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Chasing Victory – Drafting ALL the Colors

My Hawaii travels were uneventful, at least compared to my Barcelona trip. I wasn’t nearly as miserable, mostly because I was back in the US, and the week in Seattle had relaxed me quite a bit. No bags were lost, no flights were missed, and we arrived on time, unharmed.

Cedric and I parted ways at the open air, doorless Honolulu airport, and my roommate DoctorPenick met me there. Our next destination was Luis’ hotel room, where we were going to break block. And by break block, I mean draft on MODO, which is what we ended up doing. I had a few people ask me if it was really me playing on my GerryT MODO account, because they knew I was supposed to be in Hawaii, but it was always me. My idea of paradise is an internet connection and a pizza, while I’m not too big on the whole beach scene. There was no way that I wasn’t going to be MODOing in Hawaii, which is why I brought my laptop in the first place.

Luis was drafting these really aggressive RG or WG decks and doing alright, but almost always losing in the finals to a sick control deck. While the allure of beating down as your opponent has to cope with their slow, awkward draws certainly was strong, LSV could not resist a control deck, and vowed to draft decks like those at the PT.

I was kind of in the same mind frame, as I was more or less forcing five color control. I say more or less because I was definitely willing to stick to something like Esper or Grixis if the draft was heading that way, but I could rarely just stay in Naya or Bant without wanting to branch out and pick the best card in each pack. I just don’t feel like those archetypes are powerful enough on their own, and if you’re drafting correctly, it should be very easy to splash insane off color cards with little or no stress on your mana base. In fact, my 5c mana bases often look better than your typical 3c mana base.

All the Value

Typically, I would take little more than trilands, good removal, Panoramas, Obelisks, and Resounding cards in pack one, in that order. Because of the overall power level of pack three and lack of fixers, you really need to stock up on that stuff in pack one, so you that you aren’t stuck having to take a land cycler that you really need as opposed to that Terminate that would be awesome in your deck.

Obelisks and Panoramas are really underrated right now, mostly because everyone has been spoiled by them for so long, they have started to take them for granted. Well folks, if you didn’t already know this, most people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone. Obelisks are like crappy trilands, and almost always better than Borderposts in 5c, both of which are reasons why Obelisks are awesome in the 5c deck.

I will always run one Obelisk and as many as three if my deck wants them. I usually try to be GW or UB base, but that isn’t always an option. I’ve had a few train wreck type 5c decks where I don’t really have a base, but those are few and far between. Just show some restraint, and only take off color cards if they are truly impressive and you shouldn’t have many inconsistency issues.

A 5c deck with a blue base is almost always better than a Gx base for a very simple reason: Blue cards are better. I don’t mean to state this as a stuck up Blue mage, but that’s just how it is, and I tell it how it is. The good Green cards are almost always creatures, and all creatures do is attack and block. Blue cards do that, but also draw cards, and are tricky. Obviously I want to be a 5c deck to get a piece of what every color has to offer, but with a Blue base, you are so much better off when playing a control deck.

The off color Obelisks are far better than on color ones, which is a mistake I see some people making. If you are UB base and draw your Naya Obelisk, you suddenly have access to all of your colors. Why would you play an Obelisk that produces colors that you would probably have already? That takes away its value as a fixer.

Panoramas are similarly undervalued, but they are even better now. There is no reason you should be taking mediocre cards like Cloudheath Drake, Jungle Weaver, or Skeletal Kathari instead of great fixing. I would even hesitate before taking a card like Mosstodon or Blightning before a Panorama. You don’t want to have to take Borderposts in the third pack, as pack three will almost always take your deck from mediocre to spectacular if you get the right cards.

As a side note, the Jungle Weaver cycle got a whole lot worse, as they are outclassed by the land cyclers in Alara Reborn. I want 2-4 land cyclers in my deck between Conflux and Reborn, and Jungle Weaver basically takes up the same slot. If you are wanting to cycle your big dude, it’s probably because you don’t have lands.

Obelisks might be better than Panoramas in the 5cc deck overall, but they are easier to get on the whole. You should probably fourth pick the Panorama and expect to wheel a “crappy” Bant or Esper Obelisk.

Kiss of the Amesha and Courier’s Capsule are both great cards, as there is very little card drawing in the entire block. Both of these are high picks, but don’t expect to see them very often, as other players obviously want them as well. A removal spell is typically better, as you can’t just have a deck with card drawing and mana sources, as that deck won’t be able to win any games. It’s more important to have the cards you want to be drawing into with card drawing before you take the actual card drawing.

Necrogenesis is absurd. It might as well be a Mythic Uncommon for how good it is. Double splash it if you have to, because it will always be amazing whether it’s early or late game.

A 5c deck benefits from having very good blockers, especially ones that give you virtual card advantage by taking away your opponent’s ability to attack effectively. For example, if you have a Rhox Brute playing defense against their army of 3/3s, those 3/3s are basically all blank cards thanks to your one 4/4. If they kill your 4/4, it’s like they drew three cards, since their three guys that were previously blanks are suddenly live.
Wall of Denial is awesome, but it is comparable to Prison Term. While that’s great, it’s basically only a one for one. In order to fully stabilize, you’re going to need something beefier to clock up the ground.

That’s not to say that Wall of Denial (and to a lesser extent, Grizzled Leotau) aren’t great in 5cc, because they are. It just means that even with a Wall or Leotau against an army of 2/2s, you need to find your Jund Charm quickly otherwise you’re dead. You need some dudes to block, so even though you might want to draft something like a Constructed 5cc deck with few guys, you’re going to need some, usually at least eight if you actually want to compete.

Bull Cerodon is a trap. Haste, vigilance, and a huge butt are all pretty good in this format, and in the 5c deck I want to draft. However, what’s more important, a win condition or a versatile removal spell? Usually, I see people taking the Bull over something like Branching Bolt, and I just can’t agree with that. Every pack has dudes, usually good dudes, whereas not many packs have cards like Branching Bolt.

When someone chides me for passing Bull Cerodon, I usually ask them what would they rather have: Valley Rannet or Bull Cerodon, especially in a 5cc deck where you need the fixing? Valley Rannet gets them dead almost as easily as the Bull, and yet isn’t a complete blank if you’re mana screwed or simply don’t have the right colors. It’s good early and late, whereas the Bull is only good mid to late, and provides me with a service I can get easier, later, while not wasting my first picks.

To be fair, most people still usually say they’d rather have the Bull, but I think they are wrong. Inevitability is generally your win condition, not random beaters. Your inevitability comes from having “bigger” cards than them. If your opponent has a deck full of 2/2s and your deck is all 3/3s, you are going to win, and that’s what it feels like when drafting a 5c deck in this format. All of your topdecks are great, and there are several ways to ensure that your excess mana doesn’t go to waste in the mid to late game (I’m looking at you Paragon of the Amesha).

The majority of my decks consist of 8-12 dudes if I’m UB base, but probably more if I’m GW, as most of GW’s cards are dudes anyway. I want five or more removal spells, or things that deal with creatures like a Wall of Denial, hopefully a sweeper of some sort, even if it is only a Pyroclasm effect, and probably 18-19 actual mana sources, with land cyclers (and Armillary Sphere) not really counting towards our overall mana count, even though you will cycle them more often than not. I’ve played 16 lands before (with Borderposts just replacing a land), and will usually only do that if my curve is low, my mana is good, and I have a ton of land cyclers.

If your first pack contains something like a triland, Branching Bolt, Oblivion Ring, Executioner’s Capsule, and Vithian Stinger, what you usually take depends on your preferences. All of those cards are of similar value, depending on what archetype you end up in. If you want to be a versatile drafter and keep your options open, eventually slipping into whatever’s open, then you should just take a safe pick like Oblivion Ring. Almost no matter what deck you end up in, you should be able to splash it.

Oring isn’t much of a commitment, at least not as much as something like Branching Bolt would be. Sure, Bolt can two for one, but you get what you pay for. Sometimes when you are red, you end with a bunch of Lightning Bolts but no real way to deal with something like the aforementioned Bull Cerodon. Perhaps it is the lack of varying removal that makes people think that the Bull is so very good, as it doesn’t die or requires a two for one to get rid of.

That’s rarely a problem if you are 5c, as long as you use your removal sparingly, and by sparingly, I mean only kill something that you need to kill, otherwise you will lose to it. Wasting good removal on irrelevant creatures is definitely one of the biggest mistakes I see people make, over and over again.

Conflux is the best pack to try and get creative. If your opening pack is very strong, you will often be able to table something like Fleshformer or Fusion Elemental. While those might be the best cards in the pack for you, there is no need to waste a pick when there is a perfectly good Traumatic Visions or Fiery Fall that you should be taking, as no one else should really be able to utilize the 5c cards. You can usually expect the Paragon or Dragonsoul Knight to be gone, as a 2C 2/2 first striker isn’t all that bad, but Fleshformer and Fusion Elemental are very likely to table. The best scenario I can remember was getting passed Maelstrom Archangel and wheeling the Fusion Elemental out of that pack.

Be wary of how many domain cards you’re taking, as depending on your deck, they might end up weaker than you expect. Matca Rioters is awesome, but if you end up with a bunch of Rupture Spires and Borderposts, your deck is suddenly awkward. Regardless of your nonbasic land situation, Voices of the Void is a game ender. It’s like they don’t even get to play Magic. I would always play two main and happily sideboard a third against some decks.

Don’t be surprised if you get little out of Conflux aside from fixers, a fatty, and a removal spell. That’s more than fine as Conflux is a weak set overall. Be mindful of how much Esper stuff you’re passing, as it might directly relate to the amount of Deadshot Minotaurs and Vithian Renegades you should be taking out of pack three. If you want to 3-0 your pod, you will probably have to beat that nut Esper deck, so draft accordingly. If you only need to 2-1, then you don’t have to worry as much about it.

In pack three, you’re basically just looking to fill holes in your deck. Do you have enough removal and mana fixing? Is there a gaping hole in your curve that Rhox Brute needs to fill? Sometimes you have to take that double off color land cycler, which are better than on color ones, over something great like a Terminate. But if you value consistency, and you should, then maybe you don’t need that sixth removal spell quite yet. You have to draft a deck after all, not just a pile of removal.

On the weekend, I went 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 3-0, and 2-0 in “real” drafts, aka ones I was actually trying. Granted, those were with mainly with Grixis or Naya decks, but the one 5c deck I drafted was in the Pro Tour. I needed to 3-0 to make day two, but ran into a Tower Gargoyle, Spellbound Dragon, etc deck round two. My weak draws coupled with the fact that the one removal spell I kept drawing was Executioner’s Capsule, vs. his almost all black creature deck was enough to knock me out of day two.

I did a few “fun” drafts where not much was on the line, and made a point to draft 5cc there, and even added a notch to my “People I’ve Killed With Progenitus“ belt. There should have a been a second kill there as well, but I played sloppy, whereas my opponent, Pro Tour Champion Mike Hron, obviously did not. Progenitus isn’t something I would normally play in limited, but sometimes you need something that gets em dead, and nothing does it while embarrassing your opponent more than Big Daddy Hydra.

Drafting 5c can be very complicated, but after a few practice drafts you should be able to get the hang of it. Feel free to ask me any questions in the forums and I’ll do my best to help you out.

GerryT

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