Saturday, October 4, 2014

Breaking the Format: Boros aggro in triple Khans

I never meant to go boros in my first khans draft.  I see these beautiful, beautiful black-green midrange strategies, either in sultai or abzan, and my heart goes all aflutter.  I see a one-mana 0/4 with upside and my eyes perk up.  So it was with some surprise that I found myself in boros aggro, an archetype that I didn't think was even possible in triple khans, let alone any good.

It all started off with a bit of a dud pack. Abzan falconer was, I believe, the pick.  Wanting to try out the falconer, I tried to take as many simple, good white cards that I could.  When red seemed to be open, I decided to move in, theorizing that I would leave myself open to splashing either blue or black, depending.

Well, fast forward a couple of packs, and I never saw a card which was good enough to bring me into a third color.  Meanwhile, I had been picking up some late trumpet blasts, more out of curiosity than any serious strategic considerations, and I had ended up with the following monster:

Creatures: 12 total

1 Monastery Swiftspear              1 Timely Hordemate
                                                  1 Highspire Mantis
2 Seeker of the Way                  1 Summit Prowler
1 Ainok Bond-Kin                     1 Mardu Warshrieker
1 War-Name Aspirant            

2 Abzan Falconer
1 Mardu Hordechief

Spells: 11 total

1 Defiant Strike                      2 Bring Low
                                             1 Burn Away
1 Suspension Field                1 Arrow Storm
1 Feat of Resistance

2 Trumpet Blast
1 Act of Treason
1 Dragon Grip

I had one mystic monastery which I had taken early on in the draft, thinking I might want to be jeskai, but that never materialized, so it just served as a humble guildgate.  After getting the round one bye, I proceeded to go 2-1 in matches, so clearly the deck had some power behind it.  Indeed, my one loss was to a similarly aggressive jeskai deck, in the final round.  It was the first round where my low creature count really cost me, as he was playing similarly low cost threats, but he had slightly more interaction in the form of removal and the pure tempo crippling chill.  Had I hit some more of my early drops in that game, I might have prevailed, but with a mere five 1-2 drops, my luck ran out.

I don't expect this to be a common strategy.  In fact, I'd wager that 95-98% of the time you'll be drafting a wedge, so you might go through this format and never draft a two color strategy.  However, I think it pays to be open to the possibility.

That was my first draft of the format, at last weeks FNM.  This week, I had what I would consider a more typical khans draft, and in fact almost a polar opposite to the deck I drafted above.  Here's the list:

Where last week's deck was designed to be fast, last night's was designed to be slow.  Whereas last week's deck had only one mana-land, this week's had five.  From red/white to the opposite: BUG, and from seventeen lands to eighteen.

The draft started off with the rattleclaw mystic.  I hoped to situate myself in that clan, to make that card as good as possible, but red started to dry up right quick.  Meanwhile I got passed the spellsnatcher and the mystic of the hidden way, cards that excited me.  With eighteen lands and a rattleclaw, "getting" someone with the spellsnatcher seemed very viable, and with as stally as khans can be sometimes, the unblockable morph has a ton of value.  Starting off the first few picks green/blue left myself open to two clans, and when I started to see some really late but decent black cards, including very late kin tree invocations, I decided to go in.

I had noticed that the sultai wedge had a "toughness matters" subtheme, and I decided to explore that.  I would've loved to have the sultai flayer, or an extra disowned ancestor, but the deck ran smoothly as it was. Dragon's eye savants was a surprise hit for the deck, hitting for two when I didn't have the invocation, and hitting the board as an 0/5 when I did.

Ultimately the deck performed well, going 3-0 after a first round bye (what are the odds, the second week in a row???)  The third round in particular was instructive, as on game three I chose to draw against a similarly midrange temur deck.  I was able to establish good blockers, and bide my time with the spellsnatcher.  With an archer's parapet and morphed spellsnatcher on board, the pressure was on him to play something swingy to get ahead.  The card proved to be temur charm.  Unmorphing not only got me the temur charm, but saved me a 4/4 token from getting gobbled up.  With the knowledge that his next play would just get mana leaked, he scooped 'em up.  In the end, the only thing I could complain about was archer's parapet not having reach.  I mean, come on! Look at how tall that tower is!

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