Archiv für den Monat: November 2013

I found a new tool: A pictured draft walkthrough

I just asked Ormus about a tool to convert the text-based Magic Online draft files into a pictured walkthrough, and he sent me this link. Had I known such a thing existed, I would’ve used it a lot already!

For a test ballot, I will cover a draft I did yesterday. Tell me how you like this format, and if you’re interested in lowly Swiss-winning decks at all!

–>  Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:

This was a choice between the rare and the two Emissaries. I guess many will value the bestow creatures higher, but these two are actually the ones I like least. This is because, if bestow costs more than five mana, I treat it merely as a bonus on the creature. 4 mana for a 3/3 with trample is fine, but not spectacular, while the black Emissary, on the other hand, is not a worse card than Anthousa, but doesn’t synergize too well with the cards which I want to see the most if trying to get into black (short version: I want my creatures on the board, not in hand; and I want the game to go a little longer, not to end it faster). Triggering Anthousa for profit is actually not too easy to do, but the card’s stats are pretty solid by itself, and the threat alone can change the dynamics of a game completely.

Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:

Simply the best card.

Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:

My choices in U/G are Aqueous Form and Vulpine Goliath – a solid card, and a somehow playable one (the aura is the solid one, if you wonder), but I’m certainly not set in either color yet, and I will not miss the opportunity to try out a much stronger third pick. The Oread and the Disciple are both a bit stronger, but not strong enough to be really appealing as picks in a new color, so I go for a multicolor card. Here, the Singer is probably the strongest, and it goes at least with the Naiad I already have, so I’ll have an eye out on U/B.

Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:

Not a good pack to choose from in my situation. Best single-colored card is Battlewise Valor, but it is not so good that I will now take my first white card. I had to decide if I wanted the Horse, which actually not many decks really want, or take another double-colored card and see if I’ll end up playing it. If I already had had something of a clue which colors I wanted to end up in, I might have just taken the Harpy or the Form, but since these are in the end replacable, I preferred to commit to keeping my options open a little longer.

Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:

This might not have been the best choice. I looked at the contents of this booster, saw several cards which a U/B deck would want, subconsciously decided I had to go for these colors, and took the best card for that type of deck. However, both the Cure and Omenspeaker are nearly as good in U/B, but a lot stronger in other decks, so Phalanx is actually only the third-best pick here. (Triton Tactics would be another contender in a vacuum, but it makes sense to priorize options for Dimir when you see such a booster, and the Tactics are at their worst in that guild, although still quite useful.) In hindsight, Omenspeaker would have been correct.

Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:

Since I was clearly not on track for a deck where Boon of Erebos shines, this is the logical pick.

Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:

I already debated Scourgemark vs Coastline Chimera when I realized I was about to make the mistake of deciding on my colors too early. If I take the Warrior here, I miss out on a card which in the end may or may not make a U/B deck; but if I don’t, I miss out on the option to craft a synergetic U/G deck if the following boosters allow for it. Theros boosters are usually deep enough in quality that I can afford to postpone the decision which colors I want for another pack.

Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

Aaaaaaaaand here comes the pick which makes me look like a genius! So maybe I SHOULD be in Green. At this point, a good enabler was a tad more important than another strong, but clumsy creature which needed to be enabled. Also, Feral Invocation is great with 2-drops, and I always try to run enough of those.

Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

So why did I take the Hoplite here? Because I could see there wasn’t a single card in this pack I’d end up playing, not only because they were unexciting, but because they did not even fit the direction my decks were going. I have enough experience drafting Theros that I can usually judge if I desperately need cards to fill out my decks, and that was not yet the case here. Hoplite, however, can be instrumental in beating me if I have a slow draw, so I hate it.

Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

If you followed the flow of the packs in this booster round, you might have noticed how each color seemed to be open at different times. Here, it’s Red’s turn. This is a good lesson in not interpreting too much into weak signals. Now, I know I will play some combination of Blue, Green and Black, so the Minotaur is the easy pick. It’s not much more exciting than my on-color options in the previous pack, but I know I might actually play it if I end up Dimir, since it fits in there.

Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

Same logic again, but this time looking at U/G. I’m not a big fan of the fox at all, but in this deck it can have a place.

Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

Although it is unlikely to make the cut in Dimir, in Simic the Form is better than the Minotaur is in U/B, and it actually has strong synergy with my former picks in that guild.

Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

The instant goes better with the picks I already have, but it is unlikely to make the cut, and I might pick up a couple [card]Nemesis of Mortals[/card] later.

Pack 1 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 1:

My Pick:

If I’d already had a good number of cheaper creatures in my pool, I would have grabbed the Revenge, but the opposite was the case. Also, the Dryad really goes excellently with my other U/G picks so far, both as a bestow creature and as a creature to be enhanced with an aura. Finally, in a vacuum, it is a simply a better pick than the Revenge. Yes, it is. No, I’m not kidding. Oh, and both cards are better than a second Singer for a Dimir deck would be, and Chimera and Read the Bones follow a little further behind.

Pack 2 pick 2:

My Pick:

I’d LOVED to pick up Vaporkin here, but the only thing my U/G deck is missing more than good 2-drops is good bounce. (No, Sea God’s Revenge is NOT „bounce“ in deckbuilding terms – it’s a lategame card.) Also, at this point I no longer doubt that I’m drafting the U/G tempo deck.

Pack 2 pick 3:

My Pick:

I nearly despaired when I saw that pack. The only cards here which I really like to maindeck need red or white mana. I didn’t need another expensive creature, I didn’t want the Piper, which is just not good, and I did not want Dissolve, which just doesn’t go well with building up board presence, which is crucial in Theros draft, and especially in U/G tempo. I would’ve snapdrafted Bronze Sable over everything in this pack, but it wasn’t in there. Just a second before time ran out, I took the Centaurs, which were most likely (read: least unlikely) to make my deck.

Pack 2 pick 4:

My Pick:

Seeing that I only have one bounce spell so far to deal with opposing creatures, that my curve is rather high, and that Time to Feed can profitably target Staunch-Hearted Warrior or Anthousa, this is an easy pick. Wavecrash Triton isn’t bad, but not the kind of card I had to be afraid to have too few of. Sable IS that kind of card, but the removal is still more important.

Pack 2 pick 5:

My Pick:

This fits the deck perfectly. At this point, I am mainly concerned about my curve.

Pack 2 pick 6:

My Pick:

Shredding Winds is a solid sideboard card, but I preferred to hate a card which sometimes just wins.

Pack 2 pick 7:

My Pick:

This is about the best card I could have wished for to make my deck tick. I realized, though, that I might miss the Omenspeaker later.

Pack 2 pick 8:

My Pick:

Slam down the 2-drop, obviously!

Pack 2 pick 9:

My Pick:

Now this card is what Pheres-Band Centaurs wish they were.

Pack 2 pick 10:

My Pick:

Okay, I’ll find room in my deck for another one.

Pack 2 pick 11:

My Pick:

Once again, instead of picking something I KNOW I don’t need, I rather hate a strong card.

Pack 2 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 13:

My Pick:

Yes, it’s the better card.

Pack 2 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 1:

My Pick:

Can you believe I was actually HAPPY to firstpick that Scorpion? It helped to fill a gaping hole in my deck. Never forget that in draft, you’re building your deck as you go.

Pack 3 pick 2:

My Pick:

I was way more disappointed with my second pick, especially seeing how good cards in other colors were. The Warrior is fine, of course, but a good 2-drop or 3-drop would have helped me more.

Pack 3 pick 3:

My Pick:

Now that a have another Warrior, and those 2 chimeras, a second of these is certainly not too many.

Pack 3 pick 4:

My Pick:

It’s all about not just picking the best cards, but what your deck needs most. Both green creatures are stronger, of course, but Omenspeaker is not just a 2-drop I desperately need; it’s a 2-drop which sets up all those mini-comboes I have, helps against both flood and screw in a deck with a rather high curve, and becomes big enough with Feral Instinct that neither Lash of the Whip nor Rage of Purphoros can kill it. If you do not understand why this pick is crucially correct, you are still struggling with understanding Theros draft, and the fundamentals of good drafting in general.

Pack 3 pick 5:

My Pick:

In a deck with the perfect curve, I would have taken the Ordeal, but I was far from that. I wasn’t unhappy at all to take one of the best commons in the set, though.

Pack 3 pick 6:

My Pick:

Nessian Asp! Time to Feed! Two excellent cards I’d love to run in my deck. But once again, I take the card I NEED instead.

Pack 3 pick 7:

My Pick:

Same here.

Pack 3 pick 8:

My Pick:

At this point, I realize that I will actually manage to complete a focussed deck, albeit barely.

Pack 3 pick 9:

My Pick:

When I saw this aura, I knew it would make the cut.

Pack 3 pick 10:

My Pick:

No, I will NOT run another fox, thank you.

Pack 3 pick 11:

My Pick:

Nothing in here for me.

Pack 3 pick 12:

My Pick:

Nice to get a late copy of that sideboard card.

Pack 3 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My Pick:

(This draft converter was created by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy.)


This led to the following deck:

[cardlist]2 Prescient Chimera
1 Fate Foretold
1 Bronze Sable
9 Forest
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Satyr Hedonist
1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Anthousa, Setessan Hero
1 Triton Tactics
2 Voyaging Satyr
1 Griptide
1 Leafcrown Dryad
2 Feral Invocation
2 Time to Feed
7 Island
1 Aqueous Form
2 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Annul
2 Nimbus Naiad
1 Omenspeaker
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Pyxis of Pandemonium
1 Daxos of Meletis
1 Nylea’s Presence
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Akroan Hoplite
1 Kragma Warcaller
1 Shredding Winds
1 Shipwreck Singer
1 Commune with the Gods
1 Plains
1 Priest of Iroas
1 Witches‘ Eye
1 Mountain[/cardlist]

I ran the fox as an impact card, since I realized that I wanted 16 lands to go with my Voyaging Satyrs. In a better world, the fox would have been a [card]Nessian Asp[/card], and the Annul sitting in the sideboard and replaced by, say, a [card]Voyage’s End[/card], but seeing how late I settled in my colors, and how many picks I spent on off-color cards, I cannot complain.

Strangely, I never encountered a deck where Gainsay or Shredding Winds would have helped me, so I never sideboarded anything.

My matches went mostly as planned. I got on the board early and relentlessly, creating huge threats and tempo swings with my auras and bestow creatures. One game, I used Triton Tactics to ambush a 5/5 [card]Nessian Courser[/card] by untapping two Staunch-Hearted Warrior – that was fun! Omenspeaker really helped me out in almost any situation. The fox was okay, but unnervingly slow. I’ll never understand why so many drafters immediately hide any Bronze Sable in their card pool, but treat the clumsy 6-drop like something precious.

So, I won a tournament – although only a swiss – with a rather mediocre deck. Two lessons can be learned here:

1) Theros offers enough playables that you do not need to panic if you go into the second booster round without a clear direction.

2) Don’t just pick cards, DRAFT A DECK. It cannot be said often enough. A heap of impressive-looking, expensive cards is not a deck. A deck has a curve. Bronze Sable is your friend.

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Three new winning Theros draft decklists

I’m no longer recording my drafts – probably until the next set comes out – but I guess you might like to see my winning deck lists. Posting those is certainly a lot less effort, and MagicBlogs gives me the tools to display them easily in a very nice way, so here we go!

I did five more drafts since my last published draft. In my fifth draft, I lost in the semis with a very nice B/g deck when I was screwed on B with 11 [card]Swamp[/card] in the deck twice against GW heroic. I then took down my sixth draft with my most controllish build so far:

[cardlist]12 Swamp
6 Island
1 Tormented Hero
3 Baleful Eidolon
2 Returned Phalanx
1 Shipwreck Singer
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Wavecrash Triton
1 Nighthowler
1 Coastline Chimera
1 Disciple of Phenax
1 Insatiable Harpy
2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Shipbreaker Kraken
1 Abhorrent Overlord
1 Voyage’s End
1 Read the Bones
1 Griptide
1 Lash of the Whip[/cardlist]

I left two [card]Vaporkin[/card] and a [card]Prescient Chimera[/card] in my sideboard to streamline this deck. This won’t happen often, but it was the correct choice here.

For my seventh draft, I got an excellent WR heroic deck, but once again fell in the semis, this time to a strong UG tempo deck when I had slower starts twice. But in my eighth draft luck was with me again, when I didn’t have more than one bad draw per match with the following deck:

[cardlist]12 Mountain
5 Swamp
1 Akroan Crusader
2 Arena Athlete
2 Satyr Rambler
2 Deathbellow Raider
3 Spearpoint Oread
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
2 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Kragma Warcaller
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Coordinated Assault
1 Titan’s Strength
3 Lightning Strike[/cardlist]

I drew Purphoros only once. He did his job then.

In my ninth draft, I managed another win with this beauty (note that it is not nearly as strong as my other RW heroic deck which didn’t make it to the finals – draw skills still matter):

[cardlist]11 Plains
6 Mountain
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Priest of Iroas
3 Leonin Snarecaster
2 Bronze Sable
1 Traveling Philosopher
1 Phalanx Leader
1 Akroan Hoplite
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
1 Observant Alseid
1 Wingsteed Rider
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 Anax and Cymede
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Titan’s Strength
2 Battlewise Valor
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Dauntless Onslaught
2 Portent of Betrayal[/cardlist]

Note that I switched from W/g to W/r as late as in the third booster round (guess which card I opened!), which was possible because I had few green cards so far, already picked up a couple red, and could be sure that White was underdrafted. Another point of interest may be that I cast my [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card] for one mana roughly as often as I bestowed it.

For those among you who judge the validity of my theories by my results only (which is wrong, but I know some still do), this is my complete track record in Theros draft so far:

Release queues:
2-1 in a Swiss
2-1 in a 4-3-2-2

Published videos (all 8-4):

Later drafts (all 8-4):

That’s 23-6 overall, 19-4 in 8-4 queues, and winning 48 boosters in eleven drafts (44 in eight 8-4s). Also, my rating has gone up roughly 100 points during that time (I’d been in a ditch of ca. 1760 since Modern Masters). If such numbers are the thing that convinces you, here you go!

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Watching Drafts vs Watching the Matches Afterwards

The numbers are pretty clear: Among my draft videos, the drafts themselves get twice as many clicks as my matches with the drafted decks afterwards. While different explanations are possible (watchers returning to the drafts more often for analysis purposes, for example), it makes most sense to assume that people just aren’t as interested in seeing me play those decks as in following my draft decisions, and those few voices which gave me feedback on my question hereabout support this, even if they say they clicked all my videos once.

Now, I can see where that is coming from! For one thing, I wholeheartedly agree that the drafting process itself is the most interesting part. Also, I said myself that I am not that great a player – thus it follows that there is less to learn by watching me play than watching me draft. There’s a caveat here, though: I do actually not play worse than most other players publishing draft videos – at least not worse than they do in their published games – and even clearly better than several of them, even with all my deficiencies. But then again, this isn’t about grading on a curve. If my gameplay isn’t exemplary, then it may not be instructive enough to justify spending time watching me play. It that was my only reason to do so, I certainly would not take the time to produce and upload those videos!

However, my gameplay is not why you should watch my matches after watching my drafts. Just as Jörn said in his comment: The point of the match videos is to validate my drafts! See, of course I want you to believe my theories about Theros draft; but I want to convince you, not have you blindly trust me. You should take the trouble to examine if my ideas are in concordance with reality, and to do that, you need to watch the games I play with the decks I draft.

Validation is not about my results only. Certainly, it says something that I was able to win two of my four 8-4 drafts so far and reach the finals of another. This is especially true because I am not that great a player, pointing towards my decks being strong enough to carry me to victory without overly clever input from me. But variance is still going strong in Magic, and the sample size of my published drafts is obviously rather small. (Also, you might not trust me when I assure you that I published all drafts I recorded instead of selecting those where I did better.)

To be really able to judge the advisability of my draft strategy – and, more importantly, to fully understand it, so that you can implement it yourself! – you need to see for yourself how my games shaped up; how I won, and how I lost. Were the perceived strengths of my decks responsible for carrying me to victory? Did they sport weaknesses which caused their downfall?

Assessing how lucky I was when I won, and how unlucky when I lost, puts my results in perspective. (Also, if a clear misplay might have decided a game, as in my first game first round first draft, when I overlooked on my last turn that my [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] could have attacked for the possible win, you need to seperate a player’s shortcomings from those of their deck.) Still, even if you find that the validity of my ideas has been confirmed, this should not be enough for you: Only seeing how and why they work imparts the necessary understanding to put them into practice yourself, adjust them to specific situations, and improve on them.

That is why I took the time and effort to upload all matches in addition to the drafts, and why I will not go on publishing only the drafts themselves, even though this would go a LOT faster: Seeing how my decks actually play gives my draft analysis the necessary context. You can fast-forward those videos, if you like, which also has the merit of saving you from my blathering, but you should make sure to understand how these games unfold, or you aren’t taking away as much from my drafts as you should.

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