Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dragon's Maze Release - A Magic Bender of Epic Proportions

Last week brought the release of the newest Magic set, Dragon's Maze.  As has become tradition, our group of casual players had a 12-hour Magic release marathon this weekend.  It featured a bunch of events (several drafts, a couple sealed, and a number of pack wars), but I'll focus on the drafting as (a) that's different from the sealed event that I did last week and (b) the drafts were the highlights of the night anyway.

I was initially a little worried about the official drafting order of Dragon's Maze/Gatecrash/Return to Ravnica, thinking that the more general set (Dragon's Maze) would be more useful once you've already settled in a few colors.  My opinion shifted rapidly during the first draft, as I realized opening with the more general set allowed you to take the best card in each pack without committing to a color strategy, which ultimately gives even more flexibility in the other packs.

In the end, I really like drafting in that order.

At some point I'd still like to draft three packs of Dragon's Maze (I think that would be nuts), but that'll require a number of other players to be on board.  Maybe I'll get a chance sometime before the next block starts up...

Anyway, here's what happened:

First Draft
My drafting strategy tends to revolve around just accepting my rares and building around them as much as possible.  It's effectively rare drafting, but in our casual formats, that's not much of a problem.  In the first draft, this strategy was tested pretty severely; my first pack contained two rares: Sire of Insanity, a potentially brutal game-ender for a super aggressive Rakdos deck, and Stomping Ground, the incredibly useful (and valuable) Gruul shock land.  Because I like the idea of Gruul in a draft (not because of Gruul itself, although the Bloodrush mechanic has been growing on me, but because it can easily combo with Boros, Simic, Rakdos, and Golgari, all of which I love), I went with Stomping Ground to try to force some Red-Green action.

The guy to my right handed me a pack containing Blood Scrivener, which immediately made me regret my opening pack decision.  The Scrivener's effect combined with the Sire's would grant awesome card advantage, which could easily have dominated limited matches.  I took the Scrivener anyway, as I was excited about the possibilities of a Gruul/Rakdos/Golgari deck (and black removal would be very useful).

The remainder of the drafting portion went in my favor, allowing me to grab a nice number of Rakdos and Golgari cards, plus some other aggressive creatures (like Legion Loyalist).  The Return to Ravnica pack really sealed the deal, with both Desecration Demon and Jarad's Orders coming my way.  The only real disappointment was that I didn't have any really good Scavenge targets for Jarad's Orders, but using it as a tutor for the Demon was pretty solid.

Here was my first draft deck in all its glory:

1 Basilica Screecher
1 Blood Scrivener
1 Bomber Corps
1 Desecration Demon
1 Grim Roustabout
1 Legion Loyalist
1 Rakdos Shred-Freak
1 Riot Piker
1 Rix Maadi Guildmage
1 Ruination Wurm
1 Slaughterhorn
1 Slitherhead
2 Spire Tracer
1 Zhur-Taa Druid
1 Zhur-Taa Swine

1 Fatal Fumes
1 Punish the Enemy
1 Weapon Surge

1 Act of Treason
1 Jarad's Orders
1 Traitorous Instinct

1 Stab Wound

5 Forest
4 Mountain
Stomping Ground
7 Swamp

The main focus was obviously aggression - get a bunch of creatures out quickly and attack as often as possible.  Act of Treason and Traitorous Instinct support that cause, removing a blocker and giving me another attacker, and things like Weapon Surge and Rix Maadi Guildmage (whose first ability is bonkers) make my constant attacks that much more effective.  This incredibly aggressive draft was really effective, dropping only one game in four total matches played.

Second Draft
The second draft was even worse for my rare drafting approach.  My first rare was the very awkward-in-limited Possibility Storm.  Although I think the card has the potential to be really sexy (combined with something like Curse of Exhaustion you can shut your opponent down completely), and it definitely makes for some crazy games, I just couldn't justify taking it off the bat.  Instead, I tried to draft into another aggressive deck, grabbing Gruul War Chant and Rot Farm Skeleton.

When Possibility Storm made its way around the table, though, I took it anyway, openly vowing to play it if I ever got the opportunity (a totally crazy game now and then is good).

The next couple packs also fit with my plan pretty well.  I had established a Golgari direction, as I'd grabbed a couple copies of Drown in Filth, and I managed to get several nice Scavengers when Return to Ravnica rolled around.  I had a couple Battalion and Bloodrush dudes, too, so I was set to play another aggressive deck.

My second draft deck:

1 Bomber Corps
1 Drainpipe Vermin
1 Golgari Decoy
1 Maze Behemoth
1 Maze Rusher
1 Nivmagus Elemental
1 Rot Farm Skeleton
1 Rubblebelt Maaka
1 Scab-Clan Giant
1 Scorchwalker
2 Sluiceway Scorpion
1 Terrus Wurm
2 Zhur-Taa Druid

1 Annihilating Fire
1 Furious Resistance
1 Pit Fight
1 Showstopper

2 Drown in Filth
1 Mugging

1 Gruul War Chant
1 Possibility Storm

5 Forest
6 Mountain
5 Swamp

Gruul War Chant can't be underestimated - even with only a couple small creatures on the board, that enchantment can start dealing decent damage in the early game, and it can make it impossible for your opponent to respond in the late game.  Combine that with a little bit of removal and you have a pretty strong deck.

This deck won all the games where Possibility Storm didn't get played (winning two matches in the process).  I had promised myself that I'd play Possibility Storm whenever possible (heh), and each time I did I got slaughtered.  Those were some crazy fun games, though, and I'm absolutely planning to build a deck around Possibility Storm at some point.

Third Draft
Our third and final (serious) draft was a bit different; instead of playing with at least six people, we only had four for this draft, so it was a little goofy.  The Dragon's Maze pack gave me some serious Dimir options, though, which made it exciting despite the small size.

My opening rare was Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, which set me on the milling path immediately.  I was then able to take all the Dimir cards that were floating around (Haunter of Nightveil and Pilfered Plans being the big ones).  I continued that strategy into the other two packs, coming away with a solidly mill-oriented control deck.

My mill deck:

1 Balustrade Spy
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Dinrova Horror
1 Haunter of Nightveil
1 Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Rakdos Drake

1 Essence Backlash
1 Mindstatic
1 Psychic Strike
1 Totally Lost
1 Ultimate Price

1 Blast of Genius
2 Mind Rot
2 Paranoid Delusions
2 Pilfered Plans
1 Toil // Trouble
1 Voidwalk

1 Way of the Thief

2 Prophetic Prism

1 Dimir Guildgate
6 Island
1 Izzet Guildgate
2 Mountain
6 Swamp

This deck also performed very well.  The combination of efficient milling and supreme card advantage (Mind Rot can be brutal when paired with card draw) allowed me to eke out a win in my first match.  I was then able to dominate my second opponent (although to be fair, we were all really tired at this point, so it's hard to say how much of that was due to mutual exhaustion), making me think that limited mill decks in Dragon's Maze are viable.

All-in-all, I'm really excited to see where the Maze takes me.  There are a bunch of awesome cards in the set, both to bolster existing decks (I'm definitely going to try to find a place for Mirko Vosk and Pilfered Plans in my mill deck), and there are some fun new cards that could be the basis for some silly decks (Possibility Storm).

I'll be doing lots of deck revisions in the next few weeks, always trying to find a good way to incorporate some nasty Dragon's Maze cards.  I can't wait to find out where I end up!

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