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Initial Technology – Drafting Saga and Playing Vintage

 

The next couple weeks are going to be quite interesting. The Rise of the Eldrazi prerelease is next week, which will provide the last piece of the puzzle for Block Constructed. I actually spent my whole day playing Block Constructed, although the story doesn’t have a happy ending. I went 8-1 in this month’s Magic Online Championship Series, but unfortunately that wasn’t good enough to Top 8. Because many of the participants had between one and three byes (depending on the number of points they accumulated in the prior month) there should have been an extra round in the tournament. Every person with three byes counts as eight people when determining the number of Swiss rounds to be played, since otherwise you end up with the exact situation that occurred; three people missed Top 8 with x-1 records. That definitely led to a frustrating end to my tournament, since going 8-1 is not easy to do, and I got a whole 12 packs as a reward. Hopefully that oversight gets fixed in subsequent events, since it is a pretty egregious error. Making the tournament essentially single elimination for anyone who loses in the first four or five rounds is terrible, and certainly doesn’t provide much incentive for anyone to go through the process of qualifying in the first place. It sure left me with a sour taste in my mouth, and made me regret spending my Saturday playing MTGO at home when I could have been doing something else (aka playing Magic elsewhere, let’s not fool ourselves). If I knew I was dead in round three (the only round I lost), that would have been much easier to bear than winning 6 more rounds and finishing 10th.

The only bright spot is that the winner of the MOCS was none other than Channelfireball’s own Brad Nelson (FFfreak on MTGO), who took it down with the same deck I played. The deck is pretty ridiculous actually; the four people who played about the same 75 were myself, Brad, wrapter, and Mike Jacob (who designed the deck). Not counting mirror matches, we had a combined 33-4 record, with Brad going 10-0, MJ going 8-1, and wrapter going 7-2. Who knew that Jace, Goblin Ruinblaster, and Avenger of Zendikar could combine so well! I’ll leave it at that, since I don’t want to steal Brad’s thunder; look for his tournament report and deck breakdown this coming Thursday.

I have two interesting topics today, although I’m curious about how much they overlap. First, I want to talk about Vintage, with report detailing the tournament I played at GP Houston last week. I also want to cover a strategy I have been having success with in Urza’s Saga draft on Magic Online. Like I said, topics with not necessarily a ton of overlap. I have always been a firm believer that playing offbeat formats helps your competitive game, as well as delivering quite a bit of fun. I would recommend to those who haven’t tried either Vintage or drafting old sets to do so, since you can learn a lot from either format.

Ter-ing Up Houston

I have never been a big fan of Oath of Druids in Vintage. Oath decks always felt like slow combo decks; all they were really good at was finding and resolving Oath + Forbidden Orchard, and hoping that was fast enough. Against the decks I liked to play, it mostly wasn’t. They could resolve Oath, and even Oath up an Akroma or Hellkite Overlord and I would just Tendrils them out or take all the turns with Time Vault + Voltaic Key. However, that has all changed. As usual, Rich Shay has broken it. There aren’t many people I pay attention to when it comes to Vintage, but Mr. Shay is certainly at the top of the list. He plays Magic in a very similar way to myself, and the decks he makes are just about always awesome (and sweet!). Last year, he combined Mystic Remora, Meditate, and Commandeer to make a nice mono-U control deck. GerryT won an Ancestral Recall with my copy of the deck, which you can read about here.

Here is the Oath list Rich Shay wrote about in a recent tournament report:

There are a few key additions that overcome my resistance to playing Oath.

An actual supported Vault-Key kill. Not playing the best combination in Vintage is hard to justify, and this Oath list manages to provide a good shell for Vault-Key. With Tezzeret, Tinker, Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, Mystical Tutor, to find the pieces, and Force of Will and Spell Pierce to protect them, you can easily pass for an actual Tezzeret deck in some games.

Terastodon is unreal. Rich talked about how awesome he is, but until playing with him I couldn’t fully grasp it. Exactly like he said, I made every combination possible of Elephants on their side and mine. Eating their mana sources or Vault/Key slows them down and lets you get more Oath activations off, and eating your Oath plus excess land is great when you are behind and want to just kill them. Plus, hardcasting Terastodon isn’t impossible, and I did it twice in the tournament.

Show and Tell sidesteps many of the hate cards you can expect to face. I beat Fish twice on the back of it, both times plopping an enormous beast into play despite their Trygon Predator or Qasali Pridemage. The single-mindedness of normal Oath lists was one of my biggest objections, and Show and Tell is a Plan B I can get behind.

Add all these points together and I was more than happy to sleeve up Oath of Druids. Well, that statement isn’t exactly true, for multiple reasons. Playing in the Vintage side event meant I didn’t day two the GP, so I certainly wasn’t happy about that, and I didn’t actually sleeve the deck myself. I borrowed the whole 75, sleeved, and with a pre-written decklist from David Ochoa, who proved why is called the Swiss Army knife. In any case, Shay’s Oath list solved all the problems I had with the deck previously, so I was set to battle with it. I played the above list with –1 Lat Nam’s Legacy +1 Show and Tell in the maindeck, and –2 Duress +2 Thoughtseize in the sideboard.

Round One vs some Vault-Key sort of deck

Sorry for the vague description, but I couldn’t nail down the exact deck my opponent was playing. I saw Dark Confidant, Darkblast, Sower of Temptation, Mana Drain, and broken blue cards, so I presume it was some kind of Tezzeret deck.

The first game was close, mostly because I never played an Oath. We fought over a few card draw spells, but Spell Pierce is a much more nimble card than Mana Drain, and I was able to get him to the point where he had nothing going. I hardcast Terastodon, ate some of my permanents, and bashed him to death with Elephants.

SB: +2 Thoughtseize, -1 Mystical Tutor, -1 Show and Tell

I like cutting Mystical Tutor in permission-based matchups, since getting your spell countered after Tutoring for it is pretty devastating. Show and Tell didn’t seem great, since I didn’t see any sort of mana disruption, so I could probably just hardcast a monster or something, and I was cutting a tutor anyway.

Game two was looking pretty good after the first few turns. I again was able to parlay Spell Pierces into a situation where he had just a Dark Confidant (freshly cast) and a Sensei’s Divining Top, with no cards in hand. I resolved an Oath, and he looked a little surprised. Despite seeing Terastodon game one, I don’t think he realized I was playing Oath!

He Topped, attacked with Bob, and passed back, letting me Oath. I hit Iona, which I thought was game, and named blue. Unfortunately, shenanigans would soon occur. He spun the Top again, fetched, and found Darkblast of all cards. It was pretty clear he didn’t know I was Oath, since otherwise Darkblast would not have been in his deck after board, but it certainly was good this game. He Darkblasted his Bob, and since I didn’t have Orchard, that let him Oath. He missed any of his other Bobs, and Oathed up Sower of Temptation, which was not the most likely sequence of events. Sower stole Iona, and all of a sudden I was locked out and dead.

He changed a bunch of cards during sideboarding, so I expected some sort of anti-Oath card to come in.

My hand was pretty nuts third game:

 

I led with Mox, Mox, Oath, ready to Force his Force. He let Oath resolve, and then started off the game by suspending Greater Gargadon on turn one. Rats. Unless he had a pretty fast kill, I could run the Gargadon out of suspend counters in four or five turns, so I was still feeling pretty optimistic.

On my turn, I drew Thoughtseize, and decided to take a look at what he was working with. That was definitely better than casting an unprotected Gifts, in any case. He Forced the Thoughtseize, and I declined to Force back. On his next turn, he Demonic Tutored off a land and a Mox, which I let resolve, hoping to draw a Blue card and get Gifts through on my turn. I drew a land instead, which I played. Hardcasting Force on his next play and untapping into Gifts seemed good enough.

He cast Vampiric Tutor at the end of my turn, which was a bad sign. Sure enough, he had a fourth mana source, Voltaic Key, and Time Vault, complete with a Force for my Force. I thought my hand was good, but he dealt with t1 Orchard + Oath, t2 Thoughtseize, t3 Force. Such is Vintage!

0-1

Dave Williams and Efro were both 1-0 with similar Oath lists, although Dave got his from his super secret Meandeck forum, a fact which he pointed out a few times =).

Round 2 vs Stax

Losing round one always sucks, but this round certainly lifted my spirits. I lost the die roll, which is always bad, but my opening hand was pretty nice:

 

Any hand with Vault and Key has the potential to be very explosive, and hopefully the Ponder would find me some sort of mana acceleration. I was a bit concerned when my opponent opened with Mishra’s Workshop and Black Lotus, since that usually leads to bad things, but the only lock piece he had on turn one was Smokestack. Not good for me, but at least it wasn’t Trinisphere, Thorn of Amethyst, or Chalice on 1.

On my turn, I won the game. No, really. Like a sack, I peeled Black Lotus, and that let me go land, Lotus, Time Vault, Voltaic Key, activate. That’s game boys!

SB: +3 Nature’s Claim, +1 Show and Tell, +1 Terastodon, -3 Spell Pierce, -1 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Mystical Tutor

Ok, maybe I just hate Mystical Tutor. It is weak to Chalice on 1, and you don’t often have the time to Mystical and play a spell when they have a bunch of Spheres in play. I didn’t take out the Iona despite him being mono-brown because of Jester’s Cap. If you get Capped, you need to have four monsters in the deck to make Oath a live draw.

Game two was just as one-sided as the first, even though he had a turn one Trinisphere. I just played three fetchlands, and used Nature’s Claim to blow up a lock piece, at which point I resolved an Oath of Druids. All of a sudden, none of his lock pieces were relevant anymore. The Don came out, and made most of his permanents an offer they couldn’t refuse.

1-1

Round Three vs Penick

I wasn’t battling the actual Doctor Penick, but a gentleman with the same last name. This was made funnier by the fact that the “real” Penick was seated next to me, battling against Dave.

I won the die roll, which was nice. My hand wasn’t the fastest, but I opened with a basic land and a Sensei’s Top. My opponent opened with a Mishra’s Workshop (they always have it), and dropped a Sphere of some kind. No big deal, I had a Top and could see some cards. He followed up the Sphere with a Tangle Wire, which was mildly annoying. Still, I was almost to the point where I could cast Show and Tell. I had more lands, but he got out a Metalworker and a Smokestack. There was a succession of turns where I kept thinking I would hit enough mana on my mainphase to Show him the Terastodon I had been holding, but each turn he drew another point of mana disruption. First a Wasteland, then a Rishadan Port, and all of a sudden [card]Smokestack[/card] had eaten my whole board.

The turn it finished of my permanents I just passed instead of playing a land, since I wanted to force him to get rid of the Stack. He did, and even though he had a bunch of stuff out I wasn’t really being pressured. At this point, I had drawn Oath, so I just needed to hit three mana to cast it through the Sphere.

He skipped Porting me for a turn to drop Trike, which would let me slam Oath if I drew a land, but it was not to be. After missing that turn, he drew another Wasteland, and that put me too far deep in the hole to ever cast anything.

SB: Same as above, except I left in 4 Spell Pierce on the play, cutting the Show and Tells.

I mulled to a fairly weak six, but it was definitely keepable:

 

This hand has a ton of outs: any green land lets me slam down Oath, which is probably good enough by itself, and Spell Pierce should stop his first play. Wasteland is annoying, but that takes up his turn, and I need to peel a green anyway.

I led with Sea, but didn’t play the Crypt. I considered it, but he wasn’t very likely to Chalice at 0 if I didn’t play anything turn one, and if he played a Sphere I could pay for it. He led with Mox Jet, which I let resolve, and Sol Ring, which I also let resolve. Web was watching, and said I should have countered the Sol Ring, but I wanted to stop the first lock piece he played. I figured Pierce would get whatever he led with, and Stax is so full of mana that stopping a card instead of mana would be better. Plus, by leading with Mox and Sol Ring, there was no way he could have Wasteland, since he would just Waste first there.

After the Sol Ring resolved, he immediately Wastelanded my Underground Sea. Well then, nice going Colombo. On my turn, I missed, but played the Crypt, since now a Sphere was deadly (even though he probably would have played it off Ring).

He dropped a Workshop, and proceeded to play and activate a Jester’s Cap, leaving me with just Iona. I had a nice string of misses after that, but at least he wasn’t locking me out with anything. He had a Metalworker, and eventually a Sphere, at which point I peeled an Orchard. I Oathed up Iona, but was still in a pretty sticky spot. I had Iona, Forbidden Orchard, Mana Crypt in play, and was at 8 life (from 1/1 beats and losing 3 Mana Crypt rolls in a row). He was at 21 (from a random Nature’s Claim), and had his own Mana Crypt, along with a Chalice at one.

I figured I wasn’t going to win by not attacking, since eventually I would just die to Crypt, and I wasn’t likely to get anything else going. I bashed with Iona, and passed the turn. He predictably attacked me down to four, and added another Metalworker to the board.

I was ready to drop and go bird the Grand Prix, but my deck had other things in mind. I won the coin flip on my upkeep, then won the 35 to 1 lottery by peeling my only out: Time Walk. It was actually perfect. I would attack him down to exact zero with Iona, going to 1 off my own Mana Crypt for style. Mise!

Game three I mulled, but it was into the blade:

 

Not only was this a fast Oath + Orchard, I couldn’t even hit Iona on my Oath!

He had a good draw too, but it wasn’t nearly good enough. He led with a City of Traitors, a Mox, Sol Ring, and Lodestone Golem. Dropping a Lode on turn one is normally sick, but my turn was a little better. Orchard, Lotus (not affected by Golem), Nature’s Claim the Golem, Oath of Druids. He had another Golem on his turn, which is a draw that wins most games on the play, but not when Oath is on the other side of the table. I Oathed up the Don, which ate just his Sol Ring. He didn’t do anything relevant on his turn, and I Oathed up another Terastodon; this time it ate my Oath and two lands, since it was time for an elephant ambush. A turn of chumping later and I had the W.

2-1

Round 4 vs Something

I apologize, but I am completely blanking on this round. I do know I won, but past that I just can’t recall a single detail about the match. I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that Terastodon was involved.

3-1

Round 5 vs Noble Fish

Sadly, I couldn’t draw in this round, since an x-1-1 would miss, and it would be me. Losing round one has its disadvantages, after all. I knew my opponent was on Fish, and planned out my turns accordingly. By that, I mean I killed him on turn one with Spell Pierce backup.

Land, Mox, Lotus, Vault, Key, Pierce,thanks.

Running good is always nice.

SB: +2 Show and Tell, +1 Terastodon, +2 Nature’s Claim, -4 Spell Pierce, -1 Mystical Tutor

Spell Pierce sucks against the all-creature deck, and Mystical is my least favorite card.

Game two was a lesson in why Fish is a deck. Null Rod and Daze made resolving spells difficult, and by the time I found an Oath, he had a Qasali Pridemage and a Tarmogoyf beating me down. Oath traded for his Pridemage, but even a second Oath was too slow, since I was way too low on life. Oath is not nearly as awesome against Fish as it used to be, since Pridemage and Trygon Predator both deal with it quite well.

In game three, the Elephant was on the other foot, or something. He had Trygon Predator and Tarmogoyf, but I got to make a pretty sweet sequence of plays. I Nature’s Claimed his Null Rod, and resolved Tinker for Colossus while at three life, then passed the turn. He bashed me to 1 with Trygon, and shipped back. I untapped, and slammed Yawgmoth’s Will (as a rule, Yawgmoth’s Will is always slammed; it’s just that kind of card). That let me replay Lotus, Mox, land, Show and Tell a Terastodon into play, and finally cast Nature’s Claim out of my yard onto Colosuss so I could survive another Trygon hit and kill him on my next turn.

4-1

The top eight was me, Efro, Dwill, a Fish deck, a Painter’s Servant/Grindstone/Helm of Obedience/Leyline of the Void deck, a mono-U Merfolk deck, a Vault-Key Dark Confidant deck, and a guy who didn’t show up. Apparently, he had won the raffle to play in a draft for a set of Tarmogoyfs or something like that, and decided his value was higher doing that. That gave the Painter guy a bye, which was definitely a mise.

Top 8 vs Noble Fish

My hand game one was pretty broken, but didn’t have much of a backup plan:

 

Even on the draw, I couldn’t throw back turn one Tinker + Force of Will. He led with a land and a Noble Hierarch, which I obviously didn’t contest. I drew a blank and went for it, which didn’t work out so well. He had Daze plus Force of Will, and all of a sudden I was left with just an Underground Sea and a bunch of Spell Pierces. A Tarmogoyf and a Wasteland later and that was all she wrote.

In the next game, I got one of those free wins that Oath is famous for. A quick Oath didn’t give him time to to get a Trygon through, and Darksteel Colossus followed by Terastodon sealed the deal. I did learn that he had Swords to Plowshares, which was valuable information. I figured he did, but actual confirmation was nice, and meant I would probably have to name white for Iona.

Game three was quite the slugfest. I slowrolled my spells the entire game, in order to play around Daze. Playing under a Sphere of Resistance is a little awkward, but blanking half his counters is nice, and he wasn’t really pressuring me that rapidly. A 2/3 Goyf hit me a few times, backed by a Null Rod. I used Library of Alexandria for a few turns, and when I hit four mana I made my move.

I cast Show and Tell with a land untapped, and Mox Pearl and Black Lotus on the board. He Forces, but I Force back, having peeled a Blue card that turn. I put in a Terastodon, which eats his Null Rod and my Mox Pearl. I then use Lotus to cast Yawg Will, which lets me replay Lotus and Show and Tell, putting Iona into play. 9/9 + 7/7 + 3/3 = victory for the horde. He showed me the Daze in his hand at the end of the game, which gave me the additional value of getting to pat myself on the back for tight play.

5-1

Top 4 vs Oath

Dave, Efro, and I had a split going into the Top 8, so playing Dave in the Top 4 while Efro demolished the other bracket was pretty awesome. Instead of DSC, Dave had Sphinx of the Steel Wind, which completely dominated his Merfolk opponent. DSC would have been easily outraced, but there is no racing the Steel Wind, since Vigilance + Lifelink + First Strike is pretty absurd.

While we were waiting for Efro to win, Dave and I battled for pride.

I kept a kind of sketchy hand on the draw game one:

 

Force + Spell Pierce + Thirst seemed good enough to keep. Unfortunately, he opened with Thoughtseize. I had to Force to protect Lotus, but he Forced back. Sure enough, he took the Lotus. I then peeled Forbidden Orchard, and played it immediately.

He tried to Ponder on his turn but I Pierced it, and then he didn’t play a land. Smelling blood, I Stripped his land, which kept him from ever casting a spell. I found Ancestral with Mystical, and Recall hit the Vault to go with my Voltaic Key.

SB: +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Terastodon, +1 Bribery, -3 Oath of Druids, -1 Show and Tell

Look, I didn’t take out Mystical! Oaths and Show and Tell are risky in the mirror, but having one Oath to tutor for if you have more Orchards seems like a good plan.

My six-card hand game two was filthy:

 

Dave led with a bunch of Moxes and a Thirst, then passed. I resolved Sol Ring and Key, untapped the Ring with they Key, and played Vault, which got Forced. He then Bribed me, and after some thought put a Terastodon into play. It ate all my permanents but Voltaic Key, but the game was far from over.

I peeled a Mox on my turn, which let me Regrowth Time Vault, threatening a kill on the following turn. Unfortunately, he had other plans. He had Lotus into Yawg Will, which let him Bribe me again, getting my second Terastodon, which was just too much for me to recover from. Still, threatening to kill the turn after getting hit by the Don is impressive, and shows why Vault-Key is just too good not to play.

Game three was pretty anti-climactic. I had a sick hand that used Thoughtseize and mana acceleration to clear the path for a quick Bribery, after which Dave chose not to play Blue spells for the remainder of the game. His attempt to use Black tutors and set up Vault + Key was thwarted by my countermagic, and I officially brought our lifetime record to 1-1.

6-1

Efro and I declined to play out the finals, instead spending the next half hour trying to split an Ancestral Recall, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Mana Drain three ways (yes, the prizes for this tournament were insane). Let’s just say the ownership of the cards fluctuated minute to minute, and despite nobody really wanting the Mana Drain, Efro ended up with everything (and Dave and I got some money for our troubles).

I was quite impressed with the deck, and plan on playing it in a local Mox tournament the same day this article goes up. I am going to make the changes suggested by ThaGunslinga on TMD, and cut a Top, the Show and Tell, the Strip Mine, and Ponder for three Mana Drains and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor (see, Jace is everywhere!).

Urza Draft

The next format I want to talk about is as classic as Vintage – Urza’s Saga draft. The recent releases of Saga and Tempest on MTGO has really gotten me interesting in drafting the old sets, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. As soon as Rise of the Eldrazi comes out, my interest will undoubtedly wane, but until then they do a great job of fillling in the gap. I don’t foresee myself drafting a whole lot of Zendikar in the near future, but Rise won’t be out on Magic Online for at least another month or so. Enter old-set drafts. These formats are awesome; you get to open expensive rares, spells are way better than most creatures, and they are a refreshing change of pace after Zendikar.

I realize that approaching a completely new set (which these are to most people) can be a bit daunting, but there are reasons to brave the unknown.

First of all, most people are in the same boat. The vast majority of people in these drafts probably never drafted Saga, and even the ones that did probably didn’t do it that competitively. I definitely include myself in that group, since even though I did some Saga drafts, I certainly didn’t really know what I was doing. Don’t expect the queus to be filled with sharks.

Second, learning to draft a new set helps build your card evaluation skills immensly. With a new set coming out in a week, now is a perfect time to get used to evaluate the worth of new cards. Being able to identify what cards are good in a format and why is a crucial skill, and by playing “new” old formats, you hone that skill. I had little information about Saga before I started doing drafts online, although I did of course know that Black is by far the best color. After doing a bunch of drafts, I found a sweet archetype that I am going to talk about today, and I did so without much outside information.

Lastly, I have found Saga draft to be interesting and complex. There is a good amount of combat math, and the large quantity of good sideboard cards means that you really have to think about the deck you are drafting in terms of matchups. The gameplay is definitely not like Zendikar, and despite the existence of a broken common (Pestilence), the games are generally very enjoyable.

Just in case you weren’t convinced, I’ll even spill the beans on my current favorite archetype, even though that could make the drafts tougher for me. Obviously it involves blue, despite blue’s commons looking ridiculously underpowered compared to the other colors (*cough* Black). I end up UW Control almost every draft now, to the point that I will take Pendrell Drake over Arc Lightning (and in fact did just that while writing this article no less!). People don’t seem to value the Blue or White cards appropriately, and I have found it to be very easy to lock up the board and kill them with a random flier. My success rate has been pretty high, and the key cards for the archetype are not difficult to pick up, unlike when you are drafting Black and pretty much have to open Pestilence to have a shot at it.

The general strategy of this deck is to use the good defensive creatures to make combat impossible for them, at which point you kill them with a flier or some other hard-to-stop win condition. The backbone of the deck is Sanctum Custodian, Angelic Page, and Veiled Serpent. I routinely wheel the Page and Serpent, and have gotten the Janitor as late as 7th pick. A Serpent plus a Page or Custodian is almost impossible for most creatures to break through, and you often have other guys as support. I am surprised at how many people don’t know how to play around these cards, and I often have opponents throw away cards to my Pages and Custodians. The other win condition is Hermetic Study plus Horseshoe Crab (the machine gun), which wins the game after just a turn or two of unchecked mayhem.

Defensive guys, removal, fliers, and the occasional counterspell are all that make up the deck. I try to have one or two Power Sinks (much better than Rewind), and one or two Monk Realists/Clears in order to cover all my bases. Disenchant is fine to maindeck, but Realist and Clear are never dead. If I had to estimate, the breakdown of most of my decks looks like this:

1-3 Sanctum Custodian
2 Angelic Page
2 Veiled Serpent
4 decent fliers (Pendrell Drake, Opal Gargoyle, Pegasus Charger)
2 creature removal (Pacifism, Path of Peace, Fog Bank)
2 enchantment removal (Monk Realist, Clear, Disenchant)
2 Power Sink
1 Rescind
4-5 filler creatures (Wizard Mentor, Sandbar Serpent, Disciple of Law/Grace, Sanctum Guardian)
1-3 Horseshoe Crab (these are easy to pick up, but not very interesting without Study)
1 Hermetic Study
1 Rare finisher (if you are lucky…Morphling, Herald of Serra, Whetstone, Citanul Flute, Drifting Djinn)
2 Cycling lands (Drifting Meadow, Remote Isle)
16 Islands/Plains

Obviously those numbers aren’t exact, but something along those lines is mostly what the deck should look like. If you can pick up more removal, Sanctum Custodians, or fliers, by all means do so, but you don’t want too many of the filler guys or more Power Sinks/Rescinds really.

Here is a rough common pick order, although values change depending on what the deck needs:

Sanctum Custodian
Pacifism
Pendrell Drake
Path of Peace
Hermetic Study (once you have a Study, Crab moves above Path of Peace, and in pack 3, above Pendrell Drake)
Pegasus Charger
Angelic Page
Veiled Serpent
Opal Gargoyle
Wizard Mentor
Monk Realist
Horseshoe Crab
Disciple of Grace
Rescind
Drifting Meadow / Remote Isle
Disciple of Law
Power Sink
Catalog

I never play any of the other commons, though anything with Cycling can obviously fill in when needed. Yes, that means you should never be casting Veil of Birds or Spire Owl, both which are perennial favorites of my opponents. I do side in many of the other cards, like Annul, Owl or Sandbar Merfolk against the Wild Dogs/Goblin Patrol decks, or Pendrell Flux against decks with a ton of Echo guys, but you shouldn’t be so short on playables that you maindeck any of them.

There are a few notable uncommons that you shouldn’t pass often, the best of which is Confiscate. Zephid’s Embrace and Peregrine Drake are both just below Pacifism, though not by much. The rares are all pretty obvious, although Whetstone is way sweeter than it looks. It isn’t really symmetrical, since you mill end of turn until you are at 1-2 cards and they are close, then after you draw you mill six more cards and deck them. I have won both drafts where I had Whetstone, since it kills them in a matter of turns.

That should give you a pretty good start to drafting the deck, though I urge you to explore whatever works best for you. There are plenty of distinct strategies in Saga, and finding the ones you like best is an adventure worth having. Next week it will be back to business as usual, but I hope you can indulge my foray into a few different formats I enjoy. I still hold that playing such formats is part of what makes me the player I am, so don’t be quick to dismiss formats just because they aren’t the current tournament format or whatever. As usual, I will be reviewing the entire Rise of the Eldrazi set, so check it out next week.

LSV

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