Positive EV - Discussing Draft Reloaded #1: The Shards
Today Oli and I are working together again. This time we reload the Alara Limited series.
Manu: Hi everybody. It’s time for the Alara Limited article series reloaded. For Shards of Alara and Conflux Oli and I are only talking about the ups and downs in every archetype and we won’t be posting a Top20/15 on those. After one article on the five Shards and one on Five-Color Control and Two-Coloured Aggro Decks we will continue with the Top 15 lists for Alara Reborn in every archetype spit up in two articles.
Manu: For me both removal and synergy lost value with Alara Reborn. This is the reason most curve and power creatures go higher in value while removal synergy and slow fixers go down.
Oli: I agree with that but it's not the only reason why I put removal spells in the Down list. The thing is the archetype is now very often UW dominant making Black spells worse in general. When it takes one turn to deal with a creature using an Oblivion Ring it often takes two using the Executioner’s Capsule. Also because as you said the curve is so important you don't want to waste your turn 2 fetching or land cycling. This is why I like Arcane Sanctum even more than before.
Manu: I even have Oblivion Ring in the Down list. The decks usually just have less synergy which you have to break up and a lot of bombs have become slow so you can beat them with tempo cards.
Oli: And I forgot about the Capsules... Another reason why they are in the Down list is because you only have eight packs to find Sanctum Gargoyle.
Manu: And I’d rather play guys than draw extra cards (this is not a fake comment I swear!)
Oli: I totally agree with that now. The format is just a lot faster. When so many games are done between turn 6 and turn 8 you don't want to waste two turns in gaining a single “unit” of card advantage. However I can't agree with Oblivion Ring being in the Down list. I agree the fact the format gets faster means removal spells are less important. After all you want to act rather than react and your opponent has less time and therefore less mana to play a bomb. But as tempo is so important it doesn’t matter that much that you don't always kill a great guy. Three mana to deal with your opponent's best guy with a spell from your main color is excellent as far as tempo and quality is concerned.
Manu: I mean I still pick the card very highly. I just think that I would pick an Esper Battlemage over it. You can always cast it on turn 3 and it is both pressure and disruption.
Oli: It makes sense even though you don't always know what you're on when you get them passed. A pack that has Esper Battlemage and Oblivion Ring should not exist after picks two or three. And by then you don't always know if you're in Esper yet. If I don't know for sure I'll pick Oblivion Ring.
Manu: Okay I pick Oblivion Ring over Esper Battlemage in the first two picks. But when I know that I’m in Esper by pick 3 I'd pick the Battlemage!
Oli: Okay! Glad we agree!
Manu: One last thing. What’s your order on Faerie Mechanist Parasitic Strix and Sedraxis Alchemist?
Oli: Depends on my mana at that moment. Alchemist is the best card but if I'm low on Black it's the last I'll pick from that list. Concerning the other two even though I agree Mechanist got a little worse and Strix a little better I think I still like Mechanist a bit more in general. However if my deck uses much Black or if I already have many spells costing four and higher I'll go with the Strix.
Oli: Yup but I've a feeling my list won't be very long...
Manu: My memories don’t trick me... Magma Spray couldn't really go down in your list.
Oli: Hehe true but now that the format becomes fast and the creatures more and more numerous in every deck early removal spells get a lot better. That's also the reason why I've Fallout and Infest in the Up list.
Manu: Well again Fallout and Infest can't really go up in my list.
Oli: They were pretty high in our standings but I think they can aim for first place now.: Ignite Disorder is obviously up because there are so many gold cards now that it's a card you can easily play main deck. It is also the reason why I've the Outlanders in my Up list.
Manu: True. For me Grixis became my favorite control option. It’s the deck where Executioner’s Capsule is still a very good card and as Suicidal Charge got a lot better (in my opinion) you gain a common mass removal option.
Oli: True Suicidal Charge is not that sideboard card you board in against one deck at the table anymore; it can definitely be used in the main. Marauders Connoisseur and Splinters are obviously in the Down list because Unearth is almost absent from packs two and three.
Manu: Well what can I say? For me Grixis is now a slow deck where removal spells really are shining. I don't know what to say... We seem to agree about most things. Outlanders are Up for me in general. Anything left to say for you or do you want to move to Jund?
Oli: Yes one last thing. I think this archetype is the one that benefits the most the arrival of the land cycler guys because it doesn't do much on turn 2 anyway. This is the reason why we have Kederekt Creeper in our Up lists; not only are there more early guys to block is it also easier to cast on turn 3. And this is also the reason why I've placed Fire-Field Ogre in the Up list.
Manu: Yep... He should be in my Up list as well. My bad.
Oli: I agree that Thunder got worse as you can't cycle it as often but it is still a card I like a lot.
Manu: Again most of the Downs make sense. I am interested why I can find Topan Ascetic and Vithian Stinger in your Ups. Topan Ascetic is not a hero in fighting Blades without an earlier drop. And Vithian Stinger is kind of slow while not having a real fighting body. Why isn't Blood Cultist in your Ups?
Oli: At first because now Green is always my main color when I play Jund. Then Jund is with Grixis the archetype which needs to draw his three colors fast to be able to compete with the opponent. Topan Ascetic is one of these few early drops which can handle with an opponent’s good draw while you still don't have the mana you need. Concerning the Stinger it's not really that it got better. Indeed it's more that our last discussions in our columns concerning this opened my eyes on that card as I had clearly been undervaluing it.
Manu: I want to say a word about Ember Weaver. For me this is one of the MVPs for Jund. With a Borderpost it often has First Strike on turn 3 without having to fear they have a removal spell for the Red guy. And it stops all the early drops.
Oli: I totally agree. Now the archetype has several of the best creatures in the format as Putrid Leech and Ember Weaver join Wild Leotau.
Manu: Don't forget about Broodmate Dragon.
Oli: True. About that I'd love to tell about my turn 4 Madrush Cyclops turn 6 Broodmate attack for 8 in Sealed last week if that was not so out of subject. I think Jund is the best archetype as far as raw strength is concerned. Its only problem is the same as it was before: it's really hard to play a two-color base and therefore stable deck
Manu: The raw strength and power is probably the best in Jund. The problem is that it doesn't have a lot of good tempo cards and therefore those cards are really important for the archetype.
Manu: Naya and five-color control are the decks I draft by far the rarest now (and Bant of course). A pick 4 or 5 Woolly Thoctar is one of the few reasons for me to move into Naya. With the Borderposts you can play it on turn 3 more often without losing your two-drop.
Oli: I don't draft these decks anymore either. If I do it's usually more a WG aggro deck splashing Red (even though splashing for removal is less necessary now). This is why early drops are much better in general while all the Cavern Thoctar Jungle Weaver and even the excellent Bull Cerodon are much less impressive.
Manu: Agreed. The five-power-theme is now unplayable in my opinion.
Oli: And being WG I love Ambusher a lot more; it can kill creatures against most decks now.
Manu: I have to admit that I probably still underestimate the card as I didn't really like it in AAC.
Oli: If we were doing Top X again it would probably be in my Top 10 now.
Manu: Again Oblivion Ring is in my Down list. Nowadays I would pick both Wild Nacatl and Akrasan Squire over it.
Oli: Well I understand your point but once again Ring very rarely makes it past pick 3. If I see Nacatl and Ring in the first three packs and if I haven't picked Red and Green cards only before I won't even consider picking the cat. However Squire and Ring is a very close pick and I think I'll take the 1/1 as well. I mean if I have a Green or a Red card already and I plan on playing them I pick the cat. Otherwise I pick the Ring because I prefer the color. Let's say you first-pick is Rhox Charger and you can choose between Nacatl and Ring pick two. What do you take?
Manu: I pick the cat.
Oli: I pick the Ring. I don't really consider going Naya nor probably Bant with only a Green pick so I'm either WG or Jund and even though I like the cat I think it's just worse in Jund than Ring is in WG. If I first-picked Naya Charm though or first-picked Charger and second-picked Magma Spray I'll go for Nacatl.
Manu: I see RG as a viable archetype and I want to give myself that option even though I rarely end up in it. Ring and Nacatl are very close for me in WG.
Oli: While Ring is not playable in Jund it makes sense. Anything you'd like to add on Naya or shall we move to the less fascinating Bant?
Manu: Bant it is!
Oli: Actually one last thing concerning Naya
Manu: What’s on your mind?
Oli: Sacellum Archers is in your Down list when it almost makes it to my Up list. It actually kills guys now!
Manu: I don’t want to leave mana open while it doesn’t stop guys anymore with its simple 2/3 body. For me a three-drop has to be able to fight with Blades or have a good ability now. I don’t consider the ability to be very good even though it could deal with Blades. But that means the 2/3 doesn't attack and you can't play a four- or five-drop. Does that make any sense?
Oli: In the old school five-power Naya deck it would still be pretty bad but now that its curve should be a lot lower you can often play a spell and keep two mana open. Also it can trade in a fight with three Blades out of five and use its ability on four which is actually more than okay. If you have a high curve though it's pretty bad indeed.
Manu: I’ll give it one more try. Again I didn’t draft a lot of Naya and just thought that it got worse.
Oli: Same here but when I faced it I found it actually really annoying.
Oli: I know that's quite a short list but the thing is this archetype was already based on early drops and evasive guys so it doesn't change much.
Manu: I think Rhox War Monk is actually good now because it has an impact on the board when you cast it. Anything left to say? Hehe!
Oli: I think it always did but it is one of the cards (just like Fire-Field Ogre) that benefits from the rarity of the removal spells. Gleam gets better now that there are more guys on the table in general while Resounding Silence and Traumatic Visions are just too slow.
Manu: And I think Algae Gharial gets a little worse for the very same reason.
Oli: Well it is Bant we're talking about... Haven't we wasted enough time on it already? It does have great cards but UW and WG are just much more reliable archetypes and we'll get to that on Friday.
Manu: Thanks for reading everybody! Questions and comments are always welcome in the forums. Tune in on Friday for more!
Oli: And thanks for your time Manu. It’s always a pleasure!
Manu: I have to thank you! I always learn a lot.
Manu and Oli