Part one can be found here
We then adjourned for pizza and a general recap on draft one. Thoughts centered on whether Moxen and other traditional powerful cards were being overvalued. By contrast, grindy cards such as regenerating Trolls, Skeletons and Walls seemed to have over-performed.
We took these thoughts into a second draft, but with only time for two more rounds…
This time there was no Black Lotus and instead I settled early into a diet of red removal/direct damage taking Disintegrate, Fireball and two Lightning Bolts. I also picked up some solid red creatures including Uthden Troll and Fire Elemental.
Early in pack two I took Time Walk, however blue was being cut hard from both directions (I have no idea how I got passed Time Walk!) and I was never able to get a supporting colour for red going. As such, I was mono red, even more anomalously – without any Mons Goblin Raiders or Goblin Kings of mono red tradition.
What I did have however was a ‘big mana’ engine of Mana Vault, Mana Flare and Gauntlet of Might, to go with my three “X spells” (Disintegrate, Fireball and Rock Hydra)…
Match 1 – 1-1-1 vs UB tricks/control
Game one saw me play out a Mountain, only for my opponent lead with Black Lotus into Juggernaught! Fortunately I had Mana Vault in my hand, and I had removal, so went Mountain, Mana Vault, Fireball to dispatch the Juggernaught.
From there on, I was able to control the board with early creatures, whilst some Dredge Skeletons slowed my assault. However during this time I’d drawn my Mana Flare, to go with the Fork and Disintegrate in my hand. Fearing a Counterspell, I waited for my opponent to tap out of blue mana… Icy Manipulator and Prodigal Sorcerer came down from my opponent, and this was my chance! Tapping Mana Vault and one Mountain for Mana Flare. Then tapping five Mountains for ten red mana. Use eight, plus the remaining colourless from Mana Vault for a Disintegrate for 8 damage. Fork it? Take 16?
Onto game two…
Game two was very grindy, but is notable for several key moments. Firstly I prioritised developing my board by playing Gauntlet of Might, instead of Shattering Icy Manipulator. However this backfired as my opponent then Timetwistered my hand, including my Shatter, away!
The other play was one or two turns later, as my opponent cast Word of Command (the first time I had seen this card played). Ordinarily it seemed to be an advanced Mana Short, but here it was devastating – perhaps the best Word of Command ever cast since 1994! My Gauntlet of Might enabled my opponent to generate ten red mana, just enough to Fireball my two creatures for 4 damage and reset my board! I went from having lethal, to being put back in the stone age!
From there on my opponent edged me out with an Air Elemental as I attempted to race with some bodies on the ground…
Sadly we did not have time for a third game, so a draw was in the books.
Match 2 – 2-1 vs. BR Midrange
My last match of the night was against our gracious host, Scott, who had drafted a RB deck similar to my deck from the First draft.
Game one saw us exchange early blows and removal, before he was able to develop his board with Elementals and Vampires.
It was looking good for him, however he had not counted on my big mana finish! Having already deployed Mana Flare, I played Gauntlet of Might, meaning that Mountains tapped for 3 red each! I then unleashed a Fireball for 15 to the chops!
Game two saw me able to get in some early damage, before being pegged back by a Fire Elemental and friends. I then used Mana Flare to ramp, however it proved my undoing, as in doubling Scott’s mana also, and as I had left no blockers, it enabled him to pump a Dwarven Warriors with Howl From Beyond for an impressive +11/+0!
I had a chance still to escape with the win, and was able to next play a Wheel of Fortune to recharge my hand. Seeking direct damage, or failing that a creature, I instead hit my sideboarded Nev’s Disk and 6 Mountains! Scott however had drawn a Lightning Bolt, so was able to kill me in style!
Game three saw Scott get the upper hand with a Hill Giant, as I was stuck on three mana with a hand of four-drops. However I was holding Lightning Bolt and Fork, waiting for a second creature to arrive from Scott. Zombie Master came down, and I was then able to respond to an Unholy Strength by Bolting the Giant and Forking the Lightning Bolt to take out the Zombie Master!
From there on I drew my fourth Mountain and led with Roc of Kher Ridges, which immediately ate a Lightning Bolt from Scott. I then played out a Dragon Whelp, which I was able to ride to victory, with Scott’s removal exhausted!
Below are the other drafted decks from the second draft.
The first and most obvious point to note is that the afternoon/evening was tremendous fun and was enjoyed by all – especially as we were able to fit in two drafts.
The number of true creature “bombs” like Mahamoti Djinn, Lord of the Pit and Shivan Dragon are very limited. This means that often mid-range evasion creatures, or beefy Giants, Trolls and Spiders on the ground, are the most effective.
The lack of free spells or truly explosive early threats means that there is not a true tempo strategy available. Probably the closest form to this would be a combo/aggro deck involving Berserk and cheaper threats, however this was not anything that was found to be particularly easy to work by those who drafted Berserk in our drafts.
Control has some powerful options, with cards like Icy Manipulator and the regenerating creatures mentioned above allowing a player to stall the board until finding a bomb, whilst using counterspells situationally.
With each colour’s best threats typically being four and five drops, the games almost always came down to the battle of two mid-range decks. The common tropes of limited magic – evasion, straight-removal and combat tricks – were then used to break down opposing armies, or simply fly over them for the win.
The most distinct contrast to modern Magic is the lack of cantrips, meaning that card advantage is something that has to be obtained through other means. For example removing a creature which has been enchanted, or even the Circle of Protection cycle – able to deal with multiple cards at once – could be said to offer a version of card advantage.
Cards associated most literally with card advantage – namely Jayemdae Tome, Braingeyser and Ancestral Recall (and their card “disadvantage” cousins Disrupting Scepter and Mind Twist) – are amongst the best cards in the format, and were placed at a premium throughout by drafters.
Conversely the acceleration allowed by the Moxen and Black Lotus were probably less powerful than initially thought. Black Lotus does allow some broken early plays, however loses its potency late on. The Moxen did not seem especially broken, as gaining one turn on the opponent in the “race to play out one’s five drops” did not seem over-powered given that this usually did not result in a game-breaking creature hitting the board ahead of schedule. This was especially so when there are few opportunities to replenish one’s hand and then monopolise further on an early advantage.
Probably the best creature in the format is Serra Angel. However, White is probably the worst colour, with Swords to Plowshares and Serra Angel being supported by a fairly lack-lustre cast of Pearled Unicorns and Benalish Heroes.
Green offers some solid, if unspectacular creatures, however also features many weaker spells which are too situational or vulnerable to 2-for-1s (such as Aspect of the Wolf). Similarly to the problem with Moxen above, the ramp cards such as Llanowar Elves were probably limited by the options that players had with regard to what they could ramp into. Often a green player could hit a War Mammoth ahead of the normal curve, only to see the opponent’s Drudge Skeleton’s provide an ample response.
Blue features some extremely powerful creatures, such as Air Elemental and Water Elemental. However it’s notoriety, with having most of the most broken cards in the set (Ancestral Recall, Braingeyser, Time Walk, Timetwister etc.) meant that often Blue was spread very thin. As such, I wonder if its role in a draft format such as this is as a supporting colour, or a colour where you trade-off having access to several ‘top tier’ cards by also running some more mediocre cards from the colour.
Red and Black seemed strong, as discussed above, and each are very consistent colours, having good value and some versatility in the creature options available. They also have some of the premium removal that the format has to offer, including Fireball, Lightning Bolt and Terror.
This draft felt that a very pure expression of Magic – hugely nostalgic in terms of honest creature based battles, big Fireballs and making the most out of naff enchantments. It is a format best enjoyed in a non-competitive setting, and is perfect for after-hours gaming at Eternal competitions or more competitive cube meet-ups.
An early suggestion to improve the colour balance was to add additional Swords to Plowshares and some Moorish Cavalry, in order to improve White.
Exploring further Arabian Nights cards, such as Erhnam Djinn, could help give Green some more power also. Similarly there are some interesting control cards available, such as Old Man of the Sea and the fearsome Library of Alexandria!
However the inevitable path for such a cube is to incorporate cards up to 1994’s The Dark and to make this an Old School cube for all seasons. Alas, that is a draft that will have to wait for another day.