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Carrie On – Christmas Drafting

christmastree

This is my Christmas tree. I got home today and I am always left the delightful task of decorating the tree—since about the age of 18 I have considered this a tiresome task. Seriously, I think this is why people actually have children, so they can make someone else do it while they relax with a glass of some sort of alcoholic beverage in their hand.

Speaking of sneaking under the Christmas tree to examine your presents, my parents tell me that when I was very little I would unwrap all the presents, including those not for me. They thought this was great as they had even less to do. I wasn’t a very normal child at Christmas. When I got my first stocking I was so confused by it that, rather than tear through it as quickly as possible, I carried it into my parents room so they sat me between them and we took turns to unwrap our stocking presents. This started a tradition that continues in my household today although I admit to being a little bit big to fit between them on the bed anymore, but we manage somehow.

I’m sure you will recall that last year I wrote about that most Christmas-y of creatures: the swan.

santaswans

Well I was informed that, although Swans are very Christmas-y, there are other creatures associated with Christmas. They are apparently a mammal with horns, and conveniently they are a creature type in Theros, so for Christmas day this year why not consider cracking some Theros packs and getting in the Christmas spirit by drafting Minotaur tribal.

Hurloon_Minotaur_hat

They are also mostly red, which is very appropriate for Christmas.

Red is chronically underrated in Theros Limited at the moment. I see good quality red cards going so late. The other day I opened a pack with [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Magma Jet[/ccProd], took the Strike and wheeled the Jet! Insanity! I think players have picked up on the message that red is a little weak in Theros (a fair assessment) and are now doggedly avoiding it at all costs.

It reminds me of PT Nagoya which was full Scars of Mirrodin block draft. I got passed a [ccProd]Jor Kadeen[/ccProd] pick 2 of pack 1. The one message that was drummed home in that set was “don’t color commit for as long as possible.” Well, screw that. [ccProd]Jor Kadeen[/ccProd] is a bomb and by committing early I really raked in the rewards to go 3-0 in my first PT draft.

With red so under-drafted, you can draft insanely good decks, as sometimes you can get your pick of every red card opened at the table.

There are several problems with red that can make it a bit of a trap in Theros Limited. RG is just not good. I touched on this last week as well when looking at what to pair green with. Green wants big creatures, and so many of red’s spells support smaller, more aggressive strategies. I love [ccProd]Flamespeaker Adept[/ccProd] in a RU deck with [ccProd]Aqueous Form[/ccProd], but RU wants to use blue’s evasion rather than red’s brute force. I do like to occasionally draft RW heroic. The main criticism I have of this colour pairing is it’s all about heroic and you really want blue for ways to tempo your opponent while you build your super creature. I tend to go into this deck when I open or am passed an [ccProd]Anax and Cymede[/ccProd]. RW tends to play more like an aggressive deck than a heroic deck.

However, red has a lot of really nice Minotaurs and one super lord in RB, and I think red is better set up for RB Minotaur tribal than for any other strategy.

On to the nitty gritty. What makes a good Minotaur deck?

In terms of creatures, I should probably start with the reason this deck can 3-0 a pod: [ccProd]Kragma Warcaller[/ccProd]. This guy is huge. Let’s just break down what this card actually does. It’s a 2/3 for 5 which doesn’t sound great, plus it’s multicolored, so you have to be RB. However, it’s actually a hasty 4/3 for 5 as it pumps itself as well as all your other Minotaurs.

The best bit about this card is that he doesn’t need to attack in order for the other Minotaurs to receive the bonus +2/+0, which means if he would trade with a defending creature you can leave him back while still sending in a formidable force. Once blockers have been used up he can join the fray. The fact that he gives other Minotaurs haste is icing on the cake. It’s really good, but sometimes you don’t need it to enjoy your meal. Much of the time a Minotaur deck will curve into this and that’ll be the end of the game. However, if you do have to patiently trade off with some blockers first, making every Minotaur off the top be able to immediately throw themselves into battle is so, so good.

This card is the single best signal you can get in a draft as to whether this strategy is open. You used to never see them at the start of Theros draft season, now they wheel! I have hate drafted this card when I’ve seen it again in a pack and equally I have abandoned my current picks and just moved into this archetype with great success.

Getting two of these is ideal for the deck. No other deck wants them, so if they are there they should come to you. Don’t be greedy and go for the wheel though, I will hate draft it away from you unless the pack is very strong. As an aside, having two in play is just rude. These and one [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] attack for 18 damage!

While we’re on the topic of Minotaur lords, [ccProd]Kragma Warcaller[/ccProd] may be like getting a pony for Christmas, but [ccProd]Rageblood Shaman[/ccProd] is more like that itchy jumper with Santa Claus on it from Grandma (although I’m led to believe these are fashionable at the moment. Seriously?). All right, that’s probably slightly unfair, but I don’t feel the need to first pick a [ccProd]Rageblood Shaman[/ccProd], even though it is a rare you aren’t likely to see in any given draft. The pump effect is much less aggressive which this deck wants. He works with [ccProd]Fanatic of Mogis[/ccProd], and is a Minotaur himself so works with Warcaller, but a 2/3 for 3 is not the best value this deck can get and it wants the most aggressively-costed creatures it can find, so I’d take it, but not highly at all, and would probably look to wheel it even as late as 10th.

So aside from [ccProd]Kragma Warcaller[/ccProd] what are your premium picks?

[ccProd]Fanatic of Mogis[/ccProd] is amazing. Not only is he a Minotaur (always a big plus for this deck) but the majority of this deck is red so he will normally average 5 damage when he enters the battlefield.

I also like to fill my deck with as many [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Minotaur Skullcleaver[/ccProd]s I can get my hands on. Skullcleavers are great for rapid damage. Quite often players will decide to take 4 and then hold off the remaining 2/2 with their bigger creatures. However, this deck will happily spend 3 mana for 4 damage, especially as, later, it should become a 4/2 again thanks to Warcaller.

[ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] deserves more love than it gets (which is like 11th pick love at the moment). It’s a 2/3 for 2. I mean seriously, how much more do you want in red? I have written previously that [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd] makes it sad, but he’s the exception rather than the rule. The regeneration ability is relevant in an RB deck as you can attack favourably with regeneration mana up and then play spells after combat when your opponent sensibly declines to chump block.

That regeneration plus stat line also makes [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] a superb place to put Ordeals. If your opponent is tapped out then he immediately goes to 4 toughness, which makes it hard to kill. Once the Ordeal has triggered, you have a 5/6 which can regenerate. That is a scary creature to deal with.

The other common Minotaur I like to get hold of is [ccProd]Borderland Minotaur[/ccProd]. Good for powering up [ccProd]Fanatic of Mogis[/ccProd] plays plus, as a 4/3 he can be hard to deal with and becomes a 6/3 with that Warcaller on turn 5. Out of 138 creatures in Theros, 75 will only be able to chump this guy, and 34 can only trade. This card is another frequently overlooked gem in my opinion.

[ccProd]Erebos’ Emissary[/ccProd] is my favorite bestow creature for this deck as the activated ability is very sweet for some quick aggressive plays.

Although not a Minotaur, I will happily take as many [ccProd]Tormented Hero[/ccProd]es for this deck as I can get my hands on, and I will prioritize all the other creatures I talked about over it so I tend not to end up with many. But if you do see this card going late, pick it up.

Let’s move on to non-creature spells now.

I already mentioned Ordeals. You really want [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd] as it really supplements the aggressive strategy. That said, [ccProd]Ordeal of Erebos[/ccProd] can put pressure on their hand resources as well as their life total. I would be happy to pick up either. Consider that [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd] does add to your red devotion (provided it doesn’t trigger first), so time [ccProd]Fanatic of Mogis[/ccProd] appropriately.

[ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd] is the best burn spell. 3 toughness can be an important number for this deck as many of your creatures (particularly [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd]) can struggle with getting through 3-toughness creatures unaided. [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd] clears all your troubles away. For some reason, packs seem to challenge your choice making by giving you Strike and [ccProd]Magma Jet[/ccProd] in the same pack. While the scry effect on [ccProd]Magma Jet[/ccProd] is useful, it’s not able to remove so many problematic creatures so go for the [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd]. I hate [ccProd]Rage of Purphoros[/ccProd]. Costs too much, can’t be used to target players, sorcery speed—don’t play it if you can avoid it.

[ccProd]Coordinated Assault[/ccProd] is a far better removal spell than [ccProd]Rage of Purphoros[/ccProd]. While you aren’t necessarily using it to trigger heroic in this deck you can use it to turn trades into blow outs. Opponents often can’t play around this spell in this deck as you are so aggressive and it just ruins them when you have it.

[ccProd]Portent of Betrayal[.ccProd] is a massively underrated spell. I see it going last. In a format that loves individual big creatures, be it a [ccProd]Monstrous Asp[/ccProd] or a [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] wearing multiple auras, there is usually a really sweet target and it can be a disaster for your opponent if they leave back one too few blockers to protect themselves from an otherwise lethal swing. It’s incredibly good at stealing back games where your opponent looks to have stabilized. RB also has access to the only sacrifice outlet in Theros (barring some exciting [ccProd]Rescue from the Underworld[/ccProd] play). I really like [ccProd]Tymaret[/ccProd] in any aggressive deck and yet he’s another card that will sometimes make the wheel in a draft. People are so reluctant to pick up red cards at the moment. Stealing creatures and then sacrificing them is still cool—just saying.

I’m so-so about [ccProd]Dragon Mantle[/ccProd] in this deck. You tend to be mostly red, so you can use it to cantrip and then use it as a mana sink, but you aren’t triggering heroic. I’d take it, but not highly. [ccProd]Titan’s Strength[/ccProd] is much better, in my opinion, as I’m more likely to be able to cast it while curving out. It can also smooth my draws early while also being a lightning bolt to the face.

Here’s a recent deck I drafted to give you an idea of a final composition.

[deck]1 Tormented Hero
1 Dragon Mantle
1 Titan’s Strength
2 Deathbellow Raider
1 Fleshmad Steed
1 Tymaret, the Murder King
1 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
2 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 Fellhide Minotaur
1 Fanatic of Mogic
2 Borderland Minotaur
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Portent of Betrayal
1 Lash of the Whip
2 Kragma Warcaller
9 Mountain
8 Swamp[/deck]

Remember to be festive with your picks and, as we say in England, Happy Christmas.

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