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Planeshift Drafting Madness!
By Aaron Swersky
So here it is, Friday night. A draft tournament has been scheduled, so of course I attend. There are eight of us...not much of a prize ($12 to split between first and second place, but we're in it for fun anyway.) I set down my trading stuff, and take my seat.

To my left is the store manager. He's got a fairly good idea of what's good and what's not, but he's not pro-level by any stretch of the imagination. You know the type: thinks that Birds are all you need to make a five-color deck, thinks that getting Draco into play is the end-all-be-all of existence. Nice-enough guy, but not someone to really worry about.

To my right is a newbie. This is the kid who's always annoying people at the tournaments, without ever actually playing. I've never actually seen him win a tournament, or even a game.

Needless to say, I'm in a good position.

Draft begins. We pass right-left-right, leaving me on the receiving end of Mr. Manager two times out of three...not a great situation, but not bad. First pack...do I want the rare? Mogg Sentry. Uh, no. (Unfortunately, the rares from my next two packs are equally un-notable...and since everyone rare-drafts, I end up with no rares. Oh well.) I take a Terminate (!), and pass the pack. I manage to draft red/black yet again, the same combo that got me third place in last week's draft. I'll come right out and say it: Black/Red is INSANE in Planeshift draft.

I'm sitting there, trying to draft some creatures...when I get a Magma Burst. "Cool," I think, and toss it into my red pile. I pass the pack.
In comes another Magma Burst. "Cool!" In it goes.
Another. "Uhhhh..." I look around at otherwise competent drafters, wondering HOW I'm getting so much burn...but hey, as I say, "I'll take as many of those as you give me!"
In the end, well...I'll let you, the reader, be the judge of the deck I drafted.

MAIN-DECK
-----------
Land:
10x Swamp
10x Mountain

Red:
Caldera Kavu x3
Magma Burst x4 (!!)
Mire Kavu
Slingshot Goblin x2

Black:
Death Bomb
Maggot Carrier x2
Morgue Toad
Nightscape Familiar
Phyrexian Bloodstock
Sinister Strength x2
Volcano Imp x2

Gold:
Lava Zombie x3
Terminate x2

No, none of those are typos. That all got passed to me. Go figure, huh?

SIDEBOARD:
Guard Dogs
Pollen Remedy x2
Samite Pilgrim x2
Confound
Morgue Toad x2
Phyrexian Bloodstock
Shriek of Dread
Kavu Recluse x5 (!)
Mire Kavu
Gerrard's Command x2
Malicious Advice
Terminal Moraine

Most of these are admittedly hate-drafts. With the exception of the black and red cards (and the Terminal Moraine), any of the cards I drafted could have really screwed me up if I'd seen them on the other side of the table.

-

So I go over to my chosen seat and settle in, patiently awaiting my first opponent, shuffling my 45-card deck.

ROUND 1: Alex

Alex appears to have drafted white/blue/red. I anticipate an easy match...until he Hobbles one of my creatures. Then another. Then another. "How many of those things did you draft?!" I ask him, and he smiles and replies, "Five."

Uh oh. Alex is the same guy who WON last week's draft. This is bad news.

His win doesn't come by Hobbles, though. It comes from a three-card, three-color combo. Aurora Griffin + Flametongue Kavu + Escape Routes = 4 points of damage to a creature, recursive.

Needless to say, he goes postal on me every time he sees the combo. Our second game is even worse, as he combos Honorable Scout with Escape Routes. I intend to deck him, as Hobble has caused him to draw cards faster than I did, but he gets the Flametongue combo going again. In both cases, my removal is at the bottom, and I'd need two to kill a creature anyway.

ROUND 1 RESULTS: 0-1

Ick. Oh well, I'm off to Round 2. I'm not out of the double-elimination tournament yet. If I lose this next match, I will be, but look who I'm paired against!

Round 2: Ben

Ben has never fared well in draft. Last time, he drafted white-green-blue, and couldn't find enough in the way of defenses. This time appears to be very similar.

I don't get to see what he's playing in our first game. His creatures consist of a Quirion Explorer and...that's it. Maggot Carrier pushes through for the kill, once it's all Sinistered up.

Our second game is...painful. I have three lands in my opening hand, a Caldera Kavu, a Terminate, and two Magma Bursts. Thanks to my mana ratio, I draw into my next land two turns later. The rest is history, as he simply can't keep creatures out to block my Kavu. I didn't mean to play Sligh. Honest, I didn't!

ROUND 2 RESULTS: 1-1

Well, at least I'm not out of the tournament. I'm gonna have to work hard to get to the finals, though. I can't afford even one more loss. Interestingly enough, my next opponent knows some of what I'm drafting; he sat next to me!

Round 3: Jesse

Yes, the annoying kid who sat next to me. Unfortunately, he drafted blue/black, another strong combination. That must be why he passed me all those Magma Bursts. All the better for me, though. I'll take 'em all day long.

I honestly remember very little of our games. They went by so quickly! His Hunting Drake stalled me a bit on our first game, as he'd also drafted Escape Routes, but that's an eight-mana combo. I had enough black power to push through for a kill, and he simply couldn't stop a Volcano Imp with Sinister Strength (that's a 5/3 flying first-striker, folks) from killing him.

The second game was even more brutal. No Escape Routes for him, and while he did get his Hunting Drake to go off once, a 2/2 flyer simply isn't a match for a horde of black weenies, burn, and pumpable red creatures.

ROUND 3 RESULTS: 2-1

Wow...I stand a chance? Guess I do! I'm up against the winner of the winner's bracket. No matter what, I'm taking home some money, so I'm happy! I sit down and wait for my opponent, and here he comes.

Oh, crap.

Round 4: Alex

Yep, that's right. Same guy. Same combo. This time, however, things go a little differently. He swears that he only has one Honorable Scout, and it's in his sideboard, and that he got very lucky draws in our first match. I nod, and we go at it.

Our first game was...confusing. I summoned creature after creature, staying on a constant offensive. I realized that if I gave him time to find his combo, I was as good as dead. Believe it or not, it barely worked the first time around, winning me the first game!

Our second game was intense! He managed to draw three Hobbles, and the Honorable Scout, but I killed it before he could do anything to bounce it back, ending my life problems then and there. It all came down to one game-winning play.

He was at four life, I was at two. I had a Volcano Imp and two Phyrexian Bloodstocks in play, and he had a Silver Drake, Aurora Griffin, and a Flametongue Kavu. I draw a card and pause...Magma Burst. I have the lands to throw at him, but he has a Lashknife Barrier in play (OUCH!), meaning that I can't kill the Silver Drake, and I can't withstand even one successful attack! My red Hobblers can still block, so his ground-pounder is stopped, but how to get rid of his creatures? I think...then smile.

Tap four mana. Sacrifice two lands. Shoot his Aurora Griffin...and one Phyrexian Bloodstock.

He looks at the cards...and swears. His Aurora Griffin dies. So does my Phyrexian Bloodstock, taking his Silver Drake with it. My Volcano Imp busies itself attacking for the next two turns, killing him.

I end up walking away from the tournament seven bucks richer. I could've taken as much as nine, but he put up a heck of a fight, so I wanted him to come away with something decent.

-

Yes, I finally created a tournament report. Nothing great, but what lessons have we learned today?

1. Combos are good.
If you can find a game-breaking combo, use it! I doubt Alex was thinking of Flametongue Kavu when he drafted Escape Routes and Aurora Griffin...but when he found it, he used it, and to great advantage.

2. Burn is good.
The ability to remove your opponent's creatures is key in draft, and the ability to remove two with one card is even better. Draft burn if it comes to you (unless it's of the one-point Singe variety).

3. Land is good.
The most common mistake I kept seeing was people who either put too much land into their deck, or not enough. When you draft, you have to consider the casting cost of the majority of your deck. I knew that 20 land and 20 spells would be a 50% mana ratio, leaving me drawing more than I wanted...so five extra cards left me about a 44% land ratio, enough to cast whatever I draw without netting me too many extra land. This is where all the netdecks in the world won't help you; if you don't know how to build a deck well, drafting will be a painful experience.

-

Until next time!

-

(Here are the key card abilities mentioned, for those who don't know them.)

Aurora Griffin - W: Target creature is white until EOT.
Flametongue Kavu - When ~ CIP, deals 4 to target creature.
Escape Routes - 2U: Return target white or black creature you control to owner's hand.
Honorable Scout - When ~ CIP, gain 2 life per black and/or red creature target opponent controls.
Phyrexian Bloodstock - When ~ leaves play, bury target white creature.

Read More Articles by Aaron Swersky!

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