The Mistform Wall Dilemma: Mistform!
And finally, the much-maligned Blue. Blue has possibly taken the most heat of any color in the format. Lately, it has been drafted more due to the rise in popularity of the Red/Blue archetype. As much as Nick and I disagree, before Chicago we agreed that Blue/Red was by far the best color combination. In fact, I drafted it in all four drafts at the Pro Tour. Draft 2 day 1, I had no business being in Red/Blue, I made some pretty serious drafting errors, and my deck suffered. The fact that I was able to pull a 1-1-1 performance out of the deck shocked even me. Sadly, it shocked Frank Karsten as well. He has the second best deck at our table, and declined the draw when I offered it in the penultimate round of day 1. I beat him in three games... But at least he made top 128, securing a spot for Venice.
Before I get too heavily into this week's dilemma, I wanted to note a couple things about last week's articles. I did not address the impact of Legions intentionally. I think one of the major problems with internet writing these days is that work is often rushed. When a new set comes out, writers are so excited about new material that they often rush in without a full understanding of the cards or their impact. To this point, I think Nick is patently wrong about Legions making Battering Craghorn worse. I think if anything, it makes it better. Legions offers several reasons to block. The 187 morphs are very powerful late in the game and, if you have an opportunity to take them out early, I suggest you use it.
That said, I could easily been wrong as the set has just come out and I shouldn't be talking about it anyway. I just wanted to defend an unaddressed point in the previous article.
This week we are here to discuss the Mistform Wall dilemma. Nick is of the impression that Ascending Aven is the best common in Blue. This opinion is shared widely. As both Nick and most of the Magic playing world believe this, it will probably come as little surprise to you that I disagree. Mistform Wall is by far the most powerful common card in Blue and let me tell you why.
Nick superficially goes into a number of my arguments, but I will try to give a more in-depth analysis. I think we can all agree that is you are drafting Blue, you really want to be drafting Red. Even if you wind up with a small number of Red cards, your deck will be significantly better on average than with Black cards. Obviously, it is a tragedy if you are stuck in Blue/White or Blue/Green. Should this happen, by all means pick Ascending Aven - but in Red/Blue and Black/Blue, there are few cards that will perform in the slot like Mistform Wall does.
There is not a card in the set that does what Mistform Wall does as early. There are no Morph creatures in Onslaught that can kill it on the fourth turn except for Exalted Angel, Grinning Demon, Blistering Firecat, and Thrashing Mudspawn. That's three rares and an uncommon, and only three of them live to tell the tale. To this end, you have no fear of blocking in the early game. This changes slightly with Legions, as the Skirk Marauder can unmorph and take out the Wall, but you game quite a tempo advantage in that instance.
If your pack is such that you are forced to first-pick a Blue card, you absolutely have to be thinking Blue/Red. Sometimes you well need to go Black instead, but you should really try to think of Blue as an extension of Red. As such, you are drafting a defensive deck, usually revolving around Lavamancer's Skill. As Nick pointed out, there is no better target for a Skill in most cases. But there is also nothing more important to this deck that ground defense.
The way this deck normally runs is like a deck Bob Maher described he likes to draft: A "deck that maneuvers around the board and slowly works up to a position where your opponent's defenses crumble." There is no better stabilizing card than the Wall, and there is nothing better at crumbling defenses than Skill. This argument is slightly deflated by the absence of one pack containing Skill, but it is still the cornerstone of this archetype.
In the unlikely event you have to use Black with your Blue, the Wall is not the end of the world. I mean ideally, you want to be beatdown in this archetype, but wall can be somewhat helpful in this capacity. Your offense is generally small evasion creatures like Severed Legion and Mistform Dreamer. These creature will often times have to race slightly bigger creatures. Wall comes in very handy in these situations, since sometimes winning with beatdown means not dying first. Wall also provides a stabilizer in the early game if you don't draw your evasion creatures right away.
In Blue/Red, it is simply the best card; in Blue/Black there is nothing that really fills its slot, and in Blue/Green or Blue/White you aren't likely to win anyway. Mistform Wall is truly one of a kind in Onslaught, and therefore should be picked as highly as possible. You will find replacements for Ascending Aven in both Blue archetypes - not so for Mistform Wall. I think the best argument of Aven over Wall is that the Walls tend to come later in the draft, but that should not be pertinent in a discussion of which is the better pick. You need to assume all other things equal and evaluate the cards.
Blue is the most shallow color in the set and as such has an odd pick order, but here it is:
- Mistform Wall
- Ascending Aven
- Mistform Dreamer
- Choking Tethers
- Sage Aven
- Riptide Biologist
- Mage's Guile
- Slipstream Eel
- Disruptive Pitmage
- Screaming Seahawk (your second and third ones move it above the cyclers)
- Mistform Mask
I think the lack of inclusion of the last two cards on this list by Nick was a mistake. Seahawk can be a powerful offensive force if you have the board otherwise stabilized. Sometimes in an evasion-heavy deck with little removal, Mistform Mask is a must. It is almost half a Pacifism, and it often times will allow for interesting tricks. Also, a note on Crown of Ascension: In the unlikely event you are forced into Green/Blue, this card can be a game winner.
One more topic we haven't really covered is the cycling lands. The reason I don't put them on my lists are because of their varying positions. Where you take these cards is totally dependant on how many playables you currently have. I have taken them ahead of Elvish Warrior, or behind Symbiotic Elf. The positions of the lands totally depends on what you have drafted and what you need, or don't need for your deck.
We'll wrap up this series with White next week, and then we can sink our teeth into Legions.