Sunday, 6 December 2009

Drafting with Wagz #6: Zendikar and Manabases

By Wagz

Hi all. My word it's been a while since I put up a draft. That's partially because I haven't been doing as well at Zendikar draft. What normally seems to happen is I draft a lot of good cards with a great curve and then draw all, none, or all the wrong colour land. It turns out that other people found this too and after reading an article by Ben Stark (linked here) I found out the key: make sure you draft spells you can realistically cast. What this tends to mean is draft a deck with one main colour and splash splashable spells in a second colour if you can possibly do so. Here is an unremarkable draft deck which didn't drop a game and the reasoning behind my choices:

Pack 1 pick 1:
Bold Defense, Plains, Ruinous Minotaur, Hideous End, Æther Figment, Demolish, Lullmage Mentor, Quest for Pure Flame, Explorer's Scope, Shieldmate's Blessing, Shoal Serpent, Beast Hunt, Kor Aeronaut, Molten Ravager, Grim Discovery

I obviously pick Hideous End there since it's about the best common in the set and the rest of the pack is a bit lacklustre for first pickiness. Hope it works out :). That's another thing, drafting mono-black often goes wrong because there are so many good first pickable black cards that lots of people try it just to spite you.

Pack 1 pick 2:
Umara Raptor, Geyser Glider, Vastwood Gorger, Island, Explorer's Scope, Grappling Hook, Oran-Rief Recluse, Quest for the Gemblades, Bold Defense, Ruinous Minotaur, Torch Slinger, Reckless Scholar, Surrakar Marauder, Gatekeeper of Malakir

...Interesting. There are two choices here as far as I see it - Umara Raptor and go UB allies or Gatekeeper for more mono-black. The second option looks decent here for the reason that the rare and uncommons are all still in the pack. Often black gets picked up because you open Marsh Casualties, Malakir Bloodwitch, Sorin Markov, Vampire Nighthawk or suchlike (or a less good black card like Ob Nixilis or something rediculous). If one of those cards was taken it would have to be Foil and we will be unlucky in our analysis. More likely is that Journey to Nowhere was taken and the guy is scared of going Black for the same reasons we are.

Pack 1 pick 3:
Teetering Peaks, Expedition Map, Tuktuk Grunts, Reckless Scholar, Hagra Crocodile, Graypelt Refuge, Carnage Altar, Vastwood Gorger, Harrow, Swamp, Kabira Crossroads, Steppe Lynx, Devout Lightcaster

I take the Hagra Crocodile with the hope of staying mono Black but the irony is that I don't like this guy loads in mono Black. He'll often make my deck but I prefer having Crypt Ripper and Nimana Sell-Sword and Heartstabber Mosquito. However, if I have to go Black and another colour then the Croc isn't so bad. It certainly sticks to the forcing theme anyway.

Pack 1 pick 4:
Slaughter Cry, Scythe Tiger, Turntimber Basilisk, Cancel (FOIL), Mountain, Soaring Seacliff, Expedition Map, Tempest Owl, Kazandu Refuge, Mire Blight, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Hedron Scrabbler

I maybe went too far here. I considered the Basilisk but wouldn't want that in the same deck as Gatekeeper. I decided to keep my options open by taking the Hedron Scrabbler but there is nothing wrong with Slaughter Cry to go BR (also not looking that open) or Kazandu Refuge to keep the options really open.

Pack 1 pick 5:
Trailblazer's Boots, Kor Sanctifiers, Blood Tribute, Tuktuk Grunts, Shatterskull Giant, Windborne Charge, Gomazoa, Savage Silhouette, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Forest, Vines of Vastwood

No black, I crack. I take Oran-Rief Survivalist because Green is looking open. I like this pick a lot because Black has a couple of good allies and this guy is good on turn 2 for beats or later on to trigger your other allies, so makes for a good splash card.

Pack 1 pick 6:
Seascape Aerialist, Noble Vestige, Oran-Rief Recluse, Spell Pierce, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Tempest Owl, Island, Tajuru Archer, Ior Ruin Expedition, Hedron Scrabbler

Less splashable but I take the Recluse because I might be having to move into Green. Sad Times.

Pack 1 pick 7:
Heartstabber Mosquito, Noble Vestige, Island, Tempest Owl, Joraga Bard, Cancel, Mindless Null, Sunspring Expedition, Quest for the Gemblades

Heartstabber Mosquito! Yay, maybe Black is still open after all. I now try to commit to Bg.

Pack 1 pick 8:
Landbind Ritual, Lethargy Trap, Blood Seeker, Vastwood Gorger, Bala Ged Thief, Sky Ruin Drake, Tanglesap, Swamp,

A decent Ally and will trigger the Sell-Swords to come.

Pack 1 pick 9:
Bold Defense, Plains, Demolish, Lullmage Mentor, Shieldmate's Blessing, Shoal Serpent, Beast Hunt

Pointless rare-grab.

Pack 1 pick 10:
Vastwood Gorger, Island, Explorer's Scope, Oran-Rief Recluse, Quest for the Gemblades, Bold Defense

Considered the Gorger but Gemblades is really strong.

Pack 1 pick 11:
Expedition Map, Graypelt Refuge, Carnage Altar, Vastwood Gorger, Swamp

Big splashable dude.

Pack 1 pick 12:
Mountain, Soaring Seacliff, Tempest Owl, Mire Blight

Pack 1 pick 13:
Trailblazer's Boots, Blood Tribute, Forest

Pack 1 pick 14:
Spell Pierce, Island

Pack 1 pick 15:
Sunspring Expedition

------ ZEN ------

Pack 2 pick 1:
Inferno Trap, Kor Sanctifiers, Harrow, Giant Scorpion, Marsh Casualties, Heartstabber Mosquito, Ravenous Trap, Soaring Seacliff, Lavaball Trap, Plains, Reckless Scholar, Savage Silhouette, Adventuring Gear, Kabira Crossroads, Highland Berserker

Marsh Casualties, yay! Love that card, so unfair. I hate it when I play against it however :p.

Pack 2 pick 2:
Vastwood Gorger, Nimana Sell-Sword, Kraken Hatchling, Giant Scorpion (FOIL), Kor Skyfisher, Sejiri Refuge, Seismic Shudder, Mark of Mutiny, Bladetusk Boar, Needlebite Trap, Whiplash Trap, Adventuring Gear, Turntimber Grove, Mountain

Sell-sword is a droid I was looking for, as mentioned earlier.

Pack 2 pick 3:
Zendikar Farguide, Soul Stair Expedition, Trailblazer's Boots, Trapfinder's Trick, Oran-Rief Recluse, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Island, Soaring Seacliff, Cosi's Trickster (FOIL), Murasa Pyromancer, Heartstabber Mosquito, Plated Geopede, Khalni Heart Expedition

I consider the Pyromancer for a while but Heartstabber is brilliant and mono-black.

Pack 2 pick 4:
Stonework Puma, Mountain, Ondu Cleric, Hagra Crocodile, Shatterskull Giant, Spreading Seas, Windrider Eel, Savage Silhouette, Seismic Shudder, Magosi, the Waterveil, Hedron Scrabbler, Quest for the Gemblades

I consider a second gemblades or crocodile but Stonework Puma is good. Black can also lack 3 drops sometimes.

Pack 2 pick 5:
Narrow Escape, Kor Sanctifiers, Landbind Ritual, Caravan Hurda, Expedition Map, Nissa's Chosen, Goblin War Paint, Desecrated Earth, Surrakar Marauder, Forest, Caller of Gales

Curve dude in the Marauder.

Pack 2 pick 6:
Landbind Ritual, Grim Discovery, Swamp, Kor Sanctifiers (FOIL), Sunspring Expedition, Spell Pierce, Arrow Volley Trap, Kor Outfitter, Joraga Bard, Shoal Serpent

Hatedraft the Arrow Volley Trap.

Pack 2 pick 7:
Molten Ravager, Mindless Null, Sunspring Expedition, Soul Stair Expedition, Teetering Peaks, Brave the Elements, Hagra Crocodile, Swamp, Tempest Owl

I take Mindless Null but it's that or Crocodile. I have plenty of 4 drops and want more 3 drops though.

Pack 2 pick 8:
Paralyzing Grasp, Blood Seeker, Kazandu Refuge, Piranha Marsh, Plains, Lethargy Trap, Tanglesap, Cosi's Trickster

Blood Seeker is curve dude.

Pack 2 pick 9:
Kor Sanctifiers, Giant Scorpion, Ravenous Trap, Soaring Seacliff, Plains, Reckless Scholar, Kabira Crossroads

Giant Scorpion is a good card to table. 1/3's are decent but Deathtouch is great.

Pack 2 pick 10:
Giant Scorpion (FOIL), Sejiri Refuge, Seismic Shudder, Needlebite Trap, Turntimber Grove, Mountain

Obv 2nd Scorpion.

Pack 2 pick 11:
Zendikar Farguide, Trailblazer's Boots, Trapfinder's Trick, Island, Khalni Heart Expedition

I take the Farguide for the Green mirror. Taking sideboard cards is a fine art ;).

Pack 2 pick 12:
Mountain, Hagra Crocodile, Spreading Seas, Quest for the Gemblades

I think I'm allergic to Hagra Crocodile or something but I love the second Quest for the Gemblades.

Pack 2 pick 13:
Desecrated Earth, Forest, Caller of Gales

Sideboard card in the Desecrated Earth. Punishes Valakut or too many colour decks.

Pack 2 pick 14:
Landbind Ritual, Swamp

Pack 2 pick 15:

------ ZEN ------

Pack 3 pick 1:
Heartstabber Mosquito, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Kor Sanctifiers, Demolish, Quest for the Gravelord, Relic Crush, Mountain, Spidersilk Net, Zendikar Farguide, Goblin Ruinblaster, Bog Tatters, Archmage Ascension, Hedron Crab, Vampire's Bite, Zektar Shrine Expedition

A few good cards here but I love the Gravelord. 5/5 is humungous and it's very curve-tastic.

Pack 3 pick 2:
Cliff Threader, Savage Silhouette, Caller of Gales, Mark of Mutiny, Graypelt Refuge, Giant Scorpion, Adventuring Gear, Windrider Eel, Cobra Trap, Nissa's Chosen, Goblin War Paint, Terra Stomper, Narrow Escape, Forest

Might splash it, you never know. 3GGG isn't too bad a splash right?

Pack 3 pick 3:
Steppe Lynx, Tanglesap, Lethargy Trap, Quest for Pure Flame, Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Desecrated Earth, Kor Aeronaut, Ior Ruin Expedition, Kraken Hatchling, Æther Figment, Makindi Shieldmate, Goblin Bushwhacker, Plains

Raredraft Emeria, no reason.

Pack 3 pick 4:
Nimbus Wings, Explorer's Scope, Vampire's Bite, Trapfinder's Trick, Mountain, Sky Ruin Drake, Spell Pierce, Runeflare Trap, Magma Rift, Summoner's Bane, Pillarfield Ox, Relic Crush

Sideboard card Relic Crush. Am I really getting hosed out of black now?

Pack 3 pick 5:
Vampire's Bite, Quest for Pure Flame, Plains, Paralyzing Grasp, Ruinous Minotaur, Scythe Tiger, Nimbus Wings, Stonework Puma, Trapfinder's Trick, Pillarfield Ox, Relic Crush

Puma is another ally. I'm not liking the deck much but it's stable at least.

Pack 3 pick 6:
Lethargy Trap, Tanglesap, Goblin War Paint, Blood Seeker, Forest, Primal Bellow, Oran-Rief Recluse, Quest for Ancient Secrets, Kor Cartographer, Surrakar Marauder

2nd Marauder, good creature.

Pack 3 pick 7:
Forest, Expedition Map, Swamp (FOIL), Mark of Mutiny, Graypelt Refuge, Savage Silhouette, Giant Scorpion, Cliff Threader, Cobra Trap

3rd Giant Scorpion is always welcome, especially with that Gravelord. The guy is almost unblockable if you do try to attack with it.

Pack 3 pick 8:
Stonework Puma, Blood Seeker, Mold Shambler, Hagra Crocodile, Swamp, Nissa's Chosen, Teetering Peaks, Brave the Elements

Mold Shambler is a great dude offering a maindeck solution to a variety of problems.

Pack 3 pick 9:
Demolish, Relic Crush, Mountain, Spidersilk Net, Bog Tatters, Archmage Ascension, Vampire's Bite

Sideboard Tog Batters for the mirror.

Pack 3 pick 10:
Caller of Gales, Graypelt Refuge, Cobra Trap, Nissa's Chosen, Narrow Escape, Forest

I take the Nissa's Chosen just in case I decide to splash Terra Stomper.

Pack 3 pick 11:
Tanglesap, Lethargy Trap, Quest for Pure Flame, Ior Ruin Expedition, Plains

Pack 3 pick 12:
Trapfinder's Trick, Mountain, Spell Pierce, Runeflare Trap

Pack 3 pick 13:
Quest for Pure Flame, Scythe Tiger, Trapfinder's Trick

Pack 3 pick 14:
Lethargy Trap, Forest

Pack 3 pick 15:

Quest for the Gravelord
2 Quest for the Gemblades
Blood Seeker
2 Surrakar Marauder
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Hideous End
3 Giant Scorpion
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Oran-Rief Recluse
2 Stonework Puma
Nimana Sell-Sword
2 Heartstabber Mosquito
Bala Gad Thief
Mold Shambler
Marsh Casualties
Bog Tatters
5 Forest
13 Swamp

In the Quarters I make turn 2 Blood Seeker to which he replies turn 2 Luminarch Ascension. I make a Giant Scorpion and more dudes and he never blocks me and I soon finish him off - I have the kicked Recluse for his Living Tsunami to take it. Game 2 I play out some guys and Marsh Casualties into Recluse for the Tsunami once more takes the race of turn 2 Blood Seeker, turn 3 Scorpion, turn 4 Shambler, turn 5 Casualties turn 6 Kick versus turn 3 Umara Raptor, turn 4 Living Tsunami, turn 5 Kor Cartographer.

The Semis in game 2 I keep 3 forest, swamp, 3 black guys including gatekeeper. I can do this because I have plenty of non colour-intensive cards and nearly all my other lands are swamps. This is where drafting and building your deck properly plays off - not getting colourscrewed to kingdom come.

The Finals are against mono-Red. I don't have the replay to game 1 in this or the semis but I keep 2 swamps, 2 marauder, forest, blood seeker, gravelord. Turn 1 gravelord, turn 2 and 3 marauder versus adventuring gear, highland berserker, equip landfall and seismic shudder isn't the best (he was on the draw) but i nearly powered up the gravelord this way. I make scorpion to trade and he makes ruinous minotaur with goblin war paint the next turn. I'm happy to trade my gravelord for this, leaving me with a mosquito in play with 4 lands and a blood seeker plus mold shambler in hand. He had the Valakut I expected of a mono-red deck at this point so I was going to sit on my Mold Shambler until I hit the 6 since I already had 2 Forests. I draw Swamp, Forest, Scorpion then 2 lands but he hasn't drawn anything relevant and reveals that having Mold Shamblered him to 5 lands he had Hellkite Charger and Goblin War Paint in hand.

So the moral is that the successful Zendikar decks are not the ones with the ridiculous bombs but rather the decks with the good curves and manabase. The thing I missed about the manabase earlier is that you should go for a 1.5 colour deck - One with a Splash. If you haven't had the best luck in Zendikar recently then try applying this thinking to your draft process. I hope it helps you out.



  1. Note to self - use Ben Peebles-Mundy's excellent draft converter tools at

    next time :)

  2. I know this draft was a while ago, but still, here's my feedback (whether you want it or not :) ).
    Pack 1 pick 4, personal preferance here, shrine may be a worse topdeck, but it's certainly powerful having a better lightning axe free of charge later in the game.
    Pack 1 pick 5, Tuktuk grunts over survivalist. Bg is an awful combination and red is also more powerful generally.
    Pack 2 Pick 3. Pyromancer over mosquito. I'd be in red instead of green by now but it also goes with all of your other good allies.
    Pack 3 Pick 2. Giant scorpion over terra stomper. You can never have too many scorpions and there's not really much need to splash for a 2nd colour at all considering how good your black is.
    Pack 3 pick 4. Vampire's bite over relic crush. You would table relic crush plus vampire's bite is really good in a lot of scenarios, especially the kicker.
    Pack 3 pick 8. Either puma or blood seeker over mold shambler. Similar to the terra stomper thing, mold shamblers not really good enough to play another colour. I'm not sure exactly how many allies you have, but i expect it's enough to pick the puma over another blood seeker.

    Ben Scoones