Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Limited Interest #21 - Under Siege

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Hopefully you've all had a wonderful release weekend; Mirrodin Besieged is now fully legal and drafts/release parties/standard tournaments were held all over the world.  As for myself I attended the Friday Night Magic event at the Hairy T North this past week (going 3-0-1 with U/B Control) and then drafted at the downtown Hairy T on Sunday and Monday.  Unfortunately due to work obligations I was unable to attend a Saturday release party anywhere in town and thus missed out on cracking open a few more packs and getting a promo foil Thopter Assembly.  This of course meant that by the time Sunday evening rolled around I was going through borderline "opening new packs" withdrawal.

As regular readers of this blog can attest I'm a bit of a draft junkie; there was simply no way I was going to miss my first chance to draft Mirrodin Besieged this weekend. Naturally of course Super Bowl Sunday would happen to fall on the same day and while you wouldn't think there would be a huge crossover between Magic Players and people watching football at parties there apparently is.  When only 3 other players showed up to draft I found myself discouraged a little but determined to persevere; when they all voted to use 3 packs of MBS for the draft however I briefly considered begging Leon to take my place.  While I certainly understand the desire to open as many packs as possible of the new set when it first comes out as a drafter I know using too many packs of a small set can sometimes produce *insane* results.  For example during the Eventide release draft my friend Brandon managed to draft 4 copies of Shorecrasher Mimic and something insane like 5 copies of Snakeform; needless to say Brandon didn't exactly lose a lot of games that draft.  Unfortunately when it comes to wrestling the monkey over a draft, the monkey always wins and after a little bit of prodding I agreed to battle with 3 packs of Mirrodin Besieged.

In terms of the draft itself I sadly don't remember a whole lot; new cards were flying by so quickly and my primary focus was making sure I read and understood all of the cards before I made my selections.  I do remember first picking a Shimmer Myr without having a clue if it was good simply because I hadn't opened 4 for my "playset" yet.  This caused me to pass a Burn the Impure to my left which I felt would likely cement the opponent beside me into that color; without question this was a bad choice as ultimately I wouldn't end up running the Myr and my round 2 opponent would use the Burn the Impure against me in both of our games.  My next two picks were Go for the Throat and Blightwidow however so ultimately it worked out fine in the end.  I opened the Black Sun Zenith in pack 2 and while my pack 3 rare was pretty terrible (something awful and U) I managed to recover nicely with a Flesh-Eater Imp.  The only other thing I remember about the drafting portion of the event itself is that the Blightwidow seemed almost criminally undervalued by my opponents; while I took my first one early the 2nd copy actually came out of the same pack I took the BSZ and tabled.  Naturally of course I would later find out that none of my opponents were playing green; a fairly lucky stroke for me.
Once we were finished drafting I sat down to build and discovered that while I was the only Infect player at the table in a 3x MBS draft the truth was the my infect pool wasn't that deep.  I'd taken almost every single creature with the Infect trait printed on it that I could during the draft and had somehow ended up with only 14 playable monsters (I did have a Flensermite but he seemed pretty bad maindeck).  While this ultimately meant my Sideboard was pretty awful and that I would have to run more "Giant Groswth" cards than I'd normally like (3) the truth is I was happy enough with the deck I eventually built: 

Kingdom of Vermin - G/B Infect

Creatures - 15:

1x Viridian Emissary
1x Phyrexian Digester
3x Rot Wolf
2x Septic Rats
1x Viridian Corrupter
3x Blightwidow
1x Core Prowler
1x Flesh-Eater Imp
2x Scourge Servant

Spells - 9:

1x Mirran Mettle
2x Unnatural Predation
1x Black Sun's Zenith
1x Go for the Throat
1x Silverskin Armor
1x Pistus Strike
2x Skinwing

Land - 17:

8x Forest
9x Swamp

Initially I was very worried that this build was far too slow; in triple SOM drafts you could often judge the quality of an Infect build simply by how many 2 drops it had and how many 4 drops it was forced to run.  With zero 2 drop infect creatures, 7 monsters that cost 3 and 7 more that cost 4-5 this deck certainly *looked* both slow and clunky.   Alternately however with so many doubles and triples of "strong" (Rot Wolf) to "amazing" (Blightwidow) cards I felt pretty confident that the deck would be incredibly consistent once it finally did get to 4 mana.  In particular I was fascinated with the idea of having 3 Blightwidows because I felt it would be almost impossible to kill them in the format; most of the common/uncommon removal spells were geared towards smaller creatures and I had snap picked the only Go for the Throat I saw in the entire draft.  Additionally while there certainly WERE 4 power monsters in MBS an absolutely huge number of creatures (including most of the flyers) would be stopped cold by the Blightwidow's 4 toughness and Reach ability.  In terms of removal I was satisfied but certainly not happy; Go for the Throat, Viridian Corrupter and Unnatural Predation were all excellent cards but having to run a main deck Pistous Strike and a Mirran Mettle with very little chance of obtaining Metalcraft was hardly my idea of a strong removal suite.  Despite my overall reservations however I had to admit that the deck felt pretty strong; having two potential game winning "bombs" in Black Sun's Zenith and Felsh-Eater Imp certainly did nothing to subdue that feeling.

As it turns out I actually had very little to worry about in terms of the speed of this build; triple MBS is an *incredibly* slow format and while most of my opponent's decks were in fact faster than mine it wasn't by nearly as wide a margin as I had expected.  I finished the evening 3-0 (6-1) to win the tournament (albeit one with only 4 players) although a number of my games were closer than they appeared.  My opponents by round were playing Mono White Equipment Aggro, Grixis (R/U/B) Aggro w/ gobs of removal and finally U/B Artifact Infect w/ a million card draw effects.  The one game I did manage to lose featured an opponent who beat me down simultaneously with a 5/5 Infect Juggernaut and a Training Drone wearing a Strandwalker and enchanted by Phresis; an interesting board state to say the least.

While obviously it's hard to take too much away from a 4 person draft featuring 3 packs of MBS per person I was able to file away some interesting tidbits of information for later use.  First and foremost I discovered that the White Infect cards are actually pretty good and you don't have to be playing some weird "Junk" (G/W/B) version of Infect to take advantage of them.  Priest of Norn was amazing in my round 1 opponent's deck simply as a blocker and while I thought Tine Shrike was a waste of cardboard when it was previewed it represented a SERIOUS threat when combined with power boosting equipment (Piston Sledge?!).  The fact that my opponent was not trying to win by "poison" was not really a factor once the Shrike had 5 power because of the Sledge.  The second thing I took away from this draft is that pretty much anything with the word Living Weapon on it is an amazing card; particularly the rare Bonehoard and the uncommon Strandwalker.  On the surface these cards tend to appear over-costed but during actual gameplay they proved to be worth every single mana invested.  While obviously your opponent will want to spend an artifact destruction spell on the equipment itself I found that in most matches the Germ would die before the equipment did.  This "2nd life" represented a HUGE form of card advantage and a way to give creatures abilities they were never meant to have; Reach and Flying on certain Infect monsters comes to mind.  Finally I learned that both Burn the Impure and Blightwidow are 1st pick-able commons out of your MBS pack; albeit for different strategies entirely.  Infect creatures weren't meant to have 4 toughness and reach; Blightwidow typically DEMANDS an enemy removal spell or it threatens to dominate the entire match against a non infect deck.  Oddly enough it's somewhat less usefull against other Infect opponents but that's pretty standard for Infect creatures in this format so far.  Burn the Impure on the other hand is one of the sickest removal spells I've seen in a long time; the bonus clause against Infect makes it MUCH easier to race against poison counters if you're playing a traditional R/W Metalcraft build.

Naturally of course after Sunday's "Super Bowl" debacle I was looking forward to playing in an 8 man draft the following night.  While we certainly don't always get 8 for Mondays it's usually a safer bet than Sunday and between MBS being a brand new set and no Super Bowl at the exact same time I had high hopes for a solid turnout.  Unfortunately the evening of the draft itself turned out to be bitterly cold and either for that reason or something else I wasn't aware of we ended up having only 7 people by 8 PM on Monday night.  Not wanting to be the odd player Leon graciously agreed to sit out the draft and I sat down with 5 other players to draft 2x MBS, 1x SoM.

Unfortunately I again had trouble remembering the exact pick by pick order of this draft.  Despite having a pretty good memory it always takes me a few drafts to familiarize myself with all the cards by both name and artwork.  Naturally this means I have to spend more time reading and thus less time "memorizing my picks to write about later"; sorry folks I promise to get back to pick by pick analysis as soon as I learn the set proper.  In terms of what I *do* remember about the draft I recall opening a Pack 1 Red Sun's Zenith and being forced to pass a Kuldotha Flamefiend and a Burn the Impure in the same pack.  Naturally I was hardly happy about the signaling issues this would create but the simple truth is the RSZ was far and away the best card in the pack and in fact one of the best draft cards in the entire set!  Naturally of course the very next pack contained a Kuldotha Flamefiend and suddenly I found myself firmly planted in red.  Despite finding another Kuldotha Flamefiend in the pack (pick 4?) the red dried up pretty quickly and I found myself with a mixed pile of blue, white and artifact cards heading into pack 2.  Thankfully pack 2 would provide a clear direction as I opened a Phyrexian Rebirth and somehow managed to pass a Distant Memories (and some good cards).  To be honest I hadn't even noticed that the pack contained 2 rares until I thought about it later because Distant Memories was in the uncommon slot (along with 2 Mirran Uncommons btw) and the Rebirth was in the rare slot.  While this is exceptionally weird I had actually heard about some packs containing 2 rares and even 2 Mythic Rares in this set already; just my luck that the packaging mistake would be a crummy card like Distant Memories though.    Unfortunately I don't remember much else about this pack except I drafted most of the Red creatures in my deck from it and that at one point I passed a 4th or 5th pick Goblin Wardriver for a Choking Fumes and I'm still not sure if that was the right pick.  The Scars of Mirrodin pack to close out the draft was highly disappointing; I opened a Platinum Emperion and shipped it so I could take a Turn to Slag.  I followed that up with a Dispense Justice, a deny pick Ezuri's Brigade and an Auriok Replica I wouldn't end up playing.  At this point I became worried that my colors were being heavily cut after seeming fairly wide open in packs 1 and 2 but two Glint Hawk Idols at picks 5 and 7 calmed me down considerably.  I also managed to grab a late Myr Galvanizer and a random Snapsail Glider that would eventually make the deck.  After taking about 5 mins to decided what the last 4 cards in the deck would be here is the build I ultimately went with:

Purified by Flame: W/R Control

Creatures - 12 (14):

2x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Leonin Skyhunter
2x Myr Sire
1x Blisterstick Shaman
1x Myr Galvanizer
1x Snapsail Glider
1x Spin Engine
1x Bladed Sentinel
1x Ogre Resister
2x Kuldotha Flamefiend
1x Lumengrid Gargoyle

Spells - 11 (9):

1x Copper Carapace
1x Red Sun's Zenith
1x Divine Offering
1x Choking Fumes
1x Dispense Justice
2x Master's Call
1x Turn to Slag
1x Phyrexian Rebirth

Land - 18:

9x Mountain
9x Plains

After Sunday's triple MBS draft I was a little more prepared for the overall pace of the format; MBS cards were clearly more powerful but they also trended towards being more expensive as a result.  While I had purposely drafted a number of solid 2 drops to fill out the build I had no real problem with so many of my best cards being 5-6CC because of this.  Naturally of course with cards like Phyrexian Rebirth and Red Sun's Zenith the deck trended towards a control strategy but I felt I had just enough cheap 2 power Flyers to push my opponent in the early game.  This allowed me to force my opponent's hand; either he plays out creatures to match my flying "bears" and thus runs into my removal/Phyrexian Rebirth/2x Kuldotha Flamefiends or he simply dies under a small wave of 2/2 flyers.  Heading into round 1 I felt I had a very powerful deck and I firmly expected to finish no worse than 2nd with it.

Round 1: Tommy - B/W/r Infect:

My round 1 opponent was playing one of the most interesting infect builds I'd ever encountered.  While primarily loaded up on solid black creatures and removal spells he'd also managed to snag multiple strong white infect monsters; Tine Shrikes and 1-2 Priets of Norn.  Finally to top things off he was running a Red Sun's Zenith as a legitimate game winning splash.

Game 1 was all about Phyrexian Rebirth as I lured him into spilling out his hand early by playing a Leonin Skyhunter, a Spin Engine and a Masters Call.  Though Tommy did eventually burn out the 5/5 artifact token with his Red Sun's Zenith the damage was done and I was able to fly over top of his defenses with a Lumengrid Gargoyle in the late game.

Game 2 was an entirely different story however as this time Tommy drew most of the removal and although he was light on creatures he had no real problem dealing with mine.  Eventually I managed to stabilize sometime around turn 10 or 11 at 8 life total when I yet again drew a timely Phyrexian Rebirth.  I started to crash in with my 4/4 token when Tommy proceeded to draw a card (his lone Red Sun Zenith for the 2nd time in the game) and ask my life total.  9 mana and a Red Sun's Zenith later we were on to game 3.   

Unfortunately game 3 once again turned out to who'd draw more removal and this time it was me.  I finally managed to draw my Red Sun's Zenith and after wiping out most of Tommy's board in the early game I eventually drew into back to back Kuldotha Flamefiends to close out the game and match.  Frankly Tommy's deck was probably the toughest match-up I had all night and I counted myself quite lucky that he didn't draw his Zenith again.

1-0 (2-1), MVP - Phyrexian Rebirth.  Wiping the board and making a 3/3-6/6 monster at the same time is more than worth WW4; this card is simply insane in limited.

Round 2: Malcolm - B/R Infect Control:

Unfortunately in a 6 man Swiss tournament someone always gets paired up/down in round 2 and this time it was my opponent and I respectively.  Malcolm however was a pretty good sport about the whole thing and proceeded to tell me that this was only his second draft ever.  Frankly this shocked me a little bit simply because his deck was actually very good; it may have been his 2nd draft but it was pretty clear to me that Malcolm had played a *significant* amount of Magic.     

Sadly game 1 was something of a travesty; my opponent drew 3 creatures total and was forced to walk directly into my Phyrexian Rebirth.  I on the other hand curved out perfectly and played my Rebirth on turn 6, Kuldotha Flamefiend #1 on turn 7 and Kuldotha Flamefiend #2 on turn 8.  When the game ended my opponent had 4 permanents in play that we neither land nor creatures; including a couple of good equipment cards and a Sphere of the Suns.  While Sideboarding Malcolm mentioned that he'd built his deck with too few creatures and that he'd been sideboarding more in every game 2.

Our 2nd game was more exciting; both my opponent and I had decent enough starts and neither of us drew enough removal to blow the other off the table.  At one point Malcolm had an equipped Phyrexian Juggernaut crashing in for a potential 6 poison a turn and pretty much the only thing that saved me was a timely Divine Offering. Unfortunately as the game dragged on Malcolm started to topdeck land after land while I continued to draw both removal and gas.  When I finally top-decked the Red Sun's Zenith to clear away his last blocker I felt comfortable moving in for the kill; casting back to back Kuldotha Flamefiends pretty much ends games even if your opponent *has* blockers.

2-0 (4-1), MVP - Kuldotha Flamefiend.  While sacrificing an artifact can sometimes be painful in this format the simple truth is that the 4 damage spread any way you like it typically ends the game.  Game winning uncommons are some of my favorite cards in booster drafts and Kuldotha Flamefiend is a perfect example of this kind of card.

Round 3: Matt - R/W Aggro:

Over the course of the tournament I had heard enough about my round 3 opponent's deck to be genuinely worried about losing in the finals.  It's pretty hard to beat a turn 3 Hero of Bladehold with this deck and on more than one occasion I'd heard one of Matt's opponents complain about this exact same scenario.  Additionally while it's true that Matt was several seats away from me during the draft he'd ended up with all the R/W cards I hadn't been able to grab; considering how much removal/speed aggro monsters I'd been forced to pass this certainly made me a little nervous.  After careful consideration of the factors involved I decided to offer Matt a split in the finals; this wouldn't be an option in an 8 man sanctioned tournament due to DCI floor rules but it's okay in a 6 man unsanctioned event.  Thankfully Matt is the competitive type and we agreed to "play out the match for pride" anyways without having to worry about who was going to win what prizes.   

Unfortunately by the time we sat down to play round 3 it was starting to get a little late so my memory of the games is a little spotty, additionally we played something like 4 or 5 games and they've sort of blurred together a little bit.  What I remember mostly is that Matt never really saw his early mana myrs and his "gas" cards at the same time.  I also seemed to draw Red Sun's Zenith every single game and I *always* had it in my hand when he cast his Hero of Bladehold.  While a couple of the games were close for the most part I won; typically on the back of either Phyrexian Rebirth or Kuldotha Flamefiend.

2-0-1 MVP - Drawing in the finals.  While it's true I did win the match Matt and I played for fun after I honestly believe I could just as easily have lost in 2 games on a different draw.  Matt's deck was very aggressive/fast and I simply drew into all of my removal in a timely manner.  Considering that I was playing for the shop I would likely draw again in the same circumstances.

Overall this draft confirmed my suspicions that MBS was a significantly slower set for Limited than SoM; while it's true that R/W have some nice aggro even those decks seem to play better with a heavy/expensive control based finisher or 3.  Kuldotha Flamefiend in particular is ridiculously powerful for an uncommon as is Phyrexian Juggernaut; albeit in a different kind of deck.  I was very impressed with Master's Call and Ogre Resister in draft; I feel both cards are currently being underrated by most of the people I draft with.  Alternately I was extremely unhappy with Lumengrid Gargoyle; not only is it very expensive and hard to cast but in a format with so much artifact removal it's practically a Shatter waiting to happen.  This problem was exacerbated by the fact that we were playing 2x MBS packs which include Divine Offering as a common; paying 2 mana to destroy my 6 mana 4/4 flyer and gaining 6 life in the process at instant speed is *some good*.  Finally I can safely confirm that while most people feel Dispense Justice, Master's Call and Choking Fumes are easy to play around it's actually almost IMPOSSIBLE to properly play around all 3 at the same time.  On several occasions I was able to catch my opponent assuming I had the wrong card in hand and make them pay for that assumption at instant speed.

Well folks that's about all I have for the moment; tomorrow is draft night and hopefully we'll have 8 players so I can write about a "normal draft".  While I personally don't mind playing 4-6 player events I feel the full set usually doesn't reveal itself until you have 8 players.  Additionally while I'm fine with drafting 2x MBS, 1x SoM again I highly doubt I'll ever play triple MBS again; Blightwidow was simply that disgusting.  As always thanks for reading and until next time remember to snatch up the Kuldotha Flamefiends and keep it weird.


  1. Agree with threat assessment of blightwidow. "Dominates the board" and "must kill creature" are perfect words that describe this monster. Not sure if i completely agree with Kuldotha flamefiend though, it feels more like an archetype pick (r/x sac stuff)

  2. so I went looking through my MBS stuff in a second thought so see if I had anything worthwhile besides the tezz, turns out I got 5 go for the throats, and a single inkmoth, so it wasn't such a bummer after all.