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Why We Fall – Scars of Mirrodin Draft 1

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[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:

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:

Pack 1 pick 2:

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:

Pack 1 pick 3:

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:

Pack 1 pick 4:

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:

Pack 1 pick 5:

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:

Pack 1 pick 6:

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:

Pack 1 pick 7:

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:

Pack 1 pick 8:

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:

Pack 1 pick 9:

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:

Pack 1 pick 10:

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:

Pack 1 pick 11:

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:

Pack 1 pick 12:

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

My pick:

Pack 1 pick 13:

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

My pick:

Pack 1 pick 14:

My pick:

Pack 1 pick 15:

My pick:

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

Untitled Deck

*1 Perilous Myr

*1 Sunspear Shikari

*1 Auriok Replica

*1 Snapsail Glider

*1 Chrome Steed

*1 Scrapdiver Serpent

*1 Sylvok Lifestaff

*1 Flight Spellbomb

*1 Panic Spellbomb

*1 Prototype Portal

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:

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:

Pack 2 pick 2:

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:

Pack 2 pick 3:

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:

Pack 2 pick 4:

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:

Pack 2 pick 5:

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:

Pack 2 pick 6:

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:

Pack 2 pick 7:

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:

Pack 2 pick 8:

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:

Pack 2 pick 9:

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:

Pack 2 pick 10:

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:

Pack 2 pick 11:

And I get the Bonds as well!

My pick:

Pack 2 pick 12:

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:

Pack 2 pick 13:

My pick:

Pack 2 pick 14:

My pick:

Pack 2 pick 15:

My pick:

Going into the third pack my deck looks like this:

Untitled Deck

*1 Perilous Myr

*1 Snapsail Glider

*1 Vulshok Replica

*1 Chrome Steed

*2 Lumengrid Drake

*1 Scrapdiver Serpent

*1 Myr Battlesphere

*1 Sylvok Lifestaff

*1 Flight Spellbomb

*1 Panic Spellbomb

*1 Panic Spellbomb

*1 Arc Trail

*1 Shatter

*1 Stoic Rebuttal

*1 Strider Harness

*1 Prototype Portal

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:

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:

Pack 3 pick 2:

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:

Pack 3 pick 3:

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:

Pack 3 pick 4:

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:

Pack 3 pick 5:

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:

Pack 3 pick 6:

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:

Pack 3 pick 7:

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:

Pack 3 pick 8:

Big flyers are big.

My pick:

Pack 3 pick 9:

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:

Pack 3 pick 10:

My pick:

Pack 3 pick 11:

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:

Pack 3 pick 12:

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

My pick:

Pack 3 pick 13:

My pick:

Pack 3 pick 14:

My pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My pick:

Here’s the deck I built:

*1 Iron Myr

*1 Leaden Myr

*1 Perilous Myr

*1 Auriok Replica

*1 Myr Propagator

*1 Snapsail Glider

*1 Vulshok Replica

*1 Chrome Steed

*2 Lumengrid Drake

*1 Oxidda Scrapmelter

*1 Kuldotha Phoenix

*1 Sky-Eel School

*1 Myr Battlesphere

*1 Scrapdiver Serpent

*1 Flight Spellbomb

*1 Panic Spellbomb

*1 Sylvok Lifestaff

*1 Arc Trail

*1 Shatter

*1 Barbed Battlegear

*1 Strider Harness

*1 Prototype Portal

*1 Turn to Slag

*8 Mountain

*8 Island

Relevant sideboard cards:

*2 Bonds of Quicksilver

*1 Halt Order

*1 Panic Spellbomb

*1 Scoria Elemental

*1 Scrapdiver Serpent

*1 Stoic Rebuttal

*1 Turn Aside

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 Arrestin 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:

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 Shatterand 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:

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:

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 Shatterhis 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 Shatterhis Shield before he attacks.

Turn 5:
I Shatterthe 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:

And keep a six-card hand of:

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 Myrand 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 Cystbearerand 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 Myrand 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 Skinrenderto 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 Shatterand 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 Painsmithand playing around Untamed Might from the moment it would be lethal.

Game 3:
I mulligan a hand of:

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:

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 Spitterrs 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 Painsmithand 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 Painsmithand 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 Painsmithtakes 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

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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