Common Pitfalls in Shadowmoor Booster Draft

Posted in Limited Information on June 17, 2008

By Steve Sadin

Hey friends. The last couple of weeks have been pretty rough for me.

Rewind to Sunday at PT–Hollywood. I had been dealing with a pretty bad blister on my left foot for a couple of days, and it finally got to the point where I couldn't walk on it without it hurting me a lot.

So I hobbled over to the pharmacy and grabbed a needle, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a bottle of tea tree oil to sterilize things. I lanced the blister as safely and sterilely as possible, but I don't think that I bandaged it well enough. A few hours later my foot had swelled up to close to twice its normal size. After thinking about it for a bit I decided that I would go to a hospital if it didn't take care of itself quickly.

So what did I do while I was waiting to see if I needed to go to the hospital? I did what anyone else in my situation would have done.

I drafted.

Engineered_PlagueAs you probably already know, the problem didn't take care of itself, and a little bit later I found myself in the hospital with a staph infection. I spent the better part of the next 12 days in the hospital, missing GP–Birmingham in the process, but fortunately I'm not going to suffer any sort of long-term damage.

It's still going to take me a little while to get back to 100%, but I am certainly on the mend, and, barring any further complications, I have been cleared to travel to GP–Indianapolis (Limited, yes!) and GP–Buenos Aires this month.

I would like to thank everyone who sent me get-well wishes, and a special thanks to Dane Young and Jacob Van Lunen, who did a great job filling in for me while I was out of commission. They are both great guys and very talented writers so, needless to say, I hope to see more of their work in the future.

Shadowmoor Booster Draft Shouldn't Feel Scary

While talking to people, including people with considerable Grand Prix and Pro Tour success, who have had little exposure to Shadowmoor Booster Draft, I've gotten the sense that a lot of people feel intimidated by the wealth of decisions that you face when drafting the format.

Movies like The Strangers are scary, certainly too scary for me. But drafting Shadowmoor shouldn't be scary.

Too scary!

Is drafting Shadowmoor interesting? Yes. Is drafting Shadowmoor different? Definitely! Is drafting Shadowmoor scary? No way!

If anything, I would argue that Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide was actually a very scary format to draft. If you tried to draft, say, an Elf deck, but there were too many people at your table also trying to draft Elf decks, and you didn't realize this in time, you could end up being absolutely helpless once it came time to play your matches. In fact, that was exactly what happened to me in my first draft at Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur. You can read about how I let that happen to me here.

The stakes were very high in Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide Booster Draft, and that was one of the things that I enjoyed most about the format. If you were wrong about what type of deck you should be drafting, and you didn't realize it in time, you were in big trouble. But if you were right, and you were able to figure out what type of deck you were supposed to be drafting, then you could be getting a steady stream of first- and second-pick quality cards (for your deck) on your fifth, sixth, and even seventh pick, cards that you would then use to mop the floor with your opponents.

Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide was very intense, and a lot of fun. Shadowmoor Booster Draft presents us with a completely different set of problems to tackle. In Lorwyn / Lorwyn / Morningtide, you were trying to maximize all of your synergies while putting together powerful tribal decks. In Shadowmoor Booster Draft, the goals aren't as clearly defined. All that you need to do to win is try to put together the best deck possible.

Flourishing Defenses
Of course, this means something different every draft. For example, I could be trying to get enough red-green hybrid creatures to make sure that my Runes of the Deus work properly. I could be trying to get enough -1/-1 counter cards to make my Flourishing Defenses work properly. I could be trying to get enough Memory Sluices and Drowner Initiates to put together a mill deck. I could be looking for Pili-Palas to combo with my Power of Fires and Presence of Gonds. Or I could simply be looking for a bunch of good defensive white and blue cards to give me time to kill my opponents with evasion creatures such as Watchwing Scarecrow.

Because of the enormous wealth of playable cards—especially playable hybrid cards—in Shadowmoor, you are almost always going to end up with a deck that is filled with cards that you are happy to play, even if you switch colors midway through the draft.

This is a really cool feature of the format, because it means that you can try things out and not get punished for experimenting. Let's say that you spend a few early picks trying to put together a -1/-1 counter deck based around Blowfly Infestation and Flourishing Defenses, but you don't get enough -1/-1 counter cards to make it work properly. No problem! Most of the time, you are still going to end up with a very competitive deck. But if you do get the right cards to make your Blowfly Infestation + Flourishing Defenses deck work properly, then oh boy, are your opponents in trouble.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Shadowmoor Booster Draft is that it is a very forgiving draft format. In fact, because it is so easy to get a competitive deck, you actually want to take more chances early on in an effort to end up with a ridiculous deck. You should feel safe with the knowledge that even if things go "bad" you will still be okay.

That being said, there are still a lot of places where people can trip up when drafting the format. Today I want to address some of the most common pitfalls that I've noticed people fall into when drafting Shadowmoor.

There's a Big Difference between Scar and Ashenmoor Gouger

Ashenmoor Gouger

Both of these cards are black-red hybrid, but that's about where the similarities end. Both of these cards can be played easily in a mono-black deck, a mono-red deck, or a black-red deck. Scar can be played easily in a deck with red or black mana available, but Ashenmoor Gouger is borderline unplayable in the majority of decks that combine red or black with another color.

If a card has a single hybrid mana in its mana cost, it is very easily playable by anyone with a mind to do so. If a card has two hybrid mana symbols in its mana cost, then you are going to be able to reliably play it by turn three or four in your two-color deck that only has one of the appropriate land types.

When a card (like Ashenmoor Gouger) has three or more hybrid mana symbols in its casting cost... well, things get a bit tricky. If you are playing, say, 10 Swamps and 7 Islands and you have an Ashenmoor Gouger, then you should expect to be able to play Ashenmoor Gouger by about the fifth turn.

When you are talking about a 4/4 that can't block, there is a huge difference between playing it on the third turn and playing it on the fifth turn. While I might still play Ashenmoor Gouger in my blue-black deck if I were pressed for cards, the drop-off in quality is huge.

You Don't Have to Be Two Colors

Just because you have a Wasp Lancer doesn't mean you have to play blue-black. What it does mean is that if you intend to play Wasp Lancer you are going to want to have a lot of Islands and/or Swamps in your deck.

Unlike Ashenmoor Gouger, which gets way worse if you can't play it early, Wasp Lancer will still be a good play at almost any stage of the game. While you wouldn't really want to wait until turn six or seven to play a 4/4 that can't block, waiting until you get deep into the game to play a 3/2 flier is certainly reasonable. That being said, you still want to have a lot of Islands and/or Swamps for your Wasp Lancer. A turn-three 3/2 flier can go a long way toward winning the game for you completely on its own.

To get back to my original point about not needing to play blue-black to get the most out of your Wasp Lancer, let's say that it's midway through the first pack and you have already drafted a Wasp Lancer, an Inkfathom Infiltrator, a Turn to Mist, a Consign to Dream, and a Faerie Macabre. You then get passed a pack where Plumeveil is far and away the best card.

Wasp Lancer

At this point, one of the first things that pops into my head is that I am now looking to draft a mono-blue deck, possibly splashing a bit of white or black (or both).

I would say that at least one third, and probably closer to one half, of the drafts that I do end with me playing a nearly mono-colored deck, often splashing two colors.

You Don't Have to Know What Colors You Are Playing...

...until the third pack, or even the end of the draft.

Yes, you read that right.

I have done a number of drafts where I thought I was playing one set of colors when the draft ended, but actually wound up playing a different set.

Prison Term
Sometimes this is a slight difference, such as thinking that I would be able to splash Power of Fire in my black-green deck but then realizing that it would make more sense to splash Consign to Dream instead because I had a Wasp Lancer that I wanted to play. But other times this can be a pretty dramatic difference, such as finding that you are playing white-black with a little bit of blue instead of blue-black. In fact, that very thing happened to me in a draft last week.

I picked up a Prison Term and a Spectral Procession early, but I didn't see many more white-only cards for the rest of the draft. Instead of drafting white-only cards, I drafted a Consign to Dream, a bunch of black cards, and a bunch of white-blue or blue-black hybrid cards. When I was getting ready to lay out my deck, I didn't have any question in my mind as to what colors my deck would be.

Of course it would be blue-black!

Of course it wasn't!

It turned out that I could play every one of my good blue cards, except for Consign to Dream, with either black mana or white mana. So switching my deck to white-black splashing blue allowed me to play my Prison Term, and get a lot more mileage out of my Spectral Procession, at practically no cost. While I could definitely have wound up with a slightly better deck if I had realized at some point during the third pack that I was going to be playing with Plains, I wound up with a better deck than I would have had I never noticed that it was right to play Plains.

Another brief example:

In the last draft that I did, I was fortunate enough to open Incremental Blight in the first pack, but I didn't end up getting very many black-only cards during the first two packs. Going into the third pack I was convinced that I was going to be base blue splashing for Incremental Blight and Power of Fire.

This all changed when I opened Demigod of Revenge in the third pack.

In the end I wound up playing a base black deck splashing for Power of Fire and Consign to Dream. I got to play practically every good card that I had, including the bombtastic duo of Demigod of Revenge and Incremental Blight, and I had a mana base that consisted of 13 Swamps, 2 Islands, and 2 Mountains, which allowed me to easily play all of my spells.

Demigod of Revenge
Incremental Blight

So keep your eyes peeled. It's never too late to realize what colors you are actually in!

What Misconceptions Have You Noticed?

I've pointed out some of the common pitfalls that I've seen people fall into when drafting Shadowmoor, but I want to know what problems you have encountered or noticed people encounter when drafting the format.

Limited Tournament Watch

This weekend is Grand Prix–Indianapolis, the second and final Shadowmoor-only Limited Grand Prix. I missed out on Grand Prix–Brussels (the previous Shadowmoor-only Limited GP) because of school commitments, so I'm hoping to make the most of my opportunity to play the format in a premier event.

Keep in mind that Grand Prix–Madrid is also Shadowmoor Limited, but not just Shadowmoor. The event falls on the same weekend as the release of Eventide, so players will get the opportunity to play a completely unexplored format at what is sure to be one of the largest tournaments of the year.

Oh, and for those of you who are hungry for walkthroughs, I need a little bit of prep time, so it probably won't be ready for next week's article, but get ready for a special walkthrough coming up soon courtesy of Magic Online III.

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