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Riding the Avalanche – Draft Tuning

People often disagree on the relative power level of various cards and archetypes in draft. There are a variety of reasons why this happens, such as differing play styles and differing skill levels. One of the biggest reasons why people disagree on the power level of certain archetypes is because some of them haven’t perfected the archetype in question yet. Last time, I talked about how I wanted to add to my list of archetypes that I’ve mastered in Scars of Mirrodin draft. This week, I’m going to talk about further perfecting an archetype I already love.

For this draft, I decided to try a strategy that is especially well suited to Scars. Since I always prefer to draft artifact based decks in Scars, it means I need very few colored spells. This makes for fundamental changes in the way I draft. When I draft a typical set, I try to choose two colors as soon as possible in the first pack. I do this because I want to waste as few picks as possible and I want to send signals as clearly as possible.

When I first started drafting Scars, I often chose to force colors. For example, I frequently forced white and then added either blue or red, depending on what cards I saw in the first couple picks. This rarely backfired, because I wasn’t wasting many picks and even if the player in front of me was drafting the same colors, I drafted more than half artifacts, so it wasn’t a really big deal. In addition, there was a good chance of being really hooked up in pack two, because my colors would be so thoroughly cut off in pack one.

While the number of good artifacts in Scars helps facilitate forcing colors, it also does the reverse. It makes reading colors easier too. If you don’t send good signals or cut colors effectively, it’s rare for it to backfire hard, since you can use many of your picks in pack two on artifacts. It also means you can use many of your early picks on artifacts, while waiting to figure out what colors you should draft based on what’s being passed to you.

One of the benefits to my learning more archetypes is that it makes reading the draft a more powerful option for me. If I only know how to draft or am only willing to draft two different archetypes, then there isn’t much reading that can be done. In my most recent 8/4 draft, I decided to read the draft instead of forcing colors. I planned to do one thing very different than previous sets however. My plan was to read and draft one color in the first pack and then read and select my second color in pack two. In this way, I should be able to ensure getting exciting colored cards in all three packs. In a pack with fewer artifacts, this strategy could easily lead to me ending up with two few playables to play a two color deck. In Scars, this seems like a very strong option:

Pack 1 pick 1:

 

This was a perfect opening pack for my strategy. Since I want to read colors, I want to first pick a good artifact if possible. In this case, both Darksteel Axe and Precursor Golem are solid first picks. Precursor Golem helps with the two main ways I want to improve my drafting of Scars. First, I want make sure I get to metalcraft early in the game and keep it. I used to try to draft around 14 artifacts. Now, I’m trying to get at least 16 and I’m giving more priority to cards that can help, like Myrsmith and Trinket Mage. I’m also trying to draft beefier, more badass creatures. Precursor Golem is both great for helping with metalcraft and it’s a huge creature threat.

My Pick:

Precursor Golem

Pack 1 pick 2:

 

Speaking of Myrsmith… Myrsmith is the only card here that makes an exciting first pick, so it’s probably a signal that I can draft White. I could play it safe and take Livewire Lash, but then I’m practically forcing the player behind me into white. If I’m in a good seat for white, I want it.

My pick:

Myrsmith

Pack 1 pick 3:

 

This reinforces my decision to take Myrsmith. Dispense Justice is easily the most powerful card for an artifact deck in this pack. Asceticism is really powerful, but I don’t draft infect or green for the most part. Drafting [card]Carapace Forger[/card] decks is one of the next archetypes I plan to master. I firmly believe metalcraft is the most powerful mechanic in Scars limited. I just need to ensure that I have enough artifacts to support it.

My pick:

 

Dispense Justice 

Pack 1 pick 4:

 

Another solid pack for infect drafters with Mamba and Might, hopefully pushing the player behind me in that direction. Myr Propagator is another great card for my strategy, an artifact that makes more artifacts.

My pick:

Myr Propagator

Pack 1 pick 5:

 

Clearly, white is the color that I’m picking up in pack one. In an effort to continue cutting it off, I take the Sunchaser. It would be nice to have a myr, especially since I want lots of artifacts, but Sunchaser is pretty nasty in the right deck. Fortunately, they’re underrated, so I usually can get them pretty late.

My pick:

 

Auriok Sunchaser 

Pack 1 pick 6:

 

There is nothing obviously powerful for me in white or artifact here. I might not be playing blue, but if I am, Trinket Mage is the one card in this pack that always makes the cut in my decks. At sixth pick, it might also be a signal that I should be taking blue.

My pick:

 

Trinket Mage 

Pack 1 pick 7:

 

Necrogen Censer and Moriok Replica can both sometimes make the cut in a white metalcraft deck, but if I don’t take one of them it’s unlikely I’ll be upset about it later. If I end up in black and don’t take a seventh pick Vampires, I will be. Easily the best card in the pack, it goes great in my current approach to metalcraft and it’s another color I can look for in pack two.

My pick:

 

Bleak Coven Vampires 

Pack 1 pick 8:

 

Wow, there are six cards I like in this pack, but none of them are game breakers and I really need more artifacts, so I take the one in the color I’m sure that I’m playing. It’s also great for stopping a big Untamed Might from an infect deck.

My pick:

 

Auriok Replica 

Pack 1 pick 9:

 

Another underrated white card. The Warden goes great in my new, beefier metalcraft strategy.

My pick:

 

Ghalmas Warden 

Pack 1 pick 10:

 

Probably a meaningless pick, but it might get some run against infect if I go black.

My pick:

 

Moriok Replica 

Pack 1 pick 11:

 

I love this card at 11th pick. I like to have one in all of my metalcraft decks. The rest of pack one was useless to me.

My pick:

 

Accorders Shield 

Pack 2 pick 1:

 

While not an exciting first pick, it’s easily the best one for the deck I’m drafting. Helps keep my number of cheap artifacts high and goes great with Trinket Mage if I go blue.

My pick:

 

Origin Spellbomb 

Pack 2 pick 2:

 

One of my favorite commons, it goes great in an aggressive white/artifact deck. No totally obvious color signal yet this pack.

My card:

Glint Hawk Idol Editor’s note: This was initially incorrecly listed as a Khemba’s Skyguard. We apologize for the confusion.

Pack 2 pick 3:

 

A little weak selection for a third pick, but I’d be pretty happy with the Myr or the Warden. I only need a couple myrs (I don’t like playing more than three), and I’m still trying to prioritize beefy creatures, so I go with the Warden.

My pick:

 

Ghalmas Warden 

Pack 2 pick 4:

 

Alright, here we go with myr number one. Perhaps the player to my left isn’t in Red?

My pick:

 

Silver Myr 

Pack 2 pick 5:

 

Yup. Sure, I don’t have any red cards yet, but I’ve only used one pick on black and one on blue ,and Arc Trail is better than either of them. Besides, fifth pick Arc Trail seems like a pretty strong signal.

My pick:

 

Arc Trail 

Pack 2 pick 6:

 

I’m super happy with Idol at sixth pick. Nothing else in the pack is close in the deck I’m drafting.

My pick:

 

Glint Hawk Idol 

Pack 2 pick 7:

 

If I didn’t already have a Shield, I would probably take it since I’m leaning heavily towards red now. However the Certarch is pretty good for pick seven and I do have a Trinket Mage.

My pick:

Vedalken Certarch

Pack 2 pick 8:

 

Since I don’t have anything to go with Trainee, the Ogre gets the call in keeping with my beef strategy. I rarely play him, because he’s both expensive for a 4/4 and not an artifact, but I won’t be really sad if my deck has another 4/4 in it.

My pick:

 

Ogre Geargrabber 

Pack 2 pick 9:

 

Another card unlikely to make the cut, but it can hit really hard.

My pick:

 

Flameborn Hellion 

Pack 2 pick 10:

 

Just what I was looking for: a cheap artifact that goes great with beefy guys like Ghalma’s Warden.

My pick:

 

Bladed Pinions 

Pack 2 pick 11:

 

If I end up in red, this card will definitely make the cut. I didn’t see anything else useful until pack three.

My pick:

Panic Spellbomb

Pack 3 pick 1:

 

I’m saved from having to make a hard choice about my second color by an excellent rare artifact. No matter what my second color ends up being, my deck is starting to look pretty good.

My pick:

 

Contagion Engine 

Pack 3 pick 2:

 

I continue avoiding committing to blue by picking up another excellent artifact for a beefy metalcraft deck like mine.

 

Chrome Steed 

Pack 3 pick 3:

 

Since I already have a Pinions, it comes down to Sunchaser or Myr. My need for artifacts gets me myr number two, making any future myr a lower priority pick.

My pick:

 

Leaden Myr 

Pack 3 pick 4:

 

Of course I can always just take Sunchaser number two now… if I was sure I was in blue, I might take Riddlesmith.

My pick:

 

Auriok Sunchaser 

Pack 3 pick 5:

 

Blue has been clamoring for my attention and I finally submit, at least for this pick. Only the Replica is in the same power category and I’m definitely not playing green.

My pick:

 

Sky-Eel School 

Pack 3 pick 6:

 

I’m still stressing cheap artifacts and a third myr edges out a second Shield. I like myr a little more in decks like this where I have beefy four drops.

My pick:

 

Gold Myr 

Pack 3 pick 7:

 

I love picking this card up at seventh pick. It flies and gives me another cheap artifact.

My pick:

 

Snapsail Glider 

Pack 3 pick 8:

 

If I do go blue, it might get played with my Trinket Mage.

My pick:

 

Vector Asp 

Pack 3 pick 9:

 

I’m pretty sure I’m blue or red at this point, so I sadly pass on the Vampires. I take the Replica in part because I might play it even if I don’t play red.

 

Vulshok Replica 

Pack 3 pick 10:

 

A potential sideboard card to fetch with Trinket Mage.

My pick:

 

Nihil Spellbomb 

Pack 3 pick 11:

 

Like I said, underrated. Given that most packs run out of playables at pick 11, it seems absurd for me to get this card here. At least I did a good job picking my primary color for my seat. I had multiple games where I attacked on turn three or four in the air for three and more than one where I had multiple Sunchasers in play with metalcraft.

The biggest question during deck construction was what should my second color be? After locking into a base of 21 artifacts and white cards, it came down to one of these three-card packages:

 

Or

 

Red won out for three reasons:

1. Arc Trail is much better than any of the blue cards. I still haven’t lost a limited game where I’ve cast it or won one where my opponent has (the exception being games where we both have, of course.)
2. It allows me to play ten Plains guilt-free, since I only have one card that I must have a Mountain for.
3. While blue gives me Trinket Mage to help me get closer to metalcraft, I would only have two targets for it and red brings me up from 14 to 16 actual artifacts.

In the past, my metalcraft decks might have had too many spellbombs, myrs, equipment, replicas and other fluff. This deck has more actual threats and problem cards for my opponent:

Despite playing five cards costing four or more, 16 land is plenty since I’ve got three myrs, two spellbombs and 14 spells cheaper than three mana. My new strategies paid off big time during my actual matches. Round one, I beat a black/green infect deck 2-0. My Sunchasers put them under fast, heavy pressure, while my four drops outclassed their infect creatures on the ground.

Round Two, I beat another red/white deck 2-0. We both had Arc Trail and Precursor Golem, but I was the one with the Sunchasers, and they were relentless. For the first time, I even won a game where I got two-for-oned with Arc Trail.

In the finals, I took down a red/blue deck 2-0. His deck was clearly built around Furnace Celebration. Unfortunately for him, that meant he was playing with lots of cards that, while great with the Celebration, were worse than any of the cards in my deck. In game one, he played an early [card]Embersmith[/card], but thanks to a Shield for my myrs, all of its activations went to my dome, until he eventually had to use the Smith to double block a Golem. He drew Celebration in game one, but it was just too slow given the amount of pressure he was under from creatures with a toughness higher than two. In game two, I didn’t even get around to casting my Golem, since he had a Rusted Relic and I had the ground under control with my Propagator, while I cruised over for the win with Sunchasers again.

One of my readers observed in a comment on my last column that red/white usually seems like a 2-1 deck. That has often been true for me, but as I’ve gotten even better at drafting it, my results seem to be improving also. Maybe it’s time for him to take another look at how he’s drafting red/white and make some tweeks. Unless you are frequently 3-0ing drafts with a popular archetype, you shouldn’t assume you’ve mastered it or dismiss as being a weak archetype. Maybe you just need to reexamine your approach to it. I already considered red/white the best archetype in Scars draft and I still took the time to change my approach to it for the better. If you aren’t currently a fan of metalcraft or Auriok Sunchaser, try them again, but with more artifacts and more dangerous creatures.

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