Schlagwort-Archiv: Draft

Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad aus deutscher Sicht

Ich hatte ja gesagt, wenn mir etwas einfällt, worüber auf Deutsch zu bloggen mir sinnvoll erscheint, dann werde ich das hier auch tun, also tue ich es hiermit! Okay, eigentlich hatte ich nicht wirklich einen Blogeintrag zu diesem Thema geplant, aber nachdem ich mir den größten Teil der Arbeit aus Neugierde eh bereits gemacht hatte, kann ich auch gleich einen Post daraus fabrizieren.

Zugegeben, der Niedergang des deutschen Magic interessiert außer mir kaum noch jemanden, und angesichts der jüngsten Verlautbarung zum Thema „professionelles Magic“ dürfte sich das Problem eh in absehbarer Zeit von selbst erledigen, aber ich habe das Abschneiden der deutschen Spieler bei der Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in tabellarischer Form festgehalten und ausgewertet und teile die Ergebnisse nun mit euch. Dabei verlasse ich mich bei der Zuordnung der Nationalitäten auf die Informationen aus der Coverage – bei Pro Touren ist diese im Gegensatz zu Grand Prixs eigentlich recht zuverlässig. Für die exakte Schreibweise der Namen dürfte das nicht gelten, aber der Einfachheit halber habe ich auch hier die in der Coverage verwendeten Schreibungen übernommen.

Die Pro Tour hatte 378 Teilnehmer, darunter 14 Deutsche. Gespielt wurden jeweils 3 Runden Draft gefolgt von 5 Runden Standard an Tag eins und zwei; am dritten Tag spielten die Top 8 im K.O.-System den Sieger aus. Für einen Matchsieg erhielt ein Spieler an Tag eins oder zwei 3 Punkte, für ein Unentschieden (kam bei den deutschen Teilnehmern nicht vor) 1 Punkt, für eine Niederlage 0 Punkte. Am Ende des ersten Tages schieden alle Spieler mit weniger als 12 Punkten aus. Teilnehmer, die keine Möglichkeit mehr sahen, ein erstrebenswertes Ziel zu erreichen, schieden häufig freilwillig aus („droppten“).

Meine erste Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der einzelnen deutschen Spieler im Turnier:

Stats1

Sieben von vierzehn Deutschen (50%) erreichten also Tag zwei. Insgesamt gelang dies 236 der 378 Teilnehmer (62,43%). Wir haben hier demnach weit unterdurchschnittlich abgeschnitten – schon ziemlich peinlich für eine einst große Magic-Nation!

Meine zweite Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der deutschen Teilnehmer insgesamt, aufgeschlüsselt nach den vier einzelnen Abschnitten der Pro Tour (okay, eigentlich waren es ja fünf, aber in den Top 8 war ja kein deutscher Spieler vertreten), und in Blöcken nach Format bzw. Tag zusammengefasst:

Stats2JPG

Dabei sind die interessanten Werte jeweils diejenigen, welche „Punkte pro Runde“ angeben. Lässt man Unentschieden außen vor, so befindet sich deren turnierweiter Durchschnitt offensichtlich bei 1,5. Auch hier zeigt sich, wie weit unterdurchschnittlich die deutschen Teilnehmer liegen. Dabei erscheinen die Unterschiede zwischen Tag eins und Tag zwei nicht allzu signifikant – wohl aber diejenigen zwischen Draft und Standard! Während Deutschland im Constructed-Format nur knapp den Durchschnittswert unterschreitet, offenbart es im Draft massive Defizite. Die Ergebnisse von vierzehn Spielern bei einem Turnier sind natürlich nur bedingt repräsentativ, aber der Ausschlag nach unten ist doch schon ziemlich deutlich, und irgendwie passt er auch zur „Generation Toffel“, die dem strategischen Gehalt von Limited-Content völlig unkritisch gegenübersteht, weil es ihr nur darauf ankommt, von Clownerien unterhalten zu werden. Decklisten zu kopieren und spielen zu üben, das reicht für durchschnittliche Ergebnisse auf Pro-Tour-Niveau aus, aber das Verständnis für die Dynamiken eines Draft-Environments erlangt man nicht durch Daddeln allein.

Insgesamt positiv hervorzuheben ist allerdings zumindest der kontinuierliche Erfolg von Patrick Dickmann, der uns zuletzt die erste Pro Tour Top 8 mit deutscher Beteiligung seit gefühlten Ewigkeiten beschert hatte, und der mit seinem guten Abschneiden hier in Madrid als erster (und sehr wahrscheinlich einziger) deutscher Spieler die Schwelle zum Gold-Pro nächstes Jahr überschritten hat! Zu schade, dass dieser ganze Aufwand die Mühe nun wohl nicht mehr wert gewesen sein wird…

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Oath of the Gatewatch in my Limited Card Pool

Eleven days into the new year, and MagicBlogs has yet to show any signs of life. That’s not an auspicious start into 2016…

Well, I’ll have to go ahead again, I guess. It may have become something of a tradition for me to completely overhaul my Limited Card Pool during the „days between the years“, and I did that before the official spoiler for Oath of the Gatewatch came out. That meant re-evaluating what was in my pool, but just as importantly, also all the stuff that was not – sometimes cards got lost in earlier crunchs for reasons which no longer applied, and sometimes I might have simply changed my opinion on cards in the meantime. Going over a little more than 2000 cards in my pool is already quite a lot of work, but closely looking at all cards ever printed just isn’t something I can do more often than once a year.

This is not to say that my main goal was adding stuff I had overlooked – to the contrary, I obviously had to concentrate on trimming down my pool to make room for new cards instead. I really don’t know which number of cards is ideal as an upper limit, but there needs to be one. It’s hard to cut perfectly serviceable cards, though. It’s even harder to say goodbye to complete mechanics, even if they never really worked out, like spiritcraft. Interestingly, I cut the precursor cards to surge – Skyshroud Condor and Illusory Angel – just before Oath of the Gatewatch would introduce that mechanic, because I realized that they didn’t play especially well.

I will not talk in more detail about the changes I made then – for the (very) few interested, there is an XLS document at the end of this entry with my complete, up-to-date Limited Card Pool list. Instead, I will focus on the influence which Oath of the Gatewatch had. Turns out that is quite a lot of influence, which is astonishing, given that I consider three of the four major mechanics from this set mostly a failure! However, the fourth delivers in spades, and there are just a lot of really interesting designs in this set – mostly at common and uncommon, so I was pleasantly surprised with the official spoiler after all those boring rares and mythic rares previewed before.

I will break down the new inductees systematically:

1. Grey

(„Grey“ is how I refer to cards requiring colorless mana.)

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I am really disappointed with the way Wizards are treating Grey. Mark Rosewater has made it clear that it will be a very rare occurence going forward, and since there will be no more of it in the foreseeable future, they made sure it will have an impact coming from a single expansion only. That, of course, means that nearly all of these designs are just too powerful for Next Level Cubes. There just aren’t enough usable cards – if any at all – requiring colorless mana to cast to make it worth including specific colorlessfixing in a cube. That is why I concentrated on cards which can be played somehow reasonably without colorless mana, but have activated abilities requiring it. Even here, there aren’t a lot of usable designs (and most annoyingly, not a single white one). So this is all I got from the most groundbreaking innovation in Magic design since Alpha: A couple of uncommons (I intend to use all of these cards at that rarity) which might encourage drafters to use a little more colorless mana producers than usual. This is nowhere near to creating a desire to draft Wastes, and nowhere near to necessitate the inclusion of additional land cycles producing colorless mana (okay, I’m not too unhappy with that – filterlands are terribly expensive, after all!)

My only concessions to Gray thus were adding Blasted Landscape to my cycle of cycling lands, and replacing Mana Confluence with Grand Coliseum. Other than that, I will just throw these cards into my cubes if I feel like it and have players figure out if their decks support the Grey-Splash without too much trouble, and how bad it would be to play those cards without getting it. The reward is certainly there, and drafters may be encouraged to pick up that Crystal Vein or Pristine Talisman they might otherwise not have been interested in, but their main decision is not if it makes sense to „go grey“ in draft, but if the potential upside of those cards is worth the risks of not reliably getting colorless mana to use their abilities.

2. Allies

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So this is the main retribution from Oath of the Gatewatch to my pool! Allies were still a rather underdeveloped theme before, but got a major boost now. One thing got even more obvious: Unlike with slivers, there is no hope to achieve even the semblance of a balance between colors with them. (And I really don’t get why Blue almost completely refuses to participate, when even Black does its part.) It’s important to note, though, that (like with slivers) just having the creature type „ally“ must be considered to be mechanically relevant. To a certain extent, that is true for all creature types with tribal cards, but allies and slivers take this to another level. Nonetheless, „passive“ allies still have to be useful without tribal support (Stonework Puma being an exception which works because any player can pick it up to enhance their ally theme), and thus compete in the crunch with other generically useful cards.

Cohort as a counterpoint to the aggressive rally might actually be a good idea, by the way – I’m not clear yet how this will work in the official draft environment, but it seems like a great tool to round out the ally theme in Next Level Cubes at the least.

3. Support

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Support seems mightily lame for a keyword – it could just have been spelled out on a few cards which wanted that effect. However, it turns out that this mechanic originally could also put loyalty counters on planeswalkers and was then crippled by development. In its intended form, I admittedly would have liked it even less, but at least it would have merited a keyword.

There are plenty more interesting mechanics putting counters on creatures, so I really wasn’t interested in support as a keyword. I like the white common as a cantrip and the green as a smaller version of Stand Together, while the uncommon is mainly another badly needed green removal spell.

4. Surge

I use no cards with surge.

While I’m not against the basic idea of this mechanic, its execution failed to convince me, just like converge did. The challenge is to meet standards of elegance, playing interestingly and hitting the right power level; and with a mechanic as specific as this, there should be several cards using it to help set the tone of a draft environment, so even if I liked a single one a lot (I don’t) it would be a poor choice for my pool.

5. Artifact synergies

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I’m of course aware that colorless synergies and artifact synergies are not the same thing, but they overlap enough that it makes sense to use a few of the former to flesh out the latter.

I want to use the Ruins as an uncommon, and Reaver Drone as a common.

6. Multicolor replacements

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I have a fixed number of slots for (more or less) generic multicolor cards, and there is still room for optimization. These cards replace designs I’m less enthused with.

I hope Jori-En does not turn out too powerful. I will try it as an uncommon. If that doesn’t work out, I will probably remove it completely.

7. Other replacements

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The Cloak introduces menace to my equipment selection. It replaces Angelic Armaments, fulfilling their role even a bit better.

The Lantern replaces Darksteel Pendant, offering more versatility.

The Visions replace Clinging Darkness. They are a cool design on a good power level. I will use them at common, since Black should have plenty strong removal.

The Endurance replaces Boon of Erebos. While I’m okay with Black paying life for efficient spells, the Boon does not need that additional cost to be balanced, so I go with the more elegant design.

The Vines replace Shape the Sands simply because they are more likely to do what you want that card to do.

8. Miscellaneous

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The Warden hits a good spot as a generic manaproducing creature. It’s also useable as a staple common (see my explanation at the end).

Linvala looks like a powerful, but fair rare to me – a great comeback card, but less impressive when you’re not behind on board. Maybe I underestimate her, though.

The Caller does something cool for a reasonable price with a reasonable restriction and has unusual stats for a black creature (at least in my pool).

The Strike seemed at first a bit redundant with Murder to me, but at one mana more and at sorcery speed it can work as a common (I now use Murder as an uncommon because it’s so efficient), and both being splashable and exiling the creature set it sufficiently apart – even though my cubes avoid the amount of graveyard recursion which would make such effects necessary, exiling creatures is still useful, and I like to have a few cards which do it.

The red cantrip is exactly what I had always wished Accelerate were, but without the strange rider from Crimson Wisps.

Finally, the Pulse is on one hand a Regrowth variant, and will be mainly used for that – but more importantly to me, it is a playable lifegain card! These are incredibly hard to come by, so I am happy I can use this.

My updated list

I’m at 2063 cards now (not counting the basic lands). As you can see, I use a lot of tags to make it easier to find cards with certain qualities, but obviously that system isn’t perfect (and there may be glaring oversights).

I dropped the „mythic“ rarity again, since I only used it in very strictly defined cases, and those were few enough that it wasn’t necessary to make these cards actually rarer than rare.

„Common“, „uncommon“ and „rare“ are again my default rarities for Next Level Cubes, while I have modified „staple“ to be a subset of the commons instead of a separate rarity: It now means that this is a common which could make sense as a staple (defined as a card guaranteed to be in the draft pool even if not all commons are) if I use that concept in a cube, but doesn’t need to be even if I do, depending on the specific cube. That is different from the three „real“ rarities which, while not set in stone, are (again) intended to be strong guidelines I will only stray from very infrequently, if at all. (The numbers before the letters „S“, „C“, „U“ & „R“ are for sorting purposes, just like the asterisks before the color / card type indicator.)

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

LimitedCardPoolOGW

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I’m outta Standard again

Roughly one year ago, when Khans of Tarkir came to Magic Online, I decided that I would get into Standard again. The main reason for this was that, thanks to a very generous longtime reader who gifted me his well-stocked account, I suddenly had the necessary resources at my disposal. The deciding motivational factor, however, was that I wanted to be able to produce more varied content for the now defunct German site Magic Universe by chronicling my Standard endeavors.

As it turned out, I had some fun building and tuning a few decks and learning to play them, and I even reached the point where I was confident that I had found my own tier-1 deck whose strength was only diluted by its pilot’s lack of skills. That was before Magic Origins, however, and then I suddenly found myself unable to use Magic Online for a few months, and when I finally returned I had essentially missed drafting that set and would have been required to buy everything I needed for Standard (which mostly meant four each of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Hangarback Walker and Abbot of Keral Keep; plus a couple of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Liliana, Heretical Healer, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Languish).

Initially, I had planned to get most of the cards I needed for Standard via drafting, and that had worked out reasonably well in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged, but I was already quite a bit behind in Dragons of Tarkir. Now, outright buying cards from Magic Origins just didn’t feel right and made me ponder how much I really wanted to keep playing Standard, now that my stint as editor of Magic Universe was over. As it turned out: Not very much. Yes, building and tuning decks would still be fun for me, but I realized that I would not play that format nearly enough to justify spending this much money on it. Even so far I had only entered 2-men-queues when I had run out of boosters, and then just played until I won enough so that I could draft again. Now, with the introduction of play points that wasn’t even possible anymore.

I delayed that decision (or, more precisely, consciously thinking about it) for a while, drafting Battle for Zendikar and selling all valuable cards immediately with the reasoning that, on average, I would be able to rebuy them later for less. Finally, though, it dawned on me that, by this exact logic, I was burning money maintaining a card pool for Standard (or even just one or two decks) while almost never actually playing it. While it is true that in the long run it is a lot more cost-efficient to play Standard instead of Draft, and while I was overall probably barely good enough to even make a small profit from it on average (owing to my deckbuilding skills, certainly not to my play skills), I would have needed to play it roughly a hundred times as often as I was willing to, just to break even with regards to my financial loss from buying cards when everyone needed them, and later selling them when noone did.

So I decided to sell my collection while most of it was still valuable – and boy, had there been money tied up in it! I am probably a bit in the red compared to where I was before I entered Standard (and even a bit more compared to what would have been if I had immediately sold all valuable cards), but I mostly recouped my losses and am now ticket-rich again, so that I can probably keep drafting until the end of my days unless my win ratio drops sharply – which it might, though, since I play a little worse every year, but what can you do about aging?

I also gave up the idea of trying out Pauper. It might be the most cost-efficient format, but I am just not really interested in it, and since the Magic Online bottleneck for me is time, not tickets (that time as much restricted by the server allowing me to play without lag or disconnects as by my own schedule), there is simply no reason left to do anything else with that program than what I like most to do with it: Draft!

 

Oh, and totally unrelated another mini-update to my Limited Card Pool: I realized Common Bond was too close to Abzan Charm for my taste, so I replaced it with Reap What Is Sown, and subsequently Sigil Blessing with Gerrard’s Command to keep my Selesnya instants more different from each other.

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A few Snippets about This and That

I will continue my series about CML’s eye-opening blog post when I have a little more time, and just keep this blog going with a few things on my mind right now.

But let me at least address a few remarks from the comment section of my latest entry: I have no idea why someone who writes about Magic needs to be compared with Hunter S. Thompson (and it’s actually already saying something good if he is), and I also never claimed CML was a „great writer“ – although, to be fair, if you hold him to reasonable standards pertaining Magic articles, that is a very defensible position. Interestingly, I consciously declined to praise his writing style too much to avoid that very comparison to „serious“ writers, understating his abilities by only saying that he writes „quite well“. That is most certainly true even for „serious“ writing (albeit not necessarily for the highest publishing standards), but there should be nothing left to discuss considering we are talking about Magic articles here!

Regarding „real“ professional sports and the opporunity to make big money there: I admit I was thinking of conventional, physical sports here, like football, basketball or tennis. I have next to none knowledge about the e-sports scene. However, I would still be surprised if the higher payouts and the more professional sponsoring there wouldn’t enable at least a few of the top players to actually make enough money during their active time to set it aside (I’m not talking about „retiring“ afterwards, though, just coming out ahead). Anyway, the comparison between e-sports and Magic is better suited to highlight the value WotC places on their professional tournaments, which will probably be the topic of my next entry in that series. By the way, there seems to be at least some interest for this, judging by the fact that I actually got a few comments. Sadly, this is already remarkable! Just compare with the number of comments which the latest few articles on PlanetMTG – the only left publishing platform for editorial German Magic content – got:

PlanetMTG

In the meanwhile, I have done a couple of Battle for Zendikar drafts – seven, to be precise. I won two of them, went 2-1 in four more and would very probably have gone 2-1 in the seventh as well, if MTGO hadn’t decided to stop me from playing in the last round while I was 1-0 in the lead and in a very strong position in the second game. When I write this, I have been filing for reimbursement over 16 hours ago and not got an answer yet (other than the automatically generated email) – this used to go a lot faster a year or so ago! But alas, even one of the few things MTGO was to be commended for (fast reimbursement) has gone bad now.

These were my two winning decks:

Dimir

Azorius

Most of my other drafts I was more focussed on aggression, with Red and/or White as a foundation, and while I admittedly didn’t face the toughest opposition (and made several really stupid playing mistakes), my match losses were usually to back to back egregious instances of mana issues. Thus, I feel that overall I cannot really judge the format fairly yet, but my impression so far is that drafting it is fun, but playing the games rather annoying. It may be tainted by my frustration with the MTGO shuffler, though, which is having fun colorscrewing my two-color decks every second game (not even including the ones where I’m generally manascrewed), while my opponents lay down a third turn 3/4 Tajuru Stalwart off a splashed rare land every second game (alright, that is probably not the frequency that this really happens, but it feels that way). I just absoulutely hate it when I build my deck for consistency and am still struggling to cast my spells, while my opponents seemingly run haphazard mana bases without issues…

Objectively, though, I shouldn’t complain. I have a very decent win ratio so far, and in my very first draft I managed to grab a couple of (then-) money rares and sold them immediately afterwards, when they were still absurdly expensive. I never opened anything really valuable again, though, but I was one of the lucky recipients of the mistakenly awarded Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – those were supposed to be use- and worthless avatars, but some moron at WotC mixed those up, to the delight of some players and the dismay of most traders. I even managed to sell it before its price plummeted!

As for the dynamics of Battle for Zendikar draft: The format seems medium fast. You probably do not want to put some of its really expensive spells in your deck if you do not have a good plan how to support them, but you are also not required to run mediocre 2-drops if you do not intend to be aggressive, and most 2-drops are actually actively bad if you do not specifically focus on ending the game fast and being able to break through a solid defense. The colors seem reasonably balanced to me so far, but unfortunately the booster packs aren’t – some drafters are going to end up with five or more bomb-level picks, while others stare at empty packs each firstpick which do not even contain a good common. On the bright side, though, reading signals seems to work well, and thus you should usually get access to enough picks in your colors that you can finetune your deck for focus, curve and synergies, while still being able to snatch up a few useful sideboard cards and extra full-art lands.

Finally, an addendum to my Battle for Zendikar Limited Pool update: I decided to give Swarm Surge a chance as a black card synergizing with artifacts. Without eldrazi scion tokens, it will not be too exciting, but Black really needs it.

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Battle for Zendikar update to my Limited Card Pool

If you do not know what this is about, click here!

Lands

Ally Encampment
Blighted Cataract
Blighted Fen
Blighted Gorge

I already talked about those lands here. I decided to remove Tolaria West now that I have the Cataract, since I never really liked the tutoring, but keep Soldevi Excavations.

Colorless (non-devoid)

Kozilek’s Channeler
Bane of Bala Ged
Eldrazi Devastator
Hedron Archive
Gruesome Slaughter

The Channeler will replace Stone Golem, the Bane Triskelavus and the Devastator Sundering Titan: One interesting and reasonable upgrade, and two replacements of cards which were always second-rate solutions. I didn’t like the Archive at first, with both modes being overcosted, but every deck that wants Thran Dynamo will also not be too unhappy with the Archive, and its two uses make it playable. The Slaughter is a nice artifact synergy card to me, even though colorless cards and artifact cards are of course not the same, but the overlap is large enough that this makes sense. I chose a couple more colorless synergy cards for the same reasons.

Artifact synergy

Skitterskin
Nettle Drone
Molten Nursery
Forerunner of Slaughter
Herald of Kozilek

I was happy to get another artifact synergy card in Black with Skitterskin, and the Drone and the Nursery replaced the lackluster Rustmouth Ogre and the awkward Forge Armor I also decided to extend artifact synergies to two-colored cards, adding not only Forerunner and Herald, but also Ethersworn Shieldmage and Reclusive Artificer, and hoping that Oath of the Gatewatch will have a few more.

Allies

Expedition Envoy
Kor Bladewhirl
Lantern Scout
Makindi Patrol
Hero of Goma Fada
Kor Entanglers
Kalastria Healer
Zulaport Cutthroat
Hagra Sharpshooter
Tajuru Warcaller
Tajuru Beastmaster
Coralhelm Guide
Firemantle Mage
Chasm Guide
Ondu Champion

I don’t like that the new allies work differently from the old ones, but I will make the best of it. I removed all allies with abilities which affected only allies (unless they were putting +1/+1 counters on allies) and replaced them with rally variants, but kept those which counted allies for an effect. I also now include a few cards specifically because they are allies – even without an ally-related ability – in addition to Stonework Puma. All of those – the Envoy (taking over from Elite Vanguard), the Cutthroat, the Sharpshooter and the Guide – make also sense in cubes without ally synergies, but would probably not have made the crunch without that creature type. I also used the opportunity to get rid of Bojuka Brigand and Nimana Sell-Sword, which are strictly inferior versions of green allies.

Landfall

Ondu Greathorn
Retreat to Emeria
Retreat to Hagra
Scythe Leopard
Snapping Gnarlid
Retreat to Kazandu
Wave-Wing Elemental
Retreat to Coralhelm
Valakut Predator
Retreat to Valakut

Landfall isn’t a theme which needs too much density, so I could be rather picky here – at least in Red and Green. I decided to use all five Retreats to make sure I have enough landfall on non-creatures, to support the colors with fewer attractive options, and because their abilities are not all focussed on attacking. However, that meant that Grazing Gladehart and Zendikar’s Roil had to go for being too similar with some Retreats. I also took out Zektar Shrine Expedition, which I never liked too much because I wanted my landfall-enchantments to do non-creature stuff. As for the creatures, I preferred very simple abilities not requiring additional mana. Hedron Rover got the boot for being too similar (and vastly inferior) to the Predator.

Miscellaneous

Quarantine Field
Roil’s Retribution
Seek the Wilds
Vestige of Emrakul
Turn Against

There is room in my pool for the Field because I use Journey to Nowhere instead of Oblivion Ring or Banishing Light, and the scalable version should play interestingly. The Retribution is fairly unique (at least in White, where this effect belongs), and the Seek weakly supports a land theme and might serve as a kind of green Impulse in general. The Vestige replaces the vanilla Highland Giant which is just too far below the curve nowadays, and Turn Against shoves out Ray of Command which Blue neither needs nor deserves (but the effect was too cool to go unused).

As usual, I will not explain why I NOT chose cards unless specifically asked – so, if you are curious why some cards didn’t make the cut, just ask me in the comments!

You can download my complete updated Limited Card Pool below as a spreadsheet in XLS format. The columns show card name, converted mana cost, a card type code I use for easier sorting, an abbreviation for card rarity, and some tags I use to facilitate cube-building. My type code uses „Klar“ for colorless cards and those affiliated with all five colors, and otherwise the German names for single-colored cards and the established names for color pairs and triples. The color function of cards in a cube trumps technically correct color definition here. „L“ denotes lands, „K“ creatures, „J“ other permanent types, and „I“ instants and sorceries. The asterisks are only there for sorting purposes. The rarities are (ordered from high to low frequency) „S“ for staple, „C“ for commons, „U“ for uncommon, „R“ for rare and „M“ for mythic. That there are five rarity categories does not mean that every cube I build will use them all. Note that I changed the concept for the rarity I give in that spreadsheet: It is no longer defined as the projected most likely rarity of a card in a cube (although it will often happen to be), but the lowest rarity which I believe could make sense in a cube I build. The exception here are mythics, which can always be downgraded to rare. I will always use at least three rarities, maybe not for single card frequencies, but for collation purposes.

My Limited Card Pool in XLS format

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Lands in Next Level Cubes – Part 3

(Well, I let you wait for this entry a lot longer than I intended. But, you know, there were reasons, and one good thing about blogging is that I am not beholden to any tight schedule unless I impose it on myself. So let’s just pretend this series went on without any noticeable interruption, shall we?)

After discussing lands affiliated with three or more colors, and then with two colors, in this entry I will get to „monocolored“ lands. Technically, this includes Plains, Swamp, Forest, Island and Mountain, but obviously we will only have to talk about the remaining five basic lands.

I didn’t spell it out clearly before, so I’ll do it now: There are a couple of lands I’m not using on principle. First, there are non-basics with basic land types, because of unwanted interactions (also, the existing designs tend to be either too strong or too weak anyway). Let’s get those out of the way right away.

Nonbasics with basic land types

Mistveil Plains
Leechridden Swamp
Dryad Arbor
Sapseep Forest
Moonring Island
Madblind Mountain

Realizing how dangerous this kind of land is, Wizards made the Shadowmoor cycle supremely unattractive. Dryad Arbor actually plays reasonably in limited, but it is certainly not an important element, and even less grounds for an exception to the rule to leave such lands out.

Another kind of land I do not use is the legendary ones. Now, admittedly this is more of a pet quirk of mine than any important principle. However, I found that I did not want most legendary lands on their own anyway; Wizards have consciously been printing a lot less of them lately; and I also noted that most players simply are not aware that lands habe a type line just like other cards.

Now, regarding that last concern, I know it is close to insignificant right now for me, because of no basic land types on nonbasics, and because I do not use any cards specifically referring to legendary permanents (another pet quirk of mine – it comes down to culling unneccessary complexity of card evaluation for little interaction). As far as I am aware, the only card in my pool which specifically interacts with legendary lands is Vesuva. It’s also not impossible that I revise my stance if a couple really well designed legendary lands are printed (with Battle of Zendikar on the horizon, this might happen rather soon…), but so far there are just not enough really attractive candidates that I feel I should.

Let’s take a look at the candidates in this category:

The lands from Legends

Hammerheim
Karakas
Pendelhaven
Tolaria
Urborg

All these cards do rather unique (or, let’s say, strange) things on largely different power levels. While I wouldn’t use the abilities of Karakas and Pendelhaven on principle for rules complexity reasons, the common denominator here is that all five cards are essentially clearly superior to basic lands, and while the very structure of drafts provides a counterbalance here, I believe this is still something to be avoided. Note, though, that I wouldn’t want to use a single of these lands even if that wasn’t a concern (the weaker three have irrelevant abilities in my cubes).

The lands from Champions of Kamigawa

Eiganjo Castle
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

I already mentioned that I do not use legendary-referring cards – the synergies don’t play well enough to justify an additional level of complexity. Even if did want a „legendary tribal“ theme, this cycle isn’t well balanced in itself, and the power level overall would be too high for lands. I might have thought differently a decade or so ago, but nowadays I wish the „legendary“ rider didn’t exist at all in game terms. It’s a crude tool producing strange interactions, and an additional card aspect the game doesn’t need.

The lands from Urza’s Saga

Gaea’s Cradle
Phyrexian Tower
Serra’s Sanctum
Shivan Gorge
Tolarian Academy

Three of these were designed to produce absurd amounts of mana under the right conditions, which isn’t something any limited environment should want. (I’m actually not sure about constructed, either…) The Tower is usable, but unexciting, and tied to Black with an ability which should have been „clear“. The Gorge is actually fine and one of the few legendary lands I might actually use, but I don’t really miss it either, espcially since I have Keldon Megaliths, which play a lot more interestingly.

The „megamegacycle“

Kor Haven
Keldon Necropolis
Teferi’s Isle
Volrath’s Stronghold
Yavimaya Hollow

Yes – these lands were actually meant to be part of a cycle which spanned five blocks! Obviously, they’re unusable as a cycle in a cube, with vastly varying power levels and the Isle using phasing. Also, two of them (Isle and Necropolis) are too weak to be attractive, while the others are way too strong. (Did you notice that you can still block and kill the creature affected by Kor Haven?)

The remaining legendary lands

Academy Ruins
Flagstones of Trokair
Kher Keep
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Tomb of Urami
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

The lands in this group are either too strange for limited play (Flagstones, Oboro, Urborg), or too strong (Ruins), or do something I do not want in my cubes (the Keep). The latter causes no issues powerlevelwise, but I decided against using cards which produce 0/1 tokens in general – yet another pet quirk of mine. Once again, the important thing to keep in mind is that a cube should contain cards you WANT to be in there; not cards which just COULD be in there.

 

„Splashable“ lands are yet another kind of lands I avoid – I already touched upon this when talking about Phyrexian Tower: These are lands which are, by design, color-affiliated, but might get played for their special abilities in decks not using that color. I like lands to either be completely clear (without an additional bonus for certain colors, like producing their mana) or „colored“.

There are a couple of strict cycles which may fall into this group, but right here I will address only the following cards:

Splashable lands

Kabira Crossroads
New Benalia
Sejiri Steppe
Bojuka Bog
Dakmor Salvage
Piranha Marsh
Khalni Garden
Llanowar Reborn
Turntimber Grove
Halimar Depths
Soaring Seacliff
Smoldering Spires
Teetering Peaks

These are mostly the two cycles from Zendikar and Worldwake, with three Future Sight lands added. Theoretically, there might be a power level zone where entering the battlefield tapped is too much of a disadvantage to splash these lands, but not big enough to exclude them from decks which can use the colored mana, but if that zone really exists, it is way too narrow to be useful, and these lands are either too weak or too easily splashed.

Strict cycles

The Snow-Covered Forest cycle
The Abandoned Outpost cycle
The Ancient Den cycle
The Barren Moor cycle *
The Bottomless Vault cycle
The Coral Atoll cycle
The Drifting Meadow cycle
The Dwarven Ruins cycle
The Fountain of Cho cycle
The Hickory Woodlot cycle
The Vivid Crag cycle *

(Once again, I use the term „cycle“ in this context to denote cycles where seeing one card makes it clear what exactly its other cards do.)

I already talked about snow: That theme would be underdeveloped even disregarding the difficulty of introducing snow basics into a draft environment. Doubling the number of basic lands in the game was one of the most stupid and shortsighted mistakes in Magic’s early era.

The Abandon Outpost cycle is obviously just a lot weaker than the Vivid Crag cycle, which is on the right power level to support small splashes in an environment encouraging mostly monocolored decks. Of course, it helps you get cards into your graveyard for purposes like threshold, but there are many more attrractive alternatives for this.

The Ancient Den cycle is another case of color-affiliated lands which would get played off-color, in this case for their card type. Running one Darksteel Citadel in your cube should be enough to offer this function to drafters.

The Barren Moor and Drifting Meadow cycle are obviously similar, but the first one is more efficient while requiring you to be solidly in a certain color, while the other is less efficient, but encourages you to use its members off-color or for optional splashes. I strongly prefer the first.

The Bottomless Vault cycle is inferior to the Fountain of Cho cycle, which is still very unattractive in limited environments (and once again very likely to be used off-color, if at all).

I like the Coral Atoll cycle more than the Ravnica block bouncelands (like Azorius Chancery) because they are not splashable, but they are still too clumsy.

The Dwarven Ruins cycle plays a lot better in limited than the Hickory Woodlot cycle, but there is once again the off-color issue, and Crystal Vein already does this job in a cleaner version.

The manlands

Forbidding Watchtower *
Spawning Pool *
Treetop Village *
Faerie Conclave *
Ghitu Encampment *

The members of this cycle are powerlevelwise a bit further apart than I’d like, but they are still an excellent option to provide drafters with lands which do more than just make mana, and a solid basis for any land-centric theme in a cube.

The hideaway lands

Windbrisk Heights
Howltooth Hollow
Mosswort Bridge
Shelldock Isle
Spinerock Knoll

Some of these are more appropriate for limited environments than others, but their mechanic is in general too swingy and too much buildaround in lands for my taste.

The threshold cycle

Nomad Stadium
Cabal Pit *
Centaur Garden
Cephalid Coliseum
Barbarian Ring

Except for the terrible white one, all of these lands are usable in cubes. However, I found that I cared less for having a cycle of them and more for supporting the threshold theme. Here, Green certainly didn’t need help. In Limited, Cabal Pit is mostly a more interesting variant of Barbarian Ring, and Cephalid Coliseum is both too close to Cephalid Sage, and taboo because it can mill an opponent (something I strictly forbid because it is an alternate win condition).

The sacrifice cycle

Kjeldoran Outpost *
Lake of the Dead
Heart of Yavimaya *
Soldevi Excavations *
Balduvian Trading Post

Again, I am not interested in a whole cycle of these lands, just in their utility. The Lake is too specialized for limited, while the Trading Post just didn’t make my crunch – I already have a couple red-affiliated lands in my pool, and the Trading Post’s ability is neiher feeling Red nor needed in that color. The others are fine, albeit a bit disparate in power level – the Heart makes a good common a green player can pick up late, while the Outpost is almost a bit too oppressive for a land.

The tribal lands

Daru Encampment *
Rustic Clachan
Unholy Grotto
Wirewood Lodge
Riptide Laboratory
Flamekin Village
Goblin Burrows *

The issue with the Clachan and the Village is that they are not really tribal cards – you might get a bonus from their synergy, but will probably gladly play them „off-tribal“ for their real ability. That is very bad design. The Grotto and the Laboratory are too powerful and annoying for lands in limited, while the Lodge on the other hand just doesn’t do enough to be worth a slot in a cube.

The miscellaneous rest

Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Cabal Coffers
Crypt of Agadeem
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Magosi, the Waterveil
Tolaria West *
Hellion Crucible *
Keldon Megaliths *
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Coffers, Crypt and Magosi do not do things too relevant in limited. Emeria and Valakut are too swingy, while Oran-Rief is just way too powerful for a land. Tolaria West helps a land theme, while Megaliths and Crucible are just interesting options for red players in general.

 

Let’s see when I will get to finish this series, shall we?

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Updating info about Two-Thirds Draft, Next Level Cubes and my Limited Card Pool

I did it – I’m finally through with rebuilding my Limited Card Pool! Well, minus the actual physical rebuilding, that is. But that is, of course, trivial – I finished updating my master list, which is the hard part. Oh, and I will never again make the mistake to cut the number of cards down too far! Updates to my pool always take a lot of time, but I usually do not have to look at every single card existing in the game anew, like I did this time.

Initially, I intended to start this series of blog entries by presenting the new inductees from Magic Origins, but I will push this back just one more time, because I believe I first need to update basic information on my Limited Card Pool, Next Level Cubes and Two-Thirds Draft, and thus create a new entry I can reference in the future.

So, here we go:

Two-Thirds Draft

Two-Thirds Draft is my solution to the issues which drafting with only four players presents – in short, either the draft pool is too small (meaning that players have an overall selection that is too narrow), or the number of cards which doesn’t get used is too high. My solution actually has three parts:

1. Eliminating too weak and too situational cards from the card pool. Real draft sets usually have a buffer consisting of a number of cards which are rarely needed for deckbuilding. I do not believe in general that those cards serve a useful purpose, and I certainly do not have room for them in my boosters.

2. Juggling the numbers very carefully. There are actually many knobs one can adjust (but which are interrelated): Total cube size, total draft pool size, number of cards per booster, number of specific rarity slots in boosters, frequency with which cards from different rarities show up in those slots, number of boosters each player opens, number of picks each player makes per booster round, number of different cards each players gets to choose from overall, number of cards drafted by each player. Oh, and at least one more that I didn’t want to touch: Minimum deck size. With only half the number of players compared to normal drafts, something has to give here, and I was looking for the best compromise.

3. Removing cards in boosters from the draft pool after players had the opportunity to draft them. These „additional“ cards – compared to the alternative of using boosters with fewer cards in them – present players with more options, and also prevent that drafters stuck with slightly overdrafted colors cannot fill up their decks, while not wasting time with the mechanical selection of latepicks which won’t get played anyway. (Also, since only one player gets to see which cards are removed from a booster, there is some welcome ambiguity about the cards players might face, even if they know for certain that these were in the draft pool.)

This is how Two-Thirds Draft works: First, you prepare 16 boosters of either 12 or 13 cards each. (I tend to prefer the latter lately, but 12-card-boosters work perfectly fine). Should your cube consist of two „subcubes“ – the equivalent of two different sets drafted in succession – you obviously prepare 8 boosters for each subcube. If your total cube/subcube size is larger than the total number of cards in the corresponding boosters, select the cards used in this draft randomly (but according to projected rarity, and taking heed of color balance).

For example, let’s say your cube is made of 128 commons and 128 uncommons, and you intend the uncommons to show up at half the frequency of that of the commons, so you prepare 16 12-card boosters each containing 8 commons and 4 commons.

You sort your commons into four piles: One contains colorless artifacts and white cards, one black and green cards, one blue and red cards, and one multicolored cards and lands (assuming those piles are of at least roughly similar size – if they aren’t, find a better distribution). You shuffle each of these piles separately, starting with those which contain more than 32 cards. Then you remove the excess cards (over 32) from those larger piles, shuffle those together and add them to the smaller piles until those also contain 32 cards each. You then shuffle those, too. You have now four randomized 32-card piles mostly containing cards of different colors. Put two cards from each pile into each booster (creating these boosters in the first place, unless you use some kind of actual wrapping or container). Then you repeat that process with the uncommons, but here you only put one card from each 32-card pile into each booster. The others won’t get drafted this time.

Of course, if you do not use different rarities / card frequencies, and if you don’t mind bad booster collation with clumps of cards from one color, you can just create a cube with 192 or 208 cards, shuffle everything together, then deal out your boosters and save time. However, more careful preparation rewards you with much better play value, which, in my opinion, is worth the extra time, and is also what Next Level Cubes are about in the first place! I actually use much more complex rarity schemes now, which I will talk about a bit later.

Once you have those 16 boosters prepared, you draft normally, with the following small changes: Obviously, with 4 boosters per player, you add an additional drafting round. So you alternate between one round passing to the left, one to the right, another to the left, and a final round to the right again. Also, when players get boosters with exactly five cards in them, they draft one of those cards as usual, but remove the rest from the draft facedown – that is the „third“ which doesn’t get drafted. (That procedure is the same for 12- and 13-card-boosters, mathematical inexactness aside.) At the end of the draft, each player now has 32-36 cards in his pool to build his deck from, as always being allowed to add non-snow basic lands as he wishes. (Actually, I hand each player a box with 15 of each basic land, but while I consider that practical, and it almost never makes a difference, there is no really important reason for that.)

After deckbuilding, players play best-of-three-matches round-robin style. And after that, your players will certainly help you to prepare your cube for the next draft by sorting the cards… right?

Next Level Cube

I used to call these „selfmade limited environments“ once, but have relented in the meanwhile, now that the term „cube“ is no longer restricted to haphazard collections of powerful cards. Still, I call my cubes Next Level Cubes to underscore that they adhere to certain guidelines:

1. The cube should resemble a typical limited environment – not constructed! – in both power level and draft approach.

2. The environment must be beginner-friendly, yet reward superior play and draft skills.

3. Gameplay should be interactive, and there must be no nearly impossibly to beat bombs.

4. There need to be many relevant draft decisions, and they should go beyond simply selecting your colors and choosing between an overall aggressive or defensive approach.

To achieve these goals, I developed certain tools and follow certain restrictions. Among the most important of those are the following:

1. I use a distribution of cards in my cubes which closely resembles the structure of a generic draft deck. This means well over 50% creatures, with ratios of mana slots akin to those of a good mana curve; enough good answers to strong threats; few situational cards; and no real unplayables at all. It also means there needs to be plenty manafixing.

2. I avoid cards exceeding a certain power level. I also make sure there are enough answers for all kinds of threats, while at the same time making sure that these answers are overall useful enough that they can reasonably be maindecked.

3. I weave a couple of themes into my cubes to allow players to find synergies. I’m conscious of the necessary density minimum of cards with such themes in the cube.

4. My cubes should possess enough variety that drafting doesn’t get stale after a couple of drafts. They’re not supposed to last for eternity, but should be fun for a dozen times or so.

5. As is customary for cubes, I do not want more than a single copy of each card in it to promote variety.

To build my cubes, I draw from a reservoir of cards I keep for this purpose: My Limited Card Pool.

As for gameplay, I adhere to the current rules of Magic: the Gathering, with two exceptions:

– Starting hand and maximum hand size is 8 instead of 7. While this would obviously be a problematic change for constructed, as well as for certain kinds of cubes, I found that on the typical limited power level this is an all-upside change, reducing the number and impact of mulligans, and thus vastly reducing the number of non-games, while having no adverse effect on gameplay or deckbuilding whatsoever (specifically, it’s no reasonable incentive to change your mana distribution). Note, though, that my cubes on principle neither allow for combo decks, nor contain single cards in search for which you’d want to mulligan. Also, they contain no cards which refer to the number of cards in a player’s hand, although I don’t think this would be too big an issue.

I will, additionally, adopt the new Vancouver mulligan rule, no matter if it becomes standard tournament procedure or not (although I am quite sure it will), since that is also all-upside in limited.

– Players are not required to keep their graveyard in the correct order. I do not use cards which care about graveyard order, and thus there is just no need.

As for the underlying skeleton of Next Level Cubes, I have experimented with a large number of configurations. While I can still think of simple cubes which do not need different rarities, and where all cards show up in the draft pool (meaning they consist of only 192-208 cards), I usually want more variety, with a total card number at least twice as high. I also want to take advantage of the rarity structure, which does many good things for limited – I might go into more detail here in a later entry. Just now I have also again begun to think about splitting my cubes into two subcubes to take advantage of the set structure – mixing two sets together is just not the same thing as drafting them in succession.

As an example, I plan to design my next cube in the following way:

Subcube A contains 264 cards: 8 Staples, 96 Commons, 96 Uncommons, 32 Rares and 32 Mythics, showing up with the respective frequencies of 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 and 1/4. That means that each of its boosters will contain 1 Staple, 6 Commons, 4 Uncommons, 1 Rare und 1 Mythic.

Subcube B contains 248 cards: 16 Staples, 96 Commons, 72 Uncommons and 64 Rares (no Mythics), showing up with the respective frequencies of 1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4. That means that each of its boosters will contain 2 Staples, 6 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 2 Rares.

Overall the cube will thus have 512 cards. Now what do I gain by dividing my cube up?

1. I can give each subset a different feel by choosing different themes, maybe even different color distributions. This would, of course, also influence draft dynamics.

2. I can finetune rarity distribution without having to split booster slots. For example, my overall 24 Staples take up 1.5 slots per booster on average. That’s certainly manageable, but I prefer whole numbers here.

3. I can mold the boosters to better go with typical draft flow. Subcube A offers Mythics and more Uncommons for players who like to draft around tempting cards. Subcube B offers more Staples to provide a foundation for the decks players now have committed to.

4. Players have a bit more information regarding which cards they can still expect to show up in the draft (providing they bothered to learn about the cube’s contents in advance).

I’ll have to see how this plays out in reality (which may take a while, given that I’ll first have to design that cube – and also acquire the cards I do not possess yet!) In any case it will be a challenging creative endeavour!

My Limited Card Pool

Right now, my master list for this pool contains 2076 cards, obviously not including basic lands. I will present that pool in future entries. The cards in it were chosen to allow for a variety of differently-playing cubes, just like real expansion sets, while at the same time avoiding too much redundancy. They are sorted by color, type, mana cost and name (although I have adapted those categories to my needs – for example, an artifact requiring red mana is listed as a red card). I also assign each card a rarity which often does not match its printed rarity. This used to be the projected rarity that card would most likely have in one of my cubes, but to reflect the higher fluidity in rarity distribution which my newer designs show, it is now the lowest possible rarity which makes sense to me – I can usually upgrade the rarity of a card to fit the needs of a cube, but there are good reasons why certain cards should not show up too frequently. I will probably write about that topic someday.

Because of my latest experience when I tried to restrict the number of cards in my Limited Card Pool to a set maximum, I’ll avoid that for the time being, but it should be obvious that I cannot forever add cards without removing others – after all, the point of this pool is to keep my collection manageable both in the physical and mental sense.

Alright – next time I talk about those Magic Origins cards which made it – I promise!

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I’ve Been Busy Elsewhere

My activity on 00zero has become very sparse lately, and while I’m certain this will change again some time, I feel no immediate pressure – that was the whole point of closing down Zeromagic and starting over at MagicBlogs, as you might remember.

However, just in case that you didn’t notice that I have been publishing Magic-related content elsewhere in the meanwhile, I wanted to assure you that I’m still alive, and link to those articles and videos! They’re in German, though, so if you’re one of my few (but existing) international readers unable to understand German, you might be disappointed – sorry!

All of these articles have appeared on Magic Universe.

Firstly, I wrote a three-part draft preview of Born of the Gods, where I discussed in great detail the dynamics of that environment. While some of my early card evaluations naturally were a little off the mark, I still believe that this series is a great place to start if you want to understand how to draft succesfully with this block.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Then I recorded two videos of drafts in that format, which turned out to be very instructive. I dubbed over my commentation afterwards to make sure that I could deliver a maximum of analysis.

Draft 1

Draft 2

Lastly (so far), there is another small draft preview series – only two parts this time – for Journey into Nyx. I tried to get a grasp of how the new set would change the dynamics of the environment, but found myself asking questions more than I could deliver answers. However, asking the right questions is an important first step of every analysis, and I made sure to really think about every single card before writing my statement about it, so I think these articles are a good read anyway, especially if you want to start a little ahead of the competition when exploring the new draft metagame.

Part 1

Part 2

As far as I can see, it is really likely that if I write about Magic over the next months, it will be in German and get published on Magic Universe (there might be the odd exception or two, though, if a topic isn’t suited for that site). Barring language issues, I hope you will follow my efforts there!

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Analysis of a video draft by Pierre Liebsch

Pierre asked me for feedback on his newest draft video at Magic Universe, but since we’re both publishing drafts there now (after endless delay, I really hope my video will finally be up tomorrow! – edit: and here it is!), I don’t think I should comment directly at that site. Instead, I decided to do a full-on analysis here at 00zero.

(Please note that all content on Magic Universe is in German.)

Drafting

First booster round:

Pick 1:

Bolt of Keranos seems the correct pick to me. However, I do not agree with Pierre that this booster is „below average“. With a reasonable selection of strong maindeck cards, albeit no outstanding first pick, this is rather typical Born of the Gods fare.

P2:

Picking Pinnacle of Rage is totally wrong here – Pierre completely overestimates a card I would only grudgingly maindeck at all! Better picks in order are Akroan Skyguard, Nyxborn Triton, Asphyxiate, Vanguard of Brimaz, Setessan Oathsworn, Rise to the Challenge & Mortal’s Resolve; all but the last one being cards which will generally make my maindeck in contrast to Pinnacle.

P3:

Pierre complains there is „no good red card“ – well, there IS a Nyxborn Rollicker, which is good, if not exciting, and Pharagax Giant is not bad as he says (it’s average), but of course the white cards are stronger. Picking Elite Skirmisher is fine, but with Oreskos Sun Guide as competition it’s close (and NOT „without competition“, as Pierre claims).

P4:

The triple-red mana cost in Fated Conflagration is a serious issue and should make one consider other options. I believe going with Archetype of Aggression would have been better here.

P5:

Taking Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to cut Red is okay.

P6:

God-Favored General is close to unplayable – I have no idea what put the idea in Pierre’s mind that this stinker was good at all! At this time, White does not seem to be open, so it might be a good idea to branch into Black with Felhide Brawler. Alternatively, one could take Springleaf Drum, which is a solid accelerator helping with awkward mana costs (like that of the Conflagration).

P7:

Okay, so maybe White IS open? You want the excellent 2-drop Akroan Skyguard over Akroan Phalanx, though, especially since Red should not be taken for granted at this time, with Bolt of Keranos the only really good card here (Conflagration might not make even a red deck if Red is not the primary color).

P8:

Taking Rise to the Challenge is okay, since Black (which offers the stronger Nyxborn Eidolon) is less likely to be played than White now.

P9:

I can see Mortal’s Ardor here, which might make a White-based deck short on tricks and heroic enablers, but I don’t think it would’ve been too late to pick up Nyxborn Eidolon here in case that Black might replace White or Red. Ardor would certainly be no big loss.

P10:

Excoriate is decidedly wrong; that’s a card no aggressive deck should ever maindeck. Due to the low creature count so far the correct pick would have been Reckless Reveler; with a different selection of cards in the pool, Rise to the Challenge would have been more attractive.

P11:

Another big fail: Taking the almost unplayable Siren Song Lyre over Pharagax Giant is wrong on principle, but especially with a low creature count!

Not much to say about the rest of the picks in the first booster round, but I’m irritated by Pierre hiding Hold at Bay immediately, seeing how he keeps way worse cards on display.

Second booster round:

Pick 1:

Lightning Strike over Heliod’s Emissary is wrong in general – Pierre obviously does not realize how valuable a card which so aggressively gets you closer to winning the game is! With his low creature count, a bad pick becomes a catastrophic one.

P2:

Wingsteed Rider is a good pick. At this time, it’s important to realize that Red as the main color has become distinctly less appealing, so the double-red cards in Pierre’s pool (other than Bolt of Keranos) must be considered expendable.

P3:

As strong as Wingsteed Rider is, and as urgently as Pierre needs creatures, this is an unbelievably terrible pick. A reliable removal for one mana like Chained to the Rocks can not be prized highly enough in this environment!

P4:

Getting another Wingsteed Rider is great, but now at the latest Pierre should have realized that White has become his main color, and evaluated his earlier picks accordingly.

P5:

Arena Athlete is the correct pick.

P6:

Lagonna-Band Elder is okay, but only because of Pierre’s still low creature count. When I draft RW, I usually notice early if I need a redundant 3-drop, and the Elder is one of the lowest options on my list here, so I will often be in a situation where I can go for the sideboard card (Ray of Dissolution).

P7:

As Pierre mentions, taking Ray of Dissolution would have been correct, but he prefers to goof around here for whatever reason. If you want to hatepick, there are actually good options, but as far as Opaline Unicorn is concerned: If soemeone wants to build a deck which needs it, LET HIM DO IT! Why prevent people from playing bad decks?

P8:

Flamespeaker Adept is reasonable here.

P9:

Leonin Snarecaster is the correct choice.

P11:

It’s simple: If Pierre thinks Akroan Crusader is bad, it does NOT mean that the card is bad, but rather that Pierre is! It also demonstrates Pierre’s unwillingness to improve, since he’s obviously aware that his assessment is unusual. The Crusader does not make every red deck, but in many builds it is a solid choice. By the way, it is especially hilarious that Pierre at the same time likes God-Favored General so much!

Not much more to say for this booster round.

Third booster round:

Pick 1:

Magma Jet is correct. What’s wrong is Pierre’s idea that this card was anywhere close to Divine Verdict in power level! For an aggressive (the vast majority) white deck which has come together as it should, the white card is something nice to have one copy of in the sideboard, and that’s it.

P2:

Coordinated Assault is still better than Observant Alseid. Third best choice would have been Chosen by Heliod.

P3:

Unless your RW deck is low on heroic and high on Two-Headed Cerberus / Flamespeaker Adept, it usually wants Chosen by Heliod over Titan’s Strength (if it isn’t short on power-enhancing cards overall). If it has no less than THREE Wingsteed Rider, there is no excuse to take the instant over the aura!

P4:

And again, it is wrong to pick Titan’s Strength, this time over the solid 2-drop Traveling Philosopher, which Pierre’s Deck needs more.

P5:

Deathbellow Raider is fine.

P6:

Last Breath is also fine. Note that with the three Riders, that card is actually reasonable in the maindeck!

P7:

Spearpoint Oread is fine again.

P8:

None of those cards constitutes an urgent hatepick, so it would have been correct to pick Silent Artisan for the sideboard (sometimes – rarely, but it happens! – you want the tough 5-drop).

P9:

Traveling Philosopher is fine.

P10:

Satyr Rambler is fine.

P11:

Hatepicking Felhide Minotaur makes some sense, but Pierre overrates the strength of that card against his deck. Wild Celebrants are a useful sideboard card, and that’s what he should have taken!

Deckbuilding

After a rather rocky draft, Pierre proceeds to completely misbuild his deck with awkward mana, not enough focus, and bad card choices in general. There is simply no way, and also no necessity to try and make Fated Conflagration work in a deck with 3 Wingsteed Rider!

Here is what he should have built:

Lagonna-Band Elder, Great Hart, Mortal’s Ardor, Last Breath: These cards are concessions to bad drafting; usually they don’t make a good RW deck, but they’re serviceable.

Closest cuts: Hold at Bay, Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass.

Sideboard cards to keep in mind: Pinnacle of Rage, Excoriate, Silent Artisan.

While there were several chances missed in the draft, the resulting deck would still have been pretty solid and could, with some luck, take down a draft!

A few remarks about the Games

Game 1:

Not offering to trade Arena Athlete for Daxos of Meletis by tapping the legend before combat is terrible. Best play might’ve been to keep two potential blockers back, though, since you cannot race an active Daxos and need to do everything in your power to stop him from connecting. Things worked out for Pierre this time, but that does not mean he made the right play!

Not offering to trade Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass for Wavecrash Triton is also bad, since Triton dominates Pierre’s creature-light board (also, the opponent probably would have let Cyclops through for fear of of a trick; which makes not attacking doubly bad, since you volunteer the information that way that you hold no trick).

Bestowing Spearpoint Oread on the Cyclops against the Triton when the opponent has five cards in hand is practically a concession, since your opponent now only has one creature to deal with by tapping it down, which you must expect him to be able to do!

Pierre then walks into a telegraphed Divine Verdict, which he will do again later, and then complain how hard it is to play around that card: It is not! You simply do NOT attack (and, if you can, add to your board). If your opponent insists on not playing any cards by keeping Verdict-mana open at all times, fine! Use these turns to get board advantage. Alternatively, if you feel that waiting game does not favor you, you might offer him a less relevant creature. Do NOT just play into your opponent’s hands by allowing him to get your best creature! Playing around Divine Verdict is actually really easy (this is why it isn’t really a great card, not even in Theros, where people tend to grow large attackers). You just have to do it!

A bit later, not using Pinnacle of Rage + Magma Jet to kill two of the opponent’s creatures (and scry) then finally IS the concession, since Pierre takes now too much damage next turn and has no way to get back into that game. He might have lost anyway, since he was extremely flooded, but he played worse against a quite bad opponent and thus deserved to lose.

Sideboarding:

Coming from the deck list I posted above, I would exchange Great Hart for Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to punch through those high-toughness creatures. (Yup, that’s exactly the card Pierre TOOK OUT!)

Game 2:

That Mulligan is obvious, and it also demonstrates nicely why you should never build your deck in the way Pierre did!

When the game starts, Pierre should use Bolt of Keranos on the Oreskos Sun Guide to keep his momentum going (and scry), since he has no trick in hand and thus cannot rely on blocking succesfully with Traveling Philosopher against any number of possible tricks, including the two Chosen by Heliod he already saw the game before. Actually, Chosen on the Guide would almost win the game for the opponent right there! Things again worked out nicely for Pierre, especially with Daxos of Meletis coming down next turn, but he was just lucky with a bad play which only seemed to redeem itself later.

When Pierre refuses to play around Divine Verdict for the second time, this might have been the moment he lost that game and match.

It is also bad to scry away a creature which was able to attack into that 2/6 Wavecrash Triton. You must work with what you have!

Then, not using Magma Jet on Battlewise Hoplite when his opponent is tapped down to Gods Willing as the only possible trick is also unspeakably terrible. What more does Pierre expect the Jet to do? And if there IS Gods Willing – will the Jet ever do anything then? Why does Pierre take several rounds worth of damage from one of the best possible targets for his Jet instead of just using it? This allows his opponent to go on the offense instead of playing defense – exactly what Pierre must avoid!

Later, Pierre uses his Pinnacle of Rage in the probably most inefficent way – but maybe at least it dawned to him after these games that this 6-mana sorcery is just not good!

Again, it’s unclear if Pierre could have won that game against Hopeful Eidolon and later Hundred-Handed One, but since he tried everything in his power to lose it, he has no right to complain.

Overall, I’m still anything but impressed by Pierre’s drafting, deckbuilding and playing skills. There is still a lot of room for improvement at all fronts!

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A Born of the Gods Draft Video

Toffel asked, so I had to do it: Here is a video of a BNG-THS-THS draft, just in time before PT Valencia! I might have done it in German and published it on Magic Universe, but that came to naught because of the near impossibility to communicate with the content editors of that site, who seem to check their e-mails once a week at most.

As with my Theros-only drafts, the same caveats do still exist: I don’t really know how to produce a video (but the initial blurriness is not my fault and will disappear by itself soon), my „English“ might be hard to bear, and my playing skills do not match my drafting and deckbuilding skills. That said, I believe that this draft was quite instructive!

Here’s the link to the YouTube video. Do not forget to come back and leave a comment!

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