June 16, 2014

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McLaren Formula Fun: Drafting 5 Colors in Theros Block

Don’t you wish you could just have it all?

Theros Block draft is deep and skill intensive but it’s beginning to taste a little bland and getting more and more stale. Cast your heroic guys and bestow them. Yawn. Give me Spider Spawning decks, Mono Red Valakut, or just give me Ravnica.

Sigh, Ravnica, it feels like it’s been ages. I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of passing those gold cards floating around in every Theros pack. It feels like the stars themselves need to align for you to be in the right colors to snap them up.

Well now you don’t have to.

The Strategy:

Many of the cards in Theros Block are very mediocre. You’ll commonly run into people playing Traveling Philosopher, Satyr Rambler or Fleshmad Steed. Willingly. Even happily! These people have been brainwashed.

They’ll give reasons, things like “Tempo” or “Having a curve” or “Play some damn creatures and maybe you’ll actually win a game for once.”

Don’t believe their lies. Play the sweet cards.

With the format winding down it’s time to have some fun. Draft ALL the colors! The strategy is to combine the scraps no one else wants and piece them together into a lean, green, deviation from the mean. You’re able to scoop up multi-colour creatures and slower control cards late in the draft. I’m not just talking about a splash, I’m talking about taking all the fixing and cramming in as much goodness as you can handle. You set yourself up to open and get passed many goodies in packs 2 and 3.

Journey Into Nyx is not a particularly aggressive set. It’s harder to get a premium aggressive heroic deck than it was when Born of the Gods was first introduced, especially if there are multiple people fighting for it. Slower format means you get to live longer while you fumble with your Manabase.

Fixing:

Take these cards and go from splashing in the shallow end to a full on cannonball off the high dive into the mana pool!

Often no one else at the table will want any of these fixers. More quality fixing equals casting more powerful spells in every color. Hedge your bets when possible, if you find yourself light on fixing limit your splashes or draft normally. Green will usually be your base color for this strategy and Red will usually be the color you’re least likely to be.

CANNONBALL!

Removal:

(PICS Feast of Dreams, Pin to the Earth, Exoriate, Consign to Dust, Boulderfall)

Nobody else wants most of this crap but we can pick and choose the under appreciated removal spells, just like going dumpster diving for buried treasure. Instead of treasure though we get to find the perfect combination of removal to crush our hapless opponents.

Multicolor Cards:

These cards get opened. You get to take them. The little theme of multicolor cards are actually interesting additions to the format in general. Like chocolate chips floating around as a surprise. You get to eat all the cookies.

Defensive Bombs:

Shields up! Take the Deathtouchers, the Sigiled Starfishes, and every card that will throw a monkey wrench in the oppositions offense. Your curve of defensive bombs should ramp up to more defensive bombs. Bounce spells are weaker in this strategy since you aren’t trying to tempo them out.

Samples:

So what do these decks end up looking like? Here are some examples of finished products from my testing for GP Atlanta in the 8-4 Release Queues.

Off The Deep End #1 – By Shaun McLaren

Creatures: (14)
Aerie Worshippers
Chronicler of Heroes
Fleetfeather Cockatrice
Font of Fortunes
Horizon Chimera
Hythonia the Cruel
Nyxborn Triton
Perplexing Chimera
Quarry Colossus
Ravenous Leucrocota
Reaper of the Wilds
Satyr Wayfinder
Sentry of the Underworld
Voyaging Satyr

Spells: (8)
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Fated Intervention
Traveler’s Amulet
Unravel the Aether
Pin to the Earth
Vanquish the Foul
Eternity Snare

Lands: (17)
Unknown Shores
Plains
Swamp
Island
Forest

This was an early prototype before I was had drafting this style of deck on my mind. I opened Ajani and second picked Pin to the Earth. I get a 4th pick Fleetfeather Cockatrice and the Green and Blue keep flowing. Pack 3 I pick up a Hythonia the Cruel late. I don’t see any Nylea’s Presences, or much fixing in general but still decide to try jamming in all the colors even though I would need to get there naturally on mana.

Naturally, that’s what happens and I end up 3-0.

Off The Deep End #2 – By Shaun McLaren

Creatures: (13)
Fate Unraveler
Font of Fertility
Forgestoker Dragon
Hubris
Meletis Charlatan
Nemesis of Mortals
Nyx Weaver
Oakheart Dryads
Pheres-Band Centaurs
Ravenous Leucrocota
Satyr Wayfinder
Shipwreck Singer
Sigiled Starfish

Spells: (10)
Asphyxiate
Dissolve
Divination
Eternity Snare
Market Festival
Nylea’s Presence
Pinnacle of Rage
Thassa’s Ire

Lands: (17)
Mountain
Forest
Forest
Island
Swamp
Unknown Shores

I swear I heard the suggest land button groan.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the good old infinite mana combo by a Voyaging Satyr or Kiora’s Follower. How it would work is slap 2 Market Festivals on a land and you’re able to make 5 mana and untap the land with a Voyaging Satyr and then untap the Satyr for 4 mana with Thassa’s Ire and net a mana. Rinse and repeat for infinite mana.

At that point you can scry your deck with a Sigiled Starfish, kill their team with a Shipwreck Singer, copy Divination 10 times with Meletis Charlatan, or monstrous a monster. If you want to get excessively jiggy with it put Claim of Erebos on something and drain them instantly. Usually just tapping their entire team each turn is enough.

And I couldn’t do any of this things because I didn’t see a freaking Voyaging Satyr.

The combo takes a bunch of clicking for Magic Online and all the grapes at the infinite mana Market Festival were probably sour anyways.

I did get to copy Pinnacle of Rage with Meletis Charlatan. Which is fine.. I guess.

I ended up losing in round 1.

Off The Deep End #3 – By Shaun McLaren

Creatures: (13)
Chromanticore
Fanatic of Xenagos
Golden Hind
Mistcutter Hydra
Nylea’s Disciple
Nyxborn Wolf
Opaline Unicorn
Pheres-Band Tromper
Reaper of the Wilds
Satyr Grovedancer
Satyr Wayfinder
Siren of the Silent Song

Spells: (9)
Consign to Dust
Divination
Extinguish All Hope
Feast of Dreams
Market Festival
Nylea’s Presence
Pin to the Earth
Psychic Intrusion
Traveler’s Amulet

Lands: (17)
Island
Swamp
Forest
Unknown Shores

You didn’t think I forgot about Chromanticore did you?

This draft started with me minding my own business, first picking Extinguish All Hope out of a weak pack and waffling among the BUG colors pack one. Then I got passed a Chromanticore 3rd pick in pack 2 and didn’t look back. Thankfully, pack 3 provided a bunch of fixing.

Round 1 we win easily and round 2 we die to RW Heroic, just a step behind the aggression both games.

So when should I draft these “Decks”?

  • The strategy works much better when you are prepared and not just seeing a Chromanticore in pack 2 and jumping ship. You can easily pick up late fixers in the first pack even if you don’t expect you’ll need them.
  • If you open a multicolor bomb like Keranos, God of Storms or Ajani, Mentor to Heroes and the colors aren’t open or you don’t want to be in a color combination.
  • If you are getting mixed signals while trying to stay open it’s easy to shift into this strategy.
  • If you see a bunch of Market Festivals and Font of Fertility going by, they are likely to wheel.
  • If your draft is going poorly and you need to abort mission.

Risks:

So I went 4-2 from those 3 drafts. Not spectacular. What did I learn?

  • It’s usually better to draft a normal deck. This is a devotion block. Most games are tempo based. If it looks like you can just draft a strong 2 color deck then you should
  • You need powerful bombs since you can’t rely much on synergy or aggression. The multi color cards might not get opened or they might get snapped up by a lucky person in the right colors.
  • Most of the fixing is in the first pack and the last pack and you might not get enough and be left with a pile of uncastable crap.
  • It’s usually a bad idea to intentionally sacrifice your manabase. Consistency is important. You will lose games unable to cast spells and it will be embarrassing.
  • If for some strange reason multiple people are trying to draft this, you will crumble. This format can sustain one zany drafter at most.
  • You can easily get swarmed by aggressive decks if you stumble or if they have a strong start. If aggro is overdrafted this is a decent strategy since the aggro decks will be weaker and clunkier and you will have a better chance to stabilize. If you feel aggro is going to be underdrafted or is open then draft it.
  • It’s difficult to draft. You might be straddling the line between this and normal deck and have to pick between powerful cards and fixing as well as remember your curve and what colors you’re in.
  • Cannonball splashing can quickly turn into a belly flop. Hedge by going mostly 2 or 3 colors in case you end up without fixing and try to stick to smaller splashes when possible.

Conclusion:

Draft at your own risk. I’d say it’s reasonable to draft this style of deck 1/10th of the time if not less. Sure you can force it, but it’s unnecessarily risky. Keep your eyes open for it, try it out and expand your horizons. At the very least it’s something to keep in mind when the draft is going weird. You now also know what to expect (in a broad sense) when your opponent shows up with the deck. Owen Turtenwald ended up drafting this style of deck in the pod I was in and I played against him for Top 8. Knowing what to expect helped me win the match.

Understanding a draft format is about knowing the different archetypes that work. If you haven’t yet go ahead and add this fun and potentially powerful strategy to your arsenal.

CANNONBALLING!

asrLoTB