Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Week 2: Magic the Gathering Draft Simulator

Week 2 of Wizards' Draft Simulator!

For Week 1, click here.


To follow along, open the Draft Simulator and make the same choices. Your draft AI opponents SHOULD  make the same choices as they did for me, so you should be looking at exactly the same packs. In theory.

Pack 1, Pick 1: Pacifism
This is usually the hardest choice to make. In this pack, we have some nice blue, red and green. The rare blue sliver could be a win condition in a sliver heavy deck. Likewise, the two red slivers could work well with sliver brethren. Bramblecrush and Hunt the Weak give green some potent removal. The Predatory Sliver is not a good first pick, but would be pretty strong. Black is pretty bad, and white has one of its best commons [Pacifism] here. My instinct is that if we pass the blue sliver, someone, one or two down, is going to try and force slivers. Even if we don’t, they might try it using the Predatory or Battle Slivers. At the very least, if we take one of the green cards, we could very well end up fighting over green. It may not be the strongest card in the pack, but, taking the Pacifism lets us potentially cut off all the good white, nets us a soft removal, and tells us what we’re not doing: Slivers.

Pack 1, Pick 2: Vile Rebirth
Now we have to make a choice; if we pass the drake and Divination, we’ve pretty much signaled to our drafting people that blue is open. Leaving Plummet could also push them in to green. The red cards here are ok, but nothing we’d want to take this high. The same is true for the Suntail Hawk and Blessing. If we want to push our neighbors into green or blue, then the right choice to make here is either Vile Rebirth or the Capashen Knight. Vile Rebirth is probably one of the stronger cards in the pack, that isn’t blue or the Millstone [but, we’re ceding blue, so milling is not a viable strategy for us.] I want to branch out and keep my options for a second color open [or even a complete move into black], so I’m taking the Vile Rebirth.

Pack 1, Pick 3: Liturgy of Blood
We’ve ceded blue, which may have been a bad idea, seeing as a second drake just came our way. Likewise, either the Rootwalla or Scout would have been good choices. We could still, feasibly, go into green or blue, but our second pack would be pretty sad for us. Both the red creatures have their uses, but we haven’t seen too much great red. It’s still early, but since there are two on-color black removal spells, I feel like we need to take one so we don’t tempt our neighbor into giving up on blue or green. Liturgy of Blood may be expensive, but it will kill almost anything we want to kill. Between it and Pacifism, we should reliably be able to stop enemy bombs.

Pack 1, Pick 4: Deathgaze Cockatrice
Sticking to our game plan is rewarded here. While a 2/2 flyer for 2BB is less than efficient, by having death touch, it can trade off or start a clock. There’s almost no reason to take anything other than the Deathgaze Cockatrice with what we’ve picked so far. The lack of quality red means our neighbor to that direction is probably in red, and we’re not seeing a lot of playable white either, so the Pacifism may end up a dud pick. But, at least black is looking good.

Pack 1, Pick 5: Nightwing Shade
Of these creatures, I’d prefer to take the Blood Bairn, as it gives me an earlier drop, and one that can mess with combat math. The Shade, however, is another flying threat. Right now, we’re looking for win conditions, not efficiency, and a 2/2 flying pumper is something that needs to get answered.

Pack 1, Pick 6: Regathan Firecat
We may have read the red cards incorrectly. Right now, Sicken is pretty powerful for our deck, but I don’t want us to get too married to B/W, especially not when a 4/1 red beater is staring us in the face. It’s probably a dud pick, but the Regathan Firecat gives us some flexibility that we’ll need.

Pack 1, Pick 7: Corrupt
We need to take either Corrupt or Vile Rebirth. Corrupt is another late game removal, but Vile Rebirth is an instant spell that we can even use as a combat trick. It also means we can safely make early trades with our 1/1s and 2/2s and not be as far behind. Our Deathgaze Cockatrice can deathtouch things for us without us losing too much. However, let’s look at some basic math. Vile Rebirth is a common, and we have two packs to go. We may see one again, and we don’t want more than two of them. Corrupt, though, is uncommon. We’re probably not going to see one again, and even if we did, we only really want one. Plus, Corrupt gives us a way to close out a game or pull ahead in a race. I’m taking Corrupt and feeling well settled in black. Now, we need to start settling on a second color [White would be ideal, so we don’t waste Pacifism, but Red would be acceptable too.]

Pack 1, Pick 8: Duress
Yes, Brave the Elements is good. Yes, most of the blue and Giant Growth are also playable. But, if we go red and black, we need an answer to spells/enchantments/artifacts. Duress is it. We probably won’t main deck it, but as a sideboard card, it will be invaluable.

Pack 1, Pick 9: Bramblecrush
This… surprises me. The flying sliver is back, but we’ve passed so many slivers it isn’t even up for debate anymore. What also came back is Bramblecrush. The pack also has what could be our second Vile Rebirth. But, honestly, we want to pick up strong off color cards if we can this late in the pack in case we open something amazing in those colors. Two of the Bramblecrush, Pacifism or Regathan Firecat are going to be duds, but I’m also perfectly happy not having my opponents have them.

Pack 1, Pick 10: Suntail Hawk
I don’t want to give up the Pacifism, certainly not for situational removal that isn’t really a concern (our only good creatures are flyers!) The Cyclops Tyrant’s evasion is pretty neat for Red, but he’s expensive and our black spells are kind of hogging the top of our curve. The Suntail Hawk is a cheap body with evasion that also pushes us to being able to play Pacifism. We’d hope not to have to run him, but if we do, it isn’t the end of the world.

Pack 1, Pick 11: Gladecover Scout
Another pick just so that we don’t get forced into a bad color grouping. The Altar’s Reap is a nice choice, but we’re light on bodies, and so we need to start picking them up. Taking the scout means we’re pretty sure we’re not going into red. Either way, it’s late picks, so no need to over think it.

Pack 1, Pick 12: Accorder’s Shield
Another spell I won’t mind playing, but would prefer not to. +0/+3 is great for a defensive deck, and if we can get it on our Deathwing Cockatrice, that’ll be pretty awesome for us. I’d rather another solid creature or removal, but hey, as Pick 12, not bad.

Pack 1, Picks 13, 14, 15: Strionic Resonator, Shrivel, Mountain
Nothing super exciting. Shrivel might come into play for us later, but right now, not really.

Looking at what we picked, we’re clearly in Black. We need some cheap creatures and to solidify a second color. I’d like to go into white, but we’ll have to see what we open.

Pack 2, Pick 1: Academy Raiders
Here’s where we decide between our secondary colors. The Briarpack Alpha, Hive Stirrings and Academy Raider are all things that we want, and are all things that will push us into a color direction. We saw lots of good green go by last pack though, and we opted not to take much of it till late. I don’t see us getting a lot of good green. On the other hand, we didn’t really pass much red or white. So, let’s figure out what our deck is trying to do. We’re trying to overwhelm our opponent early, get a comfortable life lead, then put them on a clock with evasion/Corrupt. Hive Stirrings doesn’t really apply a lot of pressure, especially since we won’t be seeing any good slivers in our colors. The Academy Raider comes online a bit late, but it lets us card sift. Not only that, but if they’re not in red, he applies added pressure by mid game. If we have to pitch cards, we can always pitch a creature card to Vile Rebirth. With this pick, we’re pretty much abandoning the Pacifism [barring getting passed some powerful white], but that’s OK. We can pick up some removal in Black and Red, I’m sure.

Pack 2, Pick 2: Nightmare
This probably is the last expensive pick we can take, but I’m perfectly happy to take it. Our deck is already more black than red, so we should be able to have three or four swamps out by the time we cast it. A 4/4 flyer for six is again, not the best, but the fact it will keep getting bigger is a problem for our opponent. But, from here on in, we need to move into Red and get ourselves some cheap creatures.

Pack 2, Pick 3: Dragon Egg
2R isn’t exactly cheap, but giving us another flyer, a Vile Rebirth target [we want this to die!] and a Red pumper to go with our shade fills a big gap in our deck.

Pack 2, Pick 4: Molten Birth
The double red in the casting cost is a bit off putting, but the Canyon Minotaur is a smidge too expensive, and we can find other Smelts, I’m sure. We may not run it, but the added creatures are useful, especially if we end up getting a Blood Bairn.

Pack 2, Pick 5: Child of Night
We need cheap creatures, and a 2/1 for 2 with lifelink is probably the cheapest we’ll get.

Pack 2, Pick 6: Lava Axe
Between this and Corrupt, we can cause a huge life swing suddenly late in the game. We’ve got a strong end curve, now we just have to focus on getting there.

Pack 2, Pick 7: Undead Minotaur
Not the greatest pick, but we need bodies still.

Pack 2, Pick 8: Altar’s Reap
We can use this to sac a guy targeted by removal, to eat the tokens from Molten Birth, or to kill our Dragon Egg and get a dragon. And, we get cards. At instant speed.

Pack 2, Pick 9: Marauding Maulhorn
The “attacks each turn if able” isn’t really a negative with our strategy.

Pack 2, Pick 10: Undead Minotaur
We probably won’t play both, but the Striking Sliver isn’t making my heart go aflutter.

Pack 2, Pick 11: Festering Newt
If we need to ease our curve, we can get him. It gives us another useful sacrifice target, and it can help gum up the ground in the early game.

Pack 2, Pick 12: Smelt
Purely for our sideboard.

Pack 2, Pick 13: Festering Newt
We’re not going to run both, unless we get a witch in the third pack. So, just in case.

Pack 2, Pick 14 & 15: Altar’s Reap, Forest
We may play both newts if we end up running both Altar’s Reaps.

Let’s review what we have that actually matters at this point:

Blue, Green, White -- Ignored
Artifact: Accorder’s Shield

Red Creatures [Curved]: Academy Raider, Regathan Firecat, Dragon Egg, Marauding Maulhorn
Red Spells [Curved]: Smelt, Molten Earth, Lava Axe
Black Creatures [Curved]: Festering Newt (x2), Child of Night, Undead Minotaur (x2), Deathgaze Cockatrice, Nightwing Shade, Nightmare
Black Spells [Curved]: Duress, Vile Rebirth, Altar’s Reap (x2), Shrivel, Liturgy of Blood, Corrupt

So, what we need are some more curve creatures and any removal in our colors we can find. More bombs would also be nice, since as nice as Nightmare is, something cheaper and less Swamp reliant would be nice.

Pack 3, Pick 1: Xathrid Necromancer
We have one other human (the Academy Raider), so his ability isn’t that great. Except that now the Raider and the Necromancer can both be potentially useful Altar’s Reap targets if he’s out. It also means we want to look for other humans to fill our creature count.

Pack 3, Pick 2: Thunder Strike
The top of our curve is pretty heavy, so as nice as the cockatrice and sliver are, we really can’t afford to add them in yet. Also, we don’t have any combat tricks. This is just a nice utility spell.

Pack 3, Pick 3: Chandra’s Outrage
Removal is too valuable, even if it is a bit expensive. Four is also a magic number, as 3 is where a lot of really annoying creatures tend to sit (it also puts a 1/1 out of savable range for most pump spells.)

Pack 3, Pick 4: Child of Night
While the Burning Earth would be fun for EDH, we’re here to win a draft. Another cheap efficient creature it is.

Pack 3, Pick 5: Grim Return
Here’s where our cutting off black so heavily early on comes to help us. Grim Return is a very powerful spell, and we’re glad to have it. It is situational, but we’ve got ways to sacrifice things, so we should be able to use it reliably.

Pack 3, Pick 6: Accursed Spirit
It’s not incredibly efficient, but another evasion creature fits our game plan nicely.

Pack 3, Pick 7: Lightning Claws
We probably would never play the second Vile Rebirth. The claws though, if we stick them on one of our evasive creatures, forces an opponent to respond or die, quickly. Yeah, it sets us up for a 2-for-1, but if we hold it for the late game, we can always Altar’s Reap, Vile Rebirth or Grim Return what they kill/try to kill.

Pack 3, Pick 8: Duress
We probably won’t maindeck it, like the other, but if we play against someone who cracked a powerful enchantment or artifact, we’ll bring it in.

Pack 3, Pick 9: Academy Raider
Another human, another evasion, and card sifting. Our curve is a bit high, but core sealed is pretty slow.

Pack 3, Pick 10: Dark Favor
If we’re just wanting to use an enchantment to speed up our clock, Dark Favor is better than Lighting Claws. Our deck has so much synergy, though, I don’t see us playing either.

Pack 3, Pick 11: Tome Scour
We’ve got enough quality stuff, that Wild Guess doesn’t really help us. We did see a Traumatize go by, so no reason to let someone get another powerful mill effect.

Pack 3, Pick 12, 13, 14, 15: Smelt, Cyclops Tyrant, Smelt, Island

Results: If we look at the table, Player 2 did what we expected. We got it to go Blue/Green. It passed us what we wanted, we passed it what it wanted. Everyone won. Player 8 was Red, which is odd, since we got a lot of good red cards in Pack 2 and 3. Red must’ve just been very deep, since Player 7 was red as well. There was only one other black drafter at the table, Player 6.


The deck looks something like:

9 Swamp
8 Mountains
[1 Spell; 1 Creature] 1CC: Vile Rebirth, Festering Newt
[3 Spells; 2 Creatures] 2CC: Child of Night, Altar's Reap, Thunder Strike, Child of Night
[2 Spells; 6 Creatures] 3CC: Xathrid Necromancer, Academy Raiders, Academy Raiders, Dragon Egg, Molten Birth, Undead Minotaur, Grim Return, Undead Minotaur
[1 Spell; 3 Creatures] 4CC: Deathgaze Cockatrice, Marauding Maulhorn, Chandra's Outrage, Accursed Spirit
[2 Spells; 1 Creature] 5CC: Nightwing Shade, Liturgy of Blood, Lava Axe
[1 Spell; 1 Creature] 6CC: Corrupt, Cyclops Tyrant

I dropped the Nightmare for the Cyclops Tyrant. Nightmare may have the potential to be much bigger, but flying is easier to stop than "being red," and sometimes, I may be stuck sitting on only two or three swamps anyway. Neither of the enchantments ended up getting played, as expected. Our curve was really high, so I felt that 17 lands was pretty much the bare minimum. I wasn't sure where to cut next, and I felt like we were running light on 14 creatures, but with Vile Rebirth, Grim Return and Molten Birth, I thought our creature count was good enough.

I like Altar's Reap, but to get down to 40 cards, I think we only really need to have one of them. Our other spells are removal/reanimation, and I think that's more important than drawing into more cards. Thunder Strike was also an option to be cut, but not having any combat tricks makes me feel too vulnerable. It also means that the Cockatrice can actually block something huge and live to deathtouch again.

So, what were your results folks?

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