Thran Utopia #36: Limited Retrospect

Last week I told you about a pending draft that took place the same night my article went up. The draft was a great deal of fun and I ended in second place after starting out 0-2 (1-2, 1-2). I initially was planning on mentioning the draft as the first part of my article, but I realized I would be better of using my draft as a means to falsify/verify the assumptions and hypotheses I discussed last week. Be prepared for a not-quite-ordinary draft/tournament report!

First, here’s my deck. How this all came together will be explained below, and much more.

UBR Control (Innistrad Sealed, 6 players and 4 packs)
Lands (17)
5 Island
5 Mountain
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Stensia Bloodhall
5 Swamp

Creatures (11)
2 Civilized Scholar / Homicidal Brute
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Geistcatcher’s Rig
1 Hanweir Watchkeep / Bane of Hanweir
1 Instigator Gang / Wildblood Pack
2 Markov Patrician
1 Morkrut Banshee
1 Murder of Crows
1 Stitcher’s Apprentice

Other spells (12)
1 Brimstone Volley
2 Dead Weight
2 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Geistflame
1 Grasp of Phantoms
1 Into the Maw of Hell
1 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Rolling Temblor
1 Silent Departure
1 Victim of Night

* * *

Three or four?
Short answer: four

We started the draft by discussing the number of boosters we would draft. I was a proponent of four from the beginning but started to have my doubts later during the week. The four-camp had quite the number of fans, but we were fully aware of the possible downsides. In the end, the lure of six new chances at that awesome moneyrare won us over. But how did it go?

We all had pretty good decks, with the exception of Sander, who just didn’t manage to find his personal space where he wanted to be. He drafted a Zombie-deck that was too dependent on Undead Alchemist and Endless Ranks of the Dead, and those cards ask a lot of questions and have a lot of only-if’s to begin with.

Sander was seated left of me and managed to draft that UB Zombie deck. Left of Sander was Jeroen, who also picked up an Undead Alchemist. Jeroen went with green instead of black, and his Zombies weren’t a heavy theme in his deck. Jeroen did better than Sander in the draft, because his deck wasn’t as dependent on certain cards as Sander’s deck was. Still, I think Jeroen could’ve done much better had he turned his draft around after his P2P1 Olivia Voldaren! Jeroen finished third I think, but he could’ve done much better with Olivia, I think.

Left of Jeroen was Mike, our usual W/G drafter. This time, he added a dash of blue to go with his usual palette of colors. Mike started the draft out good but due to terrible bad luck in the last round, he went from second to second-to-last. Left of Mike was article regular Rick, who innocuously drafted a P1P1 Liliana and was able to sculpt a relentless killing machine around her in the colors of Orzhov. It turns out the power of his deck was enough to get him to the first spot in the draft. Well done, Rick!

Let me get back to the booster discussion to wrap this section up. Did we make better decks? Yes. Did we need the fourth booster? Probably not. Would things have been different without that fourth pack? Yes (for me, at least, which kinda means ‘for everyone’). Will we do it again this way? Probably not. In the end, I was a tad disappointed by the fourth pack. Drafting becomes so much more easy.

* * *

What to do when signaling barely works.
Short answer: it turned out okay.

Looking back, I found it curious that every drafter had at least one color in common with his neighbour. Sander and I shared both blue and black; Sander and Jeroen also had blue in common, while Mike and Jeroen had both blue and green in common (yes, that’s four blue drafters in a row); Mike and Rick shared white, and Robert and I shared red. Actually, only Rick and Robert had no overlapping color.

Yet – and I think the fourth booster is to blame for this – we all had decks that we were satisfied with (again, except Sander). Also, the colors (especially blue) had enough different applications that all of us could draft what around their first few picks without having trouble getting enough playables. But I can’t stress this enough: more than anything, the fourth booster was to blame for this.

* * *

Dipping your toes in Blue.
Short answer: there were four blue drafters
in a row!

Four out of six players drafting blue is pretty mind-boggling. But like I said above, the different angles of the color (and the color-intensity per player) was responsible for four very reasonable blue decks. I was drafting a controlling blue deck (what else?), Sander was in Zombies, Jeroen was drafting all-around good cards, and Mike picked a few weenies and such to support his aggressive stance.

Still, there was something interesting going on right from the beginning. To my right was seated Robert, and to his right was Rick. Rick opened a Civilized Scholar, a card I was aware of was very powerful. I feared I might not get it. Rick did not took it, but I didn’t know that was because of Liliana. Perfectly reasonable to pick Lilly over Scholar, I’d say. What Robert took over Civilized Scholar, I do not know. I was very happy to scoop it up, and another one a few boosters later.

* * *

The danger of a seemingly underwhelming textbox.
Short answer: the unknown was something to avoid.

The fact that Civilized Scholar (two of them) came to me unopposed was more due to it’s seemingly underwhelming textbox rather than the fact that it’s blue, I think. People see a card that is just a Looter, and that kind of effect is historically underrated in my group. It may be one of the reasons I draft blue so much.

The duo of Scholars made their way into my deck without any opposition. My second pick, the one before Scholar, was a Murder of Crows – yay! So I knew that whatever I was going to do, I had to keep a close eye on my creature count in order to make those two worth their grain. What was my first pick, you say? Don’t worry, we’re getting there.

* * *

The effect of dual-faced cards.
Short answer: hideously underrated.

More than the effect of the fourth pack, I was curious to see what effect the DFC’s would have on the draft. There weren’t any hideously powerful DFC’s opened at the get-go, so there wasn’t any signaling here.

What there was, though, was a lot of players who’d rather steer clear of the DFC’s in favor of drafting cards they were more familiar with. Somewhere in pack three I was faced with the tough decision of Falkenrath Noble versus Instigator Gang. In the end, after much debating, I picked Noble, saying goodbye to Instigator Gang. But it came back! This baffled me. Robert, to my right, passed the card twice as a mono-red player. Instigator Gang was just insane and I literally won every game in which I cast him. (Noble, by the way, had a similar effect. I knew he was good, but that he was this good I couldn’t possibly conceive.)

Every one whom I played had to respect the Gang this way. While the only effect the Gang had on the draft was to invoke fear, I wonder what it’ll to do our metagame should we draft the set again. Will DFC’s be more respected? Will people start fighting over them more than they should? This is the most interesting question that will be answered in the next draft.

* * *

Will those darn kids start respecting the dead?
Short answer: they really did!

My expectations for both graveyard interaction and DFC’s proved off. DFC’s where played way less than I thought, while the graveyard was more active than I initially imagined. I suppose this is because the graveyard as a mechanic is more present than DFC’s, and while the latter can be avoided, avoiding graveyard interaction would often be stupid and also much harder to accomplish.

* * *

White is the place to be.
Short answer: maybe I wasn’t the only one afraid to go white.

White wasn’t really the place to be, but it still was great (Rick’s number one deck was half white, after all). I even first-picked a Fiend Hunter (followed by Murder of Crows and Civilized Scholar, as you know by now) and got another one of those, as well as a Slayer of the Wicked. This meant that white was open (which was true, since neither of my neighbours played it). Yet, beyond those three cards I rarely got any. This was also because Sander saw the signs and tried to go into white, cutting me off even more. But then, red came along.

I held on to white for too long and had the chance to play white in addition to the Grixis-colors, but I wisely decided not to. White was the worst of my three colors and splashing for at least two double-white cards would be asking for trouble.

* * *

It takes a lot to force me into red.
Short answer: all it took was a Brimstone Volley.

Up until the second pack I was confident I wouldn’t be playing red. But then I opened a common by the name of Brimstone Volley, and that was that. At this point, I was in four colors. I finished pack one under the impression I would be Esper, but then the quality red started flowing. I even picked up a Burning Vengeance, which I sadly could not play. Because Robert was the only red mage besides me and he was to my left, I was able to take all the red I could hope for in packs two and four. In the end, I was happy playing red.

* * *

Not everyone reads everything.
Short answer: preparation only takes you so far.

You can read and test all you want, but sometimes the group dynamic weighs heavier than the established consensus of a set. We generally don’t worry about draft archetypes; we just draft the cards we like and decks we like. Sometimes, that leaves you with a weird color combination that a seasoned drafter would never guess would work. The prime example is Rick’s winning deck being white-black, a color generally eschewed by drafters better than us.

* * *

Burning Vengeance is an Intangible Virtue in disguise.
Short answer: I almost made it.

In the third pack, I was passed an early Burning Vengeance. I did not take it. The next pack I was again passed Burning Vengeance. This time I took it, hoping the other would table back to me. Sadly, Rick verbally made it clear to the table that he was “hate-drafting one of these cards, not because I need them, but because two of them can get out of hand quickly”. I knew what he meant and this sensation was confirmed when I did not see the second Vengeance in the pack. Still, hoping for it to table, I started prioritizing flashback and ended up with a few good ones, but no cards I wouldn’t ordinarily draft.

After drafting I decided Burning Vengeance was like those few white cards and that one Spider Spawning I managed to pick up: too much hassle for too little gain. With four packs drafted, who was I to dilute a rock-solid deck with all these elements of durdling?

* * *

Well, that’s another article in the books. I hope you have enjoyed this not-so-ordinary view of a draft format. Let’s just hope me and my group can keep up drafting on a more regular basis. Next week it is time for the world to see Intihuatana in its true form. I’ve already had one test done with it, and maybe this weekend I’ll have another. It’d be nice for a change to premier a deck with actual testing under its belt. See you next week!

Posted on December 11, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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