Schlagwort-Archiv: Theros

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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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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