They Will Fight, Triangle Wins – Golems vs. Sunburst
We’ve got a new draft format, ladies and gents…and it’s just like an old one.
Somehow, Fifth Dawn (or 5D) has taken Mirrodin and Darksteel and turned them into a strange permutation of Invasion-block, with a fair amount of dependence on how you can put colors together. We’re faced again with a somewhat strange scenario, repeated from when Apocalypse entered the fray. It’s made this format into a new set of challenges.
Originally, most decks either appeared to primarily function as two-color decks with extremely solid mana-bases, making the golems that you would draft from Darksteel solid as in-color picks. You would most likely be playing around 7-10 of the appropriate basic lands in your primary color, making any golem you would play an extremely efficient creature. Additionally, splashing was really limited to certain cards, such as Shrapnel Blast, Fireball, or other cards of a similar power level.
Now, after a grand total of four days of drafting…that’s been shot straight to hell. I’ve seen people running three or four colors with some ease, and a lot of regularity. The last pack has thrown a big monkey wrench into the mess that was draft, making it a whole new ball game as to how you have to approach drafting now. From the big-picture approach of strategy to small, insignificant appearing picks, you do need to look at things a different way.
Let’s start at strategy before you even open the first pack. You need to make a decision about how widely you want to spread yourself throughout the colors during the draft; it’s not simply a matter of taking the best cards you see. How tight do you want your deck to end up? You can try to stick closely to two colors, keeping to your guns, or you can look at picking up cards of opportunity as they present themselves. The basic idea here is to go into the draft with a clear idea of what you want to do; if you don’t have some sort of plan, you’re looking to suffer a bit later and possibly be a victim of poor signaling.
Once you’re started drafting, there are certain effects you need to pay closer attention to. You’re now short one pack on efficient Shatter-effects; those need to have an even higher priority (as if that’s possible). You’re also down to a single pack of Myr and Talisman, so those need to be picked up more highly than before. On that note, you also need to pay attention to which Myr or Talisman you pick up; if you’re in the (fortunate) situation of deciding between something on or off-color, you should probably put a higher emphasis on the off-color choice. This will increase your ability to utilize some of the powerful sunburst cards in the final pack. If you are fortunate enough in your picks here, you can run what appears to be the optimal deck in the environment (which I will get to later).
At the end of the first pack is when you have to possibly make the most important decision in the draft: which style of deck are you ready to try to push for here? The pivotal cards here, or the one that epitomizes the decision, are the Golems from Darksteel. Depending on the amount of colors you are, and how much emphasis you want to put on Fifth Dawn, will effect how highly you want to draft these creatures. They don’t become “bad” with the inclusion of 5D, but they lose some of their allure because of the way that mana-bases become altered due to the desire to include the Manta and Baton in your deck, if possible. If you go for heavy color-commitments, then you can draft the golems easily; if you’re spread around, you might let them slide down a little in importance and keep looking for removal and other, splashable candidates.
So, once you’ve reached this decision, it’s all easy, right? That’s a big neg there; you need to pay attention to what’s changed in value since then. For example, Vedalken Engineer has probably moved up to an absolute first-pick due its ability to fuel the previously mentioned sunburst cards. Another candidate for improvement is Darksteel Ingot, for the same reason. Again, you need to pay attention to artifact removal, especially Unforge; 5D has brought so much playable common equipment into the picture that you probably want to get into the habit of keeping this in the main almost all of the time.
Opening up your 5D pack, the first thing you want to check is whether you have a Bringer or a Masticore in the rare slot. Failing that, you check if there’s a Cranial Plating in the commons; I’d be willing to safely wager that this is the most powerful common in the set. My reasoning for this is simply as follows: Fangren Hunter should never, ever be able to have this ability. This doesn’t even begin to describe how this plays on the other various evasion creatures. Here is where your decision after the first pack starts to show results: you have to pay attention to your deck and recognize how readily you are able to create three or more colors of mana early in the game. If you have off-color Myr, Talismans, or Engineers, you probably need to look into picking the two common sunburst creatures pretty early here; if not, look for the more stable, solid creatures.
The Scry cards all have solid utility; the black and white one-mana spells are both solid plays, while Fill With Fright can be pretty debilitating if you cast it on turns 4-6. Look to see these pretty late, as people will be busy with creatures and the various common equipment early in the draft. Speaking of those, I’ve already mentioned the Plating; however, the green and white equipment are also extremely playable, especially within color. The white equipment, Healer’s Headdress, has quickly gained a solid spot in my draft decks, having high synergy with the various non-tapping creatures you’ll probably have in your deck.
The final point here is to be aware of the mana fixers that are available in the final pack. Green gets access to Sylvok Explorer, which basically acts as an off-color Myr; Dawn’s Reflection, also in green, makes for another easy, common way to maximize your ability to Sunburst. Pentad Prism is another playable accelerator, though the fact that it only acts as a form of poor Dark Ritual seems unappealing to a few people; personally, I’ve been able to play Skyreach Mana on turn three for 4/4 or better on multiple occasions. It’s not something that should go ignored.
So, down to brass tacks…what’s the ideal deck? In my mind, the best deck you can end up with is a solid two colors, with access to a number of Talismans, Prisms, Myr or other methods of generating splash mana. It’s a lot to ask for to be able to maximize your golems as well as your Sunburst cards; any time you do, your deck should be pretty close to insane. Affinity is a deck that’s going to continue to be powerful, especially since it allows you to convert any invasion creature into a Nim through the use of Cranial Plating. On the whole, however, I think that there’s a great deal of power spread through the format that enables you to play quite a few different decks, especially with the ease (and desire) you’ll have to splash powerful cards from third and fourth colors.
Next week…we’ll figure it out later. There’s plenty to talk about in 5D, so we’ll be looking over that for the next few weeks.
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