Drafting with Tim - Scars of Mirrodin #1!
A Brief Introduction
By now I assume that most people who have any idea who I am are quick to pigeonhole me (so to speak) as a "railbird." There are also those who remember me as "that guy who used to write articles with virtually no relevant Magic-related content." Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn't mind these preconceptions that potentially undermine my credibility; however now that I'm doing a weekly draft walkthrough I'd prefer it if my readership didn't view my inclusion in the lineup as some form of theatrical gimmick.
Yes I'm an avid railbird. Yes I used to write articles that compared Remi Fortier to Cloud Strife and were shamelessly riddled with parentheticals. But in addition I continue to be a "Limited specialist." I may not have the Pro Tour pedigree of a Tristan Shaun Gregson or the ability to win consistently over multiple formats with decks other than combo Elves like that of a Matt Nass or even the quiet humility of a Travis Woo but I've always been able to hold my own with 40-card decks. In fact way back in the mid-2000s when they used to have all-Limited Pro Tours I cashed in all three Booster Draft PTs I played in finishing 15th 17th and (awkwardly) 60th.
I'm not trying to toot my own horn here; I'm just hoping to provide a little reassurance to the uninitiated that I'm not an arbitrarily selected mook who will be wasting everyone's time.
With that out of the way it's time to start publicly discrediting myself!
Pack 1 pick 1:
It's quite difficult for me to pass Galvanic Blast which isn't much of a problem since it's often the best card in the pack. Perilous Myr is the closest contender as it's an artifact and "keeps my options open" but the power downgrade from Blast is significant enough that I didn't really consider it. Glimmerpoint Stag is powerful but I don't think I'd take it over Perilous Myr because quality artifacts are obviously the linchpin of the format. The Tower is too expensive for most decks but it's playable in removal-heavy R/B or other attrition-based archetypes.
Pack 1 pick 2:
Another easy pick. Incidentally I'm not a big fan of Dispense Justice. White decks want to be aggressive in most formats and in Scars in particular your colored spells need to be both "high impact" and proactive to justify their inclusion over artifacts. In my limited experience with Clone Shell it's been underwhelming.
Pack 1 pick 3:
The cards I considered were Blade-Tribe Berserkers Glint Hawk and Fume Spitter. Blade-Tribe Berserkers is a pretty arbitrary dude. Once you have the resources to consistently achieve metalcraft it doesn't matter much which powerful metalcraft stuff you fill out your deck with. There's Lumengrid Drake Auriok Sunchaser the Berserkers Carapace Forger and so on—sure there are minor power differences between them but it seems better to just establish metalcraft with quality artifacts and let the cards that actually use the mechanic drift into your deck as they may. (Chrome Steed is naturally a higher pick.) The same can be said of anything that costs four or more in general; they're on such a similar power level that you should prioritize strong early drops and not worry about whether your five-drop is a Darksteel Juggernaut a Barrage Ogre or a Saberclaw Golem.
That said the only reason I considered the Berserkers was that I wasn't sure whether Fume Spitter and Glint Hawk were worth branching out over. Fume Spitter is worse than Glint Hawk but I was tempted because I liked the B/R control deck in the last Mirrodin block and I'd just won my previous draft with the archetype. Ultimately I just took the best card remaining willing to abandon it as appropriate.
Finally a note on Infiltration Lens: basically the card should've been Phyrexian-stamped. It's pretty scary in infect decks but largely useless otherwise.
Pack 1 pick 4:
Kemba's 2/4 body for three mana is nice but I don't want to put myself in the position where I feel I need to draft crappy equipment over better cards (or to include them during deck construction) to squeeze maximum value out of the pick. It's possible I'm now sending a white "signal" but that just means I'd have to pick up wed and artifacts pack 2 before continuing to clean up on the white pack 3.
Pack 1 pick 5:
I don't have too much need for artifacts yet but at some point I'm going to want some. It's not like there are any worth taking in this pack.
Pack 1 pick 6:
This pick was beyond "ambitious"; it was incorrect. I was thinking too much about how Nassif and I both had a lot of success with the Trainee in Sealed and how this pick would help me "cut off" red. In reality signaling is never that important—especially not in an artifact-based set—and Sealed and Draft are different animals. The way my deck is shaping up I'd certainly rather be attacking with my power-enhanced creatures than trying to assemble some cutesy combo. I should've taken the Sunspear Shikari which gets the nod over the Replica because my need for artifacts isn't pressing at this point.
Pack 1 pick 7:
Pack 1 pick 8:
My initial mindset when setting out to draft Scars was to load my deck with as many Myr as possible. In practice there's a definite ceiling; when you have more than two your mana can become pretty awkward. For example if you have three Myr and two Spellbombs do you play fifteen lands and risk stalling on one or do you play sixteen effectively giving you nineteen mana sources in a 38-card deck? In aggressive white metalcraft decks I normally only want one or two Myr and in some decks with plenty of late-game mana sinks I'd be fine with up to four; more than that is really pushing it. Also I thought on-color Myr were only marginally better than off-color but there's a marked difference.
That's all pretty academic for now as Certarch and Drake aren't exciting enough to consider abandoning my colors. Also Geargrabber is basically interchangeable with the Flameborn Hellions you see twelfth pick making it essentially worthless.
Pack 1 pick 9:
Scout is unlikely to make the cut but I refuse to play blank artifacts to pad my count.
Pack 1 pick 10:
The Harness is usually pretty good in poison but is relegated to "23rd/24th card" status otherwise. While it's a reasonable card there's no reason to go out of your way to play it.
Pack 1 pick 11:
I guess another reason to not take Berserkers third is that they come late.
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Pack 2 pick 1:
Not really an exciting pack for me. I'll get some artifacts at some point I'm sure.
Pack 2 pick 2:
The deck does want some cheap artifacts for Glint Hawk Myrsmith and Galvanic Blast but quite frankly I'd have been okay not taking a Sylvok Lifestaff until eighth pick or so. The other consideration was the Grafted Exoskeleton. Like Skithiryx (though obviously not as good) the Exoskeleton can sometimes find a home in non-infect decks because it's capable of inflicting the full amount of poison by itself.
Pack 2 pick 3:
This pack hasn't been going well. With my current artifact count my first Berserkers is basically a Hill Giant so I'm in no hurry to get a second. Darkslick Drake is solid but it's double blue and nowhere near good enough to abandon my other colors. The Trigons are both too slow for this deck and one of them doesn't really do much. My best option somehow is the off-color Horizon Spellbomb.
Pack 2 pick 4:
This should've been Snapsail Glider. At the time I thought Ogre's ability was powerful enough to push it above the range of arbitrary late-drops. It's better than most five-drops but not "better enough."
Pack 2 pick 5:
Taking into consideration everything I've said there's a good chance I should've taken the Snapsail Glider here as well. Apparently this draft was quite the learning experience for me. I don't have many artifacts at the moment so Edgewright will often just be an awkward-costed bear. Even so Silver Myr is only a slightly better pick.
Pack 2 pick 6:
Another Darkslick Drake eh? Regardless Glint Hawk Idol is one of the best white commons for various obvious reasons.
Pack 2 pick 7:
This was an awkward pick. While on-color Myr are better than off-color once you have some off-color Myr the on-color guys aren't as valuable. Since I already have the two Silver Myr and the Horizon Spellbomb the Trinket Mage becomes a relatively painless splash. Still I feel like I shouldn't have bothered; Trinket Mage doesn't really seem worth even a slight hit to consistency unless you're getting something like Chimeric Mass. I probably should've just taken the Gold Myr and planned on cutting at least one of the Silvers. For the record I love Ghalma's Warden but often have trouble finding room for him.
Pack 2 pick 8:
My deck isn't the optimal place for Chrome Steed but it's still a better pick than the Myr. If I had no Myr and this low of an artifact count I'd likely take the Gold Myr.
Pack 2 pick 9:
Even though this technically doesn't do anything with enough combos it can make the cut. I'd want something like another Barrage Ogre before I'd be happy playing it.
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Pack 3 pick 1:
If not for Sword I would've taken Contagion Clasp then probably Glint Hawk.
Pack 3 pick 2:
I sure don't like seeing all these infect dudes . . .
Pack 3 pick 3:
I briefly considered the Trinket Mage but slow and awkward removal is still removal. It's nice to have answers to Hoard-Smelter Dragon Chrome Steed Strata Scythe etc.
Pack 3 pick 4:
I'm not sure about this pick in general as Tumble Magnet and Trigon of Rage are both great in the same types of decks. I took Trigon here because of the Trainee but my guess is that Tumble Magnet is usually better.
Pack 3 pick 5:
God look at all the poison. For the record if I didn't have an audience I would've windmill-cacked the Skinrender over this marginal card for my deck. Yeah you're not supposed to hate cards because there's so little chance any given card will even get played against you but I think the odds of Skinrender ruining me and the odds of Saberclaw Golem having a meaningful impact on my deck relative to what I'd be playing over it are pretty close.
Pack 3 pick 6:
Pack 3 pick 7:
Realistically none of these cards will make the deck but I should've taken the Lifestaff. I'm not even sure I saw the Staff when I was drafting but regardless there's no way I'm playing two Liquimetals.
Pack 3 pick 8:
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2 Silver Myr
Glint Hawk Idol
2 Origin Spellbomb
Sword of Body and Mind
Trigon of Rage
Turn to Slag
The Bloodshot Trainee and Trinket Mage stick out like sore thumbs in what would be an otherwise reasonable deck. I ended up boarding out the Mage and Island for the Sunchaser and another Mountain each round.
Round 1 vs. B/G Infect (unfocused)
Game 1: I kept two Plains Mountain Lifestaff Sword of Body and Mind Chrome Steed and Trinket Mage on the play. My opponent played out Fume Spitter Plague Stinger and Moriok Replica while I drew nothing relevant. After a few turns I was able to Origin Spellbomb into my fourth land and play Chrome Steed. Unfortunately he had Tel-Jilad Fallen to block it and then attack me up to seven poison counters. I drew into Arrest for the Fallen but he kept his non-infect dudes back to chump my horse while his Stinger and an Untamed Might finished me off.
Game 2: My opener was Sword Galvanic Blast Origin Spellbomb Silver Myr Glint Hawk Idol Glint Hawk and a solitary Plains. I kept figuring my hand was reasonable as long as I drew a land in the first few turns. I missed for two turns then hit two in a row. At the end of my fifth turn my board included two Origin Spellbombs Glint Hawk the Idol Silver Myr two Plains and a Mountain; my opponent's only non-lands at that point were Infiltration Lens and Rust Tick. On my next turn he didn't chump my Blade-Tribe Berserkers with his freshly cast Rusted Relic putting him in Galvanic Blast range.
Game 3: After I finally got around to boarding out Trinket Mage I kept an opener of two Plains both Silver Myr Mountain Glint Hawk Idol and Saberclaw Golem. I drew into some goods and he was stuck on three Forests but he managed to play Ichorclaw Myr Infiltration Lens Wall of Tanglecord and Rust Tick. When he started to draw lands he Slice in Twained my Idol and tossed out an Acid Web Spider but thanks to Trigon of Rage and a timely Shatter on his Wall I forced through lethal before poison was really a concern.
Round 2 vs. B/g Infect
Game 1: I kept three Mountains Sword Turn to Slag Steed and Blade-Tribe Berserkers. He played Ichorclaw Myr and Plague Stinger while I got on the board with Origin Spellbomb and the Steed. I should've been thinking about Blackcleave Goblin and played the Berserkers first; as it was he had one and attacked me up to five poison. I equipped the Steed with Sword milling a bunch of infect dudes. Over the next few turns he played an Ichor Rats a Grasp of Darkness on my Berserkers and when I was up to nine poison another Ichor Rats.
Game 2: I kept Mountain two Origin Spellbombs Saberclaw Golem Barrage Ogre Silver Myr and Galvanic Blast. Even if I missed several land drops I'd be able to Blast his first Stinger and use Spellbomb tokens to hold off Ichor Rats and Blackcleaves. I ripped a Plains immediately and played Silver Myr and after he played Plague Stinger I Blasted it and cycled Spellbomb. He then played Ichor Rats and when I played Barrage Ogre he had the Grasp ready. I played Saberclaw Golem and he answered with Ichorclaw Myr and another Stinger.
When I attacked he snap-blocked Myr token with Ichor Rats telegraphing the Corpse Cur he played the next turn. Over the next two turns I tossed out Bloodshot Trainee and Trigon of Rage. I didn't Trainee his Stinger while he was tapped low because I was hoping to dissuade ground attacks; unfortunately he ended up having a second Grasp for it meaning it died without killing anything. It was poor judgment but a Contagion Engine soon showed up to make it irrelevant.
I made several mistakes while drafting and didn't play perfectly and I ended up losing. How about that.
My missteps aside I think infect is a dreadful mechanic for Limited. It's definitely the most powerful strategy so if you force it your deck will be the best at the table… unless several other people dive in in which case there won't be enough to go around and you'll all get destroyed. I'm not generally a fan of "gambit" drafting.
What's worse infect isn't at all complicated to draft: if you see a card that says "infect" on it take it. Toss in a couple of power enhancers and you're all set to ruin lives. It's really that simple. I just hope it generally goes over-drafted enough to keep the power diluted.
That's it for now. Hopefully after this weekend I'll be holding a trophy in Toronto. I wouldn't count on it though because I'll probably have amassed fifty poison counters from a bunch of miserable bastards' Ichorclaw Myrs.
--Timothy James Aten