10/9/2013 LI: "Gray Matters"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Limited Information, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Gods: I agree that they are underwhelming in limited.  I played an opponent in one draft who had a Thassa that did absolutely nothing and never even threatened devotion.  Purphoros is the best of the cycle in limited though.  I went 3-0 with a monored deck and Purphoros  that absolutely slayed the competition.

 

Heroic: I still feel that Wu and Wr heroic are the best archetypes, but I wouldn't force them.  A few days ago I was forcing heroic and doing quite well, but the market adjusted, and now I feel heroic is maybe even a little overdrafted.  I'd draft it if it was open, but never force it.  I think the 3 mana bestow creatures are far more important than the heroic creatures.  Observant Alseid, for example is going to be really good on any creature with flying.  So I  think the best strategy is take bestow early, if heroic tables then you're set up for a very good deck, but if it doesn't, you still have playables...this is much better than picking heroic early and not ending up with any enablers.

 

Ill-tempered Cyclops and Nessian Asp: I never heard anyone say anything but positive about them, so I'm not sure they can be called underrated.  Sure they table sometimes, but that's mostly because GR monstrosity is hard to draft and you can only play so many 4's and 5's.  Nessian Asp in particular is such a beating.  I've played games where my opponent was playing a significant amount of flyers and he single-handedly held down the board defensively until I could level him up and beat face.  I wouldn't say its a first pick, but easily a top 5 pick.

 

Monoblack deck: It's interesting that you say it is the best archetype because I actually think it can be a trap.  Gray Merchant of Asphodel is good for sure, but I no longer think it is a top 5 common.  I've  tried to play with the deck multiple times and never went better than 2-1.  The problem is everything in the deck is setup to make a big lifetotal swing with the merchant so you're running suboptimal cards for devotion-its inevitable.  The other problem is that there are opponents who will splash black to steal your , which is fine because spells don't add to your devotion.  But the other removal in black is barely playable: Sip of Hemlock is very clunky and despite what others say I don't think it is actually playable, it would be if it was instant speed, but sorcery and 6 mana just doesn't get there.  You want precisely one just because your opponent may build a big threat and you want an out to it, but running multiples is bad.  Pharika's Cure and Viper's Kiss are actually fine.  People aren't splashing for the cure and it is instant speed, which is very important if you're playing against heroic.  Viper's Kiss is decent just because it is cheap and adds to devotion.  Overall though, you're left with very few real answers because people are stealing your whips and the other removal isn't good, which makes you incredibly vulnerable to any real deck with threats. This would be fine if the merchant was as good as everyone thinks it is, but it is not.  I've been in games where my opponent hit me for 5+ with the merchant, but then subsequently lost to my Nessian Asp because he couldn't stop it.  Devotion is hard to draft not only because you may not get enough playables, but because you are constantly walking the fine line of wanting to have answers in the way of removal, but realizing they don't add to devotion.  Either you run a deck without answers by jamming boderline playable permanents for devotion, or you run a traditional black control deck (maybe splashing blue) but then your devotion is weak.  I've seen several people 0-1 with devotion but I've never seen anyone 3-0.

 

One thing that I haven't heard a lot of people saying is that blue is by far and away the best color in this set.  Because a lot of this format relies on building a big dude, possibly through heroic plus enchantments or possibly monstrosity, blue bounce is so much better than removal in other colors.  You don't really need to answer the threats permanently, the tempo advantage of bouncing a dude after your opponent has made it monstrous, or making enchantments fall off an otherwise unbeatable threat is sufficient.  On top of that, blue flyers are stronger than most sets at both the common and uncommon rarities. Nimbus Naiad and Prescient Chimera are very good and I've seen Horizon Scholar table because not many people were in blue and those who were in blue were in UW heroic.  Finally, Omenspeaker is one of the best commons in the set, it's not splashy but more than any other card it has helped me not lose by finding my third land in the early game, and finding my finishers in the late game, as well as providing solid defense against the aggro decks.

 

After the Online prerelease I drafted this set all day for 3 days, nearly 20 drafts.  But I will warn people this set gets boring fast.  It's all about building big dudes through heroic or monstrosity and there isn't sufficient removal to keep them in check.  It's not very diverse.  I like the set in principle, but in limited, I think it becomes old fast.

Awesome commentary, ZursApprentice - that was probably more valuable than the article itself!  I've only drafted a few times at this point, but everything you said seems right on point, particularly the fact that building a zoltron every game gets old.  The main good thing about the article is its comments on the gods, which are in fact rather lame in limited, though given that they are mythic the choice between picking a god and picking an emissary isn't going to occur that often.  I had two on-color gods in my first sealed build at the pre-release, and only ran one because it was clear I would never have sufficient devotion for the 2nd god, and I am even more convinced now that was the right call.

ZursApprentice wrote:

Gods: I agree that they are underwhelming in limited.  I played an opponent in one draft who had a Thassa that did absolutely nothing and never even threatened devotion.  Purphoros is the best of the cycle in limited though.  I went 3-0 with a monored deck and Purphoros  that absolutely slayed the competition.

 

Heroic: I still feel that Wu and Wr heroic are the best archetypes, but I wouldn't force them.  A few days ago I was forcing heroic and doing quite well, but the market adjusted, and now I feel heroic is maybe even a little overdrafted.  I'd draft it if it was open, but never force it.  I think the 3 mana bestow creatures are far more important than the heroic creatures.  Observant Alseid, for example is going to be really good on any creature with flying.  So I  think the best strategy is take bestow early, if heroic tables then you're set up for a very good deck, but if it doesn't, you still have playables...this is much better than picking heroic early and not ending up with any enablers.

 

Ill-tempered Cyclops and Nessian Asp: I never heard anyone say anything but positive about them, so I'm not sure they can be called underrated.  Sure they table sometimes, but that's mostly because GR monstrosity is hard to draft and you can only play so many 4's and 5's.  Nessian Asp in particular is such a beating.  I've played games where my opponent was playing a significant amount of flyers and he single-handedly held down the board defensively until I could level him up and beat face.  I wouldn't say its a first pick, but easily a top 5 pick.

 

Monoblack deck: It's interesting that you say it is the best archetype because I actually think it can be a trap.  Gray Merchant of Asphodel is good for sure, but I no longer think it is a top 5 common.  I've  tried to play with the deck multiple times and never went better than 2-1.  The problem is everything in the deck is setup to make a big lifetotal swing with the merchant so you're running suboptimal cards for devotion-its inevitable.  The other problem is that there are opponents who will splash black to steal your , which is fine because spells don't add to your devotion.  But the other removal in black is barely playable: Sip of Hemlock is very clunky and despite what others say I don't think it is actually playable, it would be if it was instant speed, but sorcery and 6 mana just doesn't get there.  You want precisely one just because your opponent may build a big threat and you want an out to it, but running multiples is bad.  Pharika's Cure and Viper's Kiss are actually fine.  People aren't splashing for the cure and it is instant speed, which is very important if you're playing against heroic.  Viper's Kiss is decent just because it is cheap and adds to devotion.  Overall though, you're left with very few real answers because people are stealing your whips and the other removal isn't good, which makes you incredibly vulnerable to any real deck with threats. This would be fine if the merchant was as good as everyone thinks it is, but it is not.  I've been in games where my opponent hit me for 5+ with the merchant, but then subsequently lost to my Nessian Asp because he couldn't stop it.  Devotion is hard to draft not only because you may not get enough playables, but because you are constantly walking the fine line of wanting to have answers in the way of removal, but realizing they don't add to devotion.  Either you run a deck without answers by jamming boderline playable permanents for devotion, or you run a traditional black control deck (maybe splashing blue) but then your devotion is weak.  I've seen several people 0-1 with devotion but I've never seen anyone 3-0.

 

One thing that I haven't heard a lot of people saying is that blue is by far and away the best color in this set.  Because a lot of this format relies on building a big dude, possibly through heroic plus enchantments or possibly monstrosity, blue bounce is so much better than removal in other colors.  You don't really need to answer the threats permanently, the tempo advantage of bouncing a dude after your opponent has made it monstrous, or making enchantments fall off an otherwise unbeatable threat is sufficient.  On top of that, blue flyers are stronger than most sets at both the common and uncommon rarities. Nimbus Naiad and Prescient Chimera are very good and I've seen Horizon Scholar table because not many people were in blue and those who were in blue were in UW heroic.  Finally, Omenspeaker is one of the best commons in the set, it's not splashy but more than any other card it has helped me not lose by finding my third land in the early game, and finding my finishers in the late game, as well as providing solid defense against the aggro decks.

 

After the Online prerelease I drafted this set all day for 3 days, nearly 20 drafts.  But I will warn people this set gets boring fast.  It's all about building big dudes through heroic or monstrosity and there isn't sufficient removal to keep them in check.  It's not very diverse.  I like the set in principle, but in limited, I think it becomes old fast.

I have had quite different experiences than you it seems (except with the gods, I've only lost to Purphoros but that deck was pretty nuts).

 

On Heroic: I have never attempted to draft it for the simple reason that it was so hyped to begin with that I knew most heroic decks would end up medicore because I seriously doubt a pod can support two strong heroic decks. Heroic seems like much more of a trap than monoblack. Heroic needs to commit early as a lot of its cards are strong enough elsewhere they are going to be picked up, so if you commit and suddenly it dries up you may have lost several picks.

 

On monoblack: Your experience seems to indicate that you think monoblack has to skew away from any non-permanents to be good. While I haven't played straight monoblack (I have had several 75% or higher black decks) when I have played it I still make sure the deck is reasonable. For instance I have never played Fleshmad Steed because it is just not good. In my experience with the black decks I've noticed a particularly strong comback capibility. For example: I had an opponent get me to 1, but with a Sip of Hemlock and Rescue from the Underworld I came back easily and defeated them handily by the end (I was back up to 9 from merchants and had planned around dropping low in life in order to set up a stabilization). As for Sip of Hemlock, it has been more than servicable for me multiple times (and I've run up to 3 in a deck) while only once being completely dead. From what I can tell your perception of mono-black seems to center around having an over-reaching dedication to devotion, which is not the ideal from what I've seen. 

 

On blue: The bounce is great - against voltron building or heroic. It is not great against lots of creatures or monoblack. Given the format blue can either be amazing or very underwhelming depending on what you are facing. I think that variance is why no one is running around professing blue as best.

 

EDIT: I should add that multiple of my drafts have had 24-28 black cards at the end and so in theory I could have been monoblack. However playing monoblack would mean playing a couple Asphodel Wanderers, a steed and a dark betrayal. That clearly does not make a good deck, so I splashed a second color which I had focused on when no decent or better black cards were available (I have splashed green, red, and blue to great success, I have not tried white yet).

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unspeakable wrote:

Awesome commentary, ZursApprentice - that was probably more valuable than the article itself!  I've only drafted a few times at this point, but everything you said seems right on point, particularly the fact that building a zoltron every game gets old.  The main good thing about the article is its comments on the gods, which are in fact rather lame in limited, though given that they are mythic the choice between picking a god and picking an emissary isn't going to occur that often.  I had two on-color gods in my first sealed build at the pre-release, and only ran one because it was clear I would never have sufficient devotion for the 2nd god, and I am even more convinced now that was the right call.

 

Thanks!  About the Gods, let's be honest, any person drafting online is windmill slamming them because of their money value.  Most of them aren't actually good in limited, but purely for the cool factor I played with the two that came to me.  I've money drafted the set mercilessly.  I'm just saying if  you're trying to win a major tournament they may not end up in your deck.

 

 

xger wrote:

 

 

I have had quite different experiences than you it seems (except with the gods, I've only lost to Purphoros but that deck was pretty nuts).

 

On Heroic: I have never attempted to draft it for the simple reason that it was so hyped to begin with that I knew most heroic decks would end up medicore because I seriously doubt a pod can support two strong heroic decks. Heroic seems like much more of a trap than monoblack. Heroic needs to commit early as a lot of its cards are strong enough elsewhere they are going to be picked up, so if you commit and suddenly it dries up you may have lost several picks.

 

On monoblack: Your experience seems to indicate that you think monoblack has to skew away from any non-permanents to be good. While I haven't played straight monoblack (I have had several 75% or higher black decks) when I have played it I still make sure the deck is reasonable. For instance I have never played Fleshmad Steed because it is just not good. In my experience with the black decks I've noticed a particularly strong comback capibility. For example: I had an opponent get me to 1, but with a Sip of Hemlock and Rescue from the Underworld I came back easily and defeated them handily by the end (I was back up to 9 from merchants and had planned around dropping low in life in order to set up a stabilization). As for Sip of Hemlock, it has been more than servicable for me multiple times (and I've run up to 3 in a deck) while only once being completely dead. From what I can tell your perception of mono-black seems to center around having an over-reaching dedication to devotion, which is not the ideal from what I've seen.

 

On blue: The bounce is great - against voltron building or heroic. It is not great against lots of creatures or monoblack. Given the format blue can either be amazing or very underwhelming depending on what you are facing. I think that variance is why no one is running around professing blue as best.

 

EDIT: I should add that multiple of my drafts have had 24-28 black cards at the end and so in theory I could have been monoblack. However playing monoblack would mean playing a couple Asphodel Wanderers, a steed and a dark betrayal. That clearly does not make a good deck, so I splashed a second color which I had focused on when no decent or better black cards were available (I have splashed green, red, and blue to great success, I have not tried white yet).

 

Heroic: Everything is based on your starting point, your mindset, your evaluation of the cards.  If you knew they were going to be overdrafted, then you made a good call.  As for me, they were underdrafted initially, but overdrafted now.  I won my first three drafts based solely on Observant Alseid ON Wingsteed Rider.  The first day of the prerelease every heroic card I wanted was tabling to me.  Now they've dried up almost completely, so I think you'd be correct in saying that heroic is something you should stay away from.  As with every limited set, when you ask the question "what should I draft?"  The answer is ALWAYS "What no one else is drafting."

 

Monoblack: What is your record drafting this archetype?  I say it not to be rude, but I've drafted it 2-1 multiple times, and drafted Blue-Black control 2-1 multiple times.  But I've honestly never seen anyone draft it 3-0 in an 8-4.  My sample size could be small though.  I'm certain there's a way to do it that could win, but I will stick to my perception that it would be very difficult.  It's not very difficult to draft an UW heroic deck then if heroic dries up, just pick all the blue flyers, which are boss.  Or conversely, GR monstrosity and UG tempo seem to be open most of the time.  The problem with Monoblack is that it relies on a near perfect balance of just enough permanents to trigger devotion, just enough removal, that no one else is in monoblack, and that sufficient  is even in the packs.  It leans heavily on mechants so hard, without a promise that merchants even exist in the packs you are drafting.  For example, one draft started in blue then 2 merchants TABLED.  So I windmill slammed them and just knew I would have a great monoblack deck.  Never saw another merchant.  NO one else was in black either, the merchants simply weren't in the packs.  2-1'd the draft.  You could say the same thing about other archetypes, but other archetypes are looking for types of cards, not one specific card.  There are many heroic cards, there are many pump cards, there is only one card named Gray Merchant of Asphodel.  It's like forcing monoblack in cube because you like Necropotence.  I'm not saying don't pick up merchants if they are passed to you, if anything you don't want others to have them, just never FORCE monoblack imo.

 

Blue: Totally agree.  Bounce is only good against voltron and heroic.  But that's 90% of what I've seen.  Also, I don't say blue is the best only because of bounce, but mostly because of the its flyers.  Blue has a long history of marginal 3/3 flying creatures for 3uu in limited, Prescient Chimera is better than that.    Horizon Scholar would be a first pick bomb in core set, in this format I've honestly seen it table multiple times.  This set has the best fliers I've ever seen.

 

EDIT: I will say that Bw Bleeder is an archetype that you can force.  You're tabling all the Scholar of Athreos and Setessan Battle Priest that you can handle, which are really good cards in that archetype.  I've seen B with a minor splash do well (generally Bu or Bw), I've just never seen actual entirely monoblack deck win, because the decks I've seen try monoblack were 2-3 playables short of a good deck.  This isn't to say it isn't possible to draft a winning monoblack deck, I just haven't seen it.

ZursApprentice wrote:

Heroic: Everything is based on your starting point, your mindset, your evaluation of the cards.  If you knew they were going to be overdrafted, then you made a good call.  As for me, they were underdrafted initially, but overdrafted now.  I won my first three drafts based solely on Observant Alseid ON Wingsteed Rider.  The first day of the prerelease every heroic card I wanted was tabling to me.  Now they've dried up almost completely, so I think you'd be correct in saying that heroic is something you should stay away from.  As with every limited set, when you ask the question "what should I draft?"  The answer is ALWAYS "What no one else is drafting."

Well, I wasn't able to draft the first 2 days of the prerelease so I never myself saw heroic being underdrafted.
Monoblack: What is your record drafting this archetype?  I say it not to be rude, but I've drafted it 2-1 multiple times, and drafted Blue-Black control 2-1 multiple times.  But I've honestly never seen anyone draft it 3-0 in an 8-4.  My sample size could be small though.  I'm certain there's a way to do it that could win, but I will stick to my perception that it would be very difficult.  It's not very difficult to draft an UW heroic deck then if heroic dries up, just pick all the blue flyers, which are boss.  Or conversely, GR monstrosity and UG tempo seem to be open most of the time.  The problem with Monoblack is that it relies on a near perfect balance of just enough permanents to trigger devotion, just enough removal, that no one else is in monoblack, and that sufficient  is even in the packs.  It leans heavily on mechants so hard, without a promise that merchants even exist in the packs you are drafting.  For example, one draft started in blue then 2 merchants TABLED.  So I windmill slammed them and just knew I would have a great monoblack deck.  Never saw another merchant.  NO one else was in black either, the merchants simply weren't in the packs.  2-1'd the draft.  You could say the same thing about other archetypes, but other archetypes are looking for types of cards, not one specific card.  There are many heroic cards, there are many pump cards, there is only one card named Gray Merchant of Asphodel.  It's like forcing monoblack in cube because you like Necropotence.  I'm not saying don't pick up merchants if they are passed to you, if anything you don't want others to have them, just never FORCE monoblack imo.
As I added, I haven't played straight monoblack and agree true monoblack would be hard and meet the things you said. Heavy black with a small splash is where I am advocating. As for my record, I 3-0'ed 3 pre-release drafts with heavy black, 1 3-0 in a 4-3-2-2 (I don't like 8-4's when I'm still learning the format) and another 5 or so 2-1's. I've not done worse than 2-1 with black as one of my colors.
Blue: Totally agree.  Bounce is only good against voltron and heroic.  But that's 90% of what I've seen.  Also, I don't say blue is the best only because of bounce, but mostly because of the its flyers.  Blue has a long history of marginal 3/3 flying creatures for 3uu in limited, Prescient Chimera is better than that.    Horizon Scholar would be a first pick bomb in core set, in this format I've honestly seen it table multiple times.  This set has the best fliers I've ever seen.
I haven't seen quite that high of heroic/voltron decks (I've seen at least half a dozen UG tempo decks for instance). The main issue with fliers is Nessian Asp, but I agree overall with the fliers, I just don't think it makes blue the best.

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