DraftRex II Semis (Winner = GW Elves)

The first couple drafts showed some nice variety to this set, starting with a revisit to WU Merfolk, which I hadn't seen in a while, and my first GW Elves deck. Their matchup was simply unfair, with WU getting stuck on three lands for almost the whole game. There were a lot of neat shenanigans in its hand and a few early creatures to take advantage of them on the battlefield: bouncing a Meadowboon with Flickerwisp would have given the deck several +1/+1 counters, and the tap/untap tricks were ready to go as well...but only if the deck could hit 4 mana. Meanwhile, GW was getting flooded with mana, but it didn't matter because Seedcradle Witch provided a nice sink for it. I am only now realizing that effect could have been repeated and also gives the creature vigilance; had I played with that in effect, the game would have been over even sooner. In any case, it was a sad, unfair game for the Merfolk deck, but I caught a glimpse of its potential before it was crushed by the Elves. GW Elves' luck continued as it faced the next deck Bw -1/-1 Counters, which got stuck on two Swamps for the entire game. It had only one creature in play, and it couldn't really do much against the 2/2s and pumpable 1/1 GW tossed on the board in short order. GW was already going to win, but just to rub it in Bw's face, GW played Rootgrapple to drop Bw to just one land before swinging for lethal. The next game--between WU Merfolk and Bw -1/-1 Counters--was the stuff of legend, similar to the games that made the first playtest pod with this set so impressive. WU was again stuck on mana, and Bw took advantage, dropping it to 3 life. WU's Cloudgoat Ranger helped stabilize things; even though it lost the card to an attacking Puppeteer Clique, the three tokens it left behind were critical to the deck's later success. A Trip Noose kept the Puppeteer Clique from ever attacking again as WU continued to build up its forces. Meanwhile, Bw had run out of options: it had decent cards in its hand, but none of them worked in its current situation. It didn't want to waste Eyeblight's Ending on a 1/1 token, and Pyrrhic Revival would have favored WU at that moment in time. WU's Cache Riders threatened to return Meadowboon to its hand, giving all nine of its creatures a +1/+1 token, so Bw used Eyeblight's Ending then and there. The tricksy Merfolk later let the Puppeteer Clique attack, which Bw was obliged to do as WU was down to just 3 life and had no flyers, but WU played Snakeform, turning the Puppeteer Clique into a 1/1 that Meadowboon (which itself was a 1/1 due to a couple -1/-1 counters) could block. This not only eliminated Bw's potentially lethal threat but turned WU's entire army into an unstoppable force that won on the next turn. Fantastic game! The next game was also a marvelous comeback, this time for the now undefeated GW Elves deck, which finally ran into mana trouble in this game. Monored Elementals brought the heat early on, getting GW on the brink of elimination, but its high-power/low-toughness creatures proved pretty easy to deal with. GW had let quite a bit of damage through in an effort to hold onto some Elves on the battlefield, and it paid off. At long last, it hit four mana (including a Plains, which it had only now come by), cast two Elves at once, and all of a sudden the Elvish Branchbender was able to make a 5/5 Treefolk. This combined with Rune-Cervin Rider's evasive pump ability and Monored tapping out to just a little more damage through resulted in GW being able to swing for the win seemingly from out of nowhere. It was nice to see such a solid game from the Elementals, and I'm glad the newcomer GW Elves seems like such a viable deck. Monored continued to show its mettle in its next match, this time against WU Merfolk. WU was probably too impatient in this one, doing "curve out" moves like playing Flickerwisp on the third turn instead of waiting until it would have removed a major threat. Monored showed how big a mistake this was by essentially wiping the board with Incendiary Command, leaving itself with two creatures and WU with nothing. From here, Monored was able to get WU down to 3 life--seemingly the magic number for stabilizing in this round of matches--at which point WU really slowed things down for its opponent. For the next few turns, WU would get a new creature into play that was able to block or trade with Monored's attackers, while Monored was drawing land after land. WU's Trip Noose held back the biggest threat each turn, until finally, Monored started drawing some heat. Call of the Skybreaker did the trick, getting Monored a win and giving WU Merfolk an undeserved losing record. Monored's success continued against Bw -1/-1 Counters, which did little to slow the onslaught of the Elementals deck. Between hasty and powerful creatures along with constant sources of removal, Monored was able to get Bw from 20 to 0 relatively unhindered. Interestingly, the deck had only one card (Brighthearth Banneret) that really benefited from having lots of Elementals, and its advantage would have applied equally to Warriors. Thus, it's not clear whether this deck is good just because Red is good or Elementals are good, but I'm pretty sure it has little to do with tribal synergies. (In fact, tribal synergies came up one other time for this deck, when Vengeful Firebrand was able to enter with haste because there was a Changeling in the graveyard, so really this deck ended up being just as much a Monored Warriors/Changeling deck as it was an Elementals deck.)

DraftRex II Qualifiers (Loser = RB Goblins)

Some of the fringe archetypes started to emerge in these drafts, starting with GW Treefolk and a White Weenie deck that might have been the usual RW Go Wide but instead opted for monowhite to capitalize on a couple cards that benefit from going all-in on Plains. While one of these cards came out in its matchup with GW, it didn't do much good, as it played right into a 2-for-1 removal spell GW had on hand. That was probably the game right there, but GW also had the advantage of constantly drawing strong creatures that thoroughly outclassed whatever W had on the board. W was soon forced to start chump blocking, so it could never get an edge. GW's instant-speed combat tricks punched through an additional 6 points of damage on the final turn for the win. The next deck was a GB value deck with a light Wither theme. I thought it would be good, and it came out swinging against the previous match's winner, GW Treefolk. There were the makings of a comeback, as GW managed to briefly stabilize at 2 life and establish superior board presence such that GB couldn't attack without losing everything and doing no damage. Therefore, GB held back until it drew into a Guardian of Cloverdell, giving it the spread to go around GW's blockers and get the final 2 points of damage. Before getting too comfortable, GB was suddenly hit with an intense assault from the previously quiet Monowhite deck, which came out swinging with a Kithkin Greatheart, a 2/1 that soon became a 4/3 with a Runed Stalactite. It then turned into a 5/4 when Meadowboon hit the battlefield and finally a 7/4 with Nobilis of War. This was just about the perfect "curve out" for Monowhite, and it had GB on the ropes before GB drew into a Weed Strangler that got rid of the looming 7/4 and gave itself a little bit of life back. Unfortunately, Nobilis of War was not just an anthem; it was a dangerous threat of its own accord--perhaps even moreso since it had flying--and now it had the Runed Stalactite too. Needless to say, GB didn't last much longer, and all three decks now drew to 1-1. When I saw RB Goblins emerge in the final draft, I was a little worried I'd have a repeat of the last pod, but its first matchup revealed I had nothing to worry about. It put up a good fight but ultimately was steamrolled by GW "Treefolk" (which by the way has yet to show any Treefolk synergy). As with GW's first match, its creatures generally outclassed it opponents', so it eventually gains the advantage if it can survive long enough. In its next match, RB got seriously manascrewed, without a single Swamp eight turns into the game, and with only 4 Mountains for most of the game. In contrast, its hand was full of Black cards it simply could never cast. It held on by using Red-based removal to eliminate threats as its opponent (Monowhite) brought them out, even getting a cruel 2-for-1...but that ended up being shortly before the game ended anyway. Monowhite piled Equipment and an Aura onto its lone Ballynock Cohort, which attacked into an empty field and won singlehandedly. The final game was frighteningly similar, with RB again getting hit with mana blues, though it finally got a Swamp out toward the end. Removal kept it from losing in the first few turns, but by the end, GB WIther had a Duskdale Wurm (7/7) and a Doomgape (10/10) on the battlefield. Yeah, that Doomgape would soon eat the Duskdale Wurm, but it's still a 10/10 with trample. RB lost on the next turn.

DraftRex Semis (Winner = BR Goblins)

For the first couple drafts, I tried to focus on tribal themes, ending up with a BR Goblins deck and WU Merfolk. The latter had some neat tricks going early on, like tapping for life gain, removal, and milling, but the opposing removal took out the tricksters before they could do much damage. The Goblins then started beating down and looked like they'd end up with an easy victory. However, WU got a Turtleshell Changeling out, pumped it up to a 5/9, reversed P/T, and started swinging for 9. Unfortunately, Warren Pilferers came out with haste, finishing the game before the 9/5er could get in another hit. The third deck was a GU Tempo deck, which arose from me going back to my card ratings and notes for this set to assess early picks and then following wherever those led me. Its first game was a blowout, as WU Merfolk had some of the worst mana screw I've seen in recent memory. It basically drew almost every White card it had but got a Plains only after GU had gotten it down to 3 life, and then it drew yet another White card. The second game was *much* better, with GU again coming out with a strong start but suddenly getting overrun by BR Goblins. The latter just had some dinky 1/1s that seemed no match for the 2/2s and the 3/3 across the battlefield, but they kept swinging for 4 a turn. Seeing it would win the race, GU kept tapping down, even as one of its 2/2s got picked off by removal. BR was down to 2 life when it attacked with everything, buffing with a Double Cleave and a Blades of Velis Vel. GU had a Disperse that could bounce one of the attackers but it wasn't enough to avoid the loss. The final deck was another UG build, this time trying to bring together tapping synergies alongside ETB and counters themes. Ironically none of this came into play in the first game versus WU Merfolk, which also ironically had fewer Merfolk on the battlefield than UG. Instead, this game came down to a race, with UG jumping out to an early and large lead. After it bolstered its creatures with Incremental Growth to get three 4/4s, things were looking grim for WU, but then WU topdecked a Cloudgoat Ranger, providing it with essential blockers and allowing it to chip away through the skies with its host of 1/1 flyers. In the end, UG had no answers for WU's stunning spread strategy and lost the game. The "mirror" match between GU and UG was a bit more interesting, but honestly was over before it began, as UG mulliganed twice and just couldn't keep up with GU's broader array of options. UG definitely got some tap/untap action going, but it proved to be little more than an annoyance as GU just cruised to victory. The final game (UG vs. BR) was the most interesting. UG had a similar combination in play as the last game, with Trip Noose, Leech Bonder, etc. being super annoying, tapping down BR's biggest threats and taking out its smallest ones with -1/-1 counters. Unfortunately, most of its tapdown efforts cost mana, so it was just stalling its opponent while not developing its board. This prolonged the game, but BR eventually got enough of a spread of creatures that UG just didn't have any way to avoid the loss. Still, it was a close game, with BR dropping to 3 life before landing the killing blow. Overall, this pass through Lorwyn-Shadowmoor wasn't as engaging as the last one, which probably benefited from stumbling upon some particularly juicy matchups and well-drawn games. There are definitely some complex interactions going on in some of these games, but a few of these matchups were surprisingly straightforward. It makes me wonder how much of the pizzaz in this set comes down to certain cards or corner cases coming into play, as opposed to its overall design. To the extent that its the former, I can probably port the most interesting elements to a higher-powered cube. That said, this is still an interesting set that consistently produces solid games of Magic.

DraftRex Qualifier (Winners = WR Go Wide)

The first couple drafts were a little disappointing, because the themes I'd worked into this set didn't come together. Instead of Warriors or Persist, I ended up with generic "go wide" and control in WR and Bw, respectively. I wasn't sure even these themes would work out, but the matchup between these decks ended up being the best one I'd played in a while. Disappointingly, Bw had to mulligan twice, but it managed to scrape its way back into the game after a fast start from WR's go wide strategy. Tokens galore were on the board, but then Weed-Pruner Poplar--pretty much the perfect answer to a bunch of 1/1 Spirits and Kithkin Soldiers--came into play. It and Bw's other answers managed to clear the board of tokens, and some lifegain extended the game, but WR eventually got a Lairwatch Giant down, equipped with an Obsidian Battle-Axe. In the end, both decks played out their strategy to a tee in a very satisfying game. Like the first two decks, the third deck didn't hit on any of the expected themes, instead coming out as some sort of complex Core Set UR Disruption deck. It seemed like it would be a mess, but its first game--against the Bw Control deck--was another down-to-the-wire affair that exceeded expectations. It put the pressure on early, but Bw was once again able to stay in the game with some life gain and key removal while also exerting pressure of its own, getting UR down 6 life. It would have been able to win had UR not kept pace and gotten down one too many threats, putting Bw completely on the defensive. Even then, the outcome was unclear, as Bw managed to pull Incremental Blight and bring things even after losing most of its creatures through blocking. Alas, Bw was relying on topdecking, while UR had a handful of additional threats, which eventually won it the game. The last game between the first three decks was the first clunker, wherein the RW Go Wide decks just rolled over the manascrewed UR Disruption deck. The manascrew wasn't that bad; the lands were there, but the hand was full of expensive cards. The deck saw it coming with its initial hand, but I chose not to mulligan. Oh well. The final deck--Monored Elementals--at last brought unique elements of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor to the table, but even here, those elements were unexpected, as noted in the deck description. Its first match against the 0-2 Bw Control deck was mostly a blowout, with it getting Bw down to 1 life while retaining 17 life. Bw managed to cling to another couple turns, using Incremental Blight to clear the board, but after a couple do-nothing land draws, it had to fold to a Puncture Blast. The second game (versus UR Disruption) was no contest, with the Elementals deck steamrolling it 20-0, but it finally ran out of luck in its final match, versus the WR Go Wide deck. As expected it got out ahead early, but WR's Countryside Crusher drew three lands in a row on its first turn out, pumping itself up to a 6/6. There were no answers to it, so the Elementals deck just tried to press its advantage and win the race. When things got desperate, it left a blocker back, but WR's Somnomancer tapped it down and the Countryside Crusher, now a 7/7, finished the game.

Rare Adjustments

I realized I'd lost track of the rares in each color. This adjusts so there's an even count across all five.
Spirit of the Hearth > Swell of CourageTwilight Shepherd > Mosquito GuardAuntie's Snitch > Prickly BoggartFendeep Summoner > Weed-Pruner PoplarBroken Ambitions > Thought Reflection

1   2   next   last