Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tasting the Rainbow: Five Colors in Khans

This past friday night, as I rolled into my LGS, I had a vision: I wanted to play powerful spells and not give a crap what colors they required.  Certainly, the recent episode of Limited Resources, where Kenji advocated for the deck, was an influence.  But I had wanted to try this out for a while, and I wanted to try to put certain ideas I had about the format into action.

One idea I had was that, if I were going to go with five colors, the main color that would be the backbone of the deck would be green.  With highland game and archer's parapet available to that color, you have some two drops which do a lot to help slow down the game and get you to turns 5+.

The second idea that I had was that I just wanted to take a variety of the dual lands, making sure I didn't have too many of any one color.  I knew that I needed to change the way I drafted, taking lands higher, but remembering what I had for lands and prioritizing what I still didn't have wasn't something I had thought about much before.  Thankfully, I was successful in this.

Of course, part of this is because Andy, sitting a couple of seats to my left, had a hunch I'd be going five color.  He had listened to the same podcast and, knowing that I would have as well, drafted under the assumption that I'd be going five colors.  I was also helped by the fact that the packs were just stacked, as disciplined drafters to my left and right took sensible mono-colored cards and shipped powerful multicolor cards that they weren't sure they wanted to commit to.  Here's where I ended up:

I'm not sure if that's exactly how I ended up with the basic lands. I mocked this up in modo to make it easy to see where I was.  I was amazed that, even with 9 non-basics, I still felt as though I wanted the banners for that extra bit of fixing.  And with a grand total of eight five-drops, I wanted the ramp.  With 18 lands and two banners, I certainly had a bunch of mana, and I ran the risk of just flooding out.

Balancing this out was the fact that a large number of cards in my deck amounted to just straight up two-for-ones.  Master the way operated functionally similar to prophetic bolt, and the soothsayer, warden of the eye, and bear's companion added additional value.  While not strictly a two-for-one, armament corps often had enough board impact that I'd name is as an honorary two-for-one.

In round 1, I found myself up against Andy, who had been sensible and played a solid, dependable, consistent sultai deck.  This led to one of the most insane games of magic I've ever been involved with where, in game 2, he resolved not one, but two villainous wealths.  The first villainous wealth revealed a warden of the eye, which allowed him to get wealth back from his graveyard for a reroll. And while I was able to navigate things such that I wasn't dead to his attackers, he had robbed me of all my real threats, and I wound up decking.  Game two took so long, with us both waging an attrition battle, that we ended up drawing the round at game three; indeed, game three began just as the round went to time.

The other memorable games came in round four, where at 2-0-1 I faced Blake's very aggresive Mardu deck.  Whereas the first round was all about value, this round boiled down to a simple game-plan: try to stay alive.  Blake is one of the more excellent drafters at our LGS, and has routinely blocked me from prize in the very last round, so I was hungry to win here.  Still, the odds seemed poor, as I mulliganed to five on game 2, already down a game, on the play.  Three lands, two spells - about the most you can ask for in a hand of five.

And despite being down so many cards, and being up against an aggressive match-up, I somehow managed to find myself holding it together.  An early highland game provided the creature I needed to block, winterflame was cast for full value, killing one threat while tapping down a mardu hordechief for a full attack step, and all the while my numerous life-lands kept my life total from going so low that I would have to make sub-optimal plays just to stay alive.  I needed a very specific combination of spells and lands to win that game, and fortunately the deck provided.

I ended the draft at 3-0-1, earning a very respectable amount of store credit.  But more than that, I felt like I had drafted in a way which prepared me for the current draft metagame.  People just want to beat down in this format, and by valuing incidental life-gain with my picks, I would routinely find myself out of the range of my opponents' reach.  I even gained a full eight life when both my sultai flayer and another blocker traded with my opponents' cards.  While it is possible to draft five color and have only the common-lands providing you with a life buoy, you're certainly running the risk of dropping a round to a timely arrow storm or charge of battle.

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