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Czech Mate – Drafting Temur at GP Strasbourg

Hi!

I went to GP Strasbourg hoping to get a good enough pool to get me to Day Two. Khans of Tarkir is an awesome set for drafting and the morph mechanic adds a very unique element to it, but building a Sealed Deck very often just comes down to looking at your nonbasic lands and deciding which colors your pool will allow you to play. You can have all the bombs in the world, but if your mana is 6-5-5-4 you are going to have a bad time. I was fortunate enough to receive a pretty good pool with 2 bombs and a pretty straightforward build. It was even in my favorite colors!

Great curve, two bombs, good fixing. I could have hardly asked for anything better. I also had some solid Mardu and Jeskai cards, but I would have to play some filler and this deck was more than good enough. Even though I had three more nonbasic lands I didn’t want to play some crazy 5-color build because I prefer consistency over a little bit of power. Some thoughts about my build:

  • I decided to splash for Abomination of Gudul because the card is quite powerful, evasion is very important in this format and I was already playing a land that produced black (Opulent Palace), so I just changed one Island to Dismal Backwater to have two sources without having to change the distribution of my colors. Two mana sources wouldn’t be enough for a normal off-color card, but the fact that it has morph means that in the worst-case scenario it will at least be a mysterious 3-mana 2/2.
  • I left Bloodfell Caves in the sideboard and that was probably a mistake. With 2 six-drops in my deck I didn’t want to have too many enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands, but I ended up boarding it in instead of a Mountain in most of my games anyway. It’s just too easy to play these lands in the first couple of turns or play one with a second morph on turn 4.
  • I played Swift Kick over Arrow Storm because I felt like I needed another instant speed trick, it has easier mana requirements, and I already had a lot of things to do on 5. Normally it’s not a great card, but I had a lot of big guys and Sealed is usually a slower format.
  • Monastery Floch didn’t make the cut. I felt like it was worse than any of my other morphs and I prefer cards that attack. If I had to cut something for it, it would probably be Scaldkin, but as I said, I really like flying and I already had a lot of 3-drops.
  • I boarded Archers’ Parapet, Meandering Towershell, and the aformentioned Monastery Flock against decks with big creatures, and in matchups where I was on the draw and cards like Jeskai Scout and Scaldkin would be too slow. Meandering Towershell looks like a solid card, but it’s really not, attacking for 5 once in two turns just isn’t enough for a card that costs five mana. Also if your opponent ever steals it with Act of Treason, because of how the ability is worded they actually get to keep it for the rest of the game. It does block very well though, so I was happy to have that option.

The deck played out pretty well and I finished the first day with an 8-1 record. The highlight of the day was in round 4 against a very aggressive Mardu deck when it looked like I was about to die to a lethal removal spell with only one mana open, but my last card was a Stubborn Denial that I brought in against his Crater’s Claws. My only loss came in round 7 against a player that eventually made Top 8, who completely destroyed me with a very synergistic Jeskai deck with a touch of black. When I thought I might still have a chance, his next turn was something like Treasure Cruise into Master the Way into Murderous Cut.

For Day Two my plan was to draft an aggressive deck. My understanding of the format is that because of morphs, people don’t care about their curve too much, and I want to punish them for it. My ideal deck is two colors, possibly with a light splash, that has 3-5 two-drops, as many creatures with evasion as possible, and 6-8 tricks that make sure you can get through their blockers. It could be burn spells, pump spells, cards like Crippling Chill or even Barrage of Boulders. In our practice drafts before the PT, two-color decks like U/G and U/R were performing the best and those decks had all the cards I was looking for. I was open to draft anything, but I strongly prefer the Temur Colors.

For my first pick I had a choice between Crackling Doom and Sultai Flayer. Crackling Doom is a very good card, but I didn’t want to commit to 3 colors that early and decided to go with the Flayer.

Second pick I took a Seeker of the Way over Glacial Stalker. I really wanted to draft U/G/R, but not so badly as to take a replaceable morph over one of the best white aggressive cards. The next pack still had Mardu Heart-Piercer and two tri-lands in it, which was quite surprising and also confusing, but I wasn’t going to complain and happily took the FTK. I followed that with a bunch blue and red cards and after pack one I was solidly in the Temur colors. In the second pack I opened Sorin, which made my decision to take the Flayer over Crackling Doom a little painful, but I just took something like Crippling Chill and stuck to my plan. In the end my deck ended up like this:

I had some individually powerful cards, but this deck had two big problems: a lack of two-drops and fixing. It seemed like every single pack had two W/B/R lands in it but I only saw three lands from my colors during the entire draft and one of them was something like P1p4 when I didn’t know what colors I was going to end up in yet. Originally there was 1 Tormenting Voice in the deck, but in the end I felt like a 19th land would just be better. It brought my manabase to 9/8/4 and it was more likely I would have 5 mana on turn 5. I was hoping the 3 Force Aways would make up for my lack of 2-drops but it is just not the same. At least my high number of 4-power creatures meant I was going to be able to loot most of the time, which helped with the decision to play 19 lands.

I went 2-1 with the deck, which I think is about what I could expect from it. I lost the first round to another Temur player after possibly misplaying the first game. He had a morph in play for a while that he wasn’t attacking or blocking with, even though he had 6 or 7 lands in play for some time. Last turn he sacrificed Embodiment of Spring to get a Swamp and just passed his turn with a bunch of mana up and a pretty clear intention of unmorphing his guy in my attack. I thought that meant his guy was Abomination of Gudul because it made a lot of sense, so I didn’t play my Crippling Chill and just attacked with my creatures into his, hoping I was going to make him spend 5 mana to unmorph first and then tap his guy.

Unfortunately it was a Snowhorn Rider, so he just blocked first and then unmorphed. I thought I was still fine, because at this point I still had 3-4 creatures to his one, but he used his last 2 mana to Force Away another attacker and followed it up with Dead Drop, which completely destroyed me. In game two I kept Mardu Heart-Piercer, Riverwheel Aerialists, and Force Away and drew 7 lands in a row and easily lost to his mulligan to 5. That is the downside of playing 19 lands, you will just get flooded from time to time. I beat Jeskai and Mardu in the next two rounds, which kept me in contention for Top 8.

I started the second draft with a See the Unwritten out of a pretty weak pack. To be honest, I don’t have much experience with it in Limited, but I imagine it can be quite powerful in the right deck. Those kinds of decks were not what I was looking to draft though, and I think I would take something like Jeskai Windscout over it if given the choice, but here I just took it because the next best card was something like Summit Prowler.

I followed that up with mostly red and green cards out of packs that didn’t really offer much else and when the Summit Prowler from the first pack tabled, I thought I was set up for an aggressive R/G deck with a ferocious theme and a possible blue splash. With 3 cards left in the pack I made a horrible pick when I took Force Away over Bloodfire Expert, thinking that I wanted to stay open. I did already have 2 of them, but it was clear that ferocious would be pretty important and I should have realized that.

Then I opened my second pack and saw a Wingmate Roc staring at me. What to do now? I think some people played it in the Constructed portion of the PT with guess what? See the Unwritten. I took the full 45 seconds and eventually decided that taking it and switching into Abzan or Mardu just wasn’t worth it and took an Arc Lightning instead. To be fair, if there was a worse card than Arc Lightning I might have taken the Roc just to see what happens, but I was happy with the removal spell. The rest of the draft was pretty uneventful, except for my first pick out of the third pack, where I again had to pass Sorin. My Abzan deck would have probably been pretty insane, but a plan is a plan. Besides, my deck turned out well anyway.:

The great thing about two color decks is that you don’t have to worry about fixing and “waste” picks on taking lands over playable cards. I even passed 2 late Wooded Foothills and a few Rugged Highlands—I just wanted to maximize the aggression and synergy of my deck.

At first I wasn’t really sure what to think of the deck, I’m not exactly the Valley Dasher type. Did I maybe go too far? What if I just play a bunch of small guys and then they unmorph a 5/5? I thought it could easily be an 0-3 deck as well as a 3-0 deck. Fortunately, it quickly became obvious that it was the latter. During the deckbuilding time, before I finished registering my deck, I sleeved the cards and drew a bunch of hands to see how it played out. I wasn’t sure about the last few cards so I spent quite some time visualizing how the games were going to go.

I thought I didn’t want Incremental Growth, because in general that card is very overrated if I had three creatures on the board on turn 5, I was probably winning anyway. That ruled out Kin-Tree Warden as well.

I had 2 Bring Low, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play so many noncreature cards. At first I thought I would play 2 Bring Low and cut a Burn Away, but that was my answer to big creatures like Abzan Guide. Ainok Tracker eventually made the cut even though it’s pretty terrible, but I really needed the extra creature. That reminded me of the Force Away pick, because having another Expert instead would have been so much better. I didn’t have enough creatures for a Dragon Grip and See the Unwritten was too slow. Barrage of Boulders seemed fine, but I definitely didn’t want 2. In the end, I went with the above list.

I beat Shuhei, whose Temur deck with 3 Dragonscale Boon wasn’t very well positioned against my removal heavy deck with double Bring Low. The games were pretty interesting though and you can read about them in the written coverage.

The most interesting moment was in the 2nd game when Shuhei put two counters on his only creature (a morph) with Dragonscale Boon at the end of my turn, untapped, played his 5th land, attacked, and passed. I had two 2/2s and a Bloodfire Expert in play. He showed me a Surrak Dragonclaw in game one and I know he would never bluff it if he didn’t have it. I had a Bring Low in hand which would put me in a great position, but unfortunately I was stuck on 3 lands and my only play was Act of Treason. I stole his guy and he let it resolve.

I looked at his morph because now I was the controller of it and it was a Snowhorn Rider. Now if I attack with everything, he plays Surrak, blocks one of my guys, then takes his guy back, unmorphs and attacks back for lethal because I’m on 12. I decided to just attack with his 4/4 and see what happens, which was probably a mistake, because it wasn’t very likely that I could beat Surrak anyway. He ended up just having two more Dragonscale Boons, so an attack with everything would have put him to 4 life with my three creatures to his one. This way I had to trade all my guys for his Snowhorn next turn and then I never drew a fourth land before it was too late.

After the match we talked about what we passed in the draft and we realized that the guy who was sitting between us in the draft that got the Sorin from me in the 3rd pack also got an Ankle Shanker from Shuhei in pack 2. I also realized there were 3 copies of Death Frenzy at the table. If you look at my deck you will notice that it completely destroys me. So, obviously the next round I get paired against the B/G/X guy and he clears my board on turn 5 with Death Frenzy, putting him back to 15, and follows that up with Sagu Mauler on turn 6. I thought I couldn’t possibly win this game but he only added two more creatures to the board in the next few turns and just kept passing without attacking, so I eventually built up another small army, attacked with everything, pumped one of my big guys with Awaken the Bear to deal enough trample damage to put him in Arrow Storm range and just hoped his 4-6 cards in hand were just complete bricks.

As it turned out, he must have been missing another color or something because that was exactly what happened. He crushed me in game 2 with Abzan Guide and removal, but my good fortune continued when he took a mulligan to 4 in the deciding game. Lucky break in a bad matchup, but I’ll take it. That put me to 12-2 but the GP had 2,000 people so I couldn’t draw. In round 15 I got paired against a nice Swedish guy who really wanted to qualify for the PT, but my deck came together really well against his B/W Warriors, and Arc Lightning and Barrage of Boulders were especially crucial.

It looked like some people were not going to make it at 13-2 but my tiebreakers were pretty good and I snuck into my 15th Limited Top 8 in 6th place. My Top 8 draft was recorded, so you can watch it in the twitch archives. I started with a really weak pack and took Summit Prowler over Ruthless Ripper and basically nothing else because I really hate black. It only has 2 good commons (Injury and Scavenger) and overall the card quality is just much weaker than in the other colors. I second-picked Arrow Storm and then took a Bloodfire Expert over Bellowing Saddlebrute third pick because I thought it was very likely Pierre behind me took the Ripper and this would solidify him into black, and I could just draft U/R or G/R again. I tried to stay open as long as possible, but that’s exactly what happened and I ended up in U/R with Pierre in Abzan behind me. I was hoping we would meet in the finals, but my deck was missing a bunch of cards like Force Away and Crippling Chill that apparently just didn’t get opened.

Without the removal spells and bounce spells, it was mostly just a bunch of bad creatures where I had to hope I would draw Icy Blast every game or my opponent would stumble on mana or wouldn’t have an answer to Mystic of the Hidden Way. It worked in the first round, because my opponent’s Mardu deck only had 10 creatures and his draws weren’t very good, but in the semifinals, Tamas Nagy, the eventual winner, just played Sidisi on four mana twice and that was good enough against me. Looking at his Top 8 list now it seems that his deck was far from perfect as well, but I’ve had my fair share of good luck in the tournament so I’ll happily take my 3rd place and 5 Pro Points.

That’s it for today, Ill leave you with a couple of my 3-0 Temur decks from Magic Online for inspiration if you want to try drafting it yourself.

UG1

UGr2

UGr3

See you next time!

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