Drafting Pick By Pick: Nekrium/Uterra

Greeting Forgeborn and welcome to another Drafting Pick By Pick. After several Weekend Warriors I figured I’d go for a regular draft this week (plus I’ve really been struggling with the 6 Card Heroic drafts- nothing past a 2-2 out of three drafts). Now normally I go in with an idea or two of what I would like to draft, but today I’m going in completely happy to fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens. So with that, let’s get to it!

The Draft

P1P1: Scout Drone, Bornean Mystic, Sonic Pulse, Progeny of Xith, Forge Guardian Gamma, Phytobomb – Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen such an unimpressive pack 1 for quite some time. Nothing here is really standout. I think the pick is the Progeny for the potential synergies and maybe try and push NU.

P1P2: Metamind Operator, Magma Hound, Metamind Adept, Fell Walker, Spiritleash – Still not blown away here; may as well continue in the same way as Pick 1 and take the Walker for the “I like to blow up my own creature” synergies.

P1P3: Swampmoss Lurker, Brighttusk Sower, Palladium Pulsemage, Tanglesprout – Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Plenty of Uterra to choose from, and all reasonable. Based on previous drafts I will pick the token spawner (the number of times I’ve passed them in the early draft then panicked half-way through because I don’t have enough yet…) There’s still plenty of time for the underdrops.

P1P4: Harbinger of Spring, Experian Wartusk, Weirwood Ranger – And here’s the payoff. Harbinger #1 in the bag.

P1P5: Zombie Infantry, Dissolve – Only one way this pack could go.

P2P1: Grapplevine, Grave Pact, Undying Legacy, Group Meal, Blight Walker, Corpse Crawler – And this time we have too many good picks. Mass buff and debuff in one is massive, Legacy makes any one creature sticky, Walker is a removal on legs, Crawler is really big legs, and ‘Vine stops their mobility from being mobile. But in the end free removal at level 3 was the pick.

P2P2: Corpse Crawler, Spiritbloom Dryad, Brambleaxe Warrior, Scavenger Scorpion, Fangwood Ravager – On level it’s a beast and as an underdrop it is one of the best options at common.

P2P3: Corpse Crawler, Bitterfrost Totem, Stranglevine Hydra, Poisoncoil – But you don’t want too many without more sacrifice creatures. And as removal, Poisoncoil is very effective.

P2P4: Scatterspore Tiller, Fell Walker, Grapplevine – Repeatable tokens? Sign me up!

P2P5: Experian Wartusk, Scavenger Scorpion – There’s other rares I would rather see in multiple packs, but the Wartusk scales well, and never underestimate the power of breakthrough.

P3P1: Fell Walker, Deepwood Bear Rider, Verdant Sphere, Spiritleash, Poisoncoil, Scatterspore Tiller – Again, a no brainer.

P3P2: Sorrow Harvester, Abyssal Maw, Charnel Titan, Victory Rush, Byzerak Drake – A tough one here; I haven’t seen enough pump, but Maws are brutal with enough other Aboms. I think it’s early enough, so I will add an Abomination subtheme as well.

P3P3: Festering Ooze, Scavenger Scorpion, Dissolve, Dendrify – After the last pick I almost took the Scorpion, but Dendrify is just too good.

P3P4: Corpse Crawler, Abyssal Brute, Sorrow Harvester – I will pick Brute very highly, regardless of faction pairing.

P3P5: Stouthide Stegadon, Gemhide Basher – Stouthide is the comparative best here.

P4P1: Charnel Titan, Stag of Lys, Spiritleash, Necroslime, Swampmoss Lurker, Uterradon Mauler – Necroslime is also a consideration here; however, at this point I need an underdrop more than I need another bomb.

P4P2: Witherfrost Banshee, Zombie Infantry, Oxidon Spitter, Spiritbloom Dryad, Cull the Weak – Hmmm… Not a particularly good pack here. I think that Cull is the pick just for some extra removal, but it may be that Dryad is a better call. Hard to say until I actually play.

P4P3: Blightskull Phantasm, Swampmoss Lurker, Fell Walker, Rot Wanderer – Came down to either the underdrop or the sticky creature; I have loads of spawn/sticky, so time for another underdrop.

P4P4: Oxidon Spitter, Grapplevine, Lysian Rain – Being able to stop my opponent’s mobility is never a bad, and the ‘Vine does have a suitably big butt. The other two are just kinda meh.

P4P5: Fangwood Ravager, Scavenger Scorpion – The Ravager levels much better, but the Scorpion is an Abomination and I still don’t have very many of them.

P5P1: Victory Rush, Charnel Titan, Gemhide Basher, Mimicleaf, Scavenger Scorpion, Uterradon Mauler – This one’s a bit more of a gamble; given the opportunity, the Mimicleaf can be an absolute ass to get rid of, but it is definitely on the smaller side and dies to a lot of removal. It came down to this or Victory Rush for some much needed pump. Not my most confident pick here…

P5P2: Zombie Infantry, Shardplate Delver, Graveborn Glutton, Death Seeker, Hive Empress – Ooh- a tricky call here, between the Glutton and the Empress. Both are very good cards, and both will work well with this deck. I think I’ll take the Empress now and hope for a Glutton later.

P5P3: Vyric’s Embrace, Ruthless Wanderers, Stouthide Stegadon, Victory Rush – And finally the Rush is the pick.

P5P4: Tanglesprout, Bitterfrost Totem, Brighttusk Sower – Any of the three could work here, but I think I’ll go with more token spam (it’s been a little while…)

P5P5: Sorrow Harvester, Grapplevine – Another ‘Vine is tempting, but we do have enough other Aboms that the Harvester may be worth it. Plus it scales more aggressively.

P6P1: Witherfrost Banshee, Zombie Infantry, Grove Matriarch, Nyrali Ooze, Rot Wanderer, Roaming Warclaw – Ooze is a not-so-good Matriarch substitute, so we can rule that one out, bringing it down to Matriarch or Warclaw. And Warclaw is a dinosaur. I’m a big kid; so sue me…

P6P2: Spiritbloom Dryad, Scavenger Scorpion, Venomfang, Fangwood Ravager, Vyric’s Embrace – Poison and an okay body make the snake the pick.

P6P3: Crypt Wail, Verdant Sphere, Rot Wanderer, Charnel Titan – Well, I guess it’s Titan and hope for the proc. Wanderer is a close second here, but neither are stellar. Still miles better than the spells though.

P6P4: Stranglevine Hydra, Tanglesprout, Fangwood Ravager – I think the Hydra is the pick, but again nothing is particularly standout.

P6P5: Tigrin Nomad, Verdant Grace – The Nomad has a body. The only deciding factor here, really.

And we’re done. On the whole I’m relatively okay with the deck; the NU Grow Wide is one of the staples. I’m concerned by the lack of mass pump that normally pushes this deck to better levels, and a spot more removal would make me feel more comfortable (at the very least a second Grave Pact). It’s also disappointing to not pull more Abyssal Maws or Harbingers, as either can really make a deck. We’ll just have to see how it performs.

The Games

Game 1: First up was an NT Mobility/Control type deck, with Spite Hydra and Arc Wurm along with numerous “move my creatures” cards like Borean Mystic and Uranti Elementalist. My opponent got a lot of value out of his Hydra, especially once we hit Rank 3 and I really struggled to get rid of them. I managed to fill the board several times but just couldn’t really do much when I had. I eventually lost in early Rank 4. Well played to dorkchop.

Game 2: Unfortunately game 2 was a drop-without-playing-anything. A quick win, but unsatisfying. Oh well, it happens.

Game 3: Next up was another NU deck, but where I went wide, he went tall. I took the early lead and managed to keep going wide, but again (like game 1) once I got there I just couldn’t really do anything. Once we hit Rank 3, his creatures really hit their stride- Necroslime, Torrent Soldier, Weirwood Ranger and Grove Huntress just crushed anything that I could play and the lead I got vanished really fast. I managed to stabilize somewhat going into Rank 4, but quickly lost it again. I ended up conceding in mid Rank 4. Well played indeed to superschiere.

That was a very disappointing draft. It turns out that my fears were extremely well founded: I was able to go wide and fill the board, but what I filled it with was so underwhelming. The almost total lack of pump was a serious mistake, and the one-ofs of Harbinger, Maw and Grave Pact had pretty much no impact on the games.

The main lesson to take away here is to be careful when you are drafting and make sure that you are paying close attention to the whole deck, not just one or two parts. Also, don’t let yourself get sidetracked by irrelevant stuff; the whole Abomination subtheme that I had hoped for really wasn’t a thing after all. And finally, I have always discounted the Borean Mystic but having actually seen it in use I may just have to rethink that and maybe give it a try. Is there a card that you’ve discounted without playing with it? Maybe you should give it a try next time and see if you are right. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Regardless of my performance, a big thank you to my opponents and again very well played to both dorkchop and superschiere; my hat’s off to you both. And thank you all for reading and I hope to see you all in the queues!

Just For Funsies: Howling Angel

Greetings Forgeborn, and welcome once more to Just For Funsies.

But before we start, a couple of non-JFF related comments. As those of you who have been here before have probably noticed this site has had a slight make over and rebranding. I launched the blog as a place to talk about all kinds of games, and had kind of envisioned a slightly broader range of topic (some D&D, some DTCG, some paper TCG, a bit of board game stuff, and so on). However, I quickly realised that the lions share of content was SolForge related. Barring a few JFFs for Eternal, I found that it was a struggle to get motivated to write, let alone think of topics to write about. So to make it easier to write for (and avoid spreading my reader base too thin) I have made the call to drop all non-Forgey stuff.

I have also gone for a fresh look as well- I personally like the light text on dark background, but the other way round is meant to be better for your eyes and I want you all to enjoy my writing without hurting you. See- all heart, me…

Secondly I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone still active in the SolForge community- from Kaelari and his whole team who work hard to keep bringing us bigger and better stuff (I’m particularly happy with how KUSC is coming along; Kael and Naviln are both working wonders there and when I play on PC it is the one that I use most, and I just look forward to having it on iOS as well) right through to all of the players that still populate the queues (and I’m sure that numbers have actually crept up a bit lately, which can only ever be a good thing), all those still engaging on social media, and everyone that has taken the time to come here and read what I have to say. It is gratifying to see the readership figures (especially as I have never really done anything like this before) and hope to be seeing you all for a long time to come.

And finally, a quick personal plea to you, the community at large. SolForge does appear to be on the rise again. Like I said, player numbers appear to be going up, more content is on the horizon (Set 8 hype! No info, no timeline, but Set 8 hype!), we have new Weekend Warriors and WWs have been extended to week long events (smart move there, by the way). There are now multiple UIs, catering to different needs and tastes. But what we need now is more engagement and more content from the rest of the community. Post on social media. Visit the SolForge forums. Visit the reddit or the ladder. If you are feeling ambitious, start a new blog or website. If you think an anecdote is really cool or funny, share it. Those that are able to, stream the game. Share screenshots or YouTube videos. Start new teams. Let us make our game and community the best it can be.

Thank you for listening, and now to your scheduled reading.

Howling Angel

Howling Angel is an old deck of mine that has been tinkered with on and off since early 2015. A creature-light AN control deck, the idea is to use a combination of Ambriel Archangel and a whole slew of spells to nullify your opponent’s board, drop Lucid Echoes and Energy Surge to enable you to draw as much of your deck as possible each turn, Metasight and Perilous Insight to level all of your cards up, then kill them with repeated Howl of Xith. This deck is not one to reach for if you want a quick game, and may only really appeal to you if you enjoy pulling the wings off of flies.

Previous versions were, I’m embarrassed to admit, hindered by an horribly inflexible approach. By the time I built this deck I had quite a few years of TCG theory in my head, even if precious little practical experience, and I at least knew some of the bigger pitfalls to avoid. And inexplicably I threw it all out the window for the deck. I restricted myself to only three copies of Ambriel, but no other creatures. The deck had to be as close to mono Alloyin as possible, so I only allowed myself the three copies of Howl (and I also insisted that the Howl had to be the wincon- I would frequently Energy Prison my own Ambriel to stop it hitting). And I became fixated on nullifying, Prisoning and debuffing creatures instead of killing them. I told myself that it made more sense this way. If their creatures have a negative value for their attack, they can’t kill me. If their creatures are defendered, they can’t hurt me. And in the late game, it wasn’t unknown to draw all three leveled up Energy Prisons and be able to nullify their plays while still leaving my two plays open for either more debuff, more Lucid Echoes, or the Howls.

In my defence, it actually worked better than I had any right to expect. The win rate was around the 30% mark, which isn’t really that good and for most decks I would have written it off and moved on to pastures new, but also not a complete failure and the deck held a strange appeal that never fully left.

But in very recent history I have started to make a more concerted effort to get better at SolForge, and one way that I wanted to do that was to go back to Howling Angel and actually make it work. I dropped the unnecessary self-inflicted restrictions and tried to make a deck to be proud of. And I like to think that’s what I’ve done.

The Deck

HowlingAngel3pt1                          HowlingAngel3pt2

As a job, creature control has been returned to it’s more customary Nekrium home with full playsets of the old faithful Current and ‘Cleave pairing backed up with two-ofs of Edict and Epidemic (for mass removal) and Dreadbolt and Vyric’s Embrace (pinpoint removal).

Leveling remains a pair of pairs- Metasight becomes free at 2nd level, and the Perilous’ thin the deck nicely. As long as your opponent isn’t too aggressive, they should be fine in Rank 1 and even better in the late game. If you don’t see any of them in Rank 1, you may just have a problem though.

Ever since it took a hit in Stoneblade’s own big card shake up Energy Surge has seen much less play, and Echoes are unusual as a three-of; most decks that run it keep it to two or less, but you really do need to be drawing as much as possible with this deck, to make sure you draw into the answers you need. Between the two cards, you should be able to meet all of your drawing needs, and the Surge gaining overload at level 3 just helps to thin out the deck.

And finally, of course, you have the two cards that the deck is named for. Ambriel is still a potent go to when slowing down aggressive decks and has a reasonable body (especially with the proc), and Howl is a great finisher that requires no leveling to make it work.

The deck isn’t perfect- Zimus and Immortal Echoes can cause major problems (whereas the original was actually better- leaving your opponents side of the board gummed up with neutered creatures does leave no room for spawning), as can hyper aggressive decks. If you find that you are facing a lot of Zimus, dropping the Embraces and possibly Edicts for Metasculpts and Wipe Cleans will help a lot. Against the aggressive decks, there is a lot less you can do; all I can suggest is again replacing the Embraces with a third copy of Epidemic, Edict, and/or Dreadbolt.

So there you have it- another deck to go on the list of Decks People Love To Hate and two really really important lessons: Never forget your basics, and if a deck doesn’t work don’t be stupid and change it.

Thanks again for reading and I’ll see you in the queues!

Drafting Pick by Pick: Weekend Warrior – High Rarity Draft

Greetings Forgeborn, and welcome to another Drafting Pick by Pick, and this time we’ve got a real doozy for you; this weekend’s Weekend Warrior is the High Rarity Draft. Woo!

So, what is a High Rarity Draft? As the name suggests, all of the cards drafted are higher rarities. Each 6-card pack consists of nothing but legendaries, and each other pack is all heroics. Now it’s a shadow draft (you don’t keep the cards) so it is still behind Guaranteed Legendary Drafting in popularity, but not by much and certainly it’s a nice change of pace.

The Draft

P1P1: Shardplate Behemoth, Ebonskull Diabolist, Synapsis Oracle, Ghox, Metamind Paragon, Everflow Eidolon, Grimgaunt Devourer – Okay, so first pack and we have three nicely playable cards here. Shardplate is the king of underdrops (but it doesn’t feel right picking an underdrop for P1P1), Ghox is a serious card advantage beast, and left unchecked Devourer (especially levels 2 and 3) can be insane. All of the others require too much work to pull off successfully. All things considered, I would rather pick the kick ass bomb first.

P1P2: Shadowsmith, Metamorphosis, Firestorm, Aetherphage, Patron of Kadras – This pack came down to the ‘Smith or the Metamorphosis for me. The ‘Smith locks me nicely into AN, which is my personal favourite faction pairing and leveling is always nice. However, the Metamorphosis is one of the rare removal cards actually present in the format. It took a wee while to decide, but in the end faction loyalty won out.

P1P3: Soulscourge Grimgaunt, Patron of Tarsus, War Tinker, Discordant Strike – I did briefly lean towards the Strike, but the body won out (and it can be an insane body if you play right/get lucky).

P1P4: Energy Prison, Grimgaunt Betrayer, Repress – Not even close; it’s a body and it’s a Darkforged.

P1P5: Patron of Anvillon, Necroplasm – I rarely like taking the patrons in any kind of draft anyway(except Mono-Faction Draft, obviously), and Necroplasm has a better body at every level. I’m not even too fussed about getting the formation proc.

P2P1: Oreian Warwalker, Suruzal, Emissary of Varna, Nethershriek, Scythe of Chiron, Immortal Echoes, Drix, the Mindwelder – After pack 1, I feel that any of the four Nekrium cards would have been a good pick. Ultimately, it was the potential for Darkforged fun that swung it for me. Probably too little Darkforged to be focusing on so far, but I like them.

P2P2: Apocrymancer, Steelforged Avatar, Grimgaunt Betrayer, Repress, Overwhelming Force – And speaking of the Darkforged, here’s another one. Plus, in this format most of the others are too underwhelming (you need better/more spells to make Apocrymancer work, Avatars are in the same group as the Patrons, Repress is meh in all formats.) Overwhelming Force is a nice mass buff, but is it nice enough? Not really sure here.

P2P3: Xrath’s Will, Ebonskull Knight, War Merchant, Cercee’s Call – Will and Call are both awesome if you’re playing zombies, but I’m not. War Merchant is a helpful if somewhat restricted buff. But in the end, the massive underdrop was the way to go.

P2P4: Patron of Anvillon, Metasculpt, Unrelenting Dead – And then to make me look silly, the zombie is the pick here.

P2P5: Discordant Strike, Scout Drone – If you are able to level it Scout Drone is a useful little free body, but otherwise it is just too insignificant. Even without leveling, the multi-lane combat trick can still be relevant.

P3P1: Sparky, Forge Guardian Dog, Frontline Combatant, Iniog, Carrion Demon, Dread, Arcflight Squadron, Ironbeard, Hammer of Anvillon – Sparky and Iniog are both too build around, Arcflight requires at least some other robots, and Dread isn’t relevant enough (and only 50/50 chance of respawning). Of the other two, Ironbeard is definitely very nice (and a Forgeborn- major cool factor), but the Combatant is more immediate removal in a format without much. One-eyed man, Kingdom of the Blind, and all that.

P3P2: Scout Drone, Shardthief Druid, Tomb Pillager, Soul Harvest, Aeromind Squadron – The best of a mediocre bunch here is all.

P3P3: Alloyin Highlander, Cercee’s Call, Portal Shade, Rite of the Grimgaunt – Another uninspiring pack. I did consider the Rite, and the lack of removal would make this  a slightly stronger pick than normal, but the potential for extra bodies on rank up is still just better.

P3P4: Explosive Demise, Hellforged Avatar, Discordant Strike – The Strike is really the only choice. Would be more excited if I hadn’t already picked one.

P3P5: Grimgaunt Warrior, War Tinker – This is seriously starting to look like a Grimgaunt deck here. On the bright side, this one is definitely a decent one for draft.

P4P1: Lucid Echoes, Epoch Hawk, Woebringer, Doppelbot, Xerxes, Immortal Echoes – This pick was made simply for the possibility of copying their coolest big level 3 before they are able to play it themselves. Very funny…

P4P2: Cercee’s Call, Byzerak Frostmaiden, Omnomnom, Nexus Techtician, Sonic Pulse – Yet again, not much to excite me here. Obviously came down to Techtician or Pulse; Pulse just feels more useful.

P4P3: Rite of the Grimgaunt, Onyxium Allomancer, Alloyin Highlander, Dysian Broodqueen – Didn’t even need to think about this one- Allomancer all the way, baby.

P4P4: Grimgaunt Betrayer, War Merchant, Warmonger Mod – Again, it’s a Darkforged.

P4P5: Explosive Demise, Esperian Scarab – Ugh. Both are pretty much useless here. Grudgingly taking the body.

P5P1: Synapsis Oracle, Ghox, Metamind Paragon, Ironmind Acolyte, Doomwing, Dire Drake, Dread, Ambriel Archangel – Definitely the weakest of the legendary packs so far. Ghox is the only pick here.

P5P2: Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna, Necroplasm, Patron of Anvillon, Shardthief Druid, Forge Guardian Delta – With so few zombie cards so far Xrath loses a lot of his value, but he is still the best of what’s there.

P5P3: Oratek Explosives, Onyxium Allomancer, Spitesower Acolyte, Nexus Techtician – A second Allomancer? Don’t mind if I do! And the rest were somewhat underwhelming, so…

P5P4: Cacklebones, Oreian Battledroid, Xithian Tormentor – Both Nekrium creatures here have drawbacks that can be worked around or negated in constructed, but in limited can be lethal to you- certainly not worth playing. Which only leaves one option.

P5P5: Ceaseless Grimgaunt, Spitesower Acolyte – And ANOTHER unimpressive pack. Ceaseless is another constructed rather than limited staple, and Spitesower is that bit too small and fragile to be of much use. Suicide combat trick on a stick. Meh.

P6P1: Spiritstone Sentry, Oreian Warwalker, Frontline Combatant, Specimen 001, Keeper of the Damned, Immortal Echoes – I’ve passed on the previous two Echoes, I can’t really skip the third as well; the card is just too useful, especially at level 3. An extra creature on your board at the end of your turn for free is never to be sneezed at.

P6P2: Soul Harvest, Tomb Pillager, Explosive Demise, Unrelenting Dead, Repress – Tomb Pillager has a couple of things going for it here- as a zombie it gets buffed by Xrath, and it allows you to trim the unleveled chaff and thin your deck. Add an average sort of body and we have a winner.

P6P3: Darkfrost Reaper, Tomb Pillager, Patron of Anvillon, Ambriel’s Edict – Still the best answer to unpleasant swarm problems, the Edict was a gimme.

P6P4: Crypt Conjurer, Automaton Prime, Spite Hydra – Conjurer has too few targets to work, and we are in the wrong faction pairing for the Hydra (and without the proc it is mediocre at best really), so it’s the Automaton as an underdrop here.

P6P5: Indomitable Fiend, Progeny of Xith – Not really the best pack it could be, but both creatures have some potential, especially the Fiend if I get lucky with the reanimation.

So there we have it- a sort of slower controly-reanimation-with-Grimgaunts-and-Darkforged sort of deck. We have a couple of ropey picks in there (and I should probably have picked at least one more Echoes in place of either Suruzal or the Doppelbot), but on the whole I’m feeling relatively confident with it. To the queues!

The Play

Game 1 – My first match was against an AT level up deck. Highlights included at least one Ignir, Synapsis Oracle and a rather annoying Leyline Sentry that kept popping in. Unfortunately for my opponent, they were unable to stop the GGD (I finished with a 29/14 GGD on board eating their blockers and smacking face for lots); I also got really lucky with both the Darkforged and Fiend. My opponent conceded mid Rank 2. 1-0

Game 2 – Next up was an AU Grow wide, with Nova, Tuskin Sporelord, H.E.R.M.E.S., and Ironbeard, Ascendant. The Anvilbreakers kept interferring with my game plan, but in the end the Devourers took the game for me; I had both a level 2 and a level 3 sat on board at the end. The Betrayers and Discordant Strikes also played an important role. 2-0

Game 3 – Game 3 was an AN control mirror. Extremely good use of his (at least) two Contagion Lords allowed my opponent to level a fair bit of his deck, along with decent reanimation from both Immortal Echoes and Varna. His top end consisted of a Zimus and a Scrapforge; I had to concede early in Rank 4. Well played indeed to yjlbl6ka (hope I got that right!). 2-1

Game 4 – The final match was against AU Grow wide, with Forge Guardians, Guardians Assemble, Bramblewood Tracker and Energy Prison. The latter did a lot of work for my opponent, managing to keep my level 1, level 2, and reanimated level 2 Devourers from getting in even one hit. Thankfully for me the level 3 managed to stay Prison free though, and finally managed to swing for the win (with help from a well timed Discordant Strike) in my 3.4. Final score 3-1

Well, the take home from this is that AN still appears to be a powerhouse in limited at the moment, even in the more unusual formats. Good fun was had by all, and GGD proved once again that there’s still enough life left in some of the old guard of Alpha- all three wins were at least in part down to how insanely they can grow.

I shouldn’t have gotten quite so fixated on the Darkforged; they worked for me, but in honesty it was more luck than anything with them. The fiend was also more of a lucky than skillful heavy hitter. And I really should have picked up one or more of the extra Echoes, as Suruzal and Doppelbot both saw no playtime. Something to remember for next time.

I just want to thank all of my opponents for a fun time with this draft and Kaelari and all at team Reforged (I think they’re still running off that name…) for another fun Weekend Warrior. Here’s to next time, and until then, I’ll see you in the queues!

Drafting Pick by Pick: Ixalan Special

Greetings Forgeborn, and welcome to another Drafting Pick by Pick. After last weeks Weekend Warrior, we are back to a normal draft today. However, in honour of the fact that this weekend sees the prerelease for Magic: the Gatherings latest expansion Ixalan and I find myself unable to go I wanted to do something a little different here, something a little more Vorthosy.

WotC have very much been playing up the tribal nature of Ixalan. It seems appropriate then to try and draft a tribal deck. But which tribe to go for? Well, in honesty we are somewhat hampered in SolForge. We have no merfolk or pirates, and there are nowhere near enough vampires to be practical- all we have in the draft pool at the moment are the Disciple of Vyric at rare and the legendaries Ebonskull Diabolist, Soul Drinker, and Vyric Ebonskull. Not gonna happen. So that only leaves us with one choice, the perennial favourite of fantasy fans the world over- dinosaurs!

Long a staple of Solforge (in part because, well, dinosaurs…), several dinosaurs have seen regular play in draft ever since the format first appeared. We may not see dedicated dinosaur draft decks as much these days as they are currently missing some of the cards that pushed them to be a real force in draft (mainly Uterradon Rex and Mosstodon), but there are still enough.

Before we go any further I need to add a little disclaimer here- like I said before, this is a Vorthos deck. I am not looking to deliberately lose, but I am looking at style over substance here. I would rather pick a not so good dinosaur over a better non-dinosaur card.

So before we begin drafting, let’s take a quick look what we have available to us. Firstly, we know that we are restricted to an Umbruk deck because Alloyin only has one dinosaur (Batterbot) and Nekrium doesn’t even have that. Tempys may only have a handful in the draft pool, but it’s still better than one. At common we have both Kadrasian Stoneback and Razortooth Stalker, both of which are solid draft picks. We also have the Stampeding Mongosaur which has the potential for chip damage to the face if you have enough creatures attacking but is otherwise nothing spectacular (not bad per se, but not terribly exciting). We have no rare Tempys dinos and only one heroic dinosaur- Umbruk Icecrusher. The potential damage output for Icecrusher is very respectable, especially if you manage to get the allied proc, but it does ideally need either a buff to its butt to keep it alive or some way of giving it aggressive because it will have a dirty great “nuke me” sign on its back.

Uterra brings a better crop of Jurassic joy to your board. At common we currently have Roaming Warclaw filling boards, Stouthide Stegadon for gumming up the board at rank up, and both Swampmoss Lurker and Uterradon Mauler have respectable bodies. The Lurker also is the Uterra poster boy for underdrops in draft. Rare is a bit more of a mixed bag; Gemhide Basher is a mediocre “creature as a kill spell”, Oxidon Spitter has a relevant ability in draft (especially as TU has the hardest time dealing with armour) and a reasonable front end but horribly small butt, and Shardplate Delver, if left unchecked has the potential to be a massive back breaker. And finally at heroic we have the Gemhide Ravager and Umbruk Lasher. Both are solid cards in draft, especially if you are able to get the allied procs.

So that is what we ideally need to be looking out for. But what do the packs actually have in store for us? Only one way to find out…

The Draft

P1P1: Umbruk Lasher, Onyxium Allomancer, Leyline Tyrant, Soothsayer Hermit, Restless Wanderers, Zombie Dreadknight – Never in any doubt.

P1P2: Storm Caller, Tower Scout, Stonefist Giant, Electro Net, Fit of Rage – Not a particularly stellar pack, the pick comes down to Storm Caller or Stonefist. Storm Caller is better for rushing and as an under drop, Stonefist is Tempys’ common late game bomb. As drafts tend to run longer, I want the better late game card.

P1P3: Swampmoss Lurker, Flamerift Instigator, Dendrify, Frostshatter Strike – Dinosaur.

P1P4: Ashurian Mystic, Verdant Sphere, Tanglesprout – Ashurian Mystic is tempting here as a surprise extra bit of damage, and later game they can grow fairly well if left unchecked, but the under drop is the better pick here.

P1P5: Grove Huntress, Verdant Grace – Any body is usually going to be the right pick next to Verdant Grace, and Huntress is a decent card in its own right anyway.

P2P1: Flame Jet, Stouthide Stegadon, Flamestoke Shaman, Steam Sentinel, Volcanic Giant, Fit of Rage – Dinosaur.

P2P2: Glowstride Stag, Stag of Lys, Borean Mystic, Tigrin Nomad, Iceborn Fortitude – This one came down to a battle of the stags. Glowstride has a bigger and more immediate effect, and the better body at level 1. Level 2 bodies are comparable and will trade with each other, and at level 3 the Stag of Lys is vastly superior body-wise. Stag of Lys also has the potential for more total life gain. In the end, the level 3 and greater potential life gain won.

P2P3: Tigrin Nomad, Fit of Rage, Verdant Sphere, Poisoncoil – Nothing here really sets me on fire, but Poisoncoil does have the potential to be useful as slow removal.

P2P4: Verdant Grace, Razortooth Stalker, Ashurian Mystic – Taking the dino again. It just so happens to be the better pick here regardless.

P2P5: Dissolve, Flame Jet – Dissolve is pretty dire in constructed, and you have more control over your own deck. Dissolve is almost never the Pick I draft.

P3P1: Brambleaxe Warrior, Frostshatter Strike, Wind Primordial, Cloudcleaver Titan, Flowstone Primordial, Tuskin Grovekeeper – This was another unimpressive pack. Both Primordials and the Titan are playable, but the multi-lane shenanigans of Frostshatter were just that little bit too appealing.

P3P2: Tigrin Nomad, Flame Lance, Grove Matriarch, Glowstride Stag, Lightning Tamer – The pick came down to Lance, Matriarch, or Stag. Back and forthed a little before settling on the removal.

P3P3: Fangwood Ravager, Warbringer Uranti, Verdant Sphere, Uranti Elementalist – Uranti Elementalist is one that I do like to try and always include as at least a one-of, simply because it is non-level gated movement.

P3P4: Stouthide Stegadon, Storm Caller, Fangwood Ravager – Normally I would have taken the Storm Caller as a good underdrop, but dinosaur…

P3P5: Cloudcleaver Titans, Razortooth Stalker – It’s a dinosaur.

P4P1: Stonefist Giant, Storm Caller, Volcanic Giant, Glowstride Stag, Flamerift Instigator, Victory Rush – One of the creatures may actually have been a better pick here, but so far I only have one combat trick (Frostshatter Strike) so… Definitely a “Not so sure” in the cold light of day.

P4P2: Dragonkeeper Shaman, Hammerfang, Uterradon Mauler, Verdant Sphere, Primordial Invoker – Hammerfang was the only other one that would be considered here normally.

P4P3: Borean Mystic, Sparktail Manticore, Scatterspore Tiller, Grove Matriarch – It came down to Matriarch or Tiller; Tiller has the better body and can create multiple tokens.

P4P4: Grove Matriarch, Stag of Lys, Burnout – One of the best damage spells at level 1.

P4P5: Gemhide Basher, Nargath Bruiser – Dinosaur.

P5P1: Burnout, Stonefist Giant, Deepwood Bear Rider, Tuskin Grovekeeper, Roaming Warclaw, Uterradon Mauler – A tough call here. Both of the dinosaurs are good ones. In the end, I went for the extra body on the board but a case could be made for either.

P5P2: Roaming Warclaw, Flowstone Primordial, Gemhide Ravager, Grove Huntress, Storm Caller – Again it’s a no-brainier, but I do find myself worried about the allied procs for both this and the Lasher. Ideally I need at least 12 Tempys cards in the final deck, and I only have 8 so far with 8 picks left.

P5P3: Steam Sentinel, Deepwood Bear Rider, Grove Matriarch, Flame Lance – So here we pick the defender because it has good stats and the right faction. The Flame Lance would also have been a good choice but the Sentinel can gum up a lane and does decidedly more damage to whatever’s in front.

P5P4: Verdant Sphere, Swampmoss Lurker, Tigrin Nomad – Another Lurker is always appreciated.

P5P5: Ashurian Mystic, Fit of Rage – Neither is brilliant here, but the Mystic could possibly be workable.

P6P1: Blood Boil, Gemhide Basher, Dragonkeeper Shaman, Cloudcleaver Titan, Flowstone Primordial – Well, it’s a dinosaur, so…

P6P2: Stag of Lys, Storm Caller, Flame Lance, Dragonkeeper Shaman, Wind Primordial – Ultimately this pack came down to Storm Caller or Wind Primordial. Storm Caller is a slightly more relevant underdrop, but the Primordial levels better and is more flexible.

P6P3: Lysian Rain, Blood Boon, Flamerift Instigator, Harbinger of Spring – One of the few rare times when the Harbinger is actually not the correct pick. I know- crazy, huh…? The Instigator has the decent power and is another Tempys card, so in it goes.

P6P4: Steam Sentinel, Wind Primordial, Blood Boon – Well, I’ve managed the twelve Tempys cards for the allied procs now, so I’ll pick another buff spell because I still don’t have all that many yet.

P6P5: Tigrin Nomad, Thranik Ambusher – And final pick we take the Ambusher because (a) it’s better and (b) it looks more like a dinosaur.

So there we have it- a dinosaur draft deck. Sure, other cards would have made a better deck, but were they dinosaurs? No. And that’s what matters…

The Play

Game 1 – The tournament got off to an inauspicious start when my opponent timed out without playing a single card. It’s some one I’ve played against before so I’m confident it was technical or personal issues. 1-0

Game 2 – This time the technical issues were my end; my internet dropped out near the end of rank 1 and didn’t come back up in time. My opponent was playing an AN control type of deck. Reyap, if you’re reading this, sorry for vanishing so abruptly. 1-1 and I’ve only managed to play half of a rank. *grumble grumble, darned internet, grumble*

Game 3 – And finally a game that made it to the end. By which I mean I got hamstrung by ieka and his well built AN control. Between his Blight Walker, Abyssals (Brute and Maw) and sweet Xithian Shambler, I did not really stand a chance. I had to concede mid rank 3. 1-2

And so there we have it- my Ixalan prerelease SolForge draft. Actually playing turned out to be a serious wet blanket, but the idea was certainly cool and I’m glad that I did this. On the bright side, we can still learn some valuable lessons from this. No matter how fun the idea may be, you still should take the better card, not the funnier one. And always make sure you internet is up to scratch.

Well, on that note I’m going to go. Thanks for joining me once more and I look forward to next week. See you in the queues!