One Delicious Draft

Posted in Feature on November 26, 2007

By Kelly Digges and the Wizards Draft Club

It was one of those big, crazy ideas where afterward you're never quite sure how it started... except actually I know exactly how it started, because it started in the public folder in Outlook that we use to organize our weekly Draft Club. (We're not actually a club per se—really more of a group, or maybe a pack, if you'll pardon the pun—but the Outlook folder is called Draft Club, and the name stuck.)

The idea? A Lorwyn Rotisserie Draft, in which eight players would draft an entire set of Lorwyn. And the beginning of it? Before the set had even been released:

From: Guskin, Dave
Posted At: Monday, September 17, 2007 9:41 AM
Posted To: Draft Club
Subject: Sept 20 draft: #1!

In for Thursday draft, of course. TPF?

p.s.
Also, Mark Globus and I were talking about Rotisserie draft a little while ago, so I'd like to gauge interest for a Lorwyn Rotisserie Draft, probably for October 18th (or a Thursday relatively close to that). Basically, I would acquire a full set of Lorwyn, bring it to draft night, and rather than booster draft, we would draft the set in Rochester-fashion. Would want exactly 8 people, although if there was a TON of interest, I could try getting two sets and we could do 16. No product required on the part of participants, but you couldn't keep the cards.

The Right Recipe

Dave went on to link to an explanation of Rotisserie Draft from some ancient Sideboard Invitational coverage (Cape Town, 2001). I'll paraphrase it, leaving out all the bits about Cape Town and Odyssey and having sixteen players. If you're interested in those bits, click the above link. Go on, I'll wait.

....

Feast_of_the_UnicornNah, just kidding, I won't wait. To hold a Rotisserie Draft, you'll need eight people and a large, preferably coherent bunch of Magic cards—traditionally, the complete contents of a large set minus basic lands. Randomly determine a pick order from 1 through 8. If you're feeling very strategic, you could even randomly determine in what order people get to pick their place in the pick order, but we leave that as an exercise for those with a lot of time on their hands.

Lay out your cards however you like so that everyone can see them. You're going to need a lot of room. We organized them by their collector numbers (which are sorted by color / type *, then title), but we later realized that sorting them by rarity, then collector number might actually be more useful. Your mileage may vary.

Starting with the first player in the pick order, each player chooses one card (which means, yes, that player 1 is picking from the entire set). When you get to position 8, that player will pick two cards (this is called "the wheel," or "you jerk, I wanted those," and it's the reason that position 8 might be the second best seat). The draft will then circle from player 8 back to player 1, who gets to wheel this time—and you go through the whole set like that. (If that explanation doesn't make sense, the table below may help.)

Yes, this takes a while. You will get bored. But you should probably be paying attention to what everyone else took, and it will really speed things up if each player thinks about his or her pick while others are picking. In our Rotisserie Draft, everyone was absolutely flawless about this, especially me.

The Sideboard coverage has this to say about planning and the relative value of commons and rares:

Normally in a draft, players concentrate on the commons, as they will compose the majority of the cards in the available pool. But in Rotisserie Draft, the rares are just as available as the commons and uncommons. Also different is the fact that the players know exactly what will be available during the entire draft. This allows them to plan ahead and prioritize certain cards.

Smokebraider
This is apt analysis, and it's especially relevant in Lorwyn, where multiples of key commons— Smokebraider , Stinkdrinker Daredevil , and Silvergill Douser come to mind—routinely form the backbone of major draft archetypes. This time there's only one Silvergill Douser in the whole draft... and very likely two players who want it.

As a side note, I asked Mark Rosewater why it's called Rotisserie Draft. He said that when he comes up with new formats for the Invitational, he tries hard to give them catchy, memorable names that people will use if the format catches on (as this one clearly did). The name came from rotisserie drafts in fantasy baseball, which allow players to pick from any player in the league. According to Wikipedia: "Magazine writer/editor Daniel Okrent is credited with inventing it, the name coming from the New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Francaise where he and some friends used to meet and play." So, as with many names, this is just one of those things that happened, like armored fighting vehicles being called "tanks" or automatons getting the name "robot."

Prior to the draft, we discussed theories and strategies at length. What was the very first pick out of the whole set? Was it a planeswalker? A Command? Was it better to first-pick a really strong signal of colors and/or tribe such as Timber Protector or Wort, Boggart Auntie , or would the drafters in front be better served by taking more open-ended picks that would slot into whatever decks ended up being available? For that matter, how important would tribal interactions be when proportionally there were fewer of those key commons, fewer changelings, and more ridiculous bomb rares?

I myself theorized that without the repetition of commons, and thus with lower numbers per player for every Lorwyn tribe, tribal interactions wouldn't play nearly as big a role as they do in Booster Draft. Instead, I figured, the draft would be all about windmill-slam bombs, splashy spells, and carefully marshalling what little removal was to be had (way, way less per player than in Booster Draft). Others said that tribal was still a contender, and that eight drafters who could watch one another drafting would settle out along the most natural lines: eight players, eight tribes. To that end, some were advocating the idea of taking objectively weaker cards that would constitute clear tribal signals (I suggested Thundercloud Shaman , my pick for best Limited uncommon in the set—yep, better than Shriekmaw ). This might reap long-term advantage as everyone hurried out of your way, or it might end up with your awkward little tribal deck getting destroyed by the numerous bombs the other decks would bring to the table.

Amidst all this discussion, there was only one thing we could all agree on: in this singleton format, Twinning Glass was going dead last. And it turns out we weren't even right about that....

Firing up the Oven

We were chomping at the bit, bursting with theories, and more than ready to try our hand at this challenging and exciting format. Now all we had to do was cobble together a complete set of Lorwyn by the day before the actual release date. Those of us not fortunate enough to have access to the Big Bathtub Full of Magic Packs (I'm speaking metaphorically here; obviously nobody actually bathes in it) had to pick up cards at the Prerelease (where the nice folks who run the Seattle events give us Sealed Decks to use for gunslinging) and the Employee Prerelease (organized by the amazing John Grant, who makes sure that there's a full Sealed Deck tournament with prizes for all interested Wizards folks every time a set comes out). However, there aren't that many Draft Clubbers, and putting together a complete set of a large expansion so soon after the Prerelease takes some serious legwork (just ask a collector).

Fortunately, Dave Guskin stepped up to beg, borrow, or steal (okay, probably not steal, and in fact almost exclusively borrow) the 281 cards we would need for our Rotisserie Draft, largely by collecting commons and uncommons after drafts and keeping an eye out for the rares we still needed.

Strangely, the last two cards he tracked down were not chase rares at all: Thousand-Year Elixir and Colfenor's Urn . R&D let us borrow them from the card stockpile they had for playtesting, and we were ready to go.

On the Spit

Finally, the big day had arrived. The set was assembled, the theories had been tossed back and forth, the cards had been painstakingly laid out. Everything was ready.

Just one problem: There were nine of us.

Yes, through the usual expedient of telling three people they were the vital eighth drafter, we had overshot the mark. Those of you reading along at home should remember that careful planning can prevent this sort of thing.

We talked about randomly determining who would sit out—fair, but also entirely capricious. In the end, Draft Club hero and MTGO programmer Jason Radabaugh volunteered to step aside—and to record everyone's picks as they were made. There weren't any plans for an article at that point, and without Jason's careful recording, there probably never would have been (or, at the very least, writing it would have been a heck of a lot harder).

All laid out, the 281 (sleeved) cards of Lorwyn looked something like this:

Clockwise from left: stenographer Jason Radabaugh, me (looking delighted about something), Nik Davidson, and Alexis Janson.

We rolled off and got the following pick order (which also, conveniently, provides a list of people in the draft):

  1. Greg Marques
  2. Mark Globus
  3. Kelly Digges
  4. Paul Sottosanti
  5. Alexis Janson
  6. Lee Sharpe
  7. Nik Davidson
  8. Dave Guskin

Greg had the first pick. We all looked at the set. We looked at Greg. We waited. Okay, so it turns out this is pretty tough, huh? After a long pause, but not inappropriate given the magnitude of the choice, Greg grabbed Mirror Entity .

Mirror Entity

Mirror Entity is an undeniable powerhouse, and it has the virtue of fitting into multiple color combinations and any tribe. A fine pick by any standard, and while everyone had their theories, it's hard to call a pick wrong when the options are all five planeswalkers, all five Commands, all five Elemental Incarnations, and every other power card in Lorwyn. Mostly it would come down to preference of color and tribe... and Greg had boldly decided not to stake a claim, preferring to draft reactively. Given that everyone else would get two picks before he got another one, this seemed like a sound strategy.

Next up was Mark Globus, who also opted not to commit to a tribe, instead taking the first of the planeswalkers: Garruk Wildspeaker . Though tribes were still theoretically wide open, Mark pretty firmly pitched his tent in green, a color likely to be underdrafted during the early run on red and black removal. Moreover—and this is hindsight talking here—his clear intent to go green might just have claimed two tribes at once, keeping others out of Elves and Treefolk because they weren't sure which one he'd be fighting them for. And of course, this pick wasn't just about color preference—Garruk is absolutely nuts.

Garruk Wildspeaker

(Don't worry, I won't do this for all 281 cards. I would never skip a chance to present information in a gigantic table. But trust me, each player's first pick deserves some analysis.)

The third seat was unlucky enough to have me in it, and there were still 279 cards left. To say I was baffled was an understatement. I'd discussed all the possible first picks, of course, but the marshmallowy softness of theory had been skewered on the long pointy fork of reality, and was now roasting on the fires of—anyway, terrible metaphors aside, I had no clue what to do. After mulling it over for (I'm told) roughly a day and a half, I settled on Chandra Nalaar .

Chandra Nalaar

There were three things going through my head:

  1. Planeswalkers are insane.
  2. Red has two of my favorite tribes: Elementals and Giants. (What's that you say? Only one each of Smokebraider and Stinkdrinker Daredevil ? Hmmmm.)
  3. Planeswalkers are insane. Also, red has removal, and I'd really like to grab some of that early. Chandra certainly qualifies.

These three things eventually gave way to a different line of thinking:

  1. I'd really better pick something before they all kill me.

Point 2, as you might pick up, was not especially well thought-out. More on that later.

In the fourth seat was Paul Sottosanti, who is well-known around the office for his strong preference for Merfolk in Lorwyn Booster Draft. Bucking some expectations, Paul snapped up Profane Command without much deliberation. Hard to argue with that.

Profane Command

Next up was Alexis Janson, who first-picked Ashling the Pilgrim . I wasn't clear at the time whether she was attempting to claim Elementals, but she told me later that she would have been happy with either Elementals or Giants. Ashling was her pick just based on raw power and aggression, and her plan regardless of tribe was to grab removal and eschew a heavy tribal theme in favor of a low curve, stealing two-drops from various tribes as necessary. Ashling, while probably on a slightly lower power band than the prior first picks, has the benefit of being rather more aggressive.

Ashling the Pilgrim

Of course, this meant that Alexis and I were going to have to sort out pretty quickly who was doing what with red.

Next up was MTGO programmer and longtime DCI judge Lee Sharpe, who grabbed Austere Command .

Austere Command

The Commands offer two kinds of versatility in the early picks of a Rotisserie Draft, each slotting into any deck of the appropriate color and no doubt finding some way or another, out of six possible permutations, of helping that deck out.

As the draft proceeded, the spectacle drew a crowd of interested onlookers. In addition to the drafters, can you spot Randy Buehler, Aaron Forsythe, Devin Low, Brandon Bozzi, Ryan Miller, Matt Place, and Ken Nagle? (Hint: You can't see all of their faces.)

The first six picks had been two planeswalkers, two Commands, and two creatures, and both of the creatures were selected for powerful, game-altering effects rather than any kind of tribal plan. The power cards were getting thinned out with no tribal signals in sight, and that meant that the time was ripe for a few drafters at the end of the lineup to start the "creature type matters" parade.

Nik Davidson made a really bold pick of Wort, Boggart Auntie , making it basically impossible for anyone else to profitably go into Goblins. Unfortunately for him, Wort's two best Goblins buddies, Tarfire and Nameless Inversion , are good in any deck that can pay for them, so he'd have to move fast to snap up the removal before mopping up the rank-and-file Goblins at his leisure.

Wort, Boggart Auntie

Dave Guskin, in the enviable 8-spot, saw his opening, grabbing Wydwen, the Biting Gale and Mistbind Clique on the wheel, making it really impossible for anybody else to go for Faeries.

Wydwen, the Biting Gale
Mistbind Clique

At the Table

And all that? That was just the set-up. There were still 270 cards on the table. And speaking of tables, here's that gigantic one I promised you. You can see the order the cards were picked in by following the arrows, reading gray rows left to right and white rows right to left. You can also see each player's picks in order by reading down the appropriate column, but I'm guessing you figured that part out on your own.

Greg Marques Mark Globus Kelly Digges Paul Sottosanti Alexis Janson Lee Sharpe Nik Davidson Dave Guskin
Mirror Entity Garruk Wildspeaker Chandra Nalaar Profane Command Ashling the Pilgrim Austere Command Wort, Boggart Auntie Wydwen, the Biting Gale
Drowner of Secrets Liliana Vess Thundercloud Shaman Dread Brion Stoutarm Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile Shriekmaw Mistbind Clique
Merrow Reejerey Imperious Perfect Jace Beleren Nameless Inversion Mulldrifter Oblivion Ring Oona's Prowler Sower of Temptation
Summon the School Nath of the Gilt-Leaf Lash Out Eyeblight's Ending Smokebraider Ajani Goldmane Tarfire Cryptic Command
Surgespanner Leaf Gilder Hostility Briarhorn Incendiary Command Purity Final Revels Silvergill Douser
Crib Swap Incremental Growth Moonglove Extract Lignify Consuming Bonfire Militia's Pride Weed Strangle Fathom Trawl
Neck Snap Masked Admirers Aethersnipe Thoughtseize Mudbutton Torchrunner Galepowder Mage Fodder Launch Guile
Avian Changeling Cloudthresher Amoeboid Changeling Cairn Wanderer Inner-flame Igniter Thoughtweft Trio Marsh Flitter Faerie Trickery
Streambed Aquitects Elvish Branchbender Giant Harbinger Timber Protector Incandescent Soulstoke Cloudgoat Ranger Tar Pitcher Scion of Oona
Changeling Hero Fertile Ground Shapesharer Peppersmoke Deathrender Knight of Meadowgrain Changeling Berserker Faerie Harbinger
Forced Fruition Wren's Run Packmaster Fire-Belly Changeling Woodland Changeling Blades of Velis Vel Wizened Cenn Mad Auntie Dreamspoiler Witches
Ponder Vigor Sunrise Sovereign Gilt-Leaf Palace Caterwauling Boggart Plover Knights Boggart Mob Familiar's Ruse
Silvergill Adept Lys Alana Huntmaster Stinkdrinker Daredevil Doran, the Siege Tower Glarewielder Kinsbaile Balloonist Squeaking Pie Sneak Pestermite
Merrow Commerce Wren's Run Vanquisher Heat Shimmer Thorntooth Witch Soulbright Flamekin Goldmeadow Harrier Hurly-Burly Spellstutter Sprite
Wanderwine Prophets Gilt-Leaf Ambush Springleaf Drum Makeshift Mannequin Adder-Staff Boggart Goldmeadow Stalwart Warren Pilferers Whirlpool Whelm
Sygg, River Guide Jagged-Scar Archers Lowland Oaf Mosswort Bridge Inner-flame Acolyte Cenn's Heir Ghostly Changeling Broken Ambitions
Fallowsage Elvish Harbinger Crush Underfoot Cloudcrown Oak Nova Chaser Kithkin Healer Goatnapper Glen Elendra Pranksters
Dolmen Gate Footbottom Feast Axegrinder Giant Dauntless Dourbark Flamekin Spitfire Kinsbaile Skirmisher Nettlevine Blight Thieving Sprite
Harpoon Sniper Fistful of Force Blind-Spot Giant Primal Command Flamekin Bladewhirl Veteran of the Depths Boggart Loggers Merrow Harbinger
Zephyr Net Lys Alana Scarblade Giant's Ire Battlewand Oak Ethereal Whiskergill Hillcomber Giant Boggart Harbinger Eyes of the Wisent
Judge of Currents Changeling Titan Ego Erasure Treefolk Harbinger Needle Drop Kithkin Greatheart Runed Stalactite Scattering Stroke
Paperfin Rascal Rootgrapple Shimmering Grotto Vivid Grove Vivid Crag Springjack Knight Knucklebone Witch Secluded Glen
Stonybrook Angler Spring Cleaning Turtleshell Changeling Vivid Marsh Hoofprints of the Stag Surge of Thoughtweft Skeletal Changeling Vivid Creek
Deeptread Merrow Elvish Eulogist Wanderer's Twig Black Poplar Shaman Flamekin Harbinger Burrenton Forge-Tender Hornet Harasser Immaculate Magistrate
Inkfathom Divers Nath's Elite Tideshaper Mystic Seedguide Ash Vivid Meadow Windbrisk Heights Boggart Sprite-Chaser Shelldock Isle
Glimmerdust Nap Kithkin Daggerdare Hamletback Goliath Epic Proportions Ancient Amphitheater Kithkin Harbinger Boggart Shenanigans Wings of Velis Vel
Protective Bubble Nath's Buffoon Wild Ricochet Oakgnarl Warrior Wanderwine Hub Lairwatch Giant Auntie's Hovel Faerie Tauntings
Pollen Lullaby Warren-Scourge Elf Captivating Glance Sentry Oak Wispmare Triclopean Sight Hunter of Eyeblights Sentinels of Glen Elendra
Battle Mastery Prowess of the Fair Rings of Brighthearth Bog-Strider Ash Horde of Notions Shields of Velis Vel Facevaulter Nightshade Stinger
Thousand-Year Elixir Elvish Handservant Colfenor's Urn Woodland Guidance Ceaseless Searblades Oaken Brawler Quill-Slinger Boggart Spiderwig Boggart
Thorn of Amethyst Lace with Moonglove Hearthcage Giant Boggart Birth Rite Benthicore Gaddock Teeg Elvish Promenade Nectar Faerie
Ringskipper Hunt Down Faultgrinder Arbiter of Knollridge Ingot Chewer Goldmeadow Dodger Mournwhelk Aquitect's Will
Moonglove Winnower Guardian of Cloverdell Favor of the Mighty Lammastide Weave Flamekin Brawler Wellgabber Apothecary Spinerock Knoll Entangling Trap
Scarred Vinebreeder Gilt-Leaf Seer Rebellion of the Flamekin Hoarder's Greed Ashling's Prerogative Soaring Hope Colfenor's Plans Kithkin Mourncaller
Sylvan Echoes Howltooth Hollow Herbal Poultice Heal the Scars Twinning Glass Dawnfluke Exiled Boggart Boggart Forager
              Bog Hoodlums

After-Dinner Discussion

Click on each player's name to read his or her take on the draft, as posted in our shared folder after the fact. We didn't have a well-organized tournament structure—play was as-available that night and over the next few days—but people also shared their records and some game stories.

Greg Marques Mark Globus Kelly Digges Paul Sottosanti
Alexis Janson Lee Sharpe Nik Davidson Dave Guskin

I was the first-picker, and after stalling for what I felt was a little too long I took Mirror Entity . I'm no Paul Sottosanti so I knew I wasn't going to make the best possible pick, I just wanted something that wouldn't embarrass me. In addition I wanted not to pick a red card because I thought that red would be highly contested and I wasn't going to get my second pick for a long time. For much the same reason I also wanted a card that had only one colored mana in its mana cost.

When the picks got back to me the only blue picks were two Faeries. Austere Command and Oblivion Ring were gone from white too, so I decided (partly on the advice of Aaron Forsythe) to stake my claim on merfolk with the wheel picks of Drowner of Secrets and Merrow Reejerey . I followed that with summon the school and surgespanner, effectively locking everyone else out of merfolk. Crib Swap and Neck Snap gave me removal and after that my picks were mostly obvious. I wish I had taken the harbinger instead of Forced Fruition , but other than that I got almost every card I wanted. Dave Guskin stole Silvergill Douser from me, but he did it so early I don't feel I could have gotten it. Perhaps I should have taken it before Surgespanner ? We didn't have a lot of time to pick and I didn't have the set memorized very well yet.

Greg Marques's Blue-White Merfolk

My games went pretty well, I had close losses to Treefolk [Paul] and Elementals [Alexis] (and they're both better players than I am). You know how the Giants match up went.

I do indeed. Greg's efficient Merfolk engine and smattering of bombs annihilated my big, clunky Giant deck. (More on my deck in a bit.)

I intentionally tried to take picks that I thought would be potentially contested earlier (like a mana elf or fertile ground) and left more "powerful" cards (like Vigor ) for later. I think I could have done this a little better as I got almost no removal, but I was happy with the overall result.

The environment has the potential to be fast and two drops are at a premium. I was really happy with picking the Leaf Glider early, but was bummed to miss out on the Woodland Changeling.

Mark Globus's Green-Black Elves

Mark played Elves, going 2-1.

Since it seems like it's basically impossible to lose when you play Profane Command in a game of Limited, I was happy to take that as my first pick. The only problem was that it didn't really set me up in a tribe, and additionally, I really didn't want to draft Elves. This left me hoping for Faeries, but Dave Guskin quickly put an end to that by wheeling Wydwen and Mistbind Clique . Frown.

I followed this up with a reasonably large mistake when I picked Dread . It's a bomb, sure, but it didn't stake out a direction (i.e. tribe), and worse, it pushed me heavily into black, a color that really didn't have any viable tribes left. I briefly considered going mono-black, but quickly realized that the set offers almost no rewards or incentives in that direction, so from this point on I was looking for a second color.

In contrast, I was extremely happy with my next few picks. As I was watching everyone take bomb after bomb, it dawned on me just how important (and scarce) removal was going to be in this format. I made sure to pick up Nameless Inversion , Eyeblight's Ending , Lignify , and Peppersmoke . I also took Thoughtseize , probably a little too quickly, but it seemed like knowledge of my opponent's hand and the discard effect would be even better than normal.

Doran, the Siege Tower
I still didn't have a strong plan on what to do for tribal synergies, but after picking up Briarhorn when it became clear that green was underdrafted, I realized that I was in two of the three colors for Doran, the Siege Tower . That, combined with the fact that all of the Treefolk were untouched, convinced me to take Timber Protector and finally stake out my tribe. After that it was just a matter of protecting the important Treefolk (Doran, Treefolk Harbinger , Thorntooth Witch ) while still picking up contested cards like Woodland Changeling (as a two-drop Treefolk, I felt this was important for my deck).

I also picked lands very highly, based on the theory that my deck would have plenty of playable spells regardless, and I should spend some picks to upgrade the land slots. I was happy with this except that Mosswort Bridge turned out to be mediocre in my deck (Treefolk and power are not a combo), and I might have been better off just playing a Forest .

Some additional mistakes:

  • Not picking Fertile Ground highly enough. I honestly just forgot that this card was even in the set. It would have been perfect in my deck and would have allowed me to cut the Plains and play a Forest instead.
  • Not taking Vigor . I was still stuck on the fact that I had already picked Dread , and supporting two triple-color spells, especially when I was planning on taking Doran, scared me. In hindsight I should have realized that Treefolk encourage you to play heavy green with cards like Battlewand Oak and Dauntless Dourbark , so I would have been better off taking Vigor and just sucking up the embarrassment of cutting my second-pick card.
  • I picked Makeshift Mannequin too highly. I don't think this cost me that much, but for some reason I thought it worked on your opponent's graveyard as well. As it was it wasn't ideal in my deck although it was still worth playing.
  • I missed that Vivid Meadow was still around. I should have taken it after the Marsh because playing that instead of the Plains would have been a nice upgrade.

Paul Sottosanti's Green-Black(-White) Treefolk

As for results, my Treefolk defeated the Elementals [Alexis] and Merfolk [Greg] but lost to the Faeries [Dave] and Elves [Mark]. The matchup against the Faeries, with their quick flying beats backed by counterspells and Sower of Temptation , seemed almost unwinnable. As for the Elves, Dread took on Vigor in Game 1 and emerged victorious, but a slow start in Game 2 and an unopposed Vigor Game 3 spelled doom for the trees.

All in all it was a great time and I'm excited to try it again.

The more I look at my deck the less happy I am with it.

I think the major mistake I made was color choice. I saw Jace still there for my third pick and got greedy. If I'd been paying more attention, though, I'd have seen that a fight was developing over my first color (red), and blue wasn't much better. Meanwhile, white and especially green were clear, and I'd have been better off in one of those. I'm undecided on my first pick (Chandra) and second pick ( Thundercloud Shaman ). Chandra is great but doesn't stake out any kind of strategy (she does so even less than, say, Garruk); Thundercloud Shaman stakes out a bad strategy, even though the card itself is insane and has thus far routinely done sick things for me.

Thundercloud Shaman
I'd also add, having had more time to think about it, that Thundercloud Shaman was a pretty dicey pick right after Alexis grabbed Brion Stoutarm . That signaled her deck choice pretty clearly, and I ignored it at my peril. This was a nice pick on her part, as Brion is good enough that she could just splash him even if I did move into Giants—which, out of sheer love for the Shaman, I did. When I moved into blue, she did too, ensuring that we'd be fighting every step of the way.

I shouldn't have picked Giant Harbinger as early as I did. Nobody was anywhere close to taking my Giants, and I could have more profitably scooped up something like Deathrender —not quite as silly without Brion Stoutarm , but still potentially amazing in what was destined to be a high-curve deck.

In hindsight, grabbing Jace wasn't greedy; it was really greedy. Red-blue is a fine color combination in this format, and while it's normally used for Elementals, I also find that Amoeboid Changeling and Thundercloud Shaman are an amazing team-up. I've even happily run Thundercloud Shaman in Elemental decks as my only Giant, though I sensed that that kind of "synergy" wouldn't quite cut it in Rotisserie. Anyway, Jace was a mistake and blue was a mistake. I should have jumped into white or green, each of which had suffered only two to three picks from one to two players. Given Giant synergies, white was probably the right choice, although green was less drafted at this point—and there's always Elvish Handservant .

Kelly Digges's Red-Blue Giants

While this deck has several of my favorite Lorwyn cards and is capable of some astonishing plays, the same could be said of any Lorwyn Rotisserie deck. In the end, I was effectively hoping to ride one Stinkdrinker Daredevil and one Thundercloud Shaman to victory, with Hostility making some cameo appearances. Compared to some of the other best-case scenarios at the table, this was a weak (but fun) concoction. And even the weakest deck at this table (which mine arguably was) would be capable of some ridiculous moves.

I won pretty easily against Dave Guskin's Faeries, which should have been a very rough matchup for me, by using Thundercloud Shaman to wipe his board at a key moment each game. Our match also illustrated these decks' raw power and propensity for backbreaking plays, as we were able to make each other feel miserably outclassed and hopeless, in succession, within one game. He nabbed my Stinkdrinker Daredevil with Broken Ambitions , winning the clash and milling away something nice (irrelevant, I know, but it's spice for the recipe). I was slumped in my chair, already defeated, and I stayed that way until I suddenly annihilated his board position with Thundercloud Shaman several turns later. Then it was his turn to slump, and he stayed slumped for the rest of the match.

I lost to Greg's Merfolk, as recounted in his section, and also lost to Alexis. Turn-two Ashling the Pilgrim featured prominently in both our games, and the plucky little flamekin got not-so-little in a hurry—a monstrous fattie with a kill-switch backup plan. Yikes.

Hostility
My favorite play was in my match against Nik and his Goblins. Nik beat me 2-1, but the second game provided a moral victory of epic proportions. I had played Hostility the previous turn, but Lorwyn Goblins are great at dying for the cause and coming back for more, and it looked like the 6/6 would have a hard time getting through. Given that my only other creature was Blind-Spot Giant (who currently wasn't doing much), it seemed I was in for a stall.

Then I drew Giant's Ire .

"I'll deal you 4," I told Nik, "by which I mean, put four 3/1s into play."

"Sure—Wait, what?"

Nik is ordinarily a very tight player, but it seemed he'd missed this interaction.

"Okay," I said. "You read Hostility . I'll go get my Elemental tokens..."

After Nik read the friendly card and I fetched the requisite tokens from my desk, I was ready to finish resolving Giant's Ire . The best part? "Attack you for 18... oh, but first I'll draw a card."

Nik graciously invited me to perform a victory lap, which I did with gusto.

Then he smashed me again with Wort. Oh well.

My goal with both Ashling the Pilgrim and Brion Stoutarm was to take good cards that would make my deck regardless of tribe. At the time, I was eyeing Giants more than Elementals, but Kelly quickly cut me off by taking Thundercloud Shaman . Having no good reason to stay in Giants, I snapped up Mulldrifter with the plan of going X-color Elementals. I grabbed Smokebraider to cement that, then spent my next few picks getting the few pieces of removal that were left in the draft.

After that, my main goal was to draft as aggressive a deck as possible. Cards like Blades of Velis Vel and Glarewielder were important picks for that reason. I was pretty satisfied with all of my later picks except Needle Drop , which ended up not making the cut. I was happy to steal Adder-Staff Boggart before Nik got it—two-drops were at quite a premium. I also started grabbing mana fixing far earlier than other players, to ensure my Brion and Mulldrifter would be easy to splash.

Alexis's Red-Blue(-White) Elementals

In the end, I went 4-1, losing only to Paul's Profane Command and Doran, the Siege Tower .

One idea that was discussed was taking Thundercloud Shaman as that sends a strong signal that you're not likely to be fought over. But, being in 6th pick with two of the three drafters in front of me already signaling red, I decided to stick with my favorite color in Magic: White! (I know, a rules guy and judge likes white, go figure.) Since Greg was several seats away and the only other white drafter, this seemed like a good option.

This mostly worked out well for both of us. Greg ended up going for the Merfolk route, where I ended up going for the Kithkin route, which meant there wasn't a lot of overlap. The problem is that we both wanted removal, and I didn't pick it high enough. In hindsight, I'd have taken Crib Swap and Neck Snap over Purity and Militia's Pride , as both probably would have come back to me, especially the Militia's Pride . Instead, Greg ended up with both of these. (In fairness to me, I had planned to take them next.) I was too focused on establishing myself as the (only) non-Merfolk white drafter.

Still, I can't really complain about my deck. It was very good.

Thoughts on the Format: If you have the couple hours it takes to actually run the draft (not to mention the insane prep time of collecting all the cards, so props to Dave Guskin), this is a very fun format. Lorwyn is an interesting set for it, especially since there are eight tribes and eight drafters, but there doesn't end up being the 1:1 correspondence one might expect from this. Also, don't even try being the only black, red, or blue drafter. It just won't happen. As is turns out, removal is good.

I don't think it would be great with a small set, but I'd love to try it again once Shadowmoor is released.

Lee Sharpe's Mono-White Kithkin

The only card I sideboarded in was Burrenton Forge-Tender against Nik, as he was playing red.

MVP: Thoughtweft Trio , that guy is just so good (and I didn't draw Brigid except in one game). Close second is Wizened Cenn .

Unfortunately I only got to play a few people: Nik Davidson (won), Dave Guskin (lost), and Dave Guskin piloting Mark Globus's deck (won)

Favorite Play: Nik controlled a Nova Chaser , championing a Skeletal Changeling , and no other creatures. I attacked him with my Galepowder Mage and used its ability to remove Nova Chaser from the game, which returned Skeletal Changeling to play. Then during my main phase I played Oblivion Ring to remove his Skeletal Changeling from the game, so when Nova Chaser returned to play, he was forced to sacrifice it as he had nothing to champion. Not often you get to kill two creatures with an Oblivion Ring ...

I feel like I had an excellent high-level plan (make a tribe-statement first pick, then aggressively take on-color, out-of-tribe cards in picks 2-6) but middling-to-poor execution, especially in my middle picks. I let a few cards get away from me that I shouldn't have, especially Adder-Staff Boggart , Footbottom Feast , and Boggart Birthright.

I'll let scholars debate post-Wort pick two Shriekmaw vs. Nameless Inversion , but I feel that especially with the inclusion of Changeling Berserker , I took the right card.

Although I'm firmly on the Nameless Inversion side of the debate, I think Dave Guskin said it best in his post "One Scholar's Opinion":

Regarding Shriekmaw vs. Nameless Inversion post-Wort:
lol no u r dumb

(Just kidding, I think I could have gone either way with that crazy-black-removal pick!)

Nik Davidson's Red-Black Goblins

I don't know what Nik's record ended up being, but he definitely beat me and lost to Paul, and I believe he also lost to Alexis.

Cryptic Command
Personally, I loved the draft. I spent a while beforehand considering and talking over with fellow drafters what the highest picks might be (the red and green planeswalkers, Mirror Entity , the white and black Commands, and the high-pick Faerie, Giant and Elemental cards) and what a wheeling player (1st or 8th) would want to do. I ended up drawing 8th position in the draft, so I was very reactive in my strategy. When the picking got to me, no one had picked very tribal cards yet, so I went for a heavy Faerie strategy—picking Mistbind Clique and Wydwen first, and then Sower of Temptation . I think I made a mistake picking Cryptic Command over Final Revels since my deck really could have used a sweeper effect, but I think I did very well for myself since I got all of the counterspells.

I think that it didn't really feel just like "8 people, 8 tribes" because people definitely focused early on raw power outside of tribal effects (except for the wheelers, Greg's Merfolk and my Faeries). It would be great to try it again with only 6 drafters, to see how that changes things, though. Some interesting behavior emerged out of the draft. Players tended to identify the kind of thing other players were picking (strong tribal cards, removal, fixing, evasion, etc.) and moved in to pick similar kinds of picks at the same time. Counterdrafts / defensive drafts seemed to happen much more frequently than sideboard cards drafted.

Dave Guskin's Blue-Black Faeries

I played against a bunch of people:

I also played with Mark Globus's deck against Lee, and lost, possibly because I wasn't playing it properly.

My favorite play was vs. Greg, when he had Deeptread Merrow and Surgespanner vs. my Dreamspoiler Witches . The turn after he had played Surgespanner , I had played Sower of Temptation to steal it, but he fired back a Crib Swap to take it back. He played Protective Bubble on his Surgespanner while I had up, but rather than Faerie Trickery it, I instead allowed it to resolve. He attacked with Surgespanner and targeted my Dreamspoiler Witches to return, but I played Scion of Oona to both give my Faerie shroud (countering his bounce) and kill his 2/1 with the Witches trigger. The rest of the game, his only creature target for Surgespanner was my Scion, which just meant I could retrigger the Witches with the flashed in Scion!

Just Desserts

Eyeblight's EndingWhen all was said and done, we reached a few points of consensus about the format:

  • This took way too long. The draft portion of the event took two and a half hours, and that's hardly optimal for a Thursday night. However, it went much faster as the draft went on. Part of that was certainly the picks getting easier (though mine didn't feel any easier until the very end—remember, 75 cards is still a lot to choose from), but I think part of it was us getting accustomed to thinking about our picks during downtime and having first, second, and third choices ready in case the cards we were hoping for got picked. If we'd budgeted a whole Saturday for this event rather than a Thursday night, it would have been much more relaxed.
  • Seats 1 and 8 seem stronger than the others because they get to wheel. However, our best records came from players in the middle, and there's no elegant way to move the wheel without hobbling someone else. In the end, we've mostly agreed that the system works the way it is.
  • Rotisserie Draft is fun! The decks are really powerful, and we got to play with the themes of the set and see them pushed in different directions than they are in Booster Draft (where you're statistically rather more likely to wind up with doubles of Smokebraider , Mulldrifter , and Aethersnipe than to draft Profane Command , Dread , Doran, the Siege Tower , and Timber Protector in a single deck). Playing Limited with so many rares—and, relatively speaking, so few commons—leads to whole different challenges and rewards. And, as Noah Weil pointed out in one of his early Limited Information articles, it's also a way to get more familiar with the rares in the set in order to better evaluate them when you see them.
  • With as much drafting as we do, putting the set together was easier than you might expect. (Easy for us to say, of course, since Dave did most of the work.) Best of all, all 281 cards made it back to their rightful owners.
  • Even though we did end up with eight moderately tribal decks when all was said and done, the process of getting to those decks was an interesting one—much more interesting than the game of "Okay, who wants to be Faeries?" that we'd worried about. (You could say the same about Lorwyn Booster Draft, actually, which is never divvied up cleanly.)
  • Rotisserie Draft is hard. We're all quite certain we picked suboptimally at some point or another, and some of us feel our whole strategy was flawed. With so many cards to choose from, a "perfect" Rotisserie Draft would be a tall order. Of course, picking it all apart afterward was part of the fun. You may want to consider skipping that portion of the event after checking it against your definition of "fun."

The plays were crazy and the games were tremendous fun, but in the end my mind is still stuck on the draft. I keep replaying it in my head, wondering where I zigged when I should have zagged. And the number of options for each player at any given pick is staggering. I'd be curious to hear your take... What did we do right? What did we do wrong?

And that central question of armchair Rotisserie: What's your first pick?

Special thanks are due once again to Nik Davidson, Mark Globus, Dave Guskin, Alexis Janson, Greg Marques, Lee Sharpe, and Paul Sottosanti for drafting and for sharing their recollections (and pictures!). Accolades are also due to everyone else who contributed cards to the Lorwyn Rotisserie set and didn't get to participate: Eric Berglund, Alan Comer, Ken Nagle, Mike Turian, and Brian Tinsman, with additional help scrounging up commons and uncommons from the Web Dev team (Cort, Cara, Roya, and Don). Most importantly, a billion megaprops (that's a thousand billion props, for those of you keeping score at home) go to Jason Radabaugh for not only contributing cards to the draft set but recording everyone's picks, which yielded the pick table, an easy way to get the deck lists, and a whole lot of interesting analysis. A special tip of the hat also to Ken Nagle, who typed up Jason's notes for us.

* Collector numbers are sorted by color / type in the order white, blue, black, red, green, multicolored, hybrid, split cards, artifacts, and lands, with some wacky exceptions for "timeshifted" cards, monocolored splits, and other (mostly Time Spiral–related) oddities. Bearing in mind that blue is abbreviated as U and multicolored as Z for some reason, you can remember all this by the handy mnemonic "WUBRGZHSAL, and sometimes one or more Ts and additional Ss somewhere in there."

Or, on second thought, you could really just look at the collector numbers.

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