Enough is Enough

Posted in Limited Information on February 15, 2011

By Steve Sadin

It isn't that difficult to get enough playable cards to fill out your Mirrodin Besieged/Scars of Mirrodin draft deck.

In my first draft pod at Pro Tour Paris I started off my draft with five picks in five different colors. Each time, the card that I took was significantly better than the next best card in the pack, so I didn't hesitate at all before making my picks.

(Well, I got a little bit nervous before the fifth pick—but can you really blame me? It's like when you are filling out a multiple choice test and you answer B five times in a row, you suddenly begin to doubt your answer—even if you have no real reason to do so.)

Did I end up with a great deck? No.

Did I end up with a very competitive deck? Yes.

Pro Tour Paris Draft Deck

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My first three picks in this draft were actually Cryptoplasm, Spread the Sickness and Blisterstick Shaman—yet I wound up drafting a green-white deck.

How did this happen?

I didn't have that many playable cards in any given color at the end of my Mirrodin Besieged pack. But, since it really isn't that difficult to pick up playable cards to round your deck out with, I felt no need to take anything marginal and "on-color" in the first pack when I could instead take cards that are actively good in other colors.

So when I had a chance to take Divine Offering over a bunch of inconsequential cards, I, of course, jumped on it. When I was then presented with a pack that contained Tangle Mantis and, once again, nothing that I really cared about in any of the four colors that I had already taken picks in—it wasn't very hard for me to go for the trampler.

Divine Offering
Tangle Mantis

Yes, signaling is important—but it is also very important to be able to read signals and to feel out the draft. If you get passed a pack with nothing but marginal cards in your color(s)—you shouldn't feel at all obligated to take one of them.

I do wish that I had been able to pick up a couple more removal spells and/or tricks for this deck, but they simply weren't there. I would frequently 'board in my Spread the Sickness or my Shatter and Crush, but other than the removal spells that I took I didn't have the chance to take any (it's pretty likely that I should have started my Spread the Sickness, but during deck-building I was concerned with going too low on green sources and thus being unable to reliably cast Tangle Mantis on turn three or four).

Did I do this draft perfectly? No—I am sure that there are things that I could have done better, and it's quite likely that I could have gone in an entirely different direction and wound up with something pretty absurd.

Not to make any excuses for myself, but this is a pretty new draft format and, while I am sure they existed, I simply didn't see any viable "outside the box" possibilities.

Taking my own limitations into account (it's really difficult to draft a new set properly even if you've been preparing to draft it at a Pro Tour for a couple of weeks), the biggest problems that I had with my deck were pretty unavoidable.

Bad Cards

Some cards get a bad rap because they don't work too well when paired with other "good cards." But sometimes, if you have a deck full of "bad cards" you will find that they actually work quite well together.

In my first draft at Paris, my deck had a number of "bad cards" in it. Loxodon Wayfarer and Barbed Battlegear are much more likely to find their way into peoples' sideboards than they are to end up in a starting forty. But when you pair them together, they both get a lot better.

Loxodon Wayfarer's 1/5 body helps you buy time—time that you can then use to cast and equip your Barbed Battlegear to make your previously innocuous 1/5 into a fearsome 5/4.

A 5/4 can attack for a ton, and it can trade with everything up to, and including, Alpha Tyrranax (roaaaaaar!).

Both Loxodon Wayfarer and Barbed Battlegear are quite a bit better when they are fighting side by side with Tangle Mantis (of which I had two).

Our esteemed editor Kelly Digges 3-1'ed a draft with some other members of the coverage team at Pro Tour Paris with a blue-black mill control deck built around Shriekhorn.




Kelly Digges' Shriekhorn Special

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Would I recommend trying to draft a deck like this? Definitely not—but if you have the chance to pick up some of the components on the cheap—there's no reason not to, at the very least, keep your options open.

When Kelly started his draft off with a Black Sun's Zenith, he had no intention of drafting a Shriekhorn / Screeching Silcaw mill deck. But when he picked up a Vedalken Infuser, two Quicksilver Geysers (which can, amongst other things, be used to reset Shriekhorns), and three Shriekhorns—the possibility was definitely open.

Black Sun's Zenith
Vedalken Infuser

When Kelly then picked up a Contagion Clasp, a Trinket Mage and a bunch of late Screeching Silcaws, there was no reason for him not to go for it. A Grindclock in the third pack only served to make things better for Kelly.

This deck doesn't kill all that quickly—but that isn't necessarily a problem. It has plenty of good ways to stall a game out and it can easily trump most other slow control strategies.

Aggressive decks, however, can pose quite a threat to this deck. But even if an opponent got off to a blazing fast start, Kelly could sweep the board away with his Black Sun's Zenith.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this type of deck is that it doesn't mulligan particularly well. If Kelly mulliganed and found himself looking at a hand of two Screeching Silcaws, a Quicksilver Geyser and three lands—he would have a pretty tough decision on his hands.

The reason why the deck doesn't mulligan very well is because it requires a lot of different pieces working in conjunction with one another for it to function properly.

An isolated Shriekhorn does next to nothing. Even two Shriekhorns don't do much of anything (two Shriekhorns leads to a turn twenty-one kill via decking—which is hardly worth two cards).

You aren't going to get the cards for a Shirekhorn mill deck in every draft—but once in a while it just might come together for you.

When You Don't Get Infect

In my second draft at Pro Tour Paris, I started things off with two Blightwidows and a Spread the Sickness—not a bad way to start off a draft, if I do say so myself.

At this point I really wanted to be infect—but I knew that, despite being passed two consecutive cards that are awesome in black-green infect, there was no guarantee that I would be able to do so.

After my third pick, the infect cards dried up. I picked up some good support cards such as Viridian Claw and Piston Sledge, but I wound up rounding out the pack with non-infect creatures such as Dross Ripper, and the criminally undervalued Fangren Marauder.

With only two infect creatures by the end of my Mirrodin Besieged pack, it was pretty clear that I probably wasn't going to be able to go infect as at least one (and likely multiple) player(s) to my right were cutting me off on infect.

I spent the rest of the draft grabbing good creatures, acceleration, and removal spells—ultimately ending up with a slightly underwhelming, but still passable, black-green dinosaur deck.

Dinosaur Draft

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My plan A didn't come together—but I didn't need to work too hard to shift gears away from infect into dinosaurs.

The key was that I realized before I got into pack two that I wouldn't be able to draft a good infect deck—so I didn't have to waste any picks trying to do so.

Note that it can be incredibly costly to spend too much time trying to draft infect. I have no problem taking infect creatures (or anything with a sizable amount of upside) over marginal cards—but when I instead have to take Plague Stingers or even lowly Contagious Nims over solid cards like Instill Infection—then things can get bad pretty fast if I don't end up with enough infectors to reliably poison my opponents to death.

Instead of taking a Contagious Nim (which would have spent the draft collecting dust in my sideboard), I took Molder Beast. Instead of taking Throne of Geth (which could theoretically help me inflict those last few poison counters on my opponents), I instead took Alpha Tyrranax.

I ultimately wound up with exactly as many big creatures as I needed for my deck to function properly. If I had missed out on that Alpha Tyrranax and that Molder Beast, I would probably have had quite a bit of difficulty actually killing my opponents.

Picks That You Can't Waste

It's important to distinguish between important and relatively insignificant picks.

It's pretty obvious why picking up cards for a Shriekhorn deck tenth to fourteenth pick, as Kelly did last weekend, won't cost you too much. When Kelly was grabbing his Shriekhorns and Screeching Silcaws, he was taking them over completely inconsequential cards—so he was only getting upside out of picks that would otherwise have just gone to waste.

While you shouldn't feel a need to stay on color with your fourth or sixth pick (if there is a particularly good option in another color), you should be aware of when deviating from your core strategy can be quite deadly.

An additional infect creature can be awesome for you ... if you are actually able to build an infect deck.

But if you don't end up with an infect deck—and you passed on a big creature that you would otherwise need to make your non-infect deck reasonable—then you could be in a lot of trouble when it comes time to play out your matches.

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