Booster Draft Deck Feedback Wanted

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Hi everyone,

I went to my 3rd FNM this past Friday, and would love to get some feedback on the deck I drafted. I went to my first FNM in mid-November, but because of the holidays, I didn't get to go every Friday, so even though it was only my 3rd, I had plenty of time to read up on draft strategy and watch VODs from the guys at ChannelFireball in between FNMs.

Lands
1 Rogue's Passage
3 Izzet Guildgate
5 Swamp
5 Mountain
4 Island

Creatures
1 Stromkirk Noble
1 Manor Skeleton
1 Walking Corpse
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Splatter Thug
1 Crossway Vampire
1 Soulsworn Spirit
1 Runewing
1 Isperia's Skywatch
1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Planeswalkers
1 Liliana of the Veil

Other spells
1 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Dispel
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Think Twice
1 Izzet Charm
1 Stab Wound
1 Annihilating Fire
1 Auger Spree
1 Counterflux

Sideboard
1 Dark Revenant
1 Essence Backlash
1 Runic Repetition
1 Tower Drake
1 Seller of Songbirds
1 Vassal Soul
1 Batterhorn
1 Tenement Crasher
1 Isperia's Skywatch
1 Feral Ridgewolf
1 Rolling Temblor
1 Riot Devils
1 Vampiric Fury
1 Downsize
1 Bellows Lizard
1 Selhoff Occultist
1 Corpse Lunge

Ok, so I know this is probably going to come up, so I'll just start off by saying that my FNM group decided to mix things up a bit and draft RTR-ISD-RTR.

I don't remember what the rare/mythic was in my first pack, but it wasn't very good, so I picked Annihilating Fire as my first pick. I also don't remember what my picks right after that were, but by the time I was 5 or 6 picks in, I had decided on Izzet Aggro. However, the bomb in my second pack was Liliana, so I decided to splash Black, though by the end I guess I ended up very solidly in three colors.

We had 14 people drafting, and I did very well, going 3-1 and placing 5th. Unfortunately, only the top 4 placed and got prizes. I'm still very happy about how I did, and I felt like I improved a ton in both my picks and my gameplay from the previous two drafts (it also helps that out of 3 packs, I somehow got passed 3 rares and 2 mythics AFTER not picking the rare from my first pack. WTF?), but I am very eager to go that last step and start beating the top players in my FNM group. I know practice is the primary component to getting better, but I'll take help anywhere I can get it.

So, my specific questions are:


  • Given my main deck, how does my mana look? There was only 1 game where I felt I got mana screwed, but that could have just been poor luck instead of being too light on mana. Conversely, maybe I was too heavy and I just got REALLY unlucky that one game.

  • Given all the cards I drafted, are there any cards in my sideboard that I should have played instead of ones in my main? I guess I should also note that despite looking at my sideboard between almost every game, there wasn't a single card I thought would be useful to me.

  • This question is harder because I don't remember what cards I passed, and there are a lot of cards I could have seen, but are there any obvious commons/uncommons that I had a good chance of seeing and should have picked over any of my current picks?

  • EDIT: Lastly, is there anything I did well (aside from pick 5 rares/mythics) that I should be sure to do again in the future?


Thanks!
Your mana is very, very ambitious.  Darn near suicidal really.  You want turn 1 red, turn 2 B/RR/UU/RU, turn 3 BB/UUR/RR.  That's impossible, even in constructed formats.  I think you were lucky to not get color screwed every game.

You shouldn't have play Counterflux.  The card is unplayable.  Same for Manor Skeleton.  I'd have played Riot Devils and Rolling Temblor before them.  You could side in Counterflux, but only if you see something you cannot deal with.

Dispel might not be mainboard material, but I think it's fine.  Depending on what else I saw in the draft, I might have played a creature (or Essence Backlash) over it.

Frankly, the black splash is pretty bad all around.  I'd only play the Auger Spree and played Riot Devils, Vassal Soul, Rolling Temblor and Selhoff Occultist over the other black cards (plus the boarded Skywatch or Tenement Crasher since I cut Counterflux).  Tribute to Hunger might have made the cut too, but it's unlikely because it's not all that powerful as removal.  I'd still have played 1-2 Swamps to turn on the Keyrune.

It's really hard to evaluate a draft without knowing what you opened and what you were passed.  Assuming you get to keep what you drafted (no rare re-draft as the end), the Liliana pick is 100% correct since she's worth money.  If not, it was wrong.  She's pretty hard to make it work correctly in Limited, so she's basically the same as any other removal spell.
MadAdmiral, thank you for your response and the advice, but I have to admit that the reasoning behind some of your suggestions isn't immediately obvious to me. I've responded to you comments with my rationale on some of the cards. I'd really appreciate if you could point out where my rationale is wrong in this format or even in general.

Your mana is very, very ambitious.  Darn near suicidal really.  You want turn 1 red, turn 2 B/RR/UU/RU, turn 3 BB/UUR/RR.  That's impossible, even in constructed formats.  I think you were lucky to not get color screwed every game.



I assume you are saying I want to play a Mountain turn 1 in order to get Stromkirk Noble out. He was a pretty late pick for me, and I definitely did not factor getting him out turn 1 when picking my lands. The time I did get him in my opening hand, I also had a Mountain and was able to play him, use removal to keep the board clear, and get a huge lead. However, just checking the math, with 5 Mountain in my deck, the chance of my getting at least 1 Mountain in my opening hand is about 64%, while the chance of seeing Stromkirk Noble in my opening hand is only about 17.5%.

Also, my rationale for going heavier in black was that if I drew Liliana in the first 3 turns, I wanted to play her right then and there and wanted to make sure I could meet the double-black cost.

You shouldn't have play Counterflux.  The card is unplayable.  Same for Manor Skeleton.  I'd have played Riot Devils and Rolling Temblor before them.  You could side in Counterflux, but only if you see something you cannot deal with.



I agree that I didn't find Counterflux that useful. I was hoping to be able to use it to counter one of my opponent's more powerful spells, but the opportunity never arose. I don't think I had a specific reason for NOT playing Riot Devils, but I remember my rational for not playing Rolling Temblor is that I felt RTR had a lot of 3 toughness creatures, so it wouldn't actually be that great at killing creatures on the ground.

Dispel might not be mainboard material, but I think it's fine.  Depending on what else I saw in the draft, I might have played a creature (or Essence Backlash) over it.



Yeah, I don't remember what I picked Dispel over, but thinking back, I don't think I found it that useful. I remember having it in hand once and hoping I could use it against some combat trick, but I don't think I got the chance.

Frankly, the black splash is pretty bad all around.  I'd only play the Auger Spree and played Riot Devils, Vassal Soul, Rolling Temblor and Selhoff Occultist over the other black cards (plus the boarded Skywatch or Tenement Crasher since I cut Counterflux).  Tribute to Hunger might have made the cut too, but it's unlikely because it's not all that powerful as removal.  I'd still have played 1-2 Swamps to turn on the Keyrune.

It's really hard to evaluate a draft without knowing what you opened and what you were passed.  Assuming you get to keep what you drafted (no rare re-draft as the end), the Liliana pick is 100% correct since she's worth money.  If not, it was wrong.  She's pretty hard to make it work correctly in Limited, so she's basically the same as any other removal spell.



I definitely knew that in the worst case, I would have a valuable card in the end with Liliana (and yes, we keep all we draft), but I can see how she might not be that useful in the Limited format. I got her out on the board twice and didn't get to use her in any way that I felt significantly affected the game. But I thought that could have been my lack of experience using planeswalkers.

I definitely did not like having Tribute to Hunger, at least in combination with Stab Wound. Even without Stab Wound, my opponent would of course just sacrifice their weakest creature, so I think in every case I used it, I spent 3 mana getting rid of a 1 or 2 mana creature. And at least one other time, I remember not being able to use it because I had Stab Wound on the board, and knew my opponent would just sacrifice the enchanted creature.

My rationale for not main decking Tenement Crasher or the other Skywatch is that I already had 2 other 6-drops. I touched on some of the other cards, but my rationale for picking Stealer of Secrets over Selhoff Occultist was that I thought card drawing would be more valuable than milling.
I assume you are saying I want to play a Mountain turn 1 in order to get Stromkirk Noble out. He was a pretty late pick for me, and I definitely did not factor getting him out turn 1 when picking my lands. The time I did get him in my opening hand, I also had a Mountain and was able to play him, use removal to keep the board clear, and get a huge lead. However, just checking the math, with 5 Mountain in my deck, the chance of my getting at least 1 Mountain in my opening hand is about 64%, while the chance of seeing Stromkirk Noble in my opening hand is only about 17.5%.



What I meant by the colors by turns thing is that you want to have access to those colors on that turn.  It's not about just about the math, it's about making it managable.  Sure, you might not always have Noble in your opener, but you always want to have a Mountain in case you do.  If not, then you'll still want red very early for the other plays.  You need to construct the mana base according to when you need which colors.  If my deck consisted only of early red creatures and late blue bombs, I'd want at minimum 9 red sources.  I can't keep a hand without red, and I have time to draw my other color.  It doesn't matter than I only have one red 1-drop, I still need red on turn 1 consistently.

Also, my rationale for going heavier in black was that if I drew Liliana in the first 3 turns, I wanted to play her right then and there and wanted to make sure I could meet the double-black cost.



That's fine, but you don't have *any* synergy with Liliana, and no other "real" black cards.  To state it another way, you cannot keep a hand without both red and blue mana, but your mana base is going to give you a lot of black.

I agree that I didn't find Counterflux that useful. I was hoping to be able to use it to counter one of my opponent's more powerful spells, but the opportunity never arose. I don't think I had a specific reason for NOT playing Riot Devils, but I remember my rational for not playing Rolling Temblor is that I felt RTR had a lot of 3 toughness creatures, so it wouldn't actually be that great at killing creatures on the ground.



The problem is that Counterflux is next to impossible to cast.  Counterspells are very useful in Limited (no one plays around them), but very hard to use correctly.  When do you tap out?  When do you leave it open?  How do you know if the spell you want to counter is actually threatening enough?  All these are questions that are very difficult to answer in Limited.  Which is why the counters are always better out of the board than they are main board.  If you use them game 1, your opponent will try to play around them later.  However, if they aren't in your deck game 1, you can blow them out game 2.

RTR does have a lot of x/3 guys.  However, there are tons of X/2s you *have* to kill immediately (like every Guildmage).  Temblor also lets you clean up from a losing position after combat.  It is still removal and still a sweeper.  And you play every piece of removal you can.

I definitely knew that in the worst case, I would have a valuable card in the end with Liliana (and yes, we keep all we draft), but I can see how she might not be that useful in the Limited format. I got her out on the board twice and didn't get to use her in any way that I felt significantly affected the game. But I thought that could have been my lack of experience using planeswalkers.



No, that's just Lili.  She's actually one of the best designed walkers because she's amazing when built around correctly, but extremely poor when the build doesn't support it.  Without any graveyard interaction or no way to put a ton of pressure on the opponent, she's pretty lackluster.

I definitely did not like having Tribute to Hunger, at least in combination with Stab Wound. Even without Stab Wound, my opponent would of course just sacrifice their weakest creature, so I think in every case I used it, I spent 3 mana getting rid of a 1 or 2 mana creature. And at least one other time, I remember not being able to use it because I had Stab Wound on the board, and knew my opponent would just sacrifice the enchanted creature.



Tribute was always mediocre because it's only good when there's just one creature on the opponent's side.  Like I said, it might have made the final deck, it might not have.  I would have had to play it by feel.

My rationale for not main decking Tenement Crasher or the other Skywatch is that I already had 2 other 6-drops. I touched on some of the other cards, but my rationale for picking Stealer of Secrets over Selhoff Occultist was that I thought card drawing would be more valuable than milling.



The format is likely to be pretty slow (RTR is pretty slow, INN wasn't blazing fast), in which case having multiple 6-drop isn't terrible.  Plus, you had a bit of acceleration to get them out earlier.  You also have to remember that all of the 6-drops are extremely difficult to deal with.  Spending that much mana on them isn't terrible.

I would have played both the Stealer and Occultist.  The Stealer is good offensively, and yes, card draw is better than mill (at least outside the INN block), but the Occultist is pretty good defensively and can start taking over a game quickly.  It is basically just another creature, but creatures are good.
Thanks MadAdmiral. I really appreciate all the points you made. I definitely understand what you're saying about Liliana, and I think I get the idea behind what you're saying about the mana - i.e., because I have such a powerful 1-drop in my deck, if I get it in my opening hand, I must be able to play it turn 1 - but I'm not sure I understand how to apply that to the rest of my deck or deckbuilding in general. I guess I would look at the rest of my cards and see if there are any other cards that I would need to play turn 1, then look at my 2 drops and see if there are any that would need to be played turn 2, etc, and adjust my mana base accordingly?
A good way to apply it is to lay everything out according to the curve.  Then seperate everything by color on it's curve slot.  Then it's just kind of a guess as to the exact land split you want to play.  It's kind of hard to describe, but it's something that comes with a lot of practice.

Not many of the pro's videos really cover it because they're doing  it on instinct.  Occasionally, you'll find a video where they drafted a deck that's light on a color, but everything in that color are early game plays.  For instance, if you drafted 14 red cards, but they're all 3+ drops and 9 blue cards that are all 1-4 drops, 8 or 9 Islands might be correct because you need it so early, but can wait on red mana.  It seems counterintuitive that you want more sources that produce the color of fewer cards, but it's more about when you need the mana.

It's really a good way of telling if you're being too greedy with your mana base.  If you look what your most aggressive draws requires your mana to do for the first few turns, you can easily tell if you can actually support that.  Sometimes, it doesn't matter if you can or can't, but it's just something else to look at before you sumbit the deck.
MadAdmiral, I took a harder look at my cards and their mana requirements, and understand some of your points a lot better. I charted out my mana curve just to see what it looked like.

Color CMC=1 CMC=2 CMC=3 CMC=4 CMC=5 CMC=6 Total
U 1 3 3 2 0 3 12
B 0 2 5 0 0 0 7
R 1 1 7 0 0 2 13

(Note: I didn't include the Frostburn Weird. It's hybrid mana cost just complicated things. If I wanted to be really accurate, I probably would have counted one mana as blue and one as red)

Looking at it laid out this way, I can understand how having such heavy requirements for all three colors at turns 2 and 3 gives me a good chance of getting mana screwed. As you said, I guess I got lucky.

Thanks again for your help. Hopefully this will have a positive effect on my next FNM. 

That's exactly how you should lay out your cards (or do it mentally).

Start asking yourself the following questions?


How many TOTAL color requirements do I have for each color?  Keep in mind that if a card as a cmc of 3, but is 1RR, you need to count that as 2 red sources, as you HAVE to have 2 mountains (or red sources) to play it.      


From there, look at WHERE in your deck's curve the color requirements hit.  As you posted... it looks like you need red in your opening hand, as you only had 2 red cards under 3cmc, but then had a ton of red required at the 3 drop.  So I can assume that you probably need a close 50/50 with red being favored slightly as your low cost blue stuff was mostly counters/bounce that you probably would not cast turn 1 or 2 anyways.  Since you normally wouldn't counter things until later, it would be OK to draw into islands on say....turn 3.  Therefore, I'd change the 50/50 to more like a 65/35 to make sure you get red sources for your meat and potatoe cards if you will. 


Lastly....look at the mana curve of your deck by cmc.  You want it to be like a classic bell curve.  Very low for 1 drops, raising up at the 2 and 3 levels, perhaps hitting the top at 4, then falling for 5, 6, and almost nothing over that.  This can change based on the type of deck you are playing (ie boros wants a high amount of 1 2 and 3 drops, and doesn't care for 5 and 6cmc cards much) but this is general advice.  A 1 mana card probably isn't going to be of much use to you in the mid to late game, right?  So you run a small amount, so that doesn't happen.  You want mostly 2 and 3 drop creatures so you have defenders/attackers early on, and a few 5-6 drop creatures to finish off your opponent.  But not so many that you draw say....3 lands, a 2 drop, and 2 6cmc creatures.  That would be a horrible hand to keep, as you'd likely be dead before you hit 6 lands to cast your fat.


In your chart I see (2) 1 drops, (6) 2 drops, (15) 3 drops, (2) 4 drops, (0) 5 drops, and (5) 6 drops.  Looking at the curve itself, I'd say you're a little overloaded at the 3 spot.  What can your deck do turn 1?  Turn 2?  How about after you hit 3 lands?  You only have 7 cards that cost 4 or more.  It can be tough to think of this as you draft....but it comes with experience.  Limited is all about creatures, so removal is king.  Creatures are #2, combat tricks are #3, and everything else is pretty blah.


As you become more advanced, you can look at your cardpool and further evaluate where you have "holes" that you need to draft a filler for.  For example, if you're on pack 3 and you notice that you have 2 great 6cmc creatures and a bunch of good 3-4 drop creatures/spells, but you have no early game creatures (or defense against early creatures) you better get yourself some cheap walls unless you got a TON of removal to deal with early threats. 

Know the other colors.... if you drafted Izzet, that means someone else has azorius.  How are you going to deal with an army of small 1/1 and 2/2 birds?  You need to put them on the D, and force them to block....or you need a board wipe, or flyers of your own.  What about rakdos?  How are you going to deal with an unleashed turn 3 4/3 creature? 


Lastly, you can start understanding how some cards are going to be situational.  Dispel for example....sure, you MAY find a use for it....but if you tap out the first 3-4 turns casting creatures, how good is it on turn 5?  In limited, you generally want to tap out on every turn.  Early game, you're casting creatures and setting up your board.  Mid game, you should have removal and fatties to spend mana on.  A few X spells or mana abilities (such as the guildmages abilities) to sink extra unused mana into are also good ideas.  Generally, the player who can best utilize their mana on every turn is going to win the game.


Hope that helps.       
Thanks ilvmymustang for your tips as well. Just a note, the numbers in that little table aren't the number of cards, but rather the mana requirements. For example, 2 of the 7 Red at CMC=3 are for Crossway Vampire.

I knew that creatures were kind of the main focus of drafts, but this last FNM was the first time I started placing more importance on removal. I think doing that helped quite a bit.

The point you made about preparing to face the other guilds was something I hadn't really thought about before. I mean, I've played a Rakdos deck and had unleashed guys out fast, for example, but never really looked at it from the opposite perspective.

Thanks again! 
No problem.  This Friday (if you draft again) post your deck and let us know how it went....and try the counting/curve approach and see if that helps you.

We all like to hear success stories, and no doubt you're going to have troubles and face nasty cards.

If at all possible, keeping a list of each card you have to pick from would help us key in on whether or no you're picking the right cards to begin with, but otherwise, a final decklist can at least be tweaked to a curve somewhat.

Good luck. 
No problem.  This Friday (if you draft again) post your deck and let us know how it went....and try the counting/curve approach and see if that helps you.

We all like to hear success stories, and no doubt you're going to have troubles and face nasty cards.

If at all possible, keeping a list of each card you have to pick from would help us key in on whether or no you're picking the right cards to begin with, but otherwise, a final decklist can at least be tweaked to a curve somewhat.

Good luck. 



I did draft again this last Friday, but unfortunately I did not keep a list of all the cards I saw. I'm actually not sure how I would have reasonably done that since with 12 players, I saw around 300 cards. Anyway, I did pretty well again this week, placing 3rd (2-0-2) and getting a prize (1 booster pack)! We drafted RTR-AVR-ISD, and I pulled a Jace, Architect of Thought and Tamiyo during the draft, so I was pretty happy with my draft, regardless of how well I built my deck.

Here is the final version of my deck (after side-boarding a few times).

Land
9 Forest
8 Plains

Creatures
Farbog Explorer
Abbey Griffin
Village Bell-Ringer
Axebane Stag
Risen Sanctuary
Gobbling Ooze
Fencing Ace
Voiceless Spirit
Nightshade Peddler
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger

Other spells
Bonds of Faith
Zealous Strike
Midnight Haunting
Spidery Grasp
Coursers' Accord
Call to Serve
Trostani's Judgment
Snare the Skies
Wreath of Geists
Avenging Arrow
Giant Growth

Sideboard
1 Voidwielder
1 Bone Splinters
1 Evernight Shade
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Purify the Grave
1 Urban Burgeoning
1 Moonmist
2 Druid's Deliverance
1 Golgari Longlegs
1 Rain of Thorns
1 Diregraf Escort
1 Flowering Lumberknot
1 Righteous Blow
1 Kindercatch
1 Cursebreak
1 Natural End

You'll probably immediately notice that even after picking up Jace and Tamiyo, that my deck is not blue. Jace was my first pick out of pack 1, but after not having much luck with Liliana the week before, and looking at Jace's stats, I didn't necessarily want to build a deck around him. I think Coursers' Accord was my second pick and started me down the Selesnya path.

I don't remember what my next picks were, but remember at one point either near the end of pack 1 or beginning of pack 2 that I wasn't seeing that many G/W cards and started getting worried that someone else was taking all the good cards. It didn't get bad enough to make me switch out, but by the time I got to pack 3, I was fairly light on low cost (CMC 3 and below) creatures, so I was desperately searching for those. I don't remember what rare/mythic I passed in pack 3 trying to round out my curve.

In the end, here is what my mana curve looked like.

    CMC=1   CMC=2   CMC=3   CMC=4   CMC=5   CMC=6   CMC=7
U 0 4 5 1 0 2 1
G 3 1 1 0 3 1 2

As suggested, I literally laid my cards out like this when working on my mana base, and I remember thinking that because of all the green 1-drops I had, that I really needed to get a Forest in my opening hand. Looking back at it now, if anything, I needed a Plains in my opening hand so I can cast the white 2- and 3-drop creatures I had. I think I wasn't thinking clearly because I was trying to move quickly and not hold up the draft. Either way, I think it ended up not being such a big deal because I was only in 2 colors this week, and now that I've made the realization on my own, I probably won't make that mistake again.

Here is a quick run-down of my matches...

Match 1 - vs. Mill deck - 1-1
Game 1: I felt like it went in my favor pretty quickly
Game 2: I got stalled out and actually did get milled out 

Match 2 - vs. Izzet (Aggro?) - 2-0
I don't remember much of the details, but felt like both games were pretty easy for me

Match 3 - vs. Rakdos - 2-1
Game 1: The guy I played is the guy who usually get's first or second, and I was actually a little nervous to play him. I made some really dumb decisions, that, and he played a turn 5 Bloodgift Demon, so I lost pretty quickly.
Games 2 and 3: He got mana screwed a bit in one of them (don't remember which). I don't remember much else.

Match 4 - vs. Azorius - 1-1
Game 1: He played an early Jace and basically kept my creatures down by 1 power all game long and then used Jace's ultimate to get my Risen Sanctuary
Game 2: He actually had a lot of the same cards I had, and the game kind of stalled out for a bit as we both with Abbey Griffins and Voiceless Spirits in the air. I don't remember how I broke the stalemate, but won the second game with less then 1 minute to time.

Anyway, again, I really appreciate all the help. Even if I'm not making the right decisions, I feel like I'm at least starting to ask the right questions.