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Patrick Hendry on Magic
Hello, reader and welcome to my first article at pojo.com. Let me give you a brief introduction before I get right down to the juicy goodness of today’s article. My name is Patrick Hendry, and I have been playing Magic: the Gathering since 2000 with the release of Invasion.
Just a couple of weeks after I started playing, I stopped by my local game shop and entered into a draft tournament. I’ve been addicted ever since. Limited play is the most challenging form of Magic you will ever play because each player has to create a deck on the spot from a limited pool of cards and play as best they can with limited resources.
What cards can I pick? How can I know what colors are strongest in each set? How can I recognize signals and pick accordingly? These are the questions I hope to answer in this column.
Now, with all the formalities put aside, let’s get right down to the heart and soul of limited play: drafting. I participated in an online Coldsnap draft, and ended up with the following deck:
1. Boreal Shelf
4. Frost Raptor
First, just let me tell you I went undefeated 5-0 with this deck. At first, it may not seem all that strong, but the more I played with it, the more I used the hidden combinations. It’s hard for an opponent to say no to blocking the Drelnoch when he is a 6/6 or a 9/9 thanks to Glacial Plating.
You may notice that my deck is very heavy into card draw. The purpose for this is twofold: first, since I didn’t pick any “bombs,” I can’t be waiting on one draw to win me the game. Secondly, I want to be able to get my snow lands as quickly as possible.
This deck worked quickly to pump out my stars of the tournament: Frost Raptor. This little 3-drop dominated every game I played. Why is Frost Raptor so good? The opponent can’t kill it. This is my first rule of limited play:
Evasion Wins Games
Let me illustrate, if you are in a heated battle with an evenly matched opponent, you are going to need to have one advantage. In draft, that advantage should often be evasion. Flying, protection, shadow and horsemanship in earlier sets, and unblockability will win you the game in limited.
Some of the best evasive creatures in Coldsnap are in blue and black. Blue has the amazing Frost Raptor. Black has the nearly ubiquitous Zombie Musher. Blue and black have that scourge of the Coldsnap draft: Blizzard Specter. Ravnica block also had some amazing evasion. Dryad Sophisticate was by far my favorite pick in RGD drafting.
Landwalk is an ability that has been much maligned in constructed that is a bomb in draft and sealed. Zombie Musher is almost always going to be unblockable due to the heavy concentration of snow-covered lands.
More than anything else, always pick solid evasion. First, Frost Raptor is cheaply costed and has solid stats: 2/2 for three is never a bad deal in limited, but when you throw in flying, that’s just icing on the cake. Finally, add the fact that you can keep it alive from Feast of Flesh, Skred, and Surging Flame for SS, and you have a pretty sweet little package.
Flyers can’t be killed by non-flyers, and the fact that the Frost Raptor can be given protection for SS makes for one hard to kill bird. Also, the Owl Keeper and the Frostwakers are flyer producers. Useless lands turn into 2/2 beaters, and my deceased Owl Keeper turns into a flock of killer pigeons, a la The Birds.
Finally, a late game Phyrexian Snowcrusher makes for a “Kill me or I kill you” scenario. The Outrider and the Unicorn are for early game creatures, and both have alternative uses: the outrider as a wall and the Unicorn as enchantment removal.
The Martyrs are somewhat redundant, but can be useful in a pinch, mostly to sacrifice to perilous research on the second turn. Sunscour’s use should be fairly obvious, and Gelid Shackles can immobilize huge threats like Blizzard Specter or Adarkar Valkyrie.
Probably the strangest pick is the Vanish Into Memory. Let me just say that this card is not for every deck, but my deck enjoyed it intensely. I used it mostly to take out a key blocker for a final attack or to save one of my creatures from a Sunscour. Also, it drew cards.
My first round opponent conceded on turn five due to mana problems. In the second game, he played a first turn Karplusan Wolverine, followed by a second turn Goblin Furrier. We traded damage for a few turns, he with his Wolverine and Furrier, and me with my Owl Keeper. Four turns and no interesting plays later he drops the big one: Rimescale Dragon.
As I began to count m life in mere turns, I drew into something wonderful: Gelid Shackles. I became much happier after I stabilized the board. Two Frost Raptors and a couple of failed removal spell later, I had won the match.
My second round opponent was playing a weird deck… even by my standards. She spent the first four turns playing mana acceleration: Coldsteel Heart, Into the North, and Boreal Druid. After that, she kept playing snow-mana intensive creatures: mainly the TWO Stalking Yetis she picked up in packs one and two. The Flametongue Kavu-like Yeti is deadly enough by itself, but in packs… it’s a beast. With the two Yetis and about 4 snow mana, this situation quickly became a problem for my creatures.
Once again, my Frost Raptors came to the rescue. On turn 7, I got out one of the killer birds, and they wiped the floor with my opponent. I had dropped all six of my snow lands, and when I played a Glacial Plating on my bird, my opponent conceded game 1.
Game two I kept a two land hand because I had both my Martyrs. That was a huge mistake. Just for the record, Icefall is possibly the most irritating red card in Coldsnap. My opponent steamrolled my two pitiful lands and after she had established control, she blasted every land I played for the rest of the game.
Game three was over quickly because my deck curved out and I got three Frost Raptors. As you can see, Frost Raptor is a powerhouse. This is the case with almost all evasive creatures, and they can win you games in a pinch.
My third match opponent had possibly the most annoying draft ever. This individual drafted, I kid you not, 8 Surging Dementia and 5 Surging Aether. You have never known pain until you’ve been hit for seven cards on the second turn by Surging Dementia. Jordan Kronick details the evils of Surging Dementia excellently here and here. This little monster, if drafted in numbers, can be a nasty little beast. Possible even more annoying is getting Dementia cast on you for three cards on turn two. Then, late game, you get Surging Aether for 4 followed up by Surging Dementia for all the cards that got bounced.
The only problem with my opponent’s deck was the fact that ripple cards were all he had. After the ripple cards, the only good card in his deck was Herald of Leshrac. After about 5 turns of topdecking, I got out a creature he couldn’t block. My third match was over fairly quickly.
Ahh, the fourth match. I never have liked the number four. It looks awfully seedy sitting there between the five and the three. Nothing has ever proved me correct like my fourth match.
I had to mulligan to five on the first game: Boreal Shelf, Jotun Owl Keeper, Martyr of Frost, and Perilous Research. Knew I was in trouble when my opponent dropped a Karplusan Wolverine first turn. First turn I topdecked a land and dropped my Martyr. By the fourth turn, I was staring down an army of small red creatures.
Sunscour to the rescue!
After three very long games I was in my final match of the day. I can’t say that the games were good, because my opponent dropped to five cards both games. If she hadn’t had mana problems, she would’ve had an amazing deck. I saw five Rune Snags in her deck. Yikes.
She was only able to hit two mana either game, so they were over quickly. She was holding Feast of Flesh and Surging Flame. After this, was the grand champion of the Coldsnap draft. Eyeing all the other players that lowered their heads reluctantly when I passed, I moved on to the next draft.
Evasion won me five matches out of five, and I know it can win your games, as well. Evasion applies to Standard as well as Limited. Evasive cards win games in every format, and should be drafted as such.
Until next time, draft well.
Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo
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