evolving Wilds and a renamed Shimmering Grotto at common is twice the amount of non-green fixing many other sets get, and with Amonkhet being slow and not requiring double-colored mana too often, Painted Bluffs looks reasonable to me. (Note also the synergy with Naga Vitalist.) Green specifically offers a lot of fixing, and cycling really helps to smooth draws and find splashed lands. A not base-Green deck will probably still not want to go above two and a half colors, but should be able to do so with good consistency. For Green-based decks, however, I guess you can go up to five, although actually having to run a basic land of each type to fetch might not work out in your desired spell/land ratio overall, and if you mill yourself or get milled, you might lose access to a splash color that way.

Mana ratio: Average

Of course, cheap cycling cards generally allow you to cheat a little on the number of lands. On the other hand, though, you will often want to support more than two colors; you really want to get to 4 and 5 mana fast to not fall prey to the strong midrange cards of this format; and you have quite a lot to do with your mana. In the end, I think you will end up with a default of 17 lands just like in a generic draft environment.

Importance of generic two-drops: Low

The importance of two-drops, even if they were just the lowly Bronze Sable, is continously being underestimated by players, including pro level players. Amonkhet, however, looks to me – for the first time since Icannotremember – to be a set where generic 2-drops are actually really bad, being slow and not needing early creatures for synergies like comvoke or vehicles. But then again, there aren’t even many generic 2-drops in this set! It’s still important to acknowledge, though, that curving out in the early turns is less important than usual (although you should still at least be able to sideboard early plays in).

Importance of medium big creatures: Average

You mostly need them to keep up with your opponent’s medium big creatures, and to draw out removal from your opponent, but you definitely need them.

Importance of evasion creatures: Higher than average

Amonkhet has not much evasion, and the ground will tend to get stalled. Don’t go overboard, though – if your midgame creatures have evasion, and your opponent’s are big, you’re probably not winning. Better cut lower mana slots instead.

Importance of big finishers: Higher than average

It’s a slow format, so they have time to come online. Also, because the medium big creatures are dangerous enough to draw removal, your finishers have a better chance to stay in play. Oh, and since many expensive creatures have cycling, you can afford to play noticeably more of them than usually.

Quality of “small” removal: Average

There is some reasonably efficient removal for creatures with low toughness, but it suffers from being more situational than it would in other sets, since creatures tend to come back and/or be big. Magma Spray is obviously still very good, but you really should consider taking less efficient, but also less situational removal spells over it, because there will be big creatures that need killing.

Quality of “big” removal: Below average

Killing something big costs at least four mana in Amonkhet, probably five, and you will have to rely heavily on uncommons to do it.

Quality of combat tricks: Average

Note, however, that the value of combat tricks tends to go down rapidly in slower formats. I do not expect many combat tricks to be particularly high picks in Amonkhet.

Importance of artifact removal: Low

There are just not many artifacts around which need to be killed. On the other hand, there are no less than three common artifact destruction (or exiling) spells with cycling, so the cost of including one in your maindeck is also quite low. You don’t need to, though.

Importance of enchantment removal: Average

There are more enchantments than artifacts at all rarities, and they also tend to have more impact on the game. Unfortunately, there is very little enchantment removal to be had – essentially, you need to be white (at least as a splash). With games going long, the chance that an enchantment will have a strong impact on the game increases, but all in all this isn’t a dedicated enchantment set, and you might get by without enchantment removal. I still advise you to snag one if there is a good opportunity, though.

The preseeded draft archetypes:

WB – Zombie tribal.
WG – Exert midrange
WU – Embalm midrange
WR – Exert aggro
BG – Counterbased midrange
BU – Cycling-based control
BR – Discard-based aggro
GU – Resource accumulation control
GR – Fatty midrange
UR – Instery-based midrange

…and, of course, good stuff multicolor Green!

This got already longer as intended (as always…), so I’ll stop here. I hope I gave you a good starting point to explore this new environment. Good luck with your Amonkhet drafts!