Friday, January 10, 2014

Theros drafting thoughts: ultimate greed.

Way back in Spring of 2010, I was just getting into magic: the gathering.  My girlfriend at the time had just discovered her childhood cards in the proverbial dusty attic, and inspired I found my old red deck from way back.  As we continued to play, we gradually climbed the ladder of magic involvement.  From buying a couple of booster packs just to crack them and see what was now being played, to being intro decks just to play against each other, to what seemed, at the time, the final step: drafting.  I pursued this alone, as she didn't enjoy playing or making decisions under time pressure, something I've had a relative strength in.

This felt natural to me, as I wanted to expand my collection and play against people other than my girlfriend.  I was an avid fan of watching starcraft: brood war videos, and I found that I just as much enjoyed watching videos of people drafting.  Certainly, Luis Scott Vargas's videos were an inspiration, as I took to my local game shop to challenge myself in new and interesting ways.

At the time, the draft format was triple Rise of Eldrazi, and I quickly fell in love.  Blue white levelers was a standby for my, as well as the more removal heavy blue-black variant.  Training grounds, venerated teacher, nirkana cutthroat... I came to know the tricks of the format, and I've been drafting since.

This blog, then, is a continuation of that journey.  I've started recording drafts myself, I've gone to my first ptq, and I've experienced some success and positive results at the very local level.  I want writing about my experiences as I attempt to become a better magic player to become part of my journey, and I want to share what I've learned with, well, anyone who's interested.

With that said, let's get down to brass tacks: triple Theros draft.

At the beginning of the format, I struggled with coming to terms with how to consistently beat such a wide variety of archetypes available; Theros provides tools for both aggro, control, and midrange.  I would most often go midrange myself, sticking to two solid colors and trying to win on simple card quality, to mixed success.

However, as time goes on, I've found my most successful strategy has been to get as greedy as humanly possible, based on the truly wonderful depth of the color green, and the innocuous-looking enabler nylea's presence.  Five color green, my preferred archetype in modern masters, actually has a corollary in Theros.  Theros is a plane of dreams, let us remember, and I have a dream: to go big in style.  Here's a recent example of a deck which I took to a four-zero record at my LGS:

2 Sedge Scorpions
4 Nylea's Presence
1 Lightning Strike
1 Leaf Crown Dryad
1 Nessian Courser
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Burnished Hart
2 Nimbus Naiad
1 Bow of Nylea
1 Heliod's Emissary
1 Divine Verdict
1 Nylea's Disciple
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Nessian Asp
1 Sealock Monster
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Mistcutter Hydra

11 Forests
2 Swamps
2 Islands
1 Plains
1 Mountain

As you can see, with just a single mountain, I have 6 red sources available to me, 7 if you count the slow burnished hart.  I was hardly the only green drafter at my pod, but the nylea's presences wheeled, perhaps not seen as necessary to other, less greedy drafters.  Ultimately, my five-color drafting style comes down to a singular problem: I just can't ever pass a keepsake gorgon.  Still, I can't ignore the success I've had with this style of deck, even as part of me wants to be more traditional.

I also can't ignore that the other 4-0 Theros deck I played was also trying to do big things: ramp into a Colossus of Akros.  Indeed, in one memorable game against one of the best players at my LGS, I was able to beat an Anax and Cymede that had been suited up with an ordeal of purphoros.  With the aid of a karametra's acolyte, I landed an early Colossus of Akros and stabilized at a fairly precarious lifetotal. But the amount of life was enough, for if you can cast a Colossus, it's monstrous ability typically isn't too far away.

The deck I posted wasn't perfect: I would have liked at least one naturalize effect in my sideboard, for example.  However, you sometimes won't need it.  All you often need is a really big body suited up with a sweet bestow creature.  And while this style can be a little slow, the card draw of nylea's presence helps you see more of your deck consistently which will enable you to  find a solid threat should you find yourself in need of a way to punish a slow draw.  The red white heroic deck, probably the fastest deck in the format, can be a rough matchup, but even there your sedge scorpions and as many Nylea's Disciples as you can pick up turn to solid gold as you spam blockers and slowly put yourself iunto an advantageous situation with carefully played removal.

Well, I'm off to my LGS.  While I lean in this direction in Theros draft, it is by no means something I look to force.  However, often enough I find it open, as my local metagame simply does not value nylea's presence and it's less-good but playable little brother, traveler's amulet.

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