Thursday, July 21, 2011

Of Limited Interest #32.4 - Number Crunch (Part 4)

Editor's Note continued from (insert link here):

Green Rares and Mythics:
  1. Garruk, Primal Hunter
  2. Primordial Hydra
  3. Primeval Titan
  4. Arachnus Spider
  5. Skinshifter
  6. Garruk's Horde
  7. Dungrove Elder *+
  8. Birds of Paradise
  9. Elvish Archdruid
  10. Rites of Flourishing
  11. Doubling Chant
Analysis: Let's get this out of the way right now; Garruk 2.0 is absolutely bonkers and I have no problem stating that opening him in pack 1 is pretty much the only reason I would ever force Green here in M12.  What's more I'm pretty confident that a deck with Garruk would be an odds-on favorite to win said draft despite being forced to include a bunch of crummy Green cards just to support the Primal Hunter.  When a card spits out 3/3 Beasts while *increasing* it's survivability, can draw you an entire new hand and comes with a game ending ultimate ability; only a fool would ignore it just because he didn't like playing Green.  Unfortunately after Garruk there's a steep drop off in terms of card quality and 5 of the next 6 cards are various incarnations of your typical "big green monster".  Of these cards Primordial Hydra is probably the most powerful; investing as little as 5 mana when you cast the Hyrdra will produce a 12/12 Trampling "thumper" only 2 upkeep phases later.  Keeping the Hydra alive until he's too big to be killed remains an issue but the potential to end games so quickly makes that a pretty nice issue to have.  As mentioned in the previous half of this article I'm not the world's biggest Primeval Titan fan in M12 Limited and to be perfectly honest I struggled mightily with the decision to rank it ahead of Arachnus Spider on this list.  Ultimately I decided that 6 Power and the word Trample made the Primeval the more powerful card but I could hardly fault someone for choosing the Spider over the Giant if the circumstances warranted; say for example you've already drafted 2 or more copies of Arachnus Web.  At this point I should mention that I think Dungrove Elder is pretty overrated here in M12 Limited; he's a good but not great card in a deck with 11 or so Forests but the very nature of the format makes you want to run 8 or less Forests as often as possible.  While I'll concede that Hexproof is a nice ability for a card that keeps growing as you play lands, Trample or Flying would have been far more relevant in M12 Limited.  I'm sure someone out there will win an entire draft on the back of this card eventually but that someone isn't going to be me because I refuse to tolerate the downside of having to run a pile of Forests to make this guy good.    

Artifacts and Land Common/Uncommons: 
  1. Crown of Empires
  2. Swiftwood Boots *-
  3. Manalith
  4. Scepter of Empires *-
  5. Greatsword *+
  6. Crumbling Colossus
  7. Rusted Sentinel
  8. Thran Golem *-
  9. Buried Ruin
  10. Elixir of Immortality
  11. Kite Shield
  12. Dragon's Claw
  13. Angel's Feather
  14. Demon's Horn
  15. Kraken's Eye
  16. Wurm's Tooth
Analysis: After playing 9 months + worth of Scars of Mirrodin drafts it's only natural that M12's allotment of Artifacts would seem stale and boring by comparison.  The best card here is probably Crown of Empires, aka the "pricey Icy"; although you wouldn't know that based on how late I've seen it hanging around in packs so far in M12 drafts.  While many people will argue that a 2 mana tap effect is "too costly" for such a fast format this argument is apparently based on the idea that the Crown's controller is a robot who's been programed to activate the Crown every single turn, no matter what.  Naturally of course a smarter player operating under his own free will can simply choose to cast or activate the Crown only *after* hes played some early creatures; such a player would then gain a tremendous advantage from tapping down his opponent's best creature each turn in a format with very little artifact destruction as a whole.  In terms of variance there's only a few cards to talk about in this section; Swiftwood Boots is good for protecting key creatures and is typically only as good as the card that's wearing it, Scepter of Empires is pretty solid in a Bloodthirst deck but is otherwise fairly mediocre and Greatsword goes from "excellent" in a deck with lots of flyers/evasive creatures to "a worthless hunk of junk" in a slower ground-based build.  Finally I should point out that the rating on Thran Golem actually assumes you are running at least 3-4 stat boosting Auras in your deck to "pump him up".  Unfortunately the downside to this assumption is that to make a single Thran Golem awesome you're forced to run 3-4 of the worst cards in the format; thus the "marginal" rating.

Artifacts and Land Rares/Mythics:
  1. Pentavus
  2. Druidic Satchel
  3. Solemn Simulacrum
  4. Quicksilver Amulet
  5. Throne of Empires
  6. Glacial Fortress
  7. Dragonskull Summitt
  8. Drowned Catacombs
  9. Adaptive Automaton
  10. Rootbound Crag
  11. Sunpetal Grove
  12. Worldslayer
  13. Sundial of the Infinite 
Analysis: Despite being fairly slow and somewhat awkward to use properly, Pentavus is actually a very powerful card in Limited.  Typically the best way to use it is to cast the Pentavus and then remove up to 4 of its +1+1 counters to create a bunch of 1/1 flying Pentavites as soon as possible.  Assuming you can leave enough mana up it becomes virtually impossible for your opponent to actually kill the Pentavites; as soon as he targets or engages one in combat you simply pay 1 to reabsorb it into the Pentavus.  Naturally a smart opponent will eventually decided to kill the Pentavus but unless he does so right away or in response to you tapping out, you will still be left with 4-5 flying weenies for your trouble.  Unfortunately the mana involved in taking proper advantage of a Pentavus is astronomical; which is why it's only rated as a "very good" card rather than a true game winning bomb.  Coming in behind the Pentavus is easily the most interesting artifact/land in the entire set; Druidic Satchel.  While on first pass I was tempted to write this card off as "another way to waste a lot of mana while revealing the top card of my deck" I eventually realized that not only was the Satchel a real card; it was actually pretty good in M12 draft.  The key here is that the Satchel always does *something* positive for you no matter what kind of card you reveal.  Sure the random factor can be a little annoying and I'm not always thrilled about saving 2 mana until my opponent's end step each turn but for the most part the reward is worth the investment and given enough time repeatedly activating a Satchel will help you grind out wins you would not otherwise achieve.  Rounding out the list of "very good but not great" artifacts here in M12 is Solemn Simulacrum; any card that can help you fix your land and eventually let you draw a card is going to be good in Limited but his 2/2 body for 4 mana really isn't going to help you much on the battlefield.  In other words "Sad Robot" is a pretty boring pick unless you're running a 3 color deck but he's a solid card you will rarely regret adding to your pile if the price is right.  Quicksilver Amulet is a pretty weird card here in M12 because most players either badly overrate it or badly underestimate it in my experience. Simply put drafting an Amulet and then loading up your deck with a bunch of incredibly expensive creatures to combo with it is a pretty terrible idea; mostly because if you fail to draw the Amulet or your opponent destroys it you'll end up with a hand of completely uncastable fatties.  On the other hand giving one creature in your hand per cycle Flash and thus the ability to ambush enemy creatures in combat or fake "Haste" is actually pretty powerful.  If those creatures happen to cost more than 4 mana so much the better but the idea here is to use the Amulet to milk extra combat tricks out of your monsters more than to save a lot of mana while casting your creatures. As an unrelated side note I should mention that the rating for Throne of Empires is based entirely on it's own ability to affect games in M12 Limited; making a 1/1 man every turn for 1 mana is a pretty sweet deal once you past the initial 4 casting cost.  I honestly have yet to see someone put 2/3's of the "Empires" combo into play at the same time so it's difficult for me to speculate just how good these cards are as part of the combo; I would imagine the answer is "very good" but requiring 3 separate permanents that all do different things in the play at the exact same isn't exactly easy.  I have my doubts that I'll see this "combo" very often in the format.         

Well that was certainly epic wasn't it folks?  When I sat down to write the second half of this article on Sunday morning I was pretty sure it was going to be a piece of cake; post some lists, add some pictures and talk a little bit about why your rankings may be different than other peoples.  How hard could this possibly be?  Naturally of course I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into; 2 computer crashes, 3 blisteringly hot days trapped in front of a keyboard and roughly 10 thousand words later I can safely say that the answer is "very very hard indeed".  Thankfully at the end of the process I feel confident that it was worth the effort involved and it is my hope that by providing a detailed look into how I pick cards here in M12 I can help less experienced drafters "get more" out of the experience the next time they crack some packs and "get their draft on".  As always I'd like to thank those of you who made it this far for reading and I promise not to make a habit of writing long articles full of charts and numbers in the future; it was painful enough this time!  Until next time then gang always remember that passing a Mind Control is a great way to lose drafts; keep it weird but don't ship your opponents "the nuts" in the name of doing so.


  1. Really enjoyed the article(s). Limited draft and sealed formats are my favourite way to enjoy MTG and I rarely find good, comprehensive articles. My hat off to you!


  2. Thanks for the kind words. Myself personally I think Limited is the absolutely best form of Magic ever created. I play Constructed primarily because I have to for competitive purposes; my true love is definiately Limited. I'm working on an article about playing 2 person sealed formats now; hope you enjoy when it's finally done :)