Friday, October 22, 2010

Of Limited Interest #9 - White W(R)edding

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of the Cardboard Witch.  Before we dive right into a Scars of Mirrodin draft report I'd like to address a technical issue that has recently come to my attention.  It seems that it's very hard to post in the comments section of this blog, even if you have a Google account.  Apparently everything looks normal until you hit "submit" and then the comments box clears itself blank and your comment is never posted.  I have no idea why this is happening and I assure you that open, non-moderated comments are allowed on this blog according to the settings (which I just checked right now).  I even tried to comment on one of my own articles today and was unable to do so.  I plan to email Blogspot as soon as possible to address this issue but for now we're going to have to make do without comments.  Please email me any questions or commentary you'd like posted on the blog at  I'll post them like letters to an old fashioned advice column and we can move forward from there.  Thanks to the readers who emailed me about this problem and my friend Natalie for mentioning it in person again today.

With that out of the way lets jump right in and take a closer look at a 6 man triple Scars of Mirrodin booster draft I participated in on Thursday night.  I was actually quite surprised that we had 6 players because GP Toronto started the next day but addictions die hard and so we had a mostly full table.  During the drafting portion of the tournament I was slotted in between a B/W and a B/R player although at the time I wasn't sure who was who (doh!).  This forced me to aggressively pick certain colors in certain packs to support my first few choices; as always with a premium placed on finding some removal.

At this point I think we should probably talk a little bit about my drafting style here in Scars of Mirrodin, otherwise several of my picks may seem confusing or even nonsensical.  When the set first came out pretty much everyone agreed that you had to be playing one of two decks; metalcraft or infect.  This seemed obvious because those were the two major themes in the set and numerous powerful cards were printed with either keyword at all 4 rarity levels.  Unfortunately as my first few drafts played out I began to notice some constantly reoccurring problems with either strategy; most of which revolved around the concept of scarcity.  You needed at least 10-12 good creatures with the "infect" keyword to build a winning infect deck; there simply weren't enough good creatures for multiple people in one draft to all choose infect.  Alternately you needed 16-18 solid artifacts to fuel a winning metalcraft deck; the general premium on good artifacts in this set meant there weren't enough for several people in one draft to choose metalcraft.  Remember just because your opponent isn't playing a metalcraft deck doesn't mean he won't have cards that interact with artifacts, anyone can splash powerful colorless cards!  This generally meant that if I wanted to play either theme I was going to have to play anywhere from 4-8 sub-par cards simply to "fit" my deck-style and hope that I drew more of my good cards than bad ones.  Additionally I started to notice that the decks that performed best in this limited environment typically were more about playing gobs of removal and winning the game with random Hill Giants (3/3 bodies for 4 mana).  While it's pretty easy to kill most "infect" creatures or artifacts in this format it's fairly hard to deal with large "colored" monsters in Scars of Mirrodin limited.  Most decks will have at best 3-4 good answers and it's actually quite easy to draft 5-6 of these creatures mid-pack and fit them into a functional draft deck.  This phenomena allows a drafter to focus on choosing removal/creature control spells first while opponents are busy fighting over the best cards that said "metalcraft" or "infect".  This isn't to say you shouldn't take artifacts, cards that say metalcraft or even creatures with infect; it just means you shouldn't place a premium on them.  Plenty of artifacts work well in a basic beatdown strategy (Glint Hawk Idol) and key infect creatures double as decent removal (Tangle Angler, Necropede) in the right build.  The key is to consider every single card entirely on it's own merit in the context of a basic "remove and bash" deck-type rather than based on it's thematic value in the format.  Probably the best part of this strategy is that it isn't particularly restricted by color; although Blue can be a little short in the "Hill Giant" department and Green's two best "removal" spells are very early picks (Slice in Twain, Sylvok Replica).  After testing this theory out in several sealed pools and a couple booster drafts I felt pretty confident that it would consistently produce wins.  After all the entire idea revolved around reducing Magic to it's most basic levels; playing threats and removing your opponent's permanents.  I even decided to name the deck-style "Neanderthal Aggro" because of the basic caveman logic behind it all.

So now that you know a little more about my card selection process in Scars of Mirrodin limited lets take a quick look at the drafting portion of this tournament.  Unfortunately I don't remember every single pick in the draft but I'm pretty sure I remember most of the important ones.  My first pick in pack 1 was dead (Mox Opal) and the opponent to my right passed me a pack with Galvanic Blast and a bunch of mediocre infect creatures.  While I can't say I will never play an infect deck I typically avoid this strategy unless I pull a card that says "you should play infect" very early.  Good examples include Putrefax, Hand of the Praetors, Corpse Cur, Tangle Angler and of course Skythiryx.  Since none of the creatures in the pack were even close to that power level I took the Blast and hoped it was a signal my opponent would not be playing red.  The next pack was pretty distressing because it contained absolutely no removal, in any color.  Additionally the only bomb-ish creatures were in green; a color I typically avoid here in Scars of Mirrodin unless there is a very clear signal that it's open.  This is because the green cards in this set are divided almost half and half between big smashy monsters and the infect theme deck while still being somewhat "thin" overall regardless.  In my experience this means you can easily find yourself with half an infect deck and half a stompy deck if there's significant competition for the color at your table; a recipe for disaster.  With no removal and no game ending monsters I was prepared to draft at that point I decided to take the best aggro card in the pack; Glint Hawk Idol.  This unfortunately put me into R/W fairly early because while the Idol isn't technically a white creature it's simply stronger in a deck with a few Plains; allowing you to morph the statue into a 2/2 Bird whenever you need to rather than being forced to run out Artifacts turn after turn.  While I didn't like having jumped into 2 colors so early in an artifact based format my instincts turned out to be pretty decent on this one; my next two picks were Glint Hawk Idol and a Turn to Slag pretty much cementing me into R/W Aggro.  The rest of pack 1 was fairly uninteresting although I did pick up a Sunspear Shikari and a bizarrely late Barrage Ogre. 

If I had any reservations about playing white they were completely resolved in pack 2 when I opened a Sunblast Angel and got passed a Revoke Existence.  This pack also produced my 3rd Glint Hawk Idol, a Tumble Magnet, a Rust Tick, my Blade-Tribe Berserkers and an Iron Myr along with some random bodies I wouldn't end up playing.  I think the Chrome Steed also came from this pack but at the time I wasn't sure I would be able to realiably play and maintain 3 artifacts quickly enough to make it playable.  The picks in this pack went by pretty quickly and I think that was part of the reason I managed to get my color reads reversed on the opponents to either side of me.  I thought the player to my left was likely playing red/white, while the player passing into me in pack 1 was probably in black/red.  As it turns out the black/red player was to my left and the player to my right was in fact playing black/white.  I guess it's safe to say the lesson here is "no matter how good you think you are at reading signals, sometimes you'll get them wrong".

Going into pack 3 my wish-list looked something like this: some more removal, a Myrsmith and a couple mana Myrs to help power me into my Sunblast Angel/Hill Giants.  Pack 1 produced a Myrsmith which I was sorely tempted to take for about 4 seconds until I realized I'd also opened a Wurmcoil Engine.  The pack also contained another Galvanic Blast but there was really no way I could pass on the game destroying mythic rare.  With a sigh I took the Wurmcoil and prayed for some sort of mana acceleration to fall into my lap.  My next five picks were: Arrest, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Gold Myr, Iron Myr, Gold Myr.  This wasn't a home run, this was a grand slam into outer space riding on the back of a giant mechanical wurm.  Actually I might have picked the 2nd white Myr 7th and taken something else in between; I was too busy trying not to celebrate openly to properly remember.  In fact I can't specifically recall any of the remaining picks in that pack at this point and I highly doubt many of the cards I chose ended up in the deck I eventually entered the draft with:

W/R "Neanderthal" Aggro w/ Bombs:

Creatures - 14: 

2x Gold Myr
2x Iron Myr
1x Sunspear Shikari
1x Kemba Skyguard
1x Rust Tick
1x Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1x Chrome Steed
1x Oxidda Scrapmelter
1x Saberclaw Golem
1x Barrage Ogre
1x Sunblast Angel
1x Wurmcoil Engine

Spells - 10:

1x Galvanic Blast
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
3x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Revoke Existence
1x Arrest
1x Strider Harness
1x Tumble Magnet
1x Turn to Slag

Lands - 24:

8x Mountain
8x Plains

Believe it or not I was actually a little worried about this deck when I first built it.  It seemed a little more top heavy than normal and while it wasn't really a metalcraft deck it had a significant number of cards that really wanted you to keep casting artifacts, including 3x Glint Hawk Idol, Chrome Steed, and Barrage Ogre.  With only 14 artifacts in the build I wasn't entirely sure I could get maximum value out of these cards.  Additionally I felt that if my opponents aggressively went after my mana Myr I would not have enough mana to play spells because I was cheating down to 16 land just to fit all my good cards in.  On the upside I was pretty excited by my removal suite; with 9 cards I considered legitimately strong control options I figured I could easily buy myself time to draw and play one of my two insane bombs.

As it turns out I had failed to account for the raw power of 3x Glint Hawk Idols and none of my opponents could really afford to waste time killing my mana Myr in the early game.  Most of my games opened with a Glint Hawk Idol on turn 2, allowing me to trigger it on turn 3 by playing either mana Myrs or another Idol.  Once I hit 4-5 mana I'd ram out a 3/3 or two and begin trading removal/control spells with my opponent while waiting for my game finishers.  I was able to play a turn 5 or 6 Sunblast Angel/Wurmcoil Engine in every single game except the very first one; I didn't draw the Wurmcoil until turn 7ish and my opponent was already preparing to scoop for game 2.  Making matters worse the general speed/strength of my aggro meant that by the time I *did* play one of my bombs my opponent had invariably already spent his removal and was now hunting for answers off the top of his deck.  You don't get very many turns to find solutions against cards like Sunblast Angel and especially the Wurmcoil Engine.

3-0 (6-0) 1st Place - *Note I probably should have lost game 2 against both my 1st and my 3rd round opponents.  I had a somewhat slow draw in round 1 and my opponent quickly sent me to 6 poison counters before topdecking about a billion land.  On a better draw we probably head to game 3 there.  In round 3 my opponent probably overplayed a turn 4 Shatter against my Metalcraft active Chrome Steed.  While he saved himself 4 damage he was out of answers when I used a Tumble Magnet to lock down his 9/9 Strata Scythe equipped Iron Myr.  I had no idea at the time but apparently he was holding an Assault Strobe and if the Myr had lasted even a single attack phase I would have died on the spot.  Unfortunately on the next turn I tapped out his last creature with the Tumble Magnet and cast Sunblast Angel to effectively end the match.  Honestly though considering the strength of my deck and how it was built I would have been extremely comfortable going to game 3 on the play in either round.

Well folks thats all for this time; as always thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  I myself will be heading to the Grand Prix tomorrow to play in the massive Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck main event.  While I hold no illusions of winning the whole thing I have been opening some sick sealed pools recently and I do feel I have a pretty good handle on the format.  I'll settle for winning more games than I lose but I think there's a possibility I may do much better than that.  Wish me luck and I hope to see as many of you as possible at the tournament tomorrow; until then keep it weird gang.


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