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:

7 Island
5 Mountain
2 Swamp
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
1 Cobblebrute
1 Voidwielder
2 Spawn of Rix Maadi
1 Sphinx of the Chimes
1 Tenement Crasher
1 Syncopate
1 Ultimate Price
1 Dreadbore
1 Chemister’s Trick
1 Auger Spree
1 Inspiration
1 Pyroconvergence
1 Explosive Impact

relevant SB:
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!

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13 Comments on “My Third RTR Draft Win”

  1. martenj Says:

    Calling Goertzen&Goertzen is lol considering its the best german mtg content by far and its not even close. I think Dominik is better than u at mtg.

    • Both are very likely much better players than me, but if you honestly believe that their understanding of the RTR draft format is not severely wanting, this proves only how clueless you are yourself.

      • bezalet Says:

        I agree, it was a pain to see them drafting. I’d really like to watch you doing a draft.

      • martenj Says:

        i actually agree with that. but i do think that (almost) everyone still has huge leaks in rtr limited. solving new limited formats takes time.

  2. “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!”

    People want to watch a draft, I purveyed one and they did not release it. Dominik is crappy; AP plays for himself while Dominik just hits the buttons and moves the mouse. Simon is just able to cover his clear directives behind a superb language competence.

  3. Marten, you do realize that your last comment is an epic opening for the greatest “But I already solved it!!!!!!” Pischner comment ever, right? :D

    • I’m not sure what your definition of “solved” would be, but I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t lead me to agree that I “solved” the format. However, as should be obvious to anyone who actually cares to do some research, I was fairly spot on with my early analysis again, and anyone trying to “solve” the format would do well not to fall behind the foundament of those insights.

      It’s funny, sad and a little enervating at the same time that Marten still argues using my meager successes as a player (although still clearly outmatching his own) that I don’t know much about Magic, and completely ignores the fact that I have built an excellent track record with my predictions over the years – I have been proven right literally every single time (which can still be checked with just a little more thorough research), although also every single time I have been derided for gainsaying top pros like LSV.

      Certainly, some of my card evaluations (which, as you should remember, I did immediately after the official spoiler was up, before anyone had played a single game with these cards) were a little off the mark, but overall I did extremely well here. And obviously, “two-drops are key” is not the all encompassing, final answer to all questions, but it is the basic insight you have to gain before you can work on more compley issues like reading signals, positioning yourself in a draft and troubleshooting when things go awry. I’m really at a loss why the Goertzens insisted on taking ever more copies of the mediocre filler Selesnya Sentry over actually good cards like Keening Apparition, Azorius Arrester or Drudge Beetle – are they morons, or am I a genius?

      If this were the first time that my views have been validated, you could write it off as coincidence, but as things stand, only incredibly ignorant people (like Marten) can claim that I do not actually possess great insight into new draft environments.

      • martenj Says:

        I’m not entirely sure about ur success, but im pretty sure that im not CLEARLY outmatched.
        i don’t remember ur limited previews prior to rtr, because u repeatedly said that u dislike limited previews and they dont make any sense, so i cant comment on those. But i don’t think u have “an excellent track record” and u were right ” literally every time”.

        ur rtr preview was good, but not even close to very good.
        oh and btw: im sure u checked the gp coverage and the quick question: What is the number one card you hope to open in Return to Ravnica draft that isn’t Pack Rat?

        in a rotisserie draft pack rats is the obv first pick and its not even close. ur evaluation in the preview was way off, and in the review of ur preview u were still way off.

  4. I would like to point out 2 things there I think you’re dead wrong:

    1) It is actually possible to successfully draft beyond the guilds (I don’t know for UG and UB, but WR, WB and RG are definitely valid rogue strategies).

    2) If Blue is one of your major colours, you want to maindeck Dispel.

    That said, I DO like your essays/articles A LOT, and I’m totally with you as far as the importance of cheap, mana-efficient spells (e.g. 2-cmc-drops) is concerned.

    Also, I’d love to see drafting streams of yours as well :)

    Incidentally, G&G are indeed painful to watch, both drafting and playing.

    • I noticed that Dispel crops up a lot in maindecks, and I realize that this environment is full of strong instants, but so far my experiences with purely reactive cards haven’t been too good – I simply cannot afford to leave even one mana open too often. Therefore I prefer tricks I can also use on my own terms, like Dramatic Rescue or Swift Justice (where I underestimated the importance of the lifegain a little). Maybe I’m wrong here, but then maybe Dispel will disappear again from maindecks when the metagame shifts even more towards tempo-oriented decks, and players will less often enjoy the luxury of being able to maintain board advantage without having to tap out completely.

      As for non-guild color pairs: I haven’t seen them yet, neither in coverage nor on Magic Online, and I am very skeptical. You have a very limited card selection, you miss out on the stronger part of the set (since multicolor always gets pushed a little), your mana is bad (not only do you get no gates, but you also will end up with several double-colored spells in both colors), and most importantly, there is just no advantage to be gained from going rogue as far as I can see.

      I believe the UG deck I described MIGHT be an exception for very specific reasons, and under very specific cirumstances, but I’m anything but certain even here. As for the other color pairs, I just don’t see it – I neither get the why nor the how, nor did I encounter any evidence of the existence of such decks.

  5. You’re definitely wrong with Dispel there – it just counters too many crucial instants (and decks without those instants will usually be horrible anyway and should therefore be easy wins). Doesn’t get much cheaper than U ;)

    With regard to off-colour combos: I’ve seen a draft video where someone was surprised to play against a red-green deck that was extremely aggressive (initially he underestimated it due the colour combination). As far as WR and BW are concerned, I’m mainly referring to Steve Sadin’s comments at Grand Prix Philadelphia. He mentioned that he’d like to draft Orzhov and (even more) Boros, which he considers to be strong colour combinations (though he wouldn’t refuse to draft the support guilds either, of course, except for Golgari). And I think his points to support his claims have been valid indeed.

    • Yes, I’ve read it… I still don’t see the advantage of going non-guild, though. Why not just build decks in that style with greater selection, stronger cards and better mana?

      Also, I think it will just not be possible to get the critical mass of cheap creatures outside of a guild as soon as players catch up on the importance of two-drops. If several drafters at a table draft Goertzen style, ignoring all those Keening Apparition and Azorius Arrester, it might work, but once everyone starts to value those correctly, there just won’t be enough left. (AND it will be harder to win games fast – it sounds to me as if Sadin still profited of matchups against terrible, slow, multicolored lategame decks.)

      Sadin obviously likes to draft white-based beatdown decks, and I find it easy to see why – that color offers the largest and strongest selection of cheap creatures. Essentially, I believe, he found how easy it is to win with aggro as long as many players do not realize how important tempo in that environment is, and he goes out of his way to secure the best (single) base color for aggro for himself, capitalizing on opponents picking Selesnya Sentry over Keening Apparition, Exlosive Impact over Gore-Hose Chainwalker or Golgari Longlegs over Grim Roustabout. These opponents will get fewer very fast, though.

      I don’t want to be stubborn, but I still haven’t heard a single reason to burden myself with all the obvious disadvantages of foregoing the guilds. Do you have one?

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