You Got Your Regeneration in My White Creature!
Scattershooting while wondering who the heck did the formatting for my column last week. Oh that’s right. I did. (I swear, it all looked uniform and clean when I sent it in last week!)
<editor's note: Actually Tim, it did come to me formatted. My computer just really screwed with it and made it look real ugly. I, unfortunately, had been in absolutely no mental capacity to do anything about it, so I didn't. You'll find it at least a little prettier now. -Scott>
This year the US Nationals wasn’t about a hot new deck archetype. It wasn’t about a player finally coming into their own who people knew well beforehand. It wasn’t even about an old stalwart like John Finkel coming in and dishing out on the competition. Nope, it was all about cheating. Namely, people apparently getting caught and getting extremely harsh penalties. My take on this? It’s kinda sad that the judges have to be made such a big deal of in the reporting. Comparing Magic to other competitive sports, how many times do you see articles in the newspaper about NFL Referees unless they seriously blow a call? Magic still has a long way to go in enforcing problems with cheaters. A long way. Just because they nailed a person or two this weekend doesn’t mean anything regarding the grand scheme of things. Let’s just hope that Nationals was a step in the right direction, and let’s hope Worlds is about the players and not the judges.
I’ve been drafting a lot since Apocalypse finally came out and the set is slowly starting to settle into my mind in relation to how to draft this silly set with Invasion and Planeshift. It has changed the relative power level of some cards from Invasion and Planeshift, putting a higher priority on the mana smoothers in every color, and making green in more demand. Cards like Dream Thrush are becoming slightly more important to get early on, as mana smoothers in non-green decks become more critical. So far, from what I’ve seen, the best performing decks from Invasion/Plnaeshift/Apocalypse drafts appear to be ones with three or four mana smoothers, and it helps a great deal if those mana smoothers are creatures. Dream Thrush, Helionaut, Urborg Elf, and Tundra Kavu are all excellent mana smoothers. I’ve had some success running sot land destruction as well, and this strategy can fail or succeed simply based on the packs in the draft. This past Sunday I drafted three Frenzied Tillings and a Dwarven Landslide in a deck and they proved to be extremely useful in disrupting my opponents alternative colors, especially when, at this point, many people are running five colors repeatedly with very fragile mana bases.
My advice for drafting Inv/Psh/Apoc? Pick your colors early. Plan to play three colors. Now, playing three colors, there’s two ways you can go. You can go two allied with an opposing, like green/black/blue, or you can draft a “dragon” like blue/white/black. The first method seems to generally yield decks with more powerful cards, but have weaker mana bases. Even G/U/B, with multiple fantastic cards in Apocalypse and the most reliable base of mana searchers can easily get screwed out of a color. Playing a “dragon” alignment gives you access to the Dragon’s Lairs and to the “dual” lands in Invasion, and gives you more comfortable mana. It’s simply a matter of playing and finding out what you feel comfortable with. I would recommend against playing five colors, though. There will be situations where you’ll take cards out of your colors, like when you’re drafting U/B/G and you pop open a Necravolver, and decide to work in a little white in order to power that second kicker, but you’ll only want to do that for the rare splash, and try to do it only in cards that the color isn’t critical. For instance, if you’re drafting R/G/W and you see a Jilt, you’re playing the red, so why not take it, right? Wrong. You need to have the blue mana in order to play the spell in the first place. If you don’t it is useless. Now compare that to the Necravolver I mentioned above. You’re already playing two of the three colors, so at worst it can regularly be a 4/4 for five mana, which is not a bad thing at all. The white kicker simply makes the guy a bit better, and is worth playing a single Dream Thrush, an a single plains to go with your Lay of the Land or Harrow, or whatever. I generally try to pick spells that I can cast and not need the supporting colors, as opposed to cards where I am drafting the supporting colors, but need the casting cost color to get the whole ball of wax rolling.
Coalition Honor Guard. How ridiculous are these guys? One of my favorite draft strategies was to draft a bunch of bears and medium sized creatures, then pick up creature enhancers and disruption. In the Invasion/Planeshift drafts I’d take U/W/G with a bunch of decent critters, the draft stuff like Explosive Growth, Gerrard’s Command, and Aggressive Urge, then take Rushing River, and Falling Timber to work around opposing blockers. This all works great until you have to play all those creature enhancing spells on one of your opponent’s creatures. The Honor Guard totally changes how I play draft now. Removal spells are still good, because picking off a 2/4 with an Agonizing Demise isn’t bad, but creature enhancers like Armadillo Cloak and Sinister Strength just become bad when you draw them and have an Honor Guard on the other side of the table. I’ve been known to sideboard out my creature enhancers in matches against decks with white in them just because of these creatures. Their existence makes creature pumping spells a degree less powerful, and hence, lower picks in draft.
In case you can’t tell, for me, talking about Apocalypse draft isn’t about throwing out one article that says “Ok, this is how you do it”. It’s about sharing my experiences over time with everyone and what seems to be the best thing to do depending on how thing are shaking out. So stick with me here, maybe we’ll stumble upon the perfect drafting method yet.
Name: Tim Stoltzfus
I'm a genetic mutant, spawned from government experiments on monkeys and blowfish that resulted in a new form of human being that can climb trees and breathe underwater. Sadly, I also have a paralyzing phobia of being wet and I can't stand heights, so I was sent out into society to attempt to live a normal life. Your tax dollars hard at work.
Unfortunately, the attempt at a normal life was thwarted when I was introduced to the game of Magic:The Gathering in the spring of 1994. From the first day I got my head bashed in by a Force of Nature that trampled over my Ironroot Treefolk who I played third turn by tapping the Dark Ritual I had played on the first turn, I was hooked on this goofy game. (Don't ask, we had no idea what the rules were, and I suspect neither did WotC at the time.)
I've played almost continuously since then, taking a six month hiatus from the game to move from Pennsylvania down here to Dallas, Texas in January of 1996.
I've played in way too many PTQs to count, been lucky enough to attend Origins for a few years when Nationals was held there, and I've even qualified for two Pro Tours, finishing 136th at PT Dallas with the first (and only) NecroHaups deck, and finishing 46th at PT Secaucus (Aka PTNY 99).
Over the past year or so I've regressed a little as a competitive player, not being quite as eager to travel to PTQ's, but still being very active in my local tournament scene.
I enjoy the card interactions in Magic, and love to build odd decks that try to captialize on those unique interactions. I'm not always successful, but I always have fun, and enjoy meeting people involved with the game.
I've been writing about Magic for a few years now, getting my start doing a column about rules for The Dojo back when Fank Kusumoto was the Sensei there. Later on I started Techsas under the watchful eye of Chris Senhouse, with the name of the column coined by the brilliant Al Tran. After The Dojo went the way of the dodo, Scott Gerhardt contacted me in a panic, desperately pleading with me to write for the new Pojo Magic site. I think his exact words were something like, "If you don't suck, I'll let you do it once a week."
Apparently I don't suck, although that could change at any moment.
Techsas. Enjoy it while it doesn't suck.
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