Carrie On – Signals and More

Last week I wrote about signaling in draft. At FNM this week we were discussing the points I had made in the piece. Someone who had yet to read it asked if I talked about sending signals late in pack 1 which, of course, I had not.

What are we referring to here?

I talked about how early in the pack you have to be careful about interpreting signals because sometimes there are just too many good cards in a color for your opponent to cut them all effectively. However, the later it gets the stronger the signal that a particular color is open upstream. If you see a card which you believe to be a first pickable card 9th, for example.

You can also use this to signal. If you receive a late “gift” in a color, let’s say a pick 9 [ccProd]Shrike Harpy[/ccProd], you have three options:

1.) Take it and consider switching to that color
2.) Take it with no intention of playing it
3.) Pass it

Okay so admittedly it’s really only two options: take it or don’t. But you can do different things with the pick. I separated them because a lot of people will choose to cut a card going “too” late with no intention of playing it. This is done to deny this strong card to one other player in the draft. Generally this isn’t worth it if it involves hurting your strategy (you hurt one of your potential opponents out of 7, and there could have been a card which wheeled that is in your colors and worse in comparison, but still would make the final cut). If, however, there is nothing for you, then arguably you should take the best available card to disadvantage the other drafters.

Think instead, though, of the advantage of passing it.

Let’s say that you are nicely set in your colors—for instance, GW. You’ve been getting a good stream of cards, so you know it’s open, but unfortunately you passed quite a few good cards in your colors earlier in the pack because there was no way to take them all. Chances are some people to your left are considering those colors as one or both of their own. Now this late black card comes to you. By passing it further along, you shift the focus away from your colors and people might now focus on black, which might avoid problems in pack 2 if someone to your left thought that your colors were open and cuts you as a result.

Quite often after pack 1 I know I’m in one color (let’s say green) because I have around 6 playable cards in it. However I will then probably have 2 good white and 2 good black cards. I haven’t yet decided which is open to me, so if I open a good card in one of those colors or get passed some in pack 2, then I can make my choice. If you are in white, and you pass me that good black card late in pack 1, now I have 3 good black cards and will likely drop the white. By getting such a good black card so late in the pack, I know it will be open for me again in pack 3. I now also have more black cards than white. All these little factors will now cause me to lean toward going BG rather than GW which is to your advantage—I won’t cut you in pack 2.

In summary, we can pass a late strong card to signal that it is open in the hopes that we tilt the balance of undecided drafters toward the color we aren’t in.

We could hate draft it and just not play it, but the odds are we won’t play that person, and even if we do chances are we profit so much by dissuading them from moving into our color that passing one good card to receive 4-6 good cards in return during pack 2 is worth it.

That’s all I want to add to last week.

As a small interlude, I want to share my draft from FNM as once again I went 4-color green. I really like this archetype in Born of the Gods/Theros draft. If you missed my article where I talk about how to draft this sort of deck check out my article on the strategy.

[ccdeck]1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Nylea’s Presence
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Leafcrown Dryad
2 Swordwise Centaur
1 Fall of the Hammer
2 Nessian Courser
1 Burnished Hart
1 Nyxborn Wolf
2 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
1 Raised by Wolves
1 Reaper of the Wilds
1 Graverobber Spider
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
1 Sea God’s Revenge
10 Forest
3 Swamp
3 Mountain
1 Island[/ccdeck]

It’s also a lot of fun to play since you get to play with all the greedy fun cards. As you can see this week’s deck was very green, just splashing three colours for a few cards in each. I have three black cards (one of which is actually green with a black activation), three red cards, and one blue. I wondered if the blue card was too greedy, but [ccProd]Sea God’s Revenge[/ccProd] is so good. Despite a close first round against multiple counterspells, this deck went 3-0.

With respect to how I ended up drafting this. It was a very classic story. I first-picked [ccProd]Xenagos, God of Revels[/ccProd] and then got a slew of good green, placing me heavily in that color. I had the [ccProd]Fall of the Hammer[/ccProd] as well but not much other red. I saw a fair bit of red in pack 2 but actually ended up with very little of it as, in each pack, there was a better quality green card available and I managed to pick up a [ccProd]Nylea’s Presence[/ccProd] late. Then, in pack 3 I was passed a [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd] so I figured I should splash that along with the activation of [ccProd]Graverobber Spider[/ccProd]. The next pack had [ccProd]Pharika’s Mender[/ccProd], but I went for the wheel—which seemed very likely given few people seemed to be in black—instead taking the all-powerful [ccProd]Burnished Hart[/ccProd] that my plan needed. This turned out to be even sweeter when there was a Sea God’s Revenge in the very next pack (with nothing notable on-color at all). And thus my fate was sealed. Being so solidly in green caused this deck be very consistent, and it could put out a board presence while it found the colors for my later powerful cards. The curve is also very well-rounded with plenty of two- and three-drops, with my splashes all relevant late game. I was least happy with the [ccProd]Ill-Tempered Cyclops[/ccProd] as its power level is slightly off for the “splash” but I needed a 23rd card.

Back to strategy. Another issue that came up at FNM was a complicated upkeep that got me thinking about something players often find confusing: what happens when both players have simultaneous triggers, the order of which is pivotal to the outcome of a game?

For example: Nathan controls a [ccProd]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/ccProd] while Adam has a [ccProd]God-Favored General[/ccProd] that has just untapped and therefore is inspired. It’s Adam’s upkeep and he currently has no other creatures. Can Adam avoid taking 2 damage from Mogis, and yet also keep his God-Favored General?

The answer is: No, he cannot.

While the General trigger happens “when it untaps,” nothing can happen in the untap step so it actually goes on the stack at the beginning of the upkeep. Therefore the General and the Mogis trigger at the same time. When two triggers occur simultaneously that are controlled by different players, the “active” player—the player whose turn it is—puts his on the stack first, followed by the non-active player.

In my example this means Adam will put the inspired trigger from the General on the stack and then Nathan will put his Mogis trigger onto the stack. I like to visualize this as it helps me get it right. I literally think of these cards in a pile. If I want to take the pile apart I have to start from the top which is exactly how the stack resolves once it has been built. So Nathan’s Mogis trigger will resolve first forcing Adam to take 2 or lose the General. Regardless of which Adam chooses (assuming he doesn’t die from the damage!) the General trigger will resolve next, even if he sacrificed the creature, meaning he can still pay 2{W} to get the Soldiers.

This concept of active/non-active player for placing triggers on the stack comes up all the time and yet it’s something players are often confused by. If you do understand them, you can correctly identify opportunities that you might otherwise miss.

For example I recently saw this scenario:

Untitled 2

This is a cool scenario. When you steal the Tormented Hero you can then enchant it with Ordeal of Purphoros (draining for one). When you attack, you might think you get to choose the order the two Ordeal triggers go on the stack. However, the Ordeal of Heliod is still controlled by your opponent (the non-active player). Thus you have to put the trigger from your Ordeal on the stack first. Which is perfect in this situation, as when the Ordeal of Heliod trigger resolves and checks counters there is still only 2 counters on the Hero so it doesn’t pop to give your opponent 10 life. Then the Ordeal of Purphoros trigger resolves and you get to deal 3 additional damage to your opponent and thus have a lethal damage.

This also brings up the important point that even if you control one of your opponent’s creatures, they control all equipment and enchantments attached to that creature (assuming you didn’t somehow steal those too) and therefore any effects from those are also controlled by them. Bear this in mind when stealing a creature that is enchanted, since otherwise it could end up badly!

One more example of “priority stacking,” as I’m now going to call it: A [ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Murderous redcap[/ccProd] fight. What happens?

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 6.57.28 PM

When these creature die they both have persist triggers. The active player will put his persist trigger on the stack first followed by the non-active player (lets go with Adam and Nathan again). Let’s say that Adam controls the Redcap. Nathan controls the Finks, so that will come into play first, Finks’s ETB effect will trigger and resolve, giving Nathan 2 life and a 2/1 Finks. Adam then returns his Redcap to play and can use its ETB to deal 1 damage to the Finks, killing it.

However, if instead it is Nathan who controls the Redcap, then he is going to have to settle for putting the damage from Murderous redcap’s trigger somewhere else, as the Finks won’t yet have returned to play.

In all these cases it’s just a case of remembering whose turn it is and how that affects triggers going onto the stack. These kinds of interactions come up quite frequently during Limited and Constructed play, and it’s important to think through the scenario fully before doing anything that might not result in a board state you wanted when all the dust has settled!

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