Pack 1 pick 1:
This is the exact opposite of what you want to start a draft off with because the best options are all quite mediocre; Arrogant Bloodlord and Kor Line-Slinger are unfortunately the only two cards to consider. White is the least desirable color to start in because its themes only overlap strongly with Blue, and if Blue isn’t open then the best you’ll end up with is a deck with “good cards” in it. Themes are quite powerful in Rise limited, and by hindering yourself from the get-go by starting in a color with fewer options than others is undesirable. While a deck with all “good cards” is fine, a deck with synergies is going to be better. Kor Line-Slinger is fine, but it’s not a good enough card to justify starting in White (unlike Gideon Jura, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Transcendent Master, Deathless Angel, Student of Warfare, and to a lesser extent Mammoth Umbra). Arrogant Bloodlord isn’t exactly a magnificent gem itself, though Black is a better color to start off in because it has more overlapping themes with the other colors and pairs well with Blue, Red, and Green. Arrogant Bloodlord is best in combination with a removal-heavy color that can keep a path clear for it to attack such as Red. The Bloodlord can also be used well in a control deck as a defender because it’s hard to get past. Both Arrogant Bloodlord and Kor Line-Slinger are mediocre, and what the decision comes down to is options. Starting off in Black gives you more options than starting off in White.
My pick: Arrogant Bloodlord
Pack 1 pick 2:
Gloomhunter is similar to Arrogant Bloodlord because it’s only a “fine” card and doesn’t have much synergy with the rest of the format with the exception of being an evasive attacker for a leveler deck. The best card in the pack is easily Flame Slash because it’s such an efficient removal spell. The other notables are Ulamog’s Crusher, Knight of Cliffhaven, and to a lesser extent Champion’s Drake. It’s uncertain where this draft is heading and taking the best card is going to pay out better dividends in the end because it keeps our options open and doesn’t send bad signals for pack two.
My pick: Flame Slash
Pack 1 pick 3:
There are a few options here and it’s important to try and figure out what the people to our right are taking. When you consider the Flame Slash that was passed last pick in addition to the Red in this pick (Spawning Breath, Brimstone Mage, Brood Birthing, and Vent Sentinel), it seems unlikely that Red is being drafted by both players on the right. However, it’s still important to note that the previous suspicion may be incorrect because a rare and uncommon are missing from the pack which makes it more difficult to make a determination than if a common were missing. In addition to that, Vent Sentinel and Brood Birthing aren’t exactly high picks which should also be noted. There’s a modest amount of Blue and Green, little White, and only one Black card (though it’s a good one). The two best cards for us at the moment are Induce Despair and Brimstone Mage (assuming we stay in Black/Red, otherwise Kozilek’s Predator is a strong contender). Between the two, Induce is a better card because it’s more efficient. Brimstone Mage is very slow to Level up which makes your especially susceptible to removal/bounce if you spend time to level him up. If the opponent can’t deal well with creatures and doesn’t have a very fast deck, then Brimstone Mage is going to give you more value because it provides good board control and will win the game on its own eventually. The problem with taking Induce is that our other Black card (Arrogant Bloodlord) isn’t great while our Red card (Flame Slash) is awesome. If we take the Induce, then we’re committing more heavily to Black/Red whereas if we take the Brimstone Mage, our options for a second color are still open. It would be better to take a slightly weaker card between Induce Despair/Brimstone Mage because Flame Slash/Brimstone Mage are better than Arrogant Bloodlord/Induce Despair.
My pick: Brimstone Mage
Pack 1 pick 4:
Seeing Domestication and Staggershock this late in pack one is a definite sign because the other colors aren’t represented nearly as well. Staggershock is the easy pick here.
My pick: Staggershock
Pack 1 pick 5:
Ulamog’s Crusher and Surreal Memoir are the two best options. The Crusher would fit well into our deck if we continue with Red/Black or move out of Black and into Green but maintain a token theme. It’s a good finisher in that archetype that can be summoned consistently on turn six/seven. Surreal Memoir would also work out well if we continued in Black/Red or moved into Red/Blue or Grixis with a moderate suite of instants (removal, counters, and cantrips). Outside of the Kozilek’s Predator that we saw in pick three, we haven’t seen many cards that go into the token deck while we have seen a lot of Blue being passed which makes it seem more likely that we’ll be successful if we take the Surreal Memoir. Potentially going into Blue after passing Domestication and other cards won’t be good for us in pack two, but should be made up for in pack three.
My pick: Surreal Memoir
Pack 1 pick 6:
Lagac Lizard isn’t the type of card we want to be picking this early because it’s so vanilla and doesn’t fit into any deck strategy. Regress is the best option because it works well with Surreal Memoir and is a good card overall. Having outs to stuff like Mammoth Umbra or fully leveled creatures is good.
My pick: Regress
Pack 1 pick 7:
Blue is apparently open as suspected, and we are blessed with three late picks as a result. See Beyond is not a card I am particularly fond of because it’s not good in the early game. Decks are usually too busy leveling up creatures and other stuff that uses up your mana. See Beyond also doesn’t provide actual card advantage, only card quality. Deprive works best with Surreal Memoir, but not with Brimstone Mage and whatever other Level up creatures that we may pick up. In those situations, Deprive becomes similar to See Beyond because it’s bad in the early game. Frostwind Invoker is slightly better than Deprive because it doesn’t interfere with levelers, is a good win condition, and is more difficult to find replacements for than Deprive (ex. Lay Bare).
My pick: Frostwind Invoker
Pack 1 pick 8:
Valakut Fireboar seems appealing at times when you’ve got lots of removal or other cards like Distortion Strike and Goblin Tunneler, but that deck (Kiln Fiend) tends to be inconsistent. See Beyond would normally be a fine pick here, but Vent Sentinel is going to be better because we saw one early in the pack in pick three with a lot of other Red. If we take the Sentinel here and wheel the other one, then we may be able to combine them with any Mnemonic Walls that we can pick up and be on our way to a reasonable control deck.
My pick: Vent Sentinel
Pack 1 pick 9:
Fleeting Distraction is the only card that we would consider playing at the moment. It’s not great, but at least cycles economically as well as interacts with Surreal Memoir.
My pick: Fleeting Distraction
Pack 1 pick 10:
Jwari Scuttler isn’t going to make it near our forty whereas Leaf Arrow will be trouble for our Frostwind Invoker and the other flyers we draft.
My pick: Leaf Arrow
Pack 1 pick 11:
All three Red cards wheeled from this pack. Spawning Breath is fine, though narrow, whereas two Vent Sentinels are better than one.
My pick: Vent Sentinel
Pack 1 pick 12:
My pick: Repel the Darkness
Pack 1 pick 13:
My pick: Shared Discovery
Pack 1 pick 14:
My pick: Fleeting Distraction
Pack 1 pick 15:
Pack one went well enough considering we started off not really knowing where to go. However, that was soon a non-issue after getting passed a bunch of good Red cards. While Vent Sentinel isn’t the most consistent strategy because it’s reliant on one card, starting off with two in pack one is good. As long as we fill out the rest of the deck with controlling cards, then we should be fine. In pack two we should see little Blue but a moderate amount of Red.
Pack 2 pick 1:
Regress is always good to have, but there is a moderate drop-off in its usefulness after the first (in most matchups) unless it’s in a tempo-based deck like Blue/White levelers. Mnemonic Wall would fit very well in the deck, but is more likely to wheel than Brimstone Mage because there is only one Red card (Brimstone Mage) in this pack compared to three decent Blue cards (Regress, Mnemonic Wall, and Gravitational Shift). Both Brimstone Mage and Mnemonic Wall are mana-intensive. Mnemonic Wall does have more synergy with Vent Sentinel and Surreal Memoir, especially considering the fact that we have a Regress to potentially loop the Memoir forever. Brimstone Mage is weaker in terms of the amount of synergy that it has with the deck compared to Mnemonic Wall, but is going to reduce the amount of Red that we see in pack three. It’s reasonable to hope that the Wall will wheel, though somewhat greedy. If there were a more even ratio of Red-to-Blue cards, then the Mnemonic Wall would get the nod instead of the Brimstone Mage.
My pick: Brimstone Mage
Pack 2 pick 2:
This pick is rather easy. One of the easiest ways to win a game is by drawing more cards than the opponent; Enclave Cryptologist does that and fits well into the deck shell.
My pick: Enclave Cryptologist
Pack 2 pick 3:
Explosive Revelation is fine, although it can be fairly inconsistent. When you’re playing Explosive Revelation in a deck with Flame Slash, Enclave Cryptologist, and possibly Fleeting Distraction, you won’t know with certainty that you’ll be able to kill a two-toughness creature. Frankly, that sucks! It’s nice when Explosive Revelation works out because you kill something while getting ahead by one card. However, when it doesn’t work out, you’ve most likely wasted your turn because it costs so much mana. Battle Rampart doesn’t suit the deck well even though it’s a Defender because it has a low impact on the board and the Haste ability doesn’t provide much benefit considering the average game length. Ogre Sentry is likely to wheel for similar reasons. Akoum Boulderfoot in the last option and is slightly better than Explosive Revelation because it provides the minimum damage that Revelation does while giving you a 4/5 body to work with for half the mana.
My pick: Akoum Boulderfoot
Pack 2 pick 4:
Reinforced Bulwark would fit well into this deck, though it would only be mediocre because it is a purely defensive card that is reliant on Vent Sentinel. Eel Umbra would serve the deck better because of the number of creatures that are important to keep in play (Enclave Cryptologist, Brimstone Mage, and Vent Sentinel).
My pick: Eel Umbra
Pack 2 pick 5:
Sphinx-Bone Wand is exactly the type of card this deck wants. It functions well with a high number of Instants/Sorceries and especially so with Rebound.
My pick: Sphinx-Bone Wand
Pack 2 pick 6:
One of the problems that Kiln Fiend has is that it trades with nearly everything unless you’re playing with bad cards like Distortion Strike and Goblin Tunneler. If you waste your removal on clearing a path for the Fiend, then you’re likely to lose if you can’t quickly finish the opponent off or else they’ll play a creature that you’ll have trouble dealing with (and be out of removal). Fortunately, Kiln Fiend becomes much easier to support in conjunction with Fleeting Distraction (which we have two of) because it cycles and allows you to conserve the real removal spells. Lay Bare is the other option, but it’s likely that we’ll be able to pick one up (or a Deprive) later on.
My pick: Kiln Fiend
Pack 2 pick 7:
There’s nothing for us here so we might as well take the only card that will be able to steal games from us.
My pick: Aura Gnarlid
Pack 2 pick 8:
Soulsurge Elemental is almost as underwhelming as Lagac Lizard in this draft archetype.
My pick: Battle Rampart
Pack 2 pick 9:
Phantasmal Abomination is Blue’s defensive Arrogant Bloodlord. Well not quite, but it’s quite hard to get around without wasting a removal spell on for most colors.
My pick: Phantasmal Abomination
Pack 2 pick 10:
Here’s the late Lay Bare that was talked about earlier.
My pick: Lay Bare
Pack 2 pick 11:
My pick: Ogre Sentry
Pack 2 pick 12:
We almost have enough cards to make Crab Umbra moderately playable. Almost!
My pick: Crab Umbra
Pack 2 pick 13:
My pick: Glory Seeker
Pack 2 pick 14:
My pick: Aura Finesse
Pack 2 pick 15:
After the first few picks, pack two was very underwhelming. I had expected us to pick up more Red than we did. Unfortunately the Mnemonic Wall didn’t wheel from our second pick, and our deck will suffer much from that. Pack three will need to be slightly above average for us to get back to the level where we were at after pack one. We should see a lot of good Red in pack three.
Pack 3 pick 1:
This pack is loaded with good cards. Keening Stone is a powerful card but doesn’t get the respect that it should. It would also fit well into our deck, but we’ve already got a _LOT_ of late game as is. Staggershock is going to be more useful for the deck because it pairs well with everything (Surreal Memoir/Sphinx-Bone Wand) and is great removal. This pack is should be good enough for the Vent Sentinel to wheel.
My pick: Staggershock
Pack 3 pick 2:
Dreamstone Hedron is good, but slow. Additionally, we aren’t accelerating into anything with it and using it mainly as a Concentrate. Halimar Wavewatch is also good, but both it and Dreamstone Hedron pale in comparison to Flame Slash which is easily the best card in the pack because it’s such an efficient removal spell.
My pick: Flame Slash
Pack 3 pick 3:
It’s unlikely that we’d play two Lay Bare; they’re just too expensive and one is enough against most decks. Sea Gate Oracle is the best pick; it’s like Battle Rampart but advances your game more effectively.
My pick: Sea Gate Oracle
Pack 3 pick 4:
There aren’t many creatures that benefit from Venerated Teacher (Enclave Cryptologist and two Brimstone Mages). However, the Teacher is still useful in the matchups where our game needs to be accelerated to keep pace with the opponent’s (Blue/White levelers). Summoning a Brimstone Mage on three, leveling it up on four, and then summoning Venerated Teacher on five will allow the deck to stabilize much earlier and steal games against the significantly lower curve of Blue/White levelers. Even though there’s a significant level of variance associated with playing Venerated Teacher with only three Level up creatures, the Teacher will still be better than some of the slower cards like Lay Bare and Sphinx-Bone Wand.
My pick: Venerated Teacher
Pack 3 pick 5:
We’ve already got a lot of removal, and Spawning Breath is weak enough to pass up for a Frostwind Invoker. The Invoker is a solid creature to win the game with.
My pick: Frostwind Invoker
Pack 3 pick 6:
Emrakul’s Hatcher is good, but doesn’t have much synergy with the rest of the deck. It’s also fighting with the Frostwind Invokers for the five-mana slot. Tuktuk is good, especially in a deck that’s going to be on defense more often than not. There’s really not a downside to him in our deck with the exception of being in this pack with the Vent Sentinel, which we really need to take to make our deck more consistent. If we pass up on the Vent Sentinel here and don’t wheel the other one in pick nine, then we’ll be far less likely to play the other two. Winning games will be much harder, and picking up the Tuktuk here doesn’t seem like it’s worth the risk of compromising the deck’s synergy.
My pick: Vent Sentinel
Pack 3 pick 7:
Warmonger’s Chariot is usually a trap. It’s certainly not as good as Vulshok Morningstar was in Ninth Edition draft. The problem with the Chariot is that it’s slow and usually doesn’t flow well with a deck’s theme. While our deck is a Wall deck, it’s mainly a control deck. It will be using most of its time doing other stuff until turn six/seven when it may start using Vent Sentinel. Warmonger’s Chariot doesn’t help this deck stabilize, is dead early on, and puts you into more of an all-in situation when our board consists of only a few creatures. When this deck starts winning, it won’t care about winning slightly faster with a four-power Vent Sentinel that can’t block compared to a two-damage Vent Sentinel that can.
My pick: Warmongers Chariot
Pack 3 pick 8:
I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want my Sphinx-Bone Wand blown up.
My pick: Fissure Vent
Pack 3 pick 9:
And then there were four
My pick: Vent Sentinel
Pack 3 pick 10:
Hedron Matrix usually isn’t good, but can get out of hand sometimes.
My pick: Hedron Matrix
Pack 3 pick 11:
My pick: Hand of Emrakul
Pack 3 pick 12:
My pick: Glory Seeker
Pack 3 pick 13:
I didn’t expect this to wheel especially considering that it was the only Red card in the pack at the time. However, with the way that Red was flowing in this draft, we can’t be too surprised that it came back.
My pick: Spawning Breath
Pack 3 pick 14:
My pick: Gravity Well
Pack 3 pick 15:
Pack three needed to deliver and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There are a number of ways to build this deck depending on how much we want to focus it on Vent Sentinels versus Sphinx-Bone Wand and Instants/Sorceries. Whatever the deck ends up looking like, it shouldn’t have a problem going 3-0.
The auto-includes in the deck are (17):
Once we get past all the sweet cards, we’ve got a few groups with different synergies that will push the deck in a specific direction based on how heavily we dip into each group. There are three groups of cards: Defender cards, Tricky Instant/Sorcery cards for Kiln Fiend/Sphinx-Bone Wand/Surreal Memoir, and “Plain ‘ol good cards”.
It’s important to analyze what the deck is will be susceptible to before deciding on which of the secondary cards are going to have a more important impact before pushing the deck in a specific direction.
The creature curve of the auto-includes is quite high and has no way of defending against a fast start without relying on the removal spells which makes cards like Ogre Sentry/Phantasmal Abomination and to a lesser extent Fleeting Distraction/Eel Umbra look more appealing. Using the last two cards to fend off attackers is going to be more difficult than the two Defenders. Phantasmal Abomination isn’t the most reliable creature to build our defense around because of cards like Umbras, Battle-Rattle Shaman, and Might of the Masses, but it will still cause them fits unless they can immediately deal with it which should give us enough time to effectively set up our board.
If we assume that we will need the support of the Defenders, then it’s less likely that we’ll be playing more aggressive cards like Warmonger’s Chariot, Battle Rampart, and Kiln Fiend for a few reasons. Chariot and Rampart help the deck’s offense, and while they have synergy with the Vent Sentinels that we want to run for sure, they don’t directly help the situations that the deck will commonly be in. The games we play with this deck are going to be grinds and last well into double-digit turns. There isn’t a blow-out draw that will lead to a quick win with this deck because it doesn’t have Skywatcher Adept, Champion’s Drake, or other cards that can deal a significant amount of damage in the first five turns of the game. It’s much more likely that we’re going to be playing defense for much of the game, and by playing cards like Warmonger’s Chariot (a card that only helps us attack), we’re making our deck less efficient at doing so. It’s more likely that we’d get more mileage out of a Fleeting Distraction than Warmonger’s Chariot because it is mana-efficient and helps us not die whereas the Chariot take a lot of mana to simply turn our Vent Sentinel into an Akoum Boulderfoot. The only thing that we need to focus on is playing cards that make it so that we don’t die. Winning is secondary.
Average game length is another factor to consider when determining which cards to play and which not to. A deck that plans on winning every game before turn seven isn’t going to be interested playing sweet expensive cards like Artisan of Kozilek (despite them being very good) because they compromise the consistency of the deck. Similarly, decks that plan on going past turn ten every game need to be more focused on being able to deal with anything because that’s what they’re going to face. With that in mind, it’s important to play with spells that can deal with anything, like Lay Bare.
The remaining slots in the deck should get filled up by the good cards. Frostwind Invoker may be a better card than Akoum Boulderfoot, but it’s far less useful on defense. The Boulderfoot should be able to kill something when summoned, and it’s definitely a better creature to have on defense than the Invoker.
Evil wins the roll and chooses to play first; looks like we won the roll after all. He immediately keeps his hand while we think about ours for a few moments (Island, Enclave Cryptologist, Sea Gate Oracle, Vent Sentinel, Flame Slash, Eel Umbra, and Lay Bare). At first glance many people would throw this hand away, but it’s fine on the draw because we’re more likely to have a land by turn two. Even if we don’t have a land, we won’t have to discard until the next turn. The Flame Slash and Eel Umbra should protect us and the Cryptologist and buy us enough time to win through card advantage. We snap keep.
Evil starts off the game by playing a Forest while [d: Mountain] we play the Island and summon the Cryptologist; sometimes you run well. Evil starts his offense by playing a Swamp and summoning a Beastbreaker of Bala Ged which won’t be a problem for us because of the Flame Slash. Ideally, Evil will spend his next turn leveling up the Beastbreaker. [d: Mountain] We play our Mountain and Level up the Cryptologist (L1) while Evil plays a Forest and does the same with his Beastbreaker (L1). The only difference with Evil’s creature is that he bashes us for four with it [G: 16]. However, we care not because we’re about to draw a boatload of cards and spend only one mana to deal with his guy. We loot at the end of the turn [d: Ogre Sentry] and discard the Lay Bare. Our mana will be tied up for a while (not to mention we don’t have double-Blue up yet) and we won’t have time to keep mana open to counter something.
[d: Brimstone Mage] We Level up the Cryptologist (L2), play our Mountain, and incinerate the Beastbreaker with Flame Slash. Meanwhile, Evil plays another Forest and summons a Nest Invader. We loot before starting our turn [d: Brimstone Mage] and discard the Sea Gate Oracle. [d: Spawning Breath] We level up the Cryptologist (L3) and draw a card [d: Surreal Memoir], but unfortunately have to pass the turn without playing a land. Hopefully Evil can’t deal with the Archivist on his turn.
Evil plays a Forest and attacks with his Nest Invader [G: 14]. Afterwards he summons another Beastbreaker of Bala Ged and levels it up (L1). [d: Island] Had it. We draw with the Cryptologist [d: Island], play the Island, and summon the Ogre Sentry before passing the turn. Evil decides to ignore the Cryptologist and points a Corpsehatch at the Ogre Sentry. We decide to save it with the Eel Umbra. Then Evil attacks with his Beastbreaker [G: 10].
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain, draw again [d: Staggershock], summon one of the Brimstone Mages, and pass. Evil plays a Swamp and levels his Beastbreaker (L2) before attacking with it. He had the mana to level it to four if he sacrificed two of his Eldrazi Spawn tokens, but he opted not to which suggests he may have a trick. We decide to block with the Ogre Sentry and Brimstone Mage. Evil then plays Virulent Swipe to give his Beastbreaker Deathtouch; we’re fine with that trade. Then Evil empties his hand by summoning an Ondu Giant after combat.
[d: Mountain] We play an Island, draw again [d: Island], summon the second Brimstone Mage, and pass. Evil rebounds the Virulent Swipe to pump the Nest Invader and attacks with it and the Ondu Giant. We decide that taking further damage would be a bad thing and use Staggershock to kill the Nest Invader [G: 8]. Evil empties his hand out again by playing a Swamp.
Our Staggershock rebounds and hits the Ondu Giant. [d: Flame Slash] Then we Level up the Brimstone Mage (L1) and use it along with the Spawning Breath to finish the Giant off. Before passing the turn we play an Island. Evil plays a Forest and passes. We draw at the end of his turn [d: Island]. [d: Frostwind Invoker] We play a Mountain and cast Surreal Memoir, but don’t get back Lay Bare. Instead, we get back Spawning Breath. Then we summon the Frostwind Invoker. Evil does nothing on his turn while the Brimstone Mage kills one of his two Eldrazi Spawn and we draw a card [d: Mountain].
The Surreal Memoir Rebounds and we get back Staggershock. [d: Mountain] We play an Island and attack with the Frostwind Invoker [E: 17]. Then we draw again [d: Mountain], summon the Vent Sentinel, and Level up the Brimstone Mage (L2) (thought it would have been better to just Level up the Mage twice) before passing. Evil summons a Wildheart Invoker and passes while the Brimstone Mage shoots his last Eldrazi Spawn.
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain, Level up the Brimstone Mage (L3), and kill the Wildheart Invoker with it. We draw again with the Cryptologist [d: Staggershock #2] and attack with the Frostwind Invoker [E: 14]. Evil plays a Swamp and passes, but not before the Vent Sentinel damages him [E: 13]. [d: Vent Sentinel] We play a Mountain and draw again [d: Vent Sentinel]. Then we attack with the Frostwind Invoker [E: 10] and pass. There’s no need to show Evil more cards. Evil concedes.
Sideboard: -1 Phantasmal Abomination; +1 Frostwind Invoker.
Evil chooses to play first and keeps his hand while we do the same (2 Mountain, Brimstone Mage, 2 Vent Sentinel, Akoum Boulderfoot, and Staggershock). Evil leads off with a Forest [d: Flame Slash] while we play a Mountain. Evil gets his offensive going by summoning a Null Champion after playing a Swamp. [d: Regress] All we do on our turn is play our second Mountain. Evil plays another Forest and levels his Null Champion (L1). Unfortunately we don’t have the Spawning Breath to punish him and we get attacked for four [G: 16].
[d: Island] We play the Island and use Staggershock to kill the Null. Sure, we could wait to see if Evil has an umbra, but we would rather play around a pump spell if he has one. Evil plays another Forest before summoning an Ondu Giant which fetches out a second Swamp. The Staggershock rebounds and we point it at Evil’s face [E: 18] [d: Island] We play the Island and summon one of our two Vent Sentinels. Evil immediately attacks and we call his bluff by blocking. Then he plays a Swamp and casts Growth Spasm to search out another Forest.
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and summon the second Vent Sentinel. Evil skips the attacking, but plays a Forest and summons a Dread Drone. [d: Enclave Cryptologist] We summon the Brimstone Mage and Enclave Cryptologist while Evil plays a Forest and attacks with his Dread Drone. We take the damage because we’ll be able to kill it next turn with the Brimstone Mage [G: 12]. Then Evil casts Essence Feed and drains us for another three [G: 9, E: 21], but only has one card left in hand when he passes the turn.
[d: Sea Gate Oracle] We Level up the Brimstone Mage (L1) and kill the Dread Drone. Evil summons a Nest Invader on his turn and then summons a Jaddi Lifestrider and gains a bunch of life [E: 41]. [d: Vent Sentinel. We summon the Sea Gate Oracle, put an Island into our hand (sending a Mountain to the bottom), and then play the Island. Then we Level up the Cryptologist (L1) and pass the turn. Evil empties his hand by playing a Forest and passes, unable to do anything while the Brimstone Mage begins cleanup duty and pings an Eldrazi token.
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and Level up the Cryptologist twice (L3). Evil only plays a Forest while we draw a card [d: Frostwind Invoker], ping a token with the Brimstone Mage, and use one Vent Sentinel [E: 39]. [d: Island] we play the Island and summon the third Vent Sentinel while Evil summons a Sporecap Spider. At this point we’re just going to burn Evil out. Before starting our turn, we draw [d: Mountain], ping a token, and use two Vent Sentinels [E: 33].
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and pass the turn. Evil plays a Swamp while we draw [d: Brimstone Mage], use three Vent Sentinels [E: 24], and ping a token. [d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and draw again [d: Ogre Sentry]. Then we summon the Ogre Sentry and pass the turn. Evil sees the writing on the wall and concedes.
We win the roll and choose to draw first because Evil’s deck is slow Green/Red/Black with Gigantomancer. Evil keeps his hand as do we (Island, 3 Mountain, Flame Slash, Regress, and Lay Bare). Evil leads off with a Forest while [d: Sea Gate Oracle] we play an Island and pass back. Evil fixes his mana with a Prophetic Prism after playing a Mountain while [d: Mountain] we simply play a Mountain and pass. Evil does nothing on his third turn except for playing a Swamp while [d: Mountain] we play a Mountain and summon the Sea Gate Oracle (taking Phantasmal Abomination and putting Mountain on the bottom), which doesn’t provide much help.
Evil finally starts to build his army on turn four by summoning a Kozilek’s Predator after he plays a Forest. [d: Frostwind Invoker] We can only play a Mountain and pass, holding our Flame Slash for a creature that actually matters. Evil plays a Mountain and attacks with the Predator [G: 17]. Then he summons a Dread Drone. [d: Brimstone Mage] We play another Mountain and summon the Frostwind Invoker.
Evil is hesitant to attack with his Dread Drone, but sends the Predator into combat. We snap block with our Frostwind Invoker. Then Evil plays a Forest and casts a Growth Spasm, allowing him to easily cast any spell in his deck. [d: Island] We play the Island and summon the Brimstone Mage. We’ll have Regress up all the time now which isn’t too obvious. Evil points Explosive Revelation at the Brimstone Mage, but we want to keep him around and save him with Regress. Then Evil plays a Forest and passes with two cards in hand.
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and pass the turn with Lay Bare up. Evil plays a Mountain and attacks with the Drone [G: 13] and we don’t bother throwing away our Oracle. [d: Island] We play the Island and Level up the Brimstone Mage (L1). Then we attack with the Sea Gate Oracle [E: 19] and kill the Dread Drone. Evil plays a second Prophetic Prism, plays a Forest, and then summons another Kozilek’s Predator. After that, he passes the turn with one card left in his hand.
[d: Vent Sentinel] We play our last Mountain and summon the Vent Sentinel. Evil plays a Forest and passes while we kill a Spawn token. [d: Vent Sentinel] We Level up the Brimstone Mage (L2). Evil does nothing on his turn while we use a Vent Sentinel [E: 18] and shoot a token. [d: Akoum Boulderfoot] We Level up the Brimstone Mage (L3) and pass. Evil plays a Mountain and passes while we use a Vent Sentinel [E: 17] and kill the Kozilek’s Predator.
[d: Mountain] We play the Mountain and attack with the Sea Gate Oracle; Evil chumps with a Spawn token. Then we summon the second Vent Sentinel and pass. Evil plays a Swamp and passes while we use a Vent Sentinel and shoot him with the Brimstone Mage [E: 12]. [d: Island] We play the Island and repeat our attack from last turn. Then we pass. Evil plays another Growth Spasm and concedes.
Sideboard: -1 Phantasmal Abomination: +1 Frostwind Invoker.
Evil chooses to play last, but we’ve got an aggressive hand to play with this time and happily keep (Island, 2 Mountain, Enclave Cryptologist, Brimstone Mage, and 2 Flame Slash). Evil keeps his hand as well. We lead off with playing our Island and summoning the Cryptologist while Evil only has a Mountain. We didn’t see much removal from him so our book-on-wheels should be good. [d: Spawning Breath] We play a Mountain and Level up our looter (L1). Evil plays a Forest and passes. We could loot but decide not to. Some people argue that looting is almost always the right play. However, at this point in the game we want all our lands and all our spells are good. If we draw a good spell, then we’ll be forced to discard a good one (Spawning Breath).
[d: Mountain] We play a Mountain, Level up the Cryptologist (L2), and pass the turn. Evil plays another Mountain and casts a Prophetic Prism before passing. We don’t loot again. [d: Island] We play the Island, Level up the Cryptologist (L3), and draw a card [d: Island]. Evil plays a Forest and summons an Ondu Giant which searches for a Swamp. [d: Lay Bare] We draw again [d: Mountain] and Flame Slash the Ondu Giant. Then we play a Mountain and pass. Evil answers back by summoning an Emrakul’s Hatcher which we let resolve.
[d: Vent Sentinel] We draw again [d: Island] and play an Island before passing. Evil attacks with the Hatcher [G: 17] before playing a Forest and summoning an Ulamog’s Crusher. We counter the Crusher with Lay Bare and see [Soulsurge Elemental, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, Overgrown Battlement, Gigantomancer, and Artisan of Kozilek]. It looks like we may be in some trouble. [d: Vent Sentinel] We draw again [d: Ogre Sentry], play the Island, and summon the Brimstone Mage and a Vent Sentinel. Evil answers back by playing a Forest and summoning Drana and the Overgrown Battlement.
[d: Mountain] We draw again [d: Mountain] and play a Mountain. Then we kill Drana with our other Flame Slash, Level up the Brimstone Mage to kill Evil’s last Eldrazi Spawn (to keep him off Artisan mana), and summon the Ogre Sentry. Evil plays a Forest and summons his Artisan of Kozilek which puts Drana back into play. [d: Island] We draw again [d: Brimstone Mage] and play a Mountain. Then we summon the Vent Sentinel and Brimstone Mage. Evil attacks with the Artisan (we sacrifice Island and Mountain) and Drana while we block with the (L0) Brimstone Mage, Ogre Sentry, and two Vent Sentinels. Before damage, he uses Drana to kill a Vent Sentinel and pump Drana by eight. We use Spawning Breath to finish off the Artisan [G: 5].
[d: Eel Umbra] We draw again [d: Regress], play an Island, and Level up the Brimstone Mage (L2), and Regress Drana back to Evil’s hand. Evil plays a Forest and attacks with the Emrakul’s Hatcher and we block with Brimstone Mage; before damage we suit it up with Eel Umbra (sacrificing the Spawn token. Afterwards he summons Drana again. [d: Mountain] we draw again [d: Mountain] and concede.
Despite not knowing about Drana and Artisan, there were a few places where we should have played differently. In the first place, we should have ignored the Ondu Giant. Sure, we would have taken maybe six damage from it, but we would have found a Defender to invalidate it or simply a Level one Brimstone Mage (which we had in hand). Secondly, we should have used Spawning Breath to deal one to Drana and then used the Eldrazi token as the last mana needed to Level up the Brimstone Mage twice to deal the last three damage to her. We would have taken a hit from the Artisan and gotten annihilated twice, but it would have been easier to deal with that. The Gigantomancer would have been problematic and we probably would have lost to that, though it’s not a certainty.
We choose to draw first again. Evil keeps his hand as do we (2 Island, 2 Mountain, Enclave Cryptologist, Sea Gate Oracle, and Spawning Breath). Evil leads off with a Forest while [d: Eel Umbra] we play an Island and summon the Cryptologist. Evil’s deck is firing on all cylinders as he plays a Mountain and summons an Overgrown Battlement. [d: Island] We play a Mountain and begin making our Archivist (L1). Evil continues with his streamlined curve as he plays a Mountain and summons a Kozilek’s Predator. Our hand is rather trashy so we loot before our turn starts [d: Island] and discard an Island.
[d: Surreal Memoir] We play an Island and summon the Sea Gate Oracle which finds us a Frostwind Invoker while putting another land on the bottom. Evil begins his offensive by attacking with the Predator [G: 17]. Then he plays a Swamp and summons an Emrakul’s Hatcher. We loot at the end of his turn [d: Lay Bare] and discard a Mountain. [d: Vent Sentinel] We play an Island and pass. Evil attacks with his two 3/3s and we block the Predator with our Oracle. Before damage we put Eel Umbra on it and use Spawning Breath to kill it [G: 14] Evil plays a Growth Spasm for a Swamp after combat. We don’t bother looting.
[d: Akoum Boulderfoot] We level up the Cryptologist twice (L3) and draw a card [d: Mountain]. Then we play the Mountain and pass. Evil plays a Mountain and another Growth Spasm before passing the turn with one card in hand. [d: Mountain] We draw again [d: Mountain] and play a Mountain before passing back. Evil plays a Mountain and summons another Kozilek’s Predator. [d: Mountain] We play a Mountain and summon the Vent Sentinel. Evil passes the turn while we draw with the Cryptologist [d: Flame Slash].
[d: Vent Sentinel] We play a Mountain and summon the Frostwind Invoker (sacrificing the Eldrazi Spawn leaving four lands untapped). Evil plays a Forest and passes while we draw [d: Island] and use the Vent Sentinel [E: 19]. [d: Brimstone Mage] We play an Island and attack with the Frostwind Invoker [E: 16]. After combat we summon the other Vent Sentinel. Evil finds some action and points Explosive Revelation at the Cryptologist, but it has done its damage already. We draw in response [d: Flame Slash] and let that resolve. The Cryptologist takes eight from an Ulamog’s Crusher and Evil summons it. We use a Vent Sentinel at the end of the turn [E: 14].
We could have used Lay Bare to save it and then cast Surreal Memoir next turn to have a fifty-percent change of getting it back, but at this point in the game there are only a few spells in Evil’s deck that actually matter. The game isn’t going to last for more than two of his turns which makes our play better. If he draws into a blank, then the Lay Bare will cold him. He’ll need to draw two action spells in a row and have the Surreal Memoir miss.
[d: Mountain] We play our Mountain and attack with the Frostwind Invoker [E: 11]. Then we kill the Crusher with two Flame Slashes and pass. Evil summons another Overgrown Battlement and passes, but not before we use two Vent Sentinels [E: 7]. We finish him off on our next turn. We are victorious.
I didn’t have time to play this round so we split. Evil’s deck was Blue/White but not very aggressive. The cards that he had that mattered were Hedron-Field Purists, Drake Umbra, and Mammoth Umbra along with a few fliers. The matchup seemed fine, though we probably would have lost one game to him sticking an Umbra onto a flier. However, with Lay Bare, Regress, and Surreal Memoir, it would have been moderately difficult to get everything to stick. Besides the Purists, we hadn’t seen any answers to Brimstone Mage which would have been problematic for him. Our deck seemed to have the advantage.
I have to say that after watching the replays of this draft, I was amazed at how many times I would have done something differently than what actually happened. I’d go to write that I did when in fact it was . “Why did I do that? seemed obvious.” Normally I just play on auto-pilot going with how my gut feels, but the decision trees in this draft seemed to be more complex and required a bit more thinking than what I normally go with. What is important to take note of is that there’s usually something that is being overlooked, whether it be insignificant and subtle at the time or something obviously important that will bite you in the end. Always making the right play and doing so in a timely manner is an important aspect with high-level Magic. For those of you who play regularly on Magic Online, I advise you to watch your replays regardless of the format to see if you can immediately catch your suboptimal plays and the reasons behind them. Doing so will help you improve your game in the future.