Schlagwort-Archiv: Draft

My Limited Card Pool: Born of the Gods 2nd Update

If you can read German: I have written a three-part preview of Born of the Gods for draft which is being published on Magic Universe. The first part is already up, and I hope the other two will follow soon.

While analyzing that set and pondering its cards, I have changed my mind on a few decisions I had made earlier in regard to my limited card pool, and those made a few ripples concerning other cards:

Firstly, while I don’t like inspired in general, a very specific use of that mechanic caught my attention as promising to play interestingly. Two of those designs will enter my pool as uncommons: Aerie Worshippers and Pheres-Band Raiders (obviously, tagged with „inspired“).

While deciding for those, I obviously also reconsidered Springleaf Drum, which I had just cut from my pool for being superfluous, although it is a perfectly usable card overall. I decided it was still superfluous (and certainly not needed to provide a synergy with only two uncommons), but in the process of redoing the crunch for my colorless manafixers and rampers I felt that I had reduced the number of the latter too much: If I wanted an environment where expensive spells where viable, players should get a little more help. Thus, Temple of the False God and Everflowing Chalice made a return at uncommon and common, respectively (both tagged with „ramp“)

Then, I took a liking to Flitterstep Eidolon. It fits so much better with the rest of my bestow cycle than Thassa’s Emissary, which is especially powerful. Nimbus Naiad had the issue of being too close to Leafcrown Dryad – and also, of being too powerful – but the blue Eidolon complements the Dryad much better. So, it replaces the Emissary at uncommon, adopting its „ench (is)“ and „bestow“ tags.

I also realized again how disappointed I was with most scry designs, especially in those colors where I wanted that mechanic, so I returned to my plan of just using cantrips and cycling instead, which fulfill a similar role. This means that Magma Jet, Titan’s Strength, Ferocious Charge and Artisan’s Sorrow are out, and that I retired the „scry“ tag. A couple excellent designs in Journey into Nyx might make me go back on this, but I’ve lost hope.

While Red didn’t urgently need replacements for those cards with scry, Green did, being a bit short on spells in general, a bit more short on non-creatures, and most specifically wanting more card draw and card flow. With Ferocious Charge out, the excellent Primal Boost could return (albeit as common, tagged with „cycling“), but to that card, Aggressive Urge was a bit too close, so I replaced that slot with an old favorite of mine, Sudden Strength (also common and tagged „cantrip“).

I now had lost a generically useful Green non-creature uncommon, and I felt I needed a replacement. Realizing there was some kind of gap between the common Symbiosis and the rare Incremental Growth, I embraced Mischief and Mayhem, a simple, elegant design on a good power level, which plays noticeably different from Might of Oaks.

Lastly, I opted for Courser of Kruphix to fulfill the role of a strong spell helping with card flow (I hope it won’t turn out too expensive). It is not quite as unpredictably broken as Oracle of Mul Daya, and its lifegain ability is minor enough that it can coexist with Grazing Gladehart. With Into the Wilds being a splashable uncommon, the Courser makes sense at rare.

I will post an updated complete list of my card pool after I make more changes – so far, I guess just listing them in text form will suffice.

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My Limited Card Pool: Born of the Gods Update

Born of the Gods has been spoiled completely a bit earlier than I expected, and I made up my mind about which cards I wanted a bit faster than I would have guessed, so here comes the update for my limited card pool!

But first, the obligatory barrage of links:

Here I introduce and explain the concept and use of my limited card pool, and also how my list is set up. In that entry is a link to an older version of my list. (If my admittedly sometimes strange shortcuts in that list confuse you, here’s a list with explanations of them.)

In a separate entry I listed a number of general guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

I explain and comment on my choices in detail in the following entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

Multicolor with White

Multicolor without White

And here it is  – my updated list as an xls file:

Limited-Pool (BNG update)

In future articles about my limited card pool, I will link just to this entry here, which lists all important links in one place.

So, about Born of the Gods (mouseover on cards from that set will probably start working in the very near future):

Overall, I’m rather disappointed by that set’s design. These are the things it mainly offers:

1. more heroic

That’s a nice mechanic, but not one I want to sculpt an environment around, like WotC did, because it lends itself too much towards all-or-nothing plays. I only want it as a mini theme for that reason, and am thus not interested in too many different designs (which, by the way, aren’t the pinnacle of originality anyway). Still, the set delivered what I needed here, two good replacements for cards from Theros I wasn’t too happy with in the first place, so I consider this actually one of the stronger points.

2. more bestow

Bestow was meant to premiere in this set, before Theros stole it. Thus, there’s not much interesting left here: All the cool designs have already been used. Some of the new bestow cards would be usable, if somehow boring, if I wanted bestow to play a major part in a cube, but I don’t – it is just another interesting way to spice up auras, and it has a lot of competition here.

3. more enchantrips

(That’s my term for auras which draw you a card when they enter the battlefield.)

The new designs just aren’t better than the older, with the exception of Karametra’s Favor, which is cool, but unfortunately provides green manafixing – if it just added G, I would have embraced it.

4. more scry

I had high expectations here, and was deeply disappointed. Glimpse the Sun God is a strong design, but I am not looking for a white scry card: What I need is a good green option, or maybe a black one, but what Born of the Gods provides here is terrible. Well, I have to hope for Journey into Nyx, it seems…

5. more cross-color creatures

Some of these designs are reasonable – Akroan Phalanx, for example – but none is better than what I already use.

6. inspired

With bestow already an old hat, this is the set’s poster mechanic, but I do not like it at all. I have a pretty good idea how unwieldy any applications of it other than just attacking with creatures will play out (I well remember WotC’s earlier experiments with the untap symbol, and with the merfolk tribe in Lorwyn), and I do not intend to warp one of my cubes to the point where this could become a major element. So, what’s left is essentially another mechanic which rewards you for attacking, and there are more elegant and less confusing options.

The designs I thought the most about were those in the vein of Aerie Worshippers, but I’m afraid they will not turn out as cool as they look, simply because, once an opponent is vulnerable enough to get hit by them, it is likely a better use of mana to cast another creature instead of paying for the trigger, which offers card advantage, but less pressure – or you will want to use a removal spell to ensure the creature can get through for damage again. Yes, I know there’s the lategame option of comboing these creatures with stuff like Springleaf Drum, but I neither believe in the validity of building your decks with this in mind (at least not in my interactive cubes), nor that this is a desirable goal to enable at all (it’s certainly not less repetitive than buyback). I also do not want to include dedicated tap enablers in my pool. I just took the Drum out, because I didn’t like it, and it is by far the best candidate. Admittedly, there’s a small chance that playing with these cards in „normal“ draft might sway me, but you shouldn’t hold your breath.

7. tribute

Just like monstrosity, tribute is a mechanic with great potential, which WotC wasted with mostly terrible designs. I suppose the idea of REALLY BIG NO BIGGER THAN THAT I MEAN REALLY REALLY BIG creatures appeals to many casual players, but it just doesn’t lead to good gameplay.  The only design with monstrosity I really liked was Ill-Tempered Cyclops: Reasonable, but not too strong before going monstrous; and getting reasonably big for a reasonable cost later. However, monstrosity is a bit too specific for my taste that I would use only one card with it, and there isn’t a single other design with it I can stand.

As for tribute, WotC just has dropped the ball on it. A strictly worse Air Elemental (Siren of the Fanged Coast)? Really? Or a 4/4 for 5 mana which gives you 4 life (Snake of the Golden Grove)… unless you really need that life, in which case you very probably will not get it? Still, there are three useful designs, but one doesn’t fit with the other two: Pharagax Giant is a nice design (in my mind, it’s mainly a simplified version of Menacing Ogre), but the ones I use are on a different power level, and one is already red. Still, two cards ain’t too bad, but tribute should have had more to offer, just like monstrosity.

8. devotion on non-creature spells

I’m already not a big fan of devotion, which is rather swingy and unwieldy, and using it to scale basic effects appeals even less to me. That whole „harder-to-cast creatures are now better just because they’re harder to cast“ theme reeks of „design space used because they could, not because it’s good“ to me.

9. multicolor gods

Oh yes, gods. Making devotion even more swingy, and indestructible to boot. I shouldn’t waste any more words on this.

10. tap-activated auras

I guess there ARE some players who will suddenly realize one day that these are meant to combo with the inspired mechanic, and feel clever that they figured this out on their own. Other than that, there is no excuse for such terribly playing cards: All the downsides of creature enchantments, and to make use of them, you can not even attack with the creature anymore? There are very few designs where this works out (Quicksilver Dagger is an example), and WotC didn’t find new ones.

11. other tap enablers

Blue has a couple of those, with Crypsis being the new design here. (Yes, it untaps the creature instead of tapping it, but it allows you to attack with it with impunity.) That card is actually generically useful, though, providing a surprise invulnerable blocker or allowing to attack unblocked without leaving your defenses open.

12. archetypes

While their power level vastly varies with their casting cost, their effect is always too much.

13. enchantment theme cards

Astonishingly enough, Theros lacked those. Now Born of the Gods provides a few, but their designs mostly fail to convince me, either being too narrow, just referencing auras or enchantment creatures, or being less elegant than older cards. There’s one exception, though.

14. silly tribal

I guess that’s WotC’s shortcut to flavor. I can’t make use of cards referencing octopuses or cyclops, though.

So, what did make it?

1. Gorgon’s Head replaces Gorgon Flail. (So happy the card doesn’t have a stupid „non-gorgon“ rider!) I prefer the purer effect.

2. Akroan Skyguard replaces Favored Hoplite. Simpler and not quite as powerful as Wingsteed Rider – just what I had hoped for!

3. Ornitharch replaces Geist-Honored Monk. The Monk never served a particularly important role – I just wanted another white 5-drop. This is an example of a tribute design done right, and I embraced it.

4. Dawn to Dusk replaces Aven Cloudchaser. This one’s a bit tricky: The sorcery obviously is both pro and anti enchantments, but the anti part plays a bigger role in making it playable. I like the idea of this card a lot! Concerning the Cloudchaser: When it’s good, it’s a little too good. This kind of combined tempo and card advantage should not cost less than 5 mana. I mainly kept it around to mirror Batterhorn somehow, but the time has come to move on.

5. Ashiok’s Adept replaces Tormented Hero. A creature with a meaningful heroic trigger replaces one where it seemed just tacked on, and it somehow mirrors Triton Fortune Hunter.

6. Crypsis is a new common. It is a somehow unique and interesting trick, and I believe it will play well.

7. Thunder Brute is a new rare. Another well-done tribute design, and Red can do with this kind of card at 6 mana.

8. Fearsome Temper is a new uncommon. Now that Maniacal Rage is gone, there is room for such a card at three mana. I guess it will play as a powered-down Shiv’s Embrace, which is a good thing.

9. Pinnacle of Rage is a new uncommon. Jagged Lightning was a bit too strong, but this is perfect and closes a gap in the otherwise quite tightly woven web of red burn spells.

10. Kiora’s Follower replaces Coiling Oracle. The snake was somehow original, and I liked it for nostalgic reasons, but in the end it was a harder-to cast, slightly souped-up Elvish Visionary with a random upside. The merfolk, however, is probably the coolest design in the whole set!

Directly or indirectly, Born of the Gods triggered a few more changes. I will just list any differences to my old list:

With Tormented Hero gone, Diregraf Ghoul can return and replace Vampire Lacerator. Ferocious Charge and Artisan’s Sorrow switched rarities to adjust to their attractiveness in draft. Lust for War and Brimstone Volley became common to make room for the new uncommons (Red still has the lowest ratio of commons among all colors in my pool). Jhoira’s Toolbox and Icy Manipulator, on the other hand, became uncommon since it fits better with their designs, and my pool needed more uncommons overall. (Balance per color has priority. The multicolor cards skew overall balance, though, and colorless cards provide a counterweight here.) Lastly, Air Elemental is common again, to fit in with Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, and because it just feels right.

Oh, and I’ll keep Bee Sting instead of Unyaro Bee Sting, since I have it, am too lazy to look for a replacement, and realized I can’t get rid of dated wordings completely anyway. Also, the Phil Foglio artwork is so much nicer!

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My Card Pool for Next Level Cubes; pre Born of the Gods Update

Since there was always some interest in my self-designed cubes, as well as in my thoughts about them (a little interest, but quite constant), I’ll keep writing about them on 00zero – or more precise: I’ll start anew to write about them. If you’re also interested in designing your own cubes (please note the vast difference between actually designing a cube and simply throwing a bunch of favorite cards together), you might want to follow my entries about this topic.

Instead of linking to my old entries on Zeromagic, I’ll give you an overview here about what exactly I’m doing (a few things have changed in the meanwhile). (If you can read German, however, you might want to look up an old PlanetMTG article of mine, where I explain the specifics of and my motivation for my self-designed limited environments in great detail: Selbstgemachte Limitedumgebungen. While not all what’s in there is still up to date, you will find a lot food for thought, and a couple of cubes I designed back then.)

Let me start with the play format I design my cubes for:

Zweidritteldraft (Two-Thirds Draft)

I never found the idea of organizing private cube drafts for 8 players appealing. Apart from space and time considerations, I wanted my cube drafts to be a gaming afternoon/evening with some friends, while 8 people felt more like a party. 4 people seems the perfect number to me for all kinds of reasons, with one important exception: Normal drafting does not work with 4 people. I had to tailor a draft variant which works well with that number, and that meant balancing a lot of factors: The size of the cube; the frequency of cards showing up, the number of cards players would end up with after drafting, how often a person would see the same booster… I won’t go into details here, but this is the best solution I came up with (and it works pretty well):

The size of my draft pools is 192 cards, making up 16 12-card boosters. The size of my cubes is obviously at least 192, but usually bigger, so that cards show up with different frequencies. My default right now is 384 cards, of which 192 are commons, of which 2/3 will be used each draft; 128 are uncommons, of which 1/3 will be used; and 64 are rares, of which also 1/3 will be used. (The difference between uncommons and rares is for booster collation only.) That means each booster contains 8 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare.

There are 4 booster rounds, 2 in each direction, alternating. Boosters are passed and cards are picked as usual, with an important exception: Once every player has picked two cards from a booster, the 4 remaining cards are set aside facedown (hence the term „two-thirds-draft“). Thus, at the end of the draft each player will have 32 drafted cards at their disposition. Of course, they may use basic lands in addition to construct their decks (I hand each player a box with 15 of each basic land, but there is no important reason for that restriction). As in normal drafts, minimum deck size is 40, and cards not in the maindeck constitute the player’s sideboard. In three rounds of play everyone is paired against everyone else once in best-of-three matches.

I also use two house rules concerning gameplay in my cube drafts:

1. 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.

2. 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.

Other than that, I follow the official rules of Magic, even though I don’t like several changes which were made over the last years (I especially hate the loss of putting damage on the stack, which ruined a large number of interesting interactions in limited), since they are the only reasonable basis to play Magic with a changing roster of people.

So, this is what I intend my cubes to use for. Now, for my construction guidelines:

Next Level Cubes

Initially, I refused to call my self-designed limited environments „cubes“ at all, because they were so fundamentally different from what most people expected when they heard that term. While the probably most popular cube, the MTGO Cube / Holiday Cube, is still a shining example for everything I do NOT want, usage of the word has broadened somewhat in the meanwhile to the point where it encompasses what I’m doing, and so I adopted it. I call my cubes „next level“, though, to underscore the point that they are consciously designed and meticulously structured, and not just a collection of „interesting“ cards. Here’s a number of things which are important to me:

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 impossible 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 the right amount of 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 this theme 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.

My Limited Card Pool

See, my limited card pool are the last Magic cards I keep around – okay, nearly the last, there’s always a few more – since I stopped playing competitively and gave up on constructing casual decks. To resist any temptation to start playing constructed again, as well as minimizing space requirements and financial resources tied up in cards, but also to keep cube-building manageable without having to dig through needlessly large stacks, I only want cards in this limited pool which I am positive I will actually want to use in a cube someday, avoiding close functional repeats and minimizing the amount of cards in my pool in general.

My card pool is now up-to-date including Theros (at least in theory; I still need to physically acquire a number of cards). You can look at it by opening the xls file at the bottom of this entry. I will explain my selections in a couple further entries for those who are interested in the rationale behind my selections.

About the list: First column lists the name, second the converted mana cost (# for lands; x is considered 0), third color (for practical cube-building purposes) and card category (L = land, K = creature, J = other permanents, I = instants & sorceries) – the stars show the number of colors and are only there for sorting purposes -, fourth projected rarity in a cube (balanced out for density of key cards, and overall at similar ratios to distribution in cubes), fifth affiliation to a major theme (only the most relevant one), sixth affiliation to a minor theme (again, only the most relevant one). The list is ordered alphabetically by columns C (backwards), then B, then A, which is the default view I use to skim it. If you do the same, you might get a feeling for the composition of my card pool, and thus also a bit for how I structure my cubes.

Here is the list

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Thoughts about a winning RW Theros draft deck

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!

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Winning a Theros draft with WB Aggro

Well, obviously posting a pictured walkthrough was not worth the effort, since it generated very little interest, so I’m back to just showing you a winning deck. I’m not doing this with every deck which wins an event; but only when I think that the deck in question is particularly interesting, or if I happen to feel like it (actually, the former condition serves mostly to make the latter more likely).

BW aggro is one of the less common archetypes in Theros draft, since Black lends itself more to controllish builds; aggressive White works better with all other colors; and BW in particular gives you cards which work best in control (Scholar of Athreos , Sentry of the Underworld). However, there are a couple of black cards which support this strategy, and sometimes you just happen to pair White with them.

I started my draft with Phalanx Leader over Shipbreaker Kraken (since the Leader is simply stronger), and was rewarded with a second pick Wingsteed Rider. Third pick it was decision time: My options were Voyage’s End and Ordeal of Erebos. The instant is the stronger card in a vacuum, but my first two picks already gave me a clear direction I wanted to take, and in this kind of deck, the aura is simply stellar. Other factors which influenced my decision were – if I remember correctly – a Boon of Erebos in that pack, which I believed could wheel (I think it did), my experiences with aggressive black cards often going quite late in a draft, and my desire to try out something new instead of WU heroic. This worked out exceptionally well: I got an unbelievable amount of playables, although I started hatepicking as early as in the middle of the second booster, because I knew that I didn’t need mediocre cards in my colors, or cards which did not fit my strategy (I passed two Scholar of Athreos that way). In the end, my sideboard contained quite a number of cards I would not have minded at all to maindeck, and even a BW rare some people consider to be an easy firstpick, but which would have been little more than an unexciting vanilla creature in my deck. Take a look:

Unfortunately, I never drew Fabled Hero in any of my eight games, and I also never landed a 2nd turn Ordeal, but obviously I cannot complain overall. I sideboarded Cavern Lampad against RG, Dark Betrayal against BRw minotaur tribal, and Viper’s Kiss against UW (featuring Master of Waves), each time replacing Fleshmad Steed.

Remarkable situations included an epic board stall aginst RG, which finally culminated in a turn when my opponent killed my bestowed Erebos’s Emissary with Destructive Revelry, used Boulderfall on me (bringing me down to 3 life), and finally attacked with Nessian Courser, Nylea’s Disciple, a monstrous Ill-Tempered Cyclops, a monstrous Polis Crusher with Fleetfeather Sandals, and a monstrous Nemesis of Mortals with Leafcrown Dryad bestowed on it. I blocked each of his creatures with one of mine, killed everything but the Nemesis, lost only one creature myself, took no damage from the attack and killed him from 21 life on the backswing. If you wonder how that happened, I’ll just tell you I had Phalanx Leader in play…

The last game in the finals was really close. My opponent was screwed during his first turns, and I was flooded all game. After I got a few hits in with double Tormented Hero, he piled auras and bestow creatures on his Wavecrash Triton, while I went to attacking with a pair of Sentry of the Underworld in the air whenever they happened to be untapped. Finally, he had stopped my assault, but was only on two life. My second-last card in hand was Viper’s Kiss, which I put on my Tormented Hero bestowed with Erebos’s Emissary. When my opponent responded with Griptide, I used my last card, Battlewise Valor, to win the game, the match, and the tournament.

The fundamental lesson is still this: The strength of a deck is not just the sum of the (perceived) strength of its cards. Fleshmad Steed was way stronger in this deck than Triad of Fates could have been. Theros draft is, like Zendikar draft was, a deckbuilder’s paradise: The most important things are a good curve, the right mix of functional elements, and strong synergies. However, just like Zendikar, it’s a bit of hell for good players, since games between good decks come down to drawing your cards in the perfect order much more often than in other environments. Naturally, this means that I quite like Theros draft – just as I liked Zendikar!

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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 Nemesis of Mortals 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:

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 Nessian Asp, and the Annul sitting in the sideboard and replaced by, say, a Voyage’s End, 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 Nessian Courser 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 Swamp in the deck twice against GW heroic. I then took down my sixth draft with my most controllish build so far:

I left two Vaporkin and a Prescient Chimera 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:

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):

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 Hopeful Eidolon 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):
0-1
3-0
2-1
3-0

Later drafts (all 8-4):
1-1
3-0
1-1
3-0
3-0

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 Fanatic of Mogis 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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Two more Theros Video Drafts

This entry will conclude my series of articles and videos about Theros draft. Initially I intended to keep posting draft videos on a weekly basis or so, but I found the ratio between effort and feedback unsatisfying. Thus I’ll wrap things up with two more quite instructive drafts while the format is still somehow young. I won’t miss doing these videos much – I mostly felt the urgent need to correct all those terrible misconceptions you still find everywhere on the net (no wonder if the typical published draft video is several weeks old!) and only got into producing draft videos because I honestly thought there would be a lot of interest in them (I was asked on twitter a couple of times if I did video drafts), since they show how my theories about this environment affect my draft decisions and translate into actual success. If there isn’t really that much interest, I do not feel compelled to go on with them. (Those people who believe that MagicBlogs is a more appealing site if it is mostly void of content may rejoice!)

I am happy, though, that I gave the minority who is seriously interested in improving their draft skills the chance to do so. If you missed them, here are all my other entries related to Theros draft:

Eliminating Misconceptions about Theros draft
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 1
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 2
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 3
Good Player Bias
Two Theros Video Drafts

And here are my newest two draft videos. Again, if the videos are blurry at first, just wait a few seconds; my English is still terrible; and my decks are still a lot stronger than their pilot:

Theros Draft 3 – Drafting & Deckbuilding
Theros Draft 3 – 1st Round
Theros Draft 3 – 2nd Round
Theros Draft 3 – 3rd Round
Theros Draft 4 – Drafting & Deckbuilding
Theros Draft 4 – 1st Round
Theros Draft 4 – 2nd Round
Theros Draft 4 – 3rd Round

I’ll be back when I again feel the urge to talk about something Magic-related. Until then!

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Two Theros video drafts

(If you want to know where this is coming from, checkout my extensive analysis articles on Theros draft:
Eliminating Misconceptions about Theros draft
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 1
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 2
Analyzing Published Theros drafts, Part 3
Good Player Bias)

It took some time due to technical reasons (meaning, my stark incompetence), but I now present my first two Theros video drafts! (I see your surprise is somehow lessened after reading the title of this entry.) A few disclaimers are in order, though:

1. I am aware that the language in which I try to express myself only bears a passing resemblance to English. I apologize for this, but I cannot help it.

2. I also know that the technical quality of these videos is quite low. I guess that is somehow related to the fact that I do not really have a clue how to do this stuff. (However, if they seem really blurry, you just need to wait a few moments until the issue sorts out itself.)

3. I am not that great a player. While of course my strong drafting and deckbuilding skills by necessity go with a sound understanding of general play dynamics, I am irritatingly prone to oversights, and I cannot plan ahead the way really good players are able to.

With that out of the way, here are those two drafts, which I believe are quite interesting and instructive:

Draft 1 – Drafting & Deckbuilding

Draft 1 – 1st Round

Draft 2 – Drafting & Deckbuilding

Draft 2 – 1st Round

Draft 2 – 2nd Round

Draft 2 – 3rd Round

I tentatively plan to publish another draft video every week or so. I found out that producing and uploading such videos takes a LOT more time than I had guessed, so this is already kinda ambitious.

If you have any feedback, please come back to this entry and post it here! I’ve disabled YouTube comments, because I’m not a fan of splitting a discussion over several places.

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