Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Give me the tools, and I will finish the job... maybe?

It's been an interesting couple of weeks in magic limited.  For me, it has been a series of ups and downs, with solid draft decks -almost- getting there and a prerelease where almost getting there was as good as a win.

Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all. - Thomas Carlyle 

I suppose I have been hesitant to write about the last few weeks, as they have been marked by personal disappointment.  In a way, I feel some sense of shame as I didn't do justice to the decks which I drafted.  Two weeks ago, I approached the second-to-last triple Theros draft at my lgs in the mood to splash, which meant green.  Unfortunately, the passage of time has left my memory fuzzy as to how I built my draft pool precisely.  Here is how best I reconstructed it.

1 Sedge Scorpion
2 Traveler's Amulet
2 Voyaging Satyr
2 Nylea's Presence
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Wavecrash Triton
3 Nessian Courser
2 Burnished Heart
1 Time to Feed
1 Griptide
1 Thassa's Emissary
2 Nylea's Emissary
1 Nessian Asp
1 Lash of the Whip
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Abhorrent Overlord

This deck seemed to me to have quite a bit of power to it.  I like to think of drafting triple Theros as a process of accumulating tools which will allow you to weather all sorts of different decks.  This deck features several of the tools I like to have: big bodies, some removal/bounce, some card draw, some ramp.  Thus, it was disappointing to go 2-2, losing some very close games.

Round 1 I played against Brian, who had drafted a very black-heavy deck.  He played good spells in the format, but his smaller creatures were just blanked by my slightly larger green dudes. At first, this was nessian courser; later, it became nessian asp.  Read the bones is a great card, but his deck couldn't seem to provide him with fatties which would rumble profitably with my board.  In game two, I noted that my bestow creatures provided me with an indomitable board presence, making up for an absent nessian asp.

Round 2 was against Kelly, were my anti-aggro tools once again came up big.  Her selesneya aggro deck featured the play of ordeal of heliod onto cavalry pegasus, but my griptide provided me with a solid answer.  Fortunately I only took two from the pegasus, and soon I had ramped out an abhorrent overlord with the ramp elements in my deck.  Game two was not representative of what her deck was capable of, I think, as she was forced to mulligan to 5.  Despite that, I was forced to two-for-one myself with sedge scorpion and time to feed to get rid of a dangerously big staunch-hearted warrior, but being on the draw with a seven card hand, I was able to overcome that card disadvantage fairly easily.

I then played against Doug.  There are two Dougs at are store, so I shall dub this Doug Doug the younger.  Sitting at 2-0, I felt hopeful that I could make this week an undefeated one, so the quick thrashing I took from his rakdos aggro deck certainly took the wind out of my sails.  Tymaret and blood-toll harpy are not singularly scary cards, but in sufficient numbers and backed up with solid removal they do the job just fine.  I did put up a fight, bringing him to three games, and close ones at that, but ultimately I stumbled in this round.  I really felt the lack of powerful, flexible cheap spells in these games: leaf crown dryad, or another sedge scorpion, would have been huge.  Even a single nylea's disciple might have made the difference.  The one game I did win was off the back of wave crash triton, a three drop, reinforcing my belief that this matchup is decided by having good early role-players.

Round 4, I was looking for revenge, and got matched up against Fletcher.  In previous games I've played against him, he's tended to go for aggro strategies, so I made a mental note of this and tried to preserve my life total accordingly.  He had drafted the blue-white heroic deck, and a solid one at that.  It leaned heavily on the whiter side of things featuring the devastating phalanx leader-evangel of heliod combination that overwhelmed me in game two.  Wishing I had a shredding winds in my board for game three, I reluctantly moved on to game three.  Here, I played as well as I could, assembling an on-board presence with my voyaging satyrs, nessian asp, and a nylea's emissary that threatened to win me the game on my next turn.  With one turn to kill me, he turned on the proverbial after-burners with a combination of battlewise valor and dauntless assault, pumping up both his wingsteed rider and his evangel of heliod tokens for exactly, exactly lethal.  As Anthony excitedly said, after the match was over, I "got fletched."  I had thought that sitting at a life-total of 16 would see me safely to the next turn.

On reflection, I wish I had taken the time to recount the on board power presented once more, or called a judge.  I had originally counted fourteen, while Fletcher and a neutral observer counted 16.  Perhaps the fact that he had two bounce for what were presumably lethal left me feeling frustrated.  Still, I couldn't be too disappointed with the night as a whole.  While I didn't have a winning record, I had learned some valuable lessons about acquiring the tools to weather aggro decks in Theros, lessons which I would try to apply next week, which I shall cover in my next entry.

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