The Best Weekend of the Year (Part 2)

By Henry Moore

For Part one of Henry's Nationals Report check it out here - Editor

As many of you know by now, I didn’t win out -  Quite the contrary, actually. To preface my Nationals Draft 1, let me give you an overview of my views of core set Limited, and in particular M12 (because things have changed since 9th edition).

In the past, core set draft has always been about card advantage. Generally, the power level of the cards was quite low, meaning that you’d be unlikely to win on the back of your creature quality, or on the quality of your removal. Obviously, having a lot of good removal was good, and having a lot of the better creatures was also good. But in general, generic deck A with quality cards would only beat quality deck B (which also had a similar level of good cards) in a normal match if deck A had more cards that generated card advantage. Cards like Divination and Mind Rot are good examples. Simply put, cards that either give you more cards, or deprive your opponents of more cards than the one you used. Mind Control was always insane (and still is; that will never change in core set) because not only did you deprive your opponent of their best card, you gained the value that they would have gained by controlling it. By now, a lot of you will be banging your heads on the desk because you know this already, but it’s relevant to my point.

However, this whole idea doesn’t really ring true anymore. Sure, Divination is still fine, so is Mind Rot, but WotC have made a huge effort to make core set a competitive and diverse draft format. In M11 they did a really good job, and I think they’ve done even better in M12. In M11 you could draft really good decks based around a strategy, rather than just taking the best card every time you were passed a pack. Notable strategies included GW Infantry Veteran and the RB Bloodthrone Vampire/Act of Treason deck. I’m not sure whether the strategies came out from the fact that the core set was just seeing a lot more competitive play or because of the actual set design (or a mix of the two), but I remember M11 being fun to draft. In M12, they reprinted a couple of old keywords, and designed cards that interact in a really interesting way with these keywords.

The more obvious of the two is Bloodthirst. What I like about Bloodthirst is that it lets you play a VERY aggressive deck. Cards like Blood Ogre and Gorehorn Minotaurs are very well costed if you can reliably trigger Bloodthirst, and there are a lot of cards that let you do so. Tormented Soul, Goblin Fireslinger, Goblin Tunneler and Scepter of Empires are all fine cards in the Bloodthirst deck. What this mechanic did for core set is that it stopped blue from being the obviously best colour (well, I still think blue is the best, but I’m biased). You don’t have as much time to grind out value with your Merfolk Looter when your opponents are beating you around the head with 4 mana 5/5s and 3/3 first strikers. Multiple cards that ping a player also stack up quite well. While your opponent might have the Doom Blade for your Minotaur, eventually they will still die to two 1-damage-to-the-heads per turn.

The other is hexproof. This is only printed on a few creatures (Gladecover Scout, Aven Fleetwing and Sacred Wolf at common, to be exact), but you can often pick these creatures up quite easily because of the fact that they’re not terribly good by themselves. What you lose in raw power though, you gain in synergy. There are a ton of cards in M12 which reward you for picking up a bunch of these guys. You may have to stretch out to three colours to get there, but you don’t necessarily have to be blue if you pick up a ton of the green men. Cards like Trollhide, Spirit Mantle and Goblin War Paint are all quality when you stick them on a 3/1 that your opponent can’t target. That’s a pretty fast clock. It’s interesting to me to play with cards that I normally don’t get a chance to (auras), and for them to be quite powerful instead of just cute. Trollhide is actually a pretty good card on any dork if you play it right. If you keep regeneration mana up, just about the only cards that can punish you are incinerate (if the guy is still an X/3) and the blue cards which bounce creatures (hint: Aether Adept, one of my favourite cards in the set for limited).

Either way, the games end up being quite fast. Bloodthirst in particular ends games really quickly. Being used to defaulting to UW fliers, I found this a bit of a hard lesson to learn at first. I’ve learned a lot since then, but at Nationals I was just starting to work things out. In this draft, I ended up BR Bloodthirst (see? I can take things on board!). It was a frustrating draft. I knew red and black were open, but I wasn’t rewarded for reading the signals. I would consistently get the okay red and black cards, and none of the insane ones. I ended up with three Wring Flesh and I think two other removal spells (Incinerate and Fireball, both of which were second picks in the later packs). I know I wasn’t being stubborn, because the other colours were well cut off. The worst part about it was that I passed the ‘bad’ Bloodthirst cards, hoping that they would wheel and that I could actually gain value out of packs. However, I just never got anything back. Admittedly, the packs were probably too weak for me to expect a decent second card, but I don’t feel like I could have justified the synergistic cards over the more powerful cards on the first wheel.

Round 1, I played William Poor. This was really annoying for a couple of reasons. The first was that he was directly to my right, so he knew a lot of my deck. I think I may have slammed the Fireball he passed me too eagerly in pack 3, which probably tipped him off. I mean, Fireball can be splashed, so it wasn’t completely face up, but I guess I William just called me out and was right. The second and more relevant reason was that William’s deck contained the following: Aegis Angel, Frost Titan, Day of Judgment, Sphinx of Uthuun, Djinn of Wishes and I believe a Gideon Jura as well. Well played William, well played. I THINK I could have won at least a game in this match, but his deck WAS really good. It didn’t really matter though, since I drew five lands in two games and never really got anywhere. 

So at this point I was at 1-3 and on the verge of rage-quitting. I stayed put though, because I could make top 8 if I won out, and at Nationals you have to back yourself in those situations. It’s a long tournament and you can take three losses and still get there. In the next round, I played the guy who was taking all of my Tormented Souls and Stormblood Berserkers. The games weren’t very exciting, as I drew a bunch of my aggressive creatures and managed to dome him out with my Fireball both times.

Round 3, I played against Jay Lamont, who had some kind of green-black-red concoction. I lost game one to a pretty coin-flip decision (I feel, but maybe it was just bad). He was on the play, and started out forest, Llanowar Elves. Normally I would never snap kill Llanowar Elves, however my hand was pretty slow. I probably wasn’t winning if he followed up his elf with a big 3 drop, so I decided to use my Wring Flesh on it. I figured that would slow down the game enough that when he played his green fatties I would hopefully have drawn some more removal, or have enough of a board presence to leverage a Slaughter Cry or something. Of course, his next play was on turn three, and it was a Jade Mage. I looked down at my hand of X/1s and sad-faced. I don’t even remember game 2, as I lost it fairly easily and was full of table-flip-inducing rage.

So that was my Nationals tournament. I dropped, and went over to collect my second draft set. (Thanks for that one Rob…if you’re reading, it wasn’t something I expected. Always nice to get a little surprise value!) It was very frustrating to leave Nationals like that. I only really have myself to blame for the constructed rounds. If I had played better, it’s possible that I could have entered the draft portion at 2-1 or 3-0, and from that point, the draft portion ends up completely different as I’m in a different pod with different packs and different drafters. While it’s not worth dwelling or trying to dream up ‘what ifs’, I think a certain amount of reflection is needed if you intend to follow up a crushing loss in the most prestigious New Zealand tournament of the year with a string of other tournaments. And boy, did I have intentions.

There was a GPT on Saturday afternoon, and come hell or high water I was going to be in it. It was a small tournament, only twelve people, but it was a free-roll (thanks again, Alan ;P) and I knew at the time that I would most probably be going to Brisbane, so I thought I might as well mise some byes. I had settled on my deck, mostly because I didn’t have any other deck with me and I couldn’t be bothered scavenging for Timely Reinforcements, but being a bit out of my mind with post-nationals-drop hysteria, I decided to change up my sideboard for the fun of it. It turned out to be an awesome idea. Enough people have seen me play this deck for me to not care about revealing ‘the tech’, so here goes: I had a Oxidda Scrapmelter sleeved in my sideboard for Nationals, but

the whole time I had a box in my bag which included another 4-drop from M12. His name is Master Thief, and he is a stone-cold boss. You think Scrapmelting a Spellskite is good? Try Master-Thiefing it. Yes, ‘thiefing’ was deliberate. Anyway, I didn’t really back myself on this tech, but I figured it’d be cool to try it in a twelve-man tournament, so I ran it. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made as far as sideboards are concerned. Ok, ok, some credit goes to Matt Griffin. He had one in his 15 1-of sideboard for nationals, and I was inspired by the fact that he had included it in his list. The tournament was fairly uneventful. I managed to make top four without TOO much drama. I did lose the last round, but luckily had good enough breakers to make the cut. Now, this is the point where I’m going to pick my bone: I really have a problem with people playing bad cards. Like, I can deal with people playing Copperhorn Scout in elves. It’s pretty bad, but it does a job in the elf deck. And I can totally get behind Ornithopter when you can play a turn one 2/2 flier because of it, or you get to make it a 2/4 on turn three. But I CAN’T deal with people playing terrible cards in their main-deck to ‘metagame’. The card I’m talking about here is Torpor Orb. Now, I like Torpor Orb. It’s a nice niche role player in Standard, and there are decks that it fits in. Oh, wait, did I say decks? I meant deck. It fits in Tezzeret as a 2-of in the sideboard. The only reason this card makes it there is that you can make it a 5/5 and loot it up with the planeswalker. I totally like that. It’s good. It is NOT good as a 4-of in the maindeck of a UW control deck. This wasn’t playable when Stoneforge Mystic was legal, so how is it good now? This kind of thing really annoys me. I mean sure, I probably wouldn’t be annoyed if the card was like, Creeping Corrosion or something. But my point is, why would you do that? In a lot of matchups, the card literally does nothing. If you draw a hand with one against mono-red, you’ve mulliganed without having a choice. What if you draw two? That is SO bad. It’s not metagaming if you’re playing cards that are literal blank cards in more than one matchup. That’s called bad deck building. I could continue this rant for at least another paragraph, but I think I’ve made my point.

Frustratingly, I lost to this UW deck in the final round of the swiss, and then again in the semis of the top four. The thing that annoys me the most though is that I feel like the person who played the Torpor Orbs now feels that they’re justified in playing them. Anyway, I waved goodbye to my…byes, and scoped out Nationals. Aaron was still doing well, and Max (the day one wonder) was X-0 as is standard at all NZ tournaments bigger than a PTQ.

Why is it that this report keeps ending in bad beats? Tune in next time, where I recover from the Torpor Orb crushing and make a run at the Sunday PTQ! Will I salvage my terrible weekend with a triumphant blue envelope?! Most of you know already, but shut up and read my next article! Also, there will be no more mentions of Aaron from this point on until the end of the Nationals report. He will be known as ‘some guy’. See how you like it, you gigantic troll.

Continue to stay tuned!


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