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According to Webster – Drafting Rise of the Eldrazi: Part 2

 

Last week you watched me dive head first into the murky waters of drafting Rise of the Eldrazi. The format has shown itself to be much more interesting than its predecessor. Part two continues exploring the format with a new set of drafts along with the decks, thoughts, and results that come with them.

If you missed Part 1, it can be found here.

Draft #1

 

This draft starts off with a tough pick:

 

It’s easy to discount the non-Black cards because they aren’t as good. Forked Bolt is much more limited in the targets that it can kill compared to Vendetta and Consume the Meek. Vendetta will fit into every deck; it’s very versatile and efficient. However, Consume the Meek can have more impact on the board in some decks. Normal Red and Green decks will pair best with Consume the Meek because more of each color’s creatures are likely to survive. A point to also consider is the lack of synergy with Eldrazi Spawn tokens and Consume the Meek. If the deck you’re drafting relies on having tokens in play, then Vendetta is going to be better. If you’re working on a controlling brew, then Consume the Meek will also have a more powerful effect because the creatures you’ll be running a higher percentage of “value” creatures than a normal deck.

The choice between Vendetta and Consume the Meek is close, especially because it’s P1P1. It’s quite difficult to predict the way the draft is going to flow unless you’re familiar with the other drafters in the pod or if you’re more likely to force one archetype over another. The draft doesn’t work out for my pick. I decide to go with Consume the Meek and find myself entrenched in Black/White after taking a Dawnglare Invoker and some other cards.

Another interesting pick is in pack three when most of the deck is fleshed out: Wall of Omens vs. Nomads’ Assembly. The deck looks like it will play out as an evasion deck. Most of the creatures either fly or can Level up into unblockable monsters. There are also elements of maintaining control of the board. Kor Line-Slinger, Puncturing Light, and Last Kiss will help prevent being outraced.

Nomads’ Assembly is a good spell to combine with Dawnglare Invoker. The Assembly will add sufficient power to the board so that the opponent will have considerably fewer turns to draw an answer for the Invoker. However, Nomads’ Assembly doesn’t directly contribute to the deck’s strategy of assembling a clock of flyers and then using various spells to slow down the opponent’s offense. Nomads’ Assembly is also slow and is bad when you don’t have at least two creatures on the battlefield.

Wall of Omens is similar to Kor Line-Slinger, but more efficient against an average creature; it begins to function immediately as opposed to having to wait for a turn cycle. Against flyers, Wall of Omens is strictly worse. Wall of Omens is much cheaper than Nomads’ Assembly, replaces itself, and is better on defense against non-Eldrazi creatures. Since Wall of Omens is cheaper than Nomads’ Assembly, it has the potential to affect the board sooner and prevent falling behind; it also cantrips to make sure you don’t run out of gas. If you draw Wall of Omens on the turn where you could cast either it or Nomads’ Assembly, it’s likely you will be able to play the Wall in addition to another spell.

Consume the Meek ends up being terrible in this deck because it kills all the creatures in it except for Kabira Vindicator and Makindi Griffin. Opening hands that have Consume the Meek will have to be played carefully so that the opportunity of sand-bagging threats against an opponent who overextends isn’t passed up.

There are a few card choices that could change in the list. Hyena Umbra and Pennon Blade are the two cards that are closest to making the cut to the maindeck. Hyena Umbra would be better if there were more non-evasive creatures. For example, a Level one Null Champion would be quite difficult to stop if it had a Hyena Umbra on it. Hyena Umbra is also cheap enough to not interfere with curving out. Hyena Umbra would be good against a deck with many flyers. Pennon Blade is another way to make sure the deck’s creatures can punch through opposing flyers. It’s expensive to equip, but unlike Ogre’s Cleaver it requires an above average board position to turn a Gloomhunter into a dragon.

The Black/White deck wins the draft, going 3-0. Dawnglare Invoker is a good card, being effective at all times of the game.

Draft #2:

 

This draft starts with Kargan Dragonlord over nothing followed by Vendetta and Induce Despair. Red dries up a bit while Blue appears to be open, possibly. Black is definitely open. The draft yields an interesting Black/Red deck with a few cards/interactions to discuss.

Arrogant Bloodlord is a good card; its low mana-cost enables quick wins when combined with a few supporting removal tricks for whatever zero/one-power creatures threaten to get in its way. Black and Red have an easy time removing low-power creatures. Cards like Bala Ged Scorpion, Brimstone Mage, and Wrap in Flames are particularly effective. Even Battle-Rattle Shaman can be used in certain situations to pump the defending creature to ensure that the Bloodlord doesn’t destroy itself. Arrogant Bloodlord isn’t very good on offense against Eldrazi Spawn decks, but can usually handle all the creatures that make them without worry.

Pawn of Ulamog is particularly effective when combined with other effects that enhance creatures, allowing a deck to grind out its opposition. Cards like Bloodthrone Vampire, Battle-Rattle Shaman, Lavafume Invoker, Ogre’s Cleaver, and Pennon Blade create situations where the opponent needs to trade creatures. Pawn of Ulamog breaks the symmetry of trading and gives you additional supplies of tokens to enhance.

Battle-Rattle Shaman is a good card; it gives additional value to your smaller creatures (such as Eldrazi Spawn) making them more of a threat than they’d be able to be on their own. Such effects usually come with some sort of additional cost whether it be from Level up, activated ability, or equip cost, but Battle-Rattle Shaman does its thing for free.

Brimstone Mage is a bit overrated. Pingers have a tradition of being awesome, but Brimstone Mage walks closer to the line of mediocrity than most. The main problem is the mana investment; it’s significant. Like most of the creatures with a high Level up cost, if you level them up in the early game and they get killed, the significant tempo loss often associated with the situation leaves you far behind on the board. While the Level 1-2 version of Brimstone Mage is fine against some decks with Dawnglare Invokers and Gloomhunters, the Level 3+ version is really what a deck needs. The Level up cost is just too high.

Induce Despair is harder to use than one would expect. There are times when you kill Ulamog’s Crusher with Induce Despair alone. However, what has been noticed are the times when your hand is short on creatures and resulting play is affected. Late-game, Induce is much harder to cast reliably because you’re unlikely to have a full hand.

There are a few cards that could be played in the maindeck, but are in the sideboard: Bloodthrone Vampire, Lavafume Invoker #2, and Wrap in Flames.

This deck has a lot of late-game power to it. Kargan Dragonlord and Hellion Eruption in addition to the multiple Level up creatures give the deck a lot of ways to sink its mana for a powerful effect. Bloodthrone Vampire is “good” with Pawn of Ulamog and Battle-Rattle Shaman, but doesn’t contribute well to reaching the late-game; it doesn’t work out well with Hellion Eruption or Lavafume Invoker. A second Lavafume Invoker seems unnecessary because it’s not effective in the early game. Ogre Sentry is more likely to be able to get this deck to the point in the game where Lavafume Invoker and its other late-game cards are good.

Wrap in Flames has two functions. It kills one-toughness creatures and acts as a Falter when creating trying to create a lethal attack. It pairs well with Arrogant Bloodlord and to a lesser extent Brimstone Mage. Wrap in Flames helps punch through the opponent’s creatures; there are already enough cards that function that way in this deck. Battle-Rattle Shaman, Lavafume Invoker, and Zulaport Enforcer all make it easier to beat through whatever the opponent has on defense which makes Wrap in Flames more of a sideboard card here.

This deck goes 2-1 in matches during the draft, including winning a game where it’s attacked by Kozilek, Butcher of Truth seven times.

Draft #3:

 

 

This draft starts with Flame Slash. The draft continues with Red picks including Emrakul’s Hatcher and Rapacious One. Midway through pack one, Green appears to be open. There aren’t many interesting picks throughout the draft.

This deck is focusing on Eldrazi Spawn tokens and utilizing them. Lavafume Invoker, Broodwarden, Magmaw, and Pennon Blade take advantage of having lots of Eldrazi Spawn in play while Growth Spasm, Kozilek’s Predator, Emrakul’s Hatcher, and Rapacious One create Eldrazi Spawn.

The main problem with this deck is that it’s slow. It lacks the two-mana acceleration (Overgrown Battlement/Joraga Treespeaker. None are seen in the draft) and is clunky as a result. The deck does have Growth Spasm, Mul Daya Channelers, and two Ondu Giants to help reach six mana, but those spells are much slower than Overgrown Battlement. The curve really starts at four with only a few two/three-drops. This deck wants to be on the play because it’s so slow, yet needs the extra card from being on the draw to ensure it hits its land drops. This archetype needs a lower curve to be successful.

Ogre Sentry is fine in this deck. It provides the defense necessary to give the deck time to start summoning its four/five-mana spells.

Dreamstone Hedron serves a few purposes. The main purpose is to ensure that hands with multiple acceleration pieces can be kept without worry of running out of steam. Ramping up is important which makes the presence of Ondu Giant and Growth Spasm in your opening seven desirable. A hand with Ondu Giant, Growth Spasm, Dream Hedron, and four lands on the play is fine. Dreamstone Hedron is likely to give you access to the more desirable cards in the deck (Broodwarden, Pennon Blade, etc.) so that it becomes much easier to mount an offense.

Mul Daya Channelers is excellent. It provides early beatdown or mana advantage to power out a deck’s expensive drops. In a deck with a low number of creatures, Mul Daya Channelers is less likely to be able to beat down for five a turn. However, it will still be able to function as an excellent mana-fixer. It’s one of the better green cards.

Some of the cards that almost made the cut to the deck are Sporecap Spider, Daggerback Basilisk, and Might of the Masses. Each card has its problems. Sporecap Spider functions better against flyers than Ogre Sentry, but lacks the ability to prevent multiple creatures from attacking because of its low power. It’s more expensive than Ogre Sentry with little benefit. Sporecap Spider can attack, but it’s unlikely to do so without the help of [card]Pennon Blade[/card], Boar Umbra, and/or Lavafume Invoker. Daggerback Basilisk is similar to Sporecap Spider but is more likely to die. A 2/2 doesn’t have much board presence. Having Deathtouch only helps against a few creatures: Eldrazi. Against most of the other creatures, Ogre Sentry is going to function better or on par. Might of the Masses is “good” with Eldrazi tokens because you’ll usually have a lot of creatures to turn the trick into a cheaper Might of Oaks. The problem with Might of the Masses in this deck is that it’s weaker than the rest of the spells.

This deck goes 0-2 in the draft though that record isn’t representative of its quality. The deck should be better than that and should normally be 1-2 at worst and 2-1 at best.

Draft #4:

This draft starts with the choice of Coralhelm Commander vs. Brimstone Mage. The merits/problems of Brimstone Mage have already been discussed above in Draft #2. Coralhelm Commander doesn’t have the ability to control the board as well as Brimstone Mage eventually can, but it makes up for it by being efficient. Creatures with a low Level up cost are awesome; Coralhelm Commander is a good example. It often attacks for three in the air the turn after being summoned. For six mana, you get a 4/4 flyer; that’s impressive.

The drafting continues to provide Blue cards until a pick four where we get a Knight of Cliffhaven. There aren’t many more interesting picks until pack three where Narcolepsy and Student of Warfare are opened. At this point, there are already two Totem-Guide Hartebeest and two Deprive in the card pool. Student of Warfare is an effective creature, similar to Coralhelm Commander. It has a low Level up cost and quickly transforms into a creature difficult to deal with. However, Narcolepsy is the best true removal that Blue has (excluding Domestication). Some creatures get taken over removal because they will win games by themselves more often; Student of Warfare comes close, but doesn’t quite get there.

Ogre’s Cleaver may appear bad because of the high equip cost; it’s better than it looks. It’s best on evasive creatures because it’s less likely that you’ll have to equip it to a creature every turn. Even with ground creatures it’s fine. Eldrazi Spawn tokens become quite menacing when they hit for five a turn. Black/Red decks with a lot of removal can turn Bala Ged Scorpions into efficient attackers with Ogre’s Cleaver.

Totem-Guide Hartebeest is better than when it was initially evaluated. The high mana-cost and mediocre power/toughness makes it appear to be more of a filler card than anything. However, the value that comes with being able to get an Aura for free shouldn’t be overlooked. Blue, White, and Green benefit the most from the Hartebeest. Being able to get Guard Duty, Mammoth Umbra, Domestication, and Narcolepsy along with many other Auras makes the Hartebeest good.

Deprive is a good card. Returning a land isn’t something you want to do in the early game, but being able to stop a key spell for only two mana is an invaluable quality. Modern counterspells don’t allow you to play other spells in the same turn cycle because they’ve got a high mana cost; the counters that do have restrictions on the types of spells they can counter. Deprive counters anything and for only two mana. While Deprive doesn’t have the best synergy with Level up creatures, being able to say “NO” isn’t something to ignore.

There are a few cards that almost made the cut: Emerge Unscathed, Distortion Strike, and Eel Umbra. Emerge Unscathed is good when dealing with troublesome Auras. Being able to two-for-one someone by removing two Narcolepsy is powerful. Against traditional removal, Emerge Unscathed is “fine”. It’ll often turn into Blessed Breath and allow a creature to get through in combat where it normally wouldn’t. Distortion Strike is good in decks that want to race; it functions similarly to Emerge Unscathed but more effectively. The creatures in this deck are already evasive with the exception of Sea Gate Oracle. Distortion Strike isn’t at its best when targeting a creature with only one power. Eel Umbra is a fine trick in combat or against a removal spell; it can be viewed similarly to Emerge Unscathed. Eel Umbra would get sideboarded in when facing flyers or a deck with lots of removal. The presence of Deprive in the maindeck overlaps with the purpose for Emerge Unscathed and Eel Umbra, but Deprive handles much more than the other cards.

This deck goes 2-0 in the draft.

Looking at the results, the most successful decks have been a combination of Blue, White, and Black. While the sample size is small, the opinion of the test group is that Level up is very good. Creatures that are good at all times of the game allow decks to run more efficiently. The Eldrazi ramp decks seem to be too clunky a lot of the time. Multiple variations have been tried, ranging from ramping up to colorless Eldrazi creatures to utilizing the Eldrazi Spawn themselves with cards like Battle-Rattle Shaman and Lavafume Invoker. The low end of the curve is very important in these Eldrazi decks. There have been other attempts to explore more outlandish archetypes such as Kiln Fiend combo and Blue/Black super-control with few creatures, but there hasn’t been enough data gathered with those yet. Perhaps in the near future more data will be available.

Happy Drafting.

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