Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Oxford vs Milton Keynes

Hey hey hey!

Last weekend was our approximately annual friendly competition with Milton Keynes.  The tournament was 3 rounds of Standard followed by 3 rounds of Modern, then a cut to a top 8.  The top 8 would be drafting Avacyn Restored and play knock out to win the trophy and a box of boosters for their team.

I haven't been playing much constructed recently (as per usual....), and I had no idea how Avacyn Restored had changed Standard.  I was pretty sure it wouldn't have impacted Modern much anyway.  I decided to take decks that I at least had a small amount of practice with.  For Standard I took my fun Heartless Architect deck with which I'd won the last game day.  For Modern I took an updated Melira Pod list, which I'd played a bit for the PTQs.

The day did not start out very well for me.  I lost the first round of Standard to Delver, and the second round to UW Humans.  Both of my opponents were MK players, so I was really letting the side down.  Then I got the bye so I was disappointed I wouldn't be getting any turn 4 Wurmcoils today.  I watched a couple of games that were going on, then I was invited by Nicolo to play "Momir".  I hadn't played this format before but the premise was quite simple - you have a deck of basic lands, and every turn you may pay X mana and discard a card to play a random creature with converted mana cost X (they had a box of random creatures with matching sleeves for each mana cost).  Silliness ensued when I randomly created Karona, False God who definitely sped up the game, and we had to look up some of the Oracle text for creature types of things in play.

The first Modern round was against one of my team's players, James' son Sean.  I wasn't feeling great to be playing an infinite combo deck against such a young player, but when he cast Tidehollow Sculler and saw my hand he exclaimed "This is my Daddy's deck!"  So he knew what I was up to, but his hand disruption did not prevent me from comboing off in game 1.  In game 2 he ended up with 2 Grafdigger's Cages in play, but I used Putrefy on his creatures and won by attacking him.  Up next was a break for a yummy roast dinner!

Round 5 was against a Tron variant piloted by Ash.  He Firespouted my first wave of creatures away, but I had a Birthing Pod and a Chord of Calling so I reassembled the combo with Murderous Redcap to kill him just in time - he had just Summoning Trapped Emrakul into play!  In game 2 I used Fulminator Mage to destroy a Tron piece and slow him down, Putrefied his Grafdigger's Cage then comboed again for the win.  At this point team Oxford had Sera, Rob, Owen, James C and me all with a record of 3-2 and a chance of making the top 8.  Unfortunately I got paired with Owen, which was bad news for Oxford. 

Owen was playing Caw Blade.  In the first game he had open mana but no counterspells and I comboed off.  In game 2 he kept control of me and I died to a squad of hawks and a Vendillion Clique.  I'd unfortunately boarded out my Orzhov Pontiff so I could not Birthing Pod into it to survive.  In game 3 Owen tapped out for Geist of Saint Traft when I had a Viscera Seer, Noble Hierarch and a Murderous Redcap in play.  I top decked my Birthing Pod and combo won again.

Sera won her game, as did James, but Rob had drawn.  This meant I squeaked into the draft in 8th place, unfortunately putting Rob 9th.  I knew team Oxford would be looking towards their "Limited Specialist" as James likes to call me.  I wasn't feeling that confidant as I'd only drafted Avacyn Restored once so far, Matt Light was in the top 8 playing for MK and we were outnumbered 5 to 3.  Still I was relaxed and I'd had a good day, so I was just going to try my best.  In the meantime, everyone else not playing the finals had the chance to do a Cube draft courtesy of Mikey P.

My opening pack did not contain a good rare, but there were 2 removal spells to choose between.  I took Pillar of Flame over Death Wind because I think red is a better colour than black in this set, it's cheaper and it can damage the opponent as well as creatures, although it has the drawback of not being an instant.  I picked up a couple more red cards then noticed blue appeared to be open so I moved in.  This is the deck I ended up with:

In the quarterfinals I got my revenge on Dimitri who had defeated me in round 1.  His deck had removal for my 1-toughness guys in the form of Ghoulflesh, but his creatures were fairly expensive and I just kept bouncing them out of the way and hitting him.  For the second game I boarded in Guise of Fire as I'd seen he had several 1-toughness fliers, including a Marrow Bats.  I soon had him down to 8 life but then there were his Marrow Bats in the way.  I cast Pillar of Flame on his Bats, and after some thinking he decided to regenerate them.  I pointed out that this means they tap, a rule people often overlook, so he was now dead to my attack.  In the other quarterfinals Sera and James had both been defeated, so now it was down to me to keep hold of the trophy.

In the semifinals I played against Matt.  He'd drafted a blue green deck with soulbond creatures.  He got off to a fairly slow start and I drew very nicely, getting in some early damage then bouncing blockers out of my way to finish him off.  In game 2 he mulliganned and it wasn't really much of a game.  Into the Void left a lonely Flowering Lumberknot that could not block my fatal alpha strike.  Despite our games being quick, we were not the first to finish - James A had annihilated Kevin in a blindingly fast manner with Thatcher's Revolt and Goldnight Commander.  The finals were going to be rough!

James did not manage to get me with his combo in the first game, as I was able to remove his Goldnight Commander with Pillar of Flame, do some blocking then eventually set up Nephalia Smuggler and Gryff Vanguard to draw lots of cards.  At one point I only had 3 mana open and James tried to remove the Gryff Vanguard, but I had Ghostly Flicker to save it and draw yet another card, and I just buried him in card advantage. 

For game 2 I boarded in Aggravate as a possible way to survive a big turn against Thatcher's Revolt, (plus he also had several other one toughness creatures that it would kill).  He got his combo early, and I took 12 from angry red human tokens while chump blocking the Commander.  I managed to remain on 1 life for several turns, stopping another revolt with Aggravate, but eventually James found a miraculous top deck in the form of Thunderous Wrath - 5 damage directed straight at me was not something I had an answer for.  Game 3 began with a mulligan from James.  His draw left him stuck on 3 mana, unable to cast his Goldnight Commander, and I had an aggressive draw which did not give him time to recover.  I'd done it - once again, victory for Oxford!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Innistrad with Dark Ascension #2 - Grand Prix Manchester

Hey hey hey!

The GP was finally here.  I drove up after work with my boyfriend Geoffrey and my workmate Tom, so there was almost non-stop magic strategy chat for the 3 hour drive (with a little bit of "guess the card" thrown in, which is a yes/no game where you have to guess which card someone is thinking of.  "Is it a permanent?" is my favourite opening question).  We got there in time to register on the Friday, and to everyone's dismay the hall already smelled pretty bad.... :-(

Day 1

The following morning I was really excited to get there and see whether I'd have a good sealed deck to battle with after my 3 byes were up.  There were enough people there for 9 rounds, and to make day 2 you needed 2 or fewer losses.  I opened a pool with Grim-Grin and Havengul Lich (again - sigh, I really would like to own one of these myself).  The pool I was passed had the benefit of lots of removal, red being it's best colour.  The trick was to decide whether to pair it with blue (splash black) -

or with black (splash white) -

The blue deck was more tempoish, and the black deck more grindy.  I thought the black deck would be able to get to the late game but then may struggle as it was lacking any real bombs - the splash for the angel was to try to rectify this.  I registered the blue build as I liked it's creatures more, but I misbuilt it slightly - I had a Nearheath Stalker which was my last cut, but I should've kept it instead of one of the Deranged Assistants - I had become to fixated on the two stitched creatures that I wanted to support and had almost failed to notice I wasn't really ramping into anything apart from the flashback on Fires of Undeath and Forbidden Alchemy.

I managed to find Geoffrey and have a look at his UB zombie deck, gave him a little advice on a couple of card choices I would have made differently, then wished him luck for the first round.  I took the opportunity of most people being busy to then visit the artists and get some cards signed.  It was cool chatting to R K Post, it turns out he does almost the same day job as me, and he gave me a postcard with instructions on how to send portfolios to Wizards.

After the 1st round I got together with Tom, Matt Light and Neil Rigby.  I showed Neil my builds, his opinion was that the black version was better.  I planned my mana base and sleeved up the cards that I'd need in order to do a colour switch into the black deck.  I played some test games against Matt, winning the first one after luckily top-decking some lands, and the 2nd game was cut short just after Matt had made Mikaeus, the Unhallowed as the pairings went up for the next round.

I ventured out into Manchester to find some lunch for Geoffrey and myself.  After eating I played some games with my blue build against James Foster's 4 colour creation.  I won 3 in a row, and the deck felt pretty good - so then I tried the black build out.  The mana wasn't really behaving itself for some reason, and the creatures I had felt very uninspiring - they did not feel like "threats which must be answered", like my blue deck's Murder of Crows and Stitched Drake.  I decided I prefered the blue deck, but I'd board into the black deck if I felt it was better against the particular deck I was facing.

Round 4 eventually came around and it was time to play!  My first opponent was Tomas Sukaitis, a face I recognise from PTQs, and I'm pretty sure I have lost to him in the past.  His deck is full of humans and he has Avacyn's Collar, which is bad news for me.  After dying to his spirit tokens I board into my black deck, and also board in my own Avacyn's Collar even though I don't really have many humans myself.  I manage to win game 2 by using Unburial Rites on my Forge Devil to kill a blocker - not the most glamarous of targets that I'd envisioned!  In game 3 I am again on the back foot and die to lots of little spirits. 

I decided not to be phased my losing the first round I played.  I got to have a really good chat with my next round opponent, Ryan Carroll, while we waited for the round to start.  Turns out he's worked at CERN and know's my friend Ellie from my year at University - such a small world!  His deck is some bad news for me - 2 Lingering Souls, Avacyn's Collar and Elder of Laurels, but after 3 games I manage to win in turn 1 of time when he alpha strikes me, doesn't play a spell and my Hanweir Watchkeep flips so that I have lethal damage on the back swing.  I decide if I can beat that combination of cards I can beat anything!  No more losing!

I keep up no more losing for 2 more rounds.  The most fun game was winning after my opponent had played Lingering Souls and Bloodline Keeper.  I'd Geist Flamed his tokens away, Brimstone Volleyed his Bloodline Keeper but was definitely looking to be on the back foot.  I'd attacked twice with Makeshift Mauler, putting my opponent to 12.  On my opponent's attack, I flashed in Snapcaster Mage, giving my Brimstone Volley flashback.  After blocks and some sacrificing to Falkenrath Torturer, my opponent seemed a little surprised that I Brimstoned him in the face in the end step.  I attacked, putting him to 5, then finished him off with the 2nd Brimstone Volley in my hand.  In the next game I found it quite funny when he played Witchbane Orb - a bit of an overreaction!

In my next round I lost to a green deck.  My blue deck wasn't great at dealing with his huge creatures so I boarded into my black build which had cards like Tragic Slip and Death's Caress which seemed better for the matchup.  Meanwhile he boarded into a blue green build, and then I died to his fliers.

Having now accumulated two losses, I was in for a bubble match.  Whoever won would get to play day 2, and the other would not.  And it seemed I had come full circle - my opponent Tom Davies was the person I'd been sitting opposite in deck building first thing this morning thanks to our similar surnames.  I tried to remember what I'd seen him building - I had a vague recollection it was red and that was about it.  He told me he'd lost his first two rounds and then had been on a winning streak from there.  His deck was red black, quite aggressive and had some nice cards to help as removal and reach - Fires of Undeath and Devil's Play.  He made me work for my win and in - we had two very grindy games and it was the first time I'd actually flashed back Forbidden Alchemy all day.  With only 5 cards left in game 2, I drew my Griptide, removing his only blocker for the win. 

Geoffrey didn't ask me if I'd made it, he just said "Well done!" after seeing the giant grin on my face.  Geoffrey went 4-5 and Tom and Matt had done amazingly well, both going 8-1.  We went to a very noisy pub, stayed for one drink then managed to navigate back to our hotel.

Day 2

We had to arrive at 7.55am for the player's meeting.  After signing bits of paper and some waiting around we got to do the first draft:

I was more than pleased with how the first draft had gone.  It seemed no-one to my right was interested in my colours, so in the 3rd pack I got a 3rd pick Kessig Wolf-Run, and then 4th pick the Daybreak Ranger I'd seen opened also made it to me - in the same pack as a 2nd Wolf-Run that I had to pass.

In the first round of this draft I made the biggest mistake I'd made all tournament by messing up my Moonmist while blocking.  It was complicated by the fact that he had 3 wolves and werewolves of his own, but I managed to first mess up by not leaving a green open so I'd be able to regenerate my Ulvenwald Mystic's werewolf side, and also by thinking Moonmist would prevent the damage from his Pitchburn Devil's death trigger.  When it turned out he had Rally the Peasants all of our creatures ended up trading with each other, and he recovered before I did.  In game 2 I only drew one Mountain, and he Into the Maw of Helled it and my flipped Daybreak Ranger that had been happily eating all of his creatures.  With no red mana, and a hand full of red spells, I couldn't do anything about the Moonveil Dragon with Butcher's Clever.

I was really beating myself up about my mistake.  Matt snapped me out of it by pointing out that my deck is awesome and I'm just going to crush the next two rounds because they won't be the good decks in my pod.  I indeed crushed the next round, but then had quite an epic dual with the next opponent.  His deck was blue black and very controlling.  In game 1 I traded Ludvic's Abomination for an Ambush Viper but then got finished off by zombie tokens.  I boarded in my Nightbird's Clutches as his deck was good at gumming up the board.  I won game 2, then in game 3 the combination of Pyreheart Wolf, Nightbird's Clutches and Markov Warlord allowed me to kill him despite his many zombie tokens.

2-1 was a fine result, but I was still annoyed at myself for not going 3-0 with that deck.  Geoffrey had bought me a lovely panini, so I got to eat while the tables were sorted out for the next draft.  It also went rather well:

Here I made another mistake.  I'd opened the Vorapede and become too fixated on it.  When it was clear I was going to play more plains than forests I should've listened to my inner voice of sanity and put it in the sideboard, and my Silverclaw Griffin into the main deck.  My inner Timmy was being very loud however, and after about 5 mins of deliberation I'd convinced myself I needed something for the late game "just incase".  After handing the deck registration sheet in I knew I was being silly, and would be boarding my griffin in after each game 1.

My deck crushed the first opponent for this draft in approximately 6 minutes.  So I got to see the end of one of Tom and Matt's feature matches as they were both in the feature match area that round.  I was keeping my fingers crossed that one or both of them would make the top 8.  Sadly Tom lost but Matt defeated Ben Stark.

The next round I was punished for my deck building mistake, losing the first game to my opponent's Silverclaw Griffin, with one forest in play and Vorapede in my hand.  In addition, I had "gone for it" with Wild Hunger for the kill - and he had a Brimstone Volley to wreck that plan.  I got a nice fast start in game 2 after mulliganning and won that one.  Then in game 3 I mulliganned to 6 again.  My hand was Forest, Young Wolf, Dawntreader Elk, Hamlet Captain and a couple of 3 drops.  I took the risk and kept it.  I failed to draw a 2nd land for 3 turns, while he made 2 Cloistered Youths which rapidly mauled me to death.  I was sad to lose with this deck too, but it was ultimately my deck building failure which cost me that one.

For the last round of the day I played against a red blue control deck with Charmbreaker Devils.  Here Vorapede decided to shine.  I got him down to 8 life but he had managed to kill all of my creatures.  He had set up a lock on the board with Charmbreaker Devil having gotten back Grasp of Phantoms, in addition to a Harvest Pyre and Blood Feud, and he had a Ghoulcaller's bell filling up his graveyard slowly.  For some reason he wasn't attacking with his Charmbreaker Devil, so I was still on 20 life.  I of course had Vorapede stuck in my hand again.  I drew Wild Hunger, then I drew and cast the Demonmail Hauberk, then drew Faith's Shield.  I then drew two forests, allowing me to cast Vorapede.  On his turn he of course tries to Grasp it, so I shield it.  I cross my fingers that the next card I draw is a creature - which it is.  I play my creature then sac it, going to equip the Vorapede.  In response he Harvest Pyres Vorapede for 4 - so I Wild Hunger it.  My 12 power Vorapede smashes over his Charmbreaker Devils for the win.  The next game is not as exctiting as I curve out and he is stuck on mountains.

So after all that magic I'm 11-4.  I come 48th, winning some money and I finally have a pro point!  Tom ended up a fantastic 15th, and Matt heartbreakingly lost out on his tie-breakers and came 9th.  We went to celebrate/commiserate in a nearby Weatherspoons, and when I was sufficiently merry Geoffrey and I went to the Thai Orchid and ended a great weekend with a fantastic meal.

Innistrad with Dark Ascension #1 - A brief summary of the past 6 months

Hey hey hey!

I'm back - sorry for being away for so long.  When it came to sitting down to write about losing the finals of the Milton Keynes PTQ I couldn't quite get the enthusiasm to do so.  Losing the finals of a PTQ is *the worst*.

Very briefly, this is what happened.  I got a really solid UB deck in my sealed pool with Grim-Grin, Corpse Born, Evil Twin and a nice curve of creatures, self-mill and removal spells.  My tournament didn't get off to a great start though as I lost in the 1st round thanks to a mistake on my part.  Rather than dwelling on my error, I picked myself up and carried on battling.  A couple of rounds later when I made it past Stephen Murray with his Garruk and Devil's Play deck, I was feeling quietly confidant I may be able to get there.  I proceeded to win the rest of the rounds and found myself in the top 8 draft. 

I wasn't very experience drafting the set at the time.  I drafted a UG Spider Spawning deck on the fly, having never drafted it before or even heard about it (I think it was a week or two afterwards that the strategy became well known and incredibly popular).  If I'd known then what I know now perhaps I would have had a shot at winning, by having my Gnaw to the Bone main deck instead of in the sideboard.  In the finals I lost to the best deck of the format - WG with Midnight Haunting and Travel Preparations, and soon I was staring at a blue envelope in my opponent's hand.


I loved the Innistrad set for limited.  I drafted quite a lot of triple Innistrad online in addition to my regular weekly drafts in the pub, and I probably exhausted the list of possible draft archetypes doing so.  I was kind of sad to see Dark Ascension arrive as it seemed to put a stop to all the hillarious Burning Vengeance and Spider Spawning decks. 

I had a solid GW(r) pool at the prerelease and did alright there.  I started the day as a human and managed to remain that way until the final round when I became Vampirised by one of my boyfriend's Thrulls. 

My release deck was the most powerful sealed deck I have ever had.  It was totally nuts - 19 creatures, most of which flew, including Dungeon Geists, Fiend Hunter, Drogskol Captain and Jazz-hands man (aka Drogskol Reaver); and a Midnight Haunting, a Bonds of Faith and Feeling of Dread.  I lost one game when I flooded and my opponent had Hellvault, but other than that game I simply crushed all my opponents.  It would be amazing if my GP Manchester pool looked something like this...

Speaking of which, I won the Reading GPT for Manchester.  The pool I opened had some tasty Mythics in the terrifying Reever Demon and fun Havengul Lich.  I had to swap this away for my pool, which contained no mythics.  It did however have some very solid 5-drop rares, and a great white card base.  The main decision was whether to pair the white with my black, blue or green cards.  I ended up building with green as it had the nicer curve, and the possibilty of repeated removal if I could equip one of the green deathtouch creatures with Wolf Hunter's Quiver:

My deck did what it was supposed to do - curving out nicely, while each of my opponents seemed to have mana or mulliganning issues, and also made the odd play mistake.  At 3-0 I could I.D. the last 2 rounds into the top 8.  I had a nice time chilling out in the sunshine then watching DLS playing rather than judging, and doing entertaining things with Feed the Pack and Increasing Savagery.... there were *a lot* of wolves.

The top 8 draft was the strangest Dark Ascension draft I had yet done.  It seemed we'd opened up almost no removal, and the usual archetype cards just didn't seem to be there.  At the end of the pack I was quite troubled as all I seemed to have was my first pick Lingering Souls, a couple Warden of the Walls and a few random creatures in black and green.  Innistrad provided me with a good direction however when I picked up a Spider Spawning and noticed there were some Mulches that I could probably wheel.  They did table, and in the 3rd pack I ended up with a 2nd Spider Spawning and an interesting looking deck:

I vanquished Ben Cottee's UW fliers deck in the quarter finals.  His deck was pretty good, but I boarded in my two Warden of the Walls which were excellent at helping me stabilise against his 2/2 fliers (I didn't put them into my main deck as they aren't actually creatures for the purpose of using Spider Spawning). 

The semi finals was against Oxford local player Owen Scarr, who had a UB zombie deck.  I remember one of the games being very interesting and a good example of playing to my outs.  I was barely staying alive by boosting creatures with Elder of Laurels and sacrificing them to Disciple of Griselbrand while Owen was repeatedly hitting me with a pair of fliers.  At the last possible draw I got my Spider Spawning and ended up winning the game.

The finals was against our local best pro player, and my workmate, Tom Harle.  His deck was interesting to say the least - during the draft I had noticed an unusually high number of curses floating around and it was into his deck that they had amassed.  He got me in game 2 with Curse of Misfortunes, searching up Curse of Thirst and then casting a 2nd Curse of Thirst.  However I was victorious in game 3, almost entirely thanks to the excellent Lingering Souls, with a little help from Demonmail Hauberk and a boarded-in Wreath of Geists.


With my 3 byes for the GP in the bag, I turned my attention to Standard for a while, learning how to play Kibler's Naya Pseudo-Pod deck. I did some testing in the pub, mostly against Delver and Esper Control.  I went down to London with Owen and Anthony and played in the first WMCQ.  I didn't do very well - the meta game was quite different to what I had anticipated - but I had lots of fun playing there and had fun messing around with the Reading players.  Anthony made top 8 which was brilliant!

And finally it was time for the event I had been looking forward to the most: Grand Prix Manchester...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Horrors of Innistrad #2 - A fortnight of drafts

Hey hey hey!

The enthusiasm of a new set to draft!  And the PTQ season is limited!  A group of my local players got together at casual night to get an extra draft in.  We used our boosters we'd won at the prerelease, and there was no prize to play for except pride.  My opening pack contained quite a good looking rare werewolf in Instigator Gang.  I took it, thereby signalling to all that I had an intention to draft red.  This is what I ended up with:

To my naive mind which was so used to M12, this deck looked pretty solid.  I anticipated some very quick wins.  I couldn't have been more wrong as it turned out!  This format is full of 2/3s and 1/4s, and I soon learnt a ground attack strategy with 3/1 creatures is not a good plan.  In order for this deck to work it would have needed many more cards to give it reach - I should have been playing my Bump in the Night, and even something like Cobbled Wings would have helped.  This deck went 0-3, which is not a surprise when you couple the bad plan of the deck with mulliganing every opening hand and having mana issues.


The next day was the usual Thursday night draft.  My opening pack presented me with one of my favourite new mythics (for casual purposes), in Essence of the Wild.  It was ironically alongside an Instigator Gang, but as I wanted to avoid getting trapped with the same deck as yesterday, I took the big green monster.  I got the foil Champion of the Parish 3rd pick, taking this as a signal that I should be able to get some cheap white creatures to go with the Essence of the Wild.  With this new focus on humans and creatures in general, this is the deck I ended up drafting:

I liked the look of the deck, and the 2 Village Bell-Ringers and 2 Ambush Vipers looked pretty sweet as spells to play when it was not my turn and I wanted to flip my werewolves, and I anticipated that instant-speed creatures would also be great with the Essence of the Wild.  I was hoping this deck would be able to break my 0-5 losing streak! 

Round 1 - I was paired against Tom (not a great start in breaking the losing streak because he is very good!)  I took him down handily in the first game, with a fast start involving Hamlet Captain and some humans, I beat him down while he didn't really do anything.  Game 2 was much closer, and I possibly would not have died if I'd made a different decision -  I was attacking Tom with my Dearly Departed in the air, while our ground creatures were holding each other off.  Tom played Kessig Cagebreakers.  He had 3 creatures in his graveyard, and I had an Ambush Viper in hand, so I attacked him with the Dearly Departed, assuming that if he attacked with the Cagebreakers I would be able to kill it with the Ambush Viper, and I'd be able to cope with 3 wolf tokens.  Tom then played Cobbled Wings and sent his Cagebreaker in the sky.  Oh dear....  If I'd held the Dearly Departed back the end of the game may have been quite different, but I ended up dying with Smite the Monstrous in hand, wishing the Cagebreaker had one more power.
Game 3 involved another ground stall, with lots of creatures on the table staring each other down.  I found my Essence of the Wild, but I had flooded quite a bit and didn't have many creatures to make into 6/6's.  It took a few turns, but when I was satisfied that he couldn't double block and kill all of my Avatar creatures I started attacking (he had a flipped Ulvenwald Mystics/Primordials, which was making life difficult as it could regenerate so he could effectively trade one of my 6/6's for one of his small creatures).  Before I'd managed to create an Abyss-like game-state for Tom, he found his Cobbled Wings again.  He managed to kill me in the air while chumping on the ground and my losing streak became 0-6.

Round 2 - This was against Owen, who assured me his deck was rubbish.  However my luck was completely rubbish.  In game 1, I mulliganned to 5 cards with Forest and Plains, then never drew a 3rd land.  In game 2 I again mulliganned, got stuck on lands again, eventually drew the 4th land and got some card advantage back with Divine Reckoning, but as Owen got to keep his best creature (a 3/3 flier), I still rolled over and died. 

Round 3 - One more chance to break my losing streak?  No, Ralph had dropped and gone home, leaving me with the bye.  I was feeling quite disheartened as my deck didn't look that terrible to me (it certainly wasn't great, but I thought it would be able to win a round), so I was quite confused.  Are my card evaluations really that off?  Do I have a fundamental misunderstanding of Innistrad?  What can I do better next time?


My record in Innistrad drafting was now 0-7.  This was not good at all.  I'd been planning on heading down to London for the PTQ on Saturday, but the losing streak had knocked my confidence and I did not feel at all prepared.  So, instead I had a productive day of doing chores and tidying the house, while Tom, Anthony and Alwyn headed down to London.  I kept in touch via texts throughout the day, they all did rather well.  Tom made the top 8, but sadly got knocked out in the semi finals.

I wasn't going to have a weekend devoid of playing magic though.  On Sunday there was a standard constructed tournament being held locally, a "Store Championship" qualifier.  If you want to read my tournament report, it is on the Oxford Magic forum here: http://www.oxfordmagic.info/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1791#p12966 , but needless to say it was a good day and resulted in a very happy me with something very shiny:


In the following week we did another draft at the casual evening.  I wasn't sure what special new thing I should be doing, but I was going to concentrate on making sure I got the basics of drafting as spot on as I could - removal spells, good creatures and a good mana curve.  I opened a Geist-Honoured Monk in the first pack.  Cloudgoat Ranger was always a star, so although I hadn't actually played with or against this similar creature yet, I labelled it with high expectations and took it.  My next pick was Manor Gargoyle, another very solid 5 drop creature that left colour commitments open.  I then took a Gallows Warden, and became immediately aware I'd taken three 5 drops so it was time to start looking at the cheaper creatures.  I took some cheaper white creatures then picked up a pair Avacyn Pilgrims (I'd noticed them the 1st time round and had hoped they might wheel to me).  They would help to get the 5 drops out faster, are Humans which is relevant with several of the white cards, and green and white have other overlapping synnergies so they seemed like a good colour pair to try out again.  I might even get a Travel Preparations this time. 

I'd definitely cut white well during pack 1 and was rewarded nicely in pack 2, with a Fiend Hunter, 2 Rebuke, a Smite the Monstrous and even last pick Silverchase Fox.  I also picked up Gutter Grime, which looked like it would go very well with creatures which didn't particularly mind dying anyway. In pack 3 I opened up the excellent uncommon Slayer of the Wicked.  There weren't any Travel Preparations, but my deck filled out nicely:

The Demonmail Hauberk looked like it would be quite good in my deck and help out with my deck's Lumberknot/ Unruly Mob/ Gutter Grime plan.

Unfortunatley I can't find any notes from the games with this deck.  I broke my losing streak by winning the first round, but I can't remember the round at all! 

Round 2 -  Owen had drafted a pretty sweet looking UB Zombie themed deck.  He got impressively lucky in games 1 and 2 with a turn 1 Delver of Secrets which immediately flipped into it's 3/2 flying form.  In one game he backed it up with some more fliers and I died, in the other I Rebuked it, Slayered a zombie and killed him.  In the last game he had a massive hoard of the undead and I was on a very low life total of 2.  I had just managed to keep up with his creature count, minus 2 - but I had Rebuke in hand and Owen knew I had something so he wasn't attacking me.  The only creature I could take a hit from was the un-transformed Delver of Secrets.  Every turn that passed meant another possible upkeep transformation, and there were a mirriad of other things that he could draw such as a bounce spell or Claustraphobia, that would just kill me.  Luckily, I peeled my Demonmail Hauberk, making my Gallows Warden into a lethal attacker.

Round 3 - Tom again - this time he had drafted red green.  In the first game he got his Mayor of Avabruk flipped over and spitting out 3/3 wolves and I was soon run over.  In the 2nd game a ground stall occured which got broken by Gutter Grime - letting me attack - even suicide - creatures in, and stopping Tom from being able to attack at all.  In the 3rd game I got probably my best possible hand.  Geist-Honoured Monk was in play as a 6/6 on my 3rd turn.  This is pretty ridiculous, and Tom soon scooped. 

Going 3-0 was a nice confidence boost.  I was looking forward to what new things I could discover in the draft the next day.  Perhaps I wouldn't be sat near to the players who had been repeatedly forcing blue and I'd get a chance at drafting it myself and playing with the graveyard based mechanics.


In Thursday's draft I once again opened a good white rare,  Elite Inquisitor.  Humans again eh... well I had quite a lot of experience with the white cards now, so hopefully I would be able to draft a good white deck.  I almost ended up mono white, but some Spectral Flights came around late in the first pack so despite my general dislike of auras, I decided to take them and try them out.  The importance of having some fliers and the situationalness of the removal in the format had begun to form in my head.  I ended up getting some excellent equipment for my little humans as later picks in packs 2 and 3, and this was the deck I built:

I was feeling confident that this deck was also pretty good.  I ended up leaving a 2nd Smite the Monstrous in the sideboard because although it is removal it is situational enough to be quite awkward sometimes (as I'd found out last week).

Round 1 - Stephen had drafted mono red, so he had lots of werewolves and burn spells.  In fact he had one rather large devastating burn spell, Blasphemous Act, which he used at an excellent moment just after my Mausoleum Guard had traded and turned into tokens - the board was completely clear.  I then made an Elder Cathar and gave him some wings - Geistcatcher's Rig killed that off and I was out of gas, while he made some more creatures which squished me.  In game 2 I knew I needed to play around the Blasphemous Act, and I managed to kill him quite quickly without over commiting to the board.  In that game 2 Kruin Outlaws had made an appearance which I'd needed to deal with, so for game 3 I decided to bring in Sensory Deprivation as a good answer to them.  This game was more tense, I was forced to use my whole hand up to get the edge on the board, leaving me wide open to getting blown out by the wrath effect again.  Thankfully that didn't happen and I won.

Round 2 - Tom wasn't happy with his deck, but it definitely liked him, providing him with the needed early blockers, then lots of card drawing flashback spells that let him find his mythical Balefire Dragon.  I killed it in both games with Smite the Monstrous / Rebuke, but in game 1 I'd been too cheeky with my Elder Cathars and got blown out when I tried to put their counters onto the Elite Inquisitor who met an instant speed removal spell.  Geistflame was an all-star against me in the 2nd game, killing off 2 Unruly Mobs before they got to be Unruly.  So it wasn't his dragon that killed me, but his long game card advantage was just too unassailable for my deck.  We played a friendly afterwards where Tom didn't have his early blocker to get in my way and I killed him very quickly - so if you try this kind of strategy make sure you have a plan for the early game - pick up those Riot Devils!

Round 3 - This round was against a new player, Mark.  He had a blue black controlling deck which didn't have much early game and was mostly reliant on counterspells as removal.  In game 1 he was on the unfortunate receiving end of this:

In game 2 he countered some of my spells but I managed to once again get Butcher's Clever onto a human and beat him up with it.  After the round he had tonnes of questions - I gave him lots of advice, analysed his deck with him, discussed general drafting theory and played a friendly game that was much closer.  I was incredibly impressed with his attitute and willingness to learn, I think if he keeps it up he'll be winning lots of games very soon.


I felt I had more of a handle now on things that matter in this draft format.  Fliers are quite important as there are lots of large stally ground creatures.  I have a new found respoct for Cobbled Wings after Tom had beaten me up with it so many times.  The removal is all very situational, and having a range of different answers instead of lots of copies of the same one is important.  This situational removal format means that good threats are possibly even better than usual, so I have to fight against my personal preference of taking removal over threats. 

With my new found confidence in my knowledge of the format, I headed off to the Milton Keynes PTQ.  Next time I will tell you the story of how I ended up in the top 8 finals.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Horrors of Innistrad #1 - Prerelease weekend

Hey hey hey!

Before I go into my experiences of Innistrad so far, here is one last bonus M12 deck.  I wasn't going to write about it, but Rob wanted to see what it was:

I was still suffering from the dregs of bronchitis and coughing quite badly that evening, but I'd dragged myself down to the pub to draft night because I was missing the experience (and if I'm well enough to go to work, I must be well enough to go out and play, right?).  This draft went completely off the rails, and as you can see the resulting deck did not look good at all.  I started off heavily in black, then the person to my right decided to move in on it, so I ended up in somewhat of a mess - my Consume Spirit was now going to have to sit on the bench, and I was desperately short on cheap creatures.  There were no webs to draft for my Arachnus Spinner, and I opened nothing exciting in pack 3 apart from the rare, Grim Lavamancer, but at least I did have some colour fixing to allow me to splash it. 

Things were looking bleak when deck building.  In desperation I went all-in on the very high risk Thran Golem + Trollhide strategy (to be fair, it did work in the first game, but never happened in any others).  Somehow I went 3-0 with this deck, a combination of playing well, knowing all the tricks of the format and top decking like a goddess.  Oh, and that little crocodile was the bestest crocodile ever as all of my opponents were playing blue.  I remember feeling completely knackered by the end of the evening and felt like death, either playing magic had become physically exhausting or I'd drunk too many J20s... or perhaps both.


So, let's leave M12 behind and head to pastures new - the scary horror plane of Innistrad.  I went to the local Oxford prerelease which was held on the Sunday, still with a pretty nasty cough.  At least I was actually feeling a lot better even though it didn't sound like it!  This was my sealed pool:

It didn't look too bad at all, and I was immediately drawn to the white cards as they featured 4 removal spells (2 of which are creatures), and Mentor of the Meek who looked pretty bomby to me, as drawing cards in sealed is exactly what you want to be doing.  Red was the next most appealing colour because it had more removal in Brimstone Volley and Skirsdag Cultist, and another rare in Kruin Outlaw.  I wasn't sure how good werewolves were going to be, but her other side looked pretty awesome.  The werewolves also synnergised quite nicely with other things in my deck like the Mentor of the Meek, because when they are cast they trigger him, but then can become larger later.

I had some interesting looking blue cards too, and initially this is the deck I put together:

When it came to trying to work out the mana base for this however, I realised that things could go terribly wrong with so many double red and white casting costs, and most of my deck was looking to be on the more aggressive side.  So in the end I cut the Mindshrieker, Civilized Scolar and Skaab Goliath and put in 2 Riot Devils and a Nightbird's Clutches.

I went 4-2 overall and most of the games were fun and interactive.  I was pleasantly surprised by the werewolves, although I think they are overly mean against opponents who are already behind in the early game because they don't have a 2-drop.  I found Wanderer's Twig - excuse me - Traveler's Amulet to be very handy at sorting out the double coloured mana costs.  Mentor of the Meek was disappointing because I only drew him when I was having mana shortages, he never drew me a card.  I'm sure this was unusual however, so I will not be biased by my negative experience into underrating him.  In fact, in one game my opponent Anthony had a Menor of the Meek in conjuction with Lantern Spirit, which was a pretty awesome card draw engine in the late game.

There were two games however which I did not enjoy at all (and not *just* because I lost).  One was game 3 against James, who cast Mindshrieker on turn 2, then proceeded to mill me (which is most definitely wrong when you have not one but TWO Skaab Ruinators in your deck).  He played nothing else, just kept activating the Mindshrieker in his attack step and hit an almost-constant stream of my 3 and 4 drops, only hitting a land once.  He killed me while I had 5 land in play and the Rig and 6th land in hand, deciding to forgo holding up mana for his own Rebuke, which would stop my attack back with Terror of Kruin Pass (Kruin Outlaw's other side) from being lethal.  A complete gamble, and I really do not enjoy being killed in such a statistically unlikely manner. 

I also did not enjoy being punished for keeping a hand containing Fiend Hunter, Rebuke, Smite the Monstrous and some land.  It was again game 3, and my opponent made Geist of Saint Traft on turn 3.  I failed to draw any of my other creatures, and he didn't even play another creature which would have allowed me to get my Fiend Hunter onto the board to stop some of the bleeding.  I was frequently annoyed by the keyword Hexproof in M12, and here it is again making the game uninteractive and completely un-fun.

I did a draft after the sealed had finished as I was still on a new card excitment high.  That rapidly drained away during the next hour though as hunger and tiredness set in.  I drafted a green black deck which was an unfortunate mish-mash of some werewolves, some morbid cards and some sorcery speed removal spells.  This did not work well as the werewolves wanted me to be casting instants in my opponent's turn, and my morbid creatures wanted me to cast cheap removal like Dead Weight to kill something and then cast them afterwards (thereby playing 2 spells and transforming my werewolves back again).  I also apparently should not have been in these colours as they were exactly the same as the person feeding me, despite my backwards-signal of 1st pick Mayor of Avabruk, and then taking Sever the Bloodline passed to me as my 2nd pick.  I went 0-2, then dropped to go home and get some dinner as it was well past 9 o'clock.

In the next blog I'll go through the 4 drafts I've done since the prerelease and try to make sense of the mixed results.  This will have to be written another day however, it's getting late and I've got to get up bright and early to go to a PTQ tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Drafting M12 #5 - Sick Drafts

Hello everyone.

It's been weeks since my last post.  Unfortunately this is because I've been ill since the start of the month with the flu then bronchitis.

So I don't have any live drafts to bring you, I've barely left the house at all.  However, I've been able to draft a few times on magic online, so I thought I would bring you some of the more fun and interesting drafts I've done in my more lucid evenings. 

M12 Draft Deck - Stop Fearing Green

I'd been avoiding drafting green as I was convinced it was the weakest colour, but I was often losing to it in drafts due to my love of Islands and things that fly, and green having so many Spiders and Lurking Crocodiles.  In this draft I managed to put my fear of playing with green behind me.  I started out with red cards, first picking Chandra's Outrage and a Gorehorn Minotaurs, and then I was passed the shiny Garruk's Horde.  He seemed like something worth ramping into, and a signal that my neighbours are probably not interested in green, so for a change I decided to embrace my green side.

I took the Oblivion Ring quite early in the 2nd pack, knowing I could splash it fairly trivially, and got the Pentavus as a late pick.  I did struggle to get enough 2 drops, and in fact in pack 3 I had to pass up Cudgel Troll as my 5th pick in favour of the 2nd Rampant Growth to help the deck as a whole.

I think I misbuilt the deck slightly and ended up playing too many lands.  Because I had three 5 drops, a 6 drop and two 7 drops I was scared to go below 17 land, but I also had the 2 Rampant Growths and Manalith - half of my deck being mana sources was probably overkill.  I did mana flood several times, but of course one of the games I lost was because of mana screw ;-).  The relevant sideboard cards for this deck were Plummet, a 2nd Crown of Empires, a 2nd Brindle Boar, Slaughter Cry and Autumn's Veil.

I ended up going 2-1 with this deck, and it was fun to play and I didn't have the hopeless feeling I'd had last time I drafted green.  The game with Pentavus was very entertaining (mostly because my opponent didn't seem to realise that he should stop trying to attack me while it was in play).  I didn't get to play with the Garruk's Horde as in the only game where I cast it my opponent conceeded on the spot.  I won a couple of games with the Sacred Wolf + Troll Hide combo.  Mostly I learnt that green decks can be fun, just make sure the other colour(s) in your deck give you spells that let you interact with the opponent's permanents.

M12 Draft Deck - Mostly Black Control

This draft was pretty awesome, and had a very difficult 3rd pick decision.  I opened Cemetary Reaper, and then was passed Rune-Scarred Demon for my 2nd pick.  Sweet!  The 3rd pick offered the dilema of Gravedigger, who is very good, and Oblivion Ring, which can deal with anything that isn't hexproof, including Planeswalkers.  It is exactly the kind of card I want in a deck with a tutoring Demon, but there is definitely an arguement to trying to stay mono black and stop sending signals that black is open (I'd already had to pass Sorin's Thirst and Vampire Outcasts).  And it's a Zombie, so goes nicely with my Cemetary Reaper.  But I can't resist really good removal, so ended up taking the Oblivion Ring - what would you have done?  Let me know in the comments.

For the rest of pack 1 I took artifacts and black cards.  In pack 2 I opened Solemn Simulacrum, Consume Spirit, Serra Angel and Gideon's Lawkeeper.  Here I had to make a decision as to how I wanted my deck to look - I already had 1 Drifting Shade and was fully aware how good almost mono black can be.  After much deliberation I settled on the Solemn Simulacrum, as it would help me with keeping white a splash, and is the card advantage type creature a more controlling deck loves to have.  The pack I'd opened as a whole was really deep, with Chandra's Outrage, Gorehorn Minotaurs and Aether Adept, and so the Consume Spirit tabled much to my delight.  White was flowing to me in this direction, I picked up the 2 Pacifisms, Celestial Purge and then in the dregs I got Devouring Swarm, Zombie Goliath and a Buried Ruin which I suspected would end up in the deck.

Pack 3 rounded the deck out nicely, with 1st pick Doom Blade, 2nd pick Consume Spirit number 2, another Devouring Swarm, another Drifting Shade, a Deathmark and the crucial Sorin's Thirst (I ended up tutoring for it with my Demon more than once to kill something, give me a life buffer and let me play a 2nd spell in the turn).

This deck also went 2-1.  The 1st round was against a UG deck, and I struggled a little against multiple Acidic Slimes, it being the deciding factor in game 2 that returned Jade Mage from under Oblivion Ring and I died to exactly lethal damage from saproling tokens after casting my Demon.  I managed to win game 3 though despite the multiple bouncing of poor old Rusted Sentinel.  The 2nd round in which I lost was against a BR deck well suited for attrition with multiple Gravediggers.  He also had a Cemetary Reaper, and found it in game 1 and 3.  The 3rd round was against another BR deck, with some more aggressive creatures, but my life gaining removal let me stabilise then take over the games.

My Cemetary Reaper didn't come out to play in any games, but I drew my Rune-Scarred Demon quite a lot.  The Drifting Shades also had a habit of dying the moment I cast them.  Buried Ruin was very useful in this deck as I had 3 artifact creatures to resurrect, and I got to live the dream and return the Solemn Simulacrum once.  All in all it was a pretty fun draft, only slightly spoiled by my opponent in the 3rd round deciding to disconnect when I had the win on the table in the last game, making us all sit around pointlessly for 10 minutes. 

M12 Draft Deck - Awesome Dudes

This deck was so much fun, so I decided I will do a full report on it (apologies that this makes the article quite long!).  The draft itself was actually very interesting, and started with a first pick Aegis Angel.  Yeah.... so how did I end up Red Black?  My 2nd pick was a Stormfront Pegasus, and then in the 3rd pick there were no good white cards available.  I begrudgingly took Gorehorn Minotaurs - I was worried because I'd already passed Incinerate followed by Blood Ogre, and this pack I was about to pass along also contained a Volcanic Dragon.  I was setting myself up for a fight in the 2nd pack if I went red, but it seemed to be open to me from the right.  The 4th pick had a tempting Cudgel Troll, but I took a Griffin Rider in the hopes that white may be open.  I then get passed a 5th pick Incinerate and decide red is worth the fight with my neighbour (I also passed reasonable blue early, so they may not be my immediate neighbour).  I get a Goblin Arsonist, Bonebreaker Giant, Manic Vandal, Crimson Mage and a late Goblin Fireslinger.

My pack 2, pick 1 seemed to be decidedly unhelpful.  The commons are all unexciting, with only a lonely Goblin Fireslinger being on colour.  Two of the uncommons are very good, but not red or white - Acidic Slime and Azure Mage.  My rare is Royal Assassin, so I decide to hate draft it.  The next pack contains Overrun, Goblin Arsonist and Wring Flesh.  I sigh at the Overrun, and look at the Wring Flesh for a minute - I begin think to myself about how the white cards had seemed to dry up quickly in pack 1, and maybe it was being overdrafted?  I consider abandoning white for black at this point, but I'm hesitant, and take the Goblin Arsonist.  The next pack has no white cards and 3 decent black cards, so the colour switch begins - I take Gravedigger over Devouring Swarm and Mind Rot, hoping one of them will come back.  Seeds of doubt are planted as I'm next passed an Assault Griffin, but I take Blood Ogre over it as I already have lots of bloodthirst enablers.  Through the rest of pack 2 I collect a Lava Axe, Zombie Goliath, Devouring Swarm, Goblin Tunneler and his friend Fiery Hellhound.

Pack 3 sent my deck over the edge into awesomeness, and rewarded me for paying attention to the signals.  I didn't open anything special myself - the rare was a dual land, there are no good uncommons, so I take a Gravedigger from the commons, hoping to wheel Goblin Fireslinger, Bloodrage Vampire or Devouring Swarm.  I proceed to be passed Bloodlord of Vaasgoth, followed by Flameblast Dragon! (I had to pass a Sengir Vampire for it - for some reason I only ever see this guy alongside something even bigger and badder).  Wow!  The fun continued as I take Call to the Grave, which seems great with my high creature count, 2 Gravediggers and 2 Goblin Arsonists.  I then take Trollhide and Plummet out of some packs with no goodies for me, then get Call to the Grave's best friend - Reassembling Skeleton.  I take a Mind Rot over Drifting Shade and Fiery Hellhound as I'm slightly worried about my lack of removal spells (kind of forgetting several of my creatures have removal attached).  I get the Fireslinger on the wheel that I'd hoped for, a second Fiery Hellhound, a Blood Seeker and a Slaughter Cry.

Building the deck was fairly straightforward.  The only big decision was between Slaughter Cry and Lava Axe.  I normally don't like Slaughter Cry that much but I was lacking in tricks and I had 19 creatures for it to be used with, so I put it in the main deck over the Lava Axe as my late game looked quite solid anyway.  Other notable sideboard cards were a 2nd Slaughter Cry and Manic Vandal. 

Round 1 - Vs. Black splashing Blue

Game 1 - I win the roll, choose to play and by turn 2 I have 3 creatures in play - 1 Goblin Fireslinger and 2 Goblin Arsonists.  His Child of Night was not very effective, when he attacked me with it I traded it for an Arsonist. I get some early damage in, make Blood Seeker and then Fiery Hellhound.  He trades his Devouring Swarm with Hellhound, and I make Royal Assassin.  Strangely he uses Wring Flesh to kill the remaining Goblin Arsonist.  His lands so far are all Swamps, so I expect some Drifting Shades and Consume Spirits to make an appearance eventually. Royal Assassin goes on the beatdown with the Blood Seeker while my Goblin pings away at him.  I make a Blood Ogre, and unsurprisingly it's spirit is consumed.  I make a 2nd Goblin Fireslinger then my following draws are all lands.  He begins to recover with Warpath Ghoul and 2 Child of Nights, but they can't attack because of the Royal Assassin, and between Blood Seeker triggers and Goblin pings he dies.

Game 2 - I'm wary of combat tricks against black decks (at this point I don't know he has blue spells too as he didn't make any Islands in game 1), so I sideboard my Slaughter Cry for Lava Axe.  He chooses to play.  I make a turn 1 Goblin Arsonist, which he Wring Fleshes in my end step.  This makes sense when his next 2 plays are Child of Nights.  My Reassembling Skeleton holds them off however.  On my turn 3 I Mind Rot away 2 lands from his hand, leaving him with 1 card.  This turns out to be another Wring Flesh - he kills my Skeleton in my end step and bashes in with the Children.  I don't draw a 4th land, but do draw an Incinerate.  I leave my mana open, ready to return my skeleton or use the Incinerate if I have to.  He bashes me for another 4, then makes Drifting Shade - I decide to dispatch it with the Incinerate as it may get very awkward to do so later (which was a silly mistake - I should have reasemled the skeleton so that he could be a blocker and then used Incinerate on my turn).  I draw my 4th land, so the decision is to either make a Gravedigger or just return the Skeleton - I decide I can take the hit down to 8 while he goes to 31, and I return my Skeleton in his end step.

I draw a 5th land and for some reason don't notice the Goblin Arsonist in my graveyard which would have been a good thing to Gravedigger up and play, and instead make a Zombie Goliath.  Thankfully he doesn't draw anything to deal with the Zombie, so I attack with it and make Devouring Swarm (again the Gravedigger would've been a better play!  So many mistakes, I could easily have lost this game but my deck looked after me and his just gave him lands...).  I draw my Flameblast Dragon, but with only 5 lands I attack with my Swarm and Zombie Goliath, and finally make the Gravedigger and get back the Arsonist and cast it.  He again doesn't do anything except make a land drop.  I sacrifice the Arsonist to my Swarm, killing one of his Child of Night, and attack with everything.  He trades his other Child with my Gravedigger, so I play my 2nd Gravedigger returning the 1st Gravedigger.  My Zombie Goliath is Consume Spirited, and he makes a Phantasmal Bear.  I draw my 6th land and attack with the Swarm and Gravedigger.  He doesn't block the Gravedigger because I will just get it back again with the Gravedigger he knows is in my hand.  I make my land and play Flameblast Dragon - I probably would've held onto it if I didn't have Devouring Swarm, but as I did I was protected from Mind Control.  He unluckily draws and plays another land - I attack back, killing the bear with the Dragon's ability before it can block, put him to 5 then finish him with Lava Axe.

Round 2 - Vs. UW

Round 1 was over pretty quickly, and we were the first to finish.  As each other pair finished, I had a quick look at their replays to spy on what my potential opponents were playing.  So, I knew that I was playing against a UW deck this round.

Game 1 - I get some early damage in, with both Goblin Fireslingers in play.  He plays a Pride Guardian then a Timely Reinforcements to buy time, I make Royal Assassin.  He plays a Siege Mastadon and then Serra Angel, which could be a problem - but I draw my 5th land for Bloodlord of Vaasgoth (easily a 6/6 with Goblin Fireslinger support).  He makes Stonehorn Dignitary and then a strange suicide attack, I wonder if he has Guardian's Pledge, but I call his bluff, block and kill almost all of his creatures and continue to ping him.  He soon dies to a couple of Bloodlord attacks plus pings.

Game 2 - I don't change my deck during sideboarding.  I'm on the play and I have to mulligan down to 5 cards due to a lack of land in the previous hands.  My hand is 2 swamps, a Gravedigger, Blood Ogre and Arsonist.  He starts out very quickly with a turn 1 Phantasmal Bear, but has nothing for turns 2 or 3.  I draw more swamps, and make a Devouring Swarm.  He tries to Ice Cage it, so I sacrifice it to itself so that I'll be able to get it back with the Gravedigger.  I draw a 4th swamp, so proceed with the plan, then trade the Gravedigger with the Bear when he attacks.  He makes a Phantasmal Dragon, so I pray that I draw a Mountain which will enable me to make my Devouring Swarm, Goblin Arsonist, and sacrifice it to kill the Phantasmal Dragon.   He adds an Assault Griffin to his board, and I fail to draw the Mountain in time.

Game 3 - For this game I decide to sideboard in a second Slaughter Cry as they are makeshift removal spells against my opponent's illusions.  I choose to play, and keep a pretty sweet hand with my Reassembling Skeleton + Call to the Grave combo, Goblin Tunneler, Gorehorn Minotaurs, 2 Swamps and a Mountain.  His turn 1 play of Elite Vanguard is stopped in it's tracks by the Skeleton.  My Tunneler allows me to send the Skeleton past his Vanguard and Banalish Veteran, and make a bloodthirsted Minotaur which holds his creatures off.  He plays Divination, and chump blocks my Minotaur with his Elite Vanguard.  I play Call to the Grave so he has to sacrifice his Veteran in his upkeep.  He made a valiant effort to stay alive, with Stonehorn Dignitary, Aether Adept, two Pacifisms, but I could just sacrifice and rebuy the skeleton, or sacrifice something Pacified and get it back with Gravediggers, and he didn't find a way to get back into the game. 

Round 3 - Vs BG with Grave Titan

Due to my spying on replays again, I knew my opponent had a Grave Titan I needed to watch out for.

Game 1 - I win the dice roll and go first.  I make a turn 1 Goblin Arsonist and he replies with a Llanowar Elves.  I attack on turn 2, and am a little surprised when he blocks with the elf.  I make a Goblin Fireslinger.  Things make sense when he makes a turn 2 Jade Mage.  I make a Fiery Hellhound, and he passes the turn with the 3 mana ready to make a Saproling.  I draw the Jade Mage's natural enemy, Blood Seeker.  I attack with my Fiery Hellhound as I suspect he doesn't want to trade his Jade Mage for it, and he also doesn't make a Saproling to chump block with.  I pump the unblocked Hellhound up to 4 power and then make the Blood Seeker, he makes a token while it's on the stack.  He makes a land and passes back.  I've got him down to 12 already and don't fancy trading my Hellhound with 2 tokens, so I just make Devouring Swarm and pass the turn.  He makes a Cudgel Troll, so attacking on the ground will now be very difficult.  I draw a Gravedigger, play it returning the Arsonist, make my Arsonist and sacrifice it to the Devouring Swarm and kill the Jade Mage (I don't want to die to any Overrun shenanigans, so I can't let him keep his Jade Mage), and I attack with the pumped up flier.  He's down to 7 and makes a strange suicide attack with both tokens and the Troll - I let the Troll through and eat his Saprolings with Gravedigger and Hellhound.  He then makes his Grave Titan, losing 3 life to my Bloodseeker in the process and then he conceeds as he is dead to my Fireslinger and Devouring Swarm.

Game 2 - Once again, due to my opponent's black mana and and likelihood to have instant speed removal, I sideboard the Slaughter Cry out to bring in Lava Axe.  He chooses to play first.  My opening hand is mostly red creatures and 2 swamps, but it also has one of my best black creatures, Royal Assassin, along with the one removal spell I have that handily deals with Trolls - Incinerate.  I will definitely be in the game if I draw a Mountain in 4 draw steps, so I keep it.

He makes a turn 2 Blood Seeker, and I get my Mountain right on time for turn 3, and make Blood Ogre.  He misses his 3rd land drop and passes the turn back, I reply with an attack, and I've drawn a 2nd Mountain so I play a Hellhound.  He finds a Forest and spends 2 turns playing Rampant Growths, while I attack him and make the Crimson Mage.  On my next attack he blocks the Hellhound with Blood Seeker and Titanic Growths it as I only have 2 Mountains so can't trade with it.  Unable to resist a 2 for 1, I Incinerate the Blood Seeker in response to the Titanic Growth.  I make a Goblin Arsonist post combat.  On his turn he makes a Sacred Wolf and a Duskhunter Bat.  I draw a Gravedigger, so I send in my whole team.  He trades the Wolf for the Hound, and the Bat for the Crimson Mage.  I Gravedigger back the Crimson Mage as he has nothing on the board and I have my other Hellhound in my hand anyway.

He makes a Cudgel Troll and Jade Mage, tapping out.  I draw my Reassembling Skeleton, which will go nicely with the Call to the Grave in my hand if the game goes that long.  I attack with the Goblin Arsonist, he can't block it because then I can kill the Jade Mage.  I play out the Crimson Mage and Skeleton.  He makes a Manalith and a Saproling token, and I draw another 5 drop - my Bloodlord of Vaasgoth.  I attack with my Arsonist, who once more gets through, dropping him to 7.  Post combat I make the Royal Assassin, give it haste with the Crimson Mage and then assassinate my own Arsonist, killing off the Jade Mage.  On his turn he casts Distress, and takes away the Bloodlord, leaving me with Call to Grave and Lava Axe - I think my opponent made a mistake there, as if I draw a 5th land the Lava Axe will guarantee that he dies next turn, which is exactly what happens.

This was one of the most synergistic decks I've drafted in a while, I go 3-0 with it and win the draft!   I love it when my decks have pieces that go together well rather than being just a pile of cards, which is often I think why I get frustrated by core set drafts compared to block drafts.  This was one of the fun exceptions.

Hopefully I'll be back to full health before the Innistrad prerelease, and my report of it will not be a horror story.... Until then, happy drafting!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Drafting M12 #4 - Rollercoaster of Success

Hey hey hey!

I've been quite a busy girl and have 4 drafts to bring you from the past week and a half.  The first two are my Nationals draft decks.

If you've never drafted in a high level event like Nationals, then let me tell you it's quite a different experience to drafting down the local pub or game shop.  All the cards are stamped, the foils removed from the packs, the packs are labelled and the draft is timed and they call out announcements like "You have 20 seconds to make a pick".  There's definitely no talking, peeking at  your neighbour's picks or looking at your pile between picks, you just get a brief period to review between packs.  Then you have to go and sit in silence (away from other people in your drafting pod) and record all your picks and your deck onto a deck registration sheet. 

Here is my first disaster of a draft deck:

M12 Draft Deck - Here Be Dragons

The packs in our pod felt a little odd somehow.  I started this draft quite solidly with 2 Doomblades, Stingerfling Spider then a Volcanic Dragon.  Then I couldn't decide what was open - definitely not blue or white, and the picks were all quite weak in the other 3 colours.  At the end of the pack I thought perhaps I was going to wind up green red splashing the Doomblades and Deathmark for the sideboard, although I'd picked up some mediocre black cards.  In pack 2 I opened Flameblast Dragon and got passed Furyborn Hellkite.  I got an Acidic Slime too then there were no more green cards to be found except for Titanic Growths.  I scrabbled around collecting quite poor black and red cards and artifacts.  There was pleanty of good green being passed in pack 3 but I felt like I had to stick to whatever black and red cards I could find now or I'd just make it worse.  I managed to get just enough playables for a red black deck in the end, but the pile certainly looked quite miserable.

When I built the deck I stuck to two colours because I thought the deck looked like it would have enough trouble without me splashing green for Stingerfling Spider, Carnage Wurm (and up to 3 Vastwood Gorgers!  Joking....), but on reflection I think I should have gambled.  Two Flings are hardly what you want to be playing when you only have 11 creatures.  My red and black sideboard options were Manic Vandal (which I didn't want to run main deck as I had 3 artifacts)  and a second Deathmark.  So my entire deck's plan was survive to 6 mana, make a dragon and win with it....

Round 5 (we'd already played 4 rounds of constructed that day, I was at 2-2) - I faced the person who had been to my right in the draft.  He was also black red which helps to explain why my deck ended up so poor.  His deck was also quite weak and I won game 1 with an agressive draw of Goblin Piker into bloodthirsted up Bloodrage Vampire then some removal and Flameblast Dragon, blazing him in the head.  I sided out my Deathmark for Manic Vandal.  Games 2 and 3 I did not draw as well as the first game, no dragons came out to play and I lost.

Round 6 - I got a bye, which I felt quite relieved by as it had been a long day, I was tired and I knew my deck wasn't very good - I wandered around the venue, had a cup of tea and got some cards signed by Greg Staples.

Round 7 - It was back to action stations.  This round was against Stephen Murray, a very good pro level player, so I knew I'd be up for a tough time.  He's drafted a green blue beat down deck splashing black.  In game 1 I get crushed by Cudgel Trolls and Frost Breaths.  I board in my 2nd Deathmark over a Fling.

Game 2 almost goes the same way as game 1.  He has a Cudgel Troll on board to my Rusted Sentinel and Bloodrage Vampire and we're hitting each other.  I Distress him and see Unsummon, Frost Breath and Garruk's Horde.  I take away the Unsummon as I have Doomblade and Reverberate in hand.  If he taps out for the Horde and there is no creature on top of his deck then I can kill both his creatures.  He does not tap out, drawing more land before making his Horde.  Thankfully for me there's just a Forest on top.  I Doom Blade the Horde, and when he goes for the Frostbreath to win, I Reverberate it, keeping his Troll tapped, and I can make my Zombie Goliath as a blocker.  My sad deck manages to win a game without a dragon on the back of some tight play!

Game 3 I unfortunately get quite unlucky.  I Distress on turn 2, he has a Forest, a bunch of blue cards including an Unsummon, Solemn Simulacrum and a Plummet (he has a Swamp and Forest in play).  My hand contains both Flameblast and Volcanic Dragon, so I take the Plummet as if he doesn't draw out of the bad hand it's the only thing he has that definitely interacts with me.  Unfortunately for me I just draw swamps to go with my one mountain.  By the time I find a second red source he's drawn out of it and I'm staring at two Cudgel Trolls I can't kill with my removal spells.

After these games I went out for Chinese with a selection of the Oxford and Milton Keynes players.  I was in two minds as to whether I wanted to play the next day, and decided to sleep on it.  In the morning I chose to stay in the tournament and do the next draft because for some reason I find the stern timed drafts fun, and I enjoy the hard competition.

Here is my draft deck from day two:

M12 Draft deck - Quad Grenade

This one had gone much better and I was very excited to play my matches.  I can't quite remember much from the draft (it was an early start...), but I do remember being ecstatic when a Goblin Piker wheeled and taking goblin cards over better cards in packs 2 and 3.

My draft pod only had 7 players, and one of them is my fellow Oxford player James Cleak.  He was hoping for the bye, we both go to the pairings board...

Round 8 - I got the bye.  Oh well....

Round 9 - After some wandering around and more coffee I get to play.  My opponent has a black blue deck.  In game 1 I am crushed by Frost Titan.  I board in a pair of Combusts over Deathmark and Lightning Elemental and hope he doesn't draw the Titan again.  Game 2 I get some goblins out, kill his things and throw a grenade at his head.  Game 3 was depressing.  We have a good start to the game, trading our creatures.  I have a Goblin Fireslinger that's furiously pinging him and he has a Warpath Ghoul left.  I draw 9 of my 16 lands and miserably die to the 3/2. :-(

Round 10 - James is definitely looking good for getting the bye this round - but someone has dropped and we're paired against each other.  Poor James!  Of course my deck curves out like a dream, firing grenades at his head and crushes his green white deck 2-0.  Sorry James!

3-3 is definitely a sad Nationals draft record, especially when two of those wins were byes.  I was certainly hoping to do better than that!  I played the last 4 constructed rounds as none of the side events were that appealing and I enjoyed playing my Bant Pod deck.  I went 2-2 in those, putting my final record at 7-7.  I came 56th and won 4 booster packs for my troubles.  At least I got to feel very excited for one of my Milton Keynes friends, Kevin Blake, who made top 8!  We went out to celebrate with pizza and cider :-)


My First Magic Online Draft

I've recently got a magic online account.  I did intend to do some drafts on there to practice for Nationals but didn't find time to actually do one.  I'd done a bit of playing in the new players room to get used to the interface and F keys.  My friend Tom had also come round and we did a couple of drafts together on his account so he could show me how it worked.  Wednesday evening was quiet, so I decided to give drafting on there a go by myself.

I entered a swiss queue because I'm not feeling that confident with the interface yet and didn't want to play in an 8-4 and get knocked out of the first round due to stupid user error :-)  This is the deck I drafted:

M12 Draft Deck - My First MODO Draft

It was a very sweet deck and for some reason that Flameblast Dragon I opened in pack 2 really loved me - it was in almost every opening hand!

Round 1 - This was against a blue black deck.  Game 1 I mulliganned to 6, stalled on mana a bit but got some goblins in play and attacking.  He had a Tormented Soul and Drifting Shade.  I mistimed my Stave Off when he went to put Dark Favour on his Shade - if I was less of a noob I would have done it after it had resolved so that he lost one life.  This mistake almost cost me the game as I had Goblin Arsonist in play, Lava Axe in hand and he was on 7 life..... doh!  I got there in the end with a Firey Hellhound trading up to Sengir Vampire followed by Volcanic Dragon and the Axe - I never got around to making the Flameblast Dragon.  Magic Online didn't record the next game but from memory I got an aggressive start and made a bloodthirsted Gorhorn Minotaur.  He Mindcontrolled it, but I made another one so they just stared at each other while I pinged him with a Goblin Fireslinger and attacked with Griffin Sentinel.  I eventually drew my Stave Off to remove the Mindcontrol and had an overwhelming board that killed him.

Round 2 - There are no recorded videos from this round, but it was against a green blue deck.  He seemed to have infinite Merfolk Looters, and both games he had Plummet for my Flameblast Dragon :-(

Round 3 - This was against a red blue deck wih Crumbling Colossuses, Lightning Elementals and Flings.  I didn't see any of this game 1, as I stormed out of the gates super fast and won on turn 6 with Shocks to spare.  Game 2 was a little slower as I killed him on turn 7, not even needing the Lava Axe in my hand.

2-1 wasn't bad at all, I really liked this deck's ability to suddenly put the game away, with the back up plan of slowly pinging the opponent to death.

The next day was draft night, here is Thursday's creation:

M12 Draft Deck - Bloody Ogres

Now this is a good red black deck!  I was in the 8 man pod.  Four other players at the table were all also drafting red, but it didn't seem to harm me much - they were on the other side of the table to me sitting in a row, and we'd apparently opened a ridiculous amount of good red cards.

Round 1 - This was against Mikey P, who had also drafted a red black bloodthirst deck.  I knew there were probably some Gorehorn Minotaurs out there somewhere, and I suspected he had some of them so I planned to play around them as best I could by trading my creatures with his in the early game.  Game 1 did not start well as I mulliganned to 5 cards on the play.  I keep a one lander with some guys and recover by drawing land.  Unfortunately for Mike he also draws lands and floods quite badly.  I get him to 5 then Axe him.

Game 2 I had pleanty of creatures in hand and I suspected he had a Minotaur as he sent his 2/1 men into mine.  I trade them happily.  Mike makes a non-bloodthirsted Minotaur which I Outrage while dropping a Fireslinger, then he follows up with Volcanic Dragon which attacks me.  I cover the table with bloodthirsted Ogre, Berserker and Bloodrage Vampire.  Mike attacks, and makes some 1/1s, I attack and he blocks in such a way that he drops to 5.... I have the Axe again, winning 2-0.

Round 2 - Nick is another red drafter, he has a nice green red deck with lots of beefy creatures and removal.  In game 1 he mulligans to 6, I flood a bit, all of my creatures are Chandra's Outraged and his men stamp me to death.

For game 2 I side in Mind Rot over Manic Vandal as I haven't seen any artifacts from him and if I'm lucky I can nab a couple of fatties straight out of his hand before he has the mana to cast them.  I get a good curve-out draw and Mind Rot him even though he has 4 cards in hand.  This is apparently very awkward for him, as "dammit" is the exclamation to what he draws next turn.  The game is over pretty quickly as he finds no resistance to put up against my creatures' attacks.

Game 3 - Nick mulligns to 6 while I keep a spicy hand with Act of Treason and Devouring Swarm.  Things turn out very well for me as Nick makes Grim Lavamancer.  I don't attack as he would be able to trade his Runeclaw Bear for my Goblin Piker and then get 2 cards in his graveyard.  I Act of Treason the Lavamancer, putting myself to 2 cards in the graveyard, use it to kill his Runeclaw Bear then sacrifice it to the Devouring Swarm.  This is far too devastating to his board position and I win 2-1.

Round 3 - John with his GW(r) deck.  I'd seen John's deck in action as everyone had been waiting for his duel versus Simon's UW control deck to finish before we could get on with the last round.  I knew he had a Stingerfling Spider, Carnage Wurm, Timely Reinforcements and Pentavus.  I'd also seen he had a swamp, so was quite confused when he made a mountain in our games - at the end he told me it was because he swapped his splash from red to black for a Deathmark against the UW deck.

Game 1 was a very silly game indeed.  John mulliganed to 6, and I kept a two land hand with lots of 3 drops.  I stall on land drops for a couple of turns but make both of my Bloodseekers.  He has a Druidic Satchel, and I'm quite sad that I can't make the Manic Vandal in hand to destroy it straight away.  He gets a saproling to block with at the cost of 2 life, revealing Arachnus Spinner.  That comes out and a Arachnus Web shuts down my Goblin Fireslinger.  I eventually draw some more swamps and Manic Vandal the Satchel and play out Devouring Swarm and Drifting Shade.  He Acidic Slimes my Mountain and due to this distraction I forget to drain him for 2 which is really, really stupid of me.  I attack with my fliers, he has to block the Devouring Swarm with his Spinner otherwise I can sacrifice my board to pump it up and kill him.  This means I can pump the shade up and put him to 2 life.  He then makes the world's least effective Warstorm Surge :-)  I have lots of red cards that could finish him off trapped in my hand, and eventually I draw the Mountain I need to Shock him in the head.

Game 2 I board in a Combust over Drifting Shade as he has white fliers and lots of spiders to kill the shade with.  It was a much quicker and less silly game - he mulligans, and I curve out with bloodthirted guys and removal for his creatures.  I chump block a strange attack with my Goblin tunneler as I suspect he has his Carnage Wurm which would be a reasonable clock if bloodthirsted (I'm on 22 life), and indeed he does have it, but without it's extra power it's just too slow.  I win 2-0.

It was a good feeling to go 3-0 again - feels like it's been a while!  Next week normal draft service should resume - there should be less content to go through and I can go into more depth.  Hope you enjoyed reading about my rollercoaster of lows and highs.

Happy drafting!