A few weeks back, I set up how The Monday Night Gamers and I are going to run our next Commander League. We drafted this past Sunday, on Day of Thrones 6. Today I'm going to discuss my thought processes and hopes going into the draft, and then in Part Two I'll discuss exactly how the draft went.
I'll tell you from the beginning that I wrote Part One of this before we drafted. First, I think it's revealing to you to see my thought process going in without my benefit of hindsight. That way, I can't make a blunder and then somehow rationalize it, giving the whole thing a better sense of verisimilitude. You get to see my plan, whether I stuck to it, and how well I executed it. Second, if it hits perfectly, you don't doubt that that's the way I planned it. I'm going to write most of it in the present and future tenses, since it's a plan, and even though the events have already occurred, I still want you along with how I was thinking at the time.
Our draft order is based on our standings from our Commander 2015 League: Michael (Grixis), Shea (Mardu), Keith (Abzan), Me (Bant), Todd (Temur). We agreed that Michael picked which seat he wanted to start from. After thinking about it for a bit, he chose seat 4. That means the first five rounds (which includes ten picks) look like this:
Round 1: Keith, Sheldon, Todd, Michael, Shea, Shea, Michael, Todd, Sheldon, Keith
Round 2: Sheldon, Todd, Michael, Shea, Keith, Keith, Shea, Michael, Todd, Sheldon
Round 3: Todd, Michael, Shea, Keith, Sheldon, Sheldon, Keith, Shea, Michael, Todd
Round 4: Michael, Shea, Keith, Sheldon, Todd, Todd, Sheldon, Keith, Shea, Michael
Round 5: Shea, Keith, Sheldon, Todd, Michael, Michael, Todd, Sheldon, Keith, Shea
Subsequent sets of five rounds repeat the pattern. With the seats set, the strategizing began.
I have already locked in on the three commanders I want to pick. Remember that the commanders are part of our team, are interchangeable between games, and the one that's not currently commanding can be one of the 99. Our reveal will occur right before we started drafting. My three will be Roon of the Hidden Realms; Derevi, Empyrial Tactician; and Rubinia Soulsinger.
Going in, the deck I want to build is Roon. I haven't played the card, it will end up as my kind of creature-based deck, and it seems like I could make it fun and interesting. The other two choices are to create some semblance of doubt in which way I'm going to take my draft. They're both different archetypes, and I figure that if I start getting squeezed on cards that I want, I might be able to make a shift.
My strategy is in basically three parts, involving the “packages” I want to draft. The idea is to create the most flexibility for the middle and late picks. In the week leading up to the draft, I listened to the other guys discuss the fact that the first twenty or so picks were going to go very quickly. This led me to the conclusion (and you'll see later if I was right or wrong) that they were going to go directly for what I call the operational cards: the ones that do the thing you want to do.
For example, if drafting a blink deck, Deadeye Navigator or Eldrazi Displacer is an operational card. My plan — and I know it is going to be emotionally difficult given that I suspect “business” cards might be getting drafted right away — is to spend my early picks on the support cards. Since I'm in Bant, those cards are nearly all mana ramp.
My first dozen desired picks are Solemn Simulacrum; Cultivate; Kodama's Reach; Farhaven Elf; Wood Elves; Coiling Oracle; Karametra, God of Harvests; Oracle of Mul Daya; Seedborn Muse; Survival of the Fittest; and Mirari's Wake (Zendikar Resurgent comes later).
The last two are obviously less about getting extra lands onto the battlefield and just about generating more mana. I don't expect Survival to be around; with Keith playing Abzan, it seemed like an ideal early pick for him. I also expect the ramp creatures which go to the graveyard, like Sakura-Tribe Elder and Yavimaya Elder, to be on his early list. My vision is that I'll only be battling Todd for those early ramp cards, if at all. Since he is sitting behind me, if everything goes right, I'll have my first three picks before anyone else knows what is happening.
My dream scenario is Solemn Simulacrum, Cultivate, Kodama's Reach. It involves Keith not first-picking Solemn. If he picks any other card, I should be able to get what I want. Keith is known for outside-the-box picks, so there's a reasonably good chance that he doesn't pick it. I also don't think he's first-picking Sol Ring, which means one of the non-green players might jump on it.
I don't know which direction he's going, but I suspect that since he's just played the B/G deck in the Commander 2015 League, he's not going for the same kind of deck. While Karador will certainly be one of the commanders he puts on the table, I'm putting him on Anafenza, the Foremost or Doran, the Siege Tower. That said, he has a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck, so maybe he'll simply try to draft it. Anafenza is techy because it shuts down graveyard shenanigans from everyone, especially if Michael and Shea go with any kind of reanimation theme.
With my first pick of Solemn, there's no indication of the direction I'm headed. With only Todd in green behind me (Keith doesn't pick again until after I do), this is important. If he doesn't pick up on the ramp idea and think it's only a good stuff choice, I expect him to pick operational cards which declare his direction. Obviously I'm playing a dangerous game here, since he picks twice before I do. I could be in some trouble, but I'm banking on that not being the case.
I have a medium-to-strong suspicion that Todd might snag Cyclonic Rift first because it's good and he wants to keep it out of my hands. In gameplay, I read Todd relatively well, but in approaching this draft, I'm not sure which direction he's headed. Temur absolutely has some of the coolest choices (Riku of Two Reflections; Intet, the Dreamer; Animar, Soul of Elements; Maelstrom Wanderer; Surrak Dragonclaw; Yasova Dragonclaw). Obviously, since he only has five choices, I'm putting it at 100% that he picks Maelstrom Wanderer as one of his three.
If Todd doesn't disrupt me, then there's only Keith in between. I think Keith has a plan, it doesn't involve early picking of ramp spells, and he's going to stick to it. This means I'll take Cultivate as my second pick (it seems to be the more well-known card, so picking Kodama's Reach first might tip my hand) and then Kodama's Reach. With that foundation established, I can move into the rest of the ramp picks for the first ten cards.
I pick after Todd at the end of round 2, so if he hasn't grabbed Coiling Oracle by then, that's likely my fourth pick. Then, in order: Farhaven Elf, Wood Elves, Oracle of Mul Daya, Karametra, Seedborn Muse (which is an operational card but needs to get picked relatively early). I have a list of suitable replacements in the ramp package, such as Nissa's Pilgrimage, Skyshroud Claim, Nature's Lore, Urban Evolution, Rampant Growth, Ranger's Path, Fertilid, and even Wayfarer's Bauble (suboptimal in my colors, but sometimes you gotta make do).
If Todd somehow cuts me on both Cultivate and Kodama's Reach, I go straight for the ramp creatures Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, and Coiling Oracle, since they fit the Roon theme anyway. I'll then continue with the rest of my top ten, grabbing some of the replacement picks through the middle of the draft. I really don't think anyone is going to cut Nissa's Pilgrimage or Ranger's Path out from under me.
The other two packages I'm planning on are the blink package and the Clone package. As of now, I'm still debating on which order to take them in. I suspect that the Clone cards will likely be more popular, so it will most likely be first. I like the Clone package because then it doesn't matter what everyone else plays; I can have a copy of it.
My Clone list includes Duplicant (not strictly a clone but a strong card that everyone will want, especially if Todd is in Animar); Gigantoplasm; Progenitor Mimic; Clever Impersonator; Phyrexian Metamorph; Vesuvan Shapeshifter; Vesuvan Doppleganger; Sakashima the Impostor; Sakashima's Student; Mercurial Pretender; Altered Ego; Body Double; and Clone in that order. I've been teasing out some information over the last few days by making silly suggestions (like I'll be playing Palinchron, which I'm not likely to — but you never know), and Todd mentioned that that's fine, he'll just Clone it. I have to be prepared to battle him for the copy cards because it's simply a viable strategy. If he chooses Riku of Two Reflection as his commander, it's even crazier.
In the end, I think I'm okay sharing the Clones with him, but I won't be sad to have them all to myself. If I start with the package and I don't get any resistance, I think I'll try to run the table of them; alternately, I might pick four or five in a row and then switch to the blink package if it's still available. The main thing that does is focus attention away from the blink package. Also, it may lend some credence to the idea that I'm going with Rubinia Soulsinger and a copy/steal kind of deck, which might get folks to avoid picking some cards that I want.
The blink package is small but significant. It contains Eldrazi Displacer, Deadeye Navigator, Conjurer's Closet, and Restoration Angel. It also includes Venser, the Sojourner and Brago, King Eternal, but those two are U/W, the two-color combination I have all to myself.
Because of the way the picks worked out, everyone has one two-color combination to themselves. I have to battle Todd for U/G and Keith for W/G. It seems smart to try to pick the two operative cards, Blinky and Deadeye, when I'm on the wheel in order to not get cut after picking the first one; that would be Round 18 or 23. It may also work when the pick is me, Keith, me, at the end of Rounds 16 and 21. I'd obviously pick Blinky first, since Keith can't pick Deadeye.
They may not be around that long. I fully expect Restoration Angel to be gone, since it's one of Shea's favorite cards. Conjurer's Closet is something because Michael first-picked it in our Commander 2015 League and the card never made a splash. While I don't suspect anyone to ignore it because of that, its stock may have dropped a little due to recent memory. The blink package also includes Eerie Interlude and Ghostway. Those won't be high picks, so I'm reasonably sure I'll get them when I want. I may even run Sudden Disappearance, but that's a late, techy (or maybe even waiver wire) pick. Faith's Reward could probably go here as well.
With the blink package in place, then we move on to stuff to blink. The reason my plan has these later in the draft is that I don't necessary care specifically what the cards are, because no matter what has happened in the early part of the draft, there will still be good ones available (it's like outfielders in fantasy baseball; there are plenty of producers). It would be naive to think I was going to get all of them.
My primary list includes most of what you'd expect: Karmic Guide, Luminate Primordial, Mystic Snake, Draining Whelk, Reveillark, Stonehorn Dignitary, Woodfall Primus, Acidic Slime, Glen Elendra Archmage, Reclamation Sage, Eternal Witness, Diluvian Primordial, Thragtusk.
This list includes my spot removal choices.
My secondary list includes some less common choices: Angel of Finality, Angel of Serenity, Angel of Glory's Rise (if someone has gone on the Zombie plan), Mulldrifter, Elvish Visionary, Frost Titan, Resolute Archangel, Slithermuse, Nevermaker, Birthing Hulk, Brood Monitor, Gilded Drake, Sphinx of Uthuun, Terastadon, Sylvan Primordial (psych! — just wanted to see if you were paying attention).
Gilded Drake occurred to me because Roon and Blinky the Eldrazi don't have to target creatures I control. I can swap it for something cool and blink it back to do it over again.
Of course, no deck is complete without its utility and card draw spells, such as: Cyclonic Rift; Momentous Fall; Greater Good; Lurking Predators; Thassa, God of the Sea; Kozilek, Butcher of Truth; Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre; Elemental Bond; Aura Thief; Sigarda, Host of Herons.
I don't necessary want to get off my plan, especially the early parts, just to grab one of these cards, despite their goodness. If Keith is going with the Ghave plan, then Lurking Predators is likely off his radar; it will absolutely be in Todd's eyes no matter what he does (unless he has some creature-light angle I haven't seen).
This is where I'm going to have to feel out the draft. I'll need to evaluate as we go along when I think Todd is going to pick it and try to get there first. If it's still available by the twelfth pick or so, I'm grabbing it. If I see that everyone is going heavily into the enchantments, Aura Thief becomes a fine pick. Thassa is one of those off-the-radar ideas that the control player comes around to, but if we don't really have a control player, it may be available.
I haven't really talked about battling Michael for any of the blue. Being in Grixis, he's open to a number of possibilities. Knowing Michael, Warp World and Hive Mind are real possibilities (although he's not going to play Hive Mind / Pact of anything). Sigarda is there because if I manage to pick up Avacyn, Angel of Hope (which I'm honestly not expecting to be around), then Sigarda will protect me from the inevitable Grave Pact, Butcher of Malakir, Dictate of Erebos stuff that will no doubt happen with both Shea and Keith's decks, maybe even Michael's. Of course, I can wait for a while to see if those cards get drafted.
I'll want some Fog effects and a little battlefield control. The three Fogs I have my eyes on are Arachnogenesis; Comeuppance; and Edric, Spymaster of Trest (this is a Fog because it makes people not attack you). I'll be happy with them or any of Spore Cloud, Tangle, Aetherize, or whatever's available late. I hope my primary battlefield control element is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, but I can see that being someone else's early pick. Martial Coup and Planar Cleansing are at the top of my sweeper list. The aforementioned Cyclonic Rift, Evacuation, and The Great Aurora are also possibilities.
Oh, wow. I just thought of Blade of Selves. Put that in the blink package.
The last part comes down to the lands. This will be one of the most psychologically compelling parts of the draft. It's probably going to involve someone twitching and then the land-drafting floodgates opening. I suspect that Command Tower will be the card that starts it all, as folks then scramble to pick up the best dual lands (obviously you have your tri-land all to yourself).
I'm going to stick with mostly mana-producers, although a few utility lands, such as Emeria, the Sky Ruin; Command Beacon; Krosan Verge or Myriad Landscape; Maze of Ith; and Mystifying Maze come to mind. Since there will only be one copy each of Wasteland, Strip Mine, and Tectonic Edge available, nonbasic lands will be slightly safer than they might otherwise be, so picking up some good utility lands like Minamo, School at Water's Edge; Yavimaya Hollow; or Miren, the Moaning Well might be of value.
The list of things which I have all to myself is reasonably long. The ones on my radar for my 90th-plus picks include the aforementioned Venser, the Sojourner and Brago, King Eternal; Sphinx's Revelation; Supreme Verdict; Lavinia of the Tenth; Ephara, God of the Polis; and, if I think the other guys may have gone in a direction which is too scary, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV.
Just for fun, I'll predict the commanders everyone else picks:
So that's the plan. In Part Two, we'll talk about how it went. Instead of a Deck Without Comment, I'll list an idea of the Roon of the Hidden Realms deck which I hope to draft. We'll see how close I get.
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Altered Ego
- 1 Body Double
- 1 Clever Impersonator
- 1 Clone
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Consecrated Sphinx
- 1 Deadeye Navigator
- 1 Diluvian Primordial
- 1 Draining Whelk
- 1 Eldrazi Displacer
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Farhaven Elf
- 1 Gigantoplasm
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Luminate Primordial
- 1 Mercurial Pretender
- 1 Mystic Snake
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Progenitor Mimic
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Sakashima's Student
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Stonehorn Dignitary
- 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Brago, King Eternal
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 1 Karametra, God of Harvests
- 1 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 7 Forest
- 5 Island
- 5 Plains
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Brushland
- 1 Command Beacon
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
- 1 Flooded Grove
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Horizon Canopy
- 1 Krosan Verge
- 1 Mystic Gate
- 1 Savannah
- 1 Skycloud Expanse
- 1 Sungrass Prairie
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Temple of Enlightenment
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Tropical Island
- 1 Tundra
- 1 Wooded Bastion
- 1 Conjurer's Closet
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Elemental Bond
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Mirari's Wake
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Zendikar Resurgent
- 1 Arachnogenesis
- 1 Comeuppance
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Eerie Interlude
- 1 Momentous Fall
- 1 Sphinx's Revelation
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Martial Coup
- 1 Planar Cleansing
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Skyshroud Claim
- 1 Supreme Verdict
Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:
ADUN'S TOOLBOX; ANIMAR'S SWARM; AURELIA GOES TO WAR; CHILDREN of a LESSER GOD; DEMONS OF KAALIA; EREBOS and the HALLS OF THE DEAD; GLISSA, GLISSA; HELIOD, GOD OF ENCHANTMENTS; DREAMING OF INTET; FORGE OF PURPHOROS; KARN, BEATDOWN GOLEM; HALLOWEEN WITH KARADOR; KARRTHUS, WHO RAINS FIRE FROM THE SKY; KRESH INTO THE RED ZONE; LAVINIA BLINKS; LAZAV, SHAPESHIFTING MASTERMIND; ZOMBIES OF TRESSERHORN; MELEK'S MOLTEN MIND GRIND; MERIEKE'S ESPER CONTROL; THE MILL-MEOPLASM; MIMEOPLASM DO-OVER; NATH of the VALUE LEAF; NYLEA OF THE WOODLAND REALM; OBZEDAT, GHOST KILLER; PURPLE HIPPOS and MARO SORCERERS; ZEGANA and a DICE BAG; RITH'S TOKENS; YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF; RURIC THAR AND HIS BEASTLY FIGHT CLUB; THASSA, GOD OF MERFOLK; THE ALTAR of THRAXIMUNDAR; TROSTANI and HER ANGELS; THE THREAT OF YASOVA; RUHAN DO-OVER; KARADOR DO-OVER; KARRTHUS DO-OVER
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987 and this summer will be running a prequel to our saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."