Monday, April 28, 2014

Mastering the new normal: early thoughts on the JBT format

It's been a while since my last post.  Since then, I've engaged in many disappointing x-3 ptqs, all in the 3 BNG, 3 THS pack sealed format.  Drafts have been similarly mediocre, while I've been doing well enough to get enough store credit to attend my store's prerelease entirely on that, I haven't been racking it up like I did in the era of gatecrash.  Still, I've finally started to get into a groove with this block.  Last friday night I crafted a pretty solid w/b orzhov draft deck, headlined by Brimaz, which 3-1ed, and last saturday I chose the white prerelease package and went orzhov again, this time going 5-0.  While I did get fortunate with my draft picks and sealed pulls, this record definitely has me feeling confident on the strength of these two colors going into future drafts.  Black got worse with born of the gods, but it's definitely back in the mix with journey into nyx, while white, which was never bad, continues to impress.

The draft deck, which benefited from a few born of the gods rares that people just didn't seem to want, was very resilient.  High card quality, combined with graveyard recursion (Silent Sentinel, Griffin Dreamfinder, and Whip of Erebos) meant that I was able to grind things out.  The one round I lost was to my long-time nemesis Anthony, who had a truly punishing r/w aggro deck that finished me off before I could fully gather my resources and establish board control.  Here's the list:


2 Nyxborn Eidolon
1 Baleful Eidolon

1 Brimaz
1 Observant Alseid
3 (!) Scholar of Athreos
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
1 Felhide Minotaur

1 Erebos' Emissary

1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Griffin Dreamfinder
1 Silent Sentinel


1 Last Breath
1 Battlewise Valor

1 Necrobite
1 Asphyxiate
1 Read the Bones

1 Gild
1 Whip of Erebos

1 Sip of Hemlock

Clearly, black was open.  I believe there was only one other black drafter at this table, and he was able to draft a strong green-black build with 2 grey merchants.  White ended up being overdrafted, which I was able to work around by having strong white in pack 2, having cut the color off.  Of course, I reaped the rewards of my color combination, as the other white drafters, and I think there were three, weren't interested in vanilla horned turtles that scholars of athreos would have been in their decks.  During the drafting process, it was a struggle to keep the curve down, and by focusing on impactful 2 and 3 drops, I ended up having enough early game to ensure that my whip, silent sentinel, and sip of hemlock would hit play.

The sealed pool practically built itself.  Having cracked open an Athreos, I was eager to see if I could make him do work for me as the indestructible creature I knew that he secretly longed to be.  Sadly, this pool didn't have enough solid two-drops for my taste, forcing me to run the somewhat suspicious nyx-fleece ram, but that's sealed for you.  The build:

1 Pharika's Chosen

1 Blood crazed hoplite
1 nyx-fleece ram
1 underworld coinsmith
1 oreskos swiftclaw

1 Athreos
1 archetype of courage
1 harvestguard alseids
1 scholar of athreos

1 cavern lampad
1 dawnbringer charioteers
1 disciple of phenax

1 supply line cranes

1 silent sentinel


1 Mortal obstinancy
1 Ajani's Presence

1 Battlewise Valor
1 Feast of Dreams

1 Read the bones
1 Spear of heliod
1 armament of nyx
1 nyx infusion

What with having Athreos, underworld coinsmith, and scholar of athreos, playing this felt like playing an athreos-theme deck.  The man himself was well-supported, many of my spells were permanents that provided him with devotion, and when you combine that with the devotion that my creatures brought (archetype of courage has two pips, yay!) he was turned on a surprisingly large proportion of time.  A temple of silence even gave me a little bit of fixing, to top it off.

One aspect that is probably worth talking about in this new format is life gain.  Incremental lifegain proved tremendously important for me all prerelease long, helping put me out of danger against the aggressive and midrange strategies I encountered.  In the final match of the night, the life I had gained from underworld coinsmith triggers, plus some attacks, a battlewise valor for two extra damage, a scholar draining for one, plus a couple of underworld coinsmith activations allowed me to close out the game with exact damage the turn before I would have died a horrible death to master of feasts.

I don't anticipate that I'll be so lucky to have such powerful rares in my corner going forward.  Despite this, white and black are together quite deep in journey into nyx.  I can see myself trying to go one of those two colors in many of my drafts, preferably both.  If white and black are both cut off?  Well, there's always my good buddy green, a color which has the advantages of being a comfortable pair to either black or white.  I'm looking forward to battling more with journey into nyx, and avoiding red like a boss.  Seriously, red in theros, what's up with that?