This might or might not have been my last Theros-only draft. I am half-heartedly resolved to focus on other things than Magic for a while and return to drafting when the next set enters the environment. Also, the format begins to feel a little worn out to me after several dozen drafts. It’s fascinating, though, that some people allowed to publish on major Magic sites like this clueless guy here still don’t get it after about two months!
See, I have not only been winning a fair share of my matches overall with my drafting philosophy, with a spike in the beginning, when the set was fresh and many people fell for the LSV/Sutcliffe/Görtzen misinformation conspiracy, so that I could „make money“ in 8-4s for a while; and then settling for the slow drain of a ca. 70% win percentage in swiss drafts, which meant I was effectively paying for my drafts again, but very little. I also observed that the decks I lost to looked and played stunningly like the ones I drafted and built. I lost to Traveling Philosopher and Bronze Sable a lot, but almost never to Silent Artisan or Burnished Hart (okay, I’m not sure how often I even saw the former, but the latter I encountered very frequently), and I don’t remember ever forfeiting a match to a three- (or more) colored abomination (although some single games, which I found frustratingly enough), with which I was confronted commonly.
The dynamics I had envisioned for this environment have become reality: It is fast, requires board presence, and rewards actively trying to win the game with big plays, with UB constituting the only archetype being able to somehow comfortably play for the real lategame. Decks which durdle around or clump on generic chaff in the 4-6 mana range like Borderland Minotaur or Vulpine Goliath just do not beat either hyper-aggressive decks, strongly synergistic decks, focussed tempo decks or the UB control deck.
The following winning list is somehow symptomatic for this environment:
The deck showcases very nicely how weak single cards can be you get away playing with if you have a clear focus, a low curve, the right amount of creature enhancers (WAY more than Simon Görtzen would have you believe) and strong synergies. See those two copies each of Priest of Iroas and Bronze Sable, two of the most-maligned commons? If you tried your hands at RW aggro and never quite got it to work, maybe it was because you played Lagonna-Band Elder, Borderland Minotaur, Setessan Griffin and an extra land instead. (I know some people would.)
This deck also shows the progression from the all-in RW heroic design Caleb Durward once described. Just as I predicted, that style didn’t last long once it became known, because its key cards came into higher demand, and people learned to have answers for single big heroic threats ready. There are still heroic elements in here, but it’s only four creatures: Akroan Crusader (which did a good job), Arena Athlete (which did a great job), Phalanx Leader (which did a stellar job) and Labyrinth Champion (which I failed to draw even a single time). Instead, I have more generic creatures, encasing my heroic synergies in a traditional beatdown approach instead of solely focussing on them. A crucial pick in my draft demonstrates this nicely, when I took Coordinated Assault over Wingsteed Rider at the beginning of the second booster round, since at that time I already knew that my deck was heading into a direction where it needed the instant more. (In a vacuum, I would pick the Rider instead.) I could often simply overrun my opponent with lightning-fast starts backed up by enhancers, and if they managed to stem the early bleeding, that cost them the resources to deal with the big play I could follow my early offense up with.
To conclude this entry, let me describe how the final game of this draft went: My BW opponent started with Asphodel Wanderer into Ordeal of Erebos. My 2nd turn Akroan Hoplite on the draw looked glacially slow in comparison, and was even stopped by his follow-up of Baleful Eidolon, with which it traded when it attacked. Things looked really grim for me then. On my next turn, I put Satyr Rambler and Priest of Iroas into play and braced for the impact of the Wanderer and the sacrificed Ordeal, to which I discarded Mountain and Bronze Sable and was now down to two cards in hand.
On my next turn, I drew a second Plains and could now play my Phalanx Leader. I also got my first damge in with Rambler and Priest, putting my opponent to 17. Of course, he hit me back with his Wanderer, and I was now at 7 life, facing a 4/4 regenerator. However, my opponent was stuck on three lands, and either could not play anything else (not too unlikely, since I guess his deck was rather slow overall and just had a lucky godly start) or did not want to tap out to preserve the option of regenerating the Wanderer (although there are very few scenarios where this would come up after his attack).
I then drew the Last Breath I had sided in and which I had hoped to draw before his Wanderer spiralled out of control. It may seem useless at that time – but it was actually a superb draw, since the other card in my hand was Ordeal of Heliod! So, I put the Ordeal on my Leader, then targetted it with the Breath, which got countered on resolution. Then I attacked with everything. The Ordeal triggered, and suddenly I was back at 17 life, beating my opponent down to 6 with a 3/3 Priest, a 4/3 Rambler and a 4/4 Leader! My opponent conceded here – a bit prematurely, but I can see his point…
Just in case that this is my last entry this year, let me raise my imaginary glass and bring out a toast: Here’s to Bronze Sable!