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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Friday Night Magic - Red Deck Wins

On Friday (that would be 2011-04-29) I took part in my first Magic: The Gathering tournament ever, and I ended up winning it. I never drafted before so I made some notes afterwards and here they are.


The draft was one Mirrodin Besieged booster, and two Scars of Mirrodin boosters.

In case you haven't been following Magic, both sets are full of artifacts, almost purely monocolor, have moderate amount of infect, and use metalcraft mechanic, where various cards get significant bonuses if you control 3 or more artifacts.

In three boosters you'll see - 3 rares/mythics, 9 uncommons, 30 commons, plus as many basic lands as you want, so the deck of 40 cards you need to build will be based on mostly crap commons and crap uncommons. This is far worse than even 100% common Pauper format - there you at least get to choose any commons you want. In booster draft it's mostly commons others didn't want.

Power creep took place primarily on rare and mythic rare levels, so unlike with constructed, limited's power levels are very low. Majority of the cards will be stuff considered unplayable elsewhere, and the few "playable" cards will lack any consistency or synergy you'd normally expect if you could build the deck from larger set of cards.

The way draft works, everybody opens one booster, picks one card, then passes the rest to the person on the left, and it continues until all cards have been used. Then second booster goes to the right, and finally third again to the left.

This introduces a lot of luck into the process. Obviously people will take the best cards in their first few picks, so the first few cards are the most important. The only reason they would not take a great card if it was incompatible (most likely of wrong color) with the deck they got so far.

So if you're trying to build a deck very similar to what people next to you are making, they'll take all the good cards, and you're screwed.  On the other hand if they build something in a completely different color, you'll get a lot of great
cards you can use. Where you sit decides a lot.

In Mirrodin Besieged booster draft you get to make three big decisions:
  • which colors to use
  • use a lot of artifacts and try to get metalcraft bonuses or not?
  • use infect or not?

My constructed experience of playing multicolor decks without dual lands and other solid mana fixing told me to never do that again. In constructed, multicolor requires expensive mana base, and that's the end of it.

I was quite strongly determined to go monocolor even with crap cards, or at worst mainly monocolor with just a splash of a second color but only if I really really have to. At least due to lack of any dual lands whatsoever it wouldn't matter if it's ally or enemy color.

Because I wanted monocolor and I couldn't really count on having enough cards of one color - artifact-heavy metalcraft deck was a totally obvious choice. I didn't want to use infect as infect is an all or nothing choice - and with red having so few decent infect cards that wasn't even much of a choice.

By the way after the tournament I found out I had the only monocolored deck of all players.


So here's my deck:

1x Memnite
1x Iron Myr
1x Blisterstick Shaman
1x Koth's Courier
2x Snapsail Glider
2x Blade-Tribe Berserkers
2x Ogre Resister
1x Oxidda Scrapmelter
1x Flameborn Hellion
1x Galvanic Blast
1x Rally the Forces
2x Assault Strobe
1x Metallic Mastery
1x Slagstorm
1x Golden Urn
1x Infiltration Lens
1x Panic Spellbomb
1x Golem's Heart
1x Trigon of Rage
1x Necrogen Censer
1x Semblance Anvil
15x Mountain

At first, I even wanted to go with 14 lands - 1/3 lands is entirely reasonable in constructed, right? Especially monocolor. Double especially monored.

But such low land counts rely purely on abundance of 1-drops and 2-drops, and here there are very few. Most people had 16-18 lands as far as I can tell and that's far more reasonable.

Very early I got rid of one card - Semblance Anvil - and replaced it with 16th mountain. Together with Iron Myr that increased count of mana sources to 17, which was totally reasonable.

I had no idea how bad Semblance Anvil would be. I had it three times in my hand, and every single time it was a dead card. It costs you two cards (a huge cost) for some mana savings, and it is only useful if vast majority of your spells have the same type. Mostly artifacts, or mostly creatures, or maybe some tribal tricks. This just never ever happens in draft. Even if I had two creatures and Semblance Anvil in my hand, I would have to exile one of them and waste a turn just to cast the second one more cheaply the next turn. In almost every case an extra Mountain instead would let me cast it turn earlier, and without wasting the other guy. Usually it was even worse.

I didn't do any other sideboarding - I simply had no red left, nor artifact cards that weren't total garbage.


There were four rounds. My record was:
  • 2-0 against Blue-Black
  • 2-0 against Red-Green-Blue
  • 2-1 against Green-White
  • 2-0 against Red-White

I also played two more games outside the tournament with this deck, losing one and winning the other. I only had to mulligan in one game, down to 5 cards. I had some not terribly good cards, but I went ahead with them as draft doesn't need to worry about opponent winning on turn 3-4 the way constructed has.

Many of the games were very close.

Some of the decks I played against had much better cards, whet considered individually. Sword of Body and Mind and Thrun, the Last Troll have hit the board, but in both cases their timing was too late and they couldn't do much. Even many less powerful card were simply better than anything I had.

I think all decks I played against - and probably most of those I haven't - suffered from more or less serious consistency problems. Many times I won thanks to my opponent being color screwed. Quite a few times they were mana screwed or mana flooded, and their curve didn't work too well with what they got.

Many people have splashed some infect. I understand why they did it, as individually they were good cards, and there's only so much you get to work with, but most cards which are good in infect decks, are bad in decks which just splash infect.

In all games I wasn't countered even once, I had my cards removed in various ways quite often. Some of my opponents tried to get metalcraft as well, but they seemed to have harder time doing this, probably they simply had fewer artifacts.

At least that's my theory. It's entirely possible that I'm wrong and I simply got lucky this time ;-)


Now I'll talk about all cards individually. I'll order the cards from the best to the worst.

The best card was my only rare Slagstorm. It saved the game when I used it to clean the board when I was behind. Once I attacked with everything, the opponent let some damage through, and then I cleaned the board of everything. It won the game a few times - people defend their last point of life with everything they got but it's much easier to get them down to 3, and then it's over.

Oxidda Scrapmelter was really awesome in this deck, as pretty much everyone played with some artifacts. And 3/3 for 4 mana in this format is good.

Iron Myr generates mana, metalcrafts, and has 1/1 body which can be surprisingly useful.

Infiltration Lens is normally a really good card, but when it doubles as metalcraft pumper it's just amazing.

Blisterstick Shaman was usually 2-for-1, but at the very least it damaged the opponent one life.

Flameborn Hellion - 5/4 with haste and totally irrelevant downside for 6cmc - was my most common wincon. It often got 5 damage the turn it entered the battlefield, and then the opponent would get desperate, stop their attacks, and squandered their resources on chump blocking while my side of the board got bigger and bigger. When I managed to equip it with Infiltration Lens it was game over same turn.

Koth's Courier was just amazing as long as my opponent played green. 2 damage per turn means 10 turn clock, and it doesn't really matter on its own. But its presence on the board made every other threat at least twice as thretening, and the opponent would desperately throw all their resources at doing something at least about the other one - even at very unfavourable exchange, and that loss of resources would lose them the game.

Blade-Tribe Berserkers were really awesome as long as I had metalcraft - but more often than not I was out of luck here and I missed an artifact or two. With metalcraft it's essentially 4cmc 3/3, opponent sacrifices a creature or gets 6 damage. Almost as good as Oxidda Scrapmelter if it was only more consistent.

Golem's Heart was very good. As both me and the opponent had plenty of artifacts, it would usually get me enough life to win aggro race while pumping metalcraft. It was the target of opponent's removal spells more often than any other card, including my biggest threats.

Galvanic Blast was able to get rid of pretty big creatures if I had metalcraft. I had to use it without metalcraft once, but then the creature I wanted to get rid of was something small, so it didn't really matter.

Necrogen Censer is 4 damage to player for 3 mana. Normally it would be somewhat too slow, but here it helps with metalcraft.

Ogre Resister was a decent early fattie, unplayable in constructed but pretty good in draft.

Memnite mostly pumped metalcraft, I didn't have many other uses for it, and I rarely even wanted to exchange it for another 1/1 or I'd lose metalcraft bonus.

Snapsail Glider was only OK because it pumped its metalcraft, so its chances of gaining flying were higher than usual. In constructed it would be a crap card - even 2/2 unconditional flier for 3cmc would be highly unimpressive.

Metallic Mastery is an artifact version of Act of Treason, but I'd rather have Act of Treason. I only used it once to steal Myr Propagator for a turn and use it to make
myself a copy. For the rest of the game we kept creating and wasting Myr Propagators. There aren't really that many non-creature artifacts I could steal, and those I could for example sac for good effect would get prematurely sacced in response to my Metallic Mastery anyway, so it would be a waste.

Trigon of Rage was very hard to use well. Mostly metalcraft pumping.

Golden Urn was slower lifegain than Golem's Heart. Mostly metalcraft pumping.

Rally the Forces looks like a very nice card, but in all my games I never had a good opportunity to use it.

Panic Spellbomb only served to boost metalcraft, or as emergency card draw.

Assault Strobe was so often almost what I needed, except I couldn't use it because of its sorcery speed.

The single biggest disappointment was Semblance Anvil, as I mentioned before.


Is my booster draft experience normal? I'd have expected a lot more monocolored decks, but I had the only one. We just had two sets with plenty of artifacts, now we'll get one with easily splashable phyrexian mana. Shouldn't more people try to build consistent monocolor decks?