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Initial Technology – Drafting M10 in Boston

At this point, it is pretty clear that I didn’t win GP: Boston, and the title certainly doesn’t refer to me doing any drafting in the GP itself. I’m not a huge fan of M10 Sealed, nor do I know many that are, but the draft format is both entertaining and good. I had plenty of time this weekend to do team drafts, and am now quite well acquainted with the drafting of Magic 2010.

Tournament Report-Type Thing

I opened a fairly mediocre to good sealed, with reasonable cards and not great mana. I ended up building it Red-Green splash Blue, with pretty bad mana. My choices really boiled down to having good mana and lacking real finishers or risking bad mana in order to get a more powerful deck. Basically the classic conundrum, and as usual I came down on the side of power. As nice as it would have been to play the consistent Blue-Red deck with Mind Spring, Lightning Bolt, Essence Scatter, Magma Phoenix, and some other nice removal spells, I just didn’t think that deck could finish games. If my Phoenix ever got Celestial Purged or Pacifism’ed, than I was down to just a Snapping Drake to seal the deal. As the day went on I expected to face decks with plenty of removal, so the two win condition deck just wasn’t going to cut it. My build ended up being Green for Kalonian Behemoth, Stampeding Rhino, and some other Green burdles, Red for removal, and Blue just for Mind Spring, Snapping Drake, and Essence Scatter.

Splashing a double-Blue spell miiiight seem a tad greedy, even if those who know me would probably put it at par for the course. In all seriousness though, my deck lacked the power necessary to win with two colors, so I didn’t mind playing a riskier manabase in order to get the bomb that is Mind Spring. Drawing four or more cards in the middle of the game is pretty nice, and as long as you have anything good left in your deck it should win you the game.

I started strong, quickly losing my first two rounds. I was on the receiving end of an Overrun, and stumbled a bit on the mana (which is the risk I took with the deck I made). I then won three in a row, despite trying to punt one of my rounds terribly. I attacked a Lightning Elemental into a first-striker, since I had a Giant Growth. He blocked, and I realized I randomly hadn’t played my Forest. Sweet play. I won the round, as is typical of such situations, and played well after that.

I got to 6-2, one win from Day 2, and lost a heartbreaking Round 9. I managed to win the game when my opponent went White Knight, Black Knight, Blinding Mage, Ajani Goldmane, but I lost the game when he didn’t play a land on turn three. Missing Day 2 was pretty annoying, and certainly didn’t improve my opinion of the format. M10 Sealed is just so bomb-driven that deck power determines the majority of the matches, and that can lead to frustrating times. The good news is that draft doesn’t suffer from the same problems, and instead is quite enjoyable. Therefore, I will talk about draft!

First, though, I want to share a list of requests I received during the event. For some reason, perhaps the size of this GP, I got some unexpected requests from strangers I didn’t know at all. Anyways, at this GP, I was asked for a hug, if I wanted to trade, could I sign stuff (ok, this isn’t that strange, as it happens reasonable often, although usually not with foil foreign Maelstrom Pulses), and oddest of all, whether I knew where John Treviranus was.

Actually, that conversation went like this:

Dude: “Hey are you LSV?”

Me: “I am”

Dude: “I like your site (or something to that effect)”

Me: “Cool, good to hear”

Dude: “Hey, do you know where John Treviranus is?”

Me: “I don’t know that person”

Dude: “Oh, he invented Boat Brew”

Me: “Um, I still don’t know who that is”

Dude: “Do you know Brian Kowal, since he’s friends with Brian”

Me: “I don’t know who you are talking about”

This was compounded by the fact that Sam Black was watching all this with great amusement. Sam is from Madison, where apparently this John Treviranus is from, and actually had his number. It was just a kind of funny situation.

Drafto!

I don’t want to go and re-rank all the commons, although I will mention a few cards that are way better than I thought.

Safe Passage is insane, and I didn’t give it the respect it deserved initially. It destroys Fireball, Earthquake, and Overrun, and is at the worst a solid 1 for 1, although usually better. I would play 2 or 3 in most decks without thinking about it, and would pick it over most commons that don’t fly or Pacify.

Merfolk Looter might just be the best Blue common. So many games were decided on the back of a constant stream of looting, and it seems hard to lose any reasonably long game where you have an active Looter. It lets you stop drawing lands once you hit however many your deck needs, and is almost impossible to beat in an attrition war. Snapping Drake is a beater, but Looter seems like it has more of an impact overall.

Giant Spider really is the show-stopper. White and Blue decks have to go to great lengths to break through the Wall of Silk, and it can single-(leggedly?) stop so many decks from beating you. You do still need some sort of win condition, but it buys you a ton of time until you find one.

The decks I thought were good on the weekend were Black decks and Blue decks. Surprise, surprise. White decks were ok, but only if they were controlling. You may think that I am naturally biased towards control (ok, sure, I am), but results-wise it wasn’t close. There are so many cards that make aggro decks look like a joke, and you aren’t realistically going to close games with a bunch of 2/2s or even 2/3s for two mana.

Drudge Skeletons, Wall of Bone, Horned Turtle, Giant Spider, Palace Guard, and any creature with three toughness negate most offenses by themselves, which is why evasion is so crucial. It is perfectly viable to draft a beatdown deck, but it has to have a ton of removal, evasion or finishers (like Overrun) to be successful. I saw so many “sick” White decks with great curves and good creatures that just bombed because of some of the forementioned show-stoppers. Fliers work great, and if you have something like that Overrun, then maybe you can win some matches. If not, prepare to 1-2 or 0-3, possibly 2-1 with good draws. Centaur Courser may look good, but come turn 11 he is pretty putrid.

On the other hand, Black decks seemed awesome. I drafted Black in the last four drafts I did, end went 2-1, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1 with WB, wB, uB and WBr. In every case, I played from 9-11 Swamps and was heavy Black, which let me utilize the power of Tendrils of Corruption and Looming Shade, and in one case even Nightmare. Black has everything you could want in a color: card draw, tons of removal, evasion, and even some other sources of card advantage and disruption. The price you pay is that Black isn’t an easy splash, and you end up being pretty committed once you start down that path. Still, you don’t have to go Mono-Black, as I did fine playing decks that were anywhere from 50-80% Black. All the colors combine well, although I kept going White for Blinding Mage and Pacifism, since they make a welcome addition to any deck. The WBr deck was actually White for [card]Serra Angel[/card] and some other less exciting cards, Black for awesomeness, and Red for a Fireball.

Similarly, Blue is good because it offers card advantage, evasion, a little removal, and some [card Cancel]counterspells[/card]. Turns out that those are the important things in a draft, and playing colors that mostly give you vanilla dudes, as efficient as they may be, just doesn’t quite cut it. Red is really shallow of course, and I wouldn’t recommend looking at it for main color status most of the time. It does have some sick cards, but the depth of the commons makes it tough for you to go too heavy Red.

Ok, I changed my mind about pick orders. Now that I have drafted a bunch, I figure I should rank cards overall, not just within the colors.

Commons

Doom Blade
Blinding Mage
Tendrils of Corruption
Pacifism
Lightning Bolt
Gravedigger
Merfolk Looter
Snapping Drake
Safe Passage
Essence Scatter

Note the lack of Green cards on this list. Green may have a ton of good commons, but none of them are that exciting. I just don’t like how Green decks play out most of the time, as they are heavy on the do-nothing creatures and light on real action. When Wall of Bone shuts down your entire gameplan then you really should find a better deck.

The top four commons are pretty interchangeable, insofar as color preference is what leads me to rank Tendrils above Pacifism and Doom Blade above Blinding Mage. The Mage is probably the best common in terms of power, but I would rather start Black than White.

To sum up my experiences thus far:

Spells are good.

Creatures are mostly bad, unless they have evasion.

Card advantage is awesome, even if the common card draws spells didn’t crack the top 10. Divination, Sign in Blood, and Mind Rot are all very good.

Removal is of course still good, and is really the dividing line between a good deck and a terrible one. There are plenty of bombs running around, and being dead to any 4/4 flier or whatever is a bad place to be in.

Aggressive decks are pretty bad, unless backed by some serious firepower (Fireball, Overrun) or a lot of removal/evasion. Don’t try and curve out, since so many commons just nullify that strategy without even trying.

Well, that about sums it up for this week. I am literally 2 hours away from my flight back to California, since it was so early that I just decided to draft and write all night instead of grabbing a few hours of sleep. Nobody can accuse me of not having the fire!

Next week I will have some sort of 5k report from the Channelfireball 5k, hopefully a report that involves me winning some matches!

LSV

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