Saturday, July 18, 2015

Magic Origins Draft #2: The Power of the First Pick

The Draft and the Decks

I was a little disappointed after my first draft, having opened no rare worth playing.  Fortunately fate smiled upon me for my second draft: my first pack had Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.  After I took that card, the person to my right passed me a Skysnare Spider, and just like that my colors were determined: Red-Green.  And although I didn't pick anything especially earth-shattering for the rest of the draft, I was quite happy with the cards I did pick.

  CREATURES (17)  
Acolyte of the Inferno x2
Boggart Brute
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Elvish Visionary
Ghirapur Gearcrafter
Hitchclaw Recluse x2
Leaf Gilder
Llanowar Empath
Rhox Maulers x2
Seismic Elemental x2
Skyraker Giant
Skysnare Spider
  INSTANTS (3)  
Fiery Impulse
Ravaging Blaze
Titan's Strength
Act of Treason
Lightning Javelin x2
  LANDS (17)  
Forest x7
Mountain x10
Aerial Volley
Akroan Jailer
Brawler's Plate
Caustic Caterpillar
Dark Dabbling
Enshrouding Mist
Infernal Scarring
Macabre Waltz
Shambling Ghoul
Smash to Smithereens
Sphinx's Tutelage
Stratus Walk
Topan Freeblade
Tormented Thoughts
Unholy Hunger
Vastwood Gorger

I'm not entirely sure what led my daughter into the Black-Green deck that she drafted, but it certainly looked reasonable to me.

  CREATURES (15)  
Conclave Naturalists
Deadbridge Shaman
Elvish Visionary
Eyeblight Assassin
Fetid Imp
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
Nantuko Husk x2
Pharika's Disciple
Shambling Ghoul x3
Valeron Wardens
Yeva's Forcemage
Mantle of Webs
Weight of the Underworld
Brawler's Plate
  INSTANTS (3)  
Might of the Masses
Unholy Hunger x2
Gather the Pack
Reave Soul
  LANDS (17)  
Rogue's Passage
Forest x7
Swamp x9
Aerial Volley
Alhammarret's Archive
Anointer of Champions
Dark Dabbling
Deep-Sea Terror
Healing Hands
Macabre Waltz
Mantle of Webs x2
Nissa's Pilgrimage
Smash to Smithereens
Timberpack Wolf
Undead Servant
Weight of the Underworld

Round 1

My opponent played a Black-White deck with early renown threats backed up by loads of 5-cost Black removal spells.  Game 1 I used my own burn to deal with his early creatures, and then simply played threat after threat after threat to soak up his kill spells.  Eventually he ran out of removal.

Game 2 was far less stressful for me, as my opponent got stuck on four lands.  My threats stayed on board, and Chandra, Roaring Flame finished the job.

In the meantime my daughter won her first match in straightforward fashion.

  • Me: W (2-0)
  • My Daughter: W (2-0)

Round 2

My opponent had first picked Pia and Kiran Nalaar and second picked Thopter Spy Network... and then the Blue-Red artifact support he had hoped for simply dried up.  He still had loads of artifacts in his deck, and they caused all sorts of trouble.

I jumped out to an early lead in game 1 before my opponent was finally able to stabilize behind Guardians of Meletis and Thopter Spy Network.  Soon after that our boards were full of creatures... but his could fly over mine.  Thankfully a top-decked Seismic Elemental saved me.

However, in game 2 my opponent had a powerful start, with lots of Fiery Impulses to negate my early creatures.  I had to play from behind for the rest of the game, and his Ravaging Blaze finished me off.

The exact reverse happened in game 3.  I put my opponent on the back foot with removal that cleared the way for my cheap creatures to punch on through (my sideboarded Caustic Caterpillar and Smash to Smithereens were a great help).  And this time I was the one to finish the game by casting a Ravaging Blaze.

My daughter pushed her opponent to three games this round, but his aggressive deck was simply too quick for her when she was on the draw.

  • Me: W (2-1)
  • My Daughter: L (1-2)

Round 3

At the start of round 3 there were three undefeated players in our 9-man pod.  Winning would mean I would get a share of first, and losing likely meant that I would fall all the way to third.  I explained this situation to my daughter when I learned I had gotten paired down against her... and she smiled wide and said, "I hope I kick your butt then!"  Oh.  And although I was a bit surprised at her reaction, I couldn't help but be inwardly delighted at her competitive spirit.

That spirit wasn't enough for game 1 however, as I aggressively mowed my way through her life total with the aid of removal spells.  Game 2 was far more even, with her mass of creatures providing a wall against mine.  And when she started using Rogue's Passage to push through her renown creatures while drawing cards with Valeron Wardens, I thought I was done for... a possibility that became a near certainty after she cast a Nantuko Husk, which she could have used for lethal damage at the cost of sacrificing most of her board.

And this is where my daughter's youthful instincts failed her, as her distaste for sacrificing her own creatures for a one-shot effect led her to completely overlook her winning play.  Instead we played creature on top of creature upon a stalled board... until I drew a Seismic Elemental and swung in for the win.

After the game was over I explained how she could have won, and I could almost see the light bulb burst into life inside her head.  Another lesson learned!

  • Me: W (2-0)
  • My Daughter: L (0-2)


Interestingly, Chandra barely made a dent in any of the games I played.  And after the draft I came to the following realization: Magic Origins is a far less bomb-y format than any of the Tarkir draft formats, with few cards that feel like they provide an insurmountable threat.  This means that the margin of victory is dependent upon small synergies and incremental plays.  And players need to not only be prepared for the early rush; they need to have a late-game plan to deal with clogged board states.

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