Hello everyone out there in Internetland; welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. Before we get started I'd like to take a moment to thank the guys at ManaNation and in particular "This Week in Magic" writer Eric Linden. For the past two weeks Eric has included articles from this blog in his weekly must read Magic links. For a smaller independent blog like this one making "This Week in Magic" is pretty exciting news; making the list 2 weeks in a row almost made me pee myself. For those of you who've never checked out either ManaNation or the This Week in Magic feature please feel free to stop by the link posted above and take a poke around. ManaNation is not only one of the most entertaining and informative MtG Websites on the net; it's also completely free.
Okay with that taken care of let's dive right in and look at a recent 8 man Swiss event I participated in while playing Magic Online for only the 2nd time since Shadowmoor. As regular readers of this blog may be aware I've decided to begin my reacquaintance with MtGO by playing in casual Swiss events; while I may be a decent Magic player I am by no means I very good video game player and could probably use all the practice I can get out of my 3 Packs/2 Ticket entry fee. I figure that once I can get through an entire 3 round tournament without misclicking/skipping an attack phase or randomly skipping past my own turn it will be safe to move on to the more competitive 8-4 queues. First lets talk a little about the drafting portion of the tournament and then we can look at how the deck played out round by round:
Actually building the deck was relatively easy; I had 19 cards I definitely wanted to play and only one was a mana Myr. Even with a deck that curved out at 5 that pretty much forced me to run 17 land, leaving only 4 unfilled slots. While not my favorite card the Ghalma's Warden was clearly the "best remaining creature" in the pile which in turn made both of the Auriok Replicas more attractive than they would have otherwise been. It certainly didn't hurt that they worked well with other artifact dependent cards in the deck like Glint Hawk Idol, Snapsail Glider and Razor Hippogriff. I ultimately settled on Vector Asp for the 23rd slot because of its overall utility; it's a cheap artifact creature, in a pinch it can turn into a -1-1 token to proliferate with Clasp, and it's the easiest creature in the entire deck to sacrifice to the Flesh Allergy. This is the deck I eventually settled on:
Creatures - 14 (18)
2x Fume Spitter
2x Origin Spellbomb *(turns into a creature)
1x Vector Asp
2x Glint Hawk Idol *(turns into a creature)
1x Leaden Myr
1x Snapsail Glider
2x Auriok Replica
1x Kemba, Kha Regent
1x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Ghalma's Warden
2x Glimmerpoint Stag
1x Razor Hippogriff
Spells - 9 (5):
1x Accorder's Shield
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Contagion Clasp
1x Tumble Magnet
1x Flesh Allergy
Lands - 17:
Functional Sideboard - 7:
1x Golden Urn
1x Nihil Spellbomb
1x Soul Parry
2x Fulgent Distraction
1x Loxodon Wayfarer
1x Corpse Cur
Like a great buffet, this deck is all about having a little bit of everything and combining them into a greater whole. The 2 copies of Glimmerpoint Stag provide an obvious focal point; combining extremely well with Skinrender, Razor Hippogriff, Tumble Magnet, Contagion Clasp and even Kemba's Skyguard. It's actually *very* hard to lose a game in which you've cast a Skinrender and then used his ability an extra 1-2 times because of the Stag. Additionally, however, the deck also has a solid "wither" theme going on; between Skinrender, 2x Fume Spitters and even a Vector Asp it's pretty easy to create things for the Contagion Clasp to proliferate. Alternately the Tumble Magnet works well here too by turning 4 mana into a "free" tap effect while still letting you proliferate the -1/-1 tokens on your opponent's side. The deck also manages to shove in a small "flying" package; with 5 flyers, a Sylvok Lifestaff and a Tumble Magnet to clear out their flying blockers you can actually end games pretty quickly on a good draw. 2 Copies of Origin Spellbomb give the deck some card draw while "big-butted" blockers like Ghalma's Warden and Kemba combine with 2 Auriok Replicas to make this deck pretty difficult to race; don't forget it also has 3 cards that gain life! Finally of course you can always just draw the "Kemba + one of our 2 Equipment cards" combo and start spitting out cat tokens on your upkeep. While ultimately still an aggro deck at it's heart, Swiss Army Stags has a tremendous number of options, lines of play, and 2 card combos going on at the same time, making it both very powerful and at the same time still fun to play.
My first round opponent was playing a fairly interesting mono U + Metalcraft Control-ish deck built around multiple copies of Riddlesmith, Myr Galvanizer, Chrome Steed and off-color mana Myr. He also had a Grand Architect, a Heavy Arbalest and much to my consternation, a Volition Reins. While typically I feel going mono color in SoM limited is a mistake in this case I understood the choice; my opponent simply had enough good artifacts that he didn't need to run anything else besides U cards.
Game 1 actually started off very well for me; I opened the game with an Origin Spellbomb and by turn 4 I was attacking with Kemba who was wearing an Accorder's Shield and was about to start spitting out 2/2 Cat tokens on my next upkeep. I'd even killed off my opponent's Iron Myr; although he ended his 4th turn with 2 copies of Myr Galvanizer in play. After dropping a Snapsail Glider and then a turn 6 Sylvok Lifestaff into play I was pretty sure I could close out game 1 just by making 2 Cat Tokens a turn. Of course my opponent proceeds to drop a Flight Spellbomb and an Arbalest, churning like mad for "an answer" which out of mono U can really only mean one thing; a Volition Reins. Compounding matters I actually forgot my opponent had a Flight Spellbomb in play and let him trade his now worthless Trinket Mage for my Snapsail Glider without even having the Lifestaff on the Glider; I'd like to think this is the kind of mistake I wouldn't make in a real life draft but for whatever reason I made it here. On his 7th turn my opponent finally did drop the Volition Reins on my Kemba and the game started to slide out of my control. 6 turns later I still hadn't draw either of my Glimmerpoint Stags to negate the Reins and I was starting down 10 Islands, 2 Myr Galvanizers, a Heavy Arbalest and my own Kemba. With my clock already at 18:00 I decided it would be a bad idea to wait and see if my opponent could successfully execute the Arbalest/Galvanizer combo and conceded immediately.
Game 2 lasted about 2 minutes in total. I played an Origin Spellbomb and my opponent replied with a Vedalkan Certarch. I cast a Leaden Myr; he cast a Gold Myr. On my 3rd turn I cycled my Spellbomb and decided to play Contagion Clasp to kill off his Myr. Naturally he then proceeded to miss a land drop and pushed out a 2nd off color Myr. Based on his style of play in the previous game I felt it was unlikely that my opponent was pretending to be mana-screwed to lure out my kill; his deck required a LOT of Islands to function properly. I untapped and proceeded to drop a Skinrender into play; killing his Iron Myr and causing my opponent to concede immediately. Amusingly enough the match was now 1-1 with both players having conceded a game at 20 life.
In game 3 my opponent chose to put me on the play and for the 3rd consecutive time I opened up with an Origin Spellbomb. We both get off to a pretty fast start and at one point on turn 5 I drop a Contagion Clasp to kill his Riddlesmith and attack with a naked Kemba and a Kemba's Skyguard. My opponent is forced to double block the Kemba to kill her which lets me trade for his Chrome Steed; this seemed like a good enough trade since I know he has way more artifacts left in his deck than I have equipment cards left in mine (2). The next turn I trade off my Vector Asp for a -1/-1 counter on his Trinket Mage and cast a Snapsail Glider while my opponent responds by cycling his Spellbomb and dropping a Rust Tick on his turn. I attack for 4 in the air with the Snapsail and the Kemba's Skyguard only to have my opponent Disperse my Myr token and block my now "not-flying" Snapsail with both the Tick and the Mage. I responded by proliferating the Mage to death with Contagion Clasp and ended my turn with a live Snapsail Glider and my opponent at 13 life. My opponent decides to bring out the big guns and casts his Grand Architect and another Flight Spellbomb but I'm finally running hot this tournament. I promptly topdeck the 2nd Swamp I've been waiting for since turn 4 and throw down my Skinrender; killing the Architect and putting my opponent in a pretty bad situation. I attack and let my opponent trade his Galvanizer for my Skyguard after he cycles the Flight Spellbomb. He plays another Riddlesmith and ships the turn back to me. After declaring an attack and forcing my opponent to tap down my Snapsail Glider with his Rust Tick I proceeded to cast a Glimmerpoint Stag, targeting my own Skinrender.
At this point my opponent messaged me and said that he was attempting to build his online rating and that if I were willing to concede he'd be prepared to give me the pack for winning anyways and even 2 tickets. While this was a very fair offer I felt I had to refuse for three reasons; first I had entered the tournament to battle and improve my skill, taking a loss now wouldn't let me play another winning deck next round. Additionally I had already decided to write about the tournament for the blog. I felt that if I was going to ask people to read my article it was important to try my hardest to win the entire tournament; people come to read about "competitive Magic with a casual attitude" not how many tickets I made by conceding a match. Finally, if I wanted to make 2 dollars I'm not entirely sure that spending 3 hours drafting Magic is the most efficient way to do so. Again with that having been said I believe my opponent made a very fair offer and I told him so; I just couldn't agree to concede and he did so instead.
1-0 (2-1) MVP: Skinrender. Both of the games I won were pretty much decided the moment I played this ridiculous monster, though obviously the Glimmerpoint Stag helped in game 3 as well.
My opponent in round two was playing a fast/aggressive W/U deck built around multiple Equipment cards, a couple (at least) Sunspear Shikari's and a foil Kemba, Kha Regent. I learned this primarily by watching his replays in between rounds because he really never drew any of his good stuff against me this entire match.
I won the roll to start Game 1 and opened up with a turn 1 Fumespitter and quickly followed it up with a 2nd copy on turn 2. My opponent cast an Auriok Edgewright and I responded with an Auriok Replica. My opponent played a land and passed so I threw down the Skinrender to kill his Edgewright and bashed for 4 damage. He dropped a Chrome Steed which I proceeded to tap out with a fresh Tumble Magnet on my turn; swinging for 7 and bringing my opponent down to 8 life. On his 5th turn my opponent finally saw a Shikari but still had no equipment in play to go with her. I tapped out the Steed on my next turn again and attacked with bot the Replica and the Skinrender. My opponent blocked the Replica which let me sacrifice a Fumespitter in response to ensure that my creature would live and his wouldn't. When I cast a Glimmerpoint Stag on my 2nd main phase to flash my Skinrender back into play at the end of the turn my opponent conceded immediately.
Unfortunately game 2 was only slightly better for my opponent; while this time he saw an early Shikari and a Darksteel Axe I also played a turn 4 Skinrender to effectively end the threat before it began. I also managed to force out my copy of Kemba early in this game and get a Sylvok Lifestaff on her fairly quickly; this was important because it would keep him from playing his Kemba productively and I knew for a fact he had WAY more Equipment cards than I did. Regrettably I don't remember much about this game otherwise except that my opponent seemed to draw more land than he really wanted to and that he never saw enough creatures to handle my removal; I'm pretty sure I saw the Clasp, Magnet and a Stag again in this game before it was over.
2-0 (4-1) MVP: Skinrender. I guess Hill Giants that murder things are pretty good in booster draft; who knew?!
Round 3 - W/G/B "Good Stuff":
Game 1 - Every once in a while you'll play a "super long, epic game of cosmic proportions"; a true titanic back and forth struggle for supremacy that ultimately comes down to who draws the last best card. Even when you lose these kind of games you can't help but say "well, I lost to the right card at the right time and my opponent just got there". Of course once in a while that "right" card will turn out to be Trigon of Mending and you'll want to go on rage-tilt immediately. Unfortunately this game went extremely long and my computer failed to record it so I couldn't watch it on replay later. Normally my memory is pretty good for these sorts of things but as I've mentioned previously somehow the disconnect between computer and user makes remembering the play by play a little harder. What I do remember about this game is that it was pretty back and forth until the very end; I was crashing in for 2-4 flying damage a turn and had clawed my opponent way down in life but he was gaining 3 a turn from a mid-game Trigon of Mending. I had Kemba out and was dumping a 2/2 Cat Token into play every turn but my opponent was slowly building up an army of Ezuri's Brigade, Alpha Tyrannax and eventually an Acid Web Spider to shut off my Kemba. I managed to topdeck a timely Tumble Magnet and even a Glimmerpoint Stag to reload it after I'd spent all the counters; when my opponent was finally about to kill me I had him down at something silly like 2-3 life. This meant that I had quite literally lost to the 9 Life he'd gained from a Trigon of Mending.
Game 2 was also lost to the void of space when MtGO or my hard drive somehow failed to record the match. Fortunately I remember this game much better simply because it was much shorter. My opponent did not have a particularly good start and was forced to drop an Arrest on my Skinrender the turn after I'd played it to safely kill his Perilous Myr. He managed to get out a Wall of Tanglecord and another beater of some kind but the wheels came off for him when I used the Glimmerpoint Stag to re-flash the Skinrender back into play; removing the Arrest in the process. When I played the 2nd Stag a couple turns later the game was essentially over. For the record I also made a terrible misclick in the middle of this game; I was trying to hook an Accorer's Shield up to my Auriok Replica when I became confused as to what exactly I was "okaying". It turns out I told the computer to sacrifice the Replica and since I had W mana in my pool it figured "why not?" and asked me which target I wanted to prevent damage from, on my turn. While I was happy to win the game this critical error bothered me for most of the evening after the tournament; clearly I'm not ready to move up to 8-4 events just yet.
3-0 (6-2) MVP: While I'm tempted to say Skinrender again the most important card for me in this match-up was probably Tumble Magnet. Not only did it win me game 3 outright, it was the only reason I had a chance against my opponent's fatties in game 1 whatsoever. It's safe to say that if I hadn't had the "bad luck" of 1st picking a Tumble Magnet this draft I probably would have lost round 3.
As far as breaking this draft down goes I feel that overall it was a pretty huge success. First and foremost I enjoyed myself playing MtGO again despite a few "terribad" misclicks and even an outright play error on my part. Secondly while I certainly didn't open the same kind of "bombs" it seems my opponents had I honestly felt that I probably had the strongest deck overall in the draft. My 4 drops were amazing and my early aggro options weren't exactly bad either. Yes you'd like to have some Arrests and Grasps but ultimately good cards win you drafts and I certainly had a pile of good cards.
Unfortunately that's about all my fingers can take this time; writing about Magic is fun but once in a while the lactic acid buildup in your fingers says it's time to take a short break. As always thanks for reading and hopefully you'll join me next time here on The Cardboard Witch. Until then folks always remember to keep your options open at the draft table and go with the flow; the results can quite literally be "Stag"gering. Keep it weird.