A couple of days ago, I got inspired to go online and do a Magic the Gathering draft. I wish that I had taken notes, because after I realized that it would have made a great article. I still think, even without notes, that I can make it into a decent article. Instead of getting into the weeds too much, I can just talk about some general “ideas” that came from the experience. Hopefully, in the future, I will keep better notes and I can refine my writing to more accurately reflect my thoughts during the draft.
One of the things I do remember is that early in the draft, I texted Chris and said, “I’m drafting and I’ve gotten all of the vampires and cleansing rays.” He asked if it was standard. I replied that it was and he said, “Well, you’ve already won.” I agreed and it turned out to be true. I won the first match, though it was closer than anticipated, took a bye match 2, and then had to drop because Easter plans with the in laws loomed. Therefore, we unfortunately don’t know the ultimate fate of this deck, but I’m just going to live in the fantasy that I went easy 3-0 and collected my “no prize”.
P1P1 – Snap Pick Bishop of Rebirth
Oh man, how lucky am I? First pack, I opened a Bishop of Rebirth. When I did a two man draft against Chris, we opened this card. I hadn’t anticipated at the time that it could be a bomb. Having somehow drafted it and played it against him, I now see that it very much is and can change the tide of a game very quickly.A� Of course I’m going to pick that one first and then worry about the rest later.
3-0, here I come. This Bishop of Rebirth is going to…wait, what is this? As you can see from the picture above, that’s not Bishop of Rebirth. That’s Bishop of Binding. It’s not a terrible card, but is definitely isn’t Bishop of Rebirth. Oh, crap.
Remainder of Pack One
So, what do you do when the bomb you thought you drafted turns out to just be Mentos and Coke? Well, if you are me, apparently, you just draft vampires. Seriously. I started down that route and realized about halfway through the pack that vampires were wide open. Not only that, but I did a test to see if anyone else was paying attention. I saw a Cleansing Ray early int the pack and thought about picking it to protect my vamps, but there was another card that I wanted, so I went with that.
Much to my surprise, the Cleansing Ray came back around. I definitely took it that time because now it was the end of the pack. What is going on with this draft, I wondered? Vampires are wide open and Cleansing Rays are not being drafted. Clearly, my opponents are not paying attention or they are focused on other strategies. I guess we’ll see.
Packs Two and Three
I just continued to draft vampires. I was also at the point where I just hate drafted every single Cleansing Ray that I saw (there were a total of five that I drafted). I think it was after the third ray that I texted Chris and we had our conversation. I ended up with 3 Conquistadors, a Legion Lieutenant, a couple of Oathsworn dudes, one or two Queen’s Commissions and other ways to make tokens for lifelink and a way to bring back the Oathsworn dudes, a Skymarcher Aspirant, and those are just the cards that I can remember 4 days out. Plus, I was able to get some removal. It really was a beautiful deck and I wish that I had been able to get a screenshot of it.
As I already mentioned, I was only able to play one match because I got a bye Round 2 and had to drop Round 3. The match wasn’t as much of a runaway as I anticipated. Game 1, I got the Legion Lieutenant to stick late in the game and finally ran him over. He was able to remove my only fliers in game 2 and stick one or two of his own for the win there.
He also removed my lieutenant early in game 3, but I was able to neuter his fliers effectively and control his ground game enough to hold on until I could give another one of my vampires flying and get through his blockers for the win. It was intense and I almost timed out, but felt good to get back into drafting.
While I had a miserable experience drafting the latest Masters set, which Chris and I talked about on the podcast this past week, this draft went much better. I may be playing the results a bit here, but I think that I’m going to continue to draft in Ixalan for the next few weeks until Dominaria starts and then I can’t wait to see what experience that set provides in terms of drafting. It’s probably my favorite (and most accessible for me) way of playing the game and I’m glad that Wizards continues to support it in a big way.
I mentioned in a previous article that the 2 Guys Gaming got together this past weekend. We played some of the old X-Men arcade title on Chris’s new Christmas present, the Pandora’s Boxx. We played about a dozen matches of Dragonball FighterZ. In fact, that’s what the last article was about. We also talked about playing some Magic the Gathering. Well, neither of us has a deck that has been updated (or even tuned) for a couple of months, so we’d have to figure something else out.
Inspired by this impending get together and with 20 dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I went to Wal*Mart to grab four packs of the latest MTG set. I figured I could combine them with two packs from my Ixalan fat pack (I’ll never get used to calling it a bundle) so that Chris and I could do a 2 player draft draft. What the heck. It had to go better than my disastrous xMage cube draft that I tried.
I also took the opportunity to open the rest of the packs from the fat pack. I have to admit that it was a weird feeling. For no particular reason, I had been hoarding them plus the packs from my booster box since I bought them months ago. I didn’t get anything worth value. Certainly nothing along the lines of the shiny Chandra that I opened from that set and promptly sold on eBay for 75 dollars. I got a new Vraska and a Wakening Suns Avatar in the last pack. So, a couple of fun cards that maybe I’ll do something with eventually.
I thought the format we were using was Winchester, but apparently it isn’t. It is a variation of that, too. I can’t remember where I found it, so I will just briefly describe it here. We shuffle all of the packs together, put them in a pile between us, and one person starts by dealing out 3 cards face up and one card face down. The person who didn’t deal picks one card, the person who did deal picks two, and the last goes to the person who didn’t deal. Continue until all cards are drafted. Build a 40 card deck and battle.
The reason that I went with this format was that I couldn’t figure out the math of the Winchester format. It felt like players would end up with different numbers of cards and that didn’t seem to make sense to me. I have not actually tested this theory, so maybe there is balance in the format that I’m not seeing. This format ensures that both players end up with the same size pool from which to build their deck. It does take some of the intrigue away from drafting, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t pay all that much attention to what Chris drafts and what his plan is, so it’s all a surprise to me when it comes to playing the games.
It didn’t feel like there were many bomb rares or mythics in the pool. We did open a Huatli, which is just as bad on paper as I thought it would be when I did my Rivals of Ixalan preview article. While we were drafting, nothing else jumped out at me. I ended up going off board because there were very few blue cards and none of them were really worth drafting and went with Abzan. It was actually more WB with a splash of green for Hunt the Weak and Hardy Veteran. Chris put together a Naya deck with a heavy dinosaur theme. He ended up with Huatli, poor guy.
I said earlier that I didn’t see any bomb rares or mythics. As I was typing my deck into Tapped Out for the screenshot, it immediately recognized what I wasn’t able to see until I drew the card during the second game. Bishop of Rebirth is a draft bomb rare and don’t you forget it. Overall, the deck was good. A little creature heavy for my play style, but once it got cranking with that Bishop, there’s no stopping it. Add in removal for days and it should add up to a win.
So, yeah, about that win. I lost game two to some bad luck. I drew 2 of my three forests before drawing a single plains so that I could play the various white cards that were rotting in my hand. I ran Chris over in game 2 initially with my dorks before he recovered and stabilized. We played at a stale mate for a while until I could get my Bishop of Rebirth on the field and just remove all of his stuff while bringing mine back.
The last game was one of those epic affairs for which we will hopefully eventually become famous. We again went back and forth with me gaining the upper hand and what I thought was a two turn win when I drew my flying creature. He top decked a “pacifism” and I had to play some mind games with him to keep him from killing me for a few turns. I finally got rid of his big ugly and tried to stay alive long enough to get my Bishop out there. After the game, which he eventually won, I saw that the Bishop was two turns away. Oh well, he won this round fair and square.
Until Next Time…
I’m researching some other 2 player draft formats. One thing that we could do is just do a 6 pack sealed match, but I actually prefer the strategy of drafting, even if it doesn’t contain all of the intrigue due to the fact that cards are “known”. There are some other formats that do introduce that the unknown into the draft. Who knows? Maybe we will try one of those formats next time. Then again, we have something that we enjoy, it works for us, and why fix what ain’t broke.
Well, it’s that time again.’ Chris texted a couple of weeks ago saying that his interest in Magic the Gathering was growing once again. I texted back, somewhat jokingly, “Just in time for the new set.”‘ The second set in the Ixalan block, Rivals, is very close to being released.’ In fact, the prerelease might even be this weekend.’ Or next weekend.’ Or it was last weekend.’ 2 Generations Gaming, always on the cutting edge!
Regardless of when the prerelease happens (It was last weekend.’ The set releases tomorrow.), it happens during a month when I’m not getting paid.’ One of these years, I’m going to get smart and just squirrel away 30 bucks for the January set prerelease.’ Ah, but I digress.’ As Chris is showing more interest in the game, there are rumblings of the original 2 Guys getting together to game, and I actually played a disastrous game on xMage the other day, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at these cards and see if I’m going to spend hard earned money on them.
Those of you who read my latest Hearthstone article know that I set my preview of that set up slightly differently from my usual “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” format.’ I highlighted certain things that I found interesting about the set.’ Since that seems to work pretty well for a preview, I will continue with that format here.
The Mechanics (Or, What Does “Raid” Mean Again?)
One of the best things about a new Magic set is seeing what new mechanics they are adding to the game and what old ones they are recycling from previous sets.’ One of the more recent examples has been scry.’ Scry was a part of the game, but it recently fundamentally changed and became an evergreen for blue mostly.’ Then, it changed the actual rules of the game by being included in the new mulligan rule.’ For a player like me who is into the wonkier elements of the game, that was a really cool evolution to watch.
There are still dinosaurs, pirates, merfolk, and vampires from the first set in the block.’ The recycled mechanics that I can see from glancing at the spoilers are enrage, explore, and raid.’ Of those, I’m most interested in raid.’ That one debuted in the Tarkir block and you might think it odd that I’d chose a more aggro mechanic over the other decidedly control oriented ones.’ I can’t explain it. The heart wants what the heart wants.
The new mechanic for the set is Ascend.’ According to my’research‘and some 3rd grade reading comprehension, when you control 10 or more permanents, you get the city’s blessing for the rest of the game.’ This ascension gives some cards that you might play a bonus effect.’ I’ve mentioned in a couple of my recent articles that I’m glad that Wizards of the Coast is willing to treat Magic the Gathering as a game.’ I get it that we humans like to make our games into serious competitions that we then discuss in very serious and important terms for hours on end.
However, and Chris and I (and perhaps some of you out there) struggle with this quite a bit, these are just games.’ We all grew up playing them.’ Very few of us made any kind of living from them.’ Now, it seems like every kid with a webcam and a microphone thinks that they are a “pro gamer”.’ There are leagues forming.’ It sounds ridiculous and it might be ridiculous, but I imagine people said the same thing about professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey back when those players were associating and leagues were forming.
The point that I’m finally getting to is that even companies like Wizards of the Coast have gotten into the act by promoting their tournaments on Twitch.’ So, it’s nice that they haven’t sold out completely to their competitive players.’ It looked for while, mainly around the Tarkir block, that they might do just that.’ But, they caught the power creep, backed off, and even started to cater more to the casual crowd.’ I’m not saying that Ascend won’t be competitive.’ In fact, they might have designed it exclusively with competition in mind.’ All I’m saying is that this filthy casual loves the design and I can’t wait to play around with it.
After the mechanics, the next thing that I like to watch out for are the planeswalkers.’ They aren’t often the best cards in a set, but they are fun cards and they are a different card design from pretty much anything I’ve ever seen in any game.’ The loyalty mechanic adds new and interesting strategies and even, in some cases, fundamentally change the way the game is played.’ Plus, it’s just cool to open one of these guys.’ The planeswalkers in this actual set are new ones.’ It appears as if they are listening to players who were sick of seeing the old guard of Jace and company.
The first comment on Mythic Spoiler for this card starts, “This card is bad.”‘ It very well might be.’ In fact, I agree with every point that the comment makes.’ However, anyone who does any sort of searching on the web page knows that doesn’t matter one bit to me.’ Is it fun?’ Again, probably not, but would I still try to build a deck around it if I happened to pull one from a pack?’ For a third time, no.’ Pretty picture, though.
Okay, now this is more like it.’ The card does what RB wants to do.’ It discards, steals creatures, sometimes kills them, and deals direct damage.’ I don’t usually play RB because, ew, Red, but if I did, this would be a card that I could get very excited about.’ The card is good and fun for at least one player.’ Now for the payoff.’ Would I attempt to build a deck around the card if I pulled it from a pack?’ Absolutely.’ And the first attempt would be absolutely horrible.
Now for the obligatory mention that this will not be a list of the best cards.’ I’ve already made it abundantly clear in this article that I care nothing about competitive play.’ I will just pick one card from each color that jumps out and speaks to me.
This one immediately jumped out at me as I was reading through the white cards, but I did go through the rest of them to see if anything else might be cooler to me.’ I did take a close look at Sphinx’s Decree because I love playing the fun police, but that card also punishes my playstyle, so ultimately, it wouldn’t be fun for anyone.’ This one, on the other hand, exiles cards and buffs another vamp.’ It is very easy to remove, but that little bit of extra oomph from the plus stats has my brain dancing.
White Honorable Mention
Just because the keyword vomit makes me think of the card that I made for Chris.
This is a blue card with a heavy dose of red. Similar to the card I highlighted earlier with Raid, this one draws cards, which is what Blue does.’ But, it also gives plus stats and basically requires you to attack every turn.’ Those are both what red does.’ Very cool card designs in this set overall.
Blue Honorable Mention
I told you I live for this weird stuff.’ If this thing had flash, it would absolutely be my favorite card. It also might be broken as hell.
Okay, I’m not immune to big, dumb, shiny creatures as this pick shows.’ It’s a potential bomb mythic in draft and sealed, which I generally tend to avoid for these picks because I want to go a bit off the beaten path.’ But, this guy is just insane.’ Look at that ability!’ Each turn, you just ping one of your opponents creatures and they are basically racing you to 6 mana at that point.’ Just brutal.
Black Honorable Mention
Well, a big dumb idiot and a little dumb idiot.’ It just so happens that in black in this set, Wizards has made their idiots interesting.’ Flash?’ Deathtouch?’ Immediate board effect?’ I love all of those words individually and together, they have me thinking UB.’ See, I haven’t lost my way.
What in the name of Robo Rosewater is this card?’ I mean, it isn’t quite at Defcon 1 levels of the random magic card tweeting bot, but it defintely has that je ne sais quoi flavor that makes me wonder if someone took the day off at the office and just grabbed this one from the old Twitter feed.’ Some kind of WR life gain deck?’ Who knows, but I love it.
Red Honorable Mention
What has gotten into them over there in the WotC offices?’ Blue cards that do Red things?’ Red Cards that do Blue and Green things?’ I mean, I guess this one is more in line with something like Cathartic Reunion or that other card that is escaping me at the moment that makes you discard to draw.’ I’m sure there are a couple.’ But, that mana ramp is cool and on more than just this one card.
Another card that borders ever so closely to the old Robo Rosewater territory.’ In a ramp deck, late game, there are just dinosaurs hitting the board, fighting other creatures, clearing the board, setting up for a possible lethal on the next turn.’ Again, maybe a bulk uncommon, but I could have so much fun with this thing.
This is the first card from the set I think that I texted Chris about when I saw that it was being offered as some promo.’ He had texted me about it earlier and that must have stuck with me and triggered something when I saw the card.’ It would be fun in a ramp stompy deck and I would laugh uncontrollably if someone were able to bounce it out after their hatchling died.
Another big, dumb idiot.’ Virtually worthless in any format other than maybe EDH, but it would just be one of those WTF cards that has you doing a bunch of crazy stuff on your turn every time you were able to cast it.’ Off to xMage to build this terrible EDH deck!
A silly restriction?’ A ridiculous (and maybe ultimately stupid and pointless) payoff?’ A mention of Jace in the flavor text?’ Where do I sign up?
I have to say that I wasn’t anticipating getting back into main Magic any time soon.’ I’ve been very satisfied with the off shoot Magic games and other games that I’ve been playing with the boys.’ When Chris mentioned that he was feeling the itch again, it got me thinking.’ I also had a free spot on my “daily” article routine that was right around the prerelease/release of the set, so I figured that it wouldn’t hurt anything to take a closer look at the set.
I’m glad that I did.’ It feels like it has just the right amount of jank to get me interested and deck building again.’ Once I pick up my box and bundle combo of the set, then I can have a huge pack opening party with the boys.’ I know that they love to open cards as much as I do, so it will be fun to get their thoughts on the cards, too, as we go along.’ Well, I guess I’m right back into the cardboard crack.
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