Towers of Steel

Drafting Pick by Pick: Ixalan Special

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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!

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