Wacky Winchester

Posted in Serious Fun on July 17, 2012

Sometimes you just have the urge. It's like a dark voice or passenger in your brain, whispering what it wants, demanding to be served.

"Open the booster packs, Adam."

Like a siren's call I'm drawn to foil-wrapped mystery packages. But I've learned to resist, thankfully without any rope required. Pure discipline isn't enough, but the idea of using them later is.

Smite the Monstrous | Art by Jason Felix

Thank Urza for Tom LaPille. "What does an ex-writer of Latest Developments have to do with having fun?" is a poor question. Part of development's job is to ensure that Magic is pleasant, enjoyable, and engaging for everyone playing.

A more concrete answer is Winchester Draft, something Tom shared during his tenure writing weekly. It's a fabulous, fun, and funky two-player way to draft. I shared why Winchester is awesome last year, and I've been continuously running it since.

While it would be easy to just grab some packs of Avacyn Restored or, now, Magic 2013 and do it all over again, I wanted to touch on something a little different. Many of you were able to attend a Magic 2013 Prerelease two weeks ago, or perhaps jumped into Friday Night Magic in last week's release events. When I have such opportunities, I'm sometimes fortunate enough to take home a booster pack or two.

While three packs is the magic number for joining other players in a more traditional draft, Winchester requires six. The difficulty there, of course, is getting six of the same type of packs. Some of you can support your local game store and pick up the balance of whatever you need. Others might not be interested in doing that. And there are those of you who, like me, enjoy finding more esoteric booster packs.

That last option is an open road you might want to travel.

    Let's Get Wacky

It goes by a few names, but "Wacky Draft" is pretty self-descriptive: take whatever draft style you want, but choose booster packs from a wide range of possibilities. Whether they are some your store put on sale, you pick from a selection you have hanging around, or you draw randomly from a bag, Wacky Draft is an excellent way to put random packs you pick up to good use. (Wink, wink.)

There are six very different booster packs pictured here: Innistrad, Mirrodin Besieged Phyrexian Faction pack (from the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease), Time Spiral, Ravnica, Darksteel, and Urza's Destiny. These are all drawn from my own collection of assorted packs I've acquired over the years. (If I wanted to be extra daring I could have pulled out six packs of Saviors of Kamigawa I'm saving. I decided it would be more fun for everyone with disparate choices.)

As per usual, Craig and I met up for some Magic over lunch. I didn't warn him we'd be drafting something other than the last few packs of Avacyn Restored I had, but he was more than happy to oblige.

If you want to see how the piles were picked, you have it here. If skipping down to the decks and duels is preferred, you can do that too.

Whispersilk Cloak seemed like an easy pick here.

Craig smartly grabbed the pile with the creature that could kill the Cloak: Viridian Corrupter.


Three black cards, one that is the ancestor to Undead Executioner and another that returns two creatures to my hand, was also an easy pick.

Craig's choice of more poison in Tine Shrike and Core Prowler wasn't surprising, but I doubted that poison was going to be his entire deck.

Plague Dogs and Plated Spider are reasonably sized and add to my removal arsenal, with Greater Forgeling being better than bad.

Craig went for "the value pile," as we call them: the biggest pile that's often filled with a gem and plenty of rough to fish it out of. Both Fuel for the Cause and Moldgraf Monstrosity seemed like powerful cards to be packing, and Feebleness can do a fair impression of a removal spell.

Tangle Hulk, Goliath Beetle, and Viridian Acolyte are all fine green creatures, counting the Hulk's regeneration cost. I decided to fight for green and black, leaving the incredible Opposition out for Craig.

Opposition is "a little good" as they say. Craig firmly declared he was in blue, and took a commanding card to use.

Brimstone Volley and Spidery Grasp are excellent removal spells, and Phyrexian Monitor has an aggressive regeneration cost. At this point I felt very comfortable with where my deck was going.

I was sad but unsurprised when Craig picked up another value pile, with a pack-fresh Watery Grave on top.

This was a very happy pick for me, as I both grabbed a powerful bomb (Phyrexian Juggernaut) and a powerful removal spell (Brainspoil) and incidentally cut from Craig two sweet blue cards. I countered his frown by pointing to Opposition.

I caught a smirk return to his face when I looked away.

Craig returned the favor and gladly picked up a little color fixing in Gemhide Sliver. Bump in the Night would have been an excellent card for me.

Transluminant was likely to make my deck, but Castle Raptors and Curse of the Nightly Hunt are both powerful in their own right.

Tattered Drake and Boros Garrison signaled to us that Ravnica was definitely in these packs, but both cards were promising to serve Craig well.

Keldon Vandals and Doomed Traveler were two cards I was happy to take from Craig since there wasn't much else available for me.

Battleground Geist. Just what Craig needed!

Bubbling Beebles and Runic Repetition weren't likely going to make it into my forty, but Grizzled Outcasts definitely would.

Suq'Ata Lancer and Smite the Monstrous were the nice pieces of a puzzle Craig was just getting to putting together. Test of Faith isn't too shabby either.

Two creatures at two mana, Viridian Emissary and Pit Keeper, as well as two rares, Magus of the Scroll and Decimator Web, looked promising.

Grayscaled Gharial and Scryb Ranger were happy to see Craig, but Shambling Shell would be missed...

...but not too much. Ribbons of Night, Golgari Germination, and Reap and Sow were all great cards to scoop up this late in the draft.

I knew Craig was going to grab the third value pile, with Arcbound Fiend championing as a potential attacker.

Without many options, I grabbed the pile with Molten Slagheap, a nice card to help a red splash, and cut away two more creatures from Craig.

He didn't hesitate to take the pile with the last creature he could muster, Vedalken Engineer, leaving me with the last pick of Hunger of the Nim.

With all of the piles claimed, Craig and I furiously put together our motley decks.

Adam's Wacky Winchester Deck

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Craig's Wacky Winchester Deck

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I was quite pleased with my deck, ending up firmly in two colors with ample mana fixing for my Brimstone Volley. Craig's deck was quite greedy, ending up in four colors ("the usual" for Craig, as I affectionately call it), but the potential of Opposition backed up by infect was a very clever combination.

It would take a few games to settle the matter. I had no idea the fight I was in for.

    Fighting the Man

Let's have a brief aside. I'm not part of the Wonka-esque factory of Magic like Tom LaPille and Zac Hill. I don't get to create cards from whole cloth like Mark Rosewater. The behind-the-scenes action is as hidden to me as it is to you. What I do know are the things I find fun.

Many of you find the same things fun, too.

There are reasons we haven't seen "classic" cards like Counterspell or Stone Rain in quite some time. Lightning Bolt was more than a shock when it came back in Magic 2012, but Searing Spear and Incinerate have seen the end of that.

When I hear someone ask, "Remember the good old days of Magic?" I scratch my head. I don't remember "good" being an all-encompassing description. As many times as I recall facing massive creature stalemates, I also remember getting stomped by the same spells over and over. To this day, I raise an eyebrow when I spot two Islands sitting untapped. I've seen every shade and color of deck that systematically stripped my lands or hand away.

"The Old Days" have their moments, but they are also filled with things that were pretty unpleasant. While I wouldn't say getting pounded into the pavement by a stampede of fatties is "fun" either, today's Magic is much more about creatures and attacking than a decade or so ago. While debating the merits of bringing back the defining commons of the first era of Magic is a great discussion, although not for here, there are plenty of more powerful cards that demonstrate just how rough Magic could be.

Opposition is one card I had the pleasure to avoid playing against: It's neatly in a period of sets I missed. It's also one of the most backbreaking cards to play creatures against. An opponent wielding the power of tapping almost anything you play is not congruent with fun. I know: I used to leverage the watered-down Opposition, Glare of Subdual, in my Rhys the RedeemedCommander deck.

Spoiler Alert: If you wanted evidence to the awkwardness that is battling Opposition with a draft deck, these games are a tale for you.

I got to go first and was rewarded by the universe with a mulligan. I led off with an early Viridian Emissary, but Craig matched it with Gemhide Sliver. My third-turn Golgari Germination was a nice touch to give with the Emissary, but Craig just took the 2 damage from my attack and untapped into a third-turn Opposition.

While I matched it immediately with Whispersilk Cloak and 2 more damage to Craig, his ability to draw cards was far better than mine.

With my easy way to fight Opposition gone I knew I'd have to overwhelm his position with creatures. I had plenty of ways to kill his stuff, and Manor Skeleton was a start. He matched it with Tine Shrike. I added Phyrexian Juggernaut. He matched it with Vedalken EngineerandCore Prowler.

While he let me trade my Viridian Emissary for his Viridian Corrupter, netting me a Saproling token and a Swamp along the way, he ripped yet another creature in Tattered Drake.

By this point I was well poisoned and needed to find any of my removal spells. I found something that wasn't. Game 1 to Craig.

With an opening hand packing early action and removal I was much happier about starting first again. While Craig's first-turn Sage of Epityr into second-turn Gemhide Sliver was strong, my second and third turns were Pit Keeper and Brimstone Volley.

Stunting Craig's mana fixing was a nice way to buy time, but it didn't pan out. While I had a fourth-turn Decimator Web and used it on the fifth and sixth turns, as I failed to draw more lands, Craig powered out Tormented Angel, Shambling Shell, and Mortipede over the same span.

I needed two more activations to empty out his library but I had to stop and play something to block: Reap and Sow for a Swamp into Mindlash Sliver. This would do a great job blocking the Mortivore when I was at 11 life.

Craig's luck had other plans as he, again, played Opposition.

With a simple tap of his Angel he cleared the way to knock me to 4 life. While I immediately drew Brainspoil it was too late; 4 life was just too little already.

Being sporting, and understanding what it was like to get rolled in two quick games, Craig let me go first for a third game. He matched my second-turn Transluminant with Gemhide Sliver, but I got him back by playing my Mindlash Sliver. Two could play at the color-fixing and acceleration game.

His Core Prowler looked menacing, but thanks to his Gemhide Sliver I was able to play Ribbons of Night using blue mana.

Getting to draw a card was nice because Craig put an end to those shenanigans with Feebleness on my Sliver, followed by Phyrexian Digester. My next attack started to hurt Craig as it dropped him to 12 life, and Viridian Emissary and Manor Skeleton from my side only complicated things. I attacked again and he went to beef up his Digester by blocking my Transluminant and casting Test of Faith.

This time I had the edge with a surprise Brimstone Volley.

Craig started to fight back with a Mortipede and Tattered Drake, and finally made the tradeoff of his Gemhide Sliver for my Viridian Emissary. I was able to play Grizzled Outcasts, which forced him to pay to trade away his Mortipede. I finally pulled the trigger on the Morbid Plunder in my hand to get back (and replay) the Outcasts as well as Viridian Emissary.

A Scourge Servant appeared for Craig, which he happily put up as a blocker for the Grizzled Outcasts. I played both the returned Viridian Emissary and Tangle Hulk, only for Craig to neatly pick Viridian Corrupter off the top of his deck.

But Craig was down to just 3 life with only Tattered Drake and Viridian Corrupter to my battlefield of Viridian Emissary, a Grizzled Outcasts with three -1/-1 counters, and a Manor Skeleton. He had one card in hand. The last card in my hand was Spidery Grasp.

I went for it.

I attacked with everyone and, predictably, Craig blocked the Skeleton with his Corrupter, the Outcasts with his Tattered Drake, and let the Emissary through. I tapped and laid Spidery Grasp on the unblocked Emissary.

Game over, right?

Craig's last card was Fuel for the Cause.

Dropping to just 1 life, but with my burn spell spent and two creatures still on the board was a solid recovery for Craig. As much as I wanted to draw every creature I had left and strike him down it was not to be. For the third game in a row, Craig cast Opposition.

His Viridian Corrupter bounded in and I decided to block with my Emissary. This was my fatal mistake as I proceeded to draw almost nothing but lands after Craig followed up his attack with Phyresis on his Drake. Adding insult to injury, my deck gave me two final cards as I was poisoned in the air: Whispersilk Cloak without a creature to use it, and a Brainspoil that couldn't target the now-enchanted Drake.

Brainspoil doesn't prevent regeneration either. All three games went to Craig.

    Lifestyles of the Mauled and Lifeless

While many of the stories I share end in my triumph, not every game ends on the upside for me. Opposition is certainly challenging to combat, but when it wasn't on the battlefield our games were very entertaining. If you don't know what to do with some older packs you have handy, I hope a Wacky Draft is something you'd consider trying.

I'd usually end the note with a poll but, like last week, I'm going to defer to the challenge I've laid out for creating a Krenko, Mob Boss Commander deck.

  • Build a Commander deck led by Krenko, Mob Boss.
  • Krenko must be the Commander.
  • The theme of the deck is entirely up to you: from Goblin tribal to churn and burn the board—whatever floats your boat.
  • All decks must be submitted by this Friday, July 20, at 8 a.m. Eastern. No later, but sooner is definitely great!
  • You may submit multiple decks, if desired, but each deck should be a separate submission and should be significantly different in theme and cards used.
  • Please use the "Reply via Email" link below to send your deck(s).
  • Decks should be formatted with one card per line. For example, "1 Shivan Dragon" or "20 Mountain." Do not add an "x" to the number ("1x Shivan Dragon" is wrong) and please capitalize the card names as per their English titles ("1 shivan dragon" is wrong).

Already I've received about 50 submissions with more than 750 unique cards appearing, and I didn't count basic lands in there. The most commonly appearing card across all decks is currently a tie between Goblin Chieftain and Siege-Gang Commander.

How do I know these things? You'll have to wait to see when I share in an article two weeks from now. Join us next week when we shuffle in exaltation. See you then!

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