Saturday, April 23, 2011

MBS #7-8 and ZWR #1

Hey guys, its been a while. While I've still been playing plenty, I haven't had the opportunity to record much. Recording requires a little extra focus on the game and blocking everything else (most importantly my wife) out. But we're back with a few more drafts, so I hope you enjoy!

Before you scroll down, I'd also like to thank everyone for the encouraging feedback both in the comments and in the client itself. I've been a bit surprised by how many of my opponents have seen, AND had kind words for, my videos. It's definitely easier to devote a bit of extra time to creating videos when I know there are at least a few other people out there who enjoy them. By the way, that doesn't mean I don't also encourage negative (but constructive) feedback. If there are things I'm doing wrong, and I'm sure there are plenty, let me know.

MBS #7

Looking back:

Ok, so yes, I realize I got passed the nuts infect in pack 1. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I'll make the same first pick in that pack every time. I think it's fairly obvious that there ended up being two infect drafters to our left (either consecutive, or spaced by one seat). Not only does that set us up well for pack 2, despite potentially being green, this whole draft really highlights the problems I have with drafting infect in general. I feel that right now it's next to impossible to have infect relatively open from the left and right.

 In order to draft a succesful infect deck, there are a relatively narrow set of cards that fit. Furthermore, there is a pretty general conscensus as to pick orders, in terms of what cards are high picks and what cards are filler. We all "know" that blightwidows, rot wolf and spread the sickness are the top commons and flesh-eater imp, septic rats, viridian corrupter and mortarpod are the top uncommons for the archetype. The thing is, and I'm basing this on my personal experience drafting infect, is that seeing ANY of these cards (especially the creatures) somewhere after second pick we say to ourselves (or to the microphone in my case)  "Awesome! That's still in the pack! Infect MUST be open" Whether or not we can come to a concensus about blightwidow being better than spread the sickness or septic rats isn't important. What's important is that any of those cards are generally considered first pickable cards that can easily convince someone that infect is open when they're still in the pack at pick 3 or later.

The problem is that it's a pretty common occurence that several such cards are in the same pack.  This leads to some pretty messy situations. We can easily snap up a blightwidow pick 3, grab an equipment in an infectless pick 4 to stay open and slam a rot wolf pick 5 and commit to infect confidant that infect is WIDE open. But is it? I think the first question was what else was in the pack? If blightwidow and rot wolf are the only high quality infect cards in the pack I think it's quite likely you have an infect drafter or your right, and quite possibly  directly to your right. Even if there was a rot wolf in the pack with the blightwidow, who's to say that someone didn't slam a corrupter or a flesh-eater imp out of that pack?

So how can we ever ensure that infect is open from our right? Well I think that takes something like a corrupter or flesh-eater imp pick 3 or 2+ top-tier infect cards left in packs where commons were taken at pick 3. This leads to other side of the problem and the main point I'm trying to make. The knowledge that infect is open from the right is very likely to come at the cost of being unable to effectively cut infect. So in summary, I feel like I can almost never be sure that infect is actually open from the right without having a very good chance of putting someone at my left in infect. In essence, every time I make a move on infect I feel at the complete mercy to how the packs are opened and to the decisions my surrounding players make.

Here is where you may say something like "So what?! This is just the way signalling works in drafting. It can never be perfectly reliable!". But my rebuttal is that in this format, signalling is really only  important if you're drafting infect. The high density of artifacts allows any non-infect deck to be quite flexible. An infect deck with too few infectors is a train wreck whereas in a "normal" deck even if you get cut relatively hard from the color(s) you commit early to you can get by with the few awesome colored cards you opened and the other few that squeaked through unbalanced packs. So sure, while being at the mercy of the packs to some extent are part of the facts of life in most other formats, I feel like that can be mostly avoided as long as you avoid infect. To be clear, I'm not saying avoid infect at all costs. I will still sometimes draft infect, but it takes a good amount to coax me into it. Basically, if the best card in the pack is far and away an infect card, I'm still going to take it. And top-tier infect cards that fit into other archtypes (blightwidows and corrupters or any of the removal spells) are still very reasonable early picks for me. But as soon as I'm presented with the choice of cards that are close in value where one is generally only good in infect and the other is only good in non-infect, I'm leaning towards non-infect without too much regret unless my pile is heavily weighted towards infect.

So awhile back (this ended up being a longer rant than I expected) I said that this draft was a good example of what I'm talking about. So what happened? Well exhibit A is that i split the finals, and the other guy in the finals was NOT the guy i passed the "nut" infect to pack 1. Why not? Well lets look at pack 2. We saw very very little infect, which implies 2 infect drafters to our left, which was to be expected judging from what we passed pack 1. This means pack 2 was likely pretty subpar for him. So pack 3 should've been great for him right? Nope! Infect was certainly still open, we passed a putrefax pick 3. But otherwise he was at the mercy of some unfortunately weak packs for infect for the first 5 or so packs. And ,well, there was likely another infect drafter approximately accross the table from us, so it dried up pretty quickly after that too. He got maybe 3-4 quality picks out of pack 3, and to think that could've been us! And what about the poor soul drafting infect somewhere to his left? I'm pretty sure that's the guy we crushed round 2 judging by some of the cards he played. I realize that a single draft is a small sample size to try and prove a point with, but still, some interesting food for thought.

MBS #8

Looking back:

- Pick 3 should've probably been the warder. I think that skyhunter is potentially slightly better in a heavy white aggressive deck, but this early, and with picks in two other colors already, we're just speculating with this pick, and if we don't end up either very heavy white or really agressive, the warder would be way better. It's also slightly better for signalling purpose, but that's more of a minor concern for me, especially since my white decks often end up with a healthy dose of artifacts.

- In hindsight I would have preferred the tower of calamities to the trinket mage Pack 2 Pick 6. But it is 20/20, and i think that pick can easily go either way.

- In the main deck, the choice of scrapmelter and genesis wave was pretty interesting. I think the wave is pretty sweet in this deck with only 2 other non-permanents. But scrapmelter is always pretty sweet if slightly less fun. It could have gone either way, and there was even potential for both since wave ideally only gets played for x=5. The mana is probably slightly better overall without the red splash so maybe wave was the better choice, but I'm still pretty unsure since wave is a lot more likely to be a dead card in my hand.

- Sigh.... I punted the second round. I knew before, during and after I cast the replica that bouncing my engine was the correct play. The other half of my brain somehow got tempted by the replica being a much more mana efficient answer to both the reigns and the anatomist. It was just way too important to play around the revoke existence because that anatomist absolutely had to die! That said, my opponent played quite well, had a pretty fun/cool deck that was pretty powerful too, so that does take some of the sting out of losing. I can tip my cap while kicking myself in the ass at the same time.

ZWR #1

- I think that the late geopedes probably says more about the inexperience of the drafters at the table than the openness of red. If this is an 8-4 I may come a bit closer to scooping up the geopede pick 4. That said, hookmaster is pretty sweet and matches colors with an awesome card in my pile, so I don't think I can go wrong taking the hookmaster there either way. Once I pass on the first geopede, I think passing on the second is pretty elementary, if painful.

- Yes. Pellaka Wurm was insane in triple ROE. Yes. It's still probably pretty good in ZWR. But let's remember how fast ZZW was. 7 mana is a lot more in ZWR than it was in RRR, even though the format likely slows down a decent amount with ROE added to the mix. Granted, I somehow remembered the Wildheart Invoker granting its ability to ALL creatures (I think I jumbled him with the red one in my memory) but I still think I want to err towards the more aggressive creature as long as there are zendikar packs in the mix. And hey, we got one later anyways!

- Let me emphasize how nuts I think wrap in flames is in the format, just in case cutting vendetta for it wasn't enough to showcase my stance. This is gonna 2-for-1 or better in this format on a regular basis. And when its not 2-for-1ing, its going to just win the game. It's hard to imagine a deck that can't take advantage of both of this cards effects, and either effect would be powerful enough for most decks to run alone. There's a reason this card was printed in ROE and not ZZW.

- It was pretty tempting to try the double splash, but in the end, I think that even with ROE, this format is all about being aggressive and consistent.

- After rewatching the draft pack 1, I'm unsure how my round 3 opponent ended up in green white as well. He was probably two to my left, and while some quality green and white squeaked through, it really didn't look like enough to get someone into both. That said, it worked out, and his deck definitely seemed more aggressive than mine. While I don't think he'd 2-0 me every time, I think that being the aggressor has the advantage.


  1. Been watching since you started posting MSS drafts (sealed never really struck me as an interesting format to watch) and have always enjoy your videos.
    The single criticism I have of your 1st draft here is the first pick of into the core over phyrexian crusader.
    While I totally agree with your observation that you'd be passing an infect signal with a possible 3rd pick spread the sickness and 4th pick rot wolf, the truth is that phyrexian crusader just single handedly beats some decks by dodging red and white removal/blockers and first striking, so much so that he runs fine even outside of infect so in the event you did find yourself being cut it wouldn't be terrible to run him in a non-infect deck as an alternative win condition or at absolute worst hard to remove blocker.
    Outside of that single pick I think you drafted more than solidly (though I'm a fan of cerebral eruption myself due to a general lack of board sweepers in the format and would've picked that over embersmith in a close call).
    In the second draft, outside of the 2 picks you've already mentioned, I think taking copper myr over soliton was a mistake when you have the heavy arbalest, have no real stake in green at that point, a bottom heavy curve and could do with a win condition.
    Overall though good drafting - keep up the good work.

  2. nice drafts, keep doing them!

  3. Love the drafts as well. I like your commenting style too: very professional and smooth listening voice. Personally, I'm not sure I like ZWR as much as MBS. I'd like to see other older set drafts if possible. Keep it up!

  4. Actually one question after watching your ZWR draft:
    M3G2 Turn 5 - is there any reason you chose not to play harrow on your own turn, sacrifice one of the lands you tapped to cast it and then play out Oran-Rief Recluse with your remaining 4 mana?
    I'm not even nearly as familiar with the zendikar block as I am the scars block so I can believe I'm missing something obvious there but it definitely seemed like the most efficient use of your mana as I was watching.

  5. - about crusader. I am definitely fine with first picking crusader, as I have it in the same category as blightwidow and corrupter in that it is perfectly good outside of infect. However, I think into the core in a red deck is generally going to be better than crusader in non-infect and on a comparable level to(but admittedly probably a little worse than) crusader in an infect deck. Without something close to crusader, I'd be happy taking it, but into the core is close enough that I'd rather send the very strong signal.

    - yeah, when I skimmed through the draft while writing the comments I actually assumed I took the soliton. That pick at least deserved some discussion. The copper myr is at least justifiable in that I have a sylvok replica that I'm goint to want to run even if I end up not palying green. That said, you're definitely right, soliton + arbalest is a great win condition and perfectly playable on its own. There's no guarantee I can find one later (I didn't!) and the deck can certainly use a few more win conditions at this point. This was a mistake.

    -as for holding off on the harrow, I had reason to wait on both the harrow and the recluse. I was trying to wait for more information as to what land to sacrifice and what lands to get because of both the pelakka wurm and the double splash. Drawing another forest or plains meant I could sacrifice that to fetch both splash lands, or drawing a splashed land meeant keeping 3 forests and fetching the other color. At minimum drawing a splashed card would let me know which color to fetch. Also, I don't really want to thin my deck of lands because I want to get to pelakka wurm mana asap. As for the recluse, I was holding it to try and catch a flyer later. I ended up finally using the harrow after he dropped the baloth because I was finally under to much pressure and I thought I may need the extra mana the next turn in order to maximize my outs. In the end, I probably just should have dropped the recluse earlier (but still held onto the harrow, as it would have been a valuable blocker that may have saed some life points in order to survive until I could drop the wurm.

  6. You're one of my favorite drafters, right up there with LSV and Conley. Keep it up!

  7. I would have to agree with the previous post. You are as good at explaining and fun to watch as LSV and Conley. I was actually just thinking that too. you're the only 3 players I look for first; though I would say that Conley talks too much, too fast and missclicks a bit more than I would prefer. So thanks for the new content and awesome draft discussion as always.

  8. Though I really wanted you to take that copper myr in the 3rd pack and prolly would have picked up one or two more dinosaurs.


    Was that 5 septic rats? Seriously? And imo crusader is better in a non infect deck that into the core in a dedicated red deck. Into the core is situational..sometimes its a blow out, sometimes its a more expensive shatter that forces you to exile on of your own artifacts because you don't have two opposing targets. Bottom line is the upside of the critter is consistently better.

    The crusader is the pick, but who cares, you made it to the final anyway :P.

  10. Love your drafts and your post draft deconstructions even more.

    Only thing I noticed in the draft:

    Draft 1 - To me even if you aren't infect P1P4 Blightwidow is the pick over the myr sire. Mortarpod or not. Especially following up on the Meliara's Keepers. It seemed like you didn't even consider it because you had decided you weren't infect. Now, everything turned out OK, but I still think that The blightwidow was the only obvious miss (after your first pick ;)) .