The Birthday Draft Deck
If you know what you do and get a little lucky, you can win a draft even with a decidedly mediocre deck, as I showcased in my last entry. Sometimes, however, you just need to be unbelievably lucky – and in rare occasions, you actually ARE. This is a short report on one of those cases.
After my last won draft, I went 2:1 in a swiss queue yesterday, and given that I was color screwed with my GW deck there in every single game except one, I should be happy. Then, I felt too tired to enter another tournament (weekend activities) and went to bed – but I couldn’t sleep and, shortly after midnight (which meant it had just become my birthday) found myself in a draft queue again, this time an 8-4 (still my choices here are based on what starts first).
My draft didn’t exactly begin auspicious – I moneydrafted a Nicol Bolas (well, I’m running low on tix, even though I still possess a few M13 boosters) without feeling guilty about it, since the strongest card in that pack would have been your choice of Evolving Wilds, Encrust, War Priest of Thune and Veilborn Ghoul (probably the Priest). Then I took Garruk’s Packleader over nothing quite as interesting. The following boosters were both weak and nearly evenly distributed, so that there was no reading of signals possible. I think I followed up with Welkin Tern, Centaur Courser and Wind Drake, and after that – well, maybe a Deadly Recluse or such – the boosters were EMPTY. I concentrated on cutting GU and noticed at the very end of the round that there were a late Guardians of Akrasa and an even later Silvercoat Lion – the closest thing to a signal, but it was obviously too late for me to switch now.
I opened a Rancor in the second round and then found extraordinarily strong White coming from the left. At first I took a few good GU cards, but then these colors (especially Blue) dried up and I found myself valuepicking dual lands (my MTGO casual decks really can make use of them – most of them still run nearly exclusively on basics), while there was STILL very strong White in the packs. In hindsight, I could have drafted a monster deck if I switched to White earlier, but there was actually no point in this draft where it would have been correct to do so. If the boosters in the first round are weak and people cannot find and signal their colors, it means mayhem for the whole table! I hated a Silvercoat Lion somewehere and then stared in disbelief at an 11th or so pick Griffin Protector, which I took over nothing worth mentioning.
When I found no playable blue, green or colorless card in my first booster of the third round, I gave up all hope and valuepicked my third dual land. This time I was completely cut off from Green, could snatch up a few blue flyers – and then, with the last 6 or so picks, took the white cards which no one seemed to want, because I realized I just would not be able to build anything resembling a deck using just two colors. So, what did I do? I built the three-color beatdown deck with 18 lands, of course!
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Jace’s Phantasm
3 Welkin Tern
3 Silvercoat Lion
1 Deadly Recluse
1 Wind Drake
1 Centaur Courser
1 Yeva’s Forcemage
1 Griffin Protector
1 Spiked Baloth
1 Battleflight Eagle
1 Garruk’s Packleader
2 Titanic Growth
1 Safe Passage
I feel obligated to list my complete sideboard for reference:
By the way: I never drew the Sunpetal Grove or the Switcheroo; never drew a card off the Packleader, of course never had a 5/5 Jace’s Phantasm and was able to pump my Griffin Protector exactly once. I only sideboarded a card once (Plummet for Safe Passage against UW) and never saw it. So – how did it go?
I crushed three opponents in a row 2:0 each, won the draft and 8 boosters (and my second qualifier point in this season – no idea what I should do with those), sold the Bolas for 3 2/3 tix and got three dual lands and a Rancor for my casual decks. There’s only one explanation: MTGO knew that it is my birthday!
Well, okay, some factors contributed. My first opponent was monoblack, exalted creatures, Tormented Soul, Liliana’s Shade and all, but he never had any removal for my flyers, and my ground creatures ran over his blockers with Rancor, Titanic Growth and the pump effects from Forcemage and Eagle.
My second turn opponent was RGW (at least those were the basics he had out in the first game), but only managed to start out with Mogg Flunkies and Goblin Battle Jester, while I played out a creature every turn, and when I saved my Spiked Baloth from a Turn to Slag with Titanic Growth, that was it in the first game. In the second game I stalled on three Plains for an eternity, just having a Lion out – but he stalled on three Mountains so long that he actually had to discard twice, and I found my second color first and easily won with a board of creatures against a board of no creatures.
My finals opponent was the only one who seemed to have a decent deck, but this time, the shuffler just loved me. I could curve out in three colors both games; always had the pump spell when I needed it and was able to outrace his UW exalted deck nicely since I just had the optimal play nearly every round.
See, obviously the weak boosters in round one caused everyone at the table to have subpar decks, and at least against my first two opponents, I might actually have been the favorite (still had lucky draws nonetheless)! As for the finals, the lesson to learn (well, I knew it already, but maybe you don’t) is: If a three-color deck draws its mana as smooth as if it were a two-color deck, it will usually beat the two-color-deck (although that is admittedly not fair).
In the end, after crediting the enormous amount of luck I obviously had, it still comes down to what I said about this environment six weeks ago: It is about curving out and keeping your tempo with pump spells – and that is exactly what I managed to do! You should usually try to curve out in two colors for obvious reasons; but if it works, it works, and I’m not complaining.
Oh, and just before he conceded, my finals opponent insulted me and claimed that this format was the less skill-based ever. I couldn’t disagree more: In only 8 drafts, I managed to improve my rating by 80 points (I’m at 1811 now, which is really okay for someone playing only occasionally and never in premier events)! M13 draft is an environment where you have to evaluate your options and your drafting plan with every pick and have to construct your deck while you draft it – unlike in archetype-driven environments where you have to commit to a strategy early and then either get the cards you need or don’t. Drafting and deck-building skills are heavily rewarded, and gameplay is about tempo and card advantage. I understand that players used to cards telling you how to play them or flat-out winning the game by themselves feel a bit lost here; but this is an environment where my skills shine, and I guess I will be enjoying it for quite a while!