A deck which somehow won an Innistrad draft

Since it’s been… well… YEARS since I drafted the last time, I thought I might revive an old idea of mine and post winning draft decks. (Okay, so far no plural.) Don’t make more of this than it is: I’m certainly not saying “this is how a deck should look which wins a draft” or even “this is a deck which deserved to win a draft”. The message is just: “Look what I managed to win a draft with”, and I will add a few observations.

I started drafting today with an Alara block draft event, since it was no-tix and I still had an Alara draft set lying around from some judge compensation years ago. I was caught completely unaware of the exact nature of that draft, though: Instead of drafting one pack each of Alara Reborn, Conflux and Shards of Alara, we drafted from packs each containing cards from all sets. I must admit I was quite lost when I saw this. I managed to draft a reasonable, although somehow underpowered Jund deck, though, which might conceivably have been just a little better if I had noticed a bit earlier that I was not already in Grixis. I picked manafixing as early as first and second pick, ending up with Crumbling Necropolis, Jungle Shrine, Firewild Borderpost and Druid of the Anima. Naturally, I lost 0-2 in the first round, in both games collecting cards from my tertiary color, Black, in my hand while being restricted to red and green mana, while my opponent started with Plains, Forest, Island twice. I found that incredibly frustrating and decided not to draft that strange format again – the boosters were gone now, and I didn’t like the additional randomness in booster collation caused by mixing all three sets up. So, I turned to Innistrad.

I entered a swiss event and managed to firstpick a Geist of Saint Traft. I believe this is a decent firstpick in all respects, but of course the important point was that I already had gotten my investment in this draft (14 tix) back and some. I then took a few good white cards, beginning with Avacynian Priest over Elder of Laurels and Daybreak Ranger which I’m not sure is correct, but I figured putting two people behind me into Green couldn’t be that bad. I saw nearly no Blue, but got a few really good really late red picks and then opened Falkenrath Marauders in the second booster. I scrambled to put a RW deck together, which wasn’t easy, since White didn’t exactly seem to be underdrafted, and Red, while obviously open (a Skirsdag Cultist actually tabled back to me!), somehow failed to produce removal or just reasonable cheap creatures. I then lost to a human-based WG deck which I actually could have beaten if it wasn’t for its Angelic Overseer (what a stupid, stupid card!) hitting the table on turn six both times, won against a not too remarkable UB deck which I think wasn’t played too well (note that my standards aren’t that high anymore, since I’ve become quite a mediocre player myself) and lost again against a UB zombie deck featuring all those nice synergies you hope to find in your draft, without having a real chance.

So, I sold my Geist and tried again. This time I got drawn into R/U after opening a few quite underwhelming packs – I think my first pick was a Battleground Geist. I took a Burning Vengeance third pick just because the rest of the pack was weak enough to not make this too much of an investment and collected a good number of reasonable blue cards, and a few decidedly mediocre red ones. Really, really late in the first booster suddenly black was clearly signalled, with playable creatures still available from pick 10 to 14 in multiples, but even after taking a Walking Corpse, a Ghoulraiser and a Rotting Fensnake I realized it was too late for me to move into Black. The second booster then provided me with a first pick Manor Gargoyle and a second pick Instigator Gang, so my RU was slowly coming together, but I had again problems with my mana curve, although I was routinely taking Ashmoth Hound and Kessig Wolf over Scourge of Geier’s Reach. My card quality was fine, but I had already more 5-drops than I wanted to play after one and a half boosters. The third booster started with a great disappointment, offering me no desirable card in my colors whatsoever and forcing me to firstpick a Curse of Death’s Hold over a Mayor of Avabruck – nice choice for a hatepick! – but at least I was presented with two Reckless Waif later, alleviating my mana curve problems a little.

When building the deck, at first I created the following:

9 Island
8 Mountain
Reckless Waif
Reckless Waif
Ashmouth Hound
Armored Skaab
Civilized Scholar
Kessig Wolf
Seehoff Occultist
Stitched Drake
Instigator Gang
Makeshift Mauler
Makeshift Mauler
Moon Heron
Skirsdag Cultist
Battleground Geist
Manor Gargoyle
Sturmgeist
Blazing Torch
Geistflame
Silent Departure
Harvest Pyre
Think Twice
Claustrophobia
Rolling Temblor

I didn’t like it much. There was a disconnect between the 2 Waifs and the big creatures, and I didn’t have that much removal. While my card quality was acceptable overall, I felt it was not good enough to compete with really good lategame decks, but I also was too slow to be an earlygame deck. Also, three graveyard-eating creatures and a Harvest Pyre put quite a strain on my few graveyard fillers.

I looked at the cards in my sideboard and thought: What the heck? Why not try to build an aggressive deck instead?

Shortly before my clock ran down, I submitted the following list:

10 Mountain
6 Island
Reckless Waif
Reckless Waif
Ashmouth Hound
Bloodcrazed Neonate
Civilized Scholar
Crossway Vampire
Crossway Vampire
Feral Ridgewolf
Kessig Wolf
Rakish Heir
Instigator Gang
Moon Heron
Skirsdag Cultist
Manor Gargoyle
Night Revelers
Night Revelers
Blazing Torch
Geistflame
Silent Departure
Harvest Pyre
Nightbird’s Clutches
Think Twice
Burning Vengeance
Rolling Temblor

Honestly, I didn’t really like that build either. Its mana curve was lower overall, but it really could have done with a few additional 2-drops – oh, and removal was still sparse.

What happened was the following: I always sideboarded into the first version after each first game of a match.

My first opponent came blazing out of the gates with his WG deck and just stomped me. After sideboarding, I got a little lucky that he had a slow start and then, when on defense, had to rely on Travel Preparations and skipping turns to transform his werewolves against my Silent Departure and Claustrophobia. In the end, it was my Manor Gargoyle which did him in since he was unable to find any sensible attack against it and gave me time to take to the air.

My second opponent started the way I wished I could, with 1st turn Stromkirk Noble and 2nd turn Bloodcrazed Neonate. However, I happened to hold the answers (Geistflame and Rolling Temblor) and was able to turn the tide before he drew too much of anything else. In the second game, he played Olivia Voldaren on his 4th turn and even though he played so recklessly that I had a few turns to topdeck a gamewinning card, he rode her to victory. The third game started in the same way, but he was once again too reckless, attacking when he should have stabilized, and also I had the Silent Departure this time, and a Geistflame to deal with his Markov Patricians. I still don’t understand why he conceded, though – in my opinion he was still well in the game.

My third opponent started with a Delver of Secrets which transformed on his third turn, conveniently turning over a Frightful Delusion which slowed me down even more. However, after trading a few other cards I got back into the damage race with a vengeance, discarding Ashmouth Hound to Civilized Scholar to turn it into Homicidal Brute and casting Night Revelers which had haste since his Insectile Aberration was still a human – oh, and both attackers were boosted by my Instigator Gang, although it had Claustrophobia! Suddenly, he was on defense and I was able to push through enough damage over the next few turns.

I still don’t understand how I won the second game. Actually, I was close to conceding because my clock was running down and I wasn’t sure I would be able to win a third game in time, even though I had already resolved to sideboard back into the supposedly faster version of my deck. but it didn’t come to that: After I had a slow start due to color screw, my offense was halted by a Fortress Crab and two Silent Departures. When I tried to get the upper hand with my Sturmgeist, it met its Evil Twin and effectively changed sides. Both my Moon Heron and my Stitched Drake were destroyed or countered, and the evil geist worked on my life total while drawing my opponent at least 3 cards. He also could still flashback both Silent Departures. All I had in hand were a few small creatures which would be unable to get past that Fortress Crab. On the turn when I would have conceded otherwise (and probably lost a turn later anyway) I drew Claustrophobia and shut down the Sturmgeist. After I emptied my hand, it turned out my opponent was short on creatures. He did bounce his Evil Twin, though, recasting it as Seehoff Occultist. That was when, in my opinion, he had begun to fall prey to the fancy play syndrome. While I understand that he could not reasonably copy my Skirsdag Cultist, since that would have killed its twin first, I saw to my astonishment that he chose to mill me whenever possible (while I was doing the same)! I knew he had at least a Cackling Counterpart in his deck, and he knew I had a couple of flashback cards, so I really think that was a mistake. He obviously had decided to mill me to death – maybe because this would take longer because he realized that my clock would run down before his. With the help of my Cultist I was able to decimate his side of the board. For reasons I still don’t understand I seemed to have more business than he, although he hadn’t drawn more lands than I and drawn a couple extra cards from his Sturmgeist. I was finally able to punch through his Crab defense with a Makeshift Mauler and a Geistflame, and with just two cards left in my library, I found the Silent Departure to return his Seehoff Occultist (Evil Twin) to his hand, turn my Civilized Scholar into Homicidal Brute and attack for exactly the 9 damage I needed to kill him.

I’m not really sure what to take away from this draft, except hat I’m a bad enough player now that I shouldn’t even bother chiding myself for stupid play errors; I am obviously unable to avoid them. Granted, the competition in that swiss queue didn’t seem to be too tough, but what bugs me is that I do not really understand how this deck could win a draft. I mean, I’m aware that sometimes I just get lucky, but usually I realize that and understand how exactly I got lucky. This time, I don’t think I got much better draws than my opponents ( I took more mulligans in any case, even though I really hate doing that, I ususally pefer to keep mediocre hands). I don’t see how my deck was superior to the decks I beat, and I didn’t play too well in my own critical opinion. But well, the important thing is, I won 3 boosters and thus earned most of the entry fee for another draft, so I can collect more experience. One thing, however, I can say with authority: Creatures like Angelic Overseer and Olivia Voldaren belong in no limited environment ever!

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6 Comments on “A deck which somehow won an Innistrad draft”

  1. jashinc Says:

    I agree Olivia, Overseer, Bloodline Keeper and Army of the Damned are all absurdly bonkers. I hate them, too.


  2. Most of the rares in the set are strong, but fine, I think, since a lot of them are either situational, beatable, or require serious commitment. The only rares that really bug me are Bloodline Keeper and Devil’s Play since both of them are just insane and don’t require any playskill at all. Olivia would likely make the list, though, if my opponents on MODO knew how to play with that card.


  3. Forgot Angelic Overseer. That one’s ridiculous, too.


    • I don’t think Devil’s Play is that bad. Usually, it is an overcosted Volcanic Hammer plus an incredibly expensive Shock. It’s very good, of corse, but not that unfair. Actually, I belive Sever the Bloodline might even be stronger.

      On my list are now also Gavony Township and Mayor of Avabruck, and I don’t think Charmbreaker Devils are much worse. And then there’s the planeswalkers and so on…

      I think limited is fine when strong rares are on the level of Mahamoti Djinn. All this “answer me immediately or die” stuff is really just annoying.


  4. Yeah, Devil’s Play is probably weaker than I make it out to be. Still, giving flashback to a Blaze is not my idea of a good time.

    Charmbreaker Devils requires a setup, which takes some time since the card is quite expensive, so I think it’s fine. It’s obviously strong, but not Bloodline-Keeper-strong, I think, and quite beatable. The Mayor is a pain in the ass, obviously, but fragile. That being said, I really hate the card, because it’s near-unbeatable if you’re on the draw and don’t have a Turn 2 play. Games shouldn’t be decided that early, especially not in Limited. In most other instances, it’s not that unfair, though.

    Gavony Township can be unbeatable, but you need to draft around it, i.e. you need a focused green-white-aggro deck. You can obviously splash the card, and I’ve done so several times, but in those instances it’s not that ridiculous, “just” very, very good. But the fact that the Township is at its best in GW makes the card that much more annoying, since GW is the best archetype by a mile anyway and shouldn’t really get so many bombs just for itself. (Same goes for Angelic Overseer to an extent.)

    The Planeswalkers are surprisingly fine, though – they’re really well-designed and not the outright bombs cards like Jace TMS, Elspeth or Gideon Jura used to be in their respective environments. They’re obviously really good, but seldom do they win games on their own. Especially Liliana is “just” Cruel Edict + Fog in a lot of cases. Garruk can just outright win the game if you’re ahead on board, but if the opponent as any evasion creature, he usually doesn’t live that long.


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