Return to Rath (a winning Tempest block draft deck)
This weekend, Tempest block drafts were once again available on Magic Online, and once again, I couldn’t resist, although the expected value of these nostalgia events isn’t too good.
After I last wrote about my drafts, I did two or three more Magic 2013 drafts (I don’t remember exactly) and lost quite badly, mostly due to my good luck running out and turning to bad luck. Since I needed an inducement anyway to spend less time drafting, and since Return to Ravnica spoilers were gaining momentum at that time, steering my thoughts towards that new environment, I took the opportunity to suspend my draft endeavours for a while while I still had a nice amount of tickets.
But now, Rath called, and I threw myself into the fray again. In my first draft I started with an Overrun, followed by a Living Death, an Evincar’s Justice and a Skyshroud Vampire. I got good quality in Green and Black in the first booster roud and though that I was on course for a strong deck. However, Stronghold and Exodus both failed to deliver and I ended up with a mediocre concoction with a rather high mana curve (two Spined Wurm and a Rabid Wolverine really strained my 5-slot), too little evasion and not quite enough removal. It wasn’t a bad deck, but I was forced to play 18 lands and a Rampant Growth in 41 cards to sort my mana out (my major removal being two Death Stroke) and didn’t manage to get a draw without hiccups in both games I played (and lost, obviously) – in the first game I was flooded; in the second game I was slightly screwed (4 lands in play and several five-drops creatures in hand). I never drew Overrun, Living Death or Evincar’s Justice and lost to a strong RW deck featuring Soltari Guerillas, Fanning the Flames and way too many Licids for my ground-based offense too handle.
I jumped back into the queues immediately, this time firstpicking Rootwater Hunter and sticking to Blue, then later deciding on White as my secondary color. This was my deck:
1 Soul Warden
1 Armored Pegasus
1 Soltari Monk
1 Wall of Essence
2 Hammerhead Shark
1 Rootwater Hunter
1 Gliding Licid
1 Thalakos Mistfolk
1 Thalakos Scout
1 Spirit en-Kor
1 Lancers en-Kor
1 Killer Whale
1 Warrior Angel
1 Kor Chant
1 Helm of Possession
1 Spirit Mirror
1 Volrath’s Laboratory
Most notable SB cards were three Contempt, a Standing Troops, a Robe of Mirrors, a Leap, a Disturbed Burial and a Mogg Cannon. I never SBed anything, though.
I believe this deck’s card quality is excellent. I never got to use the Laboratory, but the Helm won me at least one otherwise unwinnable game, and the Spirit Mirror was surprisingly strong (eben without the Helm).
I played like the worst scrub, however. I obviously had more trouble than I thought to remember the cards and the resulting dynamics, and I also realized that the environment was so slow and full of necessary clicks, that I had to speed up my play so that I wouldn’t timeout. As a result (and also, because actually playing Magic games has always be my weakest spot, and my ability to concentrate has ever decreased over the years), I made the most stupid play errors, for example, attacking with my Soul Warden into a Manakin – tactically the correct play in this situation, but not if my opponent had just played a Squee’s Toy! – or forgetting to move my Gliding Licid from a dying creature.
But my deck pushed me through! Strangely, I played UW mirrors in both the first and the second round (the second one had a splash for Red, though), so that my Hammerhead Sharks were not just defenders. In the end, it was my overall superior card quality which decided the games I won: More evasion, bigger flyers (especially Warrior Angel), the Helm. For some reason I never faced one of several Mana Leaks I remember passing – that was also lucky.
I beat my first opponent handily just by using better cards, and then got into big trouble round two facing a Bullwhip. In the end, I had to play my small creatures and sacrifice them immediately to the Helm to survive until my large creatures could take over. In the second game, this didn’t work as I stumbled on mana first and flooded afterwards, so that my Helm (which I’d drawn again) was of too little use against the Whip (which my opponent had drawn again). With only 7 minutes left on my clock, I managed to start aggressively with Soul Warden, Armored Pegasus, Conviction on the Pegasus, Thalakos Scout, and when my slightly screwed opponent was forced to put Pacifism on the Pegasus, and I put down a Killer Whale, that was it.
As for the finals: My opponent didn’t show up. Yup, it was that boring. However, a win is a win, and my deck was strong enough that I don’t need to think I couldn’t have won an actual match, so this counts. Oh, and for those keeping track: My limited rating is 1831 right now, probably still a bit higher than I will be able to keep it in the long run.
Addendum: Afterwards I lost in the first round in two more drafts. I managed to play the worst Magic of my life – I really don’t know why, for some reason I couldn’t concentrate at all that weekend – but also to have that much bad luck that it actually didn’t even matter! There was a game when I kept a reasonable hand with three lands and proceeded to draw seven more lands in a row, and another game when I had to mulligan two one-plains hands (with a mana distribution of 10 swamp and 7 plains) into a mediocre five-card hand, and another one when I was hit by a a killer Fade Away and a bit later an Anarchist bringing that Fade Away back after I had to mulligan two six because of a one-land hand (with a mana base of 18 mountain…) and one game where I found no removal (in my mono-red deck) for a Sandstone Warrior, had to throw down all of my board to stall the game, while still needing to play around Fade Away, and finally lost to Fanning the Flames which I was unable to fizzle. All in all, it has been rather fair of fate to provide me with that amount of bad luck when I was playing that abysmally (I hope I used up both bad luck and bad play for a good while on that weekend), but it still was a horribly frustrating experience for both reasons. Well, next up will be Return to Ravnica…
And talking about that: The last installment of my (German) limited preview for Return to Ravnica has finally gone online (this took a LOT longer than I thought it would). In a few days I will comment a bit on things said by readers on the PlenetMTG boards.