Thursday, September 23, 2010

Of Limited Interest #6 - Fried Chicken Combo

Hello everyone and welcome back for another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  As regular readers of the blog know I've recently been appointed Magic Coordinator for two of Hairy T's three locations.  I can honestly say that if I knew how much work this was going to be I might not have agreed so easily.  In particular I've spent a great deal of time getting the info out for our Scars of Mirrodin Pre-Release tournament being held this Saturday (25th, 1PM) at the Hairy T North.  Our local Magic environment is definitely growing and we're hoping to get to the magical # of 32 participants this time; myself included.  Please feel free to accept my open invitation to this event, I'd love to meet anyone who reads the blog and this set looks like a pile of fun for Limited formats.  You can find full event details here:

With that out of the way lets dive right in and take a look at an 8-Man draft I participated in a couple weeks back.  I've been saving this one for the next installment of this column because quite frankly it's one of the most disgusting draft decks I have ever built, regardless of set.  It's capable of playing pure Aggro as well as any M11 build I've made while still completely functional as a turn 6-7 combo deck; allowing you to switch back and forth between styles depending on the match-up/game state.  In my humble opinion this monster would take out most factory bought Pre-constructed decks in a 2 out of 3 setting, that's how good it is.  Here is the final deck list I entered the tournament with; I've left out the sideboard because I honestly didn't get very many playable cards that didn't make the deck:  

R/W Aggro w/ Fire Servant Combo

Creatures - 14:

1x Infantry Veteran                                                                    
1x Blinding Mage
2x Ember Hauler
1x White Knight
2x Wild Griffin
1x Assault Griffin
1x Cloud Crusader
3x Fire Servant (no really)
1x Magma Phoenix
1x Angelic Arbiter

Spells - 9:

1x Condemn
1x Fireball
3x Lightning Bolt
2x Pacifism
1x Crystal Ball
1x Lava Axe

Land - 18:

9x Mountains
9x Plains

3-0 (6-1)

Ultimately I'm not entirely sure how I ended up with a deck so strong but I have a few ideas:

A) I opened very good packs for my color combination and I was also passed good cards to support the ones I opened. - While this may sound simple enough it's honestly fairly rare to get that lucky all the way through pack 3.  My first 3 picks in pack 1 were Fireball, Crystal Ball and Pacifism which is lucky enough in it's own right.  Pack 2 was even better however, netting me 2 Lightning Bolts, a Blinding Mage and a Magma Phoenix in my first 4 picks.  Finally pack 3 rounded the deck out with Angelic Arbiter, a 3rd Lightning Bolt and a 2nd Pacifism.  You can't buy that kind of pack luck.

B) I was the only player at the table with Red as one of her primary colors and one of only two players taking a significant amount of Red period. -  Over time the general "thinness" and "splashability" of Red's best cards have caused many drafters to steer away from the color if given other choices and apparently my local environment is no exception.  During the actual "tournament" portion of the draft I couldn't help but notice that almost nobody had entered Red decks.  One of the Green players had splashed a couple Mountains for a Pyromancer and a Fling.  Additionally my 2nd round opponent would turn out to be running the B/R Act of Treason deck but for an 8 person table it turns out I had very little real competition for Red cards.  This probably explains things like a 7th pick Ember Hauler and getting my 3rd Fire Servant 6th pick in pack 3.

C) The player to my right was playing in his 2nd draft ever and likely made some mistakes. - While it's always nice to have new players, sometimes the mistakes they make in early drafts can tip the scales drastically in favor of the players sitting next to them.  After the draft I had a chance to talk to my opponent about the choices he'd made and he admitted he'd passed me way too many strong White cards in pack 2 while trying to focus on his Green.  To make matters worse the player on the *other* side of him was playing Green/Blue and finished 2nd overall.  I showed him the cards I felt he shouldn't have passed me in pack 2 and we both agreed his deck would have been much stronger with a Blinding Mage, a White Knight, a Wild Griffin and a Condemn; all cards he passed in pack 2 for less impressive Green options.

D) People seemed very averse to drafting cards with double mana symbols outside of Green. - While I can't actually confirm this theory I definitely seemed to snap up a lot of "later than usual" picks in both colors that happened to have WW or RR in the casting cost.  Alternately most of the "splashable" but weaker cards in my colors vanished fairly quickly.  It seems fairly likely then that I benefited greatly from a willingness to commit to 2 colors and 18 land so early while gobbling up powerful double mana spells.

Round 1 - Mike C. B/G Aggro:

Mike is one of our draft regulars at the downtown Hairy T and therefore I often find myself paired against him during Booster Draft tournaments.  He's a fairly inexperienced drafter but he plays well beyond his years and has developed into an above average deck-builder over the past few months.  In particular he's good at switching back and forth between Control and Aggro decks from draft to draft with equal proficiency.  This meant that when I sat down to play him in the first round I had no real idea what to expect; in fact I thought he was playing G/R until turn 3 when he played his first Swamp.  Unfortunately Game 1 would turn out to be pretty boring as Mike proceeded to play 5 non-land cards in total as opposed to 6 Forests and 2 Swamps in an 8 turn game.  I didn't really draw anything special myself but my opponent's general lack of creatures meant that I didn't have to; simply casting a "Bear" every turn and swinging got the job done.  Game 2 was slightly better as Mike came out much faster; backing up a turn 2 Garruk's Companion with back to back removal spells on my would-be blockers (Wild Griffin, Cloud Crusader).  Unfortunately we both sort of stalled from there and while my opponent was getting through for 3 a turn he had no more removal left when I cast Fire Servants on turns 6 and 7.  My next turn featured 24 points of damage from 2 Lightning Bolts magnified by 2 Fire Servants and I was quickly on to the next round.  The funny part was that Mike was just about to cast a Nightwing Shade and given a few more turns probably would have cooked my goose and forced a game 3 if I hadn't combo'd out instead.

Round 2 - Sean T. B/R Act of Treason Combo:

During the "draft" portion of the tournament Sean had been on the opposite side of the table as me and I really had no idea what he was playing.  The last time we'd faced off in a tournament he had fed me an Inferno Titan on turn 5 out of a U/G deck so it was pretty safe to say Sean could be playing *anything*.  As it turns out Sean had quickly jumped on the B/R Act of Treason/Bloodthrone Vampire deck in pack 1 and had managed to cobble together multiple copies of all the key pieces.  Game 1 started out innocently enough with me on the early beatdown with some random 2/2's and an Infantry Vet.  Eventually however Sean started to topdeck spot removal to help with my weenies and despite dropping a Crystal Ball I began to hit rivulets of land.  This continued for several turns while my opponent began establishing his combo, first with a Bloodthrone Vampire and then with a Reassembling Skeleton.  I think if he'd have drawn more than one Act of Treason in this game I probably would have lost right there but fortunately I stumbled (quite accidentally) into my 7th land and managed to play the Angelic Arbiter I'd been holding onto all game.  At that point I figured that if he had the 2nd Act of Treason or another kill spell I was dead anyways so I might as well go for broke and try to win the game with my bomb.  Somehow this actually worked as Sean proceeded to draw nothing but small weenie creatures to feed his Bloodthrone.  This forced me to block a few times but it only took 3 turns for the Angelic Arbiter to end the game.  Game 2 was another story entirely as Sean got out fast and I really didn't.  Turn 2 Bloodthrone Vampire into a turn 3 Act of Treason which kills my Blinding Mage is pretty bad but compounding matters I was stuck on 2 land and losing life quickly.  I wouldn't see my 3rd land until turn 4 and my 4th land until turn 6; by which time I was hovering around 8 life.  I ultimately had to cast an Ember Hauler and a White Knight on the same turn; leaving me completely tapped out and hoping I could survive to my next upkeep.  Unfortunately this time Sean *had* drawn the 2nd Act of Treason and proceeded to take my Ember Hauler, sacrifice it to kill the White Knight and then bash me for 5 with the Bloodthrone Vampire and a random 2/2.  I topdeck another land and immediately concede to save some time in the round; even if Sean doesn't draw a creature he has enough mana to reanimate his Reassembling Skeletons twice for a 5/5 Vampire.  Between games I had to remind myself not to get frustrated or tense but this is easier said then done when you've just played 2 long games while drawing almost no removal.  In both games Sean had dominated the board for turns at a time with a puny 1/1 Vampire simply because I couldn't draw anything to kill her.  Something had to give and fortunately for me it finally did in game 3 when my opening hand showed me 2 Lightning Bolts.  I waited patiently for Sean to drop the Act of Treason, all the while keeping a single Mountain untapped until he did.  Finally on turn 5 after I cast a Cloud Crusader that threatened to shut off his Vampire for multiple turns he dropped the bomb on my monster.  I let him announce the spell and pay costs before responding by frying the Bloodthrone Vampire for 3.  He was able to bash me for 2 with my own flyer for a turn but the Vampire was dead before it ever joined his side; thus preventing the sacrifice.  Despite this crushing setback Sean managed to find another Bloodthrone and began pressing the attack against my weenie defenders.  I was definitely on the back foot at this point but my deck was drawing pretty smoothly and on turn 7 or 8 I began my upkeep with my opponent at 12 life (I was at 9) with both a Fire Servant and a Cloud Crusader in play.  I had drawn the Lava Axe sometime around turn 4 and my opponent was completely tapped out.  Exactly 12 damage later I was on to the next round.

2-0 (4-1)

Round 3 Kelly - U/G/b - Big Fattie Aggro:

I wasn't entirely surprised to find Kelly waiting for me in the finals; partially because Kelly is a very good drafter but also partially because he'd sat to the left of the guy playing in his 2nd draft ever.  Kelly's deck was extremely strong with multiple Cultivates and Foresees to lead into Blue flyers and giant Green fatties.  Unfortunately he had almost no removal/control elements and was therefore splashing Black for a couple of Assassinates (I think, might have been a Doomblade/Assassinate).  Sadly neither of our games turned out to be very interesting as Kelly's deck sputtered a little and mine worked perfectly both times.  Game 1 started with me playing almost every flyer in my deck to get past Kelly's early Wall of Frost and ended when I dropped a Fire Servant/Lava Axe combo to finish the game.  Game 2 was a little better with Kelly drawing more creatures and me unable to find any flyers (lucky enough apparently because Kelly had boarded in an extra Plummet and drawn it in his opening hand).  I had however drawn a very early Infantry Veteran and this allowed me to trade attacks with my opponent for several turns in the early game.  I figured Kelly had probably also boarded in an extra counterspell so I wanted to wait for him to tap out completely before I cast my Fire Servant.  Eventually he did (casting a Spined Wurm I think) and I was able to play my combo monster on my next turn with a Fireball in hand but not quite enough mana to make it lethal.  Amusingly enough however I almost GAVE the game away on the very next turn when I drew and came incredibly close to casting a Magma Phoenix.  I'm not entirely sure why but I honestly thought the Phoenix's ability would be doubled by the Fire Servant (even though the Servant clearly says Instant or Sorcery) and thus Kelly couldn't risk killing it at 9 life.  I was quite literally just about to cast the card when I decided to read my Fire Servant just to make sure the abilities worked together and almost had a heart attack when I realized they did not.  This was pretty fortunate on my end because as previously mentioned Kelly had been holding on to a Plummet all game and would have gladly traded 3 life to wipe both of our boards and start over at 6 life against my 10.  Two turns and two lands later I was able to Fireball Kelly out of the game because of the Flame Servant after he'd tapped out to cast a Yavimaya Wurm.

3-0 (6-1)  1st place.

Typically this is the part of the article where I attempt to frame the deck I played in the context of drafting as a whole but I really can't do that this time.  This deck was completely broken and I could easily draft M11 100 times in a row without coming up with something this good.  Sometimes you just have to "let it ride" and hope people pass you 3x Fire Servants I guess.  Honestly I don't feel like I won my games so much as I turned cards over and let this deck win them itself.

Well folks that's all for this time, I have a draft tonight and a Pre-release sealed event on Saturday so it may be a little while before I get back to you all.  To anyone playing in a Scars Pre-Release event this weekend good luck and stay the heck out of Green, it looks pretty awful this time.




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