Hello ladies and gentlemen out there in Magicland, welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. Today I'm back with another "Of Limited Interest" draft report; this time about the 5 man round robin event we held on Thursday night at the downtown shop. Sorry for the delay in posting this but I've actually been busy playing in 3 MORE drafts besides this. Clearly The Cardboard Witch is just as badly addicted to M11 booster draft as you are. Additionally I'd write about Standard but listening to me complain about going 2-2 at Friday Night Magic because I can't draw land isn't exactly "a good time." I'll try to do better next week so we can chat about Blue/White Control in Standard. Until then lets dive right in.
Thursday, August 19th. Triple M11, 5 Man Round Robin.
So after an epic long/bad shift to close out my week I decided that I pretty much *had* to play some Magic after work and I found myself drafting triple M11 with 4 other people as a form of "therapy". I'll be 100% honest when I say I was kinda disappointed that we only had 5 players; throughout the week I'd had about 10 different people tell me they might show up. Additionally of course nobody wants to show up for 2 rounds of draft and a bye so the only fair way to hold a 5 man tournament is to run it 4 rounds of round robin play. This not only adds about an extra hour for the draft but it increases the chances of having no clear winner after 4 rounds and having to use tiebreakers to decided the final outcome. Unfortunately I hadn't played since a late night 4 man draft on Monday that I won with a Primeval Titan and 3 random 2nd pick Armored Ascensions, so dropping out to make the draft 4 players and 3 rounds was not an option. I wanted to play again, even if it meant staying up all night to do so!
In terms of the "drafting" portion of the event this was a pretty weird one. My first pick in pack one was a Gaea's Revenge; a card that would normally commit me heavily to my favorite color in M11 (Green). Anytime you can get an 8/5 beater that's essentially impossible to target with a removal spell in the format you pretty much have to play that right? Even it's 7CC isn't a real factor in Green due to Cultivates, Sylvan Rangers and random mana Elves. Things got a little more interesting picks 2 and 3 as I was passed back to back Crystal Balls in packs that contained no Doomblades, Mind Controls or Lightning Bolts. Truthfully even if I had, I might have taken at least one of the Crystal Balls anyways as that card is a game winner in this format. A 4th pick gift (Fireball) pretty much sealed me into G/R at this point and I felt really comfortable with my first 4 picks. Then the guy to the right of me hands me a pack with a bunch of random cards and a very late Mind Control. Obviously this is a personal opinion but I happen to think Mind Control is the best removal spell in the entire format. It's capable of dealing with almost any "bomb" monster (but not Gaea's Revenge, lol ) while simultaneously giving YOU another game breaking threat; his best creature. I'm not even sure I bothered to read the other cards in the pack to be honest, I took the Mind Control and decided to keep my eyes open for quality Blue cards just in case. At this point I figure I'm playing G/U with a splash for a Fireball unless something changes drastically so I grab a few more cards in both colors and mostly shy away from Red. It's possible if I'd been paying attention I might have noticed that the Cultivate I opened in pack 1 that I had hoped would table had vanished before I saw it again. I won't lie however; I don't think I even noticed that until the 2nd pack.
Pack 2 however proceeded to go completely wrong. I opened an Ancient Hellkite and decided I had to deny it despite a plethora of good Green/Blue cards in the pack. This was possibly a mistake but the simple truth is that it's almost impossible to win games when your opponent enters his combat phase with an "un-sick" Ancient Hellkite. At this point in the draft I had exactly two answers; Mind Control and a 7 mana Fireball I might not end up playing if I didn't see more mana fixing. Of course the very next pack had a Pyroclasm and no Green cards even close to the same power level so I took the "Pryo". To make a long story short I drafted about 8 Red cards in pack 2 including a Chandra's Outrage, an Ember Hauler and 2x Chandra's Spitfires. The player to my immediate left had clearly taken the Cultivate 2nd pick since I managed at best 2 Green playables and a lone Augury Owl in Blue out of the entire pack. It was safe to say that going into pack 3 my draft was a mess.
As it turned out Pack 3 saved my bacon in a big way; even if it took me 3 picks to realize it. I opened a Frost Titan which in turn forced me to ship a bunch of excellent Green cards to my left. My opponent to the right shipped me a Lightning Bolt to finally cement me in Red + Color X, which was something of a relief since it meant I could run my Hellkite. Of course 3rd pick pack 3 I found myself staring at yet another Mind Control and at least 3 Green cards that would define my deck if I'd seen them in packs 1 or 2. Seeing no other options I took the mind Control and began sorting my Green cards out of the "might play" pile. Thankfully I get fairly lucky throughout the rest of the draft and manage to fill my curve with random "dudes" in both R/U pretty much entirely in pack 3. This forced me to play with some pretty sketchy options (Goblin Piker, 3x Chandra's Spitfires in a deck with very little burn, etc) but ultimately I was happy just to have a creature base after wasting 8-10 quality choices on Green cards I wouldn't end up playing. It's probably important to mention at this time that I in absolutely NO way recommend waiting until pick 3 pack 3 to figure out what your 2nd color is. I got very lucky in this draft and could just as easily ended up with a 3 color deck full of double mana symbols that beats itself before the games even start. Sometimes you gotta be lucky to be good and I'll gladly take any favors the universe wants to throw my way in a situation like that.
Sitting down to build the actual deck I would play in the "tournament" portion of the event it quickly dawned on me that I was missing some key pieces of the classic M11 U/R archtype. While I had some amazing bombs (Frost Titan, Ancient Hellkite) and some sick removal (Bolt, Fireball, Outrage, 2x Mind Control, Ember Hauler) what I really didn't have was any sort of "midgame" strategy. My creatures were divided mostly into "random spuds" and "walls", forcing me to play a defensive control strategy until such a time as I could drop one of my two big fatties. Typically this decktype will have a few random Cloud Elementals and Azure Drakes to take care of turns 3-5 but I simply hadn't drafted any. While I did have 3 Spitfires I only had 4 cards in total that could trigger the +3 power; making them essentially flying Walls that MIGHT hit you for 4-12 damage once a game. On the plus side I *DID* have 2x Crystal Ball and to a lesser degree an Augury Owl to help smooth things over. With any luck I could drop a "Wall" and then rapidly Crystal Ball my way towards removal, land and a finishing Fatty. Here is the deck-list I ultimately went with:
R/U Fatty Control
1x Augury Owl
1x Ember Hauler
1x Goblin Piker
1x Aether Adept
3x Chandra's Spitfire
1x Fiery Hellhound
2x Wall of Frost
1x Canyon Minotaur
2x Vulshok Berserker
1x Frost Titan
1x Ancient Hellkite
1x Lightning Bolt
2x Crystal Ball
1x Chandra's Outrage
2x Mind Control
1x Terramorphic Expanse
Round 1 - Shin: G/W Aggro + Lifegain
I was pretty nervous going into this match because I figured my worst possible matchup was going to be a super fast aggro deck with a bunch of pumps and/or answers for "burn". I'd seen multiple Giant Growths/Mighty Leaps moving around the table and when I realized Shin was running G/W aggro I instantly assumed he'd managed to snag all of them. Thankfully however this wasn't the case as serious competition for both Green and White cards had forced Shin to graft the Ajani's Pridemate + Lifegain package into his deck. While not a terrible option this package typically means running several sub-par or even near "unplayable" cards to make your combo work (Ajani's Mantra, etc). Unfortunately our games weren't very interesting as game 1 Shin saw no land for multiple turns and by the time he saw the Pridemates/Life gain combos I was already running a Frost Titan at his life total. Game 2 was better but I still wouldn't call my opponent's draw "good" and he simply couldn't do enough damage to stop me from Crystal Balling into all the right answers.
1-0 (2-0) MVP - Crystal Ball.
Round 2 G/B - Peter: Aggro + Control
Even though Peter was on the opposite side of the table during the draft portion I'd already gathered that he was heavily into Black with a few choice Green "Bombs". This was pretty consistent with the type of decks Peter usually drafts and I knew right away what to expect; Some bombs, some mediocre "bear" type creatures and a near endless wave of removal. I figured that style of deck would be a good match for mine so long as I could force him to waste most of his removal on my lesser "dorks" and/or his own Mind Controlled creatures. Once his initial barrage was expended neither the Hellkite or "Ol Frosty" would give him very long to draw another answer. Game 1 was a complete wash as Pete kept a hand with one of each land and then proceeded to draw nothing but Forests for 8 turns. By the time he did hit the second Swamp it was already too late because I had a Frost Titan on the table, 2 removal spells in hand and a Crystall Ball in play. I would have scooped at this point but Peter proceeded to play out a Royal Assassin (which I locked down) and then a Black Knight before going under 0 life. Unfortunately this told me to save a Mind Control for the Royal in game 2 and that combined with a late game mana flood gave me the match before Peter could ever really get into it.
2-0 (4-0) MVP, Mind Control
Round 3 - Kelly U/B Control w/ Flyers
Sitting down against Kelly in the 3rd round I was acutely aware that he was also 2-0 (4-0) at this point. Apparently his deck was light on creatures but absolutely filthy with Black and Blue removal and card draw. This made a certain amount of sense since someone had to be taking all that Blue in pack 2 and there's no way Peter could have taken all of the Black removal I'd seen in the later stages of that draft. Again I decided on a strategy of forcing my opponent to kill my weaker creatures, containing his key threats and waiting until I was absolutely sure to play my bombs. Unfortunately for Kelly this was simply a bad matchup for him. His deck had very few creatures (9, maybe 10?) and most of them were 2 power or less flyers. For all their power in the format Augury Owls, Cloud Elementals and Azure Drakes can do almost nothing to a defensively positioned Chandra's Spitfire. This of coursed force Kelly to waste time/cards on killing my 3 Spitfires; giving me forever to draw my own removal and threats. While both games were longer back and forth affairs, ultimately they ended the same way. I hit a mid game Crystal Ball and simply scryed to more creatures than he could possibly draw kill to answer; no mean feat against Kelly's deck I assure you.
3-0 (6-0), MVP Crystal Ball
Round 4 Leon G/W Aggro + Overwhelming Stampede
Game 1 against Leon was a little misleading for two reasons. First his deck couldn't find a second Green mana; forcing him to play mostly White spells and leading me to believe I was facing a "Flying" deck. Secondly I dropped a turn 3 Crystal Ball and promptly went off like a Roman Candle. In a 7 or 8 turn game I managed to drop both Mind Controls, my Frost Titan and lay down a 6 point Fireball. Vengeance was appropriately served in game 2 when Leon proceeded to Solemn Offering my turn 3 Crystal Ball and then massively outdraw me during the rest of the game due to a Garruk's Packleader I never saw the answer to. Of course that might be because he finished me off for "Eleventy Billion" damage on turn 8 with an Overwhelming Stampede. He even dropped a Plummet on the Ancient Hellkite I'd rammed down to stabilize the turn before. Owch. Game 3 can best be summed up as "I saw my answers and he didn't". I managed to drop an early Crystal Ball which survived unmolested for most of the game. This in turn let me go find both Mind Controls and eventually a Frost Titan. Leon kept up for a while but eventually went down to "Ol Frosty" and his own Juggernaught/Protean Hulk. After the game Leon revealed a Mitotic Slime and a Serra Angel from his deck; cards we somehow hadn't seen over 3 games and roughly 23 turns.
4-0 (8-1), 1st Place - MVP: Crystal Ball.
I suppose if this story has a moral it's probably "Don't pass Crystal Ball" but that's probably a little too simplistic for the age of $40 mythic rares. To paraphrase hollywood; "Well Folks, that's a draft". As usual thanks for reading and until next time remember to keep it weird.