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Rogue Report – Louck Sac Drafting

 

I’ve been playing a lot of Zendikar limited on Magic Online lately, and until very recently I wasn’t doing very well. Part of it had to do with my discomfort with the interface. I was constantly making little mistakes that led to inefficient games, like attacking with Hedron Scrabbler before playing my land. After playing on MTGO for a while, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel comfortable.

Somehow I started building my Sealed decks better, and I think it’s because I focused more on creatures (and specifically two-drops) than anything else. Sure, removal is good, but I’m winning a lot more with a deck full of creatures than I am with a deck full of removal. I’m constantly finding myself losing games where I drew a lot of removal, which is very different than other formats.

After posting a few decent records in some Sealed Release Events I felt comfortable enough to do an 8-4 Draft. I knew going in that I was going to do two things differently than I usually do when I draft. First, I was going to prioritize creatures over spells, trying not to overvalue cards like Punishing Fire. Second, I was going to heavily prioritize cheap creatures (usually meaning two-drops). I find that expensive creatures generally aren’t worth the mana investment when a cheap creature gets the job done just as well in this format.

Here’s the draft I experienced:

Pack 1 pick 1:

 

A week ago, had I taken a white card, it would have been Shepherd of the Lost, though chances are I would have taken Whiplash Trap. I love Whiplash Trap, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking it, but I’ve got a theory and I’m sticking to it. That’s why I also feel good about Kor Skyfisher over Shepherd of the Lost. Kor Skyfisher is one of the best two-drops available, so I have no qualms first-picking it. Bladetusk Boar and Nimana Sell-Sword are decent creatures, but they cost twice as much. Blech!
Pick: Kor Skyfisher

Pack 1 pick 2:

 

Again I find myself thinking about what I would have taken a week ago, and I’m pretty sure it would have been Grazing Gladehart. I still love Gladehart, and I don’t think I have the revulsion to green that everybody else seems to have, but it’s not what I’m looking for. Shatterskull Giant is also good, but I can’t justify taking it over an on-color two-drop like Kor Outfitter. Still, the outfitter isn’t that impressive of a two-drop – I’d rather have the much easier to cast Cliff Threader – but I’d still gladly play it. I like Into the Roil because it’s exactly the type of spell you want to back up cheap creatures. It’s kind of odd that I prefer Whiplash Trap to Into the Roil, but pick one I took a creature over the Trap, and pick two the bounce spell over the creature.
Pick: Into the Roil

Pack 1 pick 3:

 

I’m kind of bummed to have my third pick be a two mana 2/1, but then again, this is exactly what I want. The next best card is Bladetusk Boar, and had I taken Kor Outfitters in the previous pack I might have taken the Boar here. Since I did take Into the Roil, however, I’ll gladly grab the two-drop.
Pick: Cliff Threader

Pack 1 pick 4:

 

Yes! This is exactly what I want to see. Next to Kor Skyfisher I’m pretty sure Welkin Tern is the two-drop you want. It’s better than the next best card, Surrakar Marauders, and on color. I’m scared of the Oran-Rief Recluse, but what can you do?
Pick: Welkin Tern

Pack 1 pick 5:

 

I thought this was a really defining pick. There are a few mediocre cards for me at this point, like Soaring Seacliff, Expedition Map, or Soul Stair Expedition (if I could see myself moving into black later), but it really comes down to whether or not I want to move in on red with the awesome Torch Slinger, or stick to my picks and take the land. I love having dual lands in my deck, and I know that white is inevitably going to give me some WW two-drops like Kor Outfitters. You can’t afford to stumble on your mana when everything in your deck costs two.
Pick: Sejiri Refuge

Pack 1 pick 6:

 

Three toughness is very good in this format, and Kor Sanctifiers is exactly what you want in a three-drop. It’s so nice to have this card because it puts answers to equipment and random troublesome things like Gigantiform into your deck without compromising your creatures. Emeria, the Sky Ruin is an interesting pick if I wanted to try to force mono-white, but I don’t plan on getting to that stage of the game very often anyway.
Pick: Kor Sanctifiers

Pack 1 pick 7:

 

Gross. I ended up taking the card I might play, but I knew that I never wanted to play [card]Shoal Serpent[/card]. Looking back I should have taken the Oran-Rief Recluse because its so good against my deck. That, or take the rare. Like I said, I never want Shoal Serpent in my deck, but I guess it’s nice to have more payables if I end up short.
Pick: Shoal Serpent

Pack 1 pick 8:

 

Ah, a spider! The power of the spider against me far outweighs the possibility of playing Tempest Owl or Trapmaker’s Snare. Speaking of the Snare, I’ve never used it, but always tried to keep it in mind while sideboarding, but I’m not sure how valuable that option really is.
Pick: Oran-Rief Recluse

Pack 1 pick 9:

 

I still have the option of hating green cards, but I’m not that scared of either of those. Maybe I’ll play the Cleric, but probably not.
Pick: Ondu Cleric

Pack 1 pick 10:

 

Bold Defense looks like a crappy card, but I’ve continuously been impressed with it. You’ve got to have a deck full of small creatures for it to be at all playable, and luckily that’s what we’re going for. I also like that it gives you a place to use your extra mana if you get a little flooded, and kicking this on three or more creatures is devastating.
Pick: Bold Defense

Pack 1 pick 11:

 

Pick: Spell Pierce

Pack 1 pick 12:

 

I think I’m too scared that I’ll end up without enough playables, so I end up taking cards I don’t want like Caravan Hurda, when I could probably just hate the Seismic Shudder. I’m a big fan of Seismic Shudder myself, but I haven’t seen many other people using it. It’s amazing against the RB decks, and usually decent against other people.
Pick: Caravan Hurda

Pack 1 pick 13:

 

When do you start taking full art lands? I tend not to take them over cards I might play, but I’m sure I could be more lenient with some cards.
Pick: Soaring Seacliff

Pack 1 pick 14:

 

Like this one. (Meanwhile there’s a draft going on where Carnage Altar and Mark of Mutiny are working together.)
Pick: Island

Pack 1 pick 15:

Sunspring Expedition 

Pick: Sunspring Expedition

Pack 2 pick 1:

 

I really hate passing Kor Skyfisher, but Trusty Machete is clearly one of the best cards in the set. It would be good in other formats, but when creatures are so important making your creatures bigger is even better than normal. Kor Skyfisher is clearly the second pick, and then I think I take the Into the Roil over Devout Lightcaster.
Pick: Trusty Machete

Pack 2 pick 2:

 

I almost gut-reaction picked the Windrider Eel, but I’m now sure Kazandu Blademaster is the way to go. He’s a lot like Kor Skyfisher because you can play him on turn two and probably block whatever they played on turn two. Also, picking up cards like this makes every subsequent Umara Raptor even better. I used to think Welkin Tern was better than Umara Raptor, but I’m not so sure anymore. Especially early on when you can pick an Umara Raptor and then value other Umara Raptors higher. If I have no Raptors in pack three I would probably take Welkin Tern, otherwise I like Raptor.
Pick: Kazandu Blademaster

Pack 2 pick 3:

 

More two drops over nothing. I’m nervous that there is literally no other card in the pack for me pick three other than Shieldmate’s Blessing, but I’m hoping it’s just the pack.
Pick: Cliff Threader

Pack 2 pick 4:

 

Aonther pack that lacks white cards, but Aether Figment is a welcomed addition to the team. That card grows in value a lot when you have equipment like Trusty Machete or Adventuring Gear in your deck. Speaking of Adventuring Gear, I was completely wrong about that card when I first saw it. Now I actively want one (maybe two?) in my deck. It makes your aggressive draws very good, and it’s a great way to make your attackers bigger than their blockers. To me the key to winning is to have ways to make your two-drops attack every turn, either by removing blockers or making them bigger.
Pick: Aether Figment

Pack 2 pick 5:

 

At least blue is still coming. Merfolk Seastalkers is very good, obviously. I find it’s value is much better in an aggro deck than a control deck, though. In a control deck the Seastalkers isn’t very good until the late game, where in the aggro deck being able to invest your turn to tap one or two blockers puts them in a very bad spot. As the aggro deck you even get to take advantage of islandwalk!
Pick: Merfolk Seastalkers

Pack 2 pick 6:

 

Wow, what a pack for us. Cliff Treader is worse than Kor Aeronaut, but is the Aeronaut better than Aether Figment? I’m pretty sure it is (especially since it’s another way to make your two-drops keep attacking). Kor Sanctifiers is also pretty good, but not as good as the flyer.
Pick: Kor Aeronaut

Pack 2 pick 7:

 

Why couldn’t we just merge this pack and the last one? I like having Spell Pierce a lot when you’re aggressive, so I don’t mind having one. It’s better than hating the Gladehart, or taking the Tempest Owl I might be forced to play, but I don’t think I’m to that point.
Pick: Spell Pierce

Pack 2 pick 8:

 

Cancel is ok, especially because it backs up an aggressive draw very well, but now that I have an Aeronauts I really want to hit my mana early.
Pick: Sejiri Refuge

Pack 2 pick 9:

 

I probably should have taken Bold Defense here, but I like Hedron Scrabbler against the Surrakar Marauders deck, and it’s unlikely I’ll ply Bold Defense. Then again, they’ll never see the second one coming
Pick: Hedron Scrabbler

Pack 2 pick 10:

 

Summoner’s Bane is so awesome when you’re aggressive, and I know I wont have trouble hitting UU with two Refuges. Paralyzing Grasp isn’t that great of a removal spell because it doesn’t remove a blocker. It’s nice against the green decks, but I’d rather have bounce than a Grasp anyway. I just hope I don’t have to face Vampire Nighthawk.
Pick: Summoner’s Bane

Pack 2 pick 11:

 

Should have taken the land.
Pick:

Grim Discovery 

Pack 2 pick 12:

 

Pick: Paralyzing Grasp

Pack 2 pick 13:

 

Pick: Ruinous Minotaur

Pack 2 pick 14:

 

Pick: Paralyzing Grasp

I’m very happy I picked up two late Paralyzing Grasp. It’s not a card I really want to use a pick on, so it’s like a free sideboard card.

Pack 2 pick 15:

Forest 

Pack 3 pick 1:

 

Not a very impressive first pick, but two damage is two damage. Arrow Volley Trap looks like a blowout waiting to happen, and it kind of is, but it has yet to impress me. It’s great in some decks, but I don’t think we’re one of them. In a situation where you’re racing it’s probably ok, but when you need to get in the last few points of damage before they stabilize it’s unlikely to win you the game.

Spidersilk Net is a weird card. Sometimes it’s the best card on the table and it’s impossible to win through, yet other times it’s completely blank. I still have no idea when to use the card and what type of deck wants it, if any.
Pick: Blazing Torch

Pack 3 pick 2:

 

Time to pass another Torch Slinger. It looks like a lot of my creatures are going to be white, but I haven’t seen Brave the Elements do a lot yet. The potential is there, it always seems like I control blue creatures when I have it. Blade of the Bloodchief is better than I originally thought, but we’re not the deck for it. We don’t have any way to force a creature into the graveyard, so our opponent has all the say over when it triggers. I might actually take Stonework Puma here if I had more Umara Raptors, but we’re not there.
Pick: Brave the Elements

Pack 3 pick 3:

 

Normally I would take Scalding Tarn just to take money, but after my last two picks I was worried that my deck would end up short on playables. Looking back the Umara Raptor was probably better, even if I only have one other ally. If I had another piece of equipment that adds more weight to Aether Figment, but even then Umara Raptor is probably better.
Pick: Aether Figment

Pack 3 pick 4:

 

I’m happy to pick up another Leonin Skyhunter plus. Again, if I had pulled the trigger on Raptors earlier that might be the pick, but I’ll take the two-drop.
Pick: Kor Aeronaut

Pack 3 pick 5:

 

The packs seem to be better the deeper we go – hopefully the trend continues! Since I already have a Merfolk Seastalkers I don’t really want another one. Sure I would play it if I had it, but the Kor Aeronaut is still very good for me. Welkin Tern might be better mana-wise, but I have two on-color Refuges, so I feel fine. Three Aeronauts looks good to me, now I just need to find a way to get flyers out of the way.
Pick: Kor Aeronaut

Pack 3 pick 6:

 

Sigh, I guess I’ll take Stonework Puma. I would rather not play it, but it’s very good at making their Bladetusk Boars look overcosted. I might have picked up the Paralyzing Grasp if I didn’t already have two. Pillarfield Ox is too expensive for my tastes.
Pick: Stonework Puma

Pack 3 pick 7:

 

I’m a big fan of the common lands. Ok, so I hate the green one, and I only play the black one if I have enough Guul Draz Vampires. The blue one is very good in some decks, though, and I find the red and white ones to be very good. I still can’t justify taking Kabira Crossroads over a spell that I’d be happy to have, though, so I took the Reckless Scholar. Shieldmate’s Blessing is a lot like Paralyzing Grasp – it’s nice to have as a free sideboard card (against red usually) but I never want to waste a pick on it.
Pick: Reckless Scholar

Pack 3 pick 8:

 

Apparently Lethargy Trap isn’t as bad as I think. I’ve heard that it can be really good, but it doesn’t look like something my deck wants. It could be useful in a race, though, so I’ll take it. Normally I would take Narrow Escape, but I don’t see anything in my deck that really wants to be re-played.
Pick: Lethargy Trap

Pack 3 pick 9:

 

If I had enough Steppe Lynx or Adventuring Gear, or anything that cost over four, I would gladly take Kor Cortographer. Instead I’ll take the card than can be very good against certain decks. To be honest Nimbus Wings isn’t that bad. It’s a way to make your two-drop keep attacking, and that’s all I really want. I could see myself playing it.
Pick: Nimbus Wings

Pack 3 pick 10:

 

Sorry Nimbus Wings, but I never want two of you! (By the way, Vamprie’s Bite is kind of legit. It’s very good in a race, gets extra damage in, and isn’t even that bad when you two-for-one yourself to kill a pesky blocker like Sky Ruin Drake.) I already have two Spell Pierce, so moooo it is.
Pick: Pillarfield Ox

Pack 3 pick 11:

 

I’m a fan of Expedition Map in the right deck, but this isn’t the deck. I’m surprised to see Quest for the Gemblades here, but I’m not that scared of it right now. Narrow Escape can be good in some matchups.
Pick: Narrow Escape

Pack 3 pick 12:

 

Taking it and playing it.
Pick: Reckless Scholar

Pack 3 pick 13:

 

Eek!
Pick: Seismic Shudder

Pack 3 pick 14:

 

Double eek!
Pick: Tajuru Archer

Pack 3 pick 15:

Plains  

The final deck ended up like this:

I figured Soaring Seacliff would hurt me more as a tapped land than it would help me get an extra two damage in. I was sad that my deck didn’t end up having any Steppe Lynx, but my curve was good enough anyway. I love when the most expensive creature in my deck is a single four casting-cost, Merfolk Seastalkers. It’s not like I don’t have anywhere to stick extra mana – Seastalkers and Bold Defense does pretty well. The deck was severely lacking in Whiplash Trap, Kor Hookmaster, or Windborne Charge – the best ways to get through a blocker, but I knew my curve was going to work wonders.

I ended up sideboarding in the Paralyzing Grasps against my mono-green opponent in round one. His first three plays in the first game were Nissa’s Chosen. I lost game one because he played Gigantiform, but I had an active Seastalkers. I lost when he played Vines of Vastwood in response to my activation, and it killed me. Game two I had an active Merfolk Seastalkers, eventually with nine mana, so there was no way he was going to kill me. In game three he was stuck on four forests with Grazing Gladehart and a Khalni Heart Expedition with two counters on it. It would have been more of a battle if he hit the land – instead it was pretty easy.

I’ve somehow completely forgotten what happened it round two. I’m pretty sure I sided in Nimbus Wings, and I think I kicked a Bold Defense to win one of the games.

In round three I play against a guy with four Umara Raptors. I have very few ways to get through a 3/3 flyer, so I have to hope he tries to race me and loses, or that I have just enough disruption to get him. I lose a close game one after playing Kazandu Blademaster into Stonework Puma, but I still couldn’t race his flyers. I came through in game two with Bold Defense, and I think I had a Merfolk Seastalkers with Trusty Machete. Game three was really scary because he played turn one Hedron Crab, turn two Hedron Crab. He ended up stopping on three or four land, and luckily my deck was fast enough to kill him before the game went any longer.

I hadn’t won an 8-4 in MTGO in a very long time, so I was pretty happy. This was straight after winning the previous 8-4 with the same strategy – this time with red and white cards. I had basically the same deck except with Goblin Shortcutters and Plated Geopede as my two-drops, along with triple Torch Slinger. Goblin Shortcutter is one of the best ways available to get through a blocker, basically acting as the red [card]Kor Hookmaster[/card]. [card]Mark of Mutiny[/card] as also a great way to win a race, and I love having one of those in my deck.

My evaluation of the cards in this format has changed considerably since the beginning. I never would have liked Mark of Mutiny before, but I see it win games all the time. I find that the more my deck is focused on the early game, the better I do. Somehow cards like Felidar Sovereign keep losing games. Now I’m wondering if I can justify taking Hellkite Charger over Goblin Shortcutter.

I’m off to another draft, this time with real people – wish me luck!

Thanks for Reading,
Jonathon Loucks

Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on twitter

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