Saturday, 23 July 2011

Drafting M12 #2 - Saved by Pack 3

Hey hey hey!

It's time for another M12 draft report.  We draft each week in Oxford on Thursday.  Usually around 12 people show up but this week we were in for a surprise.  Perhaps it was the excitement of a new core set to draft - 20 people showed up to play!

Our TO decided to run two 10 man pods.  Thankfully we had most of our usual area of the pub to ourselves so there was space to set up two large tables.  To my right was a new face - an Austrian who is in Oxford just for a short while and had found out where the local magic scene was.  I'd chatted to him a bit before the draft, but I didn't know how experienced he was at drafting.  To my left was Sera, a casual player who doesn't usually draft, but comes to most of the prereleases.  I knew she has a preference for aggresive decks.

My opening pick was the solid icy-manipulator-on-a-stick Gideon's Lawkeeper, passing the interesting Adaptive Automaton.  Artifacts are appealing as a first pick as they are colourless, but Gideon's Lawkeeper is clearly the stronger card.  The second pick was Pacifism over Assault Griffin and Dungrove Elder.  For my third pick I got more confirmation that I am correct to be in white - a foil Honor of the Pure.  I was now on a mission to draft an aggressive white deck. 

I picked up a Banalish Veteran and a Guardian's Pledge, but I couldn't figure out what my second colour was supposed to be (appart from realising it was not red - this was definitely being drafted to my right).  I got a late Merfolk Looter and an Unsummon, then the blue disappeared entirely.  There were some decent black cards in the last few picks, including an incredibly late Onyx Mage which I passed in preference for Stave Off as it was something I'd definitely be playing.

I entered pack 2 with an open mind to my second colour - I was hopeful that I'd sent some good signals downstream and that I'd get some good white cards.  I opened a Serra Angel (sadly having to wave goodbye to a Stormfront Pegasus) and pick 2 was another Lawkeeper.  I was then passed a pack with a tempting Incinerate, but I was wary of going red as I wouldn't be getting any pack 3, so instead I took an interesting white card that I wanted to try out - Timely Reinforcements.  The Limited Resources podcast had decided that Timely Reinforcements was not good as it only helps you when you are behind, but I wasn't convinced by their arguments and wanted to try it out in practice.  Pick 4 was a non-exciting but perfectly servicable Peregrine Griffin.

Unfortunately this is where the draft appeared to go have gone wrong.  After pick 4 I saw no white cards passed to me for about 6 picks.  I couldn't figure out what had happened - did we open no white cards?  Had someone to my left opened an awesome card in white and moved into it?    I ended up taking some black cards, but I was not happy - in core sets I don't like pairing white with black unless one of the colours is a splash, as they both tend to be very coloured-mana hungry.  Devouring Swarm, Duskhunter Bat, Consume Spirit and a couple of Wring Flesh were not exactly good splash cards.  Later in the picks I found a Stonehorn Dignitary, which I wasn't sure of the playability of, and a Siege Mastadon.  Hmmmm......  I wasn't feeling very confident that I'd get enough playables out of pack 3, and the plan of drafting cheap white creatures hadn't panned out at all. 

My 3rd pack was less than helpful.  The rare was a RG dual land, the only white card in the pack was Lifelink, and there wasn't a good black card there either.  Frown town.  The two best cards in the pack were Fireball and Overrun.  Obviously Fireball is splashable and Overrun is not, so I passed the green bomb to my left to a shriek of delight from Sera.  But then it was time for my shriek of delight (although it was inside my head rather than out loud) - hiding behind a perfectly acceptable Assault Griffin I saw a Frost Titan staring back at me.  I decided that my second colour was now blue!  After the Frost Titan a constant stream of good white creatures came to my draft pile, along with a Jace's Archivist.

This is the deck I put together -

M12 Draft Deck - I Am the Law

3 x Gideon's Lawkeeper
1 x Stave Off
1 x Unsummon
1 x Honor of the Pure
1 x Pacifism
1 x Stormfront Pegasus
1 x Merfolk Looter
1 x Banalish Veteran
2 x Griffin Sentinel
1 x Guardian's Pledge
1 x Roc Egg
1 x Timely Reinforcements
1 x Jace's Archivist
1 x Arbalest Elite
1 x Stonehorn Dignitary
1 x Peregrine Griffin
1 x Serra Angel
1 x Siege Mastadon
1 x Frost Titan
1 x Fireball
8 x Plains
7 x Island
2 x Mountain

Sideboard Cards of note:

2 x Auramancer
1 x Griffin Rider
1 x Pride Guardian
1 x Alluring Siren

My deck looked slightly at odds with itself in some respects, as I had some very controlling cards in there (plan A: Survive until we can cast our Titan) and also some very aggressive cards.  I wouldn't usually run a Guardian's Pledge in a controlling deck, but given I had 13 white creatures it seemed like it would range from a decent combat trick to a mini-overrun.  I decided against running the Auramancers main as Pacifism ending up in the graveyard isn't the most likely of occurances, and Griffin Rider was destined for the sideboard as I only had 3 griffin creatures. 

Some of the cards I wasn't 100% sure about by just looking at them (Stonehorn Dignitary, Timely Reinforcements, and Jace's Archivist).  If nothing else I was going to learn a lot about these by giving them a go.

Onto the games!

Round 1

The first round I am paired to Sera who I was feeding for the whole draft, so I knew she would be in green - mono green as it turned out.  She certainly didn't keep it a secret, telling me all about the second Elvish Archdruid she'd been passed from the other direction to go with the one I'd passed to her, and how she'd been proritising hexproof creatures.  She won the roll and took the play, this could be rough...

Game 1 - What I did was completely irrelevant as she went Runeclaw Bear, bloodthirsted Lurking Crocodile, 2nd Runeclaw Bear, Sacred Wolf, Overrun.....  I am feeling very sad that I didn't pick up a random Negate or Cancel for sideboarding purposes.  My thoughts when sideboarding were that I need men on the table asap to trade with hers and I can't afford to stumble with my mana.  So I sided in Pride Guardian as it is good vs bears, taking out my Guardian's Pledge.  I also wanted to swap an island for a plains so I swapped in an Auramancer for Jace's Archivist as it would be easier to cast.

Game 2 - I am again under pressure early as I decline to chump block a Runeclaw Bear with my Merfolk Looter, and down comes the island-walking crocodile all bloodthirsted up again.  However this time I keep the crocodile under control with a Lawkeeper.  Things start to get interesting when she makes her Dungrove Elder with 5 forests, and I loot up Frost Titan.  She doesn't find the 6th forest, but does make a Sacred Wolf.  I attack into them with Frosty - I have Stave Off in hand so if she double blocks it will be a blow out.  She doesn't block and I make a Roc Egg and Pride Guardian.  The Elder smashes the Egg, and the bird token is proptly eaten by a Stingerfling Spider.  The game continues, I find some more fliers and won the game in the air.

Game 3 - I mulligan to a hand that doesn't have a 2-drop, but it has the lands the previous hand was lacking and also a great catch-up card in Timely Reinforcements.  They were very timely indeed as her start was Gladecover Scout turn 1, then another Scout and a Llanowar Elves turn 2.  My soldiers happily traded for the elves, thank goodness one of the two Archdruids weren't around!  The rest of the game played out very similarly to game 2, both Frost Titan and Dungrove Elder showed up, and again I won: 2-1.

Hexproof creatures were a bit of an achilies heal for my deck, and I was relieved only one game had been decided by Overrun.

Round 2

My Nemesis!!!!  Rob and I have a friendly rivalry at the Oxford club, we seem to take it in turns at beating each other.  This was going to be a UW mirror match, he was opposite to me in the big 10 man drafting circle and had gotten all the Assault Griffins I'd been forced to pass for better cards.  Rob wins the dice roll and chooses to play.  Boooooooo.

Game 1 - I keep a slightly risky hand as there is an Island and a Mountain but no Plains, but there is a perfect curve there and I'm on the draw so I risk it.  Like a champ my first draw is the hoped-for Plains.  He beats me down in the air early, but I find some Lawkeepers, Griffins and Serra Angel and take over the game.

Game 2 - This game demonstrated how Timely Reinforcements is pretty awesome on the draw, when I have a Merfolk Looter to his Azure Mage and Alabaster Mage, then suddenly I have a whole army.  The tokens stop Azure Mage and Alabaster Mage from being able to attack.  Jace's Archivist also made an appearance in this game and was probably my MVP.  Rob couldn't really use his Azure Mage very effectively because if he spent 4 mana to draw a card at convenient times like my end step, then I would just draw a card as well but for only a single blue mana.  I win 2-0 (must have been my turn to win this week).

Round 3

My opponent Anthony's reconnaisance had completly put him on tilt as he'd already decided it was a forgone conclusion he could not beat my deck with his UR deck.  It's true that his illusion creatures were going to probably die at the hands of my triple lawkeepers, but I told him to stop sulking, it is not a winning attitude.  But I could tell his heart was not in it at all. 

I Titaned him to death in the first game, he sided out his illusions.  In game 2 he mulliganned but had Merfolk Looter to undo some of the damage.  After he mana leaked my Fireball, I drew my Titan again.  I feel fortunate to have drawn Frost Titan a bit more than was likely and I win 2-0.

My 9 points got me 3 prize pack, and I played pack wars with Rob where he got his revenge.  There was another pack wars with my boyfriend Geoffrey when I got home.  One of those packs contained new Jace, who is definitely not good in pack wars!  (I think I will have to give him a try at some point when I'm testing constructed to see what he's like in UW control).

I did get in a few friendly games during the evening between rounds, so I got some play time with some of the cards I was unsure about.  Here are some thoughts on those:

Timely Reinforcements - This card was very good for me almost every time I had it, and when it was not useful having it in my hand didn't really feel like a bad thing - it was like an emergency back-up plan.  I think it was especially good with Gideon's Lawkeeper, because if their threat is getting tapped they'll have to make a 2nd threat, and it had added strength in my particular deck because of the two white creature pump cards I had.  It may not be as awesome if you have a deck that does not have these things.  However I think even an aggressive white deck may want to run it, because a lot of the decks in M12 will also be aggressive, so on the draw it is quite likely for you to have one creature and for your opponent to have 2.

Stonehorn Dignitary - This guy turned out to be pretty useful.  He's hardly amazing, but he allowed me to spend my mana on getting another warm body onto the table rather than on activating my Lawkeepers, without any worry that I would be smacked in the face by something suddenly wearing an equipment or enchantment, or by a certain uncommon hasty dragon.  The Dignitary's 4 toughness was pretty nice, and he was fine at sitting around until an alpha strike.

Jace's Archivist - Worst case scenario: you have a 2/2 beater because there is awesome stuff in your hand you can't cast yet.  Best case scenario: you dump your hand out first and get to draw a bunch of cards and annoy your opponent.  He was pretty interesting to play with, and when you've both run out of cards he can be used at the end of your opponents draw step to draw a card for yourself for 1 blue.  He practically shuts down Azure mage and overall I thought he was pretty damn good.

Fireball - I wonder if I've been overrating this card and if splashing red for it was too greedy.

Format Speed - As anticipated the format is pretty fast, the only draw I saw happen was a game where one of the players was very inexperienced and played slowly.

That's it from me this time, I would be very interested to read in the comments about other people's experiences with the cards I went through at the end.

Happy Drafting!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Drafting M12 #1 - The Prerelease Draft

Hey hey hey!

This is my very first blog post.  My name is Laura Dawes, I'm 28, I'm a computer game artist and I live in Oxford, England.  I've been thinking of making a blog about my favourite game, Magic: The Gathering, for some time now.  As M12 is being released this weekend it seems like a good time to start.

I've been drafting since the original Mirrodin block, so I'm a very experienced drafter, and probably the person my local crew least like to be paired against ;-)  Becoming good at drafting seems to me to be a combination of a lot of practice, learning from your mistakes and keeping on top of what others are experiencing the particular format to be like.  For anyone looking to get better at drafting, I highly recommend watching draft walkthroughs on, and listening to the Limited Resources Podcast on

I'll be drafting M12 quite a lot in the upcoming weeks as I've qualified again this year for the Great British Nationals, and it is the set we'll be playing for the two drafts in the tournament.  I'm going to attempt to document all of my M12 practice drafts and hope that there are some lessons to be gained from them.  I'll definitely try to draft as many different archetypes as I can and see how they perform.

So, the first opportunity to draft of course happens at the Prerelease, which was last Sunday for us.  In preperation I'd managed to listen to most of the 3 hour long Limited Resources set reveiw, which was again a good one (although I did disagree on some of the card evaluations, but I won't get into that now).  The most important observation was that M12 is likely to be a faster format than M11 was.   The reason that M12 is likely to be faster is the return of the bloodthirst mechanic and all of it's enablers.  Another thing they had said is that the power level of blue seems much weaker than in M11 - but given how powerful blue was in M11 I wasn't about to avoid drafting it altogether in M12.

The first pick, first pack, first M12 draft - Mind Control is sitting there, asking me to show how awesome blue still can be.  The rare was Druidic Satchel, which looks like a pretty useful and interesting card to me.  But Mind Control effects are always great in limited, especially in core sets where "Bomb" creatures are so powerful.  I was passed some good red cards and blue did not dry up.  I got some very late pick Skywinder Drakes and I opened a Fireball in the 2nd pack.  I ended up with a solid looking pile of removal, creatures with evasion, bloodthirst creatures and a couple of bloodthirst enablers.

I also succumbed to a little bit of silliness during this draft (it was the prerelease after all).  In the middle of the 1st pack I took a Crown of Empires as there was nothing good in the pack, and a bad Icy Manipulator is still an Icy Manipulator.  In the 2nd pack I got a 12th pick Scepter of Empires, and in the 3rd pack I was passed a 3rd pick Throne of Empires!  Was I going to be able to assemble the Empires machine?  Given my Ponder and 2 Merfolk Looters I decided to give it a go!

Here was my finished deck and relevant sideboard cards:

Draft Deck - Fallen Empires

1 x Goblin Arsonist
2 x Goblin Fireslinger
1 x Ponder
1 x Unsummon
1 x Crown of Empires
1 x Incinerate
2 x Merfolk Looter
1 x Blood Ogre
1 x Scepter of Empires
3 x Skywinder Drake
2 x Aven Fleetwing
1 x Chandra's Outrage
2 x Gorehorn Minotaurs
1 x Throne of Empires
1 x Chasm Drake
1 x Mind Control
1 x Volcanic Dragon
1 x Fireball
1 x Buried Ruin
7 x Island
8 x Mountain

Sideboard Cards:

1 x Bonebreaker Giant
1 x Cancel
1 x Fling
1 x Frost Breath
1 x Lava Axe
1 x Phantasmal Bear
1 x Tectonic Rift
1 x Unsummon
1 x Wall of Torches

If I wasn't in a silly prerelease mood I think I would have run the Unsummon and Lava Axe, Fling or Bonebreaker Giant over the Scepter and the Crown of Empires.  I was quite impressed by the rare part of the cycle, Throne of Empires.  It provided a stream of chump blockers on the ground in one game and a little army to attack with in another.  The Crown however was just too expensive to activate and get much use out of (but I think it would be fine in Sealed), and the Scepter - while useful for activating bloodthirst - was just unnecessary.

Pairing bloodthirst with blue was quite interesting - I attacked for 1 damage with a Merfolk Looter a couple of times to power up a Gorehorn Minotaur or Blood Ogre.  It may be stating the obvious, but the Minotaurs are really, really good when bloodthirsted, and are hardly insignificant when not.  A couple of the bloodthirst creatures are really quite miserable if you play them without their bloodthirst counters, which is something I quickly discovered in the sealed deck we'd played earlier in the day.

So, how did the deck do?  Did I manage to assemble the diabolical Empires machine?

In round 1 I played against Anthony's BW creation.  He had a lot of good cards - Doom Blades, Serra Angel, and his own Throne of Empires too.  I won 2-1, my MVP being Merfolk Looter digging me through my deck to a timely Chandra's Outrage for the Serra Angel.  Chasm Drake taking a Minotaur for a ride wasn't bad either.

In round 2 I played against Owen who is an inexperienced player & drafter, but definitely very clever and he'd drafted a pretty strong looking green deck.  I knew he had an Overrun in there as I'd seen him squash Nick with it in the 1st round.  Unfortunately for Owen in the first game I got a fast start with pleanty of removal to two for one him when he enchanted his guys.  I boarded in the second Unsummon due to the enchantments, and apologetically blew him out with one of them when he tried to cast Hunter's Insight on his Trollhide wearing Garruk's Companion.  I won 2-0.

In round 3 I faced the mighty Qu.  He is a very good drafter who sadly left Oxford this week so I won't have the pleasure of playing him again.  He'd drafted a very fast WG deck.  No matter what I did he had the exact answer each time, Pacifism for my blocker, Naturalize for my Mind Control, Mighty Leap to squash another blocker, and Guardian's Pledge for exactsies.  He crushed me 0-2.  We played a couple of friendlies, I managed to win one when he colour screwed ;-)  It seems that the good old 2 drop men and tricks is still a winning formula in this core set.

2-1 isn't too shabby a start, and I walked home with 3 prize boosters.  It would have been pretty funny if I'd managed to find all of my Empires pieces but the most I ever got in a game was two of them.  It's not something I recommend trying to draft!

So, my thoughts on the format so far:

- I think that creature combat tricks are stronger in this set than they usually are.  This is because of the hexproof and bloodthirst mechanics.  You can't kill hexproof creatures with traditional removal spells, so there will be blocking involved.  Creature combat tricks are good at both helping you to kill a hexproof creature or protect your own hexproof creature.  Bloodthirst also encourages blocking, even if it is just stopping one point of damage - so again surprise combat tricks are more important here.

- A lot of the bloodthirst creatures are quite below par if you can't enable their bloodthirstyness.  A bloodthirst deck is likely to be an agressive deck, and when forced to play defensively this problem is exaggerated.  I think you need to place high priority on good bloodthirst enabling creatures when drafting bloodthirst decks - Goblin Fireslinger, Tormented Soul and Griffin Sentinel all seem to be excellent for this purpose.

- The format does indeed appear to be faster than M11, and I think I will be avoiding spells that cost 7 mana (barring ramping or a very controlling deck).

I hope you have found this interesting and / or useful.  Let me know in the comments if I should go into more detail about the games or the draft in the future.  I hadn't made notes as I didn't pre-plan to report the prerelease deck, but I can of course do that next time.

Happy drafting!