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March 2014

Savoring A Delicious Irony: Draw, Go for the Twenty First Century - B. Siems


Compared to the last few articles that I’ve written for this site, today’s article is going to seem out of character. There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, pretty much anytime that I find the motivation to mash my dirty little fingers into the keyboard, it’s normally to describe a cheap, rareless deck that I’ve built for a casual format, usually Peasant Magic. Not so much this time around, as this article is about a Standard deck with over a dozen uncommons and a whole quartet of rares. (Gasp!)


Another reason this article is going to feel a bit left of center is that I usually tend towards decks that do not reward patience. My archive of articles here at Pojo, and my last four or so articles specifically, have pulled heavily toward the red/black end of the color spectrum. I make no apologies for this. Given a choice, I prefer to burn n’ slash my way to victory. Today’s deck, however, is anything but aggro.


But perhaps the biggest reason it feels so strange for me to be writing this article is because today’s deck is one that I’m currently playing online. That statement in itself wouldn’t be so strange, but for the fact that I’ve written (on this very site) that I’m too much of a cheap-ass and Luddite to ever play Magic Online. Well, the truth is that I’ve had a M:tGO account since last spring.


So how did I get to this point? To quote a famous swordsman from back in the day: “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” One of the first decks I started playing online was the blue/red Magic 2013 pre-con…I mean ‘intro pack’ Depths of Power. It was fun and it could win games, but it didn’t win enough. Right, then. Time to upgrade! Money was spent, cards were purchased, and the red cards got pulled. At the end of it all I had a monoblue deck loaded with Jace’s Phantasms, Nightveil Specters (I bought these back when they were dirt cheap) and counterspells that gave my opponents fits.


But then…tragedy! M2013 rotated out of Standard. Damn! I had to go spend more money and purchase more cards. I did, and ended up putting the red back in to go Izzet. Without dual lands. (Because I’m a cheap-ass) The deck failed utterly. Sadness!


So it was back to the drawing board. Asking myself what monoblue was good at, the answer came back as ‘counterspell everything.’ A quick search of the memory banks and I recalled Randy Buehler’s classic “Draw,Go” deck. Joy! But the deck needed a way to win, and preferably on the cheap as I was sick and tired of spending money and purchasing cards. Then I remembered that Magic 2014 was available. And I beheld the rare artifact entitled “Haunted Plate Mail,” and saw that it was good! Ha-lelul-lah!


And here we are. Which brings me to today’s history lesson.



(Standard format, circa 1998. Uncommons marked with one asterisk, rares with two.)



1 Rainbow Efreet**



4 Counterspell

4 Dismiss*

2 Dissipate*

3 Forbid*

4 Force Spike

4 Impulse

3 Mana Leak

1 Memory Lapse

4 Whispers of the Muse*



4 Nevinyrral’s Disk**



18 Island

4 Quicksand

4 Stalking Stones*



1 Grindstone**

4 Sea Sprite*

2 Capsize

4 Hyrdroblast

4 Wasteland* (Technically uncommon, but you couldn’t tell by the aftermarket price!)


Buehler’s original version of Draw, Go was a permission deck heavy on the counterspells, running twenty one in all. It also ran four Nevinyrral’s Disks and four Quicksands to wipe out anything that got past the counters, as well as eight card drawing spells to go looking for answers.  Its’ offensive capabilities were limited to the lone Efreet and four Stalking Stones, a land that would permanently convert to a creature once mana was pumped into it. Even so, the deck was a contender, as Buehler himself explains right here.


There were a few problems I had to overcome in building a modern day successor to Draw, Go. The first was that I didn’t have access to Disks or Stalking Stones here in the Standard environment of 2014 A.D. (Yes, gentle reader, I know all about Mutavault. But you’re freakin’ nuts if you think I’m spending $120 bucks for four copies of ‘em! Cheap-ass, remember?) Second, the countermagic of the nineties was just plain better and faster back in the day. These were the days when the average counterspell (like, um….Counterspell!) cost two mana, not three like today’s Cancel. The same can also be said for common card advantage then and now; no more cheap and instant speed draws.


So how did I get around these obstacles? My take on Draw, Go runs a few more counters and a few less lands & card drawing than the original, and I’ve replaced the Disks and Stones with the closest equivalents that I could afford.


DRAW, GO 2014

(Standard format. Uncommons marked with one asterisk, rares with two.)



4 Aetherize*

4 Cancel

4 Dissolve*

4 Divination

4 Essence Scatter

4 Mindstatic

4 Negate

4 Stymied Hopes



4 Haunted Plate Mail**



4 Encroaching Wastes*

20 Island



3 Claustrophobia

4 Dispel

4 Disperse

4 Gainsay*


Let’s break down the deck card-by-card, starting with the counterspells. The duo of Essence Scatter and Negate have the traditional mana cost of two, but are more conditional overall. Essence Scatter only counters creatures, while Negate only counters other spells, making each one half of a traditional Counterspell.


Stymied Hopes is an overcosted version of the original deck’s Force Spike, albeit one with scry, an important replacement for the lack of card drawing in this deck. Dissolve also has scry, but otherwise functions exactly as a Cancel. My previous griping about two versus three mana casting cost aside, both are still good counters.


Mindstatic is a four mana counter that our opponent can ignore if he pays for 6. This Mana Leak on steroids (shout out to my boy A-Rod! Allegedly) makes for fine counter. In today’s environment of huge Greek inspired monstrosities, the other guy has a just a hard of time buying his stuff and paying the sales tax as the rest of us.


One thing that bothered me when I started building the deck was this lack of good, instant speed card drawing at common, but Divination ended up being the only card drawing engine I needed, thanks to scry.


Sadly, there is no real replacement for Nevinyrral’s Disk that doesn’t involve dipping into other colors. I did consider Ratchet Bomb, but decided that (at least in this deck) it would be too conditional for use as a reliable permanent killer. I settled on Aetherize instead, a great way to neutralize my opponent’s attackers while giving me a second chance to counter them again.


And that brings us to Haunted Plate Mail, the deck’s only kill card. It’s dangerously vulnerable to both creaturekill and artifact destruction, sure, but it’s easily defended in this deck. You will only need one out on the field to win, but you can equip one onto another in an emergency. (IMPORTANT PRO TIP: when you equip one set of armor onto another, it isn’t permanent! The Plate Mail that’s equipped will revert back to normal equipment! You will not have an 8/8 on your opponent’s turn, but instead a pair of empty suits of armor! This is a lesson learned in what I call “my youthful exuberance” when first learning how to play the deck, and it still chaffs my ass.)


One could argue the value of Encroaching Wastes in this deck as it doesn’t deal with creatures. We are playing Standard in a multicolored environment, so it’s useful for slowing down our opponent’s mana base at inopportune times. As a bonus, it also nukes Mutavaults. Good enough!


The sideboard presented here is not especially tuned to any particular metagame. Rather, it includes general purpose utility. Dispel is included to protect the Plate Mail specifically against creature/artifactkill, while Gainsay is included to deal with other permission decks. (Don’t underestimate the versatility of this card in a Ravnica-dominated format.) Disperse serves the same purpose as Aetherize on a smaller scale, as well as providing more defense for the Plate Mail. Finally, Claustrophobia is included to deal with creatures that got past all our counters


The deck’s game plan itself is easy to summarize, but a little more difficult to execute.  In general, you’ll use your spells to counter any threat your opponent could possibly throw at you. Once that’s done, it’s time to cast a Haunted Plate Mail and go for the kill.


It’s important to remember that while you can counter just about anything, you can’t counter everything. You will need to prioritize. A standard tactic your opponent will use when playing against a permission deck such as this is to cast a spell he doesn’t care about as a decoy, letting you tap out to counter it, and then casting the spell he really wanted in play to begin with. Play smart, pay attention and just accept that sometimes you’ll need to let a smaller creature get past your defenses in order to counter the real threats. (Likewise for enchantments, artifacts and planeswalkers.)


While you’re at it, don’t get overly concerned about your life total when playing the deck. You will win some games without taking a single point of damage, but other times you will find yourself in the single digits before you get a Haunted Plate Mail set up for victory. Regardless, don’t panic! Few creatures can withstand a constant pounding from a 4/4 like the Plate Mail, and we have Aetherize and Disperse for the ones that can.


When it’s time to go offensive, timing becomes key. Ideally, don’t cast the Plate Mail until you have enough mana to back it up with a counterspell or two. (I personally find that seven is the right number. Four for the Plate Mail, three for a Cancel/Dissolve.) That usually means defending it the very turn you cast it, but keeping the armor alive through the whole game is top priority. Your opponent might not be able to nuke it the second it hits the table, but they will kill it at their earliest convenience. Stay on guard and don’t let them do it!


The deck does have two weaknesses. The first are creatures with hexproof or shroud. In theory, most hexproofers are little guys that can be easily dealt with by blocking them with the Plate Mail or zapping ‘em with Aetherize. In theory. But the real problem children are Planeswalkers. They’re all bastards! Miserable, heartless little bastards! They’re also the bane of Draw, Go’s existence. The deck has no way to remove them from play. If Jace or his ilk hit the table, just scoop, sideboard Disperse (and perhaps Gainsay) for game two and shuffle up.


In summation: when I’ve lost with the deck, it’s because I got cocky & careless and ignored my own advice about playing the deck in the first place. (What, me arrogant? Shocking!) Don’t get cocky, but don’t panic, either. Draw, Go 2014 is a good, cheap deck that takes some skill to play, but wins far more than it loses.


Until next time, I remain…


B. Siems


P.S. One final word on cost: I priced out the deck using the online site I use to purchase Magic cards when I can’t find what I need locally. The most expensive card in the deck is Dissolve at $0.99 apiece. There’s a four-way tie for second most expensive as Aetherize, Encroaching Wastes, Gainsay and Haunted Plate Mail each cost $0.49. The rest of the cards in the deck cost between $0.15 and $0.25 each, for a grand total of $22.85. I would not be shocked to find that the deck could be built for under twenty bucks.



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