I am finally back home from Grand Prix Columbus and Gen Con. The week in Indianapolis did not go as well as I would have hoped. Even though I did not win any events at the convention, it did teach me a lot about Standard. Time to look back and figure out what is going on.
At Gen Con I quickly exited the Block Championships. Since it is a dead format now, it is really not worth talking much about. This did let me join the Midwest Master Series LCQ that was starting soon. I did, however, not know about this tournament until 2 minutes before it started. I quickly built up a Naya Shaman deck that I had scattered in my bag and went to battle.
I found out quickly that Inferno Titan is an absolute beast. He is very good when he comes down early against most decks. I was also playing an Emeria Angel that was not good at all. The theory behind that card was there for me, but it did not perform well at all. I never wanted to go search for it and when I drew it, I wished I had Shaman to discard it.
I ended up grinding into the Midwest Master tournament after staying up all night to do so. That meant I got to play in the 10k tournament on Saturday. I got prepared for the event and then went 1-2 and was out of it. I lost to Owen Turtenwald playing Jund, and lost to a play mistake topped onto cascading into the one card in my deck that doesn’t trigger my Vengevines. It was a very disappointing tournament.
Owen sold me on his strategy. Jund seems to be in a very good place in the metagame. Most of the decks right now are not defined and trying things out. This is Jund’s playground and gives it a really good chance to beat down the format. Jund has not changed and for good reasons. It still is the powerhouse deck and proves it will continue to dominate if it is not targeted.
Naya seems that it can be very powerful if built correctly. I have been playing the deck ever since M11 came out and finally realized that [card]Cunning Sparkmage[/card] is just not good enough in the main. Patrick Chapin told me something this last weekend that has echoed through me ever since. He told me that I am too attached to things that I think belong. He hit it on the nose. Just because Sparkmage seems correct in the deck does not make it.
It is only good against the other GW decks and those are not that popular in the metagame. I have lost too many games to Ramp and Control decks because I had too many bad cards game one against them. This means that the deck needs a big overhaul. Even though I have been slaving over the numbers, I have yet to get a list I like.
It seems that the deck is missing something in the early game. The four drops are cluttered and I want something to play off of a turn one accelerant. I have already tried Woolly Thoctar, but it didn’t seem that good unless it was on turn two. Dauntless Escort and Sun Titan just might be what the maindeck wants, or go back to more of a traditional Boss Zoo list.
I still want to be playing a creature deck in this format. Green/Red Ramp does not seem powerful enough to me, and I don’t know what I should be controlling if I play UW. I still just want to beat down.
It is a good thing that Tom “The Boss” Ross is now up in North Dakota with me ready to start testing for Nationals and the Pro Tour. Nacatls run through his blood so we should be able to get a Naya list we both like. I just hope it’s before Nationals start.
The other thing that has to be worked on is M11 draft. I was not too excited when I heard I will have to be playing this format for about a month straight. It only took 3 drafts to realize that this is nothing like M10. It is actually a ton of fun and a very good format. The average power level of the cards went up as well as most of the unbeatable bombs have been taken out. Green got a great card in Plummet and the whole format feels much more skill-intensive.
I am early in my testing for this format, but there is one thing I know I want to be in: blue. Blue seems like the most powerful color and I have won more drafts with that color then any other. Blue/white fliers is a very powerful strategy that I love to get into, but I also enjoy blue/black control. One of the most underrated cards in this strategy is Armored Cancrix. Most people treat this card like the plague. I do not see why, because it really feels like it came out of Rise of the Eldrazi Limited. In that format, I liked to be in a very controlling deck that by just playing some high toughness creatures, I could eliminate many of my opponent’s ground-pounders. Being able to slow the game down and have a deck designed to get damage in off the ground is very powerful. There are only a handful of creatures that get around 5 toughness and those become the creature you target with removal.
I recently had a draft that I found very interesting and would be a good topic for my article. Many of the picks bring up good discussions about the format. Let’s see what you guys think!
Pack 1 pick 1:
This pack only has two cards that are first pickable. Condemn is a very good removal spell in a UW Flies style deck while Blinding Mage wins games all by itself if it is not dealt with. The rest of this pack is not too strong. I do like Liliana’s Specter, but it is more of a card that fits a role already in place. Blinding Mage is the pick here because of its constant effect on the board. It also fits the curve very well since there aren’t many good two drops when using this strategy.
Pack 1 pick 2:
I am not happy taking Sleep here. It is a very underwhelming card when I play with it. I mostly joke how it is the most powerful green card in the format, and to be honest it fits best with green. However the pack here is very week and it is between Sleep and Fire Servant. I usually only go into red when I see a more powerful card. Sleep is also in the color I want to be in, so this pick is somewhat forcing a strategy. I do not think it is a bad idea to try to force what you want in this draft format. Sometimes when I am too passive, I end up in a very bad deck that is trying to do too many things. The safe pick is Sleep even though its not the best card in the pack.
Pack 1 pick 3:
I could have had 3 Specters at this point, but it was not right without the information. Cloud Elemental is part of the backbone to the UW Skies deck. Three drops are very important since it is easy to get cluttered with fours and fives. Prodigal Pyromancer is a very good card but like I said, I don’t want to be put into red. This also might throw my neighbor into the color. This is the second Squadron Hawk, but neither will table back. If the table does not respect blue, I might get the Cancel back. There is pottentially 9 cards in this pack people will want to play with. It is important to see what card does come back to see what people are under drafting if we need to stop forcing.
Pack 1 pick 4:
Infantry Veteran is not the most exciting card in the pack, but I only want to play one [card]Excommunicate[/card] with this strategy and I see finding one of those to be easy. Stone Golem is okay, but I would rather pick up a [card armored cantrix]Cantrix[/card] or two before one of those. I take the Veteran because it can be a great strategy in post-sideboard games.
Pack 1 pick 5:
Seeing this Cultivate made me think about going green. The only reason I do not want to is that I don’t like green with blue or white. It is fine with blue, but if I am playing green, I would rather get into green/black or green/red. Cloud Elemental is not as good as Cultivate but it does fit my force strategy and therefore worth grabbing. It is a bit scary seeing another Squadron Hawk here. If someone picked up the first two a few to my left, I can see myself getting cut in pack two. It is important to go into this strategy when no one to your left in there. UW Skies can be a fragile strategy if people are fighting over it. I find it much more effective when the people to my left are fighting over the other three colors and I have a very good pack 2.
Pack 1 pick 6:
Silvercoat Lion will never make the main deck. It is a very good card to be able to sideboard in against aggressive strategies. Since I do not want any of the other cards in the pack, grabbing this card is not a bad call. This pack seems to be dried up so I do not get information on drafting except that white is not being overdrafted since there are two somewhat playable white cards and should not have had more then 4 cards in the color in that pack.
Pack 1 pick 7:
Assassinate is going a bit late here. The more important late card is Azure Drake. This is the best common flier for this deck. It is very important to get your hands on some of these when going into this deck. I used to think that the Llanowar Elves was a signal because of how good it was in M10. It does not seem to have the same powerful effect on the early game as it did before. Many times drafting I wish my Llanowar Elves were additional lands. I am not saying it is not playable, but I just no longer look at it as a strong signal.
Pack 1 pick 8:
This is the second Plummet to come around already. It is very scary to play this deck when there are 3-4 Plummets on the table and we’ve already seen a Giant Spider and two Plummets. Negate is a good card to fight the Plummets and will most likely make the sideboard against green decks.
Pack 1 pick 9:
Condemn and Squadron Hawk got taken so far from this pack. That doesn’t seem too bad since Hawk probably made it around to the other side of the table. Taking Mighty Leap here makes sense since I think Excommunicate should come back in the next pack. Maritime Guard can sometimes be powerful against Black Knights, but I know I should be able to find one later on.
Pack 1 pick 10:
The Excommunicate did not come back here, but it was a weak pack. I steal the Hornet Sting since it is the most scary card in the pack.
Pack 1 pick 11:
Since this Cancel came back, this is a good sign for being in blue. White has not been great yet and switching colors is not out of the question. This is a great signal and pick for the deck so far.
Pack 1 pick 12:
Pack 1 pick 13:
Pack 1 pick 14:
Pack 1 pick 15:
Pack 2 pick 1:
This was a close pick. Juggernaut is a very good card and can be great when a deck can deal damage with cards like [card]Sleep[/card] and Blinding Mage. Cloud Crusader is a great card, but I already have three fliers that stop the card. Juggernaut can deal 20 damage all on its own with some UW backup.
Pack 2 pick 2:
This is a very good pack, but nothing compares to the power of multiple Blinding Mages. There is an abundance of green cards in this pack and even another Spider. This is good though, since I am hoping multiple people to my right are fighting over this color.
Pack 2 pick 3:
This feels like a treat to me. I almost never get a Pacifism and always get excited to get to play with it. It is a very good card in this format and very good for attrition wars.
Pack 2 pick 4:
The White Knight would be a very good card for this deck. The Knights are always very strong and almost worth taking over many creatures. I do not want to take it over another Blinding Mage though. They are good on their own, but insane in multiples.
Pack 2 pick 5:
I do not want to even fight for [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s anymore. I really do like having 3+ in a deck like this, but I already have three cards that cost two and have passed a lot of these. It is even nice to know that they will not be good against my deck filled with fliers.
Pack 2 pick 6:
I think this was a mistake. Roc Egg curves better in my deck and Assault Griffin does not look good for this draft. With so many other fliers and Spiders that beat it, I would rather have the scary card that curves nicer.
Pack 2 pick 7:
I know I will be getting one of these for Pick 9 of this pack, but I do like having a few in the main and a few in the sideboard. I also do not have any five drops in the deck yet.
Pack 2 pick 8:
Pack 2 pick 9:
Pack 2 pick 10:
Pack 2 pick 11:
Pack 2 pick 12:
Pack 2 pick 13:
Pack 2 pick 14:
Pack 2 pick 15:
Pack 3 pick 1:
Pack 3 pick 2:
Another no-brainer. Even though there is some powerful cards for this deck, nothing compares to Serra Angel. It is the card that will break board stalls and get me more wins than any other card in my deck.
Pack 3 pick 3:
Pack 3 pick 4:
This pick is more hating than anything else. Whispersilk Cloak is a good card against UW Skies and also against board stalls. There is nothing in the pack that I would consider “very good” except for the Slime. I would rather fight Acidic Slime then a Cloak. It can also be boarded in when fighting the mirror.
Pack 3 pick 5:
My pick: Alluring Siren
This deck does not Alluring Siren very well, but again is a very good sideboard card. It is very good at killing small guys in the early game, but its real job is to make Giant Spiders attack. It has been a strategy I have used and loved for over a year now and I still will pick one up when I can. I do not have any Wall of Frost so it will not make the main.
Pack 3 pick 6:
I do not know if this was the correct pick. Since I have not gotten to play these cards much before I thought I would go for the card that sneaks more spells in my deck. I think this pick can go back and forth depending on how many playable cards are in the pool. I really do like Foresee and would like it in my deck. I think that because the deck is mostly fliers and controlling guys, that Foresee might have been the correct pick. But I took LSV’s advice and took the rare for testing.
After playing with the card, I found that Mystifying Maze worked out very well. In the games I played it I would tend to get 1-2 guys attacking and Maze + Blinding Mage preventing the damage. I now have much more respect for that card, and will take it higher when my deck is almost complete.
Pack 3 pick 7:
Pack 3 pick 8:
I took Mana Leak over Cancel because I already had 3 Cancels. I would never play that many but could see boarding in a Mana Leak when the deck I am playing against is faster.
Pack 3 pick 9:
Pack 3 pick 10:
Pack 3 pick 11:
Pack 3 pick 12:
Pack 3 pick 13:
Pack 3 pick 14:
Pack 3 pick 15:
I would like to hear what you guys think about how that deck was drafted.
My final decklist:
This whole next week, Tom Ross is staying at my place. I thought it would be a good chance to do something fun for my next article. I think it would be fun to break down a matchup the only way two grinders can. Let me know which Standard matchup you guys would like to see us play out. Until next week!