Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

Who Says Red’s No Good in M10?

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

(This post has very little to do with the class. Just my observation from a night at FNM)

For about the first time since Kamigawa, I’ve been paying attention to drafting, mostly because I’m actually going to FNM, and, for the first time, I actually stand to benefit from knowing. One of the most commonly discussed topics is what colors are the best. Here’s what I heard:

  • White: It’s solid, and probably square in the middle. The opinion about white has been pretty stable. Obviously, both Serra Angel and Baneslayer Angel are amazing, and Safe Passage has been a good surprise. Minor soldier themes work out pretty well, and having both cheap creatures and big fliers mean that it can be flexibly played both as an aggro and control color.
  • Blue: Initially, everyone thought it sucked. Its removal looked weak (I lost an Ice Cage to a Jump, once), and its creatures are a little wimpy. Then everyone found out that blue is awesome. Its fliers are pretty solid, Sleep wins games, and card advantage has turned out to matter a lot. I think the biggest discovery with blue is that M10 is actually a fairly luck-dependent format. As such, you pretty much win if you get good bombs. And the only way to beat bombs is to have good counters. Right now, I would say that blue is considered the open secret in M10 limited.
  • Black: Black has been good, and continues to be good. About the only complaint is that the good black cards are very color hungry, so it has to be a main color. Mono-black is a great deck to have: it has removal, creatures, and card advantage. Probably is (and people know that it is) the strongest color.
  • Red: Red looked really sexy when it first came out. With Wizards moving towards creature-heavy games, they brought back Lightning Bolt and Ball Lightning. There are the bombs, and there’s repeated removal. What people noticed really quickly, though, is that beyond that, red is very shallow. Quickly, you’re looking at 4/1 hasties and 2/1 for 2 as the new hotness. Not so much. Thus, it has been relegated to splash status at best; like black, its color requirements are heavy, and people are going to draft the good cards to splash, so it really can’t be a maindeck color. This is well known.
  • Green: Green started out looking really good, and it is. It has fantastic creatures (I’ve only found 2 ways to kill cudgel troll in M10: polymorph and planar cleansing anyone know any others?), acceleration, a little removal (did you know that Deadly Recluse is just as good as a Serra Angel?), and the bombs to make the world go round. Howl of the Night Pack + Overrun is just disgusting. Actually, just Overrun is disgusting. Even so, I think the open secret right now is that it’s overrated. There are a lot of creatures with more toughness than power, and a lot of games end up in the mid-game stalemate with 5-6 creatures on both sides. At that point, green doesn’t have the evasion to win. Its best chance is overrun, and when people see it coming, they can deal with it. I would say the other open secret is that green isn’t that amazing. It’s good, but it’s not the automatic win.

So what does that mean the best color to play is? Well, 2 weeks ago, I would’ve said blue. LSV has been touting U/W skies as a legit deck, and it works. Blue isn’t the strongest color, but would seem to be the best metagame choice for balancing power level and popularity. Now? I think mono-red is worth a shot.

Note that above, I said that red isn’t great as a maindeck color. Which might be true. Go mono though, and it might go great. As far as popularity, yes, you’re not going to get passed a fireball or earthquake. That’s life. You’re not going to get passed bombs. That’s also to be expected. These aren’t game breakers. People might still pass you some very good color intensive creatures and removal. So availability of quality cards is high.

Card quality is also a lot better than you might think. 2 cards that I think have been great surprises are Viashino Spearhunter and Kindled Fury. First strike is huge. The creatures may not look beefy, but they’ll stand up in combat, and will do just fine. I think the important choice here, though, is that it works only really well in mono red. Firebreathing is absolutely insane in mono-red. You might think that it’s a 2-for-1, but if you play it on a sparkmage apprentice, you hopefully found one of the many good targets for the 1 damage, and you made a 1/1 something to pay attention to. They actually might need to expend removal on it. At worst, the block it, and you use your 8 mountains to kill a Kalonian Behemoth.

So a lot of that sounds speculative, and it is. Here’s what I managed to draft at FNM, though, with my deck being all the red stuff + the howling mines:

17 Mountains
Creatures (14)
1 Goblin Piker
1 Sparkmage Apprentice
2 Fiery Hellhound
1 Goblin Chieftain
2 Prodigal Pyromancer
2 Viashino Spearhunter
2 Canyon Minotaur
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Beserkers of Blood Ridge
1 Shivan Dragon
Other Spells (9)
1 Act of Treason
1 Kindled Fury
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Firebreathing
2 Howling Mine

1 Angel’s Mercy
1 Glorious Charge
1 Veteran Armorsmith
1 Convincing Mirage
1 Levitation
1 Telepathy
1 Mind Shatter
1 Sanguine Bond
1 Birds of Paradise (!)
1 Borderland Ranger
1 Bramble Creeper
1 Centaur Courser
1 Emerald Oryx
1 Fog
1 Lurking Predators
1 Mist Leopard
1 Oakenform
1 Rampant Growth
1 Regenerate

Maybe not too exceptional until I point out that I was actually rare-drafting here. Since I have to take the train home after FNM, I can never stay for the 3rd round, so the best I can ever do is to go 2-0 and get 1 pack for it. Instead, I find that it’s usually worth it rare-draft instead and take the money while I can. Here’s more context

  • My opening pack had a foil howling mine and an guardian seraph. I went with the money and took the howling mine, so I knew I wasn’t going to go white, and that the guy on my left probably would. I think I also shipped some good blue cards, so that was out as well
  • My 2nd pick had not a lot notable in it. All I know is that I rare drafted a Lurking Predators.
  • Going through the rest of my first pack, it looked like I would be going red/green. I took some fogs and mid-rangy green creatures. The quality of the cards wasn’t great, but such is life. I’m pretty confident that the reason why is because the guy on my right was also drafting red/green, and because I was rare-drafting, I had missed the signals. Oops. Apparently, he got quite a few lightning bolts.
  • My 2nd pack had a Birds of Paradise and a Fireball. As I said, I was money drafting. Had I known that I was going mono-red, I would’ve looked at the fireball for 1 more second, then taken the birds.
  • I think in picks 3-6 in the 2nd pack, I got 3 Lightning Bolts and had to pass in Goblin Artillery in one of those. This was a huge clue that red wasn’t being played around most of the table
  • My 3rd pack opened with a Shivan Dragon, I think. Or maybe it was the other howling mine. I can’t remember
  • So in theory, I was getting cut off from red again this round, yet I still ended up with some good stuff
  • By the time I was done drafting, I still didn’t know I was playing mono-red, so I had passed both Seismic Strikes and a Pyroclasm out of ignorance and greed

When I put my deck together, it was red/green. I was actually going to get lands when I counted my cards and realized I only had 6-7 green cards, and they actually weren’t amazing. At that point, I counted and saw I could make mono-red if I put the howling mines in. Gross. Even so, I had heard good things about playing mono colors. Fewer mana issues justify the slight loss in power, so I did it.

And it really worked. Round 1 was basically the story of me not having drafted Seismic Strike. I can’t deal with Serra Angel, and that was bad news. Even so, I got an amazing win in the 2nd game doing 5, then 7 damage with a Dragon Whelp. Lost that one 1-2. In the 2nd round, I lost the first game to a Baneslayer Angel. Game 2, the Dragon Whelp came again, and in game 3, double lightning bolt took out a Baneslayer Angel, and a Shivan Dragon for 9ish + another lightning bolt.

So 6 firebreathing cards was great. Having 17 lands causes a minor flood every game (since I really don’t need the high land count to fix colors, but having exactly 23 playable cards meant that I literally could not replace a mountain with another card), but that’s not bad news when you can firebreathe up to 10 damage. I mean, when you’re 1-2 lands from overcoming a righteousness, I think that’s good. Actually, 6 firebreathing cards is disgusting.

Granted, while I’m moaning about how my deck would’ve been better had I taken the fireball, pyroclasm, goblin artillery, lightning elemental, seismic strike, and other good creatures, my deck was still pretty good. 3 lightning bolts + shivan dragon and more is nothing to scoff.

Which is exactly my point! I was on the left of someone drafting my exact colors, and I wasn’t intending to build this deck, but simply picking half-decent cards netted me a good red deck. I think it’s an archetype that’s worth a shot if you notice you’ve picked up a couple good red cards.Of course, this is all based on a single draft, so I might be horribly wrong, but it’s worth considering. And remember: firebreathing is amazing, and love the fact that you can get it 13-14th pick.

We’re official!

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

They just posted courses for enrolling this fall, and we’ve got our official listing. Whoop whoop! (real post hopefully coming later this weekend)

Course Listing

Course Description

I’m sad that neither my nor Tom’s name appears anywhere on it, but I’m happy to concede that point to get the class done.

M10 Prerelease

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

I just got back from the M10 prerelease and am writing this article in spurts in-between resting while practicing tuba. This really has nothing to do with the class, but now that I have a magic blog, I figured I’d write about it anyways.

My prerelease was a 6-pack sealed, and I ended up going 1-3. Yeah, it was bad. I put together a W/U deck that was relatively quick. It had a soldiers sub-theme with 4 soldiers, which actually appeared a couple times and worked pretty well. I had mid-costed fliers, with my most expensive creatures being 2 serra angels. I think it was an okay deck, and I think I picked the right colors. I had 6 green creatures, 7 red creates, 6 black creatures, 7 blue creatures, and 10 white creatures, so I had to play white. After that, my green and black were the first ones cut (which is a little sad, since green is really good, but I’ll get to that). In the end, I didn’t have enough depth in red, so I went blue. I 2-0ed in my practice. I won my first game decisively, lost my second game to an overrun, and lost the third game to another overrun where he would’ve been dead had he not killed me with exactly 19 points of damage. It was unfortunate, but definitely my fault, as I made a very serious play mistake in forgetting what I saw with a sage owl. So lost 1st round and then lost both games in my 2nd round to overruns. Third round, I had to mulligan to 5 for having no lands, then didn’t get my colors right, and lost the 2nd game in a pretty good fight. 4th round, I won the first game decisively, lost the second game decisively, and won the third game decisively. So green is very good. Each of my opponents played some green, so it’s good

So with that overview, here are some comments on specific cards:

– wall of frost: very good. I didn’t get to play him a lot, but he’s good like wall of denial.

– rod of ruin: also good. There are a lot of 1 toughness creatures around, and repeatable removal is good

– terramorphic expanse: good, but not really necessary. Not once was I in color trouble that I needed it to save me. On the otherhand, it was never a drawback. I never wished I had a real land on a turn I dropped it. Middle to low pick

– serra angel: it’s amazing. At uncommon, you’ll see a lot of these floating around, and if you’re playing an aggressive white/X deck, this is a great card to have at the top of the curve. Only deadly recluse and another serra angel were good enough to intimidate it into not attacking. Very high pick

– blinding mage: good, but not what I was hoping. I know it should be good, but it didn’t get me out of trouble as much as I was hoping. My deck had a very good curve, so I often didn’t have the mana open to use it, but I’d still draft him high

– righteousness: much better at uncommon than rare. It worked a couple times, so I believe in it

– rhox pikemaster: a lifesaver. This card is great. I saw a lot of deathtouch and mid-sized creatures, and this makes all your soldiers so much better than them. High pick

– veteran swordsmith: very good, but not quite what I was hoping. Of course, if you’re going for a soldier theme, use it, but the 1 power generally didn’t matter that much. I think the 1 toughness would’ve been much better.

– safe passage: fantastic combat trick. Get it while you can

– elite vanguard: very good. Not surprising that savannah lions is good, but I got him 1st turn a couple times, and quite a few of my opponents didn’t have plays until turn 3. He’ll get in some damage, and if you have other soldiers to boost him, it can still be useful midgame

– ice cage: I thought about crystallization when I saw this card. It’s like crystallization, but so much worse. With blinding mage, prodigal pyromancer, and rod of ruin around, it just always feels delicate. Against green, they’re going to cast giant growth or oakenform on their creatures anyways, so that’s no help. The removal in other colors is just much better (I would’ve absolutely taken pacifisms had I opened any), so use that instead.

– mind control: very good.

– sage owl: amazing. It seeemed like I always wanted to smooth out my mana draws, and that’s exactly what the owl can do. But you should really take notes about what you see, or like me, you’ll make a mistake because of what you think you have coming up

– illusionary servant: see ice cage. It’s good, but not as good as some people I’ve heard talk about it. It did win me one game because my opponent didn’t understand it, but otherwise, it sat in my hand a lot because I knew it was dead on arrival

– sleep: It’s all that and more. Take it and play blue just to use it. This was the best finisher ever. In a lot of games I played, the board just got swamped as no one wanted to attack into the other, hence why overrun crushed me a couple times. On the other hand, sleep can do it, too. If you have 10 power of creatures, it’ll go all the way for you. Especially combined with…

– silence: mostly not a good card, except for the turn before you’re going to alpha strike. Especially played during upkeep after you play sleep, it can be useful.

– time warp: meh. It was good with sleep as well, netting you 3 free attacks, but that’s hard to do, since you need a lot of mana. Cool card, not amazing.

– solemn offering: didn’t need to use it, or naturalize. I didn’t play a single game where I needed artifact/enchantment destruction. Good to have in the board, and not worthy of a slot.

– overrun: better than sleep. This card just destroyed me each time. This will win games for you, so draft it when you see it and use it often. Combine with howl of the night pack for a really dirty win.

– deadly recluse: awesome. It stopped me a lot from attacking with my much more valuable fliers. And that 2 toughness is actually a lot. I see this as a solid middle pick.

Hope it helps.