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Why We Fall – Scars of Mirrodin Draft 1

[Note: This will be among the longest articles published on Quiet Speculation. Rather than split this up into two smaller pieces, it’s published here in its entirety. Block out as much time as you need to read it start to finish: This article is a must-read if you intend to improve your drafting. -Dylan]

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
– James Joyce

Welcome to the new Quiet Speculation.

I’ll skip the personal introductions – they’re boring and, really, you’re here for the content and not my magical life history. The one important piece of preface is the primary premise of this column – we make mistakes, and one of the best ways to improve as magicians is to catalog and understand our missteps. This column is a place for me to talk about the mistakes I make in draft, deck construction, and play, so I can figure out what the correct lines are and avoid those mistakes in the future. I want to help you analyze your own play and weaknesses as well as avoid the pitfalls I’ve run into.

For the next month Scars of Mirrodin Limited is the most important format for competitive players as we wind down the Paris PTQ season, so my first couple of columns will focus on SOM draft and sealed. Let’s start off with a draft:

Scars of Mirrodin 8-4 draft

Pack 1 pick 1:

Contagious Nim
Painsmith
Kuldotha Rebirth
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Copperhorn Scout
Blackcleave Goblin
Trigon of Rage
Tel-Jilad Defiance
Vigil for the Lost
Sylvok Lifestaff
Moriok Replica
Panic Spellbomb
Disperse
Plains
Fulgent Distraction

The opening pack is pretty weak, with a number of unplayables and many cards that are OK to good in their particular archetypes but not really playable in any other archetypes. Ezuri, Renegade Leader, Painsmith, and Trigon of Rage are the most powerful cards in the pack, but they all require a real commitment to a specific archetype – Painsmith and the Trigon only really shine in Infect decks while Ezuri is only going to be good in a deck with a bunch of Carapace Forgers. Sylvok Lifestaff is less powerful that the other options, but it’s a flexible card that will almost always make my maindeck and is good, if not excellent, in many archetypes. When I open a pack that doesn’t offer a clear direction I like staying open and picking a flexible card, so I take the Lifestaff.

My pick:

Sylvok Lifestaff

Pack 1 pick 2:

Perilous Myr
Vector Asp
Ezuris Archers
Wing Puncture
Assault Strobe
Vulshok Heartstoker
Necrogen Scudder
Infiltration Lens
Arrest
Relic Putrescence
Horizon Spellbomb
Island
Myr Galvanizer
Scrapdiver Serpent

And already I’m on to my first mistake. Looking at this pack I see that the rare is missing which means that I can’t really deduce anything about what my neighbor is drafting. I decided to “stay open” with this pick and draft the Perilous Myr, which is quite a good card in Metalcraft decks, is playable if not super exciting in Infect decks, and is always playable and sometimes incredible in other archetypes (e.g. it’s good in control decks and dinosaur decks where it helps stall the ground until your late game takes over, it’s great in Furnace Celebration decks, and it’s OK in non-Infect Aggro decks). Attempting to “stay open” is quite clearly wrong here though – Arrest is a significantly better card than Perilous Myr and is the superior choice. Picking Arrest puts us in a color, but it’s a very light commitment since splashing is fairly easy in SOM, so really the only commitment I’m making is to not play an Infect deck. But Perilous Myr isn’t a great card for an Infect deck either. I’m practically as “open” to drafting Infect as I would be taking the Arrest, so I really should just pick the better card.

My (incorrect) pick:

Perilous Myr

Pack 1 pick 3:

Plated Seastrider
Neurok Invisimancer
Ichorclaw Myr
Viridian Revel
Corpse Cur
Trigon of Thought
Darksteel Sentinel
Carapace Forger
Sunspear Shikari
Turn to Slag
Origin Spellbomb
Chrome Steed
Forest

In this pack I can reasonably consider the Chrome Steed, Turn to Slag, Sunspear Shikari, Ichorclaw Myr, Origin Spellbomb, and Corpse Cur. Origin Spellbomb and Chrome Steed are both cards that want to be in a Metalcraft deck, in which the Chrome Steed is going to have a higher impact, so I can eliminate the Spellbomb. In most drafts you end up having more opportunities to pick up more expensive cards than you do to pick up the requisite earlier drops, both because good early drops are usually less common and because you want more early drops than late drops for curve purposes. This is even more true for aggressive decks, so Ichorclaw Myr is a superior choice to Corpse Cur. The aggressive equipment deck can be good, but you need at least two powerful equipments like Darksteel Axe, Barbed Battlegear, or one of the rare equipments to make it work properly. While I’ll happily pick up a Sunspear Shikari or Goblin Gaveleer late in a pack even if I don’t have the right equipment yet, I don’t want to make a speculative pick over a consistently better card and hope to find two uncommon/rare equipments later in the draft.

Choosing between Chrome Steed, Turn to Slag, and Ichorclaw Myr is mostly an issue of archetype preference at this stage. My first two picks lend themselves best to an aggressive Metalcraft deck, which is a deck I’m happy drafting, so I take the Chrome Steed.

My pick:

Chrome Steed

Pack 1 pick 4:

Plated Seastrider
Ezuris Archers
Melt Terrain
Ghalmas Warden
Dross Hopper
Ferrovore
Thrummingbird
Steady Progress
Golems Heart
Tunnel Ignus
Flight Spellbomb
Mountain

This is a pretty dry pack. Ghalma’s Warden and Flight Spellbomb are playable cards in my deck. When drafting a Metalcraft deck I prefer to pick artifacts over colored spells, ceterus paribus, as you want 15+ artifacts in your deck and only 8 or so colored spells. Ghalma’s Warden isn’t particularly powerful, and I like cheap artifacts to get my Chrome Steeds and (hopefully) Rusted Relics online as soon as possible.

My pick:

Flight Spellbomb

Pack 1 pick 5:

Untamed Might
Seize the Initiative
Vulshok Heartstoker
Alpha Tyrranax
Blistergrub
Bladed Pinions
Prototype Portal
Accorders Shield
Tainted Strike
Mountain
Mountain

I like Accorder’s Shield a lot in Metalcraft decks – having cheap non-creature artifacts is important for activating your Metalcraft cards without getting blown out by removal and it’s difficult for most non-Infect decks to race you if you equip it to a decently sized creature. I’ve never gotten a chance to play with Prototype Portal though, and while I suspect it’s not great, I’d like to see how well it works. Let’s not forget that there’s a late Untamed Might getting passed around …

My pick:

Prototype Portal

Pack 1 pick 6:

Plated Seastrider
Assault Strobe
Ghalmas Warden
Blackcleave Goblin
Ferrovore
Snapsail Glider
Echo Circlet
Flight Spellbomb
Soul Parry
Swamp

Snapsail Glider is the pick here – it keeps my options open for a second color (and a first, I suppose), it keeps upping my artifact count, and get me an evasive creature.

My pick:

Snapsail Glider

Pack 1 pick 7:

Neurok Invisimancer
Blistergrub
Infiltration Lens
Psychic Miasma
Whitesuns Passage
Tunnel Ignus
Razorfield Thresher
Scoria Elemental
Island

I’m probably not playing any of these cards. Neurok Invisimancer is playable but I’ll probably have better options for colored cards. I might need an additional artifact if the second and third packs are really dry, and Infiltration Lens is a good card in another archetype (Infect) while none of the other cards will be good in anyone else’s deck, so it’s also a reasonable hate card.

My pick:

Infiltration Lens

Pack 1 pick 8:

Kembas Skyguard
Untamed Might
Blade-Tribe Berserkers
Tainted Strike
Auriok Replica
Screeching Silcaw
Scoria Elemental
Island

Kemba’s Skyguard, Auriok Replica, and Blade-Tribe Berserkers are all reasonable cards. I’m happy to keep on picking artifacts here – getting a critical mass of playable artifacts early lets us be flexible in the second and third packs, giving me room to pick the most powerful colored cards I get access to. Also, there’s a second Untamed Might. And another Tainted Strike. It’s likely that there’s only one or two Infect drafters at the table, which means they probably will have quite good decks and I should value cards that are good against Infect decks slightly higher than normal.

My pick:

Auriok Replica

Pack 1 pick 9:

Kuldotha Rebirth
Copperhorn Scout
Tel-Jilad Defiance
Vigil for the Lost
Panic Spellbomb
Plains
Fulgent Distraction

Panic Spellbomb is the only playable here. I could hate the Tel-Jilad Defiance, but hating a card over a playable is seldom correct unless you’re in a team draft. Of course it’s cool to hate cards if there’s no maindeck or sideboard cards available, as I’ll do in a few picks.

My pick:

Panic Spellbomb

Pack 1 pick 10:

Vector Asp
Wing Puncture
Assault Strobe
Relic Putrescence
Island
Scrapdiver Serpent

Scrapdiver Serpent is a fine finisher and I won’t play any of the rest of these cards. I shouldn’t feel any commitment to Blue as a result of this pick.

My pick:

Scrapdiver Serpent

Pack 1 pick 11:

Plated Seastrider
Neurok Invisimancer
Viridian Revel
Sunspear Shikari
Forest

I might end up in an equipment deck if I open a Darksteel Axe or something. Plated Seastrider is also a potential pick as an anti-Infect sideboard card.

My pick:

Sunspear Shikari

Pack 1 pick 12:

Melt Terrain
Ferrovore
Golems Heart
Mountain

Ferrovore is somewhat playable in the Furnace Celebration deck, the rest of these cards aren’t playable anywhere.

My pick:

Ferrovore

Pack 1 pick 13:

Seize the Initiative
Vulshok Heartstoker
Mountain

Seize is moderately more playable than the Heartstoker, but I don’t expect to play either.

My pick:

Seize the Initiative

Pack 1 pick 14:

Assault Strobe
Swamp

My pick:

Assault Strobe

Pack 1 pick 15:

Whitesuns Passage

My pick:

Whitesuns Passage

After the first pack I’ve got the following cards as potential maindeck cards:

Unless I get a great card like Ezuri’s Brigade or Skinrender I won’t be playing Black or Green. Of the cards I have I’ll end up playing seven artifacts, and I’m not tied to any of the colored cards. Since I’m ahead of the curve in getting to fifteen artifacts I can be a little more liberal in drafting colored spells. At this point I’d really like to pick up a removal spell, another Chrome Steed/Rusted Relic, and two or more Myr, probably in that order.

Pack 2 pick 1:

Halt Order
Iron Myr
Leaden Myr
Oxidda Daredevil
Inexorable Tide
Abuna Acolyte
Wall of Tanglecord
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Salvage Scout
Glint Hawk
Auriok Sunchaser
Darksteel Axe
Myr Battlesphere
Island
Fume Spitter

Myr Battlesphere is a bomb, it fits in my deck, and it’s much better than the rest of these cards. If the Battlesphere weren’t in this pack I’d take either the Darksteel Axe or the Iron Myr; probably the Darksteel Axe as I’ll have more opportunities to pick Myr but probably no more chances to pick up premium equipment. I’ll want to prioritize Myr going forward, as I want to be able to cast the Battlesphere on or ahead of time if at all possible.

My pick:

Myr Battlesphere

Pack 2 pick 2:

Wing Puncture
Grasp of Darkness
Steady Progress
Bonds of Quicksilver
Soliton
Arc Trail
Loxodon Wayfarer
Vulshok Replica
Echo Circlet
Horizon Spellbomb
Exsanguinate
Stoic Rebuttal
Forest
Ogre Geargrabber

Arc Trail is one of the premier removal spells in the format and is a pretty easy pick. In Sealed deck I’m usually happier to have Arrest or Turn to Slag than Arc Trail, as Sealed tends to be slower and more bomb-driven, but Arc Trail is preferable in Draft as the card advantage is more important, and it has a greater impact on the more focused Metalcraft and Infect archetypes. This pick establishes me in Red, it means that at least two of my current twelve playables won’t make the maindeck, and my artifact count is now eight.

My pick:

Arc Trail

Pack 2 pick 3:

Kuldotha Rebirth
Bloodshot Trainee
Copperhorn Scout
Blackcleave Goblin
Bonds of Quicksilver
Cystbearer
Genesis Wave
Dispense Justice
Panic Spellbomb
Disperse
Liquimetal Coating
Swamp
Fulgent Distraction

If I already had a Darksteel Axe or some other way to pump Bloodshot Trainee’s power I would consider it, but it’s not worth a pick given my current pool. Generally I want a minimum of two ways to make the Trainee active, and preferably three, before I’ll consider him for a deck. This is a tall order given that all of the ways to accomplish this are uncommon or rare, and so I rarely want to make a speculative pick of the Trainee. I’m not going to make such a heavy commitment to Green that I’d be willing to take the Genesis Wave, and I’ll have a high enough artifact count that I won’t need Liquimetal Coating, so I’m left with Panic Spellbomb, Dispense Justice, Disperse, and Bonds of Quicksilver as playable options. I think a lot of people overvalue Dispense Justice – while it is definitely playable it’s one of the worst removal spells in the format, and it’s easy enough to play around. Panic Spellbomb isn’t particularly powerful, but I know it will make the deck and cheap artifacts are important to the Metalcraft deck, so it’s the pick here. If I were established in White or Blue, one of the colored spells would be the pick.

My pick:

Panic Spellbomb

Pack 2 pick 4:

Blight Mamba
Turn Aside
Whitesuns Passage
Tower of Calamities
Auriok Edgewright
Sunspear Shikari
Vulshok Replica
Withstand Death
Bellowing Tanglewurm
Auriok Replica
Scoria Elemental
Plains

Tower of Calamities is actually pretty good in sealed, especially if you have three or more Myr. It’s playable in draft, but it’s not a good fit for the deck as I don’t really have a lot of stall cards nor do I have any Myr yet. I’m more likely to be an aggressive Metalcraft deck so the on-color Vulshok Replica is the choice here. If I had picked up that Darksteel Axe in pick 1 of this pack, Sunspear Shikari would be a reasonable pick at this point.

My pick:

Vulshok Replica

Pack 2 pick 5:

Necrogen Censer
Copperhorn Scout
Dross Hopper
Strider Harness
Carapace Forger
Grafted Exoskeleton
Nihil Spellbomb
Disperse
Liquimetal Coating
Island
Fulgent Distraction

None of these are great options. If I end up in Blue there’s about an equal chance that I would play Disperse or the Strider Harness, so given that I may not play Blue I’m happy taking the Harness here.

My pick:

Strider Harness

Pack 2 pick 6:

Shatter
Seize the Initiative
Salvage Scout
Psychic Miasma
Bladed Pinions
Bleak Coven Vampires
Accorders Shield
Scoria Elemental
Trigon of Mending
Mountain

Shatter is a very nice late gift. I would have been happy taking the Accorder’s Shield here if I didn’t get the Shatter.

My pick:

Shatter

Pack 2 pick 7:

Wing Puncture
Halt Order
Lumengrid Drake
Steady Progress
Goblin Gaveleer
Glint Hawk
Loxodon Wayfarer
Glimmerpost
Plains

I’ll play Glint Hawk or Lumengrid Drake and whichever I choose will probably cement me into a color (you know, unless I open an off color bomb). I don’t have any Trigons or Tumble Magnets or other cards to reset with the Glint Hawk, so its “drawback” is actually a drawback in my deck. I’ve got a pretty fair chance of triggering the Lumengrid Drake, so it’s going to end up being better in my deck. Gaveleer is a fine card in the equipment deck, but my deck isn’t going to get into that archetype. Loxodon Wayfarer and Halt Order are both fine sideboard cards, but I’d rather have a maindeck card.

My pick:

Lumengrid Drake

Pack 2 pick 8:

Ezuris Archers
Assault Strobe
Lumengrid Drake
Blackcleave Goblin
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Echo Circlet
Soul Parry
Plains

Another Lumengrid Drake is the pick here, as there aren’t any other maindeckable cards in this pack. Soul Parry is a fine sideboard card against Infect decks but unless I pick up something awesome I won’t be playing White.

My pick:

Lumengrid Drake

Pack 2 pick 9:

Halt Order
Oxidda Daredevil
Abuna Acolyte
Salvage Scout
Glint Hawk
Auriok Sunchaser
Island

Another definite mistake here. I picked the Halt Order here thinking that I was definitely UR and that I’d like it for my sideboard, but I’m so tenuously established in Blue that it would be better to pick up a solid maindeckable White card in case I open up something like Arrest or Sunblast Angel and want to move into RW instead. Glint Hawk was the correct pick here.

My (incorrect) pick:

Halt Order

Pack 2 pick 10:

Bonds of Quicksilver
Loxodon Wayfarer
Echo Circlet
Stoic Rebuttal
Forest
Ogre Geargrabber

Stoic Rebuttal is the pick here as it is potentially maindeckable. Bonds of Quicksilver is also an option, but the Rebuttal is going to be a better answer to many bombs, even though it requires proactive play instead of reactive play.

My pick:

Stoic Rebuttal

Pack 2 pick 11:

Kuldotha Rebirth
Copperhorn Scout
Bonds of Quicksilver
Swamp
Fulgent Distraction

And I get the Bonds as well!

My pick:

Bonds of Quicksilver

Pack 2 pick 12:

Whitesuns Passage
Withstand Death
Scoria Elemental
Plains

I took the Withstand Death as a hate draft against the Infect deck, where it’s a pretty good card, but this is probably a mispick, since it’s very unlikely that the Infect deck is in the two seats to the right. Scoria Elemental has potential sideboard applications versus the Dinosaur deck.

My (incorrect) pick:

Withstand Death

Pack 2 pick 13:

Copperhorn Scout
Island
Fulgent Distraction

My pick:

Copperhorn Scout

Pack 2 pick 14:

Scoria Elemental
Mountain

My pick:

Scoria Elemental

Pack 2 pick 15:

Plains

My pick:

Plains

Going into the third pack my deck looks like this:

I have eight creatures, eleven artifacts, and seventeen playables. Ideally I’d like to pick up at least four more creatures, two or more Myr, four or five artifacts, and some more removal. I’d like to not play the Stoic Rebuttal, the Scrapdiver Serpent, and the Strider Harness. I’ll see how the last pack works out, but I’ll have a playable deck even if the last pack is dry.

Pack 3 pick 1:

Assault Strobe
Leaden Myr
Blackcleave Goblin
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Tangle Angler
Auriok Sunchaser
Lifesmith
Semblance Anvil
Snapsail Glider
Echo Circlet
Heavy Arbalest
Soul Parry
Swamp
Myr Reservoir
Fume Spitter

As much as I would love to have a Myr Reservoir to recur the Battlesphere and Perilous Myr, I really need some mana Myrs to accelerate to my big guys, establish early Metalcraft, etc.

My pick:

Leaden Myr

Pack 3 pick 2:

Embersmith
Vault Skyward
Oxidda Scrapmelter
Golem Foundry
Carrion Call
Bonds of Quicksilver
Blunt the Assault
Loxodon Wayfarer
Sunspear Shikari
Snapsail Glider
Vulshok Replica
Turn to Slag
Saberclaw Golem
Forest

I’d love to have the Turn to Slag or the Embersmith, but Oxidda Scrapmelter is just much better than both of them.

My pick:

Oxidda Scrapmelter

Pack 3 pick 3:

Necrogen Censer
Dross Hopper
Goblin Gaveleer
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Auriok Edgewright
Sunspear Shikari
Glimmerpost
Turn to Slag
Disperse
Trigon of Mending
Saberclaw Golem
Plains
Fulgent Distraction

I came into the pack looking for removal and I’m getting it. Turn to Slag is the pick here, although I would have also been happy with a Saberclaw Golem.

My pick:

Turn to Slag

Pack 3 pick 4:

Copper Myr
Revoke Existence
Culling Dais
Seize the Initiative
Bloodshot Trainee
Turn Aside
Kuldotha Phoenix
Wall of Tanglecord
Whitesuns Passage
Vedalken Certarch
Withstand Death
Mountain

Kuldotha Phoenix is a bomb if you can support its casting cost, and is absolutely ridiculous if you can recur it. I can likely do both. If the Phoenix wasn’t in the pack I would be interested in the Copper Myr, Wall of Tanglecord, Vedalken Certarch, or Revoke Existence. Vedalken Certarch is one of the swingiest Metalcraft cards, doing nothing when you aren’t Metalcrafted, but being awesome when it’s turned on. In the first couple of packs you shouldn’t pick it highly because you may not get enough artifacts (I think it’s unplayable with less than 13 artifacts), but if it’s pretty clear you’ll hit 15 or 16 artifacts in Blue it can actually be a very high pick.

My pick:

Kuldotha Phoenix

Pack 3 pick 5:

Vector Asp
Ezuris Archers
Ichorclaw Myr
Vault Skyward
Barbed Battlegear
Sunspear Shikari
Vulshok Replica
Relic Putrescence
Panic Spellbomb
Soul Parry
Forest

The choice here is between Barbed Battlegear and Vulshok Replica. Battlegear will be good in my deck with the Lumengrid Drakes, but I really want creatures more than I want more non-creature cards, given that I only have 11 creatures at this point. Also, the Battlegear is worse the fewer creatures I have, so the Vulshok Replica is actually pretty clearly the pick here. Unfortunately I’m a huge fan of the Battlegear and that kind of clouded my judgment here. If I already had 13 or 14 creatures I think Battlegear would be the correct pick here.

My (incorrect) pick:

Barbed Battlegear

Pack 3 pick 6:

Iron Myr
Leaden Myr
Abuna Acolyte
Tel-Jilad Defiance
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Darksteel Myr
Semblance Anvil
Island
Fume Spitter
Scrapdiver Serpent

Iron Myr is quite a gift here. I’d be happy picking up a third Myr if I could, although I’d pick up a removal spell or solid creature over a third Myr. Anyway, yay for gifts.

My pick:

Iron Myr

Pack 3 pick 7:

Revoke Existence
Culling Dais
Gold Myr
Bonds of Quicksilver
Trigon of Thought
Flameborn Hellion
Mountain
Myr Propagator
Scrapdiver Serpent

Again, I’m happy to try a rare that I haven’t drafted before (Myr Propagator) over a solid card that is probably better (Gold Myr). If I had properly picked the Glint Hawk last pick as a Backup for my blue cards I could move into White here and take the Revoke Existence, which is going around criminally late.

My pick:

Myr Propagator

Pack 3 pick 8:

Sky-Eel School
Melt Terrain
Necrogen Censer
Vault Skyward
Golem Foundry
Blunt the Assault
Loxodon Wayfarer
Island

Big flyers are big.

My pick:

Sky-Eel School

Pack 3 pick 9:

Assault Strobe
Blackcleave Goblin
Lifesmith
Semblance Anvil
Echo Circlet
Soul Parry
Swamp

I won’t play any of these cards. I don’t care about the Lifesmith and I’m happy to pass the Soul Parry in case it helps someone beat the Infect deck, so I hate the Blackcleave Goblin.

My pick:

Blackcleave Goblin

Pack 3 pick 10:

Vault Skyward
Golem Foundry
Bonds of Quicksilver
Blunt the Assault
Loxodon Wayfarer
Forest

My pick:

Bonds of Quicksilver

Pack 3 pick 11:

Dross Hopper
Goblin Gaveleer
Glimmerpost
Plains
Fulgent Distraction

Dross Hopper is playable in the Furnace Celebration deck, Gaveleer is playable in the equipment deck. Given that I’ve seen zero Furnace Celebrations and I have passed a Darksteel Axe I should be hating the Goblin here.

My (incorrect) pick:

Dross Hopper

Pack 3 pick 12:

Seize the Initiative
Turn Aside
Whitesuns Passage
Mountain

Turn Aside is a playable sideboard card against removal-heavy decks.

My pick:

Turn Aside

Pack 3 pick 13:

Vault Skyward
Relic Putrescence
Forest

My pick:

Vault Skyward

Pack 3 pick 14:

Tel-Jilad Defiance
Island

My pick:

Tel-Jilad Defiance

Pack 3 pick 15:

Scrapdiver Serpent

My pick:

Scrapdiver Serpent

I’m fairly pleased with how the deck turned out. I ended up playing the Auriok Replica, Scrapdiver Serpent, and Strider Harness to up the creature and artifact counts and to make sure I would have enough ways to finish out games. Ideally I’d have a Neurok Replica instead of the Auriok Replica, another Chrome Steed or a Rusted Relic to replace a Lumengrid Drake, a better finisher than Scrapdiver Serpent, and a removal spell like Galvanic Blast or Contagion Clasp to replace the Strider Harness, but this is a pretty reasonable deck.

I would have been able to get a slightly better RW deck if I had picked up the Arrest in the first pack, which would have let me pick up some Glint Hawks and at least one Revoke Existence to replace my blue cards. The power-level wouldn’t be dramatically higher, but it would have improved my deck. Let’s go through the games:

Round 1

Game 1:
My opponent wins the die roll and chooses to go first. As my deck isn’t very aggressive and I have a good late game, I should actually be happy to be on the draw.
I keep an opening hand of:

Mountain
Mountain
Island
Island
Island
Panic Spellbomb
Myr Propagator

This hand risks being a bit mana flooded, but I have some card draw and a mana sink, and the deck is able to capitalize on having a lot of mana, so this is a reasonable, if not great opener.

Turn 1:
My opponent plays Island and passes, I draw Oxidda Scrapmelter, play a Mountain and cast Panic Spellbomb.

Turn 2:
My opponent plays a Plains and a Gold Myr. I draw Mountain, play an Island and pass the turn.

Turn 3:
My opponent plays an Island, plays a Glint Hawk and, with the Hawk’s trigger on the stack taps his Gold Myr for mana before returning it to his hand. He then plays Etched Champion and passes the turn. This sequence of plays left my opponent open to getting unnecessarily two-for-oned by a Galvanic Blast, Disperse, or Shatter, which seems poor. Etched Champion isn’t good enough that you would want to bait out a removal spell to land it at the cost of two cards, so this sequence doesn’t make sense. I draw an Island, play a Mountain, and cast Myr Propagator.

Turn 4:
My opponent plays an Island, attacks for four with his Etched Champion and Glint Hawk putting me to 16, and then casts a Gold Myr and an Auriok Sunchaser. I draw a Snapsail Glider, play an Island, and Scrapmelt his Champion. I could have chosen to play the Snapsail Glider instead with the plan of trading it for his Glint Hawk, but doing that leaves me open to him casting another artifact, getting his Auriok Sunchaser online, and getting in for more damage. Casting the Scrapmelter saves us more damage and keeps my opponent off Metalcraft.

Turn 5:
My opponent plays an Island and attacks with his Glint Hawk for two, putting me at 14, then passes the turn with two cards in hand. I draw a Lumengrid Drake and play an Island. I attack with the Oxidda Scrapmelter and my opponent casts Dispense Justice. I then play Snapsail Glider and pass the turn. I could have played around Dispense Justice here by not attacking, but I’m actually OK with him using it here, as the board is still stable and I’d rather have him use it on a creature that wasn’t particularly impactful.

Turn 6:
My opponent plays an Island then casts Contagion Engine, killing Myr Propagator, taking me off Metalcraft, and shrinking my Snapsail Glider. He then bashes for two with the Glint Hawk, putting me at 12 life. I draw Shatter and have this board state:

The right play here is to attack with the Snapsail Glider, cast the Lumengrid Drake, play a Mountain, and pass the turn, intending on trading the drake for his Glint Hawk, breaking the Panic Spellbomb at the end of his turn (I haven’t broken it before this because I wanted to hit metalcraft, but the extra card is more relevant given that I won’t hit metalcraft anytime soon), and having him proliferate away my Snapsail Glider during my turn. Doing this wastes his mana, gets the biggest threat off the table, and gives me two draw steps to find a creature to hold the ground.

Instead I shattered the Contagion Engine and cast the Lumengrid Drake. This play is pretty bad, as the Contagion Engine is almost useless at this point. My opponent probably doesn’t have anything that he can profitably proliferate, so the only thing shattering it accomplishes is saving the Snapsail Glider, which isn’t worth wasting a removal spell.

Turn 7:
My opponent attacks with Glint Hawk and I trade the Lumengrid Drake for it. He casts a Vedalken Certarch and passes the turn. I draw Prototype Portal here. The correct play is to cycle the Panic Spellbomb and see what I draw, but instead I play an Island and pass the turn.

Turn 8:
My opponent attacks with his Vedalken Certarch, Gold Myr, and Auriok Sunchaser, and I trade the Snapsail Glider for the Certarch, going to 10 life. He passes the turn and I cycle the Panic Spellbomb at end of turn drawing Flight Spellbomb. On my turn I draw a Mountain, cast the Portal, imprinting the Flight Spellbomb, and play a Mountain. I should immediately use the Portal to make a Spellbomb and cycle it in case I draw a two drop, but instead I pass the turn.

Turn 9:
My opponent casts Golem Artisan, plays a Plains, gives haste to the Artisan, and bashes for four with his team, putting me to 5. I make a Spellbomb with the portal, cycle it, and draw a Mountain at the end of his turn. On my turn I draw Turn to Slag, play the Mountain, turn the Artisan to slag, make a Spellbomb and cycle into another Mountain.

Turn 10:
My opponent plays a Darksteel Axe, equips it to the Myr and attacks for four, putting me to 1 life. My opponent probably should have equipped the Axe to the Sunchaser, as there are more removal spells that kill the Myr than the Sunchaser. I draw a Mountain, create and cycle a Spellbomb drawing an Island. I pass the turn. On his turn my opponent plays a Darksteel Myr precombat for no particular reason, then attacks with his team to kill me.

Even with perfect play this game isn’t necessarily winnable, seeing as I drew 12 of my 16 lands compared to my opponents 7, but I definitely could have played it better and given myself a chance to stabilize and win. By spending my mana correctly and cycling at the right time I could have dug a card deeper to try to find something to stabilize with. By playing the Shatter correctly I would have taken two more damage from the Certarch but I would have taken three less from the Golem Artisan, potentially giving a little more room to stabilize.

Game 2:
I sideboard out the Scrapdiver Serpent and bring in a Halt Order to answer his Contagion Engine. From the first game it seems like my opponent has an unfocused UW metalcraft deck that probably does not have enough artifacts to support his colored metalcraft cards. I have enough late game power to have inevitability without the Scrapdiver Serpent, and having the Halt Order to get up in an attrition war, keep him off metalcraft in the late game, and deal with the one bomb I have seen seems reasonable. I elect to play first, reasoning that I probably only lose to a fast start from him and that my card quality and two for ones will make up for the extra card.

I keep an opening hand of:

Mountain
Island
Panic Spellbomb
Shatter
Prototype Portal
Snapsail Glider
Strider Harness

This hand has reasonable early plays, a Spellbomb to dig for land if I fail to draw one in the first two draw steps, and a removal spell.

Turn 1:
I play Mountain and cast Panic Spellbomb. My opponent plays Plains, casts Memnite, casts Glint Hawk, returning Memnite, the re-casts Memnite.

Turn 2:
I draw Lumengrid Drake, play an Island, and pass, intending to cycle the Panic Spellbomb at the end of my opponent’s turn. My opponent plays an Island, attacks for 3 and casts Glint Hawk. I shatter the Memnite in response killing the Glint Hawk as well. Even though he got two-for-oned this is a fine play for my opponent as long as he doesn’t have another artifact that costs two or less in his hand.

Turn 3:
I draw an Island, play the Snapsail Glider, and pass the turn. My opponent attacks for rwo, putting me at 15, plays an Island, and passes the turn.

Turn 4:
I draw a Mountain and ponder my options:

Even though we’re behind in the damage race 15 to 20, I like attacking here, as we’re going to tempo our opponent out next turn with a Metalcrafted Lumengrid Drake, particularly if we draw another land. I cast the Strider Harness, equip it to the Snapsail Glider, and attack for three, putting my opponent to 17.

My opponent plays a plains, attacks for 2, then plays a Trigon of Corruption and passes the turn.

Turn 5:
I draw an Island and reconsider my play:

Bouncing the Glint Hawk lets my opponent reset the Trigon of Corruption at some point, but given the pressure we’re putting on him our opponent probably won’t be able to take advantage of the extra activations. I play the Island, cast the Lumengrid Drake bouncing the Glint Hawk, equip the Strider Harness to the Lumengrid Drake and attack for five, putting my opponent to 12. He untaps, plays another Island and casts a Golem Artisan.

Turn 6:
I draw Turn to Slag:

I turn the Golem to slag and attack for 5, putting my opponent to 7. This is actually an overly hasty play. My opponent is likely to cast his Glint Hawk, bouncing the Trigon, and pass the turn with four mana up to jump and pump his Artisan when I attack. If we hold off on turning his Golem to slag he’ll have essentially wasted any mana he leaves up instead of making a productive play.

My opponent plays a Plains, casts Accorders Shield then the Glint Hawk then re-casts the Shield and equips it to the Glint Hawk.

Turn 7:
I draw a Mountain, use Panic Spellbomb on his Glint Hawk, drawing Halt Order, and attack. He Trigons the Snapsail Glider and takes four going to 3 life.
My opponent attacks with the vigilant Glint Hawk then plays an Island and attempts to cast Myr Battlesphere. Obviously I Halt Order it drawing Myr Propagator.
Turn 8:
I draw Sylvok Lifestaff and cast it, then cast the Myr Propagator, equip it with the Strider Harness, equip the Snapsail with Lifestaff, and attack for 6, killing my opponent. Since my opponent was tapped out and at 3 life I actually shouldn’t play the Sylvok Lifestaff here as it unnecessarily shows him a card.

Game 3:
I don’t change my sideboarding plan and my opponent chooses to play first. I keep a hand of:

Shatter
Barbed Battlegear
Leaden Myr
Mountain
Mountain
Mountain
Island

Turn 1:
He plays a Plains, casts Accorders Shield into Glint Hawk and then re-casts the Shield. I draw Lumengrid Drake, play a mountain and pass.

Turn 2:
He attacks for two, putting me to 18, plays a Plains and casts a Gold Myr. I draw Mountain, play an Island, cast Leaden Myr, and pass the turn.

Turn 3:
My opponent plays a Plains, equips the Myr with the Shield, and attacks for three, putting me to 15 life. I draw an Island and cast the Lumengrid Drake.

Turn 4:
He equips the Shield to the Glint Hawk, attacks for two, putting me to 13, then plays a Plains and casts a Necropede. I draw an Iron Myr and contemplate my play:

At this point I can choose to either trade off my Shatter, Myr, and Drake for his Shield, Hawk, and Necropede. Or I can choose to Shatter his Shield before he attacks, go to 11, then swing back for six. I’ll win the damage race, but the problem with this plan is that my opponent can prevent me from racing by simply keeping his Hawk back and blocking. Choosing to “race,” however, has the advantage of letting me draw a removal spell to race him out and dropping my opponent to 14 in exchange for taking only two damage. I decide to race, and play out a Mountain and the Iron Myr, keeping up mana to Shatter his Shield before he attacks.

Turn 5:
I Shatter the Shield before combat and take two damage and a poison when my opponent attacks with the Glint Hawk and Necropede, going to 11 life. On my turn I draw an Auriok Replica, cast and equip the Barbed Battlegear, and attack for eight with the Drake and the two Myr. He declines to block with his Gold Myr and goes to 12 life.

Turn 6:
He casts a Darksteel Axe and equips it to his Glint Hawk, then attacks with his Myr and Hawk for 5 damage, putting me to 6 life. This seems like a less than ideal play as it lets me hit him back to 6 and then opens him up to an immediate loss if I draw a Panic Spellbomb or a removal spell for his Glint Hawk. I draw an Oxidda Scrapmelter, play out my sixth land, attack for six in the air, putting him to 6 life, then cast my Auriok Replica.

Turn 7:
My opponent equips his Darksteel Axe to his Gold Myr and attacks. I trade my Leaden Myr for it, and post combat he casts a Vedalken Certarch and equips the Axe to the Necropede. On my turn I draw Turn to Slag, kill his Hawk, and kill him.

Round 2:

Game 1:
I win the die roll and incorrectly choose to play first. I mulligan a hand of:

Leaden Myr
Arc Trail
Prototype Portal
Myr Propagator
Lumengrid Drake
Scrapdiver Serpent
Mountain

And keep a six-card hand of:

Vulshok Replica
Myr Propagator
Prototype Portal
Island
Island
Mountain

Turn 1:
I play a Mountain and pass, my opponent plays a Forest, casts a Sylvok Lifestaff, and passes.

Turn 2:
I draw Strider Harness, play an Island, and pass. My opponent plays a Swamp and passes the turn.

Turn 3:
I draw an Island and think about my game plan:

My opponent is probably playing Infect – both Myr Propagator and Prototype Portal are going to be pretty useful in this matchup, as long as I get enough time to activate them. I play an Island, cast the Myr Propagator, and pass the turn, planning on imprinting the Vulshok Replica on the Prototype Portal next turn. He plays a Forest and casts a Cystbearer, which is what I would expect given that he didn’t have a two drop.

Turn 4:
I draw an Island, play an Island, cast the Portal, and imprint the Replica. My opponent attacks with the Cystbearer to put us to 2 poison, then plays a Swamp and casts a Tangle Angler.

Turn 5:
I draw a Leaden Myr. What’s the play here?

Tangle Angler puts a huge kink in my plan. If I try to make a Replica on his turn and block his Cystbearer he’ll lure it with his Tangle Angler. He’s also probably going to lure the Propagator as well. I think the correct play here is to cast the Leaden Myr with the intention of triple blocking his Angler with the two Myr and a Replica copy. I go ahead and play my Island and cast the Leaden Myr, then pass the turn. Unfortunately when my opponent makes his attack, after equipping his Tangle Angler with the Lifestaff, I foolishly decide that saving my Myr Propagator is more important than trying to kill the Tangle Angler. So I make a copy of the Propagator and the Angler lures the Leaden Myr and the Propagator copy. I go to 4 poison and get the turn back.

Turn 6:
I draw a Lumengrid Drake, attack with the Propagator to avoid it getting lured, then pass the turn. He attacks with his Cystbearer and his Tangle Angler and I take 4 more poison to go to 8 poison. I make a Replica at the end of his turn.

Turn 7:
I draw a Perilous Myr and try to figure out how to survive:

My choices are to use Lumengrid Drake to bounce his Tangle Angler or to play the Perilous Myr and make a Vulshok Replica with the Portal. Bouncing the Tangle Angler is a much better play, since the other plan loses to any removal spell or to my opponent ripping a fourth Forest. I cast the Drake and bounce the Angler, but then I inexplicably attack with the Propagator. At the end of my turn my opponent casts Carrion Call to get two more Infect creatures then untaps, casts Skinrender to kill one of my blockers, and attacks for lethal.

I should be playing much more conservatively throughout this game. Having an active Prototype Portal gives me late game inevitability, which means I should be doing everything in my power to keep my poison count down and keep him from killing me before my inevitability kicks in.

Game 2:
I sideboard out a Shatter and a Scrapdiver Serpent for a Stoic Rebuttal and a Bonds of Quicksilver and choose to play first. Unfortunately MTGO did not save the replay for this game, but I eventually pull it out despite his second turn Plague Stinger, using a Stoic Rebuttal to stop a Tainted Strike on a potentially lethal Painsmith and playing around Untamed Might from the moment it would be lethal.

Game 3:
I mulligan a hand of:

Sylvok Lifestaff
Stoic Rebuttal
Turn to Slag
Island
Mountain
Mountain
Mountain

Which is does absolutely nothing. This would be a fine hand against another Metalcraft deck, but against an Infect deck it’s a snap mulligan. I keep a six-card hand of:

Flight Spellbomb
Arc Trail
Barbed Battlegear
Chrome Steed
Island
Mountain

Turn 1:
He plays a Swamp and casts Fume Spitter. I draw Iron Myr, play the Island, and cast a Flight Spellbomb.

Turn 2:
He plays a Forest, attacks for 1, and plays a second Fume Spitter. I draw Bonds of Quicksilver and have to decide what I want to do:

I can either Arc Trail his two Fume Spitters or I can play the Iron Myr. Killing the Fume Spitters means that I can play my Myr next turn and turn on the rest of my hand if I draw a third land. If I play the Iron Myr he’s almost certainly going to Fume Spitter it, but that will allow me to Arc Trail his remaining Fume Spitter and his turn 3 play, as long as it isn’t a Cystbearer, next turn. Arc Trailing his Fume Spitters gives me a better chance of getting to play my four drops, but it’s also very slow and will probably let him get in for at least 4 poison. If I let him kill my Iron Myr, however, I just lose if I don’t start ripping lands or if his 3-drop is a Cystbearer. As such, I think it’s right to cast Arc Trail now.

In game I mistakenly decide to get more “value” out of him and cast the Iron Myr, expecting to two for one him next turn and hoping to draw lands.

Turn 3:
As expected he Fume Spitters my Myr, but then he plays a swamp and casts and equips a Sylvok Lifestaff to attack for 2. On my turn I draw an Island, play it, cast the Barbed Battlegear, and ship the turn. I don’t crack the Spellbomb here as I would like to give myself the chance to eventually get a Metalcrafted Chrome Steed, and I don’t intend on casting either of my four drops next turn.

Turn 4:
My opponent casts a Blackcleave Goblin, attacks for 2 damage and 2 poison, then passes the turn. I draw a Mountain (yes, it is nice), play it, and Arc Trail his team.

Turn 5:
My opponent plays a Plague Stinger, equips it with the Lifestaff, and passes. I draw a Mountain, play it, and Cast the Chrome Steed, leaving an Island up for the Flight Spellbomb.

Turn 6:
My opponent plays a Painsmith and passes the turn. This seems like a missed opportunity on his part. If he attacks with the Plague Stinger I will have to trade my Chrome Steed to block it, since I’ll lose Metalcraft if I use the Flight Spellbomb. Unless he already has an answer to the Spellbomb or the Chrome Steed this seems like a fine trade for him. Additionally, I might choose not to block at all, which gets him two free poison counters. Regardless, I take the turn back, draw a Strider Harness, and try to figure out my game plan:

One option is to equip the Battlegear and start racing. He probably won’t trade both of his creatures with the Chrome Steed, given that he didn’t want to trade during his turn. This would let us hit him to 12, play the Strider Harness, then Bonds his Plague Stinger when he attacks next turn. It’s almost impossible for him to kill us on the backswing (he could do it with an Untamed Might and a zero CMC artifact), and next turn he would end up having to chump with the Painsmith and then probably lose the turn after. Playing more conservatively actually increases the chances that we lose, as he can rip another Infect creature or a removal spell to quickly put him in a winning position.

I follow through with this plan, suiting up the Chrome Steed with the Battlegear, bashing him to 12, then casting the Strider Harness in my second main.

Turn 7:
My opponent attacks with the team to put me at 4 poison and 13 life, then casts a Tel-Jilad Fallen post combat to muck up our plan. I draw a Stoic Rebuttal and readjust:

While the Fallen is bad news, having the Stoic Rebuttal gives us a little room to maneuver. We can’t attack into his pro-artifacts guy, so I simply equip the Harness and pass the turn, planning on blocking the Plague Stinger if he attack with it and casting Bonds on his Fallen if he attacks with it and doesn’t do anything else threatening.

Turn 8:
My opponent attacks with the Fallen, putting me to 7 poison, then passes, so I Bonds his Fallen in his end step. I untap and draw an Island. I’m in a precarious position where I can’t attack and let him get me to 9 poison, so I pass the turn after playing my Island.

Turn 9:
My opponent thinks about attacking for a bit on his turn but then simply passes. I draw a Leaden Myr, which lets me attack into him with the Chrome Steed. This takes him down to 6 life, making my Steed lethal if it gets in again.

Turn 10:
He casts Relic Putrescence on my Chrome Steed in his main phase, then attacks with the Plague Stinger and the Painsmith. I jump my Myr with the Flight Spellbomb to block his Plague Stinger. In response to the draw trigger he tries to Tainted Strike the Painsmith, but I have the Stoic Rebuttal to counter it. He loses the Plague Stinger, the Painsmith takes me to 11 life, and he has no follow up play in his second main. I untap and attack with the Chrome Steed for the win.

In round 3 my opponent offers a draw and I accept as I thought there was a problem with the draft capture and that this draft wouldn’t be one I would end up writing up. It turns out I was looking for the draft capture in the wrong folder, thanks to the MTGO help files, so you end up getting a writeup without the third match. Sorry about that!

Regards,
Joe

Post categories: Feature, Free, Strategy


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Joe Bono

Joe Bono was the 2009 Washington State Champion. He top 32d GP Portland and is qualified for the 2010 World Championships in Chiba, Japan on rating.

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7 thoughts on “Why We Fall – Scars of Mirrodin Draft 1

  1. Welcome to QS. I disagree on the introduction of formalities since this is your first article here. I had to scroll all the way to the bottom to find out why you're qualified to write the article. 🙂

    For the editor: Some of the artwork in the gameplay section (I assume MTGO screenshots) aren't showing up in IE. Please work on that.

    1. Hi the_cardfather,

      Believe me, we've been working since launch to get the images, both from the draft and the MTGO gamestates, up and running.

      It will hopefully be fixed soon. 🙂

      Thanks!

  2. Some of the picks seem off. For instance, Joe references how he should have picked a Glint Hawk when the Hawk isn't in the pack shown. Just some linking issues, I'm sure, but needs to be corrected in the future.

    Other than that, great article! It's nice to see drafts in written form from time to time instead of just video, and I thought the insights here were solid.

  3. I agree on the non video format. There is a place for videos for sure, but sometimes you need more space to comment on a pick.

    I do see images now 🙂 Thanks guys.

    Joe, I see a lot of these articles talk about opening flexible. Are there any bombs that would cause you to force an archetype?

    Argent Sphinx, Hand, Skittles, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Indomitable Archangel.

    Say for instance if your Kuldotha Phoenix was in P1 instead of Ezuri, do you take it and try to force that metalcraft deck?

    1. There are certainly a lot of rares (and uncommons) I would pick in the first pack that are strongly going to incline me to draft a certain archetype. I'm wary of jumping into Infect pick 1 pack 1 because the quality of the Infect deck, at least for triple Scars draft, is highly dependent on how many Infect drafters there are at the table.

      In the case of this P1P1, I would definitely have started out Infect if I had opened a Hand of the Praetors, Skithiryx, or Tangle Angler, and I probably would have taken a Cystbearer or a Plague Stinger if they had been in the pack. The problem with going Infect with this particular P1P1 is that the two Infect creatures that are there are among the worst available and the two enablers (Painsmith and Trigon) are only good in the Infect deck. Another thing to note is that while Tangle Angler and Skithiryx are both great in the Infect deck, they are also quite good in non-Infect decks too. Hand of the Praetors is only playable in Infect decks but he's so incredibly good in those decks he's totally worth giving up flexibility for.

      Most of the other Scars archetypes either have enough variety of support or are deep enough for the frequency that they are drafted that it's OK to commit early if there's a truly bomby card for that archetype. So stuff like Hoard Smelter Dragon, Indominitable Archangel, and Argent Sphinx are always worth taking and "commiting" to in P1P1. Additionally, those cards don't really commit you to an archetype, just a single color, since they are all playable even if you have zero artifacts or zero other cards of the same color.

      Cards that require a more significant commitment, either in color (Kuldotha Phoenix, Volition Reins, Spikeshot Elder, Koth) or in archetype (Myrsmith, Embersmith, Venser), should be considered, but it's usually right to take them P1P1 unless there's something else pretty close in power level.

    2. Sorry, I forgot to answer your last question. In P1P1 of this draft I would take Kuldotha Phoenix if it were there instead of Ezuri. I wouldn't take this as a committment to draft Metalcraft though, just as a committmnent to be pretty heavy Red. The Phoenix is quite good in any deck whose manabase can support him, even if you have a low chance of rebuying him – a 4/4 flier is pretty good almost all of the time.

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