Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to the latest edition of The Cardboard Witch. Unfortunately it's cold/rainy so I've come up sick again and I won't be attending Friday Night Magic this weekend. Instead I've decided to stay in tonight and catch up on some writing.
Shifting our focus from Standard for a moment lets take a look at a draft I actually participated in a couple weeks ago. Previously we've talked about how to play the Infect deck in triple SOM drafts including what signs or signals should cause you to either force or jump into "poison" early in pack 1. Additionally drafting Infect has become a hot button topic in the online Magic community with arguments both for and against playing "poison" raging through both Limited strategy articles and the comments sections below them. The general consensus is that forcing Infect from pick 1 can be a very risky strategy; it's better to wait a few picks into the draft for a clear signal that the players on your right are indeed passing Poison cards. So what happens when multiple players read the poison signal; all in the same way and all at the exact same time? Complete and total chaos as half a table's worth of drafters suddenly find themselves scrambling for a "Plan B". Let's take a look at the "Infect" draft that wasn't and how I managed to avoid a messy train wreck by knowing when to quit:
Creatures - 13 (14):
1x Glint Hawk
3x Gold Myr
1x Sunspear Shikari
2x Auriok Replica
1x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Vulshok Replica
1x Ghalma's Warden
1x Bleak Coven Vampires
Spells - 11 (10):
1x Darksteel Axe
1x Origin Spellbomb
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Trigon of Mending
1x Strider Harness
1x Flesh Allergy
1x Trigon of Corruption
1x Elspeth Tirel
Lands - 16:
I probably don't have to tell you that this wasn't the deck I had originally wanted to build and that by the time round 1 rolled around I was pretty sure I would be lucky to win a round all night. When a deck can best be described as "some removal, some equipment and the creatures nobody else wanted" you know you're probably headed for trouble. I figured my only real chances to win were either to outrace my opponent with one of my few flyers + some equipment or to grind them out in the long game with Elspeth.
Round 1 - Cory U/W Proliferate Combo:
Continuing the theme of the evening game 1 was a spectacular clash of epic proportions. Cory won the roll the go first and quickly began harassing me with a Vector Asp and an Ichorclaw Myr. I opened the game with a Sylvok Lifestaff, a Gold Myr and a Kemba's Skyguard. Without knowing the contents of Cory's deck yet I blocked his Vector Asp with my Skyguard on his next attack phase, reasoning that I could still attach the Lifestaff and swing for 2 on my next turn. Hitting 3 poison also seemed acceptable as long as I managed to cut the number of potential poison sources down by 1. Of course Cory proceeded to cast Steady Progress on his 2nd main phase; killing my Skyguard, rocketing me to 4 poison and drawing himself a replacement card in the process. Trying to stay calm I responded by topdecking a Skinrender like I knew it was there the entire time. Usually I'd be loathe to spend such a strong removal effect on a lowly Ichorclaw Myr but with 4 poison tokens already and absolutely no board presence I figured I didn't have much to lose. After Cory cast a turn 5 Soliton we both spent the next several turns drawing lands and staring at each other's growing mass of irrelevant creatures. Eventually Cory dropped a Strider Harness on his monster and started bashing me for 4, dragging me down to 10 life before I finally drew an Arrest. I attacked into him for 8, with a Sylvok Lifestaff equipped Skinrender and some sundry Myr. When Cory shipped back the turn without playing anything I was pretty sure that I'd already won the game. I drew a Bleak Coven Vampires, cast it to gain 4 Life, knocked Cory down to 8 and attacked with everything. My opponent proceeded to flash a Darksteel Sentinel into play and used it to murder my Skinrender; falling to 5 life in the process. Unfortunately on his next turn he dropped and activated an Origin Spellbomb, drawing him into a Wall of Tanglecord. Then he cast a Revoke Existence on my Lifestaff to shut off my life racing ability and started to bash me for 4 with his Vigilant Sentinel; eventually clawing me down to 5 before I finally draw Grasp of Darkness and finish off his monster. He sacrificed it in response to a Culling Dias but I was just happy to see the indestructible threat removed from the equation. By this point we both have several smaller creatures in play and when I finally drew Elspeth I was again pretty sure it was game over; I quickly gained 6 life, attacked for 2 with my Glint Hawk and shipped the turn back to my visibly worried opponent. Cory would have one final surprise for me though; a long-shot singleton Scrapdiver Serpent that promptly picked up the Strider Harness and killed Eslpeth in one savage shot. Gulping audibly I assessed the situation; on one hand I was up 11 life to 3 with a Glint Hawk in play and my opponent with no flyers. Unfortunately he did have a Silver Myr, a Flight Spellbomb and a random 1/1 Myr token; meaning it would take me 3 turns to kill him with just the Glint Hawk. Alternately, tapping down his Myr and sacrificing one to block the Glint Hawk would let me get 1 extra damage through with a 1/1 Myr token if I just swung with everything. This would send him to 2 life and making the Glint Hawk lethal on the next turn. With virtually no other options I swung and passed the turn. Cory untapped, attacked me for 6 with the Scrapdiver and then cast a Necropede and a Throne of Geth, instantly killing my Glint Hawk and leaving me with 2x 1/1 Myr. Unfortunately Cory still had a Wall of Tanglecord to block with and without some sort of spectacular topdeck I was going to lose with him at 1 life next turn. I untapped, cast an Origin Spellbomb and cycled it to draw a card before attacking my opponent with my other two Myr tokens. I then revealed a Trigon of Mending with exactly enough remaining mana to actually use it. This would of course take me to 7 life and give me one turn to survive Cory's unblockable onslaught. When my opponent drew into 2 lands on his next turn he immediately conceded. Frustrated he proceeded to reveal his next two cards; Corpse Cur and Thrummingbird. If the game had gone any longer I likely would have died by poison.
1-0 (2-0) MVP - Trigon of Mending and no I'm not kidding; I doubt I win game 1 without drawing it and by the end of game 2 I was so mentally exhausted from playing against Cory's wacky build that I doubt I would have been able to win another hard fought contest.
Round 2 - Moe - B/G Molder Beast Combo:
Sadly game 1 was a relatively one sided contest. Moe's draw started out fine with 3 land, a Wall of Tanglecord and some Spellbombs. Unfortunately I drew an early Darksteel Axe and a turn 4 Skinrender to neutralize the Wall. Additionally virtually every time Moe played another creature I managed to top deck the removal spell to keep pushing my 5 power Skinrender through. After I killed his 3rd creature in a row Moe smiled and asked me "how much removal" I actually had before conceding.
Game 2 started out significantly better for Moe with an early Copper Myr and Horizon Spellbomb leading into a turn 4 Molder Beast. Before he could use it however I sent it to his graveyard with a Grasp of Darkness and cast a Myrsmith. Moe responded by casting *another* Molder Beast and again shipped the turn back to me only to watch helplessly when I murdered it with a Skinrender. This time however Moe had a Grasp of his own and after killing my Skinrender he cast a Darksteel Axe and bashed me for 3 with his geared up Copper Myr. I started casting artifact creatures and making 1/1 Myr tokens with my Myrsmith, forcing Moe to drop a Plague Stinger and switch to "poison" mode with his Darktseel Axe. Two turns and 6 poison counters later I finally managed to draw the Trigon of Corruption and kill the Plague Stinger, all the while trading 1-2 points a damage per turn with Moe through Myr tokens. Moe untapped and dropped a Bellowing Tanglewurm which finally baited the Arrest out of my hand in response. Out of threats my opponent cast a Wall of Tanglecord and equipped the Darksteel Axe before passing the turn back to me. Drawing my second Arrest made it possible to slip through for 5 Damage a turn with my Myrsmith and 3 tokens and when Moe drew back to back Grafted Exoskeletons while I drew Elspeth and another artifact the game was quickly over.
2-0 (4-0) MVP: It's a toss up between "having a bunch of removal" and "playing the other guy who forced Infect pack 1". Moe's deck was very powerful but much like mine it was made of bits and pieces left over when Infect bottomed out; making it inconsistent and dependent on seeing key cards.
Round 3 - Leon - G/U Fatties:
Game 1 started out very slowly for Leon and very quickly for me. I used turn 2 Myrsmith to produce something like 7 tokens over the course of this game and cast an Elspeth on turn 4. I even managed to resolve a Bleak Coven Vampires with active Metalcraft to essentially finish off my opponent in the mid game. Leon on the other hand drew almost nothing; some Mana Myr, a couple of Sylvok Replicas and some equipment. He even had to cast his Acid Web Spider when the only equipment I had in play was the indestructible Dark Steel Axe, just to get a blocker. Eventually I simply overwhelmed him with tokens and an Axe after blowing up the world with Elspeth.
Game 2 actually started out worse for Leon than game 1; he stalled on mana early and on my 4th turn I dropped a Skinrender to kill his lone Copper Myr. I attached a Strider Harness to it next turn and by the time Leon finally stabilized with a Wall of Tanglecord and a Neurock Replica I had him at 8 Life. Unfortunately at this point my deck started to run out of gas; feeding me random replicas and all 3 copies of Gold Myr in rapid succession. Leon hid behind his walls continuing to build his mana base while cycling what seemed like a never ending supply of Horizon Spellbombs. Eventually I finally drew the Flesh Allergy and decided that I had to get rid of the wall if I was going to have any chance to winning. I attacked first, baiting Leon into taking 2 damage and killing a spare Myr token with his Neurok Replica. After combat I sacrificed a tapped Myr Token to destroy the Wall of Tangelcord and bring Leon down to 3 life. He could have used the Neuroc Replica to save his Wall and fizzle the Flesh Allergy but I assumed he didn't either because he hadn't noticed or the play simply wouldn't be profitable enough. I smiled inwardly and hopped that he's simply forgotten about my Bleak Coven Vampires. Leon calmly untapped, drew a card and played a land from his hand before dropping a Wurmcoil Engine onto the table with 2 mana left over; pretty much grinding my game to a halt. When I drew the Arrest on my very next turn it gave me a tiny smidgen of hope; I Arrested the Wurmcoil Engine and attacked with the remains of my Myr token army. Leon of course blocked 1 of the tokens with the Neurok Replica, took 2 Damage and during my end step cast a Disperse on his Wurmcoil Engine. On his turn he recast the Wurmcoil Engine and showed me the Stoic Rebuttal he'd just drawn. With roughly 2 Myr tokens in play and nothing but land in hand I decided to scoop and head to game 3.
2-1 (5-2) 2nd Place: LVP - My opponent having a real deck. Honestly I got VERY good draws all 3 games against Leon but I was trying to win the games with 1/1's and a Darksteel Axe while he had giant Wurms and Dinosaurs. My only chance was to win the game before he played enough bombs to make victory unattainable and while I came close ultimately I couldn't do that twice in 3 tries.
Well folks that's about all my fingers can take for today. I guess if there's an overarching lesson we can take from this draft it's probably a simple "Don't Panic!". Both the drafting process and the actual games were very touch and go; on multiple occasions I could have made incorrect choices and ruined my draft. Ultimately however I managed to finish 2nd pretty much by hanging around forever and grinding maximum value out of my picks/cards. It's not everyday that the proper application of a Trigon of Mending wins you the game for example. As always thanks for reading and see you next time here at The Cardboard Witch.