Posted tagged ‘Booster Draft’

Attempting an Actually Helpful Early Analysis of Amonkhet Draft

April 15, 2017

Stating the obvious: I have not played with this set yet, I just read the spoiler carefully a few times. However, I have an excellent track record of judging the dynamics of a new draft environment, so I trust that I will not be too far off in my assertions.

This is how I expect Amonkhet draft to shape up:

Speed: Slow

The fastest decks will be less fast than those in most other draft environments. However, the power level of midrange cards is high enough that Amonkhet draft will not be an extreme durdle format. You might not die on turn 4-5 too often, but you still need to prepare a solid defense if you do not want to die on turn 6-8.

Correlation between rarity and power level: Average

This correlation has been quite pronounced for quite a while now, and Amonkhet neither bucks this trend nor stands out as extreme.

Frequency of nearly impossible to beat bombs: Lower than average

“Can be beaten” does not mean “fair”, though. Amonkhet‘s bombs are still hard to beat, and a slow environment means that they will get to influence games more often.

Synergy rewards: Higher than average

This is certainly not an environment where you just take the generally strongest card, but it’s not as extreme as some others.

Manafixing: Slightly better than average

Evolving Wilds and a renamed Shimmering Grotto at common is twice the amount of non-green fixing many other sets get, and with Amonkhet being slow and not requiring double-colored mana too often, Painted Bluffs looks reasonable to me. (Note also the synergy with Naga Vitalist.) Green specifically offers a lot of fixing, and cycling really helps to smooth draws and find splashed lands. A not base-Green deck will probably still not want to go above two and a half colors, but should be able to do so with good consistency. For Green-based decks, however, I guess you can go up to five, although actually having to run a basic land of each type to fetch might not work out in your desired spell/land ratio overall, and if you mill yourself or get milled, you might lose access to a splash color that way.

Mana ratio: Average

Of course, cheap cycling cards generally allow you to cheat a little on the number of lands. On the other hand, though, you will often want to support more than two colors; you really want to get to 4 and 5 mana fast to not fall prey to the strong midrange cards of this format; and you have quite a lot to do with your mana. In the end, I think you will end up with a default of 17 lands just like in a generic draft environment.

Importance of generic two-drops: Low

The importance of two-drops, even if they were just the lowly Bronze Sable, is continously being underestimated by players, including pro level players. Amonkhet, however, looks to me – for the first time since Icannotremember – to be a set where generic 2-drops are actually really bad, being slow and not needing early creatures for synergies like comvoke or vehicles. But then again, there aren’t even many generic 2-drops in this set! It’s still important to acknowledge, though, that curving out in the early turns is less important than usual (although you should still at least be able to sideboard early plays in).

Importance of medium big creatures: Average

You mostly need them to keep up with your opponent’s medium big creatures, and to draw out removal from your opponent, but you definitely need them.

Importance of evasion creatures: Higher than average

Amonkhet has not much evasion, and the ground will tend to get stalled. Don’t go overboard, though – if your midgame creatures have evasion, and your opponent’s are big, you’re probably not winning. Better cut lower mana slots instead.

Importance of big finishers: Higher than average

It’s a slow format, so they have time to come online. Also, because the medium big creatures are dangerous enough to draw removal, your finishers have a better chance to stay in play. Oh, and since many expensive creatures have cycling, you can afford to play noticeably more of them than usually.

Quality of “small” removal: Average

There is some reasonably efficient removal for creatures with low toughness, but it suffers from being more situational than it would in other sets, since creatures tend to come back and/or be big. Magma Spray is obviously still very good, but you really should consider taking less efficient, but also less situational removal spells over it, because there will be big creatures that need killing.

Quality of “big” removal: Below average

Killing something big costs at least four mana in Amonkhet, probably five, and you will have to rely heavily on uncommons to do it.

Quality of combat tricks: Average

Note, however, that the value of combat tricks tends to go down rapidly in slower formats. I do not expect many combat tricks to be particularly high picks in Amonkhet.

Importance of artifact removal: Low

There are just not many artifacts around which need to be killed. On the other hand, there are no less than three common artifact destruction (or exiling) spells with cycling, so the cost of including one in your maindeck is also quite low. You don’t need to, though.

Importance of enchantment removal: Average

There are more enchantments than artifacts at all rarities, and they also tend to have more impact on the game. Unfortunately, there is very little enchantment removal to be had – essentially, you need to be white (at least as a splash). With games going long, the chance that an enchantment will have a strong impact on the game increases, but all in all this isn’t a dedicated enchantment set, and you might get by without enchantment removal. I still advise you to snag one if there is a good opportunity, though.

The preseeded draft archetypes:

WB – Zombie tribal.
WG – Exert midrange
WU – Embalm midrange
WR – Exert aggro
BG – Counterbased midrange
BU – Cycling-based control
BR – Discard-based aggro
GU – Resource accumulation control
GR – Fatty midrange
UR – Instery-based midrange

…and, of course, good stuff multicolor Green!

This got already longer as intended (as always…), so I’ll stop here. I hope I gave you a good starting point to explore this new environment. Good luck with your Amonkhet drafts!

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Escaping the Phantom Zone

June 5, 2016

I remember the event only very vaguely: Two years or so ago, for some reason or other, Wizards gifted every Magic Online account (or maybe not every account, but all of mine were among them) a certain amount of phantom points. Those could, as their name suggested, only be used to enter phantom events (limited events where you do not keep the cards you opened).

Well, I’m not one to turn down free limited play and proceeded to use those points up as completely as possible. There were issues here, though: Phantom points could not be traded between accounts, so once I fell below the lowest entry threshold, they sat around useless. I guess Wizards‘ plan was that at that point, people would start to enter phantom events by the alternate method of paying real money (or the equivalent in tickets), but I wasn’t that stupid.

Then, a year ago, phantom points got converted into play points at a ratio of 1 to 6. The upside was that they could now be used instead of tickets for practically every event. The downside was that play points are still not tradable. However, it turned out that I was now again above the entry threshold for phantom sealed (60 pp) on one account, so my “dead” points had been reactivated! (Technically, I can now also use 20 pp to enter 2-player queues, but since I do not play constructed anymore, this leaves only Momir basic, and I haven’t yet tried to get such a queue to fire, which seems an unlikely thing to happen to me.)

So, Shadows over Innistrad phantom sealed it was! My first effort left me at 2-1, which gave me exactly my entry back to try again, and so I did. This time, I managed to rattle off the required 3-0, and I have now enough play points to enter a “real” draft, because flashback drafts cost only 100 pp. I successfully escaped the phantom zone! (For now.)

The deck that did it didn’t look to great to me, and I still don’t think it is really good, but it worked out well enough. It helped that I played mostly well and didn’t get unlucky:

Phantom Sealed

The madness tricks were, of course, the best thing about this deck. Welcome to the Fold did good work, but Slayer’s Plate turned ot to be my biggest trump, especially in conjunction with Call the Bloodline – racing a 5/3 lifelink creature that just comes back every turn is outright impossble. I played Triskaidekaphobia because I thought I needed another way to win unfairly, not trusting in my deck’s ability to grind my opponent out, but that turned out to be unnecessary. The one game it won me I would almost certainly have won anyway, and I found myself sideboarding it out repeatedly.

Another thing to note is that I actually won one game by transforming my Thing in the Ice – quite a feat considering I have exactly 4 insteries in my deck! Once again, though, I would very likely have won that game anyway if the Thing had just been a 0/4 vanilla creature, which was the function I expected it to fulfill when I sideboarded it in. I did so every game, and I now realize I should just have started it instead of the silly rare enchantment.

I won several games by milling my opponent with Manic Scribe, and here I’m not entirely sure if I would have won those games if the Scribe had been just a 0/3 vanilla creature. I think I would have stabilized the board and put myself in a winning position anyway each game, but then again, the presence of the Scribe changed the dynamics of each match so much that it is hard to say how they would have played out otherwise.

I just realized I have a small backlog of winning deck lists which I forgot to post as an addendum to earlier entries, so I’ll get that done now: The first is still from one of my last OOB drafts. OOB was in my opinion the best draft format in years, but I had to let go of it finally.

Esper Linvala vanilla

Note that I always cast Linvala, the Preserver as a 5/5 flying french vanilla creature (okay, in one case that was only because of egregious stupidity on my part). That was good enough. The mythic rare didn’t really stand out, though.

To Shadows over Innistrad:

Orzhov 3 Naya opponents

Not much to say here, I guess. This time, my mythics were as good as advertised (meaning they were bonkers). Interestingly, I played against opponents running exactly Naya colors every single round!

Gruul

This, however, was a pretty normal SOI deck. Okay, 4 Ember-Eye Wolf is maybe a bit off the norm, but essentially this is fast, focussed aggro with a lot of 2-drops and plenty pump effects. This is how you do it when you have to do without bombs.

I haven’t done very much SOI drafting so far for a number of reasons, one of them being that I do not like the format too much, and another that I have been overplaying the set when I was hyped about the new leagues. Maybe I will get a few more drafts in during the next few weeks, before I will probably give Eternal Masters a shot. It doesn’t seem like a great format to me either, but it will be available for so short that it would be silly of me not to at least give it a whirl!

Why is it Always the Bad decks that Win?

April 26, 2013

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad as this one. But it was still another train wreck draft, where I couldn’t decide if I was (primarily) Orzhov or Dimir until less than two minutes before the first round started. I really finished my deck with less than 10 seconds on the clock, after oszillating between Black or Blue for secondary color for most of the rest of the time. But if I look at it another way, this time I had at least options, and was not forced to play Prophetic Prism just to fill up the deck. This time, though, I would have needed a prism badly, since I played two and a half colors without any fixing at all – come to think of it, maybe this deck WAS worse…

I have a theory, though: I am, overall, a very competent drafter. When one of my drafts goes really badly, chances are that the reason for that is the card distribution in boosters, making it too hard or even impossible for players to find their colors in time. When that is the case, it’s not just me who fails to draft an adequate deck; it’s everyone. Also, I am really good at troubleshooting when a draft goes badly, so that I might end up with the least bad deck at the table (the one-eyed rules the blind). And, of course, there’s this thing calles variance, and the fact that we notice things which seem to make no sense much more strongly than those which do.

Still, I have a hard time accepting that the two really good decks I drafted before (Gruul & Boros) both lost in the second round (a 4-3-2-2 and an 8-4), and that this THING took me to an 8-4 victory…

8 Swamp
7 Plains
3 Island
1 Dutiful Thrull
1 Thrull Parasite
1 Basilica Screecher
1 Wight of Precinct Six
2 Armored Transport
1 Corpse Blockade
1 Slate Street Ruffian
1 Assault Griffin
1 Zarichi Tiger
2 Syndicate Enforcer
1 Urbis Protector
1 Treasure Thrull
1 Dinrova Horror
1 Death’s Approach
2 Devour Flesh
1 Orzhov Charm
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Knight Watch
1 Totally Lost

Notable SB:
Shielded Passage, Hold the Gates, Murder Investigation, Cloudfin Raptor, Metropolis Sprite, Sage’s Row Denizen, Simic Fluxmage, Spell Rupture, Way of the Thief, Last Thoughts, Midnight Recovery, 2 Purge of the Profane, Psychic Strike.

I used the Passage once and the Recovery once, and in one match I actually sided into sealed mana (well, it was named such more than a decade ago, I mean 6-6-6 lands), because I played a mirror. My opponents were Orzov + Blue; Orzhov + Blue & Red, and Simic + Red – confirming my theory about a draft gone wrong for everyone (although the Simic-based deck, which I met in the finals, didn’t look too bad). Games were decided either by color screw or in the very late lategame (I won once using Dinrova Horror on my own Urbis Protector), and the finals was especially absurd, with my opponent being unbelievably screwed in the second game and me in the third… but we were both WINNING these games! (In the first game, after he discarded twice, he put down a Simic Manipulator which I couldn’t remove for my life, and in the other he had to rush killing me because he was low on time and walked right into my Horror when I finally drew black mana, and suddenly I was able to just survive against his flooding draw and actually even turn the tide – he went into timeout, but unbelievably as it would sound to anyone who saw me chumpblocking half a dozen times before, I was actually on the verge of winning that game fair and square.

My limited rating is now back up to 1826, and I have actually won more than I invested so far in my Gatecrash drafting, which allows for the comclusion that I can put my drafting skills to good use in that environment, but also the theory that the last days of a dying draft environment might just be a good time to be successful. I don’t know. Since winning is always more fun than losing, and since I sport 16-6 match score so far, if I haven’t miscounted, I have come to like Gatecrash draft a bit better than in the beginning. It still reminds me a bit of Rise of the Eldrazi; but also a bit of Zendikar – and there’s more than a smidge of Alara in it, now I’ve come to think of it (you draft guilds instead of shards, but the point is, in both environments you’re not really multicolored in the way of chosing your colors freely). I’m not sure if I keep drafting Gatecrash a little longer (I still have stuff for nearly 4 drafts, not counting possible winnings), or if I take a break and wait for Dragon’s Maze. In any case I now have some playing experience with these cards and developed likes and dislikes, which will help me decide which cards from that block will go into my limited card pool.

Possibly the most terrible deck to ever win a Gatecrash draft

April 24, 2013

Okay, since winning an 8-4 meant winning 8 boosters, I did the obvious thing and drafted some more. I entered another 8-4, drafted again Orhzov splash Blue (a bit more Blue this time, but also better supported) and lost in the second round. I then drafted Boros in yet another 8-4 and lost in the finals. Still with lots of boosters to go, I decided to fire up yet another draft, even though it was already rather early than late, but I was in the swing of things. I landed in a swiss this time, and during the draft noticed that I was too tired to concentrate. I kept my options open between Orzhov, Boros and Gruul way too long, and then I decided for Orzhov when it should have been Boros, but I had drafted a Lord of the Void and tired me just couldn’t let go of it. The resulting deck list is a shame to myself, but since I am committed to post all my winning draft deck lists, here we go:

8 Plains
8 Swamp
1 Prophetic Prism
1 Orzhov Keyrune
1 Daring Skyjek
1 Gutter Skulk
1 Wight of Precinct Six
1 High Priest of Penance
2 Armored Transport
2 Slate Street Ruffian
1 Kingpin’s Pet
1 Zarichi Tiger
1 Urbis Protector
1 Lord of the Void
1 Shielded Passage
1 Smite
1 Death’s Approach
1 Aerial Maneuver
1 Devour Flesh
1 Executioner’s Swing
1 Arrows of Justice
1 Angelic Edict
1 Debtor’s Pulpit
1 Immortal Servitude

Sideboard:
Essentially 1 Boros Elite (sided in once for the Prism), a Shadow Alley Denizen and a million cards which were either even more unplayble or in other colors.

Yes, I won one game with the Lord. The Protector worked a lot harder, though. I never drew Servitude or Pulpit. I essentially always played a couple Armored Transport and Slate Street Ruffian supported by some removal and tricks and won the damage race against decks which could not handle 3-mana power-2 creatures with pseudo-evasion (one Boros deck, one base Gruul and one base Orzhov).

That’s it, the chronicler did his duty.