Pack 1 pick 1:
When people see Triskelion, a lot of them remember back to the days when it was awesome and think the same now. However, Trike has fallen far from its lofty spot near the top of pick orders because damage doesn’t stack anymore. In fact, Trike is just an above average [card]Yavimaya Wurm[/card] against most decks and doesn’t deserve automatic inclusion into the group of first-pick cards. The best card in the pack is Mind Control because it creates a huge impact on the board regardless of what position you’re in. If you’re behind, Mind Control will stabilize the board. If you’re ahead, Mind Control will seal the game. Unfortunately we’re also passing a Foresee and that could cause problems for blue’s availability during pack two, but that’s just something we’ll need to work around.
My pick: Mind Control
Pack 1 pick 2:
There aren’t many unplayable cards here. With a common missing from the pack and a Serra Angel still here, we can assume that the common taken was a Doom Blade because there aren’t any other commons that a reasonably informed person would take over the white flyers. A few drafts ago there was a similar pick between Serra Angel and Vengeful Archon, though it was first pick and not second which makes a slight difference after picking up Mind Control (although not much in the grand scheme of things). In the previous draft(s), I had taken the Archon with the reasoning that it’s better as long as you get to untap with it. Now that the format has been explored more, people have come to the realization that aggressive strategies are much more viable in this core set than in the past. Vengeful Archon is seven mana (including three white); that’s a lot. Getting to seven mana is quite a difficult task in many games for non-green decks which makes it turn into one of those bombs that’s a bit of a struggle to cast, requires tapping out for, and needs for the opponent to not have anything so you can untap with it. Serra Angel is cheap enough to summon in conjunction with a backup spell like Negate, Unsummon, or something else and still overpowers most creatures. The difference in mana cost in terms of color is also a factor to consider. We are going to do everything in our power to stay in blue because of Mind Control’s awesomeness and also white because of Serra Angel/Vengeful Archon. However, a problem could arise where we get cut off of one of the colors. If white gets cut, then playing Vengeful Archon is going to be unlikely because we’ll need to play a lot of Plains to support it while only having six-seven white cards.
Note: I’m sure people would flood the comments with, “OMG, LOLZ. U PASSED CRYSTAL BALL!!1!1!!ELEVENTY-ONE!1!1!!!”
People, the card isn’t good. It’s like a draw spell that draws you into neither lands or spells. Crystal Ball doesn’t put you ahead on cards and slows you down considerably. If a game stalls out for both players in the late game, then Crystal Ball is probably going to win, but for the majority of other games it slows you down too much. The format is faster than most people think.
My pick: Serra Angel
Pack 1 pick 3:
Unfortunately there aren’t many good blue cards here. Safe Passage is a good way to help get to the late game to take advantage of powerful cards like Serra Angel and Mind Control, but doesn’t fit well into the newly popular aggressive white strategy involving Infantry Veteran and cheap creatures. Armored Ascension has opposite qualities when comparing it to Safe Passage as it allows players to end a game in a quicker fashion. Armored Ascension is easier to use than Safe Passage because it takes much less effort to set up compared to a profitable Safe Passage; all that’s required is sticking it to a creature while having multiple Plains in play. This pick implies that we’re going to be base white but doesn’t show how aggressive we’re going to be. While we’d like to have games go long because we have Mind Control and Serra Angel and want to draw them every time, if enough of the aggro white cards are available, then drafting a more aggressive deck is going to be more beneficial than a mid-range white/x deck.
My pick: Armored Ascension
Pack 1 pick 4:
Bue is being cut because there is a lack of options in this pick and the last one which is unfortunate. While we want to play our Mind Control, abandoning blue might become necessary. There’s not much in this pack to consider playing. Juggernaut is the only real card along with Garruk’s Companion. However, even though blue doesn’t appear like it’s going to provide much, we can still pick up what we need in pack two. The other white options (Siege Mastodon, Celestial Purge, and Solemn Offering) are not on the same level that Juggernaut is because they are mostly sideboard/filler cards that wouldn’t fit well into an aggro deck with Armored Ascension.
My pick: Juggernaut
Pack 1 pick 5:
Our fears about blue’s unavailability continue to be confirmed. red and green appear to be our other options to pair with white, however, they’re not as appealing. Siege Mastodon is not exciting because it’s filler while Sacred Wolf is a legitimate option. In conjunction with Armored Ascension, Sacred Wolf is a good way to end the game without having to worry about what the opponent may do. Garruk’s Companion is also an option, but not as good as the Wolf because the two are comparable in terms of power while the Wolf still allows you to run a healthy number of Plains to support Armored Ascension.
My pick: Sacred Wolf
Pack 1 pick 6:
The aggressive white deck can be broken up into a few groups: Infantry Veterans, cheap creatures, and tricks. Infantry Veteran is the most important piece of the deck because its effect is so powerful when considering the input cost while the other groups have many cards that play the same role (ex: Elite Vanguard, Silvercoat Lion, Stormfront Pegasus, Ajanis Pridemate, and Squadron Hawk). Our picks have pointed towards an aggressive strategy and Ajani’s Pridemate fits perfectly into that archetype.
My pick: Ajanis Pridemate
Pack 1 pick 7:
If for some reason the draft suddenly changes and we’re forced to alter our strategy (i.e. someone ahead of us goes into Infantry Veteran.dec), having a backup plan is important. Stone Golem is technically the “best” card in the pack, though it’s important to be weary of five-mana creatures because there are a lot of them and Stone Golem isn’t an exceptional one. Roc Egg doesn’t fit well into an attacking deck because it isn’t particularly useful until the opponent wants to attack or is compelled to do so (because he can’t interact with our creatures in combat due to ours having flying). Roc Egg’s value doesn’t contribute to the deck’s primary strategy (kill quickly). If we suddenly find a plethora of flyers or find that drafting a more controlling deck is a better option than what we’re doing now, Roc Egg is going to play a more useful role than Stone Golem, Armored Cancrix, and Hornet Sting.
My pick: Roc Egg
Pack 1 pick 8:
Palace Guard isn’t as good as Roc Egg, but the reasons it’s playable are similar.
My pick: Palace Guard
Pack 1 pick 9:
Excommunicate and Negate are both good options and each one fits well into the different versions of the deck that we’re drafting. The more aggressive version of white/x benefits from both Excommunicate and Negate because the deck’s curve tends to be lower than average,which allows it to consistently get ahead on the board. Excommunicate is more useful against most decks because there are more creatures than in a deck than removal spells. In the cases where the opposing deck has a lot of removal, Negate is an all-star because it’s cheap enough to still be able to summon threats while defending against the impending removal spells. In a midrange deck, Excommunicate is less likely to be profitable. The entire point of Excommunicate is to be able to convert the turn that it’s played into damage that wouldn’t normally be able to be inflicted due to the targeted creature acting as a road block. The likeliness that a deck will be ahead on the board decreases as the average mana cost of its creatures increases. Thus, Excommunicate becomes less useful in a midrange deck. Negate is quite good in a deck with powerful creatures/spells because often there will only be a few spells that the opponent can have that will be able to get them out of a situation. When you consider our good cards (Mind Control and Serra Angel) along with the midrange curve, Excommunicate doesn’t appear to be useful at this point when compared to Negate.
My pick: Negate
Pack 1 pick 10:
Siege Mastodon is still not good enough to take over a Grizzly Bears because five-mana creatures are too easy to get compared to good two-mana spells. That’s not to say that the Pridemate is “good, because it’s not; it’s really just a Silvercoat Lion because the spells that “combo” with it are awful. However, the aggro white deck doesn’t really care about how bad a two-drop is as long as it has two-power and Ajani’s Pridemate fits the bill.
My pick: Ajanis Pridemate
Pack 1 pick 11:
My pick: Tireless Missionaries
Pack 1 pick 12:
My pick: Siege Mastodon
Pack 1 pick 13:
My pick: Ajanis Mantra
Pack 1 pick 14:
My pick: Tireless Missionaries
Pack 1 pick 15:
The first pack didn’t end as well as it started. White was clearly open, but most of the cards that we saw were the filler cards that get picked up on the wheel. There were no Pacifisms, Blinding Mages, Squadron Hawks, Infantry Veterans, or Stormfront Pegasi to be seen. Additionally, blue was being cut by the person on our right (blue/black) which left red and green as the other depressing options. There were a few picks that could have gone towards green or red but at the time it seemed like keeping vigilant for blue was a better option because of Mind Control. The second pack is going to have more blue, although after passing Foresee/Scroll Thief, there won’t necessarily be a lot of it; the same will be true with white because of the Assault Griffin/Vengeful Archon.
Pack 2 pick 1:
Sometimes you just can’t catch a break…
My pick: Baneslayer Angel
Pack 2 pick 2:
Okay okay, enough jokes. Seriously though, I don’t cherry-pick my drafts… Really. And yes, this is an 8-4. Stormtide Leviathan is another Vengeful Archon type of card. You have to grind really hard to get to eight mana, throw it out there, and hope that you get to untap with it. Mind Control is still a much better card because it’s so much cheaper and has an effect that’s equivalent to the Leviathan.
My pick: Mind Control
Pack 2 pick 3:
There are a lot of cards for the person to our right drafting black, but only a few for us. Wild Griffin and Mana Leak are the two cards that we are interested in. Mana Leak and Negate have similar applications, though Mana Leak gets much worse as the game progresses whereas Negate is always good. Wild Griffin is fine; it’s not an exceptional creature but is still a two-power flyer. Mana Leak is less likely to be better than Wild Griffin because our curve is too high. Unless Mana Leak is in our opening hand it’s likely to remain dead until we finish curving out on turn six.
My pick: Wild Griffin
Pack 2 pick 4:
This pick is very similar to the previous one. The deck’s curve still hasn’t lowered enough to make Excommunicate good while Cloud Elemental is another “fine” flyer. Admittedly, Wild Griffin and Cloud Elemental don’t defend really when trying to survive to five mana and play Mind Control/Serra Angel/Baneslayer Angel. However, they’re much more multi-purpose than Excommunicate and Mighty Leap.
My pick: Cloud Elemental
Pack 2 pick 5:
Preordain is good when a deck is filled with awesome bombs and ours is no exception.
My pick: Preordain
Pack 2 pick 6:
This pick is interesting. Infantry Veteran is the centerpiece of the aggro white deck because it complicates combat so much. Cloud Elemental is the other option and would fit into the same strategy though would have less synergy with the other cards. Cloud Elemental would be fine on its own because it attacks pretty well while only costing three mana. However, not every deck can be all flyers and eventually you’ll encounter a deck that can block your creatures which is where Infantry Veteran really shines. When you don’t have Infantry Veteran and encountering moderate resistance, you’ll often have to hope that your attacks “just get there”. When you do have Infantry Veteran, you’re more likely to attack profitably and force through damage that you wouldn’t be able to if you didn’t have the Veteran.
My pick: Infantry Veteran
Pack 2 pick 7:
Maritime Guard is the only card that we’d consider playing, though it’s not likely to make the cut to the maindeck.
My pick: Maritime Guard
Pack 2 pick 8:
Phantom Beast isn’t a creature that I like running in the maindeck because it’s unreliable against a lot of decks. There will be times where it’s a four-mana 4/5 and other times where it’s uncastable because of an opposing Blinding Mage. Alluring Siren is a fine card especially in a deck that lacks true creature removal. Many people consider Alluring Siren to be janky and hard to use because it requires you to have creatures for the opponent to run theirs into; it’s not too difficult a situation to set up.
My pick: Alluring Siren
Pack 2 pick 9:
Mind Rot is one of the ways that our deck will lose games. If we get too many of our five-mana bombs stuck in our opening hand while being low on cards only to see them get discarded, we’ll have a much harder time winning the game than if we had not been forced to discard them.
My pick: Mind Rot
Pack 2 pick 10:
My pick: Flashfreeze
Pack 2 pick 11:
My pick: Armored Cancrix
Pack 2 pick 12:
My pick: Chandras Spitfire
Pack 2 pick 13:
My pick: Bloodcrazed Goblin
Pack 2 pick 14:
My pick: Lilianas Caress
Pack 2 pick 15:
The second pack was slightly better than the first. However, we’re still stuck between one version of the white/x archetype and the other. On one hand, we have Infantry Veteran, two Ajani’s Pridemate, Juggernaut, and Armored Ascension which lend themselves well to an aggro deck. On the other hand, we have Maritime Guard, Alluring Siren, Palace Guard, Roc Egg, Siege Mastodon, and Armored Cancrix which are better in a non-aggro deck. The tipping point of which deck we should aim for is deciding which one benefits the most from having the bombs that we do. We don’t want to gimp the deck to the point of being unable to win without an Angel/Mind Control, but we also don’t want to concede games because of not having an optimal start with an aggro deck which is often the case when a deck is streamlined too much. Palace Guard may not be desirable, but when you have to keep a mediocre six on the draw with your aggro deck and don’t have a prayer of getting the opponent to below eight life before they stabilize, Palace Guard is going to look a lot better than Elite Vanguard when the opponent starts attacking.
Pack 3 pick 1:
Wild Griffin and Water Servant are the two cards to consider. Wild Griffin is average in both types of decks while Water Servant is above average. I initially thought that Water Servant wasn’t that great because it was too mana-intensive and would simply run into another five-mana creature. The reason why Water Servant is such a good creature aside from its ability to change from [card]Ball Lightning[/card] to [card]Wall of Frost[/card] given the mana is the fact that it’s only four mana for a five-mana sized creature.
My pick: Water Servant
Pack 3 pick 2:
It seems unlikely that the aggro version of the deck is going to come together because we don’t have a good enough curve. We’ll be better off drafting a midrange deck with just “good” cards and winning mainly through quality rather than speed. In terms of quality, Water Servant is still better than Wild Griffin. The Griffin has a hard time beating through opposing flyers while the Water Servant can trade/defend against almost anything. Water Servant has a high level of functionality in every type of game-state whereas Wild Griffin is only good at racing against non-flyers. In a deck with Baneslayer Angel, Serra Angel, and double Mind Control, flexibility is an important quality.
My pick: Water Servant
Pack 3 pick 3:
Harbor Serpent is a good creature to stabilize with. However, we’re not looking for more five-plus mana spells. White Knight does the same thing that Harbor Serpent does but on turn two. There are very few two-mana creatures that can compete against a Knight and some decks will straight up lose to it.
My pick: White Knight
Pack 3 pick 4:
We could hate the Necrotic Plague here but Wild Griffin is good enough to take here and not worry. Safe Passage is also an option, but with a moderate curve is likely to cause too much of a tempo loss when trying to protect one of the high-mana plays or against an attack.
My pick: Wild Griffin
Pack 3 pick 5:
Terramorphic Expanse isn’t exceptional in this deck outside of being able to enable a turn-two White Knight or a turn-four Water Servant. Unsummon is a good way to protect our Angels. Augury Owl is a good way to ensure that we are more likely to draw one of our bombs. Unsummon and Augury Owl are going to have more of an impact on our deck than Terramorphic Expanse because of the benefits that they provide. Between the two blue cards, Augury Owl is more open-ended in its usefulness because it is more likely that we’ll Scry into a four-of (bomb) than be in the situation where we summon one of our two Angels and need Unsummon to ensure that it doesn’t die.
My pick: Augury Owl
Pack 3 pick 6:
Stormfront Pegasus and Excommunicate are both aggro cards but the Pegasus can be used well enough in a non-aggro deck.
My pick: Stormfront Pegasus
Pack 3 pick 7:
As I mentioned earlier, Unsummon is going to have good utility in conjunction with our Angels.
My pick: Unsummon
Pack 3 pick 8:
My pick: Cancel
Pack 3 pick 9:
My pick: Merfolk Spy
Pack 3 pick 10:
A third Negate/Cancel is going to be unnecessary against most opponents while a second Infantry Veteran is going to be more important if we play against a deck with a lot of flyers or if we need to transform into a more aggressive deck.
My pick: Infantry Veteran
Pack 3 pick 11:
My pick: Goblin Piker
Pack 3 pick 12:
My pick: Safe Passage
Pack 3 pick 13:
My pick: Merfolk Spy
Pack 3 pick 14:
My pick: Autumns Veil
Pack 3 pick 15:
Overall, the draft was a success. Besides opening some bombs and getting a few second pick, there was a high amount of mediocrity. We have a lot of cards that are just “fine” and not much that stands out. However, our four bombs are going to carry us a long way and will result in many of our game wins. This card pool allows us to construct a deck that is highly customizable. The last pack yielded multiple two-mana creatures to go with our pair of Infantry Veterans. While we ended up passing on Excommunicate multiple times, we will still be able to make a good aggro deck if needed.
An aggressive version of the card pool would look something like this:
The Infantry Veterans and multiple two-mana creatures should enable us to put the opponent on their back foot enough of the time to ensure that we don’t have to worry too much about being attacked to death before drawing into one of our five-mana spells. However, this build is susceptible to mulligans more than a more defensive version because it’s sacrificed some card quality for more offensive power. Palace Guard and Roc Egg provide more mileage than Ajani’s Pridemate and would help more in the games where we aren’t attacking all the time. Granted, when you include cards like Roc Egg and Palace Guard in a deck, you’re naturally less likely to attack than if those slots were Ajani’s Pridemate.
The difference between the first version of the deck and a less aggro version is the following:
The changes to the deck sacrifice the early offensive power with a higher resilience to mulligans. The reason why slowing the deck down makes it more resilient to a mulligan is because the necessity to play an aggressive role is eliminated. Once you realize that this deck can and will often win by casting Mind Control or Serra Angel/Baneslayer Angel and protecting it, the desire to win with damage on turn six by sacrificing card quality gets eliminated. Instead of wanting to play inexpensive “bad” cards, we can play more powerful cards that are slightly more expensive (like Roc Egg). The slower version of the deck looks like this:
[T: 1] Evil plays a Forest while we [d: Cloud Elemental] play a Plains.
[T: 2] Evil plays a second Forest while we [d: Serra Angel] play an Island.
[T: 3] Evil plays a Plains while we [d: Alluring Siren] play another Island and summon our Cloud Elemental.
[T: 6] Evil attacks with his Spined Wurm [G: 15], plays a Forest, and summons a Yavimaya Wurm. [d: Island] We play the Island and summon our Baneslayer Angel.
[T: 7] Evil attacks with his Yavimaya Wurm [G: 9] and summons a Brindle Boar. [d: Plains] We play our Plains and pass.
[T: 8] Evil casts Excommunicate to put our Baneslayer Angel on top of our deck and we counter it with Negate. Our Alluring Siren forces the Yavimaya Wurm to attack and the Spined Wurm joins it. Baneslayer Angel blocks the Yavimaya Wurm and Evil pumps it with Mighty Leap before damage. First strike resolves [G: 14] and we cast Safe Passage before normal damage. [d: Island] We attack with our Augury Owl [E: 19], summon our Serra Angel, and pass.
[T: 9] We lure the Yavimaya Wurm again and Evil attacks with his Spined Wurm as well. Our Baneslayer Angel blocks again and Evil has a second Mighty Leap. After First Strike damage resolves [G: 19] we Unsummon the Yavimaya Wurm [G: 14]. [d: Mind Control] We attack with the two Angels and Augury Owl but Evil has Condemn to remove the Baneslayer Angel from the battlefield [E: 14]. We steal the Spined Wurm after combat with our Mind Control.
[T: 10] Evil summons the Yavimaya Wurm again while we lure the Brindle Boar to attack into our Serra Angel, but Evil sacrifices it before combat [E: 18]. [d: Cancel] We attack with the Owl, Serra, and Wurm [E: 8] and pass.
[T: 11] The Siren lures Evil’s Yavimaya Wurm to attack [G: 13]. Evil casts Natures Spiral after combat to bring back his Brindle Boar. However, we’re ready with Cancel when Evil tries to summon the Boar and he concedes.