Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of Limited Interest #25 - Back in the Saddle

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.   As I mentioned in my last article a recent illness has prevented me from traveling outside of my home for Magic Tournaments; even a 1 hour Subway ride just isn't possible at this point.  Thankfully however I happen to live over-top the Hairy T's downtown location and this past Thursday I decided I was well enough to enter an 8-man draft event so long as I didn't have to go outside to do it.  I had tried to enter the 8 man the week before but after winning 2 tough rounds against control-ish Infect builds I simply didn't have the gas to continue and had to drop before the finals.  As you can imagine this left me somewhat nervous about a repeat performance but I decided to play anyways; you gotta feed the monkey.

I should probably also mention at this point that I'd taken a nap earlier in the afternoon and during that time I had a weird dream about Magic.  Unfortunately the exact circumstances of the dream have been lost to the void but somehow I recall arguing profusely with another player that Dimir was the best deck in Ravnica block draft and thus completely worth forcing.  The amusing part of this is that I *hated* playing Dimir in the actual format but apparently in dreamland I'm a strong advocate.  The truth is I often dream about Magic because I spend so much time thinking about it but in this particular case even I found the dream to be pretty weird.  Don't worry this *will* come up later.

The draft portion of the event started off really strong for me when I opened a pack with a Black Sun's Zenith and about 7 other good cards I barely looked at while snap picking the Zenith.  I did note that the pack had 3 good Infect creatures in Flesh-Eater Imp, Blightwidow and Rot Wolf and promptly decided I wasn't playing Infect.  The next pack featured a missing rare and both Go For the Throat and Spread the Sickness which went a long way towards telling me how this draft was going to play out.  Clearly my opponent to the right was unlikely to draft black heavily knowing he was creating not 1 but 2 competitors to his left for pack 2.  Additionally by choosing the Go for the Throat over the Spreading Sickness I was able to give my opponent to the right an incredibly clear signal to jump into Infect after only 2 picks.  While it wasn't ideal to create another black player to my right for pack 2 the power level of the cards in the packs was going to do it anyways and by forcing him into poison I hoped to snatch up the good B control cards he'd have to pass for Infect creatures.  I 3rd picked a Morbid Plunder for this exact reason and then drafted back to back Quicksilver Geysers (only one of which I played MD) out of incredibly weak packs.  I stopped to take a white card (Divine Offering?) and then took a 7th pick Dross Ripper and an 8th pick Phyrexian Rager.  The rest of the packs were awful and the only cards I took that I thought I might play after that point were a Priest of Norn and an Oculus.  Going into pack 2 I had no no idea what my 2nd color was and roughly 4 black cards I was happy to be playing.  To say I was worried might be putting if mildly.

Pack 2 once again took a weird turn when I opened a relatively soft pack (at least for a B control deck) with an Argent Sphinx in the rare slot.  At this point I was certainly open to running B/U but I had drafted a grand total of 1 playable artifact in the MBS pack and frankly I wasn't all that excited about playing Dross Ripper anyways.  Desperate for creatures I took the Sphinx anyways; I figured I might grab enough artifacts in packs 2 and 3 to make it bonkers and even if I didn't my deck wasn't good enough at that point to turn down a 4/3 flyer for 4 mana.  My opponent to the right passed me a Nim Deathmantle (presumably over a sweet Infect common) and I followed that up with a Neurok Replica and a Palladium Myr.  My 5th pick was Necrogen Scudder over basically nothing but I didn't mind because I was still shy on creatures.  Unfortunately the next pack was pretty bad for me with lots of good red and white cards so I stopped to take a Revoke Existence just in case the blue thing didn't work out.  My next 3 picks however were Riddlesmith, Fume Spitter and Soliton so I was pretty sure I wasn't going to play white by the time we went to the 3rd pack.

Going into pack 3 I was at least reasonably happy with the cards in my pile but I knew I still needed a few things out of this pack.  Ideally I wanted to get another good "threat" type creature, a couple more control cards and some bodies to replace the sub-par cards that were making the deck at that point.  As it turns out 2 out of 3 ain't bad; I ripped open a Carnefex Demon and what seemed like a billion broken red spells before snapping up a 2nd pick Volition Reins.  Naturally it occurred to me that I was now forcing Dimir just like I said in my dream; I laughed out loud before passing the pack, pretty sure the other drafters thought I was crazy for a moment.  When my 3rd pick produced a Heavy Arbalest to go with my Solition I felt like I'd died and gone to drafting heaven; I'd hit 3 amazing control effects, and 2 "I just win" cards in my first 3 picks.  My 4th pick produced a Neurok Replica and my efforts to cut black heavily all draft were finally rewarded with a 5th pick Grasp of Darkness.  Unfortunately the rest of the pack dried up pretty quickly and the only "bodies" I could grab that would end up making the deck were Wall of Tanglecord, Leaden Myr and a Fume Spitter which I think I took 9 because the packs were just that dry.  I also made a point of passing a number of good Infect creatures to my left instead of hate drafting them during this pack; my opponent to the left had co-operated and jumped right into poison while passing me a number of great cards for my deck.  I saw no need to leave a fellow draftee hanging by sniping all his marginal Infect bodies in pack 3.

Once again this deck was incredibly easy to build; partially because I had stopped to take a few good white cards before I knew my 2nd color and partially because the back half of all 3 packs were simply miserable for everyone in this draft.  With virtually no relevant sideboard cards to speak of this is the deck I entered the tournament with:             

Dimir Dreamin' - U/B Control:

Creatures - 15:

2x Fume Spitter
1x Leaden Myr
1x Oculus
1x Riddlesmith
1x Wall of Tanglecord
1x Necrogen Scudder
2x Neurok Replica
1x Palladium Myr
1x Phyrexian Rager
1x Argent Sphinx
1x Dross Ripper
1x Soliton
1x Carnifex Demon

Spells - 8:

1x Go for the Throat
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Nim Deathmantle
1x Heavy Arbalest
1x Morbid Plunder
1x Quicksilver Geyser
1x Volition Reins
1x Black Sun's Zenith

Lands - 18:

9x Island
9x Swamp

Overall I feel this build is a very good version of classic limited U/B Control; an ages old deck archetype that's been good in almost every single draft format ever played.  First and foremost this deck focuses on negating your opponent's creatures with a stunning array of control effects; not counting the Solilton there are 5 creatures and 11 cards total in this deck that can deal with enemy monsters in some way.  Additionally the synergy level in this build is incredibly high with numerous cards filling multiple roles in a single game depending on the board state and the cards in your hand.  Finally the deck has a couple of equipment based combos that can either win the game outright (Solition + Arbalest) or lock out the board indefinitely (Nim Deathmantle + Neurok Replica/Fumespitter/half the deck).   

As regular "Of Limited Interest" readers know I like to describe draft decks by breaking them down into packages of cards that accomplish the same goals; a strong, tightly focused draft deck will usually make this quite easy since each card will obviously work towards a specific purpose.  In the case of Dimir Dreamin' this breakdown was a little harder because so many of the cards filled multiple roles.  At it's heart however the deck is basically comprised of 6 packages:
  • Control - as previously mentioned this build has a whopping 11 cards total that can control your opponent's creatures.  Black Sun Zenith, Go For the Throat, Volition Reins, Grasp of Darkness and the Carnifex Demon obviously top that list but cards like Quicksilver Geyser, Heavy Arbalest, Fume Spitter and Neurok Replica are just as important to this build.
  • Card Draw - While not exactly "amazing" Riddlesmith, Oculus, Phyrexian Rager and to a degree Morbid Plunder all help you cycle towards a game winning bomb or more control effects which can be very important in this deck archetype.
  • Chump Blockers - This deck tends to spend most of the early game on the defensive while building up it's mana base which in turn makes having good blockers important.  Wall of Tanglecord and Neurok Replica are generally the best early plays but Oculus and Phyrexian Rager make decent cards to throw under the bus in a pinch.  
  • Graveyard Recursion - While only 2 cards both the Morbid Plunder and the Nim Deathmantle are incredibly strong in this build; allowing you to re-use the deck's many creatures with sacrifice abilities and/or recur your Sphinx/Demon when it's killing time.
  • Man Acceleration - Once again while only 2 cards both of the "mana" Myr in this deck help make it significantly stronger; both by smoothing out the early mana curve and allowing the deck to reach 6-8 mana for a Demon, Vol Reins or equip costs as early as turn 4.
  • Beatdown Crew - Finally of course the deck runs 5 "thumpers" to help kill off your opponent once you've established board control.  These creatures range from amazing (Carnifex Demon) to very good (Argentum Sphinx, Necrogen Scudder) to passable (Soliton, Dross Ripper) but all of them are capable of putting your opponent "on the clock" against an empty board.

Round 1 - Scott G/R Dinosaurs:

Oddly enough round 1 would pair me against the player who was passing into me packs 1 and 3 during the draft so I already had some idea of what I would be facing up against.  I'd passed Scott some incredible red cards in pack 2 (Blast, Turn to Slag) and I had surmised that he was also playing green because I hadn't seen him pass many quality green cards all draft.  He of course knew I was in black/blue based on what he'd passed so we sat down for a fairly "tactical" game of Magic.   Unfortunately game 1 was a bit of a let down as both Scott and I had trouble drawing creatures and we both had more than enough removal to deal with the ones that were played.  He killed my turn 2 Myr with a Blisterstick Shaman which I turn took out with a Fume Spitter and on it went.  At one point the board settled out with a Wall of Tanglecord, a random 2/2 and an Ogre Resister for Scott against my Dross Ripper, Phyrexian Rager and Necrogen Scudder.  I incorrectly assumed that Scott was out of removal so I cast Carnifex Demon on 6 mana and shipped the turn back only to have Scott untap, play a 2nd Mountain and cast the last card in his hand; Turn to Slag.  Thankfully I had the Morbid Plunder in hand and after casting out a random blocker to ensure I wouldn't be overwhelmed on the next turn I returned the Carnifex Demon and a Fume Spitter to my hand.  Scott drew a couple land and after wiping most of his board I started getting in with a 6/6 Demon and a 1/1 random body every turn until Scott conceded. 

Game 2 started off better for both of us as we each cast out turn 2 mana Myr that actually survived this time and we both quickly flooded the board with 2/2 "bears".  Scott eventually cast an Ogre Resister to take board control but I had been purposely casting out my weaker creatures (Rager, Riddlesmith, Oculus) because I was slow rolling a Black Sun's Zenith which I promptly cast on my next turn for 3.  Scott played a land and passed the turn so I cast an Argent Sphinx which he promptly sent to the bin with a Burn the Impure (?) on my end step.  After Scott drew, played another land and cast another 2/2 "bear" he passed the turn back to me with 5 mana in play and 1 card in his hand.  I dropped a Necrogen Scudder and cast Morbid Plunder to return the Sphinx and the Oculus to my hand.  Scott drew another land (presumably) and dropped an Alpha Tyrannax but conceded when I showed him the Volition Reins and Island in my hand.  After the match my opponent revealed that his 1st pick in MBS had been Thrun, the Last Troll so the decision to pass me 2 black targeted removal spells that could not kill him suddenly made more sense.  

1-0 (2-0) MVP - Tough call here as both Carnifex Demon and Volition Reins were amazing in the match; Morbid Plunder however set me up to win *both* games so I think it gets the nod here.

Round 2 - Gilles B/G/r Control w/ Infect backdoor:

Unfortunately by round 2 I was already starting to feel tired and running a reasonable fever so my memory is a little fuzzy on this round.  I do remember that Gilles was playing a weird control/poison hybrid with an absolute pile of amazing removal.  Early in game 1 I actually assumed he was a pure Infect deck based on his early plays (Rot Wolf, Viridian Corrupter) until he cast a mid-game Oxxida Scrapmelter on me.  I managed to stabilize early in the game by casting a 2 point Black Sun's Zenith but Gilles responded with a Morbid Plunder and used the Corrupter to take out my Dross Ripper.  Eventually after trading removal spells for a couple turns however I drew enough land to cast out the Carnifex Demon and activate it twice on the same turn which quickly sent us to game 2. 

Game 2 was an epic back and forth battle as both of our decks came out gunning early; once again Gilles flooded the board with early Infect monsters and once again I responded by dropping a 2 point Black Sun's Zenith.  This time however Gilles responded taking out my Nim Deathmantle with an Oxidda Scrapmelter and I could only reply with a Palladium Myr.  Gilles dropped Morbid Plunder on his next turn and started beating me down with the Scrapmelter.  I missed a land drop and was forced to run out a Necrogen Scudder and an Oculus dropping further down in life.  Gilles attacked again and I foolishly blocked with my Scudder thereby walking directly into an Instill Infection.  Missing another land drop I drew a Dross Ripper and was finally able to trade with his Scrapmelter in combat before he cast out 2 more bodies and a Culling Dias.  Suddenly very worried I drew my top card and without hesitation slammed down a land and the Carnifex Demon I'd been holding on to for the past 4 turns.  To my surprise Gilles didn't have a way to kill the Demon immediately and simply swarmed at me with all of his non poison creatures, sacrificing the one I blocked fatally to his Culling Dias and putting me at 9 life.  I drew a land off a dying Oculus and a land on my draw so I activated the Demon twice; killing his board and my own Palladium Myr in the process and leaving only my Demon to swing for 6.  Gilles naturally top-decks Spread the Sickness and casts out a Myr Sire after sending my Demon to the bin.  At this point I was pretty worried because my hand consisted of a Soliton and some land and Gilles had not yet cast the Viridian Corrupter he regrew with Morbid Plunder a bunch of turns ago.  I drew a Phyrexian Rager which in turn drew me into a Go for the Throat but Gilles replied by simply flooding the board with a Painsmith and a random 3/3 body.  Unfortunately I don't remember the exact sequence of the next couple turns; I played a chump blocker and drew a Grasp but was forced down to 5 life by Gilles next attack.  At the end of the first attack Gilles cracked his Culling Dias for 3 cards and on the next turn cast another creature and a Morbid Plunder.  I was forced to play out my Soliton, a Wall of Tanglecord and a Heavy Arbalest which Gilles killed immediately with his Corrupter.  Things looked pretty bleak when Gilles forced me to trade off the Myr just to stay at 5 life and cast another creature threatening to overwhelm me with damage on the next turn.  I then proceeded to rip my only out at that point; my singleton copy of Morbid Plunder.  I cast it and immediately returned the Demon and the Oculus to my hand.  I attacked for 3 with my Solition and openly stated "I can untap him to block so I might as well get 3 damage in here and cast out the Oculus certain that I could stay at 5 life next turn simply by blocking everything Gilles attacked with and trumping with the Demon (I had like 10 land in play at that point and so did he) on my next turn.  Gilles grimly sized up the situation before casting a random artifact and using the Painsmith trigger to turn the Myr Sire into a 3/1 deathtouch monster for the turn.  He proceeded to swing with the entire team and after choosing blocks I realized that I had miscalculated and was going to take a very uncomfortable 3 damage on his attack.  This was of course because somehow in the 60 seconds since I had mentioned it openly I had forgotten that Soliton could untap himself, no really.  Gilles didn't have the Galvanic Blast in hand so I untapped and dropped the fully loaded Carnifex Demon on the table and immediately activated it twice leaving nothing on Gilles side, a 0/4 wall and a 1/2 Soliton to keep my Demon company on my side.  Gilles drew a land and snapped it into play before I attacked for 7 with the Demon and the Soliton.  This put Gilles on 10 life and when he drew another land it was pretty obvious he was frustrated and still had answers left in his pile.  I attacked again and after surveying the board Gilles decided to scoop at 3 life with my fatal attack on board for next turn.  Unfortunately as I was scooping my cards up Gilles decided to look at the top card of his deck (which he would have drawn immediately if he had not conceded) and asked me "what life are you at?"  When I said 2 he flipped an Arc Trail onto the table and my jaw almost hit the floor.  I had already shuffled the Demon, Soliton, Wall and half my graveyard into my library but by all rights my opponent had me dead as a doornail if he hadn't conceded before his draw step.  Gilles however assured me that he was frustrated with his own hastiness and was prepared to accept the loss; to be fair I'm a little sad to admit that I did not offer to conceded the game and head to game 3.  My rationalization at the time was that I too had made a boneheaded mistake by not untapping the Soliton and blocking the Myr Sire and thus would have been able to survive the Arc Trail if I had played "right".  In retrospect I really should have just conceded for a game 3 and next time I hope I have the good sense to do just that.  

2-0 (4-0*) - MVP - My opponent conceding before drawing his top card in game 2.  Frankly I'm still feeling a little weird about this win days later.

Round 3 - Lucas B/G Infect:

As it turns out the finals would also pair me against a player I had sat right next to during the draft; in this case Lucas to whom I'd shipped 3/4 of a great B/G Infect deck in packs 1 and 3.  To be honest I was genuinely afraid of this match-up simply because I knew how good Lucas' deck was and my deck was potentially a little slow to handle a fast poison draw against it.  After Lucas assured me that he had no intention of taking it easy on me just because I was trying to qualify for Nationals on rating we shuffled up and prepared to battle.  Unfortunately Game 1 was a bit of a travesty as Lucas kept a 2 land hand which eventually became 3 but never quite reached 4.  This forced him to waste all of his cheap removal on my early creatures just to maintain board parity and left him with no answers when I dropped a Soliton/Heavy Arbalest combo in the mid-late game.  As if to prove to me that he wasn't taking a dive Lucas showed me his hand after the game; Flesh Eater Imp, Spread the Sickness, Blightwidow and a Melira's Keepers.  Game 2 started slightly better with Lucas dumping out an early Ichorclaw Myr, Flensermite and a Bladed Pinions but I responded with both Fume Spitters and an early Argent Sphinx to take control of the board.  Lucas once again got stuck on 3 mana and despite dealing with the Argent Sphinx fell way behind on the board.  By the time he played his 4th mana and Flesh-Eater Imp I had more than enough removal to kill it and his Melira's Keepers were met with a Volition Reins to close out the game.

3-0 (6-0) - MVP My opponent's complete inability to draw his 4th or 5th lands in a timely manner despite playing B/G Control Infect with 17 lands and a spare mana Myr.

Well folks that's about all my fingers can handle for the moment; hopefully you've enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.  I have to admit that it felt good to get back on the horse and really "nail" a draft like that; I was starting to worry that lack of practice would ultimately be my undoing.  Hopefully as my health gets better I can post articles more frequently but I have to be allowed to play in tournaments before I can write about them.  As a side note I should mention that I'm working on a few articles for other websites at the moment; be on the lookout for updates here on my blog as to where on the interwebs you can find them once they're finished.  Until next time folks always remember to force Dimir if your dreams tell you to and never forget to keep it weird.

1 comment:

  1. Hey nina,nice article as always, in other news all I have to say about the about the NPH previews is wtf @ hex parasite, seriously I need those.