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Limited Casualties
By Alex Makhovykh
Hello fellow CPAians,

This is Alex and starting today I will be making a new series of monthly articles- Limited Casualties. In these articles I will describe something that Iíve been doing for a while now- booster drafts and especially Masquerade Block drafting, and my experiences within it. Iíve been doing it for a while now on Netdraft. For those of you unfamiliar with Netdraft, it is a program that allows you and other people to have booster or rochester drafts over the net. Netdraft and all of it updates are currently available at http://www.meridianmagic.com or http://www.dragonstudios.com/netdraft/ Netdraft is a great program to practice booster drafts and acquire important skills without spending any money. Overall, whether it is over the internet or with a couple of friends, drafts are a lot of fun. For those of you who donít know what booster drafts are or never had one, hereís what it is: you and a couple of friends sit around in a circle, and each player gets a booster pack. Then, each player takes a card and passes the pack to their right or left, whatever is decided. This process continues until there are no more cards left. Then the whole process is repeated 2 more times, reversing the order of packs being passed each time. After that each player builds a deck out of the cards he drafted and any basic land, and play games between each other. Netdraft stimulates this process, except for the fact that people draft over the net. In any case, there are some important things you have to know when drafting.

One of the most important things to know when you are starting to draft is the fact that creatures is the main weapon that will be used to help you win games in drafts. That means that if you see a big creature like Avatar of Fury, you should take it, because it will sometimes alone win you the game. One important thing that you have to realize when drafting: It is not a standard. Some cards that never see play in Type 2 can be considered extra-powerful in draft. For example, in Standard youíd almost never use an Avatar of Fury, because usually by the time you are able to cast it you will have already won the game, be in control, or lost. However, draft is a much slower environment. There will very often be situations where youíll be able to cast Avatar of Fury with its alternate cost, but even if you donít, its likely that the turn or two after you cast it, your opponent will be dead. Creatures are the base of all or almost all decks in draft. Some of the good creatures in draft are not only big creatures, but also creatures with evasion, such as flying, protection from colors, or other nifty abilities, such as Stormwatch Eagleís or those of Rebel or Mercenary recruiters. Masques offers you a lot of these: Ballista Squad, Blockade Runner, Cateran Enforcer, Corrupt Official, Devout Witness, Horned Troll, Nightwind or Thermal Gliders, Ramosian Lieutenant, Revered Elder, Stinging Barrier, Snorting Ghar, Thrashing Wumpus, or Two-Headed Dragon, and there are dozens more.

One of the other important things you should remember is that creature removal is also very important, as it is likely your opponent will be trying to get his creatures through to kill you. The best removal spells are those that can take out more than one creature, such as, in Masques, Brawl, Cave-In, Crooked Scales, Forced March, Kris Mage, Notorious Assassin, Puppetís Verdict, Silent Assassin, Shock Troops, Stinging Barrier, Thrashing Wumpus, Tremor, and Volcanic Wind. However, targeted creature removal is also important. Examples of that include: Arrest, Desert Twister, Lunge, Muzzle, Snuff Out, Thunderclap, and Vendetta. In the areas of creature removal Nemesis has Ancient Hydra, Arc Mage, Avenger En-Dal, Flowstone Armor, Flowstone Overseer, Laccolith Rig, Massacre, Parallax Wave, Plague Witch, Predator, Rathi Assassin, Rathís Edge, Seal of Doom, Seal of Fire, Topple, and Vicious Hunger. Prophecy also gives us some nice creature control in the form of Alexi, Avatar of Woe, Barbed Wire, Devastate, Excise, Flameshot, Mageta, Mercenary and Rebel Informers, Mine Bearer, Noxious Field, Outbreak, Plague Wind, Rhystic Lightning, Shield Dancer, Spitting Spider, Stormwatch Eagle and Task Mage Assembly.

Usually you would want to take one of the above cards as your picks. Sometimes itís a matter of figuring out which card is better, or whether you should counterdraft. For example, if there is a pack with a couple of cards that cant use and a removal card you canít use, you should probably take it. However, often the tough choices appear when there is a card you can use(ex. Flameshot), and a card that is very powerful for opponent that you canít use(ex. Jeweled Spirit). The question comes up: should you or not counterdraft. If you take Flameshot youíll have multi-targeted creature removal, but chances are that when you are gonna face against the Jeweled Spirit, youíll die very quickly. However, if you get out of your way to take the Spirit, you missed a perfectly good removal card that is not likely to come around. However, your opponent no longer has the ability to play the Jeweled Spirit, and your chances of winning are once again up a notch.

If you see a Lin-Sivvi in your second pack, and you are not drafting white, take it! Because if someone else next to you does, and they get their hands on him, youíre dead meat! Now try to draft some packs on apprentice, and see what your #1 picks would be. Here are some examples:

Mercadian Masques:
High Market
Kyren Legate
Molting Harpy
Sailmonger
Blaster Mage
Dark Ritual
Darting Merfolk
Giant Caterpillar
Horned Troll
Inviolability
Moment of Silence
Sever Soul
Silverglade Elemental
Stone Rain
Vendetta

Hereís an example of an OK pack. Since it is your first pick you get to choose one card and pass the rest around. High Market you donít really want, because thereís much better stuff in this pack. Kyren Legate is worthless, Molting Harpy has flying, which is not too bad. Sailmonger I would say is too risky, while you wouldnít want a Blaster Mage as your first pick. Darting Merfolk is a really nice blocker, while Giant Caterpillar is a beefy 3/3 that turns into a butterfly when someone tries to kill it ;-). Horned Troll is a very nice 2/2 regenerator. Inviolability can be killer when used on a big creature. Moment if Silence is not really good, while Sever Soul is a real decent removal spell. Silverglade Elemental nets you an untapped forest when it comes into play and is a beefy at 4/4 too. Stone Rain you wonít need, while Vendetta has a better replacement in Sever Soul. So, now that we broke the choice down to much 7 cards: Molting Harpy, Darting Merfolk, Giant Caterpillar, Horned Troll, Inviolability, Sever Soul, and Silverglade Elemental. Since there is not much blue or white to work with, weíll take out Darting Merfolk and Inviolability. Molting Harpy we can probably get rid of, even though it is a real decent evasion creature. This leaves us at 4 cards. Since thereís so much green, weíll probably leave Sever Soul to someone else. We are now left at 3 choices, and I personally would choose Silverglade Elemental, since itís the biggest creature with a nifty comes-into- play ability. However, Horned Troll and Giant Caterpillar are definite close seconds.

Nemesis:
Mana Cache
Coiling Woodworm
Dominate
Flowstone Thopter
Blastoderm
Defiant Falcon
Fanatical Devotion
Flowstone Strike
Flowstone Wall
Laccolith Whelp
Lightbringer
Oraxid
Parallax Dementia
Rathi Intimidator
Stronghold Discipline

Right away here some nice cards come up: Dominate, Flowstone Thopter, Blastoderm, Defiant Falcon, and Rathi Intimidator. Youíll probably want to take Blastoderm as a first pick in this pack, as it is the biggest, untargetable, and damage dealing creature, that will allow you to put your opponent in defensive position. Flowstone Thopter and Dominate are in the second place, with dominate getting a bit more edge, while Rathi Intimidator and the Defiant Falcon are fine 4th and 5th picks, as they are both evasion creatures that allow you to fish other creatures out of your deck.

Prophecy:
Rebel Informer
Darba
Root Cage
Windscouter
Coastal Hornclaw
Despoil
Glittering Lynx
Marsh Boa
Plague Fiend
Ridgeline Rager
Spiketail Hatchling
Spur Grappler
Trenching Steed
Troubled Healer
Wild Might

Cards you should consider taking: Rebel Informer, Darba, Windscouter, Coastal Hornclaw, Troubled Healer. Coastal Horclaw is out because Windscouter is a bit better. Rebel Informer gives almost a straight win against rebel based decks. Darba is just huge at 5/4 for 4 mana. Troubled Healer is just amazing in draft. He saves your creatures, in and out of combat, prevents damage to you, and at the same time makes use of all that extra land youíll have in the late game. The choice I would make here? A Troubled Healer. He helps you a lot especially in the late game. A choice youíd make? Up to you, and also what you think youíll be drafting will affect your decision.

One of the most important rules if you are just starting drafting: keep your deck 40 cards, with around 23 spells and creatures, and around 17 land. Also, make decks that are 2 colors, unless thereís something important to splash in for the third color, such as white into a red/black deck, in order to use Disenchants or Aura Fracture. However, donít splash in an extra color for the purpose of using something that has more than one colored mana, unless you have ways to produce different colored mana, like Hedge of Ramos or Harvest Mage.

Cards like Reveille Squad are also very important. The Squad allows you to tap out, especially with rebel searchers, and not be afraid of an attack. Stormwatch Eagle is a very important creature because it allows you to trade card for card with opponent- except heíll be trading his attackers for your lands.

Another important point in draft is that the cardís rarity doesnít matter, as there are much more useful commons than unuseful rares, and some commons are better than rares, even if the rare is good. For example, if you get Sheltering Prayers and Fault Riders in the same pack, the choice is obvious.

Also, there are a lot of decisions to be made when drafting. For example, in the final stages of boosters, if you have a choice between a card that can go in your deck, but you know youíre not gonna put in anyway, and something that might help your opponent a lot, you should counterdraft. Take that card, and feel a bit safer about what your opponent will be playing.

In order to fully understand draft the theory isnít enough, so I encourage everyone, to draft with their friends, or if you canít find enough money to do it, to draft on NetDraft, it is a truly great program. If you are looking for people to draft with, thereís usually some drafts going on in #apprentice on NewNet server. I usually either participate in drafts while Iím there, or host them. If you canít see any drafts going on, you can just start one yourself, and chances are that people will come and draft with you. After youíve drafted your deck, you can also play some of the people that drafted with you on Apprentice. By the way, I go there by the nick "AlexM" so if you see me, and want to draft, whether itís your first time or 100th time, message me, and Iíll do what I can.

Input is always welcome,

Thanks to everyone for reading this article, and I will see you in a month,

This is Alex,
Emperor of Squirrels
a.k.a. Superguy
superguy2000 on ICQ
superguy2099 on AOL Messenger

"Hatred outlives the hateful."

P.S. sorry for posting so little on the message boards. I had very little time to post, but I promise Iíll try to change that.

superguy98@hotmail.com

Read More Articles by Alex Makhovykh!

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