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:

9 Plains
9 Island
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 Conviction
1 Counterspell
1 Kor Chant
1 Shackles
1 Helm of Possession
1 Spirit Mirror
1 Sift
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.

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5 Comments on “Return to Rath (a winning Tempest block draft deck)”


  1. Do you really enjoy masochism so much that you want to waste tickets on the worst draft format since a long while? With Pack Rats filling the role of Umezawa’s Jitte which you can open as often as up to three times thanks to appearance in the big set -> Many more frustrating loses to it. Next, there are the two Bonfire in the set, conveniently dumbed down in rarity: Mizzium Mortars and Street Spasm. You also will lose a good chunk of game to those babies. The unstoppable Rakdos start with Turn 1 2/2; turn 2 3/2; turn 3 4/3 fling dude will also cost you games whereas you have a much better deck. I don’t want to convince you any further that the format is just garbage so just don’t forget I didn’t mention the “regular” bombs like Niv; the Chemister or just dumb beaters like the undercosted Scavenge Beetle.

    Conclusion: if EV on a pack is to low, do restrain of drafting this design failure of a set.

    • chickenfood91 Says:

      Don’t blame others for you bad drafting!(and don’t draft on these semi unprofessional platforms. without the print runs way more luck is involved

      if you lose to “Turn 1 2/2; turn 2 3/2; turn 3 4/3 ” you lost to a better deck with a good draw. that happens in every draftformat.

      btw drafting aggro is the best ways to get around bombs. But that’s advanced knowledge. Maybe you’ll get there in 2 or 3 years.

      Its by far not impossible to beat the above start. I got there 3 times with just Selesnya commons and my draw far from perfect.(ok, we both drew 6 lands in both games, but both of us had 17 lands. thats fair).
      The key is obviously not to play keyrunes. We had two complete drafttables at the FNM and not a single match was won by a deck landing a turn 3 keyrune.

      @Andi: du hast nicht vor dich im Forum zu deinen eigenen Texten zu äußern? Das macht die diskussion echt mühsam. Es gibt Personen die sagen du wärst an einer solchen nicht interessiert, aber das kann bei dir ja wohl eher nicht der Fall sein.


      • Even though you can say he’s earned it: Please do not response to (former) Duodax by channeling his old posting attitude – that is not helpful.

        He may well be right that this format sucks, I couldn’t tell so far – Avacyn Restored is a very recent example of a horrible draft environment. On the other hand, you are correct that being able to draft fast, focussed decks can largely mitigate the issue with bombs, as it did in Magic 2013. I believe it is a bit early to decide which way the cookie crumbles in RTR: Drafting very fast decks is certainly possible if that strategy isn’t commonplace, but once everyone understands how important the early game in this environment really is, it might well be that focussed aggro no longer reaches the critical mass to punch through dedicated defenses, and that lategame bombs reign supreme again.

        About discussing my RTR preview on the PlanetMTG boards: Of course, I am interested in discussions, and everyone actually knowing the first thing about me and not just taking cheap shots at me knows that. However, I found that debating on those boards had become impossible due to the prominence of mobbing and spamming and the unwillingness of the admins to stop that behaviour. I decided a while ago that I would no longer waste my time wrestling with trolls on their home turf, and I’m not about to change this. Everyone who is honestly interested in a debate with me will have no problem finding this blog. Those people, though, who pride themselves in their “social skills” of “winning threads” on poorly moderated boards will need to find someone else to harass.


  2. Well, I played 2 Drafts in reallife, got 2x Rats (1 in each draft) and went both times 1-2, because I never drew them. Normal player would just be happy and faceroll 2 tables clean and quickly, but when they not appear you have to play vs. the synegetic Golgari deck with the GB tutor, the 4/4 Mushroom and the 5/5 Beater while you have subpar Rakdos or Izzet cards. One game was lost to Street Spasm, another to the 6/5er Imps (or Devils), and the other games were ruled by active GM on opponent’s side of the field. They are just incredible for UC. WotC in the meanwhile only laughs at you by printing the Arrest as a UC because card in C would be… to common after the long SOM-block sealed season? Who knows..


    • Wizards keeping efficient removal out of common is a trend I noticed, too. I’m not sure what it is about – just further devalueing commons, so that beginner decks have even less chances to compete even on a low casual level without extra singles? Or maybe they want first picks being spread more evenly across the colors – it was always a slight problem that Green, while usually featuring high overall quality, had too few common first picks, while Red, for example, was too shallow for the number of first picks it provided.

      I’m really a bit at a loss here. All I know is that, overall, limited environments play better if players have easy access too good removal.


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