Tonight I had Andy Edwards round for some draft action. We did a draft where we 2-0'd twice then got the old screw-flood in the final. We had a Malfegor for kicks which we topdecked at precisely the right time, and during the draft I called a 4th pick Armillary Sphere and the exact slot it was going to appear in before the booster showed so we felt that whatever is the source of luck was being pretty nice to us. We therefore decided to go into another draft, one which was much more fraught with decisions.
In reports on drafting we often hear about 'signals'. These are important but it is never really made clear why. For the most part it is a matter of course of being responsive and seeing that our desired strategy is being taken, such as not getting any good fat creatures for a fatty Naya deck. Rather than pig-headedly carrying on with the picks we have, we need to exercise more self-control and respond to the signals. This can involve abandoning your previous picks completely (I once abandoned my first 6 picks to take the deck being shipped to me and won the draft) or simply altering your strategy to cope with the situation - such as taking WG weenie when the RG fatties are drying up.
The draft presented here is an extreme example - taking cards which fit in multiple strategies and being aware of those strategies and what we can easily abandon, so as to be completely aware of what's being shipped in time to salvage our picks:
------ ALA ------
Pack 1 pick 1:
Naturalize, Obelisk of Grixis, Resounding Scream, Bloodthorn Taunter, Knight of the Skyward Eye, Cavern Thoctar, Shore Snapper, Waveskimmer Aven, Coma Veil, Soul's Grace, Rockslide Elemental, Necrogenesis, Swerve, Clarion Ultimatum, Island
Nothing obvious here. When you have an unobvious opening pack there are two choices really - take something okay and force it, or take the best card and pretend the booster you get passed was the first. Knight of the Skyward Eye, Rockslide Elemental and Necrogenesis are the only cards worth considering here.
GW aggro is always terrible for me due to a lack of removal and bad exalted creatures in Alara Reborn, which means Knight is forcing Naya aggro = 1 strategy.
Rockslide Elemental fits in any deck playing red and most befits an aggro deck. Goes well in unearth, devour and weenie decks = 3 strategies.
Necrogenesis is a powerhouse, but is in an awkward colour combination. It looks like it fits only in Jund but secretly (don't tell anyone) you can splash it in a deck with only one of the colours main. Hence, this fits in control decks playing black and/or green = lots of stratgies, all of which are control.
We take the Necrogenesis after a lot of discussion and were prepared to abandon it but it is powerful, turning off Unearth and working wonders against Exalted.
Pack 1 pick 2:
Vectis Silencers, Resounding Silence, Deathgreeter, Kederekt Creeper, Cancel, Obelisk of Jund, Volcanic Submersion, Rakeclaw Gargantuan, Onyx Goblet, Spell Snip, Fatestitcher, Qasali Ambusher, Kiss of the Amesha, Plains
No card here clearly goes with the 'genesis, but we are prepared to change. The best cards are Resounding Silence, Fatestitcher and Kiss of the Amesha. Qasali Ambusher used to be great but has lost lustre recently as if you're not attacking in GW then you're not doing it right which means you generally have to hardcast the guy. So it therefore falls to the three blue-white cards. These all want to be in control decks and Kiss is the best in that role, so we take it. A GB and a UW card so far, great..
Pack 1 pick 3:
Cancel, Rakeclaw Gargantuan, Bloodthorn Taunter, Naturalize, Angelsong, Blister Beetle, Sighted-Caste Sorcerer, Tortoise Formation, Coma Veil, Skeletonize, Corpse Connoisseur, Jhessian Infiltrator, Plains
Best card here is Red.. We notice the second Rakeclaw Gargantuan and realise we are probably shipping Naya, which means some kind of UB based deck is mostly likely to be rewarding. At this point a 5-colour control deck could be the order to use all our picks and we're certainly not being shown a good aggro deck. Take Skeletonize.
Pack 1 pick 4:
Skeletal Kathari, Goblin Deathraiders, Mosstodon, Dragon Fodder, Gift of the Gargantuan, Filigree Sages (FOIL), Outrider of Jhess, Grixis Panorama, Infest, Scourge Devil, Behemoth's Herald, Mountain
Before this booster came up Andy and I were just saying how a 5cc deck really needs a mass removal spell. If you don't get Jund Charm this usually means opening Volcanic Fallout or Martial Coup. We get passed an Infest here and are very happy with it. 5 colour control with a black base is being presented to us here if 3 people passed Infest (which got better with the Blades).
Pack 1 pick 5:
Sanctum Gargoyle, Rip-Clan Crasher, Lush Growth, Gift of the Gargantuan, Obelisk of Bant, Incurable Ogre, Grixis Panorama, Carrion Thrash, Grixis Battlemage, Scourglass, Swamp
This booster is a very curious one. Clearly the person that opened it wanted to pass Esper signals by shipping Sanctum Gargoyle and Scourglass. However, the next 3 people didn't want to know about it. Therefore, it's decision time. If we take a Scourglass (Gargoyle is not an option due to power and decktype reasons) then we may put the guy to our left in Esper but we have already shipped some mediocre Naya and the guys to our right will pass us Esper in pack 3 (the better control cards are in pack 3, the better aggro ones in pack 2). If we take Grixis Panorama then we get a better manabase but are losing out on a fantastic card. We take the Scourglass and are tempted by 5-colour Esper control.
Pack 1 pick 6:
Cylian Elf, Lightning Talons, Naya Panorama, Onyx Goblet, Obelisk of Esper, Godtoucher, Gustrider Exuberant, Esper Battlemage, Scourge Devil, Mountain
Esper Battlemage is a great Esper control card and helps us ship Naya more.
Pack 1 pick 7:
Yoked Plowbeast, Kederekt Creeper, Savage Hunger, Coma Veil, Shadowfeed, Waveskimmer Aven, Tidehollow Sculler, Exuberant Firestoker, Forest
Tidehollow Sculler is a very good card for us. I always wondered when this guy gets taken, and now I know.
Pack 1 pick 8:
Ridge Rannet, Courier's Capsule, Akrasan Squire, Dispeller's Capsule, Godtoucher, Cathartic Adept, Lightning Talons, Plains
That's a very late Akrasan Squire, but the Courier's Capsule is for us. We have found our stategy and are going with it - hooray for being responsive to the cards!
Pack 1 pick 9:
Obelisk of Grixis, Resounding Scream, Bloodthorn Taunter, Shore Snapper, Coma Veil, Swerve, Island
Obelisk of Grixis is a card which is very good in 5cc decks.
Pack 1 pick 10:
Kederekt Creeper, Cancel, Volcanic Submersion, Onyx Goblet, Spell Snip, Plains
This pick isn't automatic but we took Kederekt Creeper as a sideboard card (deathtouch, you see).
Pack 1 pick 11:
Bloodthorn Taunter, Naturalize, Tortoise Formation, Coma Veil, Plains
One less Naturalize to face.
Pack 1 pick 12:
Filigree Sages (FOIL), Grixis Panorama, Behemoth's Herald, Mountain
Tabled the Panorama, nice.
Pack 1 pick 13-15
Carrion Thrash, Godtoucher, Forest
------ CON ------
Pack 2 pick 1:
Sedraxis Alchemist, Beacon Behemoth, Darklit Gargoyle, Unsummon, Armillary Sphere, Kranioceros, Valiant Guard, Grixis Illusionist, Yoke of the Damned, Vectis Agents, Hellspark Elemental, Elder Mastery, Viashino Slaughtermaster, Mark of Asylum, Forest
Nothing hugely exciting here, but Armillary Sphere is an auto-include in 5cc. It'll certainly help us splash anything off-colour if we want to. We are on the lookout for manafixing in Conflux, as always.
Pack 2 pick 2:
Absorb Vis, Kranioceros, Mana Cylix, Gleam of Resistance, Wild Leotau, Goblin Outlander, Constricting Tendrils, Tukatongue Thallid, Asha's Favor, Dragonsoul Knight, Spore Burst, Skyward Eye Prophets, Sigil of the Empty Throne, Island
Absorb Vis is manafixing and a decent control card. The pack is a bit light though, we don't expect to wheel anything significant.
Pack 2 pick 3:
Beacon Behemoth, Darklit Gargoyle, Unsummon, Armillary Sphere, Kranioceros, Valiant Guard, Grixis Illusionist, Yoke of the Damned, Vectis Agents, Gluttonous Slime, Fusion Elemental, Sludge Strider, Swamp
Decision time - think fast! Armillary Sphere, Fusion Elemental or Sludge Strider? Sphere removes our mana worries, Fusion Elemental is a huge creature and Sludge Strider pushes for Esper. Though we are resolved to be 5-colour, a stable manabase and on-colour spells is a good thing to have, splashing only for the best cards. If we are to take a creature, I much prefer Sludge Strider here as it stops leaking Esper control signals and Fusion Elementals do sometimes table.
Pack 2 pick 4:
Esper Cormorants, Aven Trailblazer, Kaleidostone, Toxic Iguanar, Scattershot Archer, Yoke of the Damned, Nacatl Savage, Wandering Goblins, Corrupted Roots, Fusion Elemental, Skyward Eye Prophets, Swamp
Another Fusion Elemental is good, sure, but Esper Cormorants is so on colour and a very big flier.
Pack 2 pick 5:
Zombie Outlander, Matca Rioters, Darklit Gargoyle, Asha's Favor, Nacatl Outlander, Grixis Illusionist, Exploding Borders, Lapse of Certainty, Paragon of the Amesha, Controlled Instincts, Island
At this point we are satisfied with the Esper strategy and take Darklit Gargoyle. We would still like to splash the off-shard bombs but a more solid spellbase is the key to 5cc really. He has evasion and allows us to play aggro if we need to.
Pack 2 pick 6:
Absorb Vis, Kranioceros, Mana Cylix, Gleam of Resistance, Constricting Tendrils, Tukatongue Thallid, Asha's Favor, Paragon of the Amesha, Aerie Mystics, Forest
Absorb Vis or Gleam of Resistance? Both are fine but we go Absorb Vis for the black focus to the deck (Infest etc).
Pack 2 pick 7:
Pestilent Kathari, Matca Rioters, Bone Saw, Constricting Tendrils, Court Homunculus, Molten Frame, Infectious Horror, Manaforce Mace, Forest
I want to take Court Homonculus, but Andy convinces me to take Matca Rioters. Both are unlikely to make the deck but I concede we have more support for a 4/4 or 5/5 Rioters.
Pack 2 pick 8:
Traumatic Visions, Zombie Outlander, Kaleidostone, Brackwater Elemental, Maniacal Rage, Nacatl Savage, Countersquall, Mountain
Traumatic Visions, Zombie Outlander or Brackwater Elemental? All require us to play blue, in which event manafixing is very much needed so we take the Visions.
Pack 2 pick 9:
Sedraxis Alchemist, Unsummon, Kranioceros, Valiant Guard, Grixis Illusionist, Elder Mastery, Forest
Sedraxis Alchemist. Some cards don't need thinking about.
Pack 2 pick 10:
Kranioceros, Constricting Tendrils, Tukatongue Thallid, Asha's Favor, Skyward Eye Prophets, Island
Skyward Eye Prophets. It's looking a bit slow now, hope Reborn is alright for us.
Pack 2 pick 11-15:
Vectis Agents, Scattershot Archer, Controlled Instincts, Constricting Tendrils, Forest
------ ARB ------
Pack 3 pick 1:
Wildfield Borderpost, Sewn-Eye Drake, Mistvein Borderpost, Glassdust Hulk, Bant Sureblade, Terminate, Demonic Dread, Offering to Asha, Firewild Borderpost, Naya Hushblade, Mask of Riddles, Wall of Denial, Etherwrought Page, Knight of New Alara, Swamp
We take Wall of Denial. An excellent control card. We would still like some kind of creature with which to win but are in some kind of decent shape.
Pack 3 pick 2:
Winged Coatl, Deadshot Minotaur, Veinfire Borderpost, Esper Stormblade, Deny Reality, Rhox Brute, Sigiled Behemoth, Zealous Persecution (FOIL), Grixis Sojourners, Ethercaste Knight, Kathari Remnant, Mage Slayer, Anathemancer, Island
Esper Stormblade is a fine creature with which to swing. We could occasionally aggro with it too, but just having a 3/2 flier is good.
Pack 3 pick 3:
Wildfield Borderpost, Architects of Will, Terminate, Cerodon Yearling, Deny Reality, Grizzled Leotau, Valley Rannet, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Shield of the Righteous, Sigil Captain, Tainted Sigil, Plains
*enter Dalek mode* TERRMINATE!!
Pack 3 pick 4:
Sanity Gnawers, Island, Grixis Sojourners, Valley Rannet, Sanctum Plowbeast, Igneous Pouncer, Demonspine Whip, Singe-Mind Ogre, Bant Sureblade, Pale Recluse, Stormcaller's Boon, Brainbite
This pick took a while, but we settled on the UW 2-drop in Bant Sureblade. There are a few manafixers in here which would have been nice, but you need spells to cast with all this fixed mana.
Pack 3 pick 5:
Unbender Tine, Forest, Godtracker of Jund, Igneous Pouncer, Esper Sojourners, Grizzled Leotau, Ardent Plea, Jhessian Zombies, Ethersworn Shieldmage, Naya Sojourners, Gorger Wurm
I wish Shieldmage had Fear so he would truly be the Spanish Inquisition SURPRISE! What a guy.
Pack 3 pick 6:
Architects of Will, Deny Reality, Grizzled Leotau, Valley Rannet, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Skyclaw Thrash, Drastic Revelation, Mind Funeral, Swamp
Andy makes me take Skyclaw Thrash. Very good pick, we are splashing anyway and he's an artifact.
Pack 3 pick 7:
Wildfield Borderpost, Architects of Will, Valley Rannet, Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Enlisted Wurm, Double Negative, Flurry of Wings, Forest
I repeat - "Pack 3 pick 7:". Enlisted Wurm...
Pack 3 pick 8:
Offering to Asha, Vithian Renegades, Mountain, Putrid Leech, Demonic Dread, Magefire Wings, Arsenal Thresher, Glassdust Hulk
Pack 3 pick 9:
Wildfield Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Demonic Dread, Offering to Asha, Mask of Riddles, Etherwrought Page, Swamp
Just the droid we were looking for, GW borderpost.
Pack 3 pick 10:
Deny Reality, Sigiled Behemoth, Kathari Remnant, Mage Slayer, Anathemancer, Island
Kathari Remnant is a solid control card, keeping dirt away all game and fetching up a creature to make up for the fact that you're playing a wall.
Pack 3 pick 11:
Bant Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Shield of the Righteous, Tainted Sigil, Plains
Sanctum Plowbeast helps us fix our mana.
Pack 3 pick 12-15:
Grixis Sojourners, Esper Sojourners, Sanctum Plowbeast, Forest
Another Plowbeast helps us fix the manas if we needs it. We came through with a good control deck in the end. We got a 4-11 one match with the Scourglass. Blew out a 12/9 First Strike creature with Shieldmage in the same game. One guy Unsummoned our Enlisted Wurm too, when he was in approximately zero danger, much appreciated.
With this article we make special mention to say goodbye to Damage on the Stack. Magic Online's update tomorrow brings with it the new rules. Farewell old friend, R.I.P. xxx