Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It Can Only be Magic

(This was from a game night way back in October - it just took this much time to finish writing up the thing. - Rick)

Saturday night gaming at The Lily Pad rolled around, and my first words through the door were "let's draft!"

This could mean two things - either we were going to get our NBA fantasy basketball league draft going, or we were going to follow through on plans made the previous week.

The Frog pulled four chairs up to the table, and grabbed shiny packs from a box. Erik, Annie and I took the other three spots, and ripped open brand new Ravnica boosters.

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I hadn't played Magic: the Gathering in years except for a duel or two here and there with other peoples' constructed decks. Erik and The Frog still played Type I on occasion, just to put their power stuff through the paces. The Frog got the bug a couple of weeks ago and sprang for a box of the newest MtG expansion.

The smell of opening a new booster brought back great memories when MtG was THE game for all of us. The smell was a little off though, sort of muted. The Frog told me that they had shifted production from Carta Mundi, long the printer for MtG, back to North America. I guess the strong Euro had something to do with that.

I pulled out the cards and flipped through the art. I'd been away a long time - no more Richard Kane Ferguson, no more Drew Tucker, no more Phil Foglio, no more Brian Snoddy. The art was still very good though, always a hallmark of MtG. A lot of the abilities were new, but true to form the ability text was usually on the card.

With that in mind, we began to draft.

Booster draft remains my favorite limited format, over Sealed Deck (unmitigated luck) and Rochester Draft (slow). Allowing for a bit of time to read the cards, we accelerated the pace. Ravnika is a set that explored cards with two colors. It used to be that these were Legends; not anymore, though many of the two-color cards are pretty nice.

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Since I was definitely rusty, I defaulted to a removal/creature strategy, which meant either red or black for the removal and green or white for the critters. I didn't want to fiddle with tricky blue magic. Luckily, I got to draft some red cards, and some white cards. There wasn't a lot of good red removal early, but I took a couple of decent ones - Fiery Conclusion, which is a Goblin Grenade for all critters, and Galvanic Arc, an enchantment that fired a Lightning Bolt when you brought it into play. It would turn out that the first card I took overall, a red/white Legend named Agrus Kos, would be the strongest creature in my deck.

The second pack gifted me with the uncommon Lightning Helix, a combination Lightning Bolt and Healing Salve. This round also provided most of my useful creatures in both colors, including more of the pretty strong red/white Boros Legion.

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The last pack provided two more big cards. One was very cool, but fairly unplayable - the Boros Archangel, Razia. The other was more important: the special land Sunhome, which gave a creature the double strike ability. It cost 4 mana to activate, but in a limited environment that usually wasn't prohivitive. (Unlike, say, Razia's 8 casting cost).

Construction time. I put in all of the red/white creatures I drafted, and a few choice reds and whites (the whites mostly for their flying ability). I also decided to play with the Crown of Convergence even if I had no green mana sources in my deck - even if I couldn't cycle my deck, the +1/+1 the Crown would grant would occur more than usual due to my two-color creatures. As usual, I toed the line with mana sources, going with a pretty low 14/40. My deck's mana curve was reasonable, with a couple of goblins and assorted smaller creatures to back up the 4s and 5s. If I manascrewed once in a 3-duel match, it would be ok.

We paired off.

Round 1: Rick vs. Annie

Annie was running a black and blue bruise deck that had a fair number of flyers and some nasty black creatures. This match was all about the Boros Trumpeteer, one of my red/white critters. It had the ability to prevent a creature from attacking or blocking, which helped immensely as Annie's deck threw out creatures fairly quickly. Argrus Kos appeared in both duels, and the match was mine. Rick 2-0.

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Round 2: Rick vs Erik

Erik had a fun critter-filled green/white deck that had token creatures as a side-theme. I saw this firsthand in the initial duel as I got steamrolled due to slow mana development even after one mulligan. In the second duel, Erik got going quickly again but I had some removal. The Galvanic Arc and the Lightning Helix appeared, and my creatures held out long enough for Sunhome to appear. With enough mana to operate it, and with multiple creatures enhanced by the Crown of Convergence and Agrus Kos, even Erik's fat green creatures could not hold out for long. The third duel saw Sunhome appear again, and featured Razia for the first (and only) time that evening. Rick 4-1 duels, 2-0 matches

Round 3: Rick vs The Frog

Frog had lost his matches with Erik and Annie, so he wasn't feeling to confident about his black/green deck. All I recall here is that it went fairly quick. My deck's mana curve kicked in nicely and I won both duels without the help of Agrus Kos or Razia.

Postmortem:

My red/white deck was very powerful. In a booster draft, if you can get away with drafting a lot of the Boros cards, do so (though no one should let you). Sunhome in particular was impressive, as double strike combines with first strike to steamroll. The direct damage is expensive (Helix) and unconventional (Conclusion) or both (Galvanic Arc) but in general it is still potent.

Apparently, with a Grand Prix in December we will get to draft again. I dump boardgames in a heartbeat to do that. Even a game of Princes of Florence. :)

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