All posts by Xavier

Chaos Drafting: Starting from Scratch

A few months ago I was lucky enough to score an invite to Tristan Shaun Gregson’s Historical Draft at Mythic Games in Santa Cruz, California.  Mythic is a great new store that just opened up and they’ve got a nice space to play.  Maybe 40 seats or so, give or take, with some sweet leather couches and some of the best Pizza in Santa Cruz right across the way at Woodstock’s. TSG, is, well, TSG and I’m very greatful for the opportunity to play in that draft.

The historical draft is essentially a pack of every set Ice Age and forward, and sans Scars block, – essentially a 60 pack Chaos draft.  I’m a pretty huge fan of Chaos Drafting (drafting from random sets as opposed to Block Drafting), so I jumped at the opportunity, and I’ve run my own 50 pack draft since then as well.

If you build it, they will come…

On the drive down to Santa Cruz from San Francisco, my friend Sean asked me if I had any tips for drafting a format where you’re opening such random packs.  You could start with spirit dragons in Kamigawa and end up with a five color disaster in Ravinca.  Do you try to get Rhystic cards from Masques block to work?  What about all the cards you’ve never seen before?  How do you evaluate them in a vacuum?    Was there any strategy to Chaos drafting at all?

Well surprisingly, I actually did have a strategy.  Now, before I move forward I should be honest – I’m not a master drafter.   My limited rating’s in the lower 1700′s, meaning I generally win more than I lose, but I’m not a 3-0 baller and you won’t see me outside of the 4-3-2-2 queues on MTGO.   I’ve also drafted a decent amount of random pack drafts, and the advice I came up with was useful to both Sean and myself, and we finished with pretty solid decks.  I even placed second in the draft (out of 12 players) with a fantastic mono red deck.

One thing to keep in mind is that the historical draft had a larger number of packs going in, (5 packs each) so unlike most chaos drafts where you might be  scouring for value, it actually felt more like a cube where you had an abundance of cards in your pool and the deck building was more about getting down to the right 23.  Despite these differences,  I’m of the opinion that the basic theories that I had for the Historical draft apply to regular chaos drafting as well.

Theory 1: There are less bombs available in a chaos draft than in a block draft.

I came to this conclusion because there are sets with rare bombs that are good only if you could build synergy around them (Mirrodin and Kamigawa block come to mind) or that you’ll have access to mana fixing (Invasion and Shards) In addition, the further you go back, the more likely you are to open sub-par cards in the rare slot – cards that used to be good but have been outclassed (Chronicles comes to mind) .  For example, In Mirrodin block draft you have been VERY happy to see this guy.  In chaos draft, you’ll have to polish very hard before this particular turd will shine.

Corollary:  With less powerful bombs available, creating a consistent deck is more important than a powerful deck.

Having the leisure to draft more than three colors has always been format dependent, and in Chaos I judge it too much of a risk to purposefully draft that way.  It’s far less risky to just try to go with a single strong color base and splash for a second color as needed.  This also means if you start with a mono colored deck that looks a little underwhelming, you stick with it rather than screw up your mana base trying to fit in something that’s marginally more powerful.

I actually put Balance in my mono red and it did win me a game, but I also lost my second game in the finals because I was short a land. – I actually had a fetch in play that was there to get my plains, but with my plains already in play it was a dead card.  If it just been a flush of mountains I would have won with my disintegrate.  But Balance is a pretty loose example – it’s practically Power and you won’t have the opportunity to draft a bomb that solid very often.   (Fireball is one that’s been reprinted enough times to bring up.  And yes, I would splash for that. But that’s an exception, not the rule.)

One of these cards is not like the other….

Corollary: Pick your archetype early, and stay in it.

In short, the basic archetypes for Chaos are:

Aggro (weenies, removal, individual and mass pump, discard if applicable)

Skies (flyers)

Stompy (efficient, undercosted fatties)

Ramp (early elves and mana fixing into huge monsters)

Control (removal, counters, discard, turtles, late game finishers)

Rock (Fatties + removal, with an emphasis on card advantage)

Tempo (usually blue based aggro/control, with an emphasis on bounce or removal – essentially get a creature down, and deny your opponent attack and steps by bouncing, tapping, or killing opposing creatures, so that your creatures can go all the way)

To be honest, I’d be happy with a deck of any single color (even mono green)  as long as the archetype was clear.  But jumping in early and staking your claim is foremost – cutting out a color from a pack if you can goes a long way.  You don’t want to switch colors just to get a slightly better card.  If I’m  already heavily into green and my choice is between a late pick Llanowar Elf and a late Doom Blade, I’d probably stick with the elf –  Taking that Doom Blade might makes your deck better given the cards that you’ve picked, but if you’re clearly passing black and cutting green, you’re that much more likely to end up with more solid green picks (or even a bomb) on the pass back.  I’d  rather have options in my deck building  rather than cobble together a deck that is half decent and half horrible because I sent bad signals.

If, however, there really isn’t a compelling pick for your deck, you’re not going to send a bad signal, or it looks like your original color is drying up, then by all means take Doom Blade.

Theory 2:  Quality at common goes out the window in a chaos draft

… Though it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s not all a bunch of 1/1′s for 3 out there.  Actually it’s for the same reasons as listed above.  There are going to be a ton of creatures at Common that are meant to be role-players in a synergy deck that just get worse when you take their set away.

Yes, there will be uncommons and rares with better stats for their cost but we don’t get as many chances at those. Obviously good cards will almost always get picked, so it’s critical to have a strategy when drafting the Commons – which is:

Corollary:  Hill Giant is king.

Or: the power to toughness ratio vs. casting cost of the creature can be more important than the creature ability.  This a gross oversimplification of draft theory, but a drafter with knowledge reaching back over the years starts to see a pattern – the same creatures always show up in some form or another.

the 2/2 for 2 (the grizzly bear!)
the 2/2 for 2 with a drawback (usually in red or black)
the 2/2 for 3 (the grey ogre or scathe zombie, usually bad enough now to get an ability)
the 1/4 for 3 (the horned turtle)
the 2/2 flyer for 3
the 3/3 for 4 (the Hill Giant)
the 3/3 flyer for 5 (most recently sky-eel school.  But wizards has gotten better at hiding them – in Shadowmoor it was Merrow Wavebreakers- In Dissension it was Helium Squirter, in Lorywn it was Plover Knights.  My personal favorite “flyer” is Elven Riders :D

So why the Hill Giant?  Because at its commonality, it’s consistently the best power and toughness for its cost.  And there are a lot of them out there.    Yes, you’re going to draft creatures of all shapes and sizes and powers and toughnesses, but at Common, which is where the majority of our bread and butter creatures are going to be, toughness and power usually max out at 3 unless you’re Green.  Regardless of what archetype you’re in, stalemates start to occur, (or break down) when you start hitting this size of creature.  If your deck is all speed and gas, you want evasion and removal to get past these monsters.  If you’re the heavy, you want acceleration in order to plop down your big guys and outrace the speedy deck. And if you’re both at the same class and hit a stalemate, you’ll do better if you have more Giants to throw away, vs. waiting for that bomb, removal, or evasion.

Speaking of stalemates:

Corollary: Overcosted removal is still removal, and overcosted evasion is still evasion.

This was my first pick in TSG’s Historical draft.  I can’t really remember much of what else was in the Visions pack, but it wasn’t anything outstanding – there was a single Breezekeeper in the pack if I wanted to cut blue, and evasion is evasion…

But then I realized that this guy would probably make my deck regardless of what archetype I built out – He’d be another flyer to deal with in skies, for example, or an evasiony creature in basically any deck that wanted to attack..  and 59 cards later, he made my main. I think there is tendency to look at this guy and think it’s not worth the pick, because he’s slightly overcosted (we’d expect him to be at least a Wind Drake) but as it turned out, this guy was fine. Given the scope of creature availability in a Chaos draft, he either traded with creatures that posed more of a threat than him, or ate a piece of removal.  The Chimera just added to the overall aggro strategy of my deck and got in some crucial damage, or best of all – they had no answer and he went all the way.

Don’t forget that card draw and filtering is still really good as well – people constantly underestimate looters and draw spells.

A decent start..

Drafting a deck full of removal or evasion is still a great plan, if you can manage it.  But even if you’ve accomplished building a great deck, you need to carry that momentum into the battles themselves.  Which brings us, finally to:

Some Magic Basics:

Misassignment of Role = Game Loss
(A Mike Flores Classic)

In short, know what your role is going into the game.   If you’re the aggro deck, then choose to play first, and try to end the game as quickly as possible.  You generally want to utilize your removal in a way that will maximize damage dealt. If your opponent has a creature that slows you down (like a wall), calculate whether you want to just get it out of the way in exchange for dealing more damage in the long run, or whether you want to save your removal for a true threat.  Can your opponent wrath you?  Maybe you want to get in there asap.  Could your opponent play a big dragon that you can’t deal with?   Maybe you just want to swarm around the wall and save your removal for when it really matters.

If your opponent has the capability to race you, evaluate the board state – given what you’ve seen, can they beat you in a straight race?  Can they kill you before you kill them?  If not, then get your guys in there.  Take whatever they give. Don’t save guys to chump unless you’re about to die. Do the math!  Your chump block could be dealing damage!!

If you’re an aggro deck that’s been outclassed by bigger threats, don’t give up.  We’ll get to that in a sec.

If you’re the “control” deck (i.e. the other deck is more aggro then you), or your deck isn’t consistent, or you don’t have enough information about the other deck to know what to do, choose to draw first – your plan against the other deck is to exhaust them of threats and leave them in topdeck mode while you still have threats.  Your life is a resource.  Don’t chump block unless they’re about to hit you for lethal damage (or might be threatening lethal damage with pump spells or direct damage)

If your path to winning isn’t obvious, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost.

I’ve been watching so many players just sort of give up mentally before they’ve actually lost the game.  At this level or play, they understand how to win and are engaged in the game for as long as they are ahead – but if they reach a stalemate or fall behind they lose interest or just give up “because the game was already over.”

This is usually far from the truth.  Start trading creatures, wear them out, picture what you need to draw in order to stabilize or even win the game.

If you can’t figure out how to beat your opponent, keep a steady head.  Remember that your opponent still needs to figure out how to beat YOU. If you can make that process as difficult as possible, force bad trades, use tricks to win in combat, kill evasive creatures that can go all the way, then you can still win it.

And with that I’ll finish up.  I hope that some of this strategy is useful to whoever reads it.  Questions/comments/vehement disagreement is welcome. ;)

Oversized Threats: Optimizing Planechase

Editor’s Note - I’ve linked the cards into the title of each plane, if you highlight the title the plane should appear.  I did resize some of the planes and put them into the article for emphasis.

We’re about an hour into our Chaos multiplayer game, and we’re Planechasing it.  Our playgroup is a big fan of Planechase, but we’ve abandoned the idea that specific sets should go with preconstructed decks.  Instead, we’ve mashed up all our planes into one massive 50+ card Communal Deck, customized for fun and balance factor.  Currently, we’re slumming it on Mirrodin, in the  vast expanse of the Glimmervoid Basin

At the moment, there are four players left standing – Vlad is running a 60 card, four color casual deck that  runs Tamanoa and damage dealing effects to secure a high life total.  I’m playing my own Green/Black Commander deck (my EDH general is shuffled in). Peter isn’t really prepared for the long game with his 60 card Vampires, and Ian is playing a 60 card U/R deck built around Wee Dragonauts that really isn’t built for multiplayer matches, but he’s doing his best.  We’ve been trying to knock out chunks of Vlad’s life total with varying degrees of success…

Vlad’s turn.  He draws and casts a very timely Lighting Helix, and since it’s multiplied by Glimmervoid Basin, the Tamanoa carries him into into a rather fat life total of 99.

Vlad decides he’s finished sucking away all all our life and passes the turn to Ian.

Ian untaps Gelectrode and Dragonauts (alive only because of Clout of the Dominus)  , draws for his turn, frowns, and picks up Glimmervoid Basin for a bit.   You can tell that he wants to do the math but he’s not really up for it.  He shrugs his shoulders, and puts Glimmervoid Basin back down.
Ian announces “Fire” (of Fire/Ice). (with one target for the two damage)

Twincast it …. and…

Twincast it.
After doing all the math,, there are 42 copies of Fire on the stack.

This allows Ian to activate Gelectrode 43 times, wiping out both Peter and myself, and knocking down Vlad enough to finish him with a 88/6 Dragonaut.

The Case for Planechase

Planechase can certainly be an interesting beast – on the one hand it can create some absurd  game states but on the other hand it can be a huge amount of fun.  While our playgroup didn’t find the deck-specific plane set up that Wizards sold us all that interesting, the Communal Deck optional format proved itself as  a much needed equalizer to multiplayer when decks misfire or a deck starts to rule the casual circle.  By slowing down the game at points it can help mana light players get to the mana they need, or provide a random, huge boost to an underdog deck. In addition, planes can allow for political maneuvering where the effect can be used to hinder the most threatening player on the board.

One criticism about Planechase is that it can make your multiplayer games a bit slow.  Honestly, your mileage may vary.  I would hazard a guess and say, depending on the planes you wind up with, it can add anything to half an hour to an hour to your average four player game, or even more if you’re playing EDH with a full 40 life.

One fix for this has been to make the “free” roll mandatory every turn.  This does two things – for one, people can’t plan on sandbagging on a deceleration plane for too long. Secondly, it reinforces the idea that a player MUST roll every turn, so that people don’t randomly forget to roll.

Speaking of customizing the play experience – I’ve been hunting for the various promo planes on the net, and they tend to be a little difficult to find.  Since I’m on the various online stores anyway,  I decided to pick up extra copies of the planes I like and lead to serious tweaks to the Communal Deck. For example we have an extra Celestine Reef in the deck which has created some hilarious situations, (Let’s roll off the Reef into… Reef?!)  but the sky is the limit on how any particular group would want to customize the deck.   There’s even software online that allows you to build your own planes, if you wanted to go that route.

Even if you only have the original planes, you can break them down into four basic groups – Acceleration, Deceleration, Finishers, and Miscellaneous.

Acceleration Planes at a glance

These planes are the meat and potatoes of the Planechase experience.   I think everyone can agree that it’s cool to see your deck operate in “turbo mode” sometimes.  The effects are strong, but fair – on a related note one of the criticisms we had of the Archenemy set was that some of the cards were just ridiculously over the top, and that sort of thing just doesn’t happen here – after all, even if you managed to get a free spell or extra turn, it’s just a likely that someone else might get the same effect – thus it’s still important to maintain and manipulate your political ties.

On to the planes:

Eloren Wilds

Your classic mana flare plane.  Everyone loves the flare, and  it also creates an interesting game state where YOU would like to take advantage of the flare but you also don’t want your neighbor to get it  The Chaos ability is a little mismatched, because if someone can’t cast spells, they’re just going to spend all that mana on getting off the plane.

Feeding Grounds

I tend not to like asymmetrical planes that give one particular color or deck type a boost to the exclusion of everyone else – I wouldn’t want more than one of these, if any, in my Planechase deck.

Horizon Boughs

The static ability does create some interesting attack decisions since creatures get pseudo-vigilance.  And the chaos land searching is absolutely huge, though it may create some monsters, kind of like dropping a mega sol ring out before anyone can do anything about it.


Since all creatures get the bonus, it doesn’t really change the game state except for those players who have little or no defense (who will then be much closer to dying next turn. ) The chaos is really solid, you really feel like you hit the jackpot when you get it, but it balances out since you usually have to commit a permanent to the board as a result.


Most  times this plane’s been a blank for us.  Multiplayer, especially EDH, doesn’t really support hordes of dudes to abuse this unless they are a green token deck, which is really the last deck that needs the extra mana.


The chaos favors blue, but the core ability is great.  Like Eloren, everyone loves drawing cards.  You could change the Chaos to allow any player to get any nonland permanent back (we haven’t done it yet, but I’m sure it would be fine.)


Both abilities are good – if you have a creature, you’re getting ahead, and if you don’t happen to have a creature, Murasa will give you a solid man that’s good on offense, or you can change a pesky nonbasic into a guy and kill it.


Favors a color, and the main ability can push one player too far ahead, or do nothing at all if the plane shows up late. This plane is probably cut.


Howling Mine plane makes everyone happy.  Nothing to complain about here, but then nothing super splashy either.

Pools of Becoming

Lots of insane stories from this plane – it’s an interesting take on Randomness –  Whereas Mirrored Depths is a griefer’s view of  randomness (Will anything you do actually work?), Pools of Becoming creates a far more interesting decision tree (if I don’t use it now, I’ll lose it, so I might as well cast it.)  The Chaos is totally insane and elicits so many emotional responses –  from groans to cheers to collapsing into fits of laughter.  (Okay, I have no hand size limit… then I draw cards equal to the number of lands I control?  AWESOME!  Then I…  discard my hand?! FUUUUUUUUUUU!)

The Aether Flues

Polymorph plane is great, though I notice many players (especially new ones) will pass on the trigger because they don’t really understand how it works.   They just see a big wall of text and figure they’re safer not doing anything.  Too bad for them!

The Maelstrom

Possibly broken depending on the deck –  I’ve seen turn one Emrakuls into play.. but it’s a good story when it happens.  No one is ever sad to see this, it’s just a great Timmy plane overall.

Turri Island

It’s a modest card, and sometimes irrelevant. The 2 generic doesn’t always help you cast many creatures, and if you need to get a noncreature spell, Turri’s not much help to you. The chaos is solid though.

Undercity Reaches - Ophidian plane is pretty decent.  The chaos isn’t crazy, but it’s not horrible to have sometimes.  This plane is kind of a finisher plane as well since it encourages players to unturtle a bit.

Overall thoughts:

If could have to have doubles of any Acceleration plane, I’d go with The Maelstrom, Pools of Becoming, Panopticon, Eloren Wilds, and possibly  The Aether Flues. Horizon Boughs is really strong, and I would put another in if my games tend to go too slow.    The other planes are okay, but they either aren’t truly symmetrical or strong enough to make me want to have more than one. Feeding Grounds and Naya are out of the deck entirely.

Deceleration Planes at a glance:

In some ways you could argue that the deceleration planes are the worst part of Planechase – they just make the game last longer – but I’ve noticed that there are certain types of players that  enjoy turtling behind the cover of a plane, or enjoy using the breathing room it gives them to set up their combos.


Agryem makes combat a mess, since  it rarely gives anyone a reason to attack.  And it favors white too boot.  The Chaos is pretty irrelevant since everyone (except for the white player) wants to move on to more interesting pastures.  We’ve seen this do some silly things with [cardTeysa, Orzov Scion[/card as well.  For the moment it stays in, but we could probably figure out a better effect for it (global creature reset?  Bubble Matrix?)

Celestine Reef

What an effect. Half the time it elicits groans and the other half it has its own cheerleading squad.  In any case, here’s the insidious game mechanics at work – if you’re the player in the lead, you want off the plane because you can’t attack – so instead of developing you’re trying to roll off the plane.  But every other player is going to defer their rolls, because they want to draw into their mass removal or their own bombs. So instead of playing Planechase, we just take a long vacation on the [cardCelestine Reef[/card until someone resets the board or the strongest player rolls us off of it. Considering the game condition it creates, the chaos ability just seems tacked on (or maybe it’s there to stymie the skies players who’d like to abuse the plane)
(This has been fixed somewhat by forcing the chaos at least once during a turn.)

Fields of Summer

The first ability isn’t that bad. It’s the chaos that can just make the game longer than it needs to be – or maybe it’s just my group, but we always get thirty or forty extra life added the game which makes the game that much longer.


Not a Celestine Reef, but it does gum up the ground game for a bit.  People in my playgroup love the Goat Plane and we’ve got a stack of goat tokens to go with it.  My favorite story of this plane was watching thirty-some-odd goats get made among all the players, then the Planechase went to Velis Vel, where a massive Goatacalypse ensued.


I guess this could be a finisher plane, but often times it just turns all your creatures into 187s for whatever is the most annoying creature on the board, creating a massive political chain reaction until you’ve nothing left but scorched earth and the desire to move on to another plane.

Mirrored Depths

Possibly one of my least favorite planes from a design perspective.  Essentially you have a lot of text in the text box, which in short says “It’s not worth casting spells here, so it’s a better use of your time to move to the next plane.” I’ve also heard other opinions about it being a semi-prison plain (like Winter orb or Armageddon) – whoever is ahead already will probably finish out the game at this point.

Raven’s Run

More for the chaos – the Wither usually isn’t much of a game changer, but the incremental blight is always solid.  (Might be CRAZY good if the wither was changed to infect, but I’m not that brave)

Sanctum of Serra

As awesome as this plane is, if you’re playing multiplayer you probably have enough sweepers by default.  I like having one of it in the deck, because it gives losing players something to roll for (if I can just get to Sanctum of Serra and roll off it, I’m still in this game!) – but I don’t think I could handle multiples, as it would slow the game down too much.  And it’s kind of like Celestine Reef or Mirrored Depths where no one wants to play anything into it.

Sea of Sand

Yes, there is life loss here, but the chaos is a basically a timewalk against whoever is in the lead, and the life gain doesn’t hurt either.  for EDH decks you’re about 40 lands anyway.


Sometimes does nothing, other times stops the game entirely.  You’ll never kill anyone with this plane, unless it hits early, but an early skybreen can just put the breaks on the game, and the more players you have, the more obnoxious it gets.

The Eon Fog

Another groaner –  You just want to get off this plane as soon as possible, but it does create some interesting stories.  The chaos is perfectly balanced against the ability though.

The Fourth Sphere

Dislike. Someone blew the chance to have a functional Abyss plane, and instead decided that everyone except the black player gets screwed.  Probably the best example of an asymmetrical plane, because you lose so much.  At least with The Dark Barony you have to roll chaos and it doesn’t affect you.   The zombie is even more of an insult, since you can’t sacrifice it.  I’ve since errata’d this so it works like The Abyss.  It’s not like black creatures don’t get recycled (Reprocess, ironically enough, which is what the art for the plane is based on)

The Hippodrome

Usually this is enough to stop most decks in their tracks, and the chaos is great for political hits on players who’ve gotten too far ahead.  This is a great plane mechanically, unlike the Reef everyone’s motivated to risk rolling out, since they can possibly kill a general or some other annoying monster here.

Overall thoughts:

I enjoy the two Celestine Reefs already, and on reflection I don’t see any reason not to add another Hippodrome. Mirrored Depths is definitely out though..  Everyone loves Goldmeadow, so that’s another possibility, at least for my playgroup. And like I said, I’m putting errata on The Fourth Sphere.

Finisher Planes

I had an interesting discussion with a few weeks ago about what I call the Finisher planes – personally I love them, because they speed the game up, but my friend didn’t find the experience of dying to a plane very fun, since it’s out of your control.  In my humble opinion, I think they’re probably the most exciting thing about the game, since they put a clock on everyone, they force players into making commitments, and ultimately they make for great stories.

Cliffside Market

Technically it’s a miscellaneous plane, but it’s a great way to turn a totally dominant player into a throw rug.  Plus hilarious political hijinx interactions.  Sometimes it’s actually best to NOT go after the highest life total, or even the second highest life total.

Glimmervoid Basin

I think the story above says it all, and the chaos ability helps with balancing out the game.

Lethe Lake

We had a concern that 60 card decks would be disadvantaged when playing against 100 card decks, but what tends to happen is that the highlander deck gets hit with the chaos every time, which balances things out.  Love this plane, since it creates a lot of anxiety as people try to escape it, or find some gem in their yard to reanimate and win.

Naar Isle

This is the plane my friend specifically had an issues with, but I ADORE the Hot Potato plane.  At first no one pays any attention to it, and there’s always the revenge factor of people just handing off the plane to their neighbor so they take a few points – but what if it comes back around and gacks YOU for 6 or 10?   I like card decisions that create tension, and Naar Isle is famous for this.  This card can and will result in a TPK, so I’m not sure if I want to have more than one in the deck though.


This plane is much more for the chaos, as 5/5 red dragons tend to end games pretty quickly. The core ability is nothing to write home about – to be honest, I’ll probably errrata this to read “all creatures have 2: +1/+0” on top of the base red ability. –   I’ve played mono red decks in Shiv and never used the ability, probably since those decks are already pretty mana hungry,  but in any case I don’t see an issue giving everyone dragon enginebreath.


Haste has a subtle effect of getting people to go in the red zone when they otherwise wouldn’t, because they know they won’t always get the chance to sneak attack people.  The promise of a chaos fueled Alpha Strike right afterwords doesn’t hurt either.  This plane is worded perfectly since there’s no way to benefit from it without taking the plunge.  Just perfect.

Stronghold Furnace

I’ve had several games end on this plane.   Not much to write home about.  It’s crazy, but it’s symmetrical and has never created a complaint.  The chaos ability is useful as well.


I have two of these – Tazeem is definitely a monotony breaker and punishes the Fortress McDoNothingPants players (usually me) by letting an army in through the gates for the finishing blow. The chaos is totally over the top.  I can’t believe that it’s commanding the price that is on Starcity – none of the other planes even come that close, and I got mine for free since my store had a bunch of extras lying around.

Overall thoughts:

Two Tazeem: check. Furnace seems like a solid, if blander pick, and maybe another Glimmervoid.  Shiv errata’d.

The Miscellaneous planes

These planes don’t  necessarily  move the game in any particular direction but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be in your Planechase deck.

Academy of Tolaria West

The core ability doesn’t seem that relevant, but the academy can depants you pretty quickly – dropping your hand of gas by accident because you don’t find the plane that interesting tends to happen once or twice.  In the long run, you’re almost never motivated to roll because usually your hand is better than the next seven, bird in the hand and all that.  Sometimes it works out, though.


The core ability usually only helps token planes, and it’s asymmetric.  The worst part about this is that the chaos isn’t optional, and it doesn’t make sense that as the controller of the effect, you might be forced to hand out indestructiblity to your opponent’s creature.  At the same time, the ability is cool.  Maybe reword to a “may” and be able to give thetoken to any creature.


Asymmetric but fair.  I don’t want more than one but at least the chaos does something.

Isle of Vesuva

Good all around plane that everyone likes. You can hand out tokens to all the players that are behind, and it kills Commanders as well.

Izzet Steam Maze

The main ability just pales next to Glimmervoid, and the chaos is pointless most of the time. This is a pretty easy cut.


A Grixis for spells, and the extra turns are awesome.  Good story telling plane, like the time I used it to get two attacks and take out two players, or how I started three lands ahead of everyone else on my first turn.

Tember City

Another hard to find plane, it’s a strange  cross breed between a finisher plane (life loss) and Deceleration Plane (wrecks permanents).   It’s a good package – it’s strong, but it doesn’t have an overwhelming effect on the game like the other promo planes tend to have. (those are Reef, Tazeem, Mirrored Depths, and Horizon Boughs)  You can plan around it, and in Commander games the life loss it pretty marginal.

The Dark Barony

Like the Fourth Sphere, if you take out the word Nonblack, I’m of the opinion that it would be a much more interesting plane, but I’ve left it the way it is

The Great Forest

Kind of a snoozefest – Neither of the abilities really justify running this plane.

Velis Vel

Could be jank, or it could cause the Goatacoalypse.  It’s worth its inclusion, but it makes people do a lot of math.

Overall thoughts:

The Great Forest and Izzet Steamvents are out.  Vesuva and Otaria[card]are pretty cool so maybe doubles of those.  And errata on the [card]Dark Barony.

Chasing into the Unknown

As I mentioned earlier, there’s really no limit to what you can do with the format – If you can get your hands on the correctly sized sleeves, you can make proxy planes, or you could even insert some Archenemy cards into the stack for some interesting effects.  I hope that by writing this I’ve inspired some people who were on the fence to check out this product, or reignited a player’s  passion for this often overlooked and under-appreciated format.
If you’ve enjoyed this article or this format, or if you have your own stories about it, or if you’ve made your own tweaks or planes, feel free to chime in on the comments section.

Opening the Vaults at the Superstars 5K *Top 16*

I generally do my best to keep up on deck tech. I don’t consider myself a rogue deck designer, most of my creations have been pretty straightforward or modifications of known strategies. I tend to look for interesting decks that I feel would be fun to play and tweak them. Sometimes this means I will play a straight tier 1 deck, and other days I’ll try something rogue. I tend to have this issue of not focusing as much on my own decks as much as playing the “bad guy” deck in our gauntlets and testing. I generally have 3 or 4 decks and offer to play whichever my opponent needs, and of course Jund was the matchup everyone wanted. While this makes me a fine a Jund player I really didn’t see myself playing infinite Jund on Jund matches so I’ve had my eye open.

What interested me about Open the Vaults was Niels Viaene’s performance at PT San Diego. Considering Boss Naya was the deck to beat leaving that tournament, I heard from folks on and off the team that Naya was not looking forward to playing against it at all. Yet there was no discussion on whether it was a valid deck or not. It seemed like a cool deck in the write ups, it just stumbled on mana in the finals. I asked around and no one had really played with it or against it. I had also played a lot of Turbo Fog and it seemed an auto-win over so many decks. However, Olivier Ruel did poorly with it at the PT and when we tested Boss Naya against it I just couldn’t beat its fast starts. I broke apart the shell and thought about playing U/W Chapin control but I knew testing would be even worse since it takes so long to resolve games. I finally just decided to put together Filigree, tested a few games, and took it to my FNM. I figured if it didn’t work I’d audible to Jund or just play Vampires at the 5K, which seemed decent in our testing.


Overall the strategy is pretty simple –

  • Cycle your men to get your combo and fill up the yard.
  • Use spreading seas as a psuedo-remand – it can definitely slow their mana down and gives you a card.
  • Use all your enchantment-based removal to shut down their men.
  • Stabilize your defense with Sphinx, or one of your artifact men if you have no choice.
  • Open the Vaults and win.

FNM Feb 26th

Round 1 vs. GWU Bant Ramp
Neither of these games was very close, with all my removal for his big guys going unanswered. We did have a nice O-ring battle over Baneslayer for a while but I pulled out a 117 life combo and Open the Vaulted a dead O-ring onto the angel.

Round 2 vs. Vampires
This was a closer match – I had multiple spreading seas in both games to make his Mind Sludges less valuable. In game two he had a Ravenous Trap for me when I open the vaulted, but I had enough time to hardcast an angel and gain enough life to survive, filled my yard, and Open the Vaulted again for the win. Sphinx of Lost Truths is such a power card with great toughness and a great way to refill your hand after getting hit by discard.

Round 3 vs. UW
I honestly don’t remember much about this matchup, but I did win it.

Round 4 vs. Eldrazi Green
In both games he curved out quickly into Eldrazi and I never drew wrath or an O-ring for his ultimate Garruk.

I walked away from the games feeling pretty confident in the deck overall, but felt I needed more answers to aggressive starts so I put in the 3 Journey to Nowhere main. I thought I would get Pithing Needles for the board as well but never got around to it.

I spent the remainder of the night practicing and making some extra decks to give out at the 5K so I arrived in San Jose at exactly 5 minutes til the tournament started and scribbled out my decklist quickly with the original sideboard.

5K Main Flight Feb. 27th

Round 1 vs. Chapin control: 1-1-1
I found myself staring down a string of PTQ top 8 pins attached to a rather old playmat. I was a little embarrassed of my worndown Windwright Mage mat, but after seeing his mat I brought it out.

Game 1 – He thought I was U/W as well at first (common mistake everyone made) – Then I Spreading Seas his early white sources and Tectonic Edges but this let him cast Jace. I eventually O-ringed Jace out, but he countered almost everything I cast, eventually drew Iona and called White, and that was basically game. This was about a 25 minute game mainly waiting for him to decide Jace effects and resolve draw spells

Game 2 – I sided in my negates, stopped his early Jaces, got the combo off going to 27, which he Martial couped, but I combo’d again to 91 life. We now had about 10 minutes left.

Game 3 – I get smashed down with Baneslayer to 6, but I had three negates in hand early and eventually got the combo through as we went to time. I dealt with Baneslayer, and swung for 24 on turn 4, but it wasn’t enough to finish the game out before time was up. So now I’m in the draw bracket…

Round 2 vs. Naya 2-0
Double Spreading Seas made short work of his mana, and I let him flail around with a Hierarch or two and saved my removal for his big finishers. Knight of the Reliquary and Ajani are the big threats out of this deck. My removal aced all his threats one by one. He did hit me a bit but I never got below 12 and ended both games well above 20 life.

Round 3 vs. UWR 2-1
Good games, but getting Open the Vaults was too strong- He had Jace but instead of drawing cards he kept fatesealing me. This is bad when you’re playing a slow control deck. I drew O-ring for Jace and eventually combo’d out. He got Ajani out really early on the second game and blew all my lands with Jace at one step away from ultimating me. In Game 3.Spreading seas kept him off red and Ajani and I combo’d pretty early and finished him out.

Round 4 vs. Aggro Red 2-1
My opponent was undefeated but freely admitted he didn’t play standard much. This was my worst match up and he quickly blew me out with Goblin Guides, Ball Lightnings, and direct damage.

Game 2 – Spreading seas kept him off Ball Lighting mana. He got down early goblin guides but I Journeyed them. He really didn’t draw much more gas and I instead of cycling my two Architects of Will, I played them and kept him from drawing any thing else while I set up my Vaults.

Game 3 – He kept a two fetch land hand but failed to draw anymore land. At end of turn he would discard Punishing Fire instead of casting it – I think didn’t want to fetch for fear of decreasing his potential land count and I got down double sphinx to finish him off. He showed me a hand of Hell’s Thunder and Ball lightning after I finished him.

Round 5 vs. Jund 2-1
This was a pretty long match as we both got deck checked, then when I got my deck back we noticed my sleeves (which I had just bought) had some color imperfections in them. I had to re-sleeve after the match but it was definitely a distraction.

Game 1 – My removal aced his early Putrid Leeches, but I didn’t do much while he got quickly to Bloodbraid into Thrinax, and I didn’t get much down to block or trade.

Game 2 Was almost the same scenario with the top end of him casting Malakir Bloodwitch multiple times and my wrathing at least Three times. He eventually got some men to stick and hit me down to 4, and I Opened the Vaults back up to a very healthy life total and took him out.

Game 3 was similar to game 2 except my end life total was even higher. Admittedly though I would have lost without a topdeck Open the Vaults.

Round 6 vs. Naya 2-0
This was covered on Channelfireball. Again it was spreading Seas basically keeping him out of the game.

Round 7 – We draw in to the money round.

Superstars 5k – Top 32

Round 1 vs. 5-Color Cascade
Game 1 – This was a crazy matchup since I had no idea what he was doing. I seas his Exotic Orchard and Rupture Spire which allows him to cast Jace. I o-ring the Jace, but I’m stuck on 4 mana. He casts two enlisted wurms which cascade into Bitumous blast (no targets). I journey and wrath his men, and down comes Jace #2, which I eventually draw into O-ring for. He hit me with Bloodbraid into a Blighting (discarding Angel),and lands Ajani but Sharuum comes down with his pal Filigree Angel and Ajani dies. We trade back and forth a bit with him running extreme cascades but I Open the Vaults and my force overwhelms him.

Game 2 I seas his stuff again and deal with planeswalkers and Open the Vaults a small army which he has no answer for.

Round 2 vs. 27 land Jund.

Game 1 I get down early Spreading Seas, he casts rampant growth, and gets out a turn 3 elf, which I kill, and thrinax, which I kill, and turn 4 siege gang, which I wrath.

He casts broodmate and I wrath.

He casts broodmate again and I get out a Sphinx drawing and discarding 3 cards. I had OTV in my hand but never drew a third removal spell or put Angel in the yard. Broodmate took me out.

Game 2 he’s smart enough not to blightning me and though I can kill all his men on the ground, it’s his man lands that eventually get past me.


The new sideboard is still a work in progress. Courier’s capsule is “most likely to get sided out” in favor of what game you’re playing, and depending on how many and what type of men your opponent is playing you go up or down on the removal. Pithing Needle tends to hit all the cards you would O-ring (Ajani, Jace) but it mainly combats the man lands as well, which this deck has trouble with. Mind Control goes in against U/W against baneslayers and Iona.

61 card Open Filligree v.2


Undiscovered Treasure: A Complete Worldwake Review

So what happened is that I wrote up my review yesterday for my local playgroup and thought, “Hey, James might like this”  But my style is a little different and I’m not as deep into the analysis as his excellent white review is.   We talked and instead of integrating my thoughts into his review, I’d just publish mine.

In short, my opinion on the set as a whole is a little lukewarm.  I’m the guy who likes to buy x4 of everything, and this time I think I’ll sit it out as I see a lot of “jump through the flaming hoop” cards that Johnny’s like, and some EDH goodness.  Most of the cards I want I either picked up (Jace) or I don’t see them going up in price too much.  In the long run, when the set rotates out, the cards will depress.  I’m of the feeling that it will be easy to trade extra fetches (just an example) for almost anything I want out of this set.

I also evaluate for draft by default.  In that respect I think draft is about to become a bit more organic, as all the speedster cards get replaced by fatter guys, defensive guys, and better flyers.

Anyways, I haven’t done a set evaluation in a while, so sorry if it’s a little scattered.  I  do evaluation on a couple different levels so I’ll break it down by category.

Chase – A chase card is usually a premier, high value rare. Chase doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a must own, sometimes the card is just too expensive or it’s very specific to the environment that’s its being played in.  But you should know what they are, and why they demand that value.

Ex. Jace, The Mind Sculptor, Thoughtsieze, Baneslayer Angel, Tarmogoyf

Staple – A staple card are generally “must own” x4 copy.  These can be any rarity, and you’ll see these over and over again in the course of the format.  The difference from these and “evergreen” cards is that you’ll see them drop in value as they rotate out, or they’re roleplayers for a certain type of deck or format.  Sometimes, because of mana cost or ability they might be good, they won’t be relevant to every deck.

Ex.  Rampant Growth, Duress, Bloodbraid Elf, Honor of the Pure, Blightning, Tri-lands, Duals, Fetch Lands.

Staple – Evergreen – I think I’m the only person I know who uses this term – – The best example I can give  off the top of my head of a “staple” vs. an “evergreen” is Elvish Archdruid vs. Great Sable Stag.  Archdruid is a great card, but he fits a role in a particular deck type.  GSS is almost always a good deal – he’ll be a staple, a roleplayer, sure, but he’ll definitely go into any almost any  green deck, as opposed to having you have to build around him.

Evergreens provide resources to multiple deck types in casual play, multiplayer, EDH and competitive.

Ex. , Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Acidic Slime, Tri-lands, Duals, Fetch Lands.

Role player – These cards are decent, but only in certain archtypes.  I generally advise newer players to stay away from these cards unless you’re a Johnny and get the sense that you want to break it in half.

Ex.  Megrim, Traumatize

Bomb (Draft only) In a Draft, bombs are usually first picks out a pack, they’ll have a huge effect on the game if they resolve, and will almost always win you the game unless your opponent has an answer.

Ex. Fireball, Hellkite Charger, Marsh Casualities

To keep the review as easy to read as possible I’ve just linked the spoiler here.  I’m not going to clutter up the review with all the stats unless it’s appropriate.


Admonition Angel – Draft Bomb, Role Player

The four big flying fatties seeing play in standard are Sphinx of Jhar Isle, Baneslayer, Malakir Bloodwitch, to some extent Broodmate Dragon.  Sphinx and Broodmate are decent because their mostly immune to removal, and Baneslayer is too good not to play.  Malakir is immune to most removal, gains you life, and can block Baneslayer.  Any new entry into the “flying finishers” gets compared to them.  While Angel is bigger, it’s slower and very vulnerable.  In draft though, very little can deal with it.

Apex Hawk

You expect a 2/2 flyer for 3 casting cost.  And a 3/3 flyer for 5 is par as well.   Decent draft pick

Archon of Redemption – Role player

Same issue as Angel above but he’s got under average stats for his cost.  He’s begging you to build a deck around him.  I’d actually play Serra Angel over this.  Gaining life is overrated, AND you have to jump through some hoops to really get value.

Battle Hurda

Pretty boring., kind of lower pick draft card.  There’s enough x/4′s  that he won’t matter as much.

Fledging Griffin

Solid draft pick, very fair.

Guardian Zendikon

Well now we have some defense in draft. Too bad he doesn’t fly.

Hada Freeblade – Role player

If Allies becomes a standard deck, this guy will be in it.

Iona’s Judgement.

It’s removal.

Join The Ranks – Role player

See Hada Freeblade

Kitesail Apprentice

Pretty bad.  Duelist is better and didn’t get played all that much- Compare this to Skyfisher!

Kor Firewalker – Staple – Evergreen

Huge card that really really hurts mono-red.  And it’s a soldier. The gain life ability just puts it over the top.

Lightkeeper of Emeria

I actually prefer this card in draft to the archon above. It doesn’t really ask you to play other cards to make it better,  It’s got decent stats even as a 2/4 with no kick, since it comes out early to play defense, and if you draw it late, the life gain will help out.

Loam Lion – Staple

This is weird, because it might see play in extended zoo but white green isn’t the best deck in standard right now.  Amazing statistics for its cost, just like Kird Ape.

Marsh Threader

Cliff Threader’s good, so I would guess this is.

Marshal’s Anthem  – Role Player

I like this card.  Resurrection was never bad, and neither was Glorious Anthem. I think it’s a little under the radar but it’s good in control, and it’s pretty huge in EDH.  It’s probably too expensive for tournament constructed in multiples which is why it’s so low in cost.   I’d probably pick it for draft though.

Perimeter Captain

Third in the list of “red black aggro just doesn’t want to see this card in draft”

Refraction Trap – Role player

This is a huge card in draft, and may see play in standard.  Note that it protects planeswalkers, which harm’s way doesn’t do.

Rest for the Weary

Like Sunspring expedition, it’s a Decent Sideboard card for the aggro matchup in draft.

Ruin Ghost – Role Player

There’s an infinite combo with this and some other cards on the forums,  He’s got bad stats, but yeah, sometimes you want lands to come in multiple times.

Stone Forge Mystic – Role Player

Yep, someone’s gonna make a kor deck with him.  Bad stats otherwise.

Talus Paladin – Role player

This is a big swing in Allies and may push that deck over the top.

Terra Eternal

Makes your man lands INDESTRUCTIBLE!  And that’s it.  Now you youngsters will have that special feeling you only get when you open an animate wall as your rare.

Veteran’s reflexes Bleh.


Aether Tradewinds

Solid Utility Common.  Like Narrow Escape, it wants you to play permanents with comes into play abilities (Halimar depths! ), and it slows down your opponent.  Worst case scenario, in the early game you can put an opponent’s land back in their hand.  Boomerang has been a tournament staple, maybe this card has a place.

Calcite Snapper

Another common that owns the speed deck in draft, and it can bash for four if you like.  And shroud.  Tournament level, possibly, because of that last ability.


Wizards just hates hard counters, this is another bad counterspell I’m just going to ignore.

Enclave Elite

Slightly worse than Apex Hawk in draft, but no slouch.  Blue usually doesn’t get fatties with no drawback.

Goliath Sphinx


Halimar Excavator

Woo Ally mill deck.  We continue the theme of decent defensive stats again, that 1/3 ass for 2 is no joke.

Horizon Drake

Sure!  3 power flying for 3 is great.  The ability might even be relevant.

Jace the Mind Sculptor – Chase Rare.

It’s good. The pros have already been sleeving and playing it.  Brainstorm is no joke.  And that ultimate is a 40 cal straight to the noggin.  You don’t walk away from that.

Jwari Shapeshifter – Role player

Basically, you’re either playing allies and want this card, or you don’t care.  It’s really good for that deck of course.

Mysteries of the Deep

Instant Speed Card draw is pretty clutch.  It’s expensive, but Blue Mages hate to tap out.  Not sure if this will see play over Mind Spring in standard but it seems okay.

Permafrost trap

I’m sure this is decent, but I’m not first picking it in draft.

Quest for Ula’s Temple

I actually have a deck for this.  The other 8 million magic players out there?  Out of luck.

Sejiri Merfolk – Staple?

Seems pretty strong for the cost.  Great draft pick for those colors

Selective Memory  – Role player

We’ve seen cards like this before, someone always figures out a way to break them.  I still don’t feel good opening this in a pack.

Spell Contortion.

Fairly costed, if it was costed any other way it would be a must play staple.  This is sort of fair.  I think people are still locked in on Flashfreeze as THE counterspell, will take a white or blue deck actually winning more for them to start considering other stuff.  I like it though.

Surrakar Banisher

This is no veldakin dismisser, but its got a decent body.

Thada Adel, Acquistor

Definitely in EDH.  If it were 2/2 for two it might see play in legacy.  It’s playable, but how many artifacts are in play in standard?  May be really good in Rise?

Tideforce Elemental

I think this is part of the combo with Ruin Ghost.   First pick in draft too.

Treasure Hunt – Staple – Evergreen

This is a huge card for blue.  The math has been done and the long and short of it is that you get 1.75 cards for 2 mana.  If you can manipulate the library (halimar depths and jace) then you always get more bang than divination.   Also, you always, always draw a spell.


This is a reprint.  Can’t really complain too much.

Vapor Snare

Pretty bomby.  Mind Control is always good.

Voyager Drake

Great stats, great ability, great first pick.

Wind Zendikon

Another huge card for blue.  2/2 flyer for 1 with a minor draw back (you slow yourself down a bit to get aggro).   It’s a great card without a deck right now.


Abyssal Persecutor  – Chase

I’m on the fence on this guy.  I like him, but not enough to shell out a twenty for him, then build a possibly weaker deck around him.  His price is leveraged around the fact that he is a solid mythic in a mostly bad set.  The black deck in standard is Vampires, and this is based on it’s synergy, and he doesn’t contribute to that at all.

Agadeem Occultist

Another weird rare. He’s pretty good in Allies, but not in constructed, since you have no idea what’s going to be in a graveyard.  Bad stats for his cost too.

Anowon, the Ruin Sage.

He just HAD to be 4/3.  Malakir Bloodwitch is so much better than this, and that’s a low cost rare.  He could have been 4/4 and relevant.  I don’t see what’s wrong with abyss in standard, I really don’t.  He’s legendary, too.  People might try and play him, and he’s just going to feel clunky.

Bloodhusk Ritualist.

The question posed earlier was “Is this better than Mind Sludge?”  Short answer: No.

Mind Sludge just ends games.  Ritualist is probably best in an edh or casual deck, but ultimately you’re paying for a 2/2 for 3, which isn’t that great.  Decent in Draft though, another solid 2 or 3 for 1.

Bojuka Brigand (why I do I feel like we’re back in Betrayers of Kamigawa land?)

The ability to block is fairly irrelevant anyway – I think black allies will rally around growers like him and the sellsword to get past all the fat blockers.  And coming out a couple turns faster is worth it.  Sick card.

Brink of Disaster

It’s removal, and it kills land, which is pretty relevant.  Not a Befoul though.

Butcher of Malakir – Bomb

A little highly costed for standard, but it does wreck some of those shroud strategies.

For draft, I suspect ZZW will be a bit slower, so this can make an impact.

Caustic Crawler

Meh.  I’d rather play shatterskull giant (which just got a lot better by the way) 4 is a much more relevant power now though.

Corrupted Zendikon.

3/3 for 2 casting cost in black is aggressive.  I can dig it.

Dead Reckoning

Huge draft masher two for one.  Might be good in standard where you want to get value back when you get hit by blightnings  – Grim Discovery saw play for that same reason.

Death’s Shadow – Role player.

Meh. Though you can search for it with Ranger of Eos

Jagwasp Swarm

Playable draft pick.  Like I said I think flyers and evasion is better now.

Kalastria Highborn.

Some people will love this card.  The question is whether it’s better to play than Hexmage in the vampires slot.   For the moment, I don’t think so.   If you have a deck for this guy, that’s great.  He’s slightly better in casual though, which I think is why his price is up.  He’ll go down over the long run I bet.   He’s no Rotlung Reanimator.

Mire’s Toll

There was a card in standard called blackmail which was 3 cards for B, and it was pretty bad. You want to play discard early, not late.

Nemesis Trap – Staple

This is Broken Visage as an uncommon. This a great card, fun to wreck people with, and will could see play in standard to 187 those baneslayers.

Pulse Tracker

I sort of like this card as 1 drop vampire, and a rogue, and he does an extra damage.  He quickly becomes irrelevant when someone drops a blocker, but he can still do duty as a vampire for you.

Quag Vampires

Same deal as Apex Hawk and the Merfolk.  Not as good as either but swampwalk is relevant.  If you’re playing swamps you can at least hate it so you don’t get killed by it.

Quest for the Nihil Stone  – Role Player

Except this one is actually really good!  Five life is pretty huge, and there’s some great discard out there.  This is totally under the radar right now (1 dollar on SCG), and I suspect it will jump up once someone breaks it.

Ruthess Cullblade

Ok draft pick.  He’s a vampire, decent stats, and an okay ability.  But in Standard he’s competing with Hexmage again.

Scrib Nibblers

What’s to say?  He’s got a mill ability, and can maybe gain you life.  Sucks in combat for his cost though.

Shoreline Salvager.

Good Stats for his cost in draft, and the ability is no slouch.

Smother – Staple

Another proven reprint that just rotated out of extended.  Now it’s back and extended players will be happy.  No slouch in standard either.

Tomb Hex

I like. Solid removal in draft.

Urge to kill

WOW does black get a lot of stuff that kills stuff. And yeah, it’s good for vampires.  Vampire players do a little dance.  Again.  Yawn.


Akoum Battlesinger

I can imagine this scene, where wizards is sending a memo around to all the colors that they should slow down a bit, and of course Red got the memo, didn’t bother reading past the first sentence, and decided to wing it.   Red’s just gonna keep aggroing it out, like that loud drunk guy at the party that’s making everyone uncomfortable.

Ummm. yeah, not the best card unless you’re committed to mashing with allies.

Bazaar Trader

Wut?  It can’t even give away an Illusions of Grandeur.

Wizards fell down, least they could do is give us the other half the combo piece…

Donating the demon is the best I can come up with.

Bull Rush


Chain Reaction

This is pretty good for red.  Not Earthquake good, though. Much more of a Multiplayer Wrath.  Phone this rare right into your EDH deck.

Claws of Valkut

RAAAAAAA…..It’s lightning Talons, basically.  But not always as good.

Comet Storm – Bomb, Staple – Evergreen

Solid red Bomb.  Instant is huge.   For standard it’s weighed against cascade, but it’s  fantastic card for casual and draft.

Cosi’s Ravager

Not particularly great.   It’s not as good as hellhound, though I guess with land tricks it can do a few extra points. Maybe there’s a combo deck in him.

Crusher Zendikon

Unlike the Black and Blue Zendikon, this guy doesn’t have good stats for his cost. Draft playable, since that 4 power is more important.

Cunning Sparkmage

Solid draft pick

Death Forge Shaman

I thought he was good, then I realized the damage is only to target PLAYER.  Well he’s a body.  If you have 8 mana he’s pretty nasty.

Dragonmaster Outcast – Chase

He makes dragons.  He’s fetchable with Ranger of Eos.  He takes a turn longer to smash face than with  scute mob, but he makes flyers.  Multiples of flyers.  He makes DRAGONS.

Goblin Roughrider


Grotag Goblin Thrasher

Good stats for the cost, and this is about as close as you’re going to get to evasion in red for that casting cost in draft.

Kazul, Tyrant of the Cliffs – Bomb

Everything that Anawon the ruin sage isn’t, except he’s not a vampire.

Mordant Dragon – Bomb

Same issue as Admonition Angel for his cost in standard.  In draft he’s a slightly worse flameblast dragon.

Quest for the Goblin Lord –Role player

Now that’s cute, cheap, and easy to pull off.  Siege Gang Commander anyone?

Ricochet Trap

Wizards keeps making deflect/swerve variants and they keep sucking in draft and ride the margins in standard.

Roiling Terrain

This is interesting but expensive.  The card this compares to is molten rain, but it’s not as good.  Against some decks it’ll just whiff on the damage.  But then lands are better now…

Rumbling Aftershocks

Meh.  Kind of hard to build around it in your last pack.

Searing Blaze – Staple

It’s kinda like lash out, but worse.  But red loves two for ones, and red has lots of ways to make land fall happen.

Skitter of Lizards!

ARARARRARARAGAGGHHH!   Solid beats. Early game it’s a goblin chariot, late game it’s a tuktuk, whatever you like.

Slavering Nulls

Decent stats, it’s a zombie goblin, and it has a discard effect.  I miss that red/black deck… could it be back now?

Stone Idol Trap

Kills an attacker, swings in for 6 (probably)  But is it a staple, really?  I really can’t say.  Seems good, but what do you take out?

Tuktuk Scrapper

Crappy body (like most of the allies) but the artifact ability is pretty nasty.


Arbor Elf  - Staple

It’s llanowar elf, with the possibility that you might whiff if you don’t have an actual forest in play (you have savage lands/oran rief etc out) But it’s still probably good.

Avenger of Zendikar – Bomb

Pretty cute, and fun in casual to.   Someone’s going enjoy killing with plants, I’m sure.

Bestial Menace – Staple

Flores already called it in Eldrazi green. Any deck that makes tokens.  Think Cloudgoat ranger.  Except you hit for nine.  It’s fairly bomby in draft.  If you were to get that by p/t paying “fair” it would cost you 7.

Canopy Cover

Funny,  I was just talking about how elves needed a silhana ledgewalker…  dunno if it will see play, but seems like a good draft pick. Think Whispersilk cloak

Explore – Staple

Better than rampant growth.  Great flip over in cascade decks especially.

Feral Contest

Another awkward green attempt at stall-breaking.

Gnarlid Pack

Bear, or Hill Giant, or better, it’s all good.  Solid draft beater.

“Back in my day, we played Kickered Grizzly Bears, and we called it Kavu Titan, and we lit in on fire so it had  haste.  I remember those days… ”

Grappler Spider.


Graypelt Hunter

So it’s Nimana Sellsword with Trample?   Sold!

Groundswell – Staple

Might of Old Krosa, I missed you.

Harabaz Druid

Could be interesting.  Again, I’m not all that interested in Allies.dec

Joraga warcaller – Staple

It’s a great finisher in Elves, and you’ve got the mana and ways to put on counters.  If you’re playing elves, you should pick this up.

Leatherback Baloth – Role Player

Same issue as always – Straight green always runs into problems. It has no tricks, no card advantage, and no reach (the ability to finish the game with a random top deck or through a stall).  And elves is usually better  because of it’s synergy. But people are gonna pick it up and play it, and Wizards will promote it, and will rotate out, and no one will care.

Nature’s Claim

Nothing wrong with this, it’s a solid card, but not even naturalize is seeing play right now.

Omnath, Locus of Mana – Chase

Debatable on its power level, I think it’s a great general and someone’s likely to break it.  It’s a tempo choice – you invest in the attack at the cost of progression on the board – but Omnath is an insane late game top deck.

Quest for Renewal

Seems strong, especially in casual Multiplayer

Slingbow Trap – Role Player

It’s targeted green removal, and will have targets in draft.  I think windstorm is the sideboard card for this in standard.

Snapping Creeper

Good stats, will probably have vigilance.  Just another guy that slows down the board.

Strength of the Tajuru – Bomb

Nice finisher there – see the comet storm chart for stats.  Oh yeah, and combos with Warcaller.

Summit Apes

Huge beater in draft.  Might be too fragile for constructed… Someone’s gonna try it though.  Might be really good.


Blow up your own lands and get 18 power for 8 mana.  Or just play crush of wurms.
Blow up their lands and they get stuff.  I dunno.  EDH, but kinda dull.

Vastwood Animist

Another good ally card with bad stats

Vastwood Zendikon

Craw Wurm was usually good, except this attacks a turn early. Pretty saucy.

Wolfbriar Elemental –Staple – Evergreen

Pretty solid beater.  Decent stats on his own and late game drops some extra threats. Might not be standard worthy but he’s still really good overall.


Novablast Wurm – Bomb

It’s almost like Wizards designed EDH just so we could have a place to play big fatties like this.  I dunno, we’ve got acceleration, and this blows up stuff.  While it’s still pretty slow for standard, this is a great effect to have.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep – Bomb

Made for EDH again.  He’s got a great toughness, is immune to terror, and has evasion.  His ability isn’t that relevant to standard, but casual, OMG he’s got targets.


Amulet of Vigor

I really can’t comment on Amulet of Vigor without bias.  At this point I’m a bit sick of yet another “jump through the deck design hoop”  rare.   I don’t have the mental fortitude to start looking for all the CIPT permanents in standard and extended and casual that this might go with.  It’s just exhausting.  Let the Johnny’s have their cake, I’ll just do what I usually do – wait til someone figures out how to break it then lamely shell out for an overpriced rare.  …or I could just play nature’s claim on it and let you play with a slow deck.

Basilisk Collar – Bomb

There’s a Kor deck. This card isn’t good enough for it, since you never want to attack with Armament Master.  But re-usable deathtouch is sick in draft.

Everflowing Chalice – Staple – Evergreen

Turn 2 chalice for 1, turn turn 3 chalice for 2, turn 4 do fun things with 6-7 mana.  Like Play novablast wurm :D   Solid card for most formats.

Hammer of Ruin

Not exactly a bonesplitter, nor is the ability that relevant.

Hedron Rover

Better than Hedron Scrabbler, I suppose.


Better than Hammer of Ruin, in cost and utility. Flying matters.

Lodestone Golem

I really like this guy.  Might be a role player in an esper deck, or something likes to eat lands.  Anyone notice he’s got Juggy stats?

Pilgrims Eye – Staple – Evergreen

Stats and flying are kind of fair, but irrevelant.  We play the Borderland ranger and we’re fine. For EDH as well, anything that thins you out early is generally good.

Razor Boomerang

Wait, it is Betrayers of Kamigawa.  I should have called it at the evil red griefing Legendary Ogre for 5.  Well, Hankyu very much.

Seer’s Sundial.

I dislike that the default casting cost for artifacts that draw you cards seem to be four.  Still, I could see this (possibly) playing support in a red or green casual deck with no other way to draw cards.

Walking Atlas – role player

There was an elf a while back that had this ability, and it saw play. You could do some silly things with this and Geopede, maybe.


Bojuka Bog – Staple – Evergreen.

I don’t necessarily like what this card means for the reanimator deck archetype, especially in casual.  Of course it’s a land, so you have a choice of holding back vs. playing it, but in my case I would do the thing I usually do with functional lands like Maze, I just play one less business spell and treat this as a spell. It’s uncounterable.  It’s like, reanimation in standard isn’t that great, we’ve got crypt, leyline, and relic in extended, was this really necessary?   Seems like an odd call.

Celestial Colonnade – staple

It’s a dual land, it becomes a flyer.  Is it any good?  Well, as good as any manland would be.  They’re all great for casual, and they dodge  removal in standard.. could be good.  And if they were, it just makes land destruction and sea’s claim decks that much better.

Creeping Tar Pits – staple

I can get behind this card as well. Unblockable is pretty key.

Dread statuary

Sure in draft.  Seems slow and vulnerable in standard. 3/3 would have been better.

Eye of Ugin

Of Ghostflame fame.   We get a hint of the next set (Steamflogger Boss?)   The funny thing to me is, that if Eldrazi spells are actually playable/competitive, then a land that gives a discount of two to all of them is pretty crazy, like workshop crazy. But it’s legendary!

The ability is pretty silly, but I guess some casual deck might like it.  Another random Johnny rare.

Halimar Depths – Staple – Evergreen.

Great card, especially with Treasure Hunt.

Khalni Garden

Some people don’t like this card.  It does give you a guy, which is relevant.  Polymorph decks will find some fun with this.

Lavaclaw Reaches – Staple


Quicksand – Staple.

Sure to be popular in control to stem the aggro rush, and always good in draft.

Raging Ravine – Staple – Evergreen

I REALLY like this guy.  He starts off as a 4/4 and continues to get bigger.  What’s not to like?

Sejiri Steppe

Here’s the question – if you’re playing this as a spell slot in order to ignore the question of whether you should play this as a spell or ramp, , it’s not necessarily as good as Brave the elements (The latter is a reactive instant, after all)

And if you’re playing it as a land, it’s kind of like Soaring Seacliff.  So yeah maybe I answered the question.

Smoldering Spires

Well, red actually likes it when you can’t block.

Stirring Brush – Staple

Good stats, but my Raging Ravine is better. You could be playing w/g though.

Tectonic Edge  – Staple – Evergreen

I’ll take Wasteland where I get can get it, I guess.

FNM M-10 Draft in Wellington, New Zealand (#2)

FNM Magic Report 7.24.2009

Still in Wellington, and out of work on time, so I make the 6:30 draft.   I get in a 7 man pod and we open packs.

First pack is a Clone and a motley assortment of 1/1 dorks.  There’s a diabolic tutor and I take it.  In retrospect it may have been worth taking the clone since it was splashable, but I was 100 percent certain I did not want to be in blue, so aiming for black and a bomb searcher was the next best thing.

Pick 2 is Tendrils of Corruption, which is good.  Now I just need to see the appropriate creatures.

Pick 3 reveals a Guardian Seraph…. Wait what?  I know it’s sort of underwhelming at first, but four cc flying 3/3’s have always been good all the way back to Phantom Monster and  Roc of Kher Ridges and Seraph has an incredible ability and is lightning bolt proof.  I take it as a signal and go that way.

Then I get passed a Rhino, and three oakenforms… at the end of pack 1 I’m pretty decent green and can go either white or black.

Pack 2 I open Harm’s way, and I’m in white.

1 llanowar elves
2 soul warden
2 blinding mage
1 deadly recluse
1 runeclaw bear
1 palace guard
1 griffin sentinel
1 cudgel troll
1 guardian seraph
1 stampeding rhino
1 craw wurm
1 harm’s way
1 righteousness
1 pacifism
3 oakenform
1 excommunicate
1 safe passage
2 armored ascension

10 plains (to support those ascensions, I’m not making the same mistake with lands like I did last time!)
7 forests

Relevant board:

2 fog

2 regenerate

2 wall of faith

Despite my first round of green crazy stuff I didn’t see much on the 2nd and 3rd pack, and when we lay out our decks I see why – my partners on left and right are green!  – I guess they didn’t value oakenforms, or else they valued creatures higher- perhaps rightly – despite the fact that I have great board control and double armored ascension I’m still only 13 creatures  which is a problem.   We’ll see how much in a bit.

===Match 1 vs. Simon playing mono-red===

Simon hasn’t played magic in a few months and says he’s just getting back into the swing of things.   A mono red isn’t a bad call in that case.

Game 1

I lead out with the early bear, and he immediately has a ball lightning to take me down.  I get down a soul warden followed by Armored Ascension with 3 plains.  5/5 bear, then 6/6 bear followed by Seraph seal the deal for him.

Game 2

I keep a hand with Rhino, two Ascensions, excommunicate, and 3 lands.  I  don’t have an early play, he drops a pyromancer and I excommunicate it for time.  I get Rhino, and double armored ascension.  16/16 flying trample rhino he can’t deal with.

We play a couple matches for fun:

Game 3

He drops a piker and hellhound and I have no blockers.   My life goes  18, 10.  I drop turn 4 Seraph and my choice is trade with the hellhound or block piker and go to 4.  I take 4 from the hellhound and he lava axes me.

Game 4

I drop early Soul Warden, excommunicate a Goblin Artillery and quickly build up a big army of blockers and he builds an army of attackers.  I eventually drop a Griffin Sentinel to break the stalemate.  He never points artillery at my soul warden but he does at my face – I’m probably going to win this fight… I get a blinding mage out which holds down a minotaur of his and pacify minotaur #2.   Again he could have taken out my warden or mage and it might have been a different game.  Instead I draw out the game long enough to drop a rhino, tap his blockers and harm’s way the artillery damage back at his other blockers.

===Match 2 vs. Jason playing B/G.===

Game 1

I lead out with a Recluse and get an Oakenform.  He gets a Wall of Bone with mana to regenerate.  I drop bears, but can’t play any white as I draw and play 4 forest .  Jason drops a bog wraith and equips it with Whispersilk Cloak, then a troll.  Cloak pretty much owns me over time.  I don’t have a flyer or Ascension to race.

Game 2

We both mull to six – I lead out with Soul Warden, Blinding Mage, and Griffin .  He gets an Oryx and tries to race me but I have an Oakenform for the Griffin. He draws troll and cloak but it’s too late for him as the soul warden has given me a nice life buffer, and the 4/5 flying vigilance is too big to stop.

Game 3

Jason starts with Visionary and I have Blinding Mage and Soul Warden.   He doom blades the Warden and drops Troll.  I cast pacifism on the Troll.  He Cloaks the troll (3 times in 3 games!)  I oakenform the Mage and race. He casts weakness on the Mage.   I oakenform the battlemage again and swing in- I just want to race him, but he casts Entangling Vines!

I get a Rhino, and Armor it up and swing him down to 7.  If I draw a plains, an excommunicate, an oakenform, or a fog I have him on my next turn, but it doesn’t happen.  I lose the match.

===Match 3 Darcy playing R/G===

Game 1

I get down Soul Warden, Battlemage and Griffin.  He bolts my Soul Warden (?!) so I Armored Ascension my Griffin and beat him down.   He tried to Seismic strike my battlemage but I figure I’ll keep it with safe passage – good call as he drops an ornithopter.  I suspect a trick and tap it and finish him with griffin.  Good thing I tapped, he had a Might of Oaks!

Game 2

I get down Soul Warden, (20-19) Oakenform it turn 3, (20-15) Troll on turn 4, (20-11) and Oakenform troll turn 5 (20-0)


Looking back – did I value oakenform too highly?  I didn’t see many creatures other than the swordsmith but I feel like I made all the right picks. I pack 3 I just didn’t see any green at all and white creatures were slim, but I saw three total armored ascensions which is just bonkers (I took a creature over the 3rd ascension because I realized I was low).    I don’t know, Oakenform showed it’s value by turning all my games into very short ones.  I did pass that 2nd pack pick 2 Cloak – should I have hated it over the very useful pacifism?

If anything I think I valued Righteousness too highly (though I never got the chance to play it) – I probably should have mained fog – might have bought me time in the racing games since I had no defense, but I considered it “removal”.

M-10 Draft Wellington, NZ: Post-mortem: What I did right, What I did wrong

So the first thing you might be wondering (or at least what I wrestled with) is why write about a draft you didn’t enjoy or win at? I believe that ultimately, if my goal is really to improve my game, I need to post-mortem all of my drafts. Ask myself what worked and what didn’t work. I think I have been sort of ignoring this in my better drafts. I mean it’s there if you read between the lines (drafted bombs, made a good deck, mulled when appropriate) but I’m not really calling out what specifically. When I went 1-2 a few weeks ago,  I just wanted to go home and not think about the game at all, but now I’ve had some time to mull it over and my conclusion is that it’s worth dissecting where I messed up and get it out of the way – both so that I can avoid the same mistakes in the future and for the benefit of all of you. There’s so much more to be said than “blue sucks” (and experiences since that draft have revealed other ideas) – In any case  I think the statement deserves to be examined.

Pack 1 pick 1 – I opened and picked Planar Cleansing. – There were some other decent white cards in the pack I could have taken though that would mess with signaling. I wasn’t holding out hope that I could make a great white deck just from that – white is a heavily drafted color and the three white in the CC isn’t great, but I have hopes for the money value on the card and it IS a wrath.

Pack 1 pick 2 – Stampeding Rhino. Wasn’t a lot in the pack to take – some white guys but Rhino stood out – now I’m thinking I can go W/G. I note a phantom warrior in the pack which is pretty bomb – but I’m not confident enough to go W/U.

Pack 1 pick 3 – Mind Control

Here’s where it all goes wrong. From this I figure two guys to my right haven’t taken it so they are not in blue, even if they were rare drafting, and Mind Control is a pretty ridiculous bomb. So I settle into taking the best of blue (which isn’t much!) trying to get more green to supplement the rhino – in the mean time I’m seeing lots of red but I avoid it, I’m getting nothing in green so I figure I’ll cut off my guys on pack 2 (which works).

In Pack 2 and 3 I open Air Elemental and some other green bomb, but I have to take the Glacial Fortress in pack 1, and Sunpetal Grove in pack 2 over them. I also get passed Open the Vaults, which I take (maybe this was a bad call) and Underworld Dreams, but I’ve already sort of given up on my deck so I just raredraft it.

Here’s the deck, roughly.

What I think is wrong with the deck.

· Not enough creatures. 13 is much too low, and there’s virtually no curve. It’s a bunch of 1’s and 2’s and two 5ccs. I started with Sage Owls to get the count up and it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t start with Divination and so I trade out the Owls for that and Giant Growth.

· No removal – I have an ice cage and the very situational Essence Scatter, but that’s it.

· 2 Evasion oriented cards – Levitation is worth it if I get a big Howl, but otherwise most of my creatures won’t break a stall anyway. Levitation actually worked against me in one game. Whispersilk cloak seemed like a great pick early but I didn’t have anything to equip it to in any of my games.

Match 1 vs. Jonas with W/G/R

Jonas seems like he knows what he’s doing as he just won the last draft– he laments over his deck and I lament over mine. But which deck is worse? Read on to find out!

Game 1

Jonas drops a turn 1 mold adder. I have a fist full of blue cards. I try to dig for ice cage with double Sage owls but instead I see some lands and both Howls (of course not enough mana to cast it!) Mold Adder gets massive and quickly rolls over my weenies.

Game 2.

Jonas mulls down to four, but has quick land drops and drops a Giant Spider. I have a Rhino to roll past the spider. He drops some blockers for the rhino but I have a Levitation. He drops Armored Ascension on the Spider making it a 5/7, but I Ice Cage it. I drop more dudes for the win but he Windstorms my entire army! I still have a Howl of the wolfpack for 3 wolf tokens and swing for lethal. He attempts to block, but I remind him about my levitation.

Game 3.

I drop a turn one sprite, he drops a bear. I get out coral merfolk and go for the trade but he has a regeneration for his bear. It’s followed by a Giant Spider, I get down a Craw Wurm, and he drops a spider and a Rhino. Attacking into him will lose me a Wurm to the spider and so I trade my Wurm for his Rhino. I have a howl for two wolves, but he eventually takes me out with the spiders. Sprite had no chance.

Match 2 against John playing UW

John is a young pup and doesn’t seem very confident. He shuffles up his deck and starts drawing but I point out I never cut his deck, so we reshuffle and I give him a free mull.

Game 1

I drop a sprite, a Merfolk, sprite, and get him down to 12 before he drops an illusionary servant and siege mastodon . I cage the servant (it dies), and he drops the 1/3 flying vigilance griffin and I all have are my sprites to block, but he doesn’t attack with it. I keep building up bears – I figure if he attacks me on the board and has any tricks I’ll take the worse end of it, but he holds back. The siege even could have traded well but he doesn’t risk it. Our armies get bigger and bigger. I have an overrun in my hand but (again) no more than 2 forests to cast it. I finally get a levitation rendering all his ground dudes irrelevant, cast a 3 wolf Howl, and Overrun him to break the stall. At this point I don’t care if he has a safe passage, our board is too clogged up. He doesn’t have the passage and dies.

After this I point out to him that his griffin could have been dinging me the whole time, but he insists I had lethal damage in blockers. Considering I have two flyers in my deck that are 1/1, I doubt this. I guess he didn’t realize his Griffin had flying.

Game 2

I side in Unicorn since I expect another stall. He has ornithopther (?!?!) turn 1, and I get a phantom warrior out – he follows with an illusionary servant and 2/2 flying first strike griffon. I mind control the servant (dead), drop a ranger, and follow up with whispersilk cloak . I get a howl for 2 (this is getting depressing – really. It’s a 7cc card and EVERY TIME I have 2 forests? That’s not even the mana ratio of the deck!) . I follow with levitation for great justice, get in a swing, and he mises Divine Offering the next turn, which buys him some time… but I have enough dudes to outrace him.

Match 3 against Leon with G/R

Leon seems pretty cool, I hung with him and his friends the other night and he seems to know his way around the cards.

Game 1.

I drop deadly recluse and he drops piker. I drop merfolk, and essence scatter his Oryx (the 2/3 forestwalk is bad news for me) – He drops craw wurm and cudgel troll. Recluse drops the wurm, but Troll eventually gets in there and I get nothing but lands.

Game 2.

He has turn 1 elf, turn two 3/3 centaur, turn 3 Cudgel troll. He bolts a blocker and he’s definitely got me on the ropes. I draw into a wolf pack and hold off the troll, and he draws Oryx while I’m at 2 life. I have Overrrun but it’s not enough to alpha strike him, and I couldn’t cast it earlier because I’m on two !@#$% forests. I figure I’ve only got Mind Control or cage to deal with Oryx. I top deck Mind Control and take the oryx. He top decks Pyroclasm which owns everything on the table except his centaur and cudgel troll, and that’s game for me.

Match record: 1-2

Game Record 3-4

What went right:

* Rare drafting. – This seems obvious, but it’s also up to luck. I really can’t take any credit for opening money rares, but It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t a total loss
* Green bombs. – Since I wasn’t getting any green in turn 1 after that early Rhino, I made it my goal to cut green off from my right hand guys. This was rather pyhrric but I did get the overrun and double howl, which either won me games or kept me from losing it too soon.
* Didn’t make any play mistakes. – Aside from the picks of deck and building the deck itself, I feel like I did really well in the play session – I stayed in a few games quite longer than I originally thought I would be able to.

What went wrong:

* Rare drafting – Of course, passing great playables for dual lands will do that for you some times. I really could have used that air elemental.
* Mind Control – To be honest, going into this draft I had a hankering to draft blue just to see how it played. So when I saw mind control I just bit hook line and sinker and was passing ridiculously good stuff in black and red and just wasn’t rewarded back. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good color – Actually the uncommon in blue are pretty good – it’s that the color isn’t “deep” – you can maybe have two blue drafters at a table compared to 3 or even 4 white or green players.
* Too few creatures overall – The problem with going blue/green is that you have no removal, which is really bad since there are so many silver bullets in the format. On top of which going main with blue, it’s creatures are neither very aggressive or defensive. Blue really works as a supplementary color that helps out other deep colors like White and Red, and I passed ridiculous red. Mind Control just made me blind to all signaling.
* Didn’t support my green bombs with the land they really needed to work. I played 8 forest since I had far more blue spells, and never had more than 3 on the board at any time (and that took divination or the ranger to pull off). I don’t know what the mana ratio would be to make this work – less blue may have hurt my deck.
* Started with the wrong cards – Sage Owls were awful. Divination was a killer role-player card that powered me into the lands I needed to cast my bombs. The first version of this deck had a singleton swamp and Rise From the Grave, but I quickly realized I had no way to get creatures into the graveyard so it was worthless. So I subbed a forest for the swamp. (see land problems above) Sprites were okay but they really didn’t go very far in many of my games.

FNM M-10 Draft in Wellington New Zealand

FNM tournament report for 7.16.2009

I show up at 6:30 loaded for bear – we have 18 players so we separate into 2 pods – most of the players seem pretty casual – the binder carrying dudes from last week apparently are boycotting the store and they’re actually outside the store at a table in 8 degree Centigrade weather playing EDH.  Go figure.

It’s a rare draft, so I get to keep what I open.

First pack – HELLO there!

Siege-Gang Commander

!!Woot!!!  baby – this makes siege-gang number 3 this week!
Easy pick – though I pass a pyroclasm.
Pick two:

serra angel

Okay – I’m prepared for crazy now….
I stick to my draft plan and get a pretty sick curve deck – we didn’t see any bolts or pacifisms though, which was odd..

Game 1 vs. Loren playing G/B

Round 1
Loren powers out a Llanowar elf, The lifelink vampire, a warghoul, a spider, doom blades a blocker, and Overruns me turn 7.

Round 2
Loren mulls down to 6, and accidently drops a doom blade, but keeps the hand.
I power out bears and an angel, while Loren drops 6 forest in a row but no creatures.


Round 3
Loren drops an early Vampire Aristocrat which totally messes up my math.  I got an early Pegasus to race him but he can hit me with the Aristo all day as he has plenty of men to sac to it and save.  I eventually get a Blinding Mage which keeps him down, and the Pegasus goes all the way.

We play a game for fun which is pretty epic – it involves a Howl of the Wolfpack for 6(!?!!) vs. my bear army and that pesky pegasus which carries the day – I win by 2 points.


Game 2 vs. Mike playing W/B

Round 1
Mike drops a turn 1 plains, soul warden (quickly becoming one the most annoying commons to deal with).  I drop a pegasus (good thing!)  he drops a black knight and throws a harm’s way at my horsie.

I can’t really deal with the Knight, but I what I can do is drop a  truck load of Lions and Pikers race him.  I stay at seven and I get him down from 23 to five, and mise Siege Gang off the top.

Round 2
Mike leads with Black Knight, and I have a white bear.  He plays the 1/3 flying vigilance griffin.  I think a bit and cast Excommunicate on it – this lets me get  a free hit in while keeping him off his harms way – maybe not the best attack but I go for the tempo play figuring I can race him.
I get a minotaur out, but he drops a White Knight for the four power defense.  One of my Pikers beats up a Knight on the attack thanks to Safe Passage, and I get a Serra to break the stall but he’s got a blinding mage for it. – I get a second Serra but he taps it and Assassinates it (combo!) .  He then rises from the grave (Ultra combo!) my own Serra and beats me to death with it.

Round 3
I mull to six.  Mike drops turn 1 and 2 soul warden and a pegasus, followed by the double knights.  He gets double Blinding Mage to hold down my two Serras and I’m never in the game – He ends the game at 32 life.
The entire time I had Act of Treason in my hand and it was never playable.  I mained it because of big bombs like Serra, Shivan Dragon, and Platinum Angel but it was never relevant in a single game.


Game 3 vs. Richmond playing B/R
Richmond doesn’t seem super confident in his deck and his card choices and play reflect this.

Game 1.
I mull down to six, keeping a 1 land hand on the draw as I’ve got lion, piker, and blinding mage but it takes me until turn 5 to draw a second land.   By the time I get a mage he has inferno elemental, followed by Vampire Nocturnus.  My life goes down in massive chunks and I can’t keep the elemental down and possibly kill the vampire with 3 lands, so I concede at 5.

Game 2.  Did I mention I hate those penny sleeves yet.
I mull down to six again, trying to make sure my deck is sufficiently randomized – this time I get a 5 land hand and a serra on the draw. I sigh and keep.

Richmond drops an early 2/1 bat, and I answer with my Serra, having drawn the pump spell and a safe passage – this isn’t good if he has a doom blade I have no game.. he casts unholy strength on the bat making it 4/2.  I swing in and he blocks (not a good call for him, since I was basically waving a big sign saying I had a combat trick) and I safe passage.  He weaknesses my Serra (!) and casts Soul Bleed on it(!!) I really don’t have anything else so I keep swinging, but he drop a lava axe on my head.  Eventually I get a siege mastadon – and he draws and plays Black Knight for it.
I get Goblin Artillery off the top, and bash the black knight.  I’m at five but I have the other Safe Passage for another Lava Axe, so I swing in with enough damage and a Glorious charge for +3.  No complaints.

Game 3.
Mull down to six with these ridiculous sleeves.

Piker comes down, then armorsmith, and a Piker.
He drops a Bat and a Bog Wrath. I drop a Serra and he drops a dude.
I swing in my whole team and he blocks with his team with no mana untapped.  again, he should have just taken the hit as I’ve the Glorious Charge to kill most of his team.
He drops a couple more bears and I swing in again and he blocks agains and I safe passage my team, basically wrathing him.

I tell him after the game he had nothing to lose as I was attacking with my whole team – he had enough guys to race me and a defensive fog off safe passage is better than safe passage that wraths his men.  So why block me?


For my 3rd place win I didn’t get an FNM or even a pack.. but I did get the foil Ant Queen and I can’t complain about the rare drafting.

M10 Pre-Release Report From Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington is located on the Northern Island of New Zealand and is the country’s capital.  It’s nestled in a bay and actually reminds me of a very young San Francisco – a cute but manageable little metro area with hills like Los Gatos and little period houses all scattered through them.  I’m assigned to work here for the month, but last night I got word that I had the next two days off and I had no plans. First thing I did was check and see if there were pre-releases – and there were TWO in the city.

I managed to find the card shop quickly – everything I need seems to be within a ten-minute walk of my hotel – but I was way early – they didn’t really have any singles though – they seemed to focus more on Pokemon and action figures.  I said I’d be back, asked them for references to any other card stores and they said there was one down the street – after about half an hour I found it but they were mostly comics and only had some core set boosters – bleh.

After doing a little shopping I rolled back around to the store and after a little wait I got around to opening my six boosters.  I don’t want to go into my whole card selection – it was pretty crazy but without fixing you pretty much have to do two colors – lightning bolt, shivan dragon, and serra angel were calling to me but I had to play the overall most consistent removal and beats.

Black Green Sealed deck.

relevant sideboard

looming shade
zombie goliath
enormous baloth
Emerald Oryx

Game 1 vs. Bernie with Mono-black

Bernie had a ridiculously strong black pool but he probably could have splashed a little – he was playing some weaker card but if any deck benefits from all the swamps it’s black – he opened THREE tendrils of corruption, TWO Liliana Vess (one foil) and a demon’s horn – so there went my removal and fear guys.  These games were hilarious.

Match 1.

Turn 3 with nothing on either side, I tap out to play an aggressive Awakener druid, and wake up my only forest to start the smashing next turn. His turn he assassinates the forest.  Ouch.

He gets a warpath ghoul and I rampant growth and sign in blood really fast out of the land screw, and get down a turn 5 stampeding rhino. But he’s bashed me with that ghoul.

His turn he tendrils Rhino.  dammit.

I rise from the grave.  RARRR 4/4 trample black Zombie Rhino!

His turn he tendrils it.  !@#$%.

I disentomb the rhino and recast it. he casts Soul Bleed (!?!?!) on it.  I would never play that card, it’s among my sealed pool and I’m not even including it on my sideboard – but I’m losing one life an upkeep on this rhino.  But rhino is gonna bash.

He drops Liliana Vess and makes me discard a land*   (*Pro tip: – now that I know he had a third tendrils, he should have tutored for that and killed the rhino for good.

In meantime he’s gotten a whispersilk cloak out on the ghoul and has me down pretty low – my turn I mow liliana down.  I can kill him next turn, but I’m at six.

His turn, he would have killed me – he had an unholy strength that he tried to cast on the ghoul, which would have taken me to 1, and I die to soul bleed (sad face here) – EXCEPT he had whispersilk cloak on the ghoul!   Stupid shroud tricks win!

Match 2

I keep a 1 land hand (terramorphic expanse) with a rampant growth on the draw.   This was a bad idea, but I was feeling good about the match up.

Turn 1 he plays swamp, Duress.


Turn 2 he plays Demon’s horn.

X2 /Facepalm….

I somehow get 3 lands in a row and drop Howling Banshee.

This eventually dies to something, but I drop Great Sable Stag which lifts it’s leg on his whole deck.

X is 1-0!

Game 2 vs. Gareth playing W/U

Gareth has some great cards but doesn’t seem like a great player – he’s not sure how protection works, and puts his first strike guy in the graveyard when he doesn’t need to.. He’s got a pal who is backseat driving over his shoulder but I don’t mind too much…

Match 1

Gareth drops an early White Knight, I get a Dread Warlock (pacifism)  – but I get a turn 5 Nightmare with the help of rampant growth.

He casts Sleep, and continues beating me with the Knight.  I have no blocker for it that will survive.  I get him low with a 7/7 nightmare but he drops platinum angel and I draw no doom blade for the angel nor a sizable blocker for the Knight.

Match 2

I get Bashing Troll, Bashing Rhino, and Banshee him for the win, while he drops nothing.  His buddy saves him a turn by reminding him to cast the new white Fog, but he isn’t in the game at all.

Match 3

He has an early White Knight again, but he blocks my Great Sable Stag pretty early.  Another pro tip from experience – he should have just held on to the knight and took the damage and keep trying to “race” me by dealing damage back – I couldn’t block it except with Stag, and if he dropped anything Stag couldn’t deal with we would be on equal terms.  By the time he stabilized, I had a Rod of Ruin out and it pinged him to death.

Game 3 vs. Mark with R/G

There’s a group of guys who show up early and have their own table – they’ve got big binders, they’re talking the talk and they definitely seem to know what they’re doing.  Aside from me, Mark and his two friends from that table are undefeated – he mines me for info asking since I’m 2-0 I’ve got a crazy deck – and really I don’t, I’ve got a half decent deck and two good match-ups.

Match 1.

Mark kicks the crap out of me – Bear, 3/3 for 3, lightning bolt my blocker – I drop a Wall of Bone but he drops a deathtouch equipment on the bear and kills me quick.

Match 2 – see above, except he lava axed me to death.

Turns out Mark top 8′d at new zealand nationals – which I guess isn’t saying much since they’ve got 90 people in the whole country who play ;)  do I sound bitter? -_-  (he also wins the pre-release)

Game 4 vs.  Marius playing U/W/r (splash for fireball)

Match 1

Turn 1 soul Warden

Turn 2 plains, soul Warden, Elite vanguard.

- Basically he smashes me with little men and I try to stablize – I mess up slightly as I had awakener druid but he cast Ice Cage on the Forest – basically disabling the land ability.  However I messed up as I had a regenerate in my hand that would have gotten rid of the icecage but I didn’t catch the play until it was already over.  He ends the game with flyers and at 28 life.

- I go to the sideboard and get deathmark and weakness. :D

Match 2

Him: Turn 1 soul warden

Me: Turn 1 weakness!

I get Banshee out which rips him up – he lightning bolts it but I rise from the grave on the Banshee which removes his last 3 life.   Banshee wins: 2

Match 3

Him Turn 1 soul warden

Me: Turn 1 Weakness!

Him: Turn 2 Blinding Mage

me: turn 2 Deathmark!

I get down Dread Warlock, Looming shade, and a nightmare and he has no answers.


3-1,  4th place out of 16 players.  My  Sealed had Great Sable Stag, Lightwielder Paladin, and Haunting Echoes, while the two packs I opened had a Siege-Gang Commander and a Sunpetal Grove, so I can’t complain.