Congratulations, Jeremy!

Jeremy won the "Battle for Zendikar" with a midrange WB Allies deck that built up a massive board presence and generated tons of life gain. His aggressive stance led to an early exit from our first and only 5-player match, but he subsequently won his free-for-all 3-player match, which set him up for a best-of-three showdown with Andrew's UB Control deck, which had just bested me in a 2-player series. The two of them traded games, with one of them being an epic hour-long game in which Jeremy topped 40 life before being brought back down into the teens. He finally won that and his next game, keeping him in the 2-player hotseat, where he took on Ryan's RG Landfall deck next. According to Ryan, the only reason why he won a game was because Jeremy got manascrewed, and the other two games went in Jeremy's favor for his second giveaway tournament championship! For my part, I tried forcing a Devoid deck to see how that worked, but I don't think I ended up giving it much of a fair shot. Yes, I had plenty of "Devoid" cards in my deck, but it doesn't do anything on its own. My deck was UB, but I didn't really do the Ingest deck you're supposed to in those colors, and I simply didn't see enough Red early on for me to get into that color at all. I had incomplete subthemes that needed other colors to really come alive, like Scions (best in BG) and Colorless (best in UR). I did have a little bit of Ingest, but I did get those cards until late, and I had only one card that had any payoff for cards being in exile. I suspect Andrew drafted all the other cards I wanted here, and wisely left them in his sideboard since he realized he was missing a critical mass of them to make the theme work. In any case, I remained pleased with how this turned out. The best decks spanned all five colors and touched on each of the three "theaters" of deck strategies (aggro, midrange, control). I feel like this was the best set we've played so far, and I learned a lot about how these sets come together.

The "Battle for Zendikar"

EVENT DETAILS * What: We will be busting out this entire 270-card Zendikar Cube for an ultimate winner-takes-all battle. * When: Saturday, April 21st at 6 PM * Where: My Place in Richmond * Who: Flood (me), Andrew, Ryan, Jeremy, Brian * With: Food and Three-Buck Chuck, official sponsor of Flood's Magic Giveaway Gatherings PREPARATION If you are so inclined, you can practice drafting this cube online right here on CubeTutor; just pick "Draft" from the "Playtest" menu above. It should automatically give you the right pack sizes and the most advanced AI drafters. In addition, this time around there are copious notes about prior sessions in this blog, and you can look over previous decks, the best of which I've starred, by clicking on "Decks" in the above menu.

Zendikar Session Report 8

Thanks to DracoFreezeFlame, I got eight decks drafted, several of which were Blue, to test whether Blue was too weak in this set. ROUND ONE Mana messed with a lot of decks in the first round, pretty much icing out the GUx Converge deck, giving WU Skies an easy win. My own version of Converge in GUW continued to have a hard time, losing to DFF's BG Eldrazi Scions deck. The next two matches were much closer, with BR Devoid Aggro, which should have mulliganed, making a tremendous comeback against UB Eldrazi Colorless, but not being able to finish it off. FInally, RG Landfall was looking good for most of its match, but WB's Armament Master got a Grappling Hook on itself, which was absolutely brutal, giving Relief Captain +2/+2. When Lantern Scout came into play, the deck came back from the brink and shot to over 20 life. A couple turns later, it won. ROUND TWO In the second round, the Converge decks faced off against each other. My version managed to pull off 6/6 Woodland Wanderer, while DFF's struggled with mana, drawing cards it couldn't cast. My BR Aggro deck learned its lesson and mulliganed, but its slightly more workable hand was no match for DSS's RG Landfall. WU Skies fought to the finish but couldn't hold off the onslaught from BG Eldrazi Scions. Finally, UB Eldrazi Colorless couldn't get anything going against the WB deck, which once again got an equipped Armament Master into play, making its Kor companion a frickin' 6/6. With just a couple matches for each deck, it's not looking great for Blue, as every one of its decks has suffered a loss. ROUND THREE In the third round, I pitted the two 0-2 decks against each other. After another slow start, GUx Converge finally got some solid cards into play, probably because my BR Devoid Aggro is just too slow. Unfortunately, the "aggro" deck had just enough answers to turn the tide and eventually win the game. RG Landfall got mana screwed, but it might not have mattered anyway against WU Skies, which resolved several threats and had a number of answers left in hand as it cruised to an uncontested victory. Converge showed a glimmer of hope by taking down UB Eldrazi Colorless on the back of an early 3/4 Tajuru Stalwart that Gravity Negator later gave flying to finish the game. In the battle of the undefeated decks, WB once again got a Grappling Hook onto its Armament Master. Multiple Kors benefited this time, and the Allies that buff each other every time any Ally comes into play all hit the board for absurd cascading effects. Somehow BG Eldrazi Scions stayed in the game, getting WB down to 5 life, but it really had no chance against WB ridiculous synergy. ROUND FOUR For the final round, I focused on the decks that had winning records so far. At long last, WB didn't have Armament Master and a Grappling Hook in its opening hand. GUw Converge took advantage and pulled off a close win. It felt more like the Skies deck for most of the game, but decisively stole WB's Emeria Shepherd with Exert Influence. The actual Skies (WU) deck also had a close game, barely eking out a victory against the relentlessly resurgent BG Eldrazi Scion deck. To finish things off, I made sure all these decks had faced off against each other. Much to my surprise, the GUw Converge deck handily defeated the BG Scions deck, again utilizing Exert Influence to permanently steal the biggest threat. In the other match, the previously unstoppable WB "Armament Master" deck didn't draw its "namesake" card or its best friend the Grappling Hook. Apparently without these two, the deck doesn't have a lot going for it, and WU Skies had little trouble dispatching it. Thus, despite rocky starts, the two decks with the best records ended up being Blue decks, and they took down decks similar to those that have been quite successful in the past.

Zendikar Session Report 7

We tried sealed this time around, and surprisingly the decks were closer to the baked-in archetypes than they've been in drafts. I played a deck that really is best described as "WB Lifegain/Allies" that was able to apply some early pressure with aggressive creatures but also wanted to hang back a little to get maximum effect from its tribal synergies. Ryan did a BG build that made good use of the sacrifice effects in BG, though the all-star in his deck might have been Captain's Claws, which kept spreading the board against me and Jeremy and giving Ryan plenty of fodder to sacrifice. Finally, after a failed 4C Converge deck lacking Green, Jeremy struck back with a dominant RG Landfall deck that steamrolled us in a couple 3-player matches. Once again, Green did quite well, making its way into two of the evening's decks, both of which held their own. Notably we haven't seen as many Devoid decks as you'd expect, and nobody's attempted BR Devoid Aggro at all. I'll explore it the next time we play to see if maybe I missed something when putting the set together.

Zendikar Session Report 6

...That wasn't much of a bump in the road. After one session being a little off kilter, Green was back with a vengeance in this one. Using the exact same card pool as last time, Brian was able to turn things around for his GWU Converge deck and pull off a 4-3 record on the evening. Meanwhile, Jeremy's BG Midrange deck performed better than anything else with a 5-2 record. If you didn't have Green--like me and Ryan--then you were out of luck. His RW Allies deck got some sweet stuff going, but maybe wasn't as aggressive as it should have been, while my UR Control deck didn't have strong enough answers (and frankly wasn't piloted very well in my hands). People seem to like the land synergies and overall enjoy the set. If anything maybe Green is too strong (!?!), but I think that's probably an illusion resulting from us not really knowing how to build these synergistic decks properly. Green is probably a little more forgiving, offering generally useful cards that build board presence, while some of these other decks really need to be put together in the right way. In any case, I have once again validated that any weaknesses Green had in BFZ seem to have been diminished dramatically here. Yay! We capped off the night with a couple rounds of Two-Headed Giant, which was considerably less grueling than the last time we tried the format. The pairings were appropriately thematic, with Allies decks from Brian and Ryan going against Eldrazi decks from me and Jeremy. Unfortunately, we left it at 1-1, so the epic conclusion to the "Battle for Zendikar" will have to wait for another time.

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