My Third RTR Draft Win
…took even longer than my second. After that, I reached the finals twice, but lacked the necessary luck to win it all both times. However, I should not have felt unlucky (although my decks were strong enough to deserve first place), as variance showed me afterwards, when I managed to scrub out in the first round no less than six times out of my next eight tournaments! Not all of those drafts went optimal, but I believe I should usually have been able to win one or two rounds, and at least three of those decks were simply excellent. For example, I had two Rakdos decks which were close to perfect – but with one of them (which featured 16 lands), I managed to draw eight lands among my first twelve cards TWICE (and still got close to winning each time, but no cigar); and with the other I was forced to mulligan no-land-hands and one-land-hands down to a 6-card-hand and a 5-card hand which both consisted of swamps and mainly (with the 6-card-hand) or even exclusively (5 cards) red spells. It was utterly ridiculous. Then there was that green deck with two Gatecreeper Vine and FOUR Axebane Guardian, which worked excellently in one game before it got smashed by Supreme Verdict (certainly the weak spot of that archetype) and mulliganed into a mono-green hand which never found any manafixing in the other.
Every magic player has bad beats stories to tell, of course, and I probably just was due for another unlucky streak, but what really bugs me is that my best decks lately just aren’t the ones which win drafts! It’s not that I lose to decks I don’t try to draft myself either – I encounter all those Keening Apparition, Azorius Arrester, Drudge Beetle and even Crosstown Courier which Stan and Ollie Görtzen so diligently avoid in their draft walkthroughs (yeah, I know, I just shouldn’t watch that crap…) Actually, practically every deck I ever lost to looks a lot like the archetypes I described in my RTR preview, although I admit that the Axebane Guardian deck hasn’t shown up yet. There’s Rakdos beatdown, Selesnya beatdown, Selesnya populate (often with some Black), Golgari beatdown, Azorius tempo (sometimes plus Red) and Izzet lategame supported by White (especially Hussar Patrol, plugging the holes in that deck’s defenses and working great with its instants). Since I consider it unlikely that most of the players in the RTR release queues have read my preview, I can only conclude that I was largely spot-on. I have yet to see a Rakdos-based lategame deck or any deck which doesn’t consist to a good part of 2-drops win against me. I also haven’t encountered straight Izzet aggro, although it isn’t impossible to get there, but I suppose that Izzet is not underdrafted enough to allow for it. Oh, and I certainly never saw any full-fledged multicolor deck based on gates and keyrunes…
About the keyrunes: I still don’t think they belong in any really successfully drafted deck, but of course you can not always shoot for perfection. RTR draft offers essentially only five draftable color combinations (remember that all decks are based on one guild foremost), while a standard draft format like M13 offers ten, and because multicolor cards are so important, you can not start drafting one color and find your secondary color later – you have to commit a lot earlier in RTR than in M13, and if it then turns out that your chosen guild isn’t really open, you have to improvise a lot. This is usually where keyrunes come in – if you desperately need a third color, but cannot find good fixing, you are forced to play bad fixing (the keyrunes) and just overall more mana, which means that the keyrunes can actually give you a little flood protection.
I started with those explanations because the deck list which is to follow is certainly NOT an example of a successful draft, but rather showcasing how you can get lucky when you have to salvage a failed draft. In this case, I began with a Sphinx of the Chimes (my fourth one – I REALLY open that card a lot!) over a Rix Maadi Guildmage – a tough decision: The Guildmage is stronger in the right deck, but the Sphinx goes into more possible builds. Afterwards, I obviously looked out for Izzet or Azorius cards, but the boosters were quite weak, and I only got mediocre picks. Actually, the best available cards where usually Rakdos cards, but never so clearly that I felt I should switch (and obviously, with each passed Rakdos card switiching became less attractive). After the first booster round I only had a few really good cards, and when the second round started, it became clear that neither Izzet nor Azorius were really open – but I still got a few nice offerings in Rakdos. So, I took stuff like Auger Spree and Ultimate Price and went for an Izzet plus Black build. At the end of the second round, a thirteenth pick Common Bond majorly irritated me, though… And in the third round, I just could not reject that Angel of Serenity which refinanced that draft almost by itself. Now, it became painfully obvious, that Selesnya was horribly underdrafted, but it was of course too late, and while I was still toying with the idea of going Izzet plus White plus Black (yes, I was THAT desperate!), there was no way I could run those Sunspire Griffn which came along now. At least I got a little more Rakdos, though. When I built the deck in the end, I realized that I could just barely keep it to two and a half colors and could even avoid running that horrible Chromatic Lantern – I rather included my keyrunes for flood protection, and I really did not want a third mana stone costing three.
This was it:
2 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Izzet Keyrune
1 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Crosstown Courier
2 Frostburn Weird
1 Tower Drake
1 Splatter Thug
1 Viashino Racketeer
1 Ogre Jailbreaker
1 Aquus Steed
2 Spawn of Rix Maadi
1 Sphinx of the Chimes
1 Tenement Crasher
1 Ultimate Price
1 Chemister’s Trick
1 Auger Spree
1 Explosive Impact
Dispel, Downsize, Dark Revenant, Dark Revenant, Electrickery, Rakdos Shred-Freak, Chemister’s Trick (#2), Azorius Keyrune, Chromatic Lantern.
Yup, that’s 41 cards – I really did not want to go down to 16 lands because of the Keyrunes, but I also did not want to play 19 mana cards in 40 with just an Inspiration as card draw. I was a bit short on 2-drops (although Syncopate could and did step in here), my high end was a bit crowded, making the deck too slow for my taste, and the card quality wasn’t impressive at all for a three-color lategame deck (I am really not a big fan of the Steed, and Cobblebrute and the Spawns are better fits as follow-ups in an aggressive deck than as big creatures in a lategame deck), but at least I got some strong removal. Oh, I played the Azorius Guildgate so that the Drake had a chance to win fights with bird tokens or Daggerdrone Imp, because I wanted my Jailbreaker to be able to attack somehow reliably, and because an opponent might play around stuff like Hussar Patrol if he sees it.
In contrast to my last draft, I had to fight through three reasonably tough matches this time. At first, I faced Azorius plus Red. My opponent’s 2-drops were Doorkeeper, and I played Weirds, so I was at an advantage here. One game I played around Essence Backlash when I should have played around Hussar Patrol, allowing him a comeback, but in the end a Sphinx of the Chimes persisted through Dramatic Rescue and Azorius Charm, while I Voidwieldered Azor’s Elocutors with four filibuster counters and shot Explosive Impact on a Mercurial Chemister. Oh, and I actually discarded my two Spawns to the Sphinx! The other game I applied steady pressure, and when my Crasher crashed in (what else?), I was firmly in the driver’s seat, using my removal to make sure I stayed ahead. Ah yes, because he had an Izzet Staticaster, but no early pressure, I sided out Courier and Drake for Dispel and the second Chemister’s Trick.
The second round I encountered an excellent Rakdos deck. I got crushed by a perfect draw game one – I had mulliganed to five, but I don’t think I could have beaten that draw with a starting hand of nine… The other two games I managed to claim somehow by the skin of my teeth – one game recovering with the help of my Pyroconvergence when I was at three life, the other by finding a 2-drop and a 3-drop, some removal and my Crasher to turn around the game just in time. I cannot deny I was lucky – I don’t think I should have beaten that deck. I sided out Inspiration for Electrickery and changed the Azorius Guildgate to an Island.
In the third round, I played another URW deck. It didn’t look to convincing, though – one game I saw Keening Apparition, Stealer of Secrets, Eyes in the Skies, Ethereal Armor and Pursuit of Flight… Syncopate, Ultimate Price and Voidwielder left my opponent with only the Apparition and lands. I put in Electrickery for the Courier and won against a slightly screwed opponent by simply putting down successively larger creatures.
The bad news is that my rating is still deep below 1800 after that extensive losing streak. The good news is that the draft I won here was an 8-4, supplying me with fodder for several more drafts (especially together with that Angel of Serenity), just when I was about to reach the bottom of the barrel!