From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
A series of schedule clashes delayed my first Shadows Over Innistrad draft, but I was eager to get into the format.
Overall I found the new set to be interesting, varied, and surprisingly deep. More cards than I expected have a legitimate role in decks. These are first impressions of course, and the coming weeks will show if that is correct or not.
Pack 1, pick 1: Traverse the Ulvenwald
My first pack stared back at me with little in terms of direction provided. Zero removal spells, and zero creatures that leapt out as bomb. When in doubt, take the rare. So I did. The double-face cards seemed to be creating more fuss the second time round, with players asked to hold up the cards for the table to see, and announce the name verbally too.
The deck: green/red
Traverse the Ulvenwald was followed by Ulvenwald Mysteries and a series of green picks to round out the first pack. I had no idea what my second colour would be but settled on red.
The final deck was low on creatures by my tastes, but then 13 is a fitting number for Innistrad, right? My vague plan (let’s be generous and call it that) was to use my low curve to place early creatures and use removal to keep them coming through.
My first opponent was playing a black/red deck that made good use of the Madness mechanic. I was down to 7 life before I was able to stabilise thanks to double Rabid Bite from Bloodmad Vampire to take down the larger threats, and a Dual Shot to remove Rancid Rats.
I’d had to use some creatures as chump blockers, but Ulvenwald Mysteries gave me clues, and the clues gave me more chump blockers. Before long it was me on the offensive and my creatures ate their way to victory.
In the second game my opponent was land flooded while I had a steady steam of 2 and 3 drops. Determining when to miss a turn to allow your werewolves to transform strikes me as a key determining success factor of any werewolf deck. I won’t say I picked the right moment, in fact it was probably two turns later than it should have been. However with an opponent drawing land it didn’t matter, and the first match ended 2-0 to me.
In the second match, things got colder.
Just kidding, match 2 was as pleasant and friendly as the others. This drafter had built a solid blue deck best around Thing in the Ice, Rise from the Tides, and more instants and sorceries than would normally be wise in a draft deck.
Here though it didn’t matter. I removed Thing in the Ice before it could transform thanks again to Rabid Bite and Bloodmad Vampire. However my opponent then skilfully kept me in place until he could cast Rise from the Tides for 8 zombies, and copy it for good measure.
In the second game my opponent did not draw Rise from the Tides, but then I didn’t draw Rabid Bite, so Thing in the Ice duly transformed, swept my team back to my hand, and crashed through for the win. Still a cool deck (ha!) that ended up losing to Sorin in the draft final.
My final match was against a red/white deck. In the first game I got a teste of the engines that this set allows drafters to create. Ulvenwald Mysteries is an engine by itself, but three werewolves along with Cult of the Waxing Moon allowed me to create a token army to break the deadlock.
In the second game my deck got its fast start. Hinterland Logger into Breakneck Rider into a missed turn from my opponent meant 10 damage. He played a good blocker but Voldaren Duelist ended the game on the spot.
I had managed a 2-1 record with a deck that I felt scratched the surface of the set’s possibilities.
Along with Duskwatch Recruiter, these cards were consistently good in the deck, across all matches.
Focus: This is not a new lesson, but there were moments in the first two matches where I realised afterward that I had either missed an opportunity or else played cards in the wrong order to maximise their value.
It’s all about the uncommons: Other than the deck running Sorin, everyone else’s best cards were their uncommons plus their common removal. Even my second opponent admitted that Things in the Ice was his secondary win condition: Rise from the Tides was doing the work.
The deck, sorted by converted mana cost (CMC) with lands last:
CMC1: 2x Dual Shot, Explosive Apparatus, Traverse the Ulvenwald
CMC2: 2xHinterland Logger, Lambholt Pacifist, 2x Rabid Bite,
CMC3: 2x Bloodmad Vampire, Breakneck Rider, Byway Courier, Duskwatch Recruiter, Gloomwidow, Howlpack Resurgence, Howlpack Wolf, Ulvenwald Mysteries
CMC4: Murderer’s Axe, Voldaren Duelist
CMC5: Cult of the Waxing Moon, Reduce to Ashes, Watcher in the Web
Land: 10 Forest, 7 Mountain