A Game Each Day

A Game each day, keeps the nightmares away

~ Continue ~ All Systems Online

A few days ago I was in the mood for handheld games and I found my game boy game container with my collection of GB/GBC/GBA/DS games inside. I flipped through its contents, first my GBA games, then my container of DS games which I rarely play. I realized there were a lot of games I had never played all the way through.

I took out a few to potentially play, eventually deciding on Advance Wars: Dual Strike. I was in the mood for strategy games and it seemed like one I’d enjoy playing through.

It’s been a while since I’ve played through a game start to finish, but I’m glad I finished it so quickly (before I put it down and would have to restart), and I thoroughly enjoyed the 28 missions of the game.

With that said, I’m back to blog my gaming experiences! Look forward to new content soon and if you have any game suggestions, send me a message!

Magic Drafts - Drafting DGR #1 ~ 06/21/2013 ~

I spent the past 5 days, possibly more, studying the ins and outs of Dragon Maze, Gatecrash, and Return to Ravnica block, trying to figure out how it worked before doing my first draft at the local game shop today.

Here’s an overview of what I learned before playing, what I learned while playing, and what I learned after playing.

Before playing -

In DGR, there doesn’t seem to be a clear strategy on what the majority would agree on for drafting a powerful deck.

Some pros / article writers suggest focusing on two color with a splash - solidifying colors in a Gatecrash guild (Azorius/Boros/Dimir/Gruul/Orzov), so that cutting in pack one will result in powerful multicolor cards in pack 2, allowing pack three to clean up what’s missing from the first two.

Others suggest drafting the best that comes early, then slowly solidifying a deck as the draft progresses. These leave players opened to the best of the best, but force them to take mana fixing early, potentially shipping strong cards to opponents in favor of better fixing. Removal and bombs are key for this deck, as their slower speed plays well into ramps with keyrunes / cluestones (which are used for fixing anyways)

As for first picks in Dragon’s Maze to start the draft, the videos / articles I looked into said -

Big bombs, hard removal, some split cards, some uncommons, and multicolored commons like Tithe Drinker(WB), Beetleform mage(1GB), Zhur-Taa Druid (RG), and Viashino Firstblade (1RW) were the way to go. Essentially anything game-winning, or low multi-colored drops to define one’s deck. Also some monocolored cards like Kruul Warrior were noted.

For pack two in Gatecrash, depending on what guild one is in, the best strategy is to either take the guild you’re in (if it fits in Gatecrash), or go between monocolors of your guild and the gold cards that you’ll want to splash into that are Gatecrash packs.

For pack three, it’s a continuation of what happens in Gatecrash, but probably the reverse (taking the mutlicolor cards if you weren’t able to in Gatecrash or taking monocolored cards if you did get a lot of multicolor cards in Gatecrash).

*more on strategy for these some other time*

In my own personal taste, I really wanted to try 5 color madness, but because this was my first time drafting, I decided to follow a safer route with the two color “splash” (which I actually had more of a 3 color deck).

While Playing -

I was rather nervous going into the draft. It was my first time playing DGR and I’ve heard a lot of professionals having trouble adapting to the format early on. I sat down across the table from the two friends I came with and
opened my pack.

———————————-
   Dragon’s Maze
———————————-
Not much there. The rare was Trait Doctoring, which I don’t effectively know how to use, if it has any value anyways. For uncommons I had Trostani’s Summoner, Rotfarm Skeleton, and Showstopper with knowledge on the value of Trostani’s and Rotfarm, but not showstopper. Trostani’s Summoner is a bomb with 10 P/T for 7, definitely playable and a game changer. Rotfarm Skeleton has had mixed reviews by people online with it being a stronger beater that comes back, but could potentially mill you if you aren’t careful (See note on after playing below for more details on strategy). Showstopper seemed ok in Rakdos, but I didn’t feel like the effect was worth it to ping a creature for 2 if something of yours died. It felt like situational combat tricks, which aren’t as good as pure combat tricks like bloodrush or growth effects.

As for commons, there weren’t any of the solid 1st picks, and I actually opened 3 cluestones, leaving only 6 random commons with the last two being a guildgate and a normal land.

I took Trostani’s Summoner.

The next pass came around and I hesitated on what to pick. A Haazda Snare Squad or a Turn/Burn. Haazda was in my “colors”, white being with Trostani’s Summoner and it played well with tokens if I happened to have a lot of creatures, but I decided to go with Turn/Burn for the removal effects outside the colors, trying to stay open. In this case, I think I would have rather taken the Haazda, but drafting removal and staying open is also understandable.

Next I was passed Tithe Drinker with not much else to choose from, so I took it to see if Orzhov would be opened.

Then another Tithe Drinker came my way, showing me that I should jump to Orzhov as my passer wasn’t going to be taking any white / black combination cards, and hopefully not white or black altogether.

5th pick, I got a Rakdos Drake, showing me that black was most probably opened from that side as there wasn’t much else in the pack for black.

Pick 6 came with Boros Mastiff or Haunter of Nightveil. I currently had Trostani’s and Turn/Burn and mostly Orzhov cards. Adding Haunter, while I really wanted to, would be pushing me into blue (which maybe would have been helpful since blue was mostly open for the draft), and I decided to go with the safe pick of Mastiff in hopes of picking up more in green/white or red/blue.

Both picks were decent and I went with the Mastiff which landed up doing quite a bit of lifelinking in my more aggressive Orzhov deck.

7th pick I chose a Korozda Gorgon (3BG), a 2/5 deathtouch with an ability useful with +1/+1 counters. I decided to take it because there wasn’t much in the pack and I figured having green splash for Trostani’s meant I could splash black green if I was going to be in Orzhov anyways.

8th pick I took a simic cluestone in case I wanted to splash out of just green.

9th pick, I was looking for a guildgate or two to help my mana out, but didn’t see any there. It seemed like they were getting drafted quickly at my table, which probably should have been a signal to snatch what I needed early before it was too late. I went with a Maze Sentinel here to get another creature.

The following 6 cards weren’t of any help. No guildgates, no black or white creatures, and just junky blue and red spells with cluestones. I picked up a few cluestones, but all out of color and took the rest semi-randomly. What I didn’t do during this phase was to look for more green. I had preemptively decided I wasn’t going to be in green even though there was still a chance I might switch to something else. Next time I need to be more open and look for the colors I could splash in the last few picks of the pack.

At the end of Dragon’s Maze, I had -
Pass 1   - Trostani’s Summoner (5GW)
Pass 2   - Turn/Burn (2U/1R)
Pass 3   - Tithe Drinker (WB)
Pass 4   - Tithe Drinker (WB)
Pass 5   - Boros Mastiff (1W)
Pass 6   - Rakdos Drake (2B)
Pass 7   - Korozda Gorgon (3BG)
Pass 8   - Simic Cluestone (3)
Pass 9   - Maze Sentinel (5W)
Pass 10 - Notion Thief (2UB)
Pass 11 - Dimir Cluestone (3)
Pass 12 - Pilfered Plans (1UB)
Pass 13 - Orzhov Cluestone (3)
Pass 14 - Orzhov Cluestone (3)
Pass 15 - Undiscovered Clues (2U)

In Orzhov, I only had 2 Tithe Drinkers, Rakdos Drake, and Boros Mastiff as main playables with Trostani’s Summoner and Gorgon as splashes. So overall, only 6 playables after pack one, with sentinel being last resort.

6 Playables -
- Trostani’s Summoner (5GW)
- Boros Mastiff (1W)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Korozda Gorgon (3BG)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Rakdos Drake (2B)

1 semi-playables -
- Maze Sentinel (5W)
————————-
   Gatecrash
————————-
Going into gatecrash, I had good feeling I’d get passed some fancy Orzhov cards, since I cut it off well in pack one. I opened my Gatecrash pack, hoping to find something fancy.

I opened a Gift of Orzhova, which I was happy taking. It gave my 2 drops a option to be scary early with lifelink and flying, and the other cards in the pack weren’t overly impressive. I believe the rare I had was Skaarg Goliath (6GG) 9/9 trample, bloodrush for (5GG), which wasn’t appealing to me.

2nd pass, I got either Smite or One Thousand Lashes, and I believe it was One Thousand Lashes because I remember trying to wheel a Syndicate Enforcer, which I landed up getting back.

3rd pass, I believe I got Smite, which was the only solid card in the pack for my colors. There were decent cards for other colors, but I didn’t have the fixing to splash them.

4th pass I got a Rust Scarab (4G) for 4/5 and whenever it is blocked, you may destroy target artifact or enchantment defending player controls. Not the ideal card for 4th pick, but it fit in my splash color of green.

5th pass, I guess I went aggressive with the green hoping I’d run into some fixing and I took Slaughterhorn (2G) for 3/2 with Bloodrush (G) as there was no white or black.

6th pass, I took Millennial Gargoyle to have a playable. No good white or black cards passing around after the initial few.

7th pass, I realized my playable count for creatures was really low and took a Dutiful Thrull, which was in my colors. I don’t know how effective it is and I didn’t get to use it, but I felt the regenerate blocker could get annoying for people with large creatures without trample.

8th pass, I continued looking for creatures and found a Gutter Skulk (1B) for 2/2.

9th pass, nothing. So I took a Burst of Strength as a splash trick if I happened to get green fixing.

10th pass, I got Syndicate Enforcer back, which I was very excited to see.

11th pass, I took Clinging Anemones to get it out of the way. Evolve is something that could overrun my deck if I’m not fast enough and defenders are never fun to play against. 12th pass was Psychic Strike, 13th pass was Purge the Profane, and 14th pass was Spell Rupture, all probably unplayable as well.

At the end of Gatecrash, I had -
- Gift of Orzhova (1,W/B,W/B)
- One Thousand Lashes (2WB)
- Rush Scarab (4G)
- Smite (W)
- Slaughterhorn (2G)
- Millennial Gargoyle (4)
-Dutiful Thrull (W)
- Gutter Skulk (1B)
- Burst of Strength (G)
- Syndicate Enforcer (3B)
- Clinging Anemones (3U)
- Psychic Strike (1UB)
- Purge the Profane (2WB)
- Spell Rupture (1U)

In combination with Dragon’s Maze, I had 13 playables in Orzhov
——————————————————
Dragon’s Maze -
- Trostani’s Summoner (5GW)
- Boros Mastiff (1W)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Korozda Gorgon (3BG)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Rakdos Drake (2B)

Gatecrash -
- Gift of Orzhova (1,W/B,W/B)
- One Thousand Lashes (2WB)
- Smite (W)
- Millennial Gargoyle (4)
- Dutiful Thrull (W)
- Gutter Skulk (1B)
- Syndicate Enforcer (3B)
————————————————————————
And 4 semi-playables
————————————————————————
Dragon’s Maze -
- Maze Sentinel (5W)

Gatecrash - 
- Rush Scarab (4G)
- Slaughterhorn (2G)
- Burst of Strength (G)
————————————————————————
At this point, I was feeling a little better about my deck, but I still felt I lacked a big bomb / win condition in Orzhov colors. I was hoping to open a powerful answer in Return to Ravnica, then collect smaller creatures to fill out my deck of only 8-10 solid creatures.
—————————————-
   Return to Ravnica
—————————————-
Unfortunately, I didn’t open anything fancy, and whatever it was must not have been great because I don’t remember what my rares and uncommons were. I’d imagine they were off color spells that I wouldn’t be able to use.

I landed up taking Vassal Soul, an evasive low drop to keep the momentum in my favor.

Pass 2 was a tough decision for me, but I think I made the correct choice. It was between Thrill-Kill Assassin (1B) for a 1/2 w/ Deathtouch and Unleash or Azorius Arrester (1W) for a 2/2 w/ detain target non-land permanent when it enters the battlefield, and I decided to go with the Assassin because it felt more aggressive. I could be wrong, but I don’t think either was a bad choice, both being 2 drops that I needed in my deck.

Pass 3, I picked up a Sluiceway Scorpion (2BG) for 2/2 w/Deathtouch and Scavenge (1BG). I don’t remember there being any other playables in my color and I felt like maybe I was getting cut in Orzhov now, but it was too late to change strategies.

Pass 4, I picked up a Dead Reveler (2B) for 2/3 with Unleash, perfect for my curve and for my more aggressive strategy with Vassal Soul first and Thrill-Kill Assassin Second.

Pass 5, I don’t know what I was doing, but I took an Explosive Impact (5R) for a 5 damage ping to a creature or player, which was out of my colors. I guess I really wanted removal even though I had no way of splashing red for Turn/Burn or Impact. Probably a mistake since I’m sure there was a black/white playable in the pack.

Pass 6, it was between Launch Party and another Vassal Soul. I was really tempted to take the Vassal Soul with my low creature count, and I actually did place it down, but decided to switch it at the last moment. Launch Party is a removal card (3B) for - As an additional cost, sacrifice a creature. Destroy target creature. It’s controller loses 2 life - and it lets you two for one with blocks or attacks that are unfavorable at instant speed. Definitely glad I took it over Vassal Soul after the draft went on because it got me out of some tough situations.

Pass 7, I took a Selesnya Sentry (2W) for 3/2 w/ (5G) to Regenerate. Just a white playable, which actually didn’t make it into my deck (and maybe should have)?

Pass 8, I picked up a late Perilous Shadow (2BB) for 0/4 w/ (1B) pump +2/+2 until end of turn. I’ve seen really fun tricks of this card on videos and it’s a very powerful card. I was glad to have it as a later pick and something I could use my extra mana for if I needed a strong blocker or a big attacker.

Pass 9 had nothing, so I took a shiny Tower Drake.

Pass 10 had an Aerial Predation, a good sideboard card for the flying deck, so I took that for my green splash.

Pass 11 I took Cobblebrute. Pass 12 I took Dispel. Pass 13 I took Chemister’s Trick. Pass 14 I took Cremate. All seemingly unplayable.

So at the end of Return to Ravnica, I had draft -
- Vassal Soul (1,W/B, W/B)
- Thrill-Kill Assassin (1B)
- Sluiceway Scorpion (2BG)
- Dead Reveler (2B)
- Explosive Impact (5R)
- Launch Party (3B)
- Selesnya Sentry (2W)
- Perilous Shadow (2BB)
- Tower Drake (2U)
- Aerial Predation (2G)
- Cobblebrute (3R)
- Dispel (U)
- Chemister’s Trick (UR)
- Cremate (B)

In combination with the draft overall, this left me with -
- 20 Playables -
————————————————————————
Dragon’s Maze -
- Trostani’s Summoner (5GW)
- Boros Mastiff (1W)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Korozda Gorgon (3BG)
- Tithe Drinker (WB)
- Rakdos Drake (2B)

Gatecrash -
- Gift of Orzhova (1,W/B,W/B)
- One Thousand Lashes (2WB)
- Smite (W)
- Millennial Gargoyle (4)
- Dutiful Thrull (W)
- Gutter Skulk (1B)
- Syndicate Enforcer (3B)

Return to Ravnica -
- Vassal Soul (1,W/B, W/B)
- Thrill-Kill Assassin (1B)
- Sluiceway Scorpion (2BG)
- Dead Reveler (2B)
- Launch Party (3B)
- Selesnya Sentry (2W)
- Perilous Shadow (2BB)
————————————————————————-
5 Semi-Playables -
————————————————————————
Dragon’s Maze -
- Maze Sentinel (5W)

Gatecrash - 
- Rush Scarab (4G)
- Slaughterhorn (2G)
- Burst of Strength (G)

Return to Ravnica -
- Aerial Predation (2G)
————————————————————————
So the draft was over. My first DGR draft was officially complete and now I had to build a deck. With 20 for sure playables, I just needed a few more to hit 23 playables for my deck. I decided to throw in the Rust Scarab and Slaughterhorn to hope for green mana, even with no fixing and I knew that their higher costs would let me draw for a few turns to find that green source.

So I was at 22 cards in my deck and I threw in the Maze Sentinel to hit 23. All was well, right?

Perhaps not. Adding mana was a pain without any mana fixing. I had 16 black sources, 13 white sources, and 6 green sources. I really needed to hit white and black early, then hit a green by mid-game to be effective. I was stuck, I needed more than just 2 greens to ensure hitting my green drops, but I needed a lot of black / white to hit my early drops like Tithe Drinker. I settled for 7 black, 7 white, and 3 green for 17 lands.

I felt uneasy by this and I wanted another way to ensure I could hit white/black early, so I boarded out Selesnya Sentry for a cluestone. I’m not sure if this was a mistake since Selesnya Sentry was a decent card in the deck, but I wanted to keep my mana curve the same.

So my final starting deck was -
1 Drops - (2)
Smite (W)
Dutiful Thrull (W)

2 Drops - (5)
Boros Mastiff (1W)
Gutter Skulk (1B)
Thrill-Kill Assassin (1B)
Tithe Drinker (WB)
Tithe Drinker (WB)

3 Drops - (6)
Orzhov Cluestone (3)
Rakdos Drake (2B)
Gift of Orzhova (1,W/B,W/B)
Vassal Soul (1,W/B, W/B)
Dead Reveler (2B)
Slaughterhorn (2G)

4 Drops - (6)
Millennial Gargoyle (4)
Syndicate Enforcer (3B)
Launch Party (3B)
Perilous Shadow (2BB)
One Thousand Lashes (2WB)
Sluiceway Scorpion (2BG)

5 Drops - (2)
Korozda Gorgon (3BG)
Rush Scarab (4G)

6 Drops - (1)
Maze Sentinel (5W)

7 Drops - (1)
Trostani’s Summoner (5GW)

It came out alright. I didn’t have as many win conditions as I would have wanted. I did have some solid removal in Launch Party, One Thousand Lashes, and Smite though, which was comforting to know I could deal with some of the threats of my opponents.

I landed up going 1-1?, 2-1, 2-1.

For the first game, I played against my friend Tiffany (playing a 5 color deck) and our first match was epic, lasting 30+ minutes of slow extorts pulling the game in my favor. We both made some mistakes on attacks we declared, but I slowly inched the victory through drains. We ran out of time for our match overall, resulting in a 1-1 split. ButwWe didn’t record our results correctly, as we said we had tied, but tied implies something different than 1-1, so the judge and he thought I had won the first split 1-0.

That resulted in me going to the second round where I played against a Simic + splash deck of mostly flyers and evolve creatures. I won the first match, got mana screwed the second match, and barely won the third match with a Gift of Orzhova on my Rust Scarab and a clutch Aerial Predation sideboard that won me the game.

The third and final match was against a 5 color deck that had a lot of bombs and even though I got a lot of damage in early for the 1st match, his bombs were too much for me to handle alongside his board of flyers.

The second game he got stuck on mana for a few of his drops, which let me continuously swing in with a Gift of Orzhova on a Kill-Thrill Assassin plus extort and lifelink on a Tithe Drinker to get my life up to 35+, not having to worry about taking hits.

The third and final game, my opponent got mana screwed and I won an easy victory that wasn’t too rewarding as it didn’t have the epicness that a lot of other games I played had to them.

All in all, I won my first draft! And on my first attempt at the format!

After Playing -
There was a lot to be learned from my first draft of DGR.

Getting Mana Fixing -
I should have gotten more mana fixing early, especially since I knew I would be splashing green for the Trostani’s Summoner. I noticed that the mana fixing got eaten up really quickly by the table, which maybe was a sign that I should have sacrificed a pick or two to get the fixing I needed before it was too late.

I got lucky in my games where I drew green mana when I needed it, but I easily could have gotten filled with a hand of all green cards if I didn’t draw them when I needed them.

Reading Signals -
I read a signal to go into Orzhov by being passed two Tithe Drinkers, but strangely Orzhov was the most drafted guild at the table. Secondly, white was drafted by 5 or 6 of the players at the table, which made my selection of white really small compared to others. My white creatures were all basic like Boros Mastiff, Vassal Soul, Selesnya Sentry, and Maze Sentinel.

I noticed that Dimir was opened for most of the draft and blue in general. I could have gone a slower Dimir deck with the Haunter of Nightveil, Tower Drakes, and more counter spell / disables with Cancel, Psychic Strike, Runner’s Bane, possibly splashing the strong black/white cards like One Thousand Lashes.

Overall, I felt like I read the signals right from what I was being passed, but other people around the table either opened Orzhov and stayed in Orzhov, or read the signals like me and took Orzhov after being passed cards like Tithe Drinker, making it difficult to get quality cards.

Trying to Draft Without Looking At My Cards -
Watching the Pro Tour, I noticed that they don’t get to look at their cards until after each pack is done. I decided to try this, practicing how to effectively keep mana curve in my head, plus keeping track of how many creatures versus instant/soceries/enchantments I drafted, what colors they were, and how many of my cards were playable.

In doing so, I thought I had drafted more creatures in memory than I actually had and I had to spend late pack 2 and all of pack 3 getting enough playable creatures for my deck.

Overall it was fun trying this and it made me feel more knowledgeable as I waited for my next pack thinking about my curve, colors, and what to look for next.

Saving my Removal for Big Threats -
During play in my matches, I was very tempted to use my removal early to get in more damage, but learned to hold them until my opponent tapped out for one of their stronger creatures. I had a few cards that let me two for one if I did it correctly like Launch Party and Smite, so I waited for even more opportune moments to play them and those small moments definitely helped swing the momentum in my favor.

Drawing a Strong Hand -
Having a few playables in hand with the correct mana is crucial to coming out ahead early. With the deck I crafted, I had 10 two/three drops, so if I had 3 lands, a two drop and a three drop, I was going to play. I learned that having more lands early for ramping into later spells with a few creatures was more favorable than having only two lands hoping for a third. Statistically it’s possible, but the few times I did that, I got stuck not being able to play anything, costing me the games. 

Overall, I’d keep a 5 land hand with two mid-late playables over a two land hand with a few early playables and a few potential playables later if I draw one or two more lands. I feel more comfortable with having the potential for bigger spells over potentially not being able to play anything.

And of course this depends on what kind of deck I’m playing against. Against Aggro I’d like to have some blockers or counter attackers early, where against a 5 color deck, I can be a little slower to ramp into my bigger spells as well.

Take a Moment to Think Before Declaring an Action -
It didn’t happen too often, but I did make a few mistakes where I didn’t declare an action when I should have. At one point, I meant to crack my Cluestone for a card at the end of my opponent’s turn, but I forgot to declare it before untapping and drawing my card. In that case, it didn’t matter since I drew a land, but it could have gotten me a spell that I might have wanted to play with the extra mana.

Before the beginning and end of each player’s turns, take a few seconds to think about the board and what could happen in that instance of time before moving on and declaring the turn is over or my turn has begun.

Conclusions
-
I had a lot of fun over the 4 hour Friday Night Magic experience I had and I learned a lot about drafting, DGR block, the strategy of magic, and how to possibly place well in the next draft I play in.

Off to GDC!

Tomorrow the GDC adventure begins! Pictures and updates soon to come!