Pack 1, Pick 1
Goblin Skycutter, Crookclaw Transmuter, Strength in Numbers, Zealot il-Vec, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Screeching Sliver, Momentary Blink, Ancient Grudge, Greenseeker, Foriysian Interceptor, Faceless Devourer, Foriysian Totem, Haunting Hymn, Lim-Dul the Necromancer, Fire Whip
This pack is incredibly deep, so one of the first things both Rich and I did was to examine what cards we thought would wheel. They would probably be the Zealot il-Vec, the Greenseeker and one of the black cards, I suspect the Faceless Devourer. This doesn't give us as much information as I would like, because upon first examination it looked like more than one black card would table, suggesting going black in the picks ahead; this is still fairly likely as Haunting Hymn is still underrated.
Our options are Crookclaw Transmuter, Strength in Numbers and Fire Whip. Both Momentary Blink and Urborg Syphon-Mage are too weak to be considered, as the first commits you to two colours and the second simply isn't powerful enough. The Strength and Transmuter are very close in power level. Strength got better as more expansions were released due to the lack of other pump spells, whereas the Transmuter gained more cards to trick with and more 3/3 flyers it can trade with. In a vacuum, Rich and I would differ in our pick, because they are so close in power level that it only comes down to colour preference—and he prefers green, whereas I take blue.
Luckily for us, it is not a void, as the Fire Whip is still present. The Whip is a reasonably strong card, more powerful than the other cards in the pack, as it is often a post combat trick that few people see coming. It turns a random dork into a great card, and can be used to deal two damage straight off the bat if needed. At the end of the day, it is removal.
Pick: Fire Whip
Pack 1, Pick 2
Errant Ephemeron, Strangling Soot, Gemhide Sliver, Mindstab, Gaze of Justice, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Two-Headed Sliver, Prismatic Lens, Clockspinning, Stormcloud Djinn, Volcanic Awakening, Thick-Skinned Goblin, Wall of Roots
Again, we have a very deep pack with plenty of good playables. Unfortunately, none of them can be guaranteed to wheel, so we will just be looking at the decision we have to make. Narrowing our choice down is easy as nothing in the pack comes close in power to the Errant Ephemeron and the Strangling Soot.
This is a really difficult choice. In a void, both of us agreed that the Ephemeron is the better card, but to quote Rich: "I don't think Ephemeron is THAT much better, so it's just what you feel like playing basically." There are several factors to take into account. Firstly, what colours is the player on our left most likely to be playing? They had the option of Transmuter or Strength in the first pack, and will pick whichever care we do not take from this pack. That's not too much information to go on. If anything can be divined from it, then it will be that maybe they picked a blue card, but if we take the Ephemeron then he will take the Soot and we can cut blue easily enough to force them to abandon the colour.
The other factor that we can take into account is what will wheel from our first pack. There will be no guarantee, but as I mentioned earlier, it is likely that a black card will come back, and picking up a free playable is nothing to sniff at. Here's what Rich had to say on the matter:
"Red-black is probably my favourite archetype in the format. I figured Crookclaw Transmuter would be taken second, so I'd be fighting in pack two unless I cut him off, but that's in no way a sure thing—that I could cut it off, or that he would have taken it. In the end, I made this pick based on personal preference."
It is here that Rich and I differ, and much like the Strength / Transmuter pick, it again comes completely down to colour preference. I think that Ephemeron is better than Soot and I dislike the Soot's inherent commitment to two colours (it is great just in black, but then when compared to Ephemeron is far weaker), even though our first pick was red, we might be forced to abandon one or both picks (although if we were forced to abandon both colours, we would probably end up either green or blue, and both colours have fixers accessible to splash the Soot); I also prefer blue to black.
Here our drafts diverge. For the second pack, it should be noted that Rich passed all the blue left, so the quality of the cards that I will pick will be slightly worse than had I actually picked the Ephemeron, but I will keep looking at these shadow picks as the draft progresses.
Pack 1, Pick 3
Coal Stoker, Durkwood Baloth, Coral Trickster, Ivory Giant, Deathspore Thallid, Sidewinder Sliver, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Two-Headed Sliver, Brine Elemental, Assembly-Worker, Celestial Crusader, Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore
This pack comes down to whether to pick the Coal Stoker, the Durkwood Baloth or the Brine Elemental. Out of these cards, the Briney is far superior to the others, and for my pick is the easy option. Rich has a tougher path to take.
Dipping into green here for the Baloth is a fine option, and does not abandon either of our first two picks as we will probably pick up some fixers. Coal Stoker is a great card in both blue-red and red-black, as it allows you to gain some advantage through the massive tempo swing it provides. Both colour combinations seldom mana burn off of it, because their three-drops are either colourless or red (more often than not). Rich could dip into blue for the superior Elemental, but when I asked him, he felt that after passing the Ephemeron, he would rather continue to go red-black and that the Stoker was especially great in that colour combination.
Pack 1, Pick 4
Temporal Isolation, Empty the Warrens, Strength in Numbers, Errant Doomsayers, Foriysian Interceptor, Aetherflame Wall, Detainment Spell, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Bewilder, Vampiric Sliver, Haunting Hymn, Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore
More packs with a higher than average quality, providing yet another choice for us. Here we have to decide between Temporal Isolation, Strength in Numbers, Empty the Warrens and Vampiric Sliver. The Isolation is still a very tempting pick for both of us. For me, I can happily abandon the Fire Whip for the Isolation. That the Isolation is still here in the pack after two picks is indicative that white is open and it is normally best to follow the signals you receive third/fourth pick than the earlier ones. I agreed with Rich that the Strength really wasn't an option here, as we had passed too much good green already and we are both in two colours already and feel that if we were to take a third colour it would be white from this pack.
For Rich, the Vampiric Sliver is also an option, as solid, sizeable guys are hard to come by in red-black. He does however have a Coal Stoker already, meaning the Empty is already a strong card. I am not yet locked into red, and I will pass up on the Empty, which isn't too powerful for me as I do not have the Coal Stoker, and I'll take the Isolation, keeping my options open and taking what is by far the strongest card in the pack and also the strongest signal of the draft that hasn't suggested blue.
Pack 1, Pick 5
Dreadship Reef, Temporal Eddy, Mogg War Marshal and Basalt Gargoyle are the options here. For Rich the pick is simple; the Reef can be discounted because there is little reason to splash blue in red-black, and the Gargoyle is way superior to the Goblin.
For me, a similar process of elimination is at work. The Reef is a great card. I wouldn't mind picking up some Ichor Slicks and Death Rattles in the last pack, especially because if I get any Dreamscape Artists the option becomes even easier. I think the Eddy is an underrated card whose massive tempo swing will often win games, but I think my deck will shape up as a control deck with the expensive spells I already have, so I do not need to win through tempo alone. The Jedit's Dragoons is also tempting as I would follow the Isolation in colour, but it is not strong enough to do so. This means it is a pick between the definitely on-colour Eddy and the possibly on colour, and stronger, Basalt Gargoyle. I'll take the Gargoyle because I prefer blue-red to blue-white, and I think it is the stronger card.
Pack 1, Pick 6
Flowstone Channeler, Trespasser il-Vec, and Blazing Blade Askari is a choice that gives me pause. For Rich, the Trespasser is by far the stronger card, and I always feel that the Channeler is better than the Askari, although this is often because I tend to draft more controlling decks than aggressive ones. The Watcher Sliver is tempting, and probably stronger in power than my other options, but I have yet to see a good on-colour Sliver, meaning I don't really have any reason to place my trust in a Sliver plan. I will keep going red and see what happens.
Pack 1, Pick 7
It is unusual to get decisions this late in, but here we are faced by the Tolarian Sentinel, Bogardan Rager and Ghostflame Sliver. Unless I have already picked up some neat tricks with the Sentinel I tend to pick the Rager, although I think it is a really close pick. If I know a Dream Stalker or another Sentinel will wheel, then I opt for the flyer because I think, in blue-red, that there are too many combos to pass up—Subterranean Shambler, Stingscourger, Shaper Parasite, Flowstone Embrace, and Fatal Attraction, to mention but a few. However, I think the Rager is a large enough body that hits hard and causes problems when it holds or smashes the ground. Interestingly, had I taken the Watcher Sliver, I would've followed it with the Quilled Sliver, but it still isn't enough of an engine yet.
For Rich, red-black really needs its aggressive solid two-drops, which is exactly something that the Sliver delivers. The Rager is also awesome in this colour combination, but red-black can pick up its large late game creatures in Future Sight, where Mass of Ghouls and Fomori Nomad go late.
Pack 1, Pick 8
Pack 1, Pick 9
Pick: Foriysian Totem
Pack 1, Pick 10
Pick: Thick-Skinned Goblin
Pack 1, Pick 11
Pick: Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore
Pack 1, Pick 12
Pick: Aetherflame Wall
Pack 1, Pick 13
Pick: Drudge Reavers
Pack 1, Pick 14
Pick: Barbed Shocker
Pack 1, Pick 15
The late-pick Foriysian Totem was a steal, as well as the Thick-Skinned Goblin. Both decks are shaping up nicely, with good mana curves. Rich has more removal so far in Soot, but for now we have nothing either of us need to scrabble for, and we can just take it as it comes, although it would be nice to pick up some more removal for my deck. I'm aware that for my deck, the next few picks will be distorted because Rich passed the blue cards, but we passed very little blue after the first few cards, so it should work out well.
Pack 2, Pick 1
Erratic Mutation, Cradle to Grave, Reflex Sliver, Blightspeaker, Aquamorph Entity, Evolution Charm, Pallid Mycoderm, Brain Gorgers, Rathi Trapper, Primal Plasma, Skirk Shaman, Aether Membrane, Kavu Predator, Hedge Troll, Aeon Chronicler
Pack 2, Pick 2
Saltfield Recluse, Veiling Oddity, Midnight Charm, Shaper Parasite, Battering Sliver, Reality Acid, Blightspeaker, Evolution Charm, Vampiric Link, Gossamer Phantasm, Prodigal Pyromancer, Big Game Hunter, Keen Sense, Roiling Horror
For Rich, it is an easy choice between Big Game Hunter and Prodigal Pyromancer, with the pinger winning by a long way. I have a much more difficult pick to make—the Shaper Parasite or the Pyromancer. If I have more ping effects to go with the Fire Whip, like Fledgling Mawcor or Grapeshot, then I am more tempted by the Pyromancer. Likewise, if I have ways of reusing the Parasite, I prefer it. However, I have no real other factors to take into account, so I opt for the naturally better morph.
Pack 2, Pick 3
Stingscourger, Synchronous Sliver, Utopia Vow, Wistful Thinking, Dash Hopes, Reality Acid, Pallid Mycoderm, Prodigal Pyromancer, Vampiric Link, Piracy Charm, Sulfur Elemental, Riftmarked Knight, Null Profusion
For me, Pyromancer is far superior to Stingscourger, leaving me with an easy pick. Rich's is also easy but might not appear so. It might be tempting to pick the second Pyromancer, to give him three ping effects that can add up and will probably win at least a third of his draft for him. However, Null Profusion is so powerful that if you are in black, it is virtually impossible to pass up. It will single-handedly win the game, as you generate more card advantage than Santa Claus.
Pack 2, Pick 4
Blightspeaker is far from strong for Rich as he only has one Trapper so far; it is also likely that one of them will wheel later. This leaves him with what he wants out of the pack—the Brute Force. He needs it because it is a very strong combat trick in red-black, and is also cheap enough to help storm up an Empty the Warrens. My decision is a little easier as, great though Dismal Failure is, it is not as good as Brute Force for the previously mentioned reasons. I also think that one of the Failures might wheel, although I'm not holding my breath.
Pack 2, Pick 5
Pack 2, Pick 6
Pack 2, Pick 7
Rich can only really pick the Hammerheim Deadeye here. I have a trickier choice between it and Dreamscape Artist. The Deadeye is not quite as good as he looks, and I personally think the Dreamscape Artist is overrated. I play him almost all the time in a three-colour deck, but seldom in a more streamlined one. However, with Errant Ephemeron, Brine Elemental, Bogardan Rager, and Aeon Chronicler, I feel the deck will need mana.
Pack 2, Pick 8
Pack 2, Pick 9
Pack 2, Pick 10
Pack 2, Pick 11
Pack 2, Pick 12
Pick: Ridged Kusite
Pack 2, Pick 13
Pick: Temporal Extortion
Pack 2, Pick 14
Pick: Deadly Grub
Pack 2, Pick 15
The second pack, as expected, didn't deliver too much stuff for my deck, but I still picked up plenty of playables; enough to stabalise the early game with the Dreamscape Artist, Aether Membrane and Aquamorph Entity and some removal and Aeon Chronicler to hold the fort later on. I am still looking for removal.
Rich was gifted with a very late Rebel chain and matches my Aeon Chronicler with his Null Profusion. Both decks are still on a surprisingly level footing. Rich's deck is very evenly spread and has the luxury of just picking the best card each time in Future Sight, as it has no holes to fill.
Pack 3, Pick 1
Cutthroat il-Dal, Gift of Granite, Quiet Disrepair, Foresee, Rift Elemental, Nessian Courser, Grave Scrabbler, Henchfiend of Ukor, Whip-Spine Drake, Lymph Sliver, Homing Sliver, Char-Rumbler, Llanowar Mentor, Sword of the Meek, Magus of the Vineyard
Pack 3, Pick 2
Augur il-Vec, Llanowar Empath, Grave Peril, Marshaling Cry, Kavu Primarch, Foresee, Sporoloth Ancient, Grave Scrabbler, Lumithread Field, Mesmeric Sliver, Deepcavern Imp, Spirit en-Dal, Cryptic Annelid, Pooling Venom
Rich faces a depressing second pick between Deepcavern Imp and Grave Scrabbler. As he only has one madness outlet so far, the Imp is an easy pick. He can Rebel it up and use it as a madness outlet for any future cards. I face the classic decision between Foresee and Cryptic Annelid. I don't think the pick is even close, as they both dig through about the same number of cards, but Annelid provides you three insane cards almost every time and a very crucial 1/4 blocker; add to this the fact that he can be bounced and reused and you'll see why the pick isn't close.
Pack 3, Pick 3
Llanowar Empath, Marshaling Cry, Unblinking Bleb, Lost Hours, Wrap in Vigor, Mass of Ghouls, Lucent Liminid, Thornweald Archer, Flowstone Embrace, Dryad Arbor, Bonded Fetch, Snake Cult Initiation, Cloud Key
Flowstone Embrace is the only card for Rich, but I have a much tighter option of Embrace versus Bonded Fetch. Normally, the Fetch is the stronger card, but I really need removal (as all I have is Parasite, Pyromancer, Fire Whip and Flowstone Channeler). I already have Foresee, Annelid and Aeon Chronicler for card advantage and for this pick I will help round the deck off rather than pick the most powerful card.
Pack 3, Pick 4
Pack 3, Pick 5
Keldon Megaliths is a card I always find hard to rate. It really is awesome, but for this pick neither of us will take it. For Rich, Death Rattle is just a much stronger card, and for my deck, I doubt I will be hellbent often enough to make the Megaliths worth picking over the much needed Flowstone Embrace.
Pack 3, Pick 6
Festering March is a card I need to play more with. In 2HG it is really powerful because it has twice as many creatures to kill, and by itself in normal draft, I think it is a fine card. I seldom maindeck it unless I have lots of ping effects that I can combo with it, but I often sideboard it in against decks with multiple one-toughness guys. I disagree with Rich's pick here.
Pack 3, Pick 7
Skizzik Surger is a very underrated card. That late in the game, two lands is a trifling thing to pay for such a large body, and that is if it survives till your upkeep. It will often win the game the turn you play him. It will often get cut from decks in favour of other heavy drops but he should be considered far more often than he currently is. Rich is correct to pick the Henchfiend here because it has more of an impact on the game and is a very similar creature any way.
Pack 3, Pick 8
Pick: Fatal Attraction
Pack 3, Pick 9
Pack 3, Pick 10
Pick: Llanowar Empath
Pack 3, Pick 11
Pack 3, Pick 12
Pick: Vedalken Aethermage
Pack 3, Pick 13
Pick: Homing Sliver
Pack 3, Pick 14
Pick: Soultether Golem
Pack 3, Pick 15
Future Sight, as it has a tendency to do, rounded both of our decks off nicely. Rich picked up three removal spells and two of the hard-hitting Henchfiends. I snapped up three removal spells of my own and two great card advantage spells.
It's difficult to say which deck wound up being better. Rich's is very solid, with a healthy Rebel chain providing both removal and the card advantage his deck needs. However, he has no bombs other than Null Profusion. My deck is far more bomb-heavy with Aeon Chronicler, Errant Ephemeron and Brine Elemental, but I feel it gains its edge over Rich's version because it has more card advantage. I feel especially happy given that Rich passed all the blue cards left in the first pack, and so my part of the draft was slightly distorted—and hence the deck would've been better if this were not so.
Which deck do you guys think worked out stronger and which way would you have drafted it? There was easily an option for going white after the Temporal Isolation, although the deck probably wouldn't have been as strong as either of these two. Voice your thoughts and opinions in the forums.