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From 1-3-Drop to 12-3 (18th Place) at Magicfest Seattle, Part Two


It's been over a month and a half since I wrote Part One of this article. Magicfest Vegas is this weekend, so I figured it was now or never :)

Day Two, Draft One

The first pack I opened contained a Thundering Djinn and a Prismatic Vista and little else of note. The Djinn is great if you're able to assemble a Blue/Red deck with enough card draw, but Prismatic Vista offers a lot more flexibility so I decided to take that. (Aside from fixing mana, it can find snow lands and gets a land into the graveyard for the Red/Green deck.)

My second pick was a Trumpeting Herd over Splicer's Skill and Answered Prayers. My reasoning was that Trumpeting Herd guarantees two 3/3's for four mana, while getting two 3/3's from Splicer's Skill requires at least seven mana plus a cheap instant or sorcery that you can splice it on.

My third pick was a speculative King of the Pride over Irregular Cohort, with an eye towards drafting White/Black Changelings if it happened to be open. The rest of the first pack yielded a bunch of decent-but-not-spectacular White cards — Enduring Sliver (over Venomous Changeling), Knight of Old Benalia, Martyr's Soul, Stirring Address, Impostor of the Sixth Pride, and Secluded Steppe — plus a Phantom Ninja and an eighth pick Unsettled Mariner.

At the end of pack one, I was solidly White and was looking to go either White/Black changelings (possibly splashing Blue for the Unsettled Mariner which is also a Changeling) or Green/White tokens. I didn't feel like White/Blue blink was a good option since I only had one enters-the-battlefield effect at that point. I also wasn't looking to go into Red/White Slivers because I only had one Sliver and am also not a fan of the archetype in general since it relies heavily on Cleaving Sliver and a couple of Uncommons, so a good board state can be decimated by a well-placed removal spell or two.

My second pack started out with a Saddled Rimestag, followed by a Squirrel Nest, a Rhox Veteran, and an Irregular Cohort, putting me solidly in Green/White tokens. I also drafted a Springbloom Druid, a Mother Bear, two Excavating Anurids, a second Stirring Address (which I think is very good in this archetype), a late Astral Drift, and a late Quakefoot Cyclops as both a hatedraft and a possible splash.

Things went south in pack three. The pack I opened had nothing notable in my colors, and I ended up taking a Magmatic Sinkhole in case I decided to splash or sideboard into Red. I took a Murasa Behemoth second and a Zhalfirin Decoy third, picked up a Knight of Old Benalia at some point along with filler like Bellowing Elk, Lancer Sliver, Recruit the Worthy, and Ephemerate, plus a second Quakefoot Cyclops. I saw up a second King of the Pride very late in the pack and drafted it since there was nothing in the pack that would have made my deck. Overall, this pack was very bad for me, and it turned out this was because the person to my right was also in Green/White.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any Settle Beyond Realitys or Savage Swipes. I considered splashing Red for the Magmatic Sinkhole so I'd have at least one removal spell, along with the pair of Quakefoot Cyclops, but thought the deck would do better if it could execute its basic gameplan more consistently and so stuck with straight Green/White.

The deck had a couple of ways to produce creatures at instant speed, which worked well with Saddled Rimestag, Bellowing Elk, and especially Zhalfirin Decoy. Trumpeting Herd, Irregular Cohort, and Mother Bear also produced multiple creatures, which worked well with deck's strategy of going wide and then using Rhox Veteran or one of the Stirring Addresses to pump the team for an alpha strike. I went 2-1 with the deck, which was better than I'd expected for a deck that had no removal. 

My first round was against a Blue/Black Ninjas deck. I won game one comfortably, but lost game two to a Smoke Shrouded Ninja of the New Moon while landflooded. I was on the play in game three and my opponent mulliganed, so I thought things were looking good, but my opponent dropped an Ingenious Infiltrator on turn two while I ended the game holding the only three nonlands in the deck that didn't produce creatures (Ephemerate and both Stirring Addresses). On the bright side, my opponent made Top Eight which helped my tiebreakers. I also learned how powerful Smoke Shroud is, especially in conjunction with Ninja of the New Moon, since my opponent won that game handily, even without Mistblade Shinobi or any of the powerful Uncommon Ninjas. (Side note: his deck had two Prismatic Vistas, so there were three copies of the card between our decks!)

Round two was against the drafter to my right. He turned out to also be in Green/White, which explains why pack three yielded so little for my deck. Unfortunately, White was the only color that I'd seen multiple good cards from in pack one, and pack two had yielded a bunch of strong Green and nothing noteworthy from the other colors, so I don't know that I could have done anything to avoid ending up in the same colors as him. I think I somehow ended up with the stronger deck even though he was to my right since I won both games relatively handily.

Round three was against a Blue/Black deck that had Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, and that splashed Red for some additional removal. I was worried that he also had Kess, Dissident Mage, which I'd passed in pack three, but he said he'd also passed it despite being in the right colors because he had enough win conditions! I lost game one, but got really lucky after that and was able to pull out the next two games.

Day Two, Draft Two

The second draft started out promisingly, with a Plague Engineer in my opening pack. I took a Splicer's Skill second pick over a Scale Up, and a Firebolt third pick over a Good-Fortune Unicorn. I think this is where my draft went wrong. I like cheap removal, especially when it can be used twice, and cheap sorceries also pair well with Splicer's Skill. Good-Fortune Unicorn is probably the better card overall but it requires more to go right with your draft, isn't as good if drawn late, and dies to Firebolt. Also, it would have pushed me towards Green/White, and I didn't think I could pull off another 2-1 record with a removal-free deck. However, I knew from my Day 1A experience that the Red removal in this format doesn't fare very well with the creatures; Pyrophobia would be primo removal in most Limited formats, but it only kills one of the creatures produced by Trumpeting Herd or Irregular Cohort, can't kill Answered Prayers, and can't handle the many powerful Common and Uncommon creatures with toughness four or higher. I also knew from the archetype wheel that I'd built before the drafts that Red isn't a great color to start with in this format since many of the archetypes that it's a part of are either difficult to assemble because they require specific Uncommons or are fragile to removal.

As punishment for my miscalculation, the fourth pack contained another Good-Fortune Unicorn, and this time I did take it. Then I had a series of playable-but-unexciting cards, including Bladeback Sliver, Bellowing Elk, Scour All Possibilities, and a pair of Fists of Flame. I was surprised to see the Scale Up come back around ninth pick, followed by a tenth pick Faerie Seer which almost had me fall out of my chair since it's a card that I'm happy to take first pick.

At this point, I had two Green cards, one multicolor Green/White card, one White card, a Plague Engineer, a Firebolt, and a bunch of mediocre Red and Blue cards. I did have three cantrips in Red and Blue, so I decided to keep my eyes open for Spinehorn Minotaurs and Eyekites, but figured I'd probably end up in Green/X splashing the powerful cards from the remaining colors.

I don't remember the order of picks in the second pack, but my first five picks were Firebolt, Saddled Rimestag, Squirrel Nest (which works great with both Scale Up and the Rimestag), a third- or fourth-pick Seasoned Pyromancer, and Pashalik Mons. I was ecstatic at this point since I assumed I was one of the only Red drafters at the table. The rest of my picks from this pack included Pyrophobia, Spinehorn Minotaur, Bladeback Sliver, Ore-Scale Guardian, Goblin War Party, Twin-Silk Spider, Elvish Fury, and a very late Ruination Rioter. Red was clearly open, and while I wasn't getting good Green cards, it seemed like at least no one else was in Red/Green.

Pack three was a mixed bag. I drafted a bunch of good cards but didn't end up playing many of them because they were too difficult for my deck to cast (Ayula's Influence, Llanowar Tribe, and Kess, Dissident Mage) or didn't work well in my deck (Igneous Elemental and Force of Rage). The cards from this pack that I ended up playing were Magmatic Sinkhole, Pyrophobia, Cleaving Sliver, Krosan Tusker, Thornado, and Talisman of Hierarchy (to help splash Plague Engineer and Splicer's Skill).

I knew this deck wasn't great when building it. Red/Green usually wants to get lands into its graveyard, but the only card I had that allowed me to do that was Ayula's Influence and I didn't think my deck could afford to have GGG, RR, B, and W in its mana costs, especially when my only manafixing was a Krosan Tusker and one Talisman. As a result, I decided to leave Igneous Elemental and Ore-Scale Guardian in my sideboard, and played the Ruination Rioter as a 2/2 for two mana. I figured my main paths to victory were Seasoned Pyromancer, Pashalik Mons + Goblin War Party, and Scale Up, so I wanted to make sure I survived long enough to draw and play these cards.

My first round was against a Blue/Black Ninjas deck. As I'd realized during the second match of the day, Blue/Black Ninjas doesn't need bomb Uncommons to win. I lost game one to a turn four Ninja of the New Moon and game two to a Smoke Shrouded Mistblade Shinobi. On the plus side, I did manage to get my opponent down to one life in game two, and he did make Top Eight which helped my tiebreakers.

Round two was against a Black/Red deck that was built around a pair of Crypt Rats and cards like Unearth to recur them. The games were very close, but I was able to win at three life in game one and at one life in game two. I did get to play Plague Engineer in game two naming Rats, but my opponent had removal for it.

I entered round three being one win away from an invite to the next Mythic Championship and a shot at Top Eight. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I played against a Green/Blue Snow deck that splashed Black for Fallen Shinobi among other cards. My opponent was on the play in game one, and after mulliganing once, he played Crashing Footfalls on turn one. Yup, I lost that game. He won game two pretty handily as well after playing a large Abominable Treefolk that my deck didn't have an answer for.

That dashed my Top Eight dreams, but I'd been at the top draft tables and all my losses were to people who went on to make the Top Eight. That meant that my tiebreakers were excellent and I ended up with the fourth best tiebreakers of the 25 people who had 36 points. That was good enough for 18th place and $400 in prize money, which was just a little more than the $370 I'd paid in entry fees (for both Day Ones, two LCQs, and two drafts). But I had a good time slinging spells, and the bragging rights are priceless, amirite? :)

Conclusion

I've continued to draft Modern Horizons since Magicfest Seattle because I had a bunch of packs left and drafting's my preferred way to make use of spare packs. From my experience at Magicfest Seattle and from the subsequent drafts, it seems that the most powerful of the archetypes are Blue/Black Ninjas and Green/Blue/x Snow. Blue/Black Ninjas does need a couple of one-drop enablers to get enable ninjutsu, but the best ones are Common (Faerie Seer and Changeling Outcast) and the deck doesn't require specific Uncommons for its gameplan to work. All the Common Ninjas are playable, Smoke Shroud is amazing and turns your Ninjas into Dragons, and none of those cards are especially good in the other archetypes so you can get them later than you might otherwise. My favorite thing about this archetype is replaying Faerie Seer after ninjutsu'ing it back to my hand; I've scry'ed so many lands to the bottom of my deck that way that it has often felt like cheating. (PS: Cunning Evasion is also surprisingly good in this archetype.) Green/Blue/x Snow does require an early payoff card to pull you into the archetype, and you need to have the discipline to pick up enough enablers (5-6 snow lands, and cards like Springbloom Druid, Faerie Seer and Scour the Possibilities that help you find them). Once you do, however, there tends to be relatively little competition for cards like Arcum's Astrolabe and Frostwalla, so you can often pick those cards up relatively late and focus your early picks on other cards in your color or splashable bombs/removal from other colors.

This is corroborated by the breakdown of the 44 decks from the first Day Two draft that had a 3-0 record (from https://twitter.com/ChannelFireball/status/1142945069135085568):

  • 9 Green/Blue(/x)
  • 9 Blue/Black
  • 6 Black/Red
  • 5 Red/Green
  • 3 White/Black
  • 3 Red/White
  • 3 Green/White
  • 2 White/Blue
  • 2 Monoblack
  • 1 Monowhite
  • 1 Blue/Red

As expected, Green/Blue(/x) and Blue/Black have the highest representation among archtypes. Unfortunately, we don't know how many of these decks were at the top tables and we don't have enough information to compute the win percentages for each archetype, but it still gives us a relatively good picture of the draft metagame. Next, let's count the number of times each color appears in the list above, with monocolor decks counting as two occurrences (so the two Monoblack decks count as four occurrences of Black):

  • White: 13 occurrences
  • Blue: 21
  • Black: 22
  • Red: 15
  • Green: 17

Given the top few archetypes in the list, it is not too surprising that Blue and Black lead the pack, followed by Red. I was surprised to see that Red was above White since my experience on Day 1A was that most of the Red removal in this set doesn't match up well against the creatures. However, while Green/White seems pretty strong, the other White/X archetypes seem fragile or require specific Uncommons (or multiple copies of key Commons) in order to be viable.

Overall, I think Blue is the color that offers the most flexibility, and an early Faerie Seer or Man-o'-War will typically put me in the color. Springbloom Druid is another Common I look for since it is a key enabler for both the Green/Blue and the Red/Green archetypes. The other important thing about these cards is that players in other colors are not usually interested in splashing them, whereas Settle Beyond Reality, Mob, and Magmatic Sinkhole (which are likely the best Commons in their respective colors) are often taken and splashed by drafters in other colors. I think one of the things that makes Black better then White and Red is that it also has Defile, which is a very cheap removal spell at Common that is much less likely to be taken by non-Black drafters.

 


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