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FFfreaky Friday – Avoiding Traps and Playing Boros

No time for an opening paragraph, we have too much Magic to talk about this week!

Pick 1 Pack 1, Necropede or Oxidda Scrapmelter?

I had this pick twice at the Grand Prix and even asked my Facebook friends what they would do. I know there are 12 other cards in the pack to decide from, but for this exercise lets pretend this is in a vacuum.

This is the most interesting decision I have come across in Scars of Mirrodin limited so far. We all know how powerful an Oxida Scrapmelter can be. It has the ability to create a very powerful tempo swing in the early stages of a game as well as take out the most powerful piece of an opponent’s arsenal. This is not the key of this debate. It is how powerful an early pick Necropede can be.

I have not drafted enough Scars to fully understand this set yet, but one thing I have found is it is hard to take the leap into Infect. Forcing this strategy can end up costing you the entire draft/tourney by giving you an unplayable deck. It also can be a great decision if no one else is drafting the strategy.

On the other hand sometimes it is hard to jump into it early enough for it to be beneficial. Taking a Cystbearer pick three is not easy when there are playables in the pack or even something that goes well with your first couple picks. It is a complete change of strategy and abandoning an early pick will for sure happen when it is taken.

I also never really have enough great playables for the infect deck. I really need all 42 picks to get a decent deck. My sideboarding is always hard since I can’t take out many cards and don’t really have many that would help. I need most of my cards to be part of the strategy. Some of the infect cards are very bad as well so getting enough playables is very important.

With this knowledge I have found a few ways to try to draft Infect but still keep my options open. Any Black removal spell is a safe dip into the strategy, as well as Necropede or Grafted Exoskeleton. Grafted Exoskeleton is a very powerful equipment that is decent in a good Infect deck, but is broken in an unfocused deck. It gives every creature in the deck the chance at being a real threat.

I don’t like taking Grafted Exoskeleton first pick over a Scrapmelter though. It is much slower and not the powerful early drop that this format demands from most decks. Necropede does fit the bill. It is a two-drop infect creature which is the most important part about the strategy. It also goes in every deck. It doesn’t matter if you are playing control, aggro, metalcraft, or infect. This guy is a great spell. It is no bomb but will always be an above average playable.

There is the impression that Oxidda Scrapmelter is very splashable in this format. I don’t really agree with this unless I am playing Green. Decks are fast and focused and even though the card has a body, it is not a trick. I like my splashes to usually be bombs or tricks since they have the highest chance of breaking a game wide open.

Many times I’ve tried to stretch my manabase, and most of those times I was punished for it. I thought since half my deck was colorless I would have time to find my mana. This is not the case when people are overvaluing mana Myrs and Chrome Steeds. These cards are not as good as I thought when the format was fresh, but are very real when you are stumbling. I also like playing any available Spellbombs and those are more mana intense than one would think.

This means that by taking Oxidda Scrapmelter, I will be either wasting a pick if I try to go into infect or scaring myself out of trying to draft it. I have seen that one too many times in this format. People see two cards in a pack that are in their strategy and only 1 good infect card in the early picks of the draft. They almost never will even think about the infect creature. This is how this strategy was supposed to be looked at but I think it can be very foolish when drafting at high level events. If everyone around you is thinking the same way then you really want to capitalize on this.

Both times this pick came up in the tournament I went with Scrapmelter, but that doesn’t mean it is correct to do so.

The first time I made this decision was in swiss draft two. I needed to 2-0 and then get the draw with someone that could take a chance at knocking me out. Since I was a threat to anyone in the event I could see them trying to beat me out, so I thought I needed to 3-0 the draft. Knowing I couldn’t lose changed the way I approached the draft, as it should.

I was also on a very powerful draft table. With all of this information I knew I would have to draft a very good deck. It was not time to take a safe/open pick but a very aggressive and risky one. The power level of my deck would have to be high. One loss was just like three in my opinion. I had to go big or go home.

This is why I took Oxidda Scrapmelter in the second draft as well. I was in a single elimination Top 8. If I was needing only a 2-1 or less I would take the other card. It would keep me more open to any possibility but would also lower the power level of my deck so early in the draft.

Trap Picks

One of the hardest things I have come across with drafting is when there is a card that doesn’t belong in the pack. They usually show up between pick two and six, and are way more powerful than the rest of the pack.

Years ago I would just take the card and sometimes it would work out. The color/strategy was open and I was able to take advantage of the random pick. Most of the time it wouldn’t. I never really understood why a card could be so late yet not open. It wasn’t until Wizards printed a card called Vampire Nighthawk that I was able to learn what this phenomenon actually was.

What happened with this card is that it was more powerful than most of the Rares even though it was Uncommon. It was arguably the third best card in the set behind Malakir Bloodwitch and Sorin Markov. Everyone that drafted that format knew the power level of Vampire Nighthawk since it was winning so many games in that format.

The first time I saw this card pick two I was just thinking about how dumb the person the my right must be. I take the Hawk and end up not able to properly fight for Black. After the draft I would come to find out the person was not an idiot but someone lucky enough to open one of the better black cards. I was in fact the one that hooked myself into a bad draft.

I did this a couple times since it’s very difficult to have the discipline to pass such a powerful card that early. Every time it never worked out since I was not supposed to be in Black in the draft. They always opened one of the more powerful spells. This became the most obvious way for me to understand what trap picks were.

Picture this. You are in the first draft of a Grand Prix. You sit down and start your draft off with these first three picks.

 

The only cards you passed were a few Infect creatures, some average colored Metalcraft creatures and one piece of removal. Both of the rares that your opponents opened are missing when you got your Myrsmith and Chrome Steed. Next pack you see a very weak pack but there is an Embersmith and a Origin Spellbomb in it. One common, uncommon, and rare is missing from the pack. These are also registered packs so there is no chance of a foil in the packs.

What is your pick? Both cards are very good in the type of metalcraft deck you are trying to get into but the more powerful one is another color. It also looks very out of place in this pack. I would have slammed the card without thinking before but that is not what you should do. There are a few questions you want to ask yourself before you make a choice.

Why is the Embersmith still in this pack?

This is the real question. We know that there have been some rares taken so given what information you do have you will know that there can be a higher percentage of bombs than usual. Red is one of the colors people will fall into first as well. It has a higher number of removal and some very good cards. Since the rares have been taken this means that there are only three chances that someone to your right took a card like Turn to Slag or Galvanic Blast. That is only half the picks taken. There is an uncommon missing as well. I would have to think that the uncommon missing must either be Oxidda Scrapmelter, Skinrender, an infect creature, or an artifact like Contagion Clasp.

This is when the next question comes up. Is someone drafting infect? Remembering if any good infect creatures came by in the passed packs is important. If you figure out if the person to your right is drafting infect the best place to be is in a metalcraft deck. Most of the cards don’t overlap and they will tend to pass a ton of good cards.

With all of this information I would say Embersmith is a good pick. It seems that the percentage of someone taking a red card over the Smith is low and that the rares already taken have not given you enough information into what is the best strategy. This is the best possibility of an Embersmith making it this far and being the correct pick.

Lets change the situation a bit. You still started with the same three picks but you did see a few more infect creatures and there were bad rares in all of the packs. The pack is now Embersmith, Origin Spellbomb, Ichorclaw Myr, and Semblance Anvil. There is still an uncommon and two commons missing.

This is the perfect conditions for a trap pick. It is still a possibility that Red is open but the percentage of that has gone down considerably. What could have happened now is the pack might have had Oxidda Scrapmelter, Galvanic Blast, Turn to Slag, or even Shatter. The person takes one of these cards since they are not starting the draft off with a bomb that puts them into a strategy and just passed the Embersmith since there was a better option in the color.

It seems that no one has gone all-in on infect yet so that limits the amount of cards someone would take over the Embersmith. Remember that three people have already seen this card and chose something else. Most drafters follow the rules set down from the elders which is: Bombs >Removal> Evasion> Dudes. Since this is usually true, the drafters probably took removal since there were no Bombs in the packs. Most of the removal is in black and red, with a splash in the other colors.

Taking the Embersmith in this situation will lead to a wasted pick or even a bad draft if you are not disciplined enough to step away from the sweet WR Metalcraft deck you are starting to draft.

Counter Argument

Since this is Scars of Mirrodin and not a different draft format it is very possible to draft the same deck right beside someone and still come out with a good deck. The pool of cards for metalcraft is so vast and people need to have a certain number of artifacts to make the deck work that you still might get a Turn to Slag to come through a red drafter. This is just another time that it is better to be thinking about what is going on before you take a pick.

Why is it so hard to draft infect?

Infect is a very interesting spin on drafting. Infect really reminds me of Ravnica, Ravnica, Ravnica draft. There was a Blue/Black mill strategy in this format that was very good when you were the only person on the table drafting it. It could also be the worst possible thing to do to yourself if it wasn’t open. The reason it was risky was because all of your picks were either removal or for the strategy of milling them out. There was no plan b really. You either milled them or died.

This is a ton like infect. You have to kill them in a completely different way than just damage. If your deck is not good enough to deal 10 poison counters, it will be very hard to do 20 damage. This means that when drafting the archetype a player has to aggressively take the infect cards.

One of the hardest parts of this is when to move into infect. The only time I drafted infect in a professional event was at Grand Prix Toronto. I had a slight advantage when I took a 2nd pick Plague Stinger in a pack full of Infect creatures. I had Ben Stark to my right. Ben is a very solid drafter and knew that if there was a chance that the person to his right would also go into infect he would not go into it. He also doesn’t want to end both of our drafts. With this information I was able to move into it pick 2 since it was the best card in the pack and I thought I had a good chance to getting into the archetype with little resistance.

I see this too often though. Sometimes there is a pack littered with infect creatures. Someone will take one and then pass it to the next person who thinks it is open as well. They both fight over infect and end up with very bad decks only to meet each other in the 0-2 bracket.

Like I already said before, drafting infect takes away from many other cards coming around. This means that it drastically narrows the cards you are able to pick from. Packs are only 3-4 cards deep instead of the usual 10-13. It makes matters worse when someone is right beside you taking the best card in the pack and leaving you with the second best infect creature.

The best solution I have found for this is to abandon ship if good infect creatures are not coming. If you don’t have a Plague Stinger or Cystbearer in the first couple picks why are you trying to force infect anyway? Do you think it is only going to get better?

I think it is just more important to value non-infect early unless given the opportunity. It will present itself if you are looking for it. Just don’t go and try to find it.

Boros

Since there has been so much talk about Limited this week I thought it would be good to talk a bit about Standard. I have been playing around with Boros for the last week. Even thought he deck does not have Ranger anymore does not mean it isn’t a real threat.

The new additions to the deck are mostly in the sideboard but the deck did get a great one-drop in the shape of Spikeshot Elder. This guy means business when he is equiped to an Adventuring Gear. He isn’t even that bad at getting the last damages in one point at a time. This is the list I have been running.

 

The main deck is pretty straightforward, with nothing too cute. Since most people are trying to beat ramp and control decks in game one they are not equipped to deal with this deck out of the gates. This means the main deck should be geared to do what it does best.

Once the game gets to the sideboard people will have cards to deal with an aggro rush. This is where Koth of the Hammer does some great work. Most control decks cannot deal with him if they are not expecting him. I always thought this card was not that good since it was only good in some matchups. I never really thought about how good he can be from the sideboard.

Eldrazi Ramp

This is probably the best matchup for the deck. They don’t have too many cards that win the game. Turn two Overgrown Battlement is the first way they get enough time to win. The other is Wurmcoil Engine. This is the only card in their maindeck that is hard to deal with when Boros is on a decent draw. If they can not power this guy out fast enough it should be easy to run them over.

Sideboarding

There are a few ways to sideboard in this matchup. The first is to bring in Mark of Mutiny and Tunnel Ignus to beat up their plan A. I don’t actually even know if these cards are needed because I have found a really sweet way to crush them. Their only defense to creatures is to bring in bigger guys designed to stop a weenie rush. Bringing in the Sparkmage package makes a ton of sense if this is the only way they have to interact with the deck.

On the play

In

 

Out

 

On the Draw

In

 

Out

 

Valakut Ramp

This is a tougher matchup, since they have the ability to burn your guys out. Game one is very similar to that of Eldrazi Green; you are way ahead. Their clock is just so much slower than yours. Unfortunately, that is not that case for game two.

They will be bringing in Pyroclasms, Lightning Bolt, and even Obstinate Baloths. There are a few tricks to know when playing against Pyroclasm. Don’t give them the opportunity to two for one you when you have a Landfall creature in play. It’s all right for them to get a Goblin Guide and Stoneforge Mystic on turn two, but hitting a Steppe Lynx and Geopede is just a mistake. When you have a Landfall creature on the battlefield, the best play is to have a fetchland ready to protect it. You don’t need to throw everything you have at them right away. They have taken out cards to make room for interactive spells making them slower in comboing.

Sideboarding

In

 

Out

 

I like to board Koth in this matchup since they have less small guys ready to block. It can really put damage on the clock.

UB Control

This matchup is either good or bad, depending on what style of deck they have. They can either be Trinket Maging for Elixir with Abyssal Persecutor dropping early, or only having Planeswalkers and Frost Titans to play on their turn. All I know about this matchup is it is a good thing to not walk into a Consume the Meek.

Koth is about the only card to board in this matchup. It is a very good card against them though. Don’t just run him out there against open mana. They will have a tough time dealing with him no matter what stage of the game.

I have played tons of games with Jace, the Mind Sculptor against Boros. The one thing I know is the Jace player is trying to set up a situation where Boros has one creature left on the board and they can simply play Jace and bounce it. Most of the time the Boros player does not have something fast enough to hit it before the control player untaps. This is where Koth can change the game very quickly.

If you suspect your opponent has a counter spell and a removal spell in hand, it is sometimes correct just to attack your opponent and play Koth second mainphase when they are tapped out. Even though it is not the optimal play with the ‘Walker, they will probably not be able to get rid of it for a turn anyway.

UW Control

The only differences with the two types of control decks is that UW might have Baneslayer Angel. They also have Colonnades to one-hit kill Koth. Other than that the matchups play out similarly since Wall of Omens is not being played too often. This deck really isn’t in the queus so I don’t know how popular it is right now.

Mono Red

This is the type of deck that is either in your environment or not. If this deck is around I would strongly consider sideboarding Kor Firewalkers. This is a tough matchup since it comes down to attrition and they have cards like Kargan Dragonlord to win the late game. I usually take the aggressive approach in this matchup since your deck can hit harder and faster. It will come down to a ton of math and if you can break everything down you should be able to win the games.

Mono White Quest

Still not a deck……….

Elves!!!

This is a tough game one, but once you get the Basilisk Collar into the main deck it shouldn’t be that bad. Keep in mind that they do have the ability to Eldrazi Monument up. Sparkmage is the best card here, and by using it you can just try to control them from the beginning of the game. They have no way to disrupt your game plan so the best way to win is disrupting theirs.

Sideboarding

In

 

Out

 

That’s the article. Good luck at Friday Night Magic, a PTQ, or even an online draft. If anyone is in Minneapolis for the PTQ stop by the Paradox Comics and Cards booth. I will be Gunslinging there all day. Just don’t make me play Legacy..(they like Legacy there).

Brad Nelson
[email protected] ( I’m official now!)

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