Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. With Mirrodin Besieged finally upon us it has recently dawned on me that we are now reaching the end of the triple Scars of Mirrodin draft era. While like most of you I'm eager to introduce Mirrodin Besieged cards into my draft pools the truth is that I'm going to miss drafting triple SoM; after all the format has been *very* good to me in terms of tournament results. Additionally because so many people are typically looking forward to the new set it gets harder and harder to get 8 players together for a good solid draft as you approach the release date; these next few drafts may well be my absolute last triple Scars runs! With this realization fresh in my mind I found myself sitting down at our weekly Thursday night draft with a heavy heart and a general sense of "impending nostalgia".
For the draft portion of the event I was seated between someone I'd only drafted with a couple of times on my right and a player I draft against almost weekly on my left. I was also only 2 seats away from Leon and on his left so I really had no idea what to expect from this draft and I went into it without pre-set expectations. Naturally of course this "no-mind state" would put me into R/W for what seemed like the hundredth time since Scars came out. Oddly enough however this time it didn't really bother me; if this was going to be a true goodbye party it seemed only fitting that I dance with the partner that brought me this far.
Probably the hardest part about sitting down to build this deck was accepting that I wasn't going to be able to play the Lifestaff, Skyguard or Saberclaw Golem. I had drafted all 3 cards with every intention of playing them and then somehow ended up with too many main deck options. The Lifestaff in particular was brutal because it worked so well with my 1st pick Spikeshot Elder but ultimately I just needed more/better bodies and the Staff didn't rate higher than any of the amazing non creature cards I was already running. After agonizing over potentially going to 41 cards just to include it this is the deck I ultimately settled on:
Creatures - 11 (15):
2x Origin Spellbomb
1x Spikeshot Elder
2x Glint Hawk Idol
2x Gold Myr
1x Iron Myr
1x Perilous Myr
1x Myr Galvanizer
1x Palladium Myr
1x Vulshok Replica
2x Oxidda Scrapmelter
1x Golem Artisan
1x Revoke Existence
1x Strata Scythe
1x Tumble Magnet
1x Elspeth Tirel
1x Turn to Slag
1x Contagion Engine
Lands - 16:
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Saberclaw Golem
Without even playing a game I knew that my deck was going to be incredibly strong; it's pretty rare to put a pile of cards this powerful together in a single draft and in terms of "pack luck" I really couldn't have asked for more help. While traditionally R/W is a speedy aggro deck built around equipment cards and the Metalcraft mechanic I'd managed to draft enough removal/control cards to play it as a control deck. This allowed me to play slowly in the early game; flooding the board with mana Myr and zapping early threats. Naturally this in turn would buy me time to draw into one of my many bombs and win the game with Elspeth, Contagion Engine, Strata Scythe, Golem Artisan, etc etc. Even my Myr could suddenly turn offensive in the mid game assuming I drew either the Galvanizer or the Strata Scythe. Shuffling up for round 1 I felt that I had the strongest deck in the entire room; at this point my focus had become playing tight and being careful not to screw anything up. I truly felt that all things considered my deck would probably win the game on it's own if I just played competently.
Unfortunately for my round 1 opponent he had jumped into Infect after opening a pack 2 Putrefax while already in G/B. This would probably have been fine but there were 2 other dedicated G/B Infect decks at the table and a 4th drafter who was using some Infect/Proliferate combos as a potential backdoor victory. As a result Lucas had a very hit or miss Poison deck that could either run you over very quickly or stall out for turns at a time waiting for an actual creature that said "Infect" somewhere on it.
Game 1 started out okay for Lucas and kind of slowly for me; I was forced to play out some early mana Myr and let him hit me once with a Cystbearer. On his 4th turn he cast a post combat Grafted Exoskeleton and shipped the turn back to me. Now at this point I'd actually drawn the Oxxida Scrapmelter but Lucas didn't have any creatures but the Cystbearer in play and I was also holding a Shatter. While I couldn't be entirely sure I figured there was a pretty good chance that he'd strap the Exoskeleton to the Cystbearer next turn and try to finish me off quickly before the game really got started. I decided to risk the potential 2 Poison and shipped back the turn only to watch Lucas quickly equip his Cystbearer and declare an Attack step. Once I dropped the Shatter on his equipment and generated the 2 for 1 the game pretty much went downhill from there. He couldn't draw creatures and I managed to topdeck a mid-game Galvanizer that quickly sent us to game 2.
Game 2 was more interesting as both Lucas and I got off to faster starts this time. Unfortunately for him however I dropped a turn 2 Perilous Myr which restricted his ability to attack me on the ground with low toughness Infect monsters. He did manage to poke me a couple times with a Plague Stinger but I was starting to take the game over on the ground with a wave of Mana myr. Things got worse for him when I drew a 2nd plains and dropped Elspeth into play and after making a small army of soldier tokens I was pretty sure the game was over. Lucas however had one last surprise for me and responded to my Elspeth with a Trigon of Infestation and enough mana to make 1/1 bug token on the same turn. I Arrested his Plague Stinger to avoid losing to Untamed Might and then started attacking aggressively while still leaving enough blockers behind to throw bodies in front of Poison monsters. This turned out to be a very good idea because just as I was about to kill him, Lucas dropped an untamed might for 6 on an unblocked bug token and took me to exactly 9 poison before conceding the game.
1-0 (2-0) MVP: Elspeth Tirel/Shatter (Tie). In both games I essentially won with a single well timed card. Like I said earlier this deck is capable of producing wins all by itself; all I had to do was let the game come to me and not screw up when it did.
My round 2 opponent was playing at our store for the first time and in fact had only taken up limited Magic recently this autumn. Luckily for me his round 1 game had run a long time and I'd had a chance to observe both his play and a little bit of his deck so I knew better than to take him lightly. While his deck certainly had some mediocre creatures/artifacts in it the upper end of his build was unmatched; multiple Molder Beasts, an Ezuri's Brigade and a foil Indomitable Archangel. Making matters worse he had at least one Liquidmetal Coating which is a pretty amazing combo with the Archangel! After introducing myself and winning the roll to go first I sat down to battle.
Game 1 started out well enough for me and I kept an opening draw of Plains, Mountain, Gold Myr, Perilous Myr, Strata Scythe, Origin Spellbomb and Arrest. Unfortunately I would have all kinds of trouble drawing lands in the early part of this game and my opponent wouldn't. Making matters worse my opponent had clearly read my mana troubles because he proceeded to kill something like 3 consecutive mana Myr the turn after I cast them (Gold, Iron, Palladium). He also dropped a Molder Beast on turn 5 which I was forced to Arrest on the next turn; Octavio had been beating me down steadily with random bears/myr/elves and by the time the Molder Beast hit once I was on 8 life. At that point I was finally starting to draw land but because of my low life totals I couldn't afford to attack; I had a 5/5 Perilous Myr wearing a Strata Scythe holding back Ovtavio's hordes. I'd also drawn into the 2nd Arrest, a Shatter and an Oxxida Scrapmelter but other than a Golden Urn my opponent wasn't really giving me anything relevant to use them on so far. Things really turned my way however when I managed to slap down a Contagion Engine; wiping out 2 of his creatures and drastically reducing the value of two others. I double proliferated on his next attack phase to take no damage but other than the Strata Sythe'd up Myr I really had nothing going on offensively. Naturally he proceeded to topdeck and play the Angel which I Arrested and then an Ezuri's Brigade which I simply ignored. Finally his deck ran out of gas and mine was starting to flow; I drew into a Glint Hawk Idol and started to bash with the Myr and the Idol while he started topdecking nothing but land. I managed to drop a 2nd Glint Hawk Idol and after a brief misunderstanding about who gets to choose the creature that's sacrificed to a Dispense Justice my opponent conceded. At this point I had enough mana to keep moving around the Strata Scythe and even with a 8-10 point Golen Urn it was a question of 2-3 turns before I would kill him.
Unfortunately after such an epic game 1 my opponent and I were treated to a pretty boring game 2. He drew a lot of land and very few creatures while I drew every 2 for 1 in my deck and Elspeth. Eventually my opponent did managed to get a few non-artifact creatures down but it simply wasn't going to be enough against a horde of Elspeth tokens. Disappointed I accepted his concession and thanked him for the epic game 1. Octavio was clearly a good player but there's not much you can do with a bunch of basic lands and few if any relevant creatures.
2-0 (4-0) MVP: Contagion Engine. The simple truth is that I probably would have lost game 1 without playing this card; anytime you can generate 4 dead creatures for about 10 mana over 2 turns you're probably winning the game. With that having been said I wish I'd had a slightly better early game draw because I only played the Engine at that point to defend my rapidly decreasing life total. I knew my opponent had better creatures (Angel, Brigade) and I wanted to get them with the Engine as well.
Going into the finals against Leon I was pretty excited but also a little wary; Leon is a very good magic player and while I knew very little about his deck I figured it had to be pretty good if he was 2-0 despite splitting the Infect cards 4 ways in an 8 man draft. Additionally of course it's safe to say that he knows me pretty well at this point; he's very good at reading me during games and I always tend to feel like I'm battling uphill when I play against him. With that having been said however I still felt quite a bit calmer than usual; my deck was pretty broken and even against a great player like Leon I had enough control elements to stay in almost any game regardless of draw. Winning the roll to go first certainly didn't hurt and after shuffling up and wishing Leon luck I got ready to battle.
Game 1 started our perfectly for me with a turn 2 Glint Hawk Idol, turn 3 Myr Galvanizer and a turn 4 Oxxida Scrapmelter which blew up Leon's Sylvok Replica before it could get "live". Unfortunately this game went poorly for my opponent very quickly as he drew about 5 cards against 10 land and only 3 creatures total. I played Elspeth on turn 5 and despite my opponent dropping another Sylvok Replica to destroy my Strata Scythe managed to win the game pretty quickly. Obviously I felt pretty bad for Leon; nobody wants to see 10 land in their first 15 cards and certainly not against an opponent who slams down Elspeth on turn 5.
After casual conversation indicated that Leon had managed to grab 4 copies of Slyvok Replica this draft I decided to SB out my Strata Scythe for a Kemba's Skyguard just to give myself an extra creature that couldn't be blown up with a Replica. This was probably a mistake since removing the Scythe significantly affected the deck's ability to close out games.
Game 2 was an incredibly long, strange and ultimately *very* frustrating game. I started off shy on mana but kept the hand because I had mana Myr in both colors. Naturally of course my opponent drew no creatures but piles of removal and so we sat there for several turns; I'd play a mana Myr and the occasional land, he would then play a land kill the Myr and ship the turn back to me. This nonsense actually continued on for a number of turns until even when I finally had 5 mana in play all I could cast were 1/1 and 2/2 Myrs. Eventually I dropped the Galvanizer and threatened to start crashing in for damage but lo and behold Leon dropped a Grasp of Darkness on that one and we went back to a slow crawl. Finally after what seemed like a billion turns I gained board control by destroying one of his artifact monsters with an Oxxida Scrapmelter and began attacking with it, a Perilous Myr and a Glint Hawk Idol. Leon quickly drew another high toughness blocker and once again the game settled into a slow dragging pattern where I'd do 3 damage a turn and he simply kept blocking the Scrapmelter. At one point I was forced to trade off the Scrapmelter just to keep attacking but I felt this was acceptable because he was trading for a threat in his own right (Cysbearer) and I was still getting 2-4 damage a turn through consistently. Finally just as I'm clawing him down under 10 Life Leon topdecks a 6th mana source and casts an Argentum Armor; I kill off one of his mana Myr on my turn to delay the inevitable and crash in for another 3 damage. He misses a land drop but proceeds to cast a 2nd Grasp to remove one of my threats and play a Sylvok Replica. I respond by attacking again this time taking him down to 4 life but without a legitimate answer to the Armor I know I'm already dead. 2 turns and 2 land later I got one last chance to find the Revoke, Shatter or Scrapmelter left in my deck. I drew an Origin Spellbomb and cycled it into another Origin Spellbomb which in turn became a Glint Hawk Idol. Unfortunately Leon had cast another couple of creatures and even though I had him at 1 life I couldn't stop the armored Replica from getting through for lethal damage.
Unfortunately our 2nd game had lasted something insane like 25 turns and well over 40 mins; simply put Leon and I didn't even have time to start our 3rd game before the round ended. With the match deadlocked at 1-all this meant a draw and while I was mildly disappointed that I didn't win the tournament outright I felt satisfied with a 1st/2nd place split. We agreed to play a 3rd game for the fun of it afterward but unfortunately it was pretty anti-climactic; I kept a hand with nothing but mana Myr, Elspeth and a Contagion Engine and managed to ram down my Planeswalker on turn 4. Leon had a more normal "infect" draw and ultimately had no answers for all my 1/1 soldier tokens, giving me the game fairly quickly after I cast Elspeth.
2-0-1 (5-1) 1st Place (Tie) MVP: Elspeth. Assuming you count the 3rd game as part of the match Elspeth was the single most important card I played in both games I won. Infect really doesn't have very many good answers for her and unless you have a bunch of Flyers/Burn she's almost impossible to kill period.
Well folks there you have it: the thrilling story of playing R/W Control with multiple broken rares in an 8 man Triple SoM draft. While in sincerely hope you've learned something besides "take the gold cards" from this article I have no problem with admitting that my pack luck was off the charts in this draft. Making matters worse I was literally surrounded by Infect players; both guys to my immediate right were in G/B Infect and Lucas on my immediately left jumped into the strategy in pack 2. This mean that not only was I opening amazing R/W bombs but I was also getting passed THEIR amazing R/W cards in packs 2 and 3. About the only decision I feel I made during this draft was purposely steering the deck more towards a control archetype and away from R/W's traditional speed Metalcraft Aggro build. Of course this was only possible because I was passed so many amazing removal cards in packs 2 and 3 so perhaps it wasn't really an active decision at all. Either way I'm not too proud to accept a little help from lady luck as this deck thoroughly proves.
Well folks that's just about all I have for this time; as previously mentioned it might be a little while before I post another Booster Draft article. Of course I can always go on MtGO but in terms of real life "paper" Magic it always gets a little tricky to scare up drafters in the dead of winter just before a new set is about to be released. Until next time thanks for reading and always remember to snap pick the pack 2 Planeswalker. Otherwise remember to keep it weird.