Hello everyone out there in Internetlands and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. Hopefully you all enjoyed the weekend and managed to play a little more Magic than I have. Recently due to bad weather and the Easter holiday I've been having a hard time rounding up a sanctioned 8 man draft. Don't get me wrong; while I certainly don't mind playing in 4 or 5 man round-robin events there's a certain beautiful symmetry to the 8-man draft format that simply can not be replicated without 7 other players. Desperate for draft action I finally caved and decided to borrow my boyfriend's MTGO account and play in an online SOM Swiss draft. Now I realize some of you are going to dismiss this draft already because I played Swiss and while I understand the line of thinking I really can't allow it to weigh too heavily on my conscience. Sitting down to draft I knew that I would be writing about the event for this blog and I wanted to make sure I had 3 complete rounds to talk about regardless of how good or bad my deck ended up. Additionally since I hadn't been able to play in an 8-man for a couple weeks I was looking to enjoy myself while drafting with little or no pressure/gambling involved. This may surprise you but in my experience people playing for a single pack in Swiss drafts tend to be a little friendly and more talkative than your typical opponents in an 8 man. Everyone is there either to practice, grab some rares or have a good time and I find that I have more in common with these opponents than I do with your typical 8-4 grinder trying to go "infinite" on MtGO. When I want to gamble for/win packs I definitely prefer the 8-4 format but if I'm just looking for a relaxing 3 hours of Limited Magic you'll more often than not find me in the Swiss queues and I'm not particularly ashamed to admit it.
Creatures - 11:
1x Glint Hawk
1x Iron Myr
1x Lead Myr
1x Snapsail Glider
1x Bladed Sentinel
1x Dross Ripper
1x Glimmerpoint Stag
1x Pierce Strider
1x Psychosis Crawler
1x Razor Hippogriff
Spells - 12:
1x Galvanic Blast
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Go for the Throat
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Revoke Existence
1x Viridian Claw
2x Master's Call (really 2 disposable creatures)
1x Rusted Relic (mostly a creature)
Land - 17:
1x Nihl Spellbomb
1x Abuna Acolyte
1x Heavy Arbalest
Overview: While not a strategy I often employ; Karma Krawler is a pretty classic example of a 3 color (2 colors and a splash) control deck in draft. Typically playing 3 colors outside of draft formats that specifically encourage it (Invasion, Ravnica, Shards) is a bad strategy; dying with powerful cards in your hand because you never saw your off color mana is no way to win drafts after all. This problem is somewhat mitigated however if you're playing a very strong control deck with enough removal to drag *every* game out until you see all of your colors. Even then typically the 3rd color must be a "splash" with no double mana symbols and preferably 4 or less cards in the "splash" color. This deck fits the description perfectly with 8 direct removal effects (and 2 Master's Calls which double as a combat trick), 2 "off" color Myr, 2 red cards total that are both powerful well into the late game (Galvanic Blast, Shatter) and enough strong white cards to keep us alive until we see black and red mana. I should probably also mention that the deck has a minor metalcraft theme with Galvanic Blast, Snapsail Glider and Rusted Relic. Usually I try to avoid this mechanic in control decks because it's actually pretty hard to pull of metalcraft when you're busy trading blockers and killing all your opponent's creatures in the early game. Additionally making your "finishers" immune to late game "Shatter" effects is actually a *very good* strategy in this format for somewhat obvious reasons. In this case I really didn't have much of a choice, I had spent most of the draft picking sweet removal spells and simply needed the bodies. Thankfully the deck's 2x Master's Call made it pretty easy to achieve and maintain metalcraft status throughout my matches so there was no need to overload my deck with bad artifacts just to "get there".
In terms of play-style this deck is your classic "murder and swing" build. While there are some interesting 2 card interactions (mostly revolving around Glimmerpoint Stag or Razor Hippogriff and a Mortarpod) on a basic level this deck wants to keep the board clear and then bash you to death with monsters. While this may seem overtly simplistic it's a tried and true method of winning Limited matches that has stood the test of time throughout Magic's history. This strategy also has another advantage when playing on MtGO; most of your cards are pretty point and click which in turn conserves your clock and puts the pressure on your opponent to find a way to win before he runs out of time. I love complicated board states, marginal advantage combos and "every turn" activated abilities as much as the next gal but they certainly aren't your friend when you're dealing with a 25 minute clock on MtGO. Finally I should probably give the Psychosis Crawler his due; like most of you out there I have been passing this guy since the moment MBS came out and not regretting it in the slightest because he seemed pretty awful. As I previously mentioned however this time I really didn't have a choice and after playing with him I have to say my opinion has changed considerably. Don't get carried away; I'm not saying he's a bomb or a 1st pickable card at all. However during most of my matches it was pretty easy to keep him at 4/4 during my attack phase and 3/3 on my opponent's turn; getting 5 damage a cycle out of a 5 casting cost artifact isn't anything to sneeze at. I still think this guy is a 6th or 7th type pick but he absolutely has value in the right kind of deck (control).
With no replays to watch I plunged right into my round 1 match-up completely blind. As it turns out my opponent was playing a r/w aggro build with a splash of green. Unfortunately I never got to see what he intended to do with the splash because while he played a forest both games he never cast a green card. Mostly his deck seemed built around some flyers, some solid cheap artifacts, a Myrsmith, a couple of Rusted Slashers and some game changers in Cerebral Erruption and a Hellkite Igniter.
Game 1 started off slow for both of us; my opponent took the draw and after taking a mulligan I kept a slow hand with a lot of removal. He lead off with a Vulshok Replica on 3 and I countered with a Bladed Sentinel. My opponent then taps out to play a Rusted Slasher and after drawing a Razor Hippogriff I figure I'm okay with trading my Bladed Sentinel for either one of his critters. Giving the Sentinel vigilance I attacked and was somewhat surprised to see him trade the Slasher straight up without sacrificing the Replica; I'm not entirely sure this was a mistake but I had definitely expected him to trade off the 3CC artifact for my 4CC guy. Post combat I finished the turn casting the Pierce Strider and draining him for 3; knowing full well I was prepared to trade it off for his Replica on the next attack phase because of the Hippogriff in my hand. My opponent seemed to sense that momentum was shifting away from him as well because he skipped his attack phase and played a Skinwing before shipping the turn back to me. Undeterred by his defensive posture I attacked with the Strider anyways and as I predicted he chose the trade with the Replica over the chump block with the Skinwing. I was prepared to cast the Hippogriff for the Sentinel if he didn't kill the Strider but I was obviously *much* happier to return the the "drain for 3" Hill Giant to my hand and pass the turn. Hitting land drops like a champ my opponent quickly played out his 6th land and attacked for 2 with the Skinwing; sensing an Arc Trail/Galvanic Blast I let him have the 2 damage and watched him cast out a Myrsmith and another Rusted Slasher to end his turn. I drew *my* 7th land and attacked with the Hippogriff before casting out the Pierce Strider and draining for 3 again. Sending the turn back I hoped my opponent wouldn't notice that I'd left 3 mana up for the Master's Call in my hand. Naturally my opponent proceeds to untap and drop a Cerrebral Erruption on my head; revealing a Mortarpod and killing absolutely nothing on my side. I'm naturally relieved for a moment until my opponent goes to his combat step and turns all 3 guys sideways; this is confusing because at the time I was significantly ahead on life and thus would not be forced to trade my Pierce Strider off if I didn't want to. Thanking my fortunes once again I dropped the Master's Call and ambushed both of his 1 toughness attackers; unsurprisingly he wasn't interested in trading off the Skinwing to regenerate the Slasher and both of his guys went quickly to the bin while the 'Wing put me on 14 life. After attacking for 6 I cast the Mortarpod and an Iron Myr and started closing in for the kill only to see my opponent drop his 7th land and play a Hellkite Igniter. Unfortunately for him not only did he have to leave the big hasty Dragon back on defense I had also be saving an Arrest all game for an appropriate target and a 7CC flying bomb certainly qualified. He conceded immediately after I cast the Arrest and we headed to game 2.
Unfortunately after a fairly interesting game 1 our 2nd game would turn out to be a stinker. I mulled a bad hand with no mana and no removal into a bad hand with mana/removal but few creatures. My opponent chose the play this time and promptly dropped a turn 2 Myrsmith. When my draw was another land (still no creatures) I figured things could get out of hand very quickly if he started making 1/1 Myr tokens against an empty board. With a resigned sigh I "wasted" my Go For the Throat and watched my opponent cast a Glint Hawk Idol on his next turn. My turn 3 continued the excitement with a Sylvok Lifestaff but at least I was playing towards something having drawn a Rusted Relic in the meantime. My opponent missed a land drop and was forced to activate the Idol manually and attack for 2 while I spent my next turn dropping the Relic. Hitting his 4th land and casting a Skinwing my opponent again crashed in for 2 in the air to put me on 16 life. Drawing and casting a Bladed Sentinel I was finally about to get into the game with a 6/5 Rusted Relic (Lifestaff equipped) which I turned sideways immediately. My opponent chose not to chump block with his Skinwing which made sense since he was still 2 mana way from equipping it and could bash back for 4 on his next turn in the meantime. As predicted my opponent swings for 4 and then drops a Glint Hawk Idol and an Accorder's Shield before shipping the turn back to me. Realizing that he means to race I attack with my Relic and wait for him to activate the Glint Hawk Idol before Shattering it to clear the path for my "beater". I could have also attacked with the Sentinel but with my opponent on 5 land I was at least mildly worried about him casting a Flameborn Hellion and suddenly flipping our clocks so I decided to hold it back and use my white mana to front a Master's Call. Unfortunately my opponent's next 2 turns consist of basically nothing before he finally drew the Choking Fumes after was impossible to double block my Relic and kill it. The game ended very quickly afterwards.
1-0 (2-0) MVP - Having gobs of solid removal cards. It's pretty easy to win games when you can kill virtually every creature your opponent plays over the course of the game. I should also mention that while my opponent had a good deck I am not entirely sure he played it right in game 1; he traded very aggressively without knowing much about my deck and thus walked directly into both Razor Hippogriff and a Master's Call before the game was over.
Unfortunately my round 2 opponent was involved in the last match to finish round 1 so once again I had no real idea what I was facing. Once the games started I was quickly able to identify my opponent's deck however as b/w equipment based aggro. To be fair I happen to like this deck-style more than most but frankly my opponent just didn't have the cards to pull it off. When you're main-decking cards like Moriok Reaver it usually means your draft went wrong or you've picked up so much removal you don't care how marginal your bodies are. During our games nothing gave me the impression that my opponent had an exceptional amount of removal and I am thus forced to assume that he was just having a rough draft.
Once again game 1 started off poorly for me; after mulling to 6 I was forced to keep a hand with 2 Plains, no clear turn 2 plays and an off color Shatter. While I was obviously tempted to mull again the presence of both Arrest and Revoke Existence discouraged it so I decided to keep the hand. After two turns of me drawing no lands my opponent cast a Moriok Reaver and shipped the turn back to me. Naturally of course I proceeded to miss my land drop *again* and had to discard the Shatter I was starting to doubt I would ever get to play. In a stroke of pure luck my opponent missed *his* next land drop and proceeded to drop an Accorder's Shield, attach it to his Reaver and swing in for 3. Frustrated I untapped and drew a Mountain (of course!) and after studying the board for about 30 seconds I realized that I basically had no choice but to Arrest the Reaver; hoping that I'd keep hitting land drops. By now I'd drawn a couple of Master's Calls, a Pierce Strider and a Bladed Sentinel so I knew I'd eventually be able to right the ship if I could just stay alive long enough to do so. My opponent drew his 4th land and after playing it cast a Moriok Replica to which I could only respond with a Lead Myr after having missed yet another land drop. I could have hit the Replica with a Revoke Existence instead before my opponent had the mana to sacrifice it but at that point I needed the mana from the Myr more than I cared about how many cards were in his hand. Playing his 5th land on turn 6 my opponent attacked with the Replica to send me down to 15 and post combat cast a Chimeric Mass with 4 counters; leaving up 1 mana to activate it if necessary. I proceeded to draw a Sylvok Lifestaff and after deciding I didn't want to take 4 damage next turn cast Revoke Existence on his Mass, attacked with my Lead Myr and played the Lifestaff before shipping the turn with my opponent up 19-15 life. Thankfully he drew nothing (presumably) and after hooking up his Accorder's Shield to the Replica bashed me for 2 and passed the turn. Finally drawing my 4th land I spend the turn casting a Pierce Strider and tapped the Myr to put the Lifestaff on it immediately only to have my opponent reply in kind by casting his own Stider on my turn and sending me down to 10 life. Down 16-10 on life totals and unable to break through my opponent's Accorder's Shield at that moment I was forced to cast a Bladed Sentinel and watched in fascination as my opponent chose to cash in his equipped Moriok Replica for 2 cards on my end step. Sadly for him this only lead to a Loxodon Wayfarer and a Myr Sire while I managed to top deck a Glint Hawk and used it to bounce and recast my Pierce Strider to even up our life totals a little more. His next turn consisted entirely of casting Signal Pest and passing so I strapped the staff on the Hawk and bashed him down to 8; leaving up 5 mana and an untapped Lead Myr. Naturally my opponent attacked with the Pest and Strider; likely believing that I was going to trade my Strider off and try to win the game with the Glint Hawk. I had other plans however and after casting both copies of Master's call in my hand triple blocked his Pierce Strider with Myr tokens to send it to the bin and preserve my own life totals. When he equipped the Myr Sire and shipped the turn I could sense the end of the game coming; I attacked with everything to send him to 2 despite his blockers and equipped the Lifestaff to the vigilant Sentinel post combat. I lost my Pierce Strider to a Virulent Wound in the process but I was pretty sure the game was over at that point anyways. With one last gasp of life my opponent cast Gruesome Encore to bring back my Pierce Strider, drained me for 3 life and alpha struck into my Bladed Sentinel for another 2 damage before conceding for game 2.
Again taking the play, my opponent lead with a turn 2 Gold Myr and a turn 3 Blitstergrub while my first play was a turn 3 Snapsail Glider. On his fourth turn he played another Swamp, cast a Lead Myr, a Flayer Husk and attacked me with the Blistergrub. Figuring at that point that he was probably screwed for white mana I decided to cast a Divine Offering on his gold Myr just to slow the game down for a moment. I also attacked with my Glider and post combat cast an Iron Myr of my own to push myself towards casting the Psychosis Crawler in my hand. Unfortunately he untapped, played a Plains and dropped a Necropede and a Sunspear Shikari before swinging in with his Blistergrub again. At this point I was getting tired of eating damage while sandbagging a bunch of good cards in my hand so I attacked with the Snapsail to try and bait out a trade for either the Shikari or the Necropede. When he didn't go for the exchange I cast the Glimmerpoint Stag in my hand to kill his Germ token; leaving up a Mountain so I could Galvanic Blast his Shikari when he tried to equip it on his turn. Naturally of course he did just that and after Blasting the Shikari into the bin I took another 2 damage from the Blistergrub before my opponent shipped the turn without casting anything else. I attacked again with the Glimmerpoint Stag and Snapsail Glider and once again my opponent declined to trade off his Necropede so post combat I finally played a land and dropped my Psychosis Crawler into play as a 3/3. Hovering at 11 life my opponent needed to rip something pretty good at this point and managed to pull it off with a timely Chimeric Mass for 5 but with no mana left over to activate it. Untapping and drawing a card I took him down to 10 before attacking with the Glider, the Stag and the now 4/4 Pyschosis Crawler; forcing him to trade off both his Myr and the Necropede to stay at 8 life (putting the extra token on the Pyschosis Crawler). On his turn he animated the Mass, attacks me for 5 (putting me at 10) and then casts a 2nd Sunspear Shikari before equipping her with the Flayer Husk. Drawing another card I put him on 7 life with the Psychosis Crawler and after dropping a Go For the Throat on his Shikari swung again with everything but the Glider, connecting for 5 damage and putting him at 2 life. Desperate to generate some momentum my opponent animated the Mass and swung again but this time I smelled the trap so I quickly blocked with my Snapsail to conserve my life total. This worked out in my favor when my opponent proceeded to drop a Pierce Strider post combat, used an Instill Infection to survive my next attack phase at exactly 1 life and then dropped a Neocrogen Censer on his next turn before conceding the game because I still had a random Myr back to block his Mass.
2-0 (4-0) MVP - Once again I'm going to go with having enough removal effects to kill pretty much every relevant creature my opponent played. Pierce Strider and Pyschosis Crawler do deserve the honorable mention however for putting me "over the top" in games 1 and 2 respectively.
After watching some replays my opponent's deck turned out to be a weird green/blue Infect/Proliferate hybrid with a number of very powerful equipment cards; most notably a Bonehoard. He also seemed to have a tremendous number of mana Myr, both on and off color. Unfortunately I never really found out what all of the Myr were for as the most expensive card my opponent cast in the entire match was a Quicksilver Geyser.
Game 1 started of pretty slowly for my opponent and rather quickly for me. After putting me on the play he dropped a Forest and a Mountain while I went turn 2 Morarpod and on the next turn sacrificed the Germ token to do 1 damage to him, dropped a Glint Hawk to bounced the Mortarpod back to my hand and then recast it. Things were looking up until my opponent played an Island and proceeded to Arc Trail both of my guys; naturally I sacrificed the Germ Token to deal him another point of damage but losing my Hawk definitely slowed down my early game. Unfortunately I also missed my next land drop, had to ship the turn back without playing anything and watched my opponent respond by playing his 4th land; forcing out a Necropede and a Silver Myr. At this point I wasn't overtly worried since I knew from the replays that my opponent would try to put a Piston Sledge on the Necropede and I had both a Shatter and a Revoke in my hand already. I managed to hit my 4th land and quickly cast a Pierce Strider to drag my opponent down to 15 life without having ever declared an attack against him. My opponent declined to attack and spent his turn casting a Rust Tick and another Silver Myr. At this point I probably got a little greedy, instead of accepting that my opponent likely had the Piston Sledge and just wasn't prepared to trade his 1 Infect creature for my Pierce Strider I assumed that he hadn't drawn one; I attacked for 3 with the Pierce Strider and cast a Dross Ripper to end my turn. Of course my opponent would immediately prove my folly by tapping out the Dross Ripper with his Rust Tick, casting a Piston Sledge on his Necropede and attacking me for 4 points of poison damage. Frustrated I attacked again with my Pierce Strider and surprisingly he took the damage to go down to 9 so I assumed he had something big in his hand he wanted to use his various Myr to cast. Post combat I cast a Bladed Sentinel and left up the mana to Shatter while trying to figure out if I should be taking out the Piston Sledge or the Necropede itself. Fortunately my opponent took the guesswork out of the equation by dropping a Quicksilver Geyser first main phase to return my Dross Ripper and Bladed Sentinel to my hand before swinging in with the Necropede. I shattered the bug because I knew my opponent didn't have enough mana to cast another creature with Infect on this turn and I was in no danger of losing by regular life. With no other targets on my side he was forced to put the -1-1 token on the Pierce Strider which also played into my plans because I intended to get it killed as quickly as possible to combo with the Razor Hippogriff in my hand. Unable to attack on my turn because of his 1/3 Rust Tick I played out a Dross Ripper and left up 2 Swamps so I could cast the Grasp of Darkness I'd just drawn on his Tick before my next attack phase. Predictably my opponent tapped out my Dross Ripper and then cast out his trump; a 2/2 Bonehoard that would sail to 4/4 by the end of his turn after he sacrificed a Myr to attach his Piston Sledge to another Myr and I grasped his Rust Tick to free up my Dross Ripper. I cast Revoke Existence on his Myr, equipped the Mortarpod to the Pierce Strider and attacked knowing full well that my opponent would block my Dross Ripper fatally and take 2; with plenty of land in play I recast the Bladed Sentinel and shipped the turn back. Unable to attack at this point my opponent cast yet another Myr and shipped the turn back to me; at end step I sacrificed the Pierce Strider wearing the Mortapod to do 1 damage to him directly. On my turn I closed out the game by casting a Razorhippogriff and returning the Pierce Strider. My opponent didn't concede immediately so I was mildly worried about a counterspell on the next turn but the game ended without much fuss when I attacked with the Hippogriff and then recast the Pierce Strider for lethal damage.
Once again game 2 turned out to be something of a stinker. My opponent got off to a fast start with a turn 1 Memnite and a turn 2 Copper Myr while I basically played some lands and took a hit off the Memnite. My opponent had put me on the play so when he attacked into my 3 open mana on his 3rd turn I really couldn't resist dropping the Master's call and trading off for both of his creatures. He played a land and a Silver Myr before passing the turn and letting me throw down a Dross Ripper. Not to be outdone my opponent killed the Dross Ripper with a Viridian Corrupter, bashed me for 1 with his Silver Myr and then played a Flight Spellbomb post combat. Unfortunately for him luck was just not on his side this game as my 5th turn saw me top-deck a 2nd Swamp and drop a Skinrender on his Corrupter. Desperate for answers he spent his next turn cycling the Flight Spellbomb to hit me for 1 again with his Silver Myr but could only come up with yet another mana Myr post combat; this time Iron. On my turn I attacked and then without playing a land cast a 3/3 Pyschosis Crawler. My opponent's 6th turn consisted of playing and land an passing, so I swung in for seven (8 with the Crawler trigger!) and played a Snapsail Glider. My opponent's next turn produced a Neurok Invisimancer and not much else. Hitting him for another point on my draw step I attacked with all 3 creatures to press through the final points of damage. My opponent however had one last surprise for me as he double blocked the Skinrender with his Invisimancer and a Myr before tapping said Myr to cast a Quicksilver Geyser on my Crawler and Glider. Once again however my deck had already provided the answer for this problem and I simply cast Shatter on the blocking Myr to let my Skinrender devour his Invisimancer. When I still had enough mana to recast the Crawler (now a 4/4) my opponent went to his draw phase and then conceded the game/match.
3-0 (6-0) - MVP - While I'd like to go with the Pierce Strider/Hippogriff interaction that won me game 1 or the Skinrender/Psychosis Crawler duo that won me game 2 the truth is that once again the best part of my deck this match was all the disgusting removal. It's a rare deck in Limited Magic that can win without creatures and having a LOT of ways to kill off your opponent's stuff is pretty much always going to be a legitimate draft strategy.
Well folks this concludes another edition of "Of Limited Interest". Sorry for the super long write up this time; I actually took copious notes during the draft because sometimes I find online drafts a little harder to remember than the ones I play in the physical world. These notes made it pretty easy to remember almost *every* single detail of the draft and the "keener" inside of me couldn't resist sharing it all with you. As always thanks for reading and good luck in your next draft be it online or in "paper" Magic. Remember gang even a card like Psychosis Crawler can win matches if all of your opponent's creatures turn into a heaping pile of ash in his graveyard!