Thursday, March 10, 2011

Of Limited Interest #24 - All the Right Moves

Hello everyone out there in "Internetland" and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Hopefully you're having a great week after catching some savage Gamesday action this past weekend; unfortunately I couldn't make it to a weekend event and had to settle for a 14 man FNM the night before.  I also happened to participate in my *first ever* MBS/SOM/SOM draft tournament this past Thursday Night and I've gotta say I absolutely adore this format.  Don't get me wrong, double MBS certainly has it's charms; not the least of which is twice as many chances to open a Tezzeret/Sword of Feast and Famine.  There is however a general lack of "synergy" in these drafts and I typically find myself trying to assemble the best pile of 22-23 cards in 2 colors rather than actually building a deck. Playing the format as it was designed to be played however was a different experience entirely; it really brings out the 2 card interactions between both sets and encourages a focus on synergy rather than just raw power.  Personally I felt like I was building a pre-constructed starter deck the entire night rather than merely drafting.  Let's take a closer look at this draft and the deck it ultimately produced :

The actual draft portion of the event went pretty well for me.  We had 8 players so we were all drafting in the same pod and of course I started the event off ripping like a champ; P1P1 Sword of Feast and Famine.  Now if the truth be told I don't necessarily consider this card to be the same "slam dunk 1st pick" that Sword of Body and Mind was; with that having been said it's still an awesome card but you don't just play one and "win" if they don't have a Shatter effect like you did with SoBM.  Of course the fact that the draft was a "keeper" (ie no rare re-draft) significantly factored into my decision as well; I shipped a bunch of good cards including a Go for the Throat to my left.  My 2nd pick saw a pack with no removal and a Piston Sledge while I was passed a 3rd pick Divine Offering in a pack full of random black creatures.  I figured my best was to take the Divine Offering and ship the cards because I'd already sent a strong black signal with the Go For the Throat.  Additionally since my first two picks were artifact equipments I felt this pick protected my previous investment.  At this point I should probably explain that I was sitting directly left of my good friend and regular competitor Lucas Ma.  This is important because Lucas tends to strongly favor B/G Infect; often with a splash of blue for broken cards like Vedalken Anatomist and/or Corrupted Conscience.  Usually sitting left of Lucas means you will see absolutely no quality black cards after the first 3 picks so I had to admit I found it rather odd to see a 4th pick Morbid Plunder passing through him to me.  This left me in a fairly serious quandary; I had already passed a bunch of good black cards to my left but it was now exceptionally clear that Lucas was probably not playing black this draft.  Based on the packs I'd seen (admittedly only 3 at that point) he was probably in U/R or U/G which would make shipping all the free B he was going to send me a huge mistake.  Of course it was always possible I was over-reading the signals after only 3 packs; Lucas could have taken a *better* black card and shipped me the Plunder but I was having a hard time imagining what that card would be.  I decided it was probably best to just take the Plunder and hope I saw enough good black cards in packs 1 and 3 to make it my secondary color; most of the other cards in the pack ranged from "decent mid range bodies" to "bad cards you might include if you had to".  Naturally of course the next pack would *also* have a Morbid Plunder in it and I was off to the races.  Two of my next 3 picks (6 and 8) were a Leonin Relic-Warder and a 2nd copy of Divine Offering.  The rest of the pack was pretty boring overall although I did manage a late Leonin Skyhunter and a Peace Strider that would ultimately make the build.

Going into pack 2 I really had no idea what to expect from Scars of Mirrodin; my deck was off to a roaring start but I was a little short on bodies at this point.  Additionally I really hadn't acquired any cards that went particularly well with my Morbid Plunders and as such would be looking out for creatures with 187 (come into play) effects or ways to sacrifice themselves for extra value.  My first pack was a little alarming as it featured a Galvanic Blast, a Turn to Slag, a Slice in Twain and a terrible rare (Inexorable Tide).  Thankfully it also feature a Glimmerpoint Stag and without too much though I snatched it up and passed the sweet kill spells to my right.  My faith was quickly rewarded when my opponent passed me a 2nd pick Skinrender; apparently he had passed on the early Go for the Throat in pack 1 and was now heavily in Green on the strength of double Fangren Marauders and a bunch of artifact removal.  I was forced to deny a 3rd pick Volition Reins simply because I couldn't pass Lucas anymore first pick removal spells after picks 1 and 2.  My next 3 picks in rapid succession were Perilous Myr, Glint Hawk Idol and Necrogen Scudder.  Aside from the Idol I noted that these packs had been utterly devoid of quality white cards and assumed my opponent to the left had paired his green with white.  The rest of the pack dried up pretty quickly but I was delighted to get a couple of Fume Spitters around picks 9-11; while often marginal as removal spells go the fact that I could recycle them quite easily with Morbid Plunder was hardly lost on me. 
At this point in the draft I was extremely happy with my deck; I had 3 solid flyers to match with my equipment, doubles of Morbid Plunder and Divine Offering and a stunning 6 creatures with come into, leave play or sacrifice abilities.  I felt that headed into pack 3 I was looking for 3-4 more creatures, another removal spell or two and maybe a mana Myr.  Even if I only got half of that I felt I'd be able to cobble together a pretty strong build.  I wasn't even worried about having a "bomb" creature because I could simply make any one of my decent sized bodies into a beatstick with either of my two excellent equipment cards.  This naturally meant I would rip open a pack 3 with Geth, Lord of the Vault and a Grasp of Darkness.  I'd love to tell you that I was torn between these two cards but you simply do not pass Geth in this format or he will destroy you later.  As it turned out I didn't need to worry as I was passed another Grasp pick 2; while the pack was absolutely loaded with good W/B cards (including a Necrogen Scudder; more on this later) I really couldn't keep passing removal all day and expect to win this draft.   The 3rd pack I saw was pretty uninspiring and it basically came down to a Leaden Myr against a Kemba's Skyguard and while I was certainly interested in the lifegain + flying combo for my deck I *really* wanted to cast my Geth at some point during the tournament so I took the mana Myr.  I fourth picked a Moriok Replica out of an otherwise mediocre pack but the truth is I might have snapped picked him anyways because of the two Morbid Plunders at that point.  I stopped to deny a Darkslick Drake and then grabbed a 3rd Fumespitter to round out my early game.  I don't remember the exact order of the next few picks but for the most part the packs were pretty dead by then.  I grabbed an 8th pick Kemba's Skyguard and then was amazed when both the Fumespitter and Skyguard from earlier somehow tabled.  Because of the overall low quality of my sideboard cards it took me all of 5 minutes to build my deck and this is the list I entered the tournament with:     

"Vatican Assasin Drive-bys" - B/W Aggro w/ Graveyard Recursion:

Creatures - 16:

3x Fume Spitter
1x Leaden Myr
1x Leonin Relic-Warder
1x Leonin Skyhunter
1x Perilous Myr
2x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Moriok Replica
2x Necrogen Scudder
1x Glimmerpoint Stag
1x Peace Strider
1x Skinrender
1x Geth, Lord of the Vault

Spells - 8:

2x Divine Offering
1x Glint Hawk Idol (really a creature)
1x Grasp of Darkness
2x Morbid Plunder
1x Piston Sledge
1x Sword of Feast and Famine

Lands - 16:

8x Plains
8x Swamp

First and foremost I'd like to state that this deck is insane; the synergy and power-level presented in the cards I ultimately played with are completely off the charts.  The deck is built around 3 separate but extremely effective packages; namely "flying + equipment", "187 creatures with great abilities" and "graveyard recursion effects".

In the early game this build is capable of playing passively or aggressively with equal ability.  3 Fume Spitters and a Perilous Myr tend to discourage early attacks while alternately 6 flyers that cost 3 or less mana go a long way towards establishing the early beatdown; with or without equipment.  The Necrogen Scudders are especially strong in this build because I can offset the loss of 3 life so easily; making it a 3/3 flyer for 3 mana with essentially no drawbacks.  Naturally of course if I *could* draw the early equipment and my opponent failed to destroy it my games would quickly degenerate into blowouts.  While obviously the Sword is the more effective option in this deck Piston Sledge was also a beating; building your own 5/3 Dragon with a Kemba's Skyguard is pretty rewarding.  The only real downside was that I didn't have a whole pile of disposable artifacts to sacrifice if my opponent managed to contain the original target.  Even this wasn't REALLY a drawback; I could always sacrifice the Perilous Myr for free damage or the Peace Strider to set up a spicy Morbid Plunder in the mid-game.

In terms of the mid-late game this deck goes "big" with excellent cards like Skinrender, Glimmerpoint Stag and of course Geth himself.  As regular readers of this blog already know I am *very* fond of the interaction between an in-play Skinrender and a just cast Glimmerpoint Stag; having drafted the combo on a number of prior occasions.  What's more having two Morbid Plunders in the build allows you to create this interaction multiple times; I assure you after game 1 my opponents would rarely be interested in lethally blocking either creature for fear of setting the combo up again.  The grave-robbing fun doesn't stop there however as Morbid Plunder also combined well with my 3 lifegain creatures, the Leonin Relic-Warder and my lone Moriok Replica to provide me with a constant stream of useful effects and on-board bodies.  Finally while the deck was somewhat light on removal *spells* I still had 2x Divine Offerings and a Grasp of Darkness to ward off anything my "drive-by assassin" creatures couldn't handle.    

Overall I would have to describe this deck as "borderline repulsive" and definitely rank it amongst the finest builds I've ever constructed.  There are so many amazing two card interactions in this deck that during the tournament I often forgot that I had drafted a Geth/Sword of Feast and Famine until I actually drew them.  As far as I can tell synergy is very important in the MBS/SOM/SOM format but this was ridiculous; I honestly felt like I was piloting an above average pre-constructed deck bought right off the shelf.

Round 1 - Gilles W/G/R Midgame:

My round 1 opponent turned out to be a longtime friend who I have been drafting on and off with since roughly Mercadian Masques.  Gilles is a very strong player who's also a savy card player owing to years of playing Poker.  Unfortunately he also seems to have the most horrible luck with land; if it weren't for mana floods and mana screws Gilles wouldn't have any mana at all to paraphrase the common saying.  Note that I say this as someone who doesn't really believe in luck; Gilles' ability find horrible land draws completely transcends concepts like "disbelief" or "probabilities".  After winning the roll I shuffled up and sincerely wished Gilles good luck as far too many of our games have been ruined by mana issues.

Game 1 started out fine for both of us and Gilles and I spent the early game trading removal spells.  While his build was not exactly an infect deck he was playing early poison creatures and I had a little trouble figuring out how to approach it at first.  I walked a Glint Hawk into a Veridian Corruptor early on but I was able to trade off a Kemba's Skyguard and then drop a Skinrender on Gilles best creature.  Eventually I drew the Sword of Feast and Famine and strapped it onto a Necrogen Scudder; Gilles was short on removal and the game ended quickly when he proceeded to draw 3 consecutive land (putting him on 10 out of 20 cards for the game).

Game 2 was more interesting and eventually turned into a battle of epic proportions.  I started the game slowly but maintained board control by playing out a Fume Spitter, a Perilous Myr and a Leonin-Relic Warder that targeted Gilles' Phyrexian Digester.  Gilles proceed to cast a Corpse Cur targeting nothing and sent the turn back to me.  At this point I decided that if he was casting a Cur with no targets his hand was clearly pretty weak and I decided to cast my Glimmerpoint Stag on my own Leonin Relic-Warder and to use my Fumespitter to kill off the Digester when it came back into play.  I had a Moriok Reaver and a Morbid Plunder in hand so I figured I was setting up good value on my next 2 turns.  At the end of the turn Gilles complimented me on the play as I put his Corpse Cur under my Relic-Warder and I started feeling pretty good about my chances in the match. Gilles cast a Blightwidow and shipped the turn and as planned I sacrificed my Moriok Replica to draw into a land and a Peace Strider.  I drew a 2nd Fumespitter and casting out the Peace Strider and the Fumespitter on the same turn I once again started to feel like I was going to win the game and match pretty quickly.  This would ultimately prove to be my downfall when Gilles cast a Veridian Corrupter on my Peace Strider and attacked with the Blightwidow (block Glimmerpoint Stag, Sac Fumespiiter).  I drew a land and cast my Morbid Pluder before Gilles proceeded to draw (presumably) and cast a freaking Mimic Vat, instantly making the board-state about 100 times more complicated.  I naturally drew a Necrogen Scudder that I didn't want to cast but with my own Perilous Myr in play I figured my only real chance now would be to overwhelm him with flyers unless I topdecked one of my 2 Divine Offerings in the meantime.  Gilles naturally dropped a Tine Shrike and more ominously a Culling Dias and I made a mental note to do everything in my power to keep my Perilous Myr alive.  Realizing the game was slipping away from me I found myself hoping to topdeck Geth but instead had to settle for the Sword of Feast and Famine which I promptly played, equipped and swung in with the Scudder for 5.  Gilles calmly discarded a land, untapped and cast and Oxxida Scrapmelter on my Sword, attacked forcing me to trade something for the Veridian Corruptor and post combat dropped a Galvanic Blast on my Myr, killing his Shrike but getting my Perilous Myr under the Vat.  I knew this was pretty much game over at this point but I decided to play it out just in case I drew the Divine Offering fast enough to survive.  I didn't and 5 turns, 10 damage and 5 cards later Gilles finished me off with a Trigon of Rage; the truth is however he could have killed me several turns earlier simply by murdering my 2/2 Stag and then using it to flash out my Scudder every turn.

Unfortunately game 3 was a complete travesty; I cast a turn 2 Skyhuter and quickly followed that up with a Piston Sledge while Gilles drew no removal and got stuck on 3 lands, again.  I was able to play out a couple of disposable blockers to stop the 1 infect creature he did play and 4 turns later the match was over.

1-0 (2-1) MVP - Broken equipment cards and my opponent's perpetual mana issues (tie).  You never like to win a round because of your opponent's land but that's the game of Magic sometimes.

Round 2 - Moe: G/W Infect w/Equipment:

Round 2 would see me paired against another longtime friend and fellow competitor since Lorwyn block drafts.  Moe was running an interesting deck based primarily around 4 Tine Shrikes, some power-boosting equipment cards and a couple of Arrests.  While I certainly found it a little odd that there were *2* players playing G/W Infect variants in the same draft with only 1 pack of MBS I did recall an incredible number of Tine Shrikes moving around the table.  Once again I won the roll and Moe and I wished each other good luck; after a long run of missing each other in tournaments this was going to be our 2nd match-up in 2 weeks and I suspect we were both looking forward to the battle.

Unfortunately game 1 would once again be marred by luck; in this case my good luck.  My opening hand had both Divine Offerings in it and 2 of my first 3 cards off the top of the deck were Fumespitters.  This naturally left my opponent in an uncomfortable position when he cast a turn 3 Tine Shrike (Plague Myr) and proceeded to lose his board for BB and a couple Fumespitters.  Worse still I drew into a Morbid Plunder quite quickly afterward and proceeded to kill his next Tine Shrike the same way.  I even managed to draw into my lone Grasp of Darkness to kill off his Blightwidow before she could touch me for a single Poison.  The game ended when I strapped a Sword of Feast and Famine to a Kemba's Skyguard the turn after Divine Offering Moe's Strandwalker for 5 life.

Game 2 started out very similarly to game 1 with me keeping Moe off flyers/bodies through early removal and Fumespitters.  Moe however managed to cast back to back Blightwidows in response to lock out the board for a number of consecutive turns; all the while slowly adding random equipment cards to the table for later use.  I eventually drew a Piston Sledge and after strapping up a Scudder started executing Blightwidows in combat (and shrinking at the same time) but Moe was also keeping pace on the ground with a Rotwolf and a Bladed Sentinel.  After trading the Scudder off for the 2nd Blightwidow it took me a couple of turns to find another artifact to sacrifice for it but eventually I topdecked the Perilous Myr, killed a Tine Shrike and started bashing away again with a 5/3 Kemba's Skyguard.  When Moe cast a Strider Harness and sighed I figured the game was basically over and swung in with my flyer to take him to 3 life.  Naturally of course Moe proceeded to topdeck a Tine Shrike and after strapping on 3(!) equipments crashed into me for 7 poison (and putting me at 9 poison on table); laughing my butt off I asked "do you have the Predation or Mettle?" to which Moe replied by showing me a last-card in hand Forest.

2-0 (4-1) MVP - Fumespitter.  I could have also gone with "my opponent not drawing a Giant Growth" but killing 4 Tine Shrikes over 2 games with Spitters was pretty sweet.

Round 3 - Tommy: B/r/w Aggro:

Due to a couple of drops I found myself paired down against Tommy heading into round 3.  After losing round 1 to yet ANOTHER G/W Infect deck (3rd in a single draft) he had apparently run through his opponent pretty good with a pile of removal and a Bonehoard.  While I didn't realize it at the time Tommy's build was primarily a black-based equipment aggro deck and he was mainly splashing both red and white for removal cards (Red Sun's Zenith, Divine Offering, Revoke Existence and Burn the Impure) and the odd creature.  I was also unaware that Tommy also had a Skinrender and had drafted a Go for the Throat and a Spreading Sickness out of his MBS pack.  Once again I shuffled up and wished a good friend luck before settling down to focus on closing out the tournament.   

Game 1 started out strong for me; I quickly forced out a turn 2 Skyhunter and followed that up with a turn 3 Necrogen Scudder on a perfect mana draw.  Tommy was prepared however and dropped a Burn the Impure on my Scudder before I could run away with the game.  The game started to bog down on the ground when Tommy cast a couple of blocker types but I managed to turn the engine back on with a timely Skinrender.  Naturally Tommy responded by dropping a Skinrender on my Skinrender and seemed to have board control until I topdecked back to back Morbid Plunder/Glimmerpoint Stag.  I proceeded to play out the Skinrender to kill his copy, attack with it on the next turn and the flash it out with a Glimmerpoint Stag post combat to kill something else.  While I was pretty sure that would win me the game Tommy had one last surprise for me; an 8/8 Bonehoard.  Thankfully I had already drawn a copy if Divine Offering and after destroying his Equipment mid-combat on the next turn he conceded and we headed to the next game.

Game 2 was something of a reverse of game 1 as this time it was Tommy on the beatdown early and me scrambling to find removal to stay in the game.  Tommy however was curving out perfectly; with an early Flayer Husk, Necropede, Spin Engine and a Dross Ripper.  I did manage to play out a Perilous Myr and a Glint Hawk Idol in the early game but they quickly died trying to block my opponent's early hoards.  Eventually I managed to topdeck a Skinrender and a Necrogen Scudder (which I was forced to cast) but by the time I finally stabalized I was at 7 life and desperate to draw something off the top.  Naturally I proceeded to do just that with a Grasp and a Divine Offering before drawing my Geth.  Without thinking too much about it I slammed down the Geth (1st time all night) and shipped the turn back to Tommy who ominously informed me that if he drew a land I was dead.  His face on the drawstep said it all but I simply had to know what he was going to do if I drew another land; he revealed a Red Suns Zenith that would indeed have been fatal if he had drawn another land of any kind.  Laughing I thanked Tommy for the game and inwardly chided myself for not casting the Kemba's Skyguard in my hand instead of Geth.

3-0 (6-1) MVP - Skinrender.  Again I was tempted to go with my opponent's complete inability to draw a land at the right time but Skinrender was just so huge for me in both games; killing your opponent's best creature and getting a 3/3 body out of the deal continues to be amazing in this format.  Who knew? :)

Overall I'd have to say I am extremely happy with this draft.  The deck played out almost exactly like I expected it to on building and I genuinely felt like the favorite in all of my match-ups.  I was even guilty of sloppy play on a couple of occasions simply because the deck was so strong that I wasn't focused on thinking my decisions through properly.  The only real disappointment was my inability to draw/play Geth in a game that wasn't already decided; when you draft a busted 6CC mythic in Scars you sorta want to use him to win games and I just never had the opportunity.

Well folks there you have it; the epic tale of my first ever MBS/SOM/SOM draft and my torrid love affair with Morbid Plunder.  For those of you e-bombing my inbox with request for a "complete" draft report I hope you've enjoyed this article.  As always thanks for reading and until next time always remember to build a deck that can win without drawing Geth; he doesn't like you anyways.  Keep it weird gang.


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