A Tempestuous Week Awaits

Posted in Perilous Research on April 30, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

We're just six days away from the release of Tempest Remastered on Magic Online. Tempest Remastered is a Magic Online-only set designed to improve the Limited play experience for a set many players hold near and dear to their hearts. Old favorites like City of Traitors, Counterspell, Nomads en-Kor, Intuition, Humility, Dream Halls, Meditate, Mox Diamond, Cursed Scroll, and others are ready to be cracked open and added to your digital collection. The most exciting prospect of Tempest Remastered is the opportunity to draft with one of the most iconic blocks in Magic's history.

What is Tempest Remastered?

Tempest Remastered reduces the card pool from Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus down to a single set with altered rarities to maximize the Draft experience. It's a similar concept to Vintage Masters, which was easily my favorite Magic Online experience ever. It's hard to imagine a project worked on by Adam Prosak, Dan Emmons, Ian Duke, Bryan Hawley, Tom LaPille, and Ryan Span being anything less than phenomenal. I've always considered Tempest Limited to be one of my greatest misses as a Magic player, and this is my opportunity to enter the Tempest arena as a vetted Planeswalker.

I've been playing Magic for as long as I can remember, but my first draft was Urza's Saga. I remember the release of Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus. My mom drove me to a local card store and I bought packs. I cracked a Cursed Scroll in my first Tempest Starter Deck (back then Starter Decks were somewhat random packs of 60 or so cards) and I put it in my Red deck despite the objection of my brother and his friends who insisted it wasn't good enough. Their minds were changed very quickly.

The story of Rath block (Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus) immerses us in a captivating world. The books from the Rath cycle were some of the first actual novels that I read on my own. My younger brother and I would pretend that we were Gerard and Tahngarth as we fought off invisible minions of Volrath's army in our quest to find the pieces of the Legacy Weapon.

To me, Rath cycle will always be the original Magic story. The characters were a part of my childhood as much as the superheroes in my comics or the players on my favorite sports teams.

Gerrard's Battle Cry | Art by Val Mayerik

I was young, though, and I wasn't the wizard I am today. My experience with Magic at that point was, essentially, just playing against: my brothers, our friends, another kid on the playground during recess, or at the town pool during summer.

The following year, I would be introduced to Draft and my world would be forever changed. There were so many things to think about, "What's the best card for my deck? What's the best card in the pack? What colors are the people around me taking? What cards can I expect to come back?"

Draft was the most difficult mental puzzle I had ever been presented with and I was determined to keep progressing. The people around me would recall drafting Tempest block and talk about the tremendous push and pull between calculated aggression with shadow creatures, and strong inevitability from the buyback mechanic. I wished I had the chance, but it never happened.

But that changes now!

So, we're going to have the opportunity to draft Rath block. I'm already going to bed with strategies for the draft dancing around in my head. Let's discuss some core strategy for drafting Tempest Remastered in preparation for next week's events.


Normally, we have flying creatures and the occasional unblockable body, but Tempest throws another variable into the mix. Shadow is especially interesting because creatures with shadow cannot block creatures without shadow. This means a deck with all shadow creatures will essentially be facing off against an unblockable army when playing against opponents without shadow creatures. Shadow will dictate a lot when we're drafting—it encourages specific color combinations, diminishes in power level depending on what we pass, and forces action to reward the players with the best race-math chops.

Flying creatures get better when we have shadow around. The slots taken by creatures with shadow mean there's less room for flyers in the set and usually means that flying creatures will often be near the top of our curve as Angels or Dragons.

Healthy bodies without text boxes have a weird kind of evasion in Tempest Remastered. Most white, blue, and black drafters will have a few two-drops with shadow; and a lot of the time they'll have no inexpensive creatures without it. This makes a vanilla Grizzly Bears better than it might be in a lot of formats. Securing two-drops is always good, but it's even better when it's unblockable until the fourth or fifth turn a lot of the time, and by then we'll get to use combat tricks to continue applying pressure.

Toughness gets worse in a world of cheap evasion. Normally, we'd be happy to play 1/4s and 2/5s with no text, but those cards should be avoided and thought of as sideboard options against decks with a lot of 3/1s, 2/1s, and 1/1s that don't have shadow.

Tempestuous Tricks!

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

It probably goes without saying, but make sure you write down the buyback cards your opponent returns to their hand. It's never fun to lose a card to a trick, but losing to the same trick twice is especially gross. Remembering what cards your opponent has used buyback on can be used to our advantage. When paying buyback, the opponent is forced to use a lot of mana. This opens up opportunities for us to make big plays without fear of repercussion. For example, if our opponent already won a trade with Anoint paying buyback, then we can make a block that would encourage them to use it again and punish them with a card like Gallantry.

Speaking of Gallantry, Tempest has a lot of weird tricks that have the potential to be very powerful, but also present the opponent with an opportunity to gain a big advantage. If our opponent has been attacking us with their Wind Drake and then it suddenly stays back when we cast a fatty boom-boom on the ground, then we can be pretty sure we're looking at Smite or Gallantry and play accordingly.

Color Combinations

The added form of evasion in Tempest Remastered makes the un-played cards we pick much more important. By cornering a market of a certain kind of evasion, we'll be guaranteed to have an edge on the competition. White is the most powerful shadow color and combining it with black forces the drafters around us to play into our strategy. Blue offers us a lot of card advantage that combines best alongside red and/or black removal spells that can deal with creatures regardless of what type of evasion they have. Remember, blocking is worse in Tempest Remastered, and cards that change race math are generally better. Black has a lot of aggression and removal, but there's also a healthy amount of card advantage available that makes the color combine well with any other. Red gives us good cheap removal and generally combines well with card draw and fatties, making blue and green the best counterparts. Green has most of the set's beef and generally combines best alongside colors that can weather early aggression, like red and black.

Tempest Remastered will be available in less than a week. Don't miss your opportunity to play with cards from one of Magic's most iconic blocks!

Knowledge is power!

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