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The Road to Tourneyland: Casual Draft Night
By Mark Ortego
June 8, 2005
The Road to Tourneyland: Casual Draft Night at Blue Star Games
By Mark Ortego

I keep going back and forth about this but when I really think about it drafting is probably my favorite way to play Magic. I used to tout that it put everybody on an even playing field but you veteran drafters know THAT’s not true. The more you draft the better you get. Bud-a-Bing! It’s that simple.

Last Friday (June 3rd.) was kind of a case study on this thesis. There were only four of us but I’ll talk more about that later. The players were: Coach (from GASP), Young Beard (CPAer & GASP member), Grant (The Armageddon kid from last week’s Chaos Multiplayer game) and myself.

Unfortunately there were no Saviors packs to be cracked due to “The System” but no worries, I like Champion/Champion/Betrayer drafts just because I’m used to them. [DING! Case study note #1: “…I’m used to them.”] Rich, the store owner, has assured us all that Saviors product will soon be knocking at the door.

Since there were four of us prizes were 4 packs for 1st. and 2 packs for 2nd. And instead of single elimination we did a round robin format even though we really messed it up last time we did that by going nearly a full hour past closing time. Coach strongly suggested that we keep a time limit on matches (50 min.). We didn’t have random seating but I was glad I didn’t sit in between Coach and Young Beard just because they have drafted before, more Young Beard than Coach. [DING! Case study note #2: “…more Young Beard than Coach.]

Remember that dance song called “Things That Make You Hmmm”? Well Coach, once again, was passed a Cranial Extraction, see, last time we drafted he was passed a Cranial Extraction. Sitting next to Grant, who has never drafted before, really benefited Coach. [Ding! Case study note #3: “…who has never drafted before”]. Hmmmmmm.

As Young Beard had noted; the bad thing (Me: or good thing depending on your outlook) about drafting with four people is that the packs come back to you quicker. But that allows you to go a single color if you wanted to like Coach, who went straight red with a Kiki-Jiki leading the charge! I had some scary picks to make like; do I choose Kami of the Waning Moon (2B Creature– Spirit: 1/1 Flying and has “Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, target creature gains fear until end of turn.”) or do I choose Thief of Hope (2B Creature – Spirit: 2/2 Soulshift 2 and has “Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, target opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.”) but since I knew there was a better chance that the Kami would back, or another copy of it, due to it’s common rarity and the frequency of the packs rotation, I figured that the Thief was the better choice. And “yes”, the Kami DID come back, the same one. Now, even though it didn’t seem like a tough choice I had just picked Wicked Akuba (BB Creature – Spirit: 2/2 that has “B: Target player dealt damage by Wicked Akuba this turn loses 1 life”) and when you give it ‘fear’ that can make it a short game for your opponent.

I really didn’t think I’d write about this game so notes were not taken and since it was a casual draft I didn’t expect much to happen except having a good time, which we did. But here’s how the match records went:
Grant, playing an annoying “UW Control” deck which included Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and Azami, Lady of Scrolls and an army of small flying creatures, had an okay deck for it being his first time drafting. His match record:
Round 1 vs. Me: 0 – 2
Round 2 vs. Young Beard: 1 – 2
Round 3 vs. Coach: 1 – 2
Game record: 2 – 6
Match record: 0 – 3

Coach was playing “Mono-Red” but lacked a horde of small goblin creatures but fared better than last place:
Round 1 vs. Young Beard: 1 – 2
Round 2 vs. Me: 0 – 2
Round 3 vs. Grant: 2 – 1
Game record: 3 – 5
Match record: 1 – 2

Young Beard had started out drafting Red/Black but started noticing that green and some good white was available and changed to “GW Snakes”. His MVP card was a green sorcery that allowed you to put into play two 1/1 snakes tokens and when you played a non-token snake you could pull it from your graveyard and put it back into your hand….MAN, that was annoying! YB’s match record was:
Round 1 vs. Coach: 2 – 1
Round 2 vs. Grant: 2 – 1
Round 3 vs. Me: 1 – 2
Game record: 5 – 4
Match record: 2 – 1

I drafted a “BW Aggro-Control” deck with an intentional mana curve, which I had sorta been keeping ‘tabs’ on but not really. My first pack, first pick was Yosei, the Morning Star so white it was. After that my next couple of picks was strong in black and I knew Grant (to my right) wasn’t drafting black. The white dried up pretty quickly so I knew I would be more into Black with a splash of white. I really tried to pay attention to the kinds of creatures and spells I was taking because of the some of the abilities that made good on Spirit or Arcane spells. Here’s the list:

~1cc
2 Bile Urchin (Spirit)
2 Kami of False Hope (Spirit)
1 Hundred-Talon Strike (Arcane)
1 Ethereal Haze (Arcane)

~2cc
1 No-Dachi
1 Terashi’s Verdict (Arcane)
1 Candles’ Glow (Arcane)
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Nezumi Cutthroat
1 Wicked Akuba (Spirit)
1 Cruel Deceiver (Spirit)
1 Silent-Chant Zubera (Spirit)

~3cc
2 Horobi’s Whisper (Arcane)
2 Kami of the Waning Moon (Spirit)
1 Rend Spirit
1 Thief of Hope (Spirit)

~4cc
1 Cursed Ronin
1 Befoul

~5cc
1 Scuttling Death (Spirit)

~6cc
1 Yosei, the Morning Star (Spirit)

10 Swamps
6 Plains

The casting cost “curve” at a quick glance:
1cc: x-x-x-x-x-x
2cc: x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
3cc: x-x-x-x-x-x
4cc: x-x
5cc: x
6cc: x

Heh, nice curve

Number of Spirits: 12
Number of Arcane: 6

Not too bad of a deck, here’s my match record:
Round 1 vs. Grant: 2 – 0
Round 2 vs. Coach: 2 – 0
Round 3 vs. Young Beard: 2 – 1
Game record: 6 – 1
Match record: 3 – 0

I automatically thought playing against Grant was a given since he never drafted before but I should know by now that ‘assuming’ is bad. Of course, when I sit down to play a game of magic I expect to win but that’s different than assuming you’re going to win. The later will lead you down a rough road either to victory or defeat. When he slapped down that glass-spinner I knew I was going to have to work hard to beat him. He also had Lady of Scrolls out with another wizard in play this allowed him to rip through his deck. Alas, I DID win but Grant and his UW control deck gave me fits. Good for him!

Playing against Coach was kind of interesting because by this time I realized he was straight red and that all of his draws had the potential to be useful. I had a Horobi’s Whisper in my hand just waiting for that darn Kiki-Jiki and sure enough when he hit turn five he plopped it down and used it. I Horobi’d it away quickly.

Young Beard’s deck just kind of didn’t work for him in game one but game two he had that Sorcery that kept producing 1/1 snake tokens and it seemed that he kept drawing snake creatures and would bring back that sorcery again, JEEZSH! I had Nezumi Graverobber in my deck but I never saw it. I win game 1, he wins game 2 and game 3 was an actual beat-down race. Again, I didn’t take notes but I remember it being a slug-fest starting on turn 2 with his Humble Budoka and my Nezumi Cutthroat. I knew he had a couple of pump spells but I risked it near the end by not blocking his creatures and he had me at 1 life and he was at 4. He laid down a blocker after his attack but I blew it up with Befoul and worked my Cutthroat and Wicked Akuba and he was dead.

The ‘case study’ thing I mentioned earlier was not scientific but merely a close coincidence. But if you think about it, those who draft the most tend to win more. It’s not a hard and fast rule, you could be a longtime drafter and still stink in the grand scheme of things. I consider myself to be a just below average drafter but of the four of us, I’ve done it the most AND in a field of serious players (1800 ratings and better).

We all had fun and I think Grant really had a good experience with the draft because of his deck giving me fits and his taking a game win in his other matches, I hope he’s ‘hooked’ . I call these drafts “casual” because they aren’t sanctioned and other than my self no one else plays cutthroat-tournament style. I don’t really play that way but I play way smarter than I used to thanks to the “Wakefield 6” program. Remember that? You place a d6 next to you and for every mistake you make you turn it up by one number. If you reach six you’ve either lost, should be losing or should’ve lost the game. I also draft a little smarter, too. I try to do the following:
~Pick spot removal or pacifist spells (Black, Red, White or Blue).
~Creatures with evasion (Like Flying or Fear).
~Keep mental notes on mana curve.
~Look for cards with synergy but not one or two cards, lots of cards. (Example: Kami of the Waning Moon and Thief of Hope).
~Follow a very strict and regimented “40 cards only” deck. I only bring 40 sleeves, EVER!
~When in doubt I follow the basic building rule: 16 Creatures / 8 Spells / 16 Lands / 2 Colors
And lastly, I try to pay attention to the cards that are passed to me and take note on what’s NOT coming my way.

One more thing about drafting; I would like to mention that when you draft you should use sleeves and promote others to do the same. I have noticed that most places use the “house land box” which is okay but, without sleeves you can just about tell which are land cards and possibly manipulate them to your advantage. How? I’ll never tell!..................................Okay, I’ll tell: First, don’t use sleeves, then you separate your deck into two piles 1 with the draft cards and the other with land cards. Shuffle the two piles using the ripple method. The land cards tend to stick together more due to skin moisture residue from previous players. Have the deck cut, and there’s a very good chance that when you deal out your opening hand that if there’s one land card then there’s another right underneath it and possibly yet another. If not, simply reshuffle using the ripple method and deal six. I have never tried this 1.) because I LOVE sleeves, in fact, I’m obsessed with them, and 2.) Well that’s just dishonest.

Don’t believe me? Try it sometime at home, but it has to be with brand new right out of the pack cards and grubby land cards that you’ve had since Invasion. Again, THIS is not the hard and fast results but I’ve been told that a lot of ‘pro-tour’ wanna-be’s use this method. Beware!

I’m beginning to think I like to write. My Dad was a professor at San Jose State University during the 70’s and taught writing. He’s written several books (We are Chicanos & Bravo Road) about our culture (Mexican-Americans) but I didn’t grow up with him around so I wonder where my influence came from. My daughter loves to write stories (9 yrs. old) and they get pretty elaborate. Anyway, until I resume my regular internet access again I’ll be sporadic with these articles. Thanks for reading. Post comments, that’s the best way for me to tell if these are getting read.

The MML game is this week (Saturday June 11) and of course I’ll write a report about it. I’m currently in second place and just three points behind Kevin and his Black/Green, unfocused, 120+ card, PILE deck!

So, until then, I’ll be on that long and dusty road, to Tourneyland.

~Mark

Read More Articles by Mark Ortego!

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