FNM Drafting – A look at things to come
It is fascinating how much one week and some confidence will go when you are playing cards. Here I was sitting across from the same set of people I was a week ago but I was a changed player. I wasn’t self conscious I wasn’t worried about making the wrong decisions. I decided when I sat down that this draft was going to be a little different. I was going to make sure I was mindful of the picks and mindful of cards and signals I was being passed. I used the majority of this to my advantage on my quest to be a better drafter by going each week to FNM.
This week’s format was going to be presumably Triple Gatecrash, but they didn’t quite have enough packs of cards for everyone who wanted to draft. So, we tried our hand at Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash. This isn’t a typical format (as both sets are considered “large, stand alone” sets, we will be drafting RTR and GTC when Dragon’s Maze hits next month and pushes us into the triple set format we’re so accustomed to. I considered this exercise as kind of a preview of coming attractions in terms of draft formats.
It started a little later than usual. That’s the thing with going to Magic events that never really changes, nothing really ever starts at the announced time. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive and the tournament to start up I made one speculation purchase. I bought a couple Assemble the Legions for a couple dollars a piece. These were used in many of the winning control decks in Standard last weekend at the SCG Opens in Orlando. I thought they were a steal at two dollars. I think they probably have a potential to grow to maybe five or six dollars in a few months, but by then, people will be chomping at the bit to get them out of the trade binder. This is a perfect place as any to talk about what I think about trading.
I love trading Magic cards. It is one part of the overall culture of collectibles that really gets me going. I love knowing that my collection grows in value and I love trading for cards that I think are undervalued and have potential. That being said there are a few things about modern card trading that needs to be discussed. If you are a new player and you see existing players getting excited over a pile of cards you think is terrible, you may need to research the price of the cards before you just let them go for nothing. Everyone has a smart phone, at the very least, everyone has a device that can hop on free WiFi and check prices at most stores. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t “make a buck” or try to value trade, I’m just saying that newer players or people just starting out trading should do a little homework before you let cards sling back and forth. Everyone has a bad beats story and everyone has a story of “I had a really valuable card once, but I traded it for a way worse one.” Don’t let your way worse one be because you didn’t know the value of your cards up front.
Once the draft legitimately started I was itching to see how this format shook out. I took an early Ogre Slumlord and never really looked back. Picked up the Orzhov cards throughout my first pack. One of the things I’ve noticed about Gatecrash, and this particular shop in general, is that many of the players vastly overvalue cards that are not very good in limited. People draft for whatever the reason, I draft to build the best deck I can and win the most games, some players draft for cards for their constructed brews. The best advice I can give players looking to become better drafters or better limited players overall, don’t get sucked up into playing what you’re used to. The shocklands are valuable cards, it is hard to pass up a card that is worth the price of the draft for a card that may be better for your deck. I’m not saying that the shocklands are bad cards in limited, quite the contrary, they are pretty decent. But if you are not in those colors and you waste your first pick on a card that won’t make your deck, you’re playing from behind.
This draft went a lot better than my last draft. I stuck to playing color combinations that I knew would work well. I benefited from the general consensus that Red and Boros in particular is the color and guild choice. I stuck to picking Orzhov cards in pack one, got rewarded in pack two by some very powerful black cards being sent my way. I steered towards Selesnya in Return to Ravnica, because they work well with Orzhov and green isn’t a particularly hard color to splash for. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen this picture of my draft deck. It is highlighted by a fourth pick Pack Rat (which is a very hard card to remove) and a first pick Armada Wurm. Ending up with both on color guildmages was pretty sweet. The all star of the deck was the two Centaur Healers, which not only negates early beats with the three life. But it puts a 3/3 body on the field and that stops most early attackers and gives you something that can trade later on. Other highlights are the Knight Watch and Knightly Valor which are almost the same card.
I don’t remember too much from the matches I did get to pull off the turn two Pack Rat. I lost a game off of a lost Volatile Rig coin flip, which is one of the most memorable experiences of the tournament. I felt my deck was close to perfect. I only lost the one game. Other memorable board states were I used a Merciful Eviction to remove my opponent’s two artifact creatures and smash face. I think I drafted about as perfect as I could. I don’t think I made a “wrong pick” at all. This time I received my foil Farseek and three packs of Gatecrash for a future draft or sealed deck at my house. I placed 2nd overall (although statistically I was tied for first) I think the one game loss affected my placing. I still got first place prizes and I had another amazing time.
We’ve also done what I like to call MTGO Mondays at our house as well. This is where me and Sam relax at home and fire up the old Magic sans pants and play a quick tournament or two before bed. The past few weeks we’ve been playing in phantom Gatecrash sealed. Here are a few pros and cons about playing in Phantom events. One, from what you have probably gathered from the name of the event, phantom means you don’t get to keep the cards you open after the event is over. Which for some players that would be a major drawback. The bright side to all of this is that the price of the event is far less than a non-phantom event. The difference between a regular sealed event, around twenty six dollars retail, and a phantom event, about four dollars is not an insignificant amount of money. That also means that the stakes are much lower. The prizes are not nearly as good, but definitely comparable to what we find at FNM each week. We love playing sealed decks and hate the cost so this works out great for us. The other great thing is they fire on demand. We have found that the longest we’ve waited for an event was about ten minutes.
You’ll see from my sealed pool that I think I built a pretty good deck. I went 2-1 in rounds and prized. I think I could have gone 3 – 0 if I had sideboarded in the Pit Fights in my second match. I did pretty well though winning 2 – 1 getting a pack of cards for my trouble isn’t too bad. I also think that possibly the Act of Treason should have been the Homing Lightning or the Massive Raid. It is also unfortunate that I didn’t find space for the Ruination Wurm because that is also a very excellent. card. But outside of a few 20th to 23rd cards in the deck, I think it is mostly the
correct choices. I don’t recall too much about this particular tournament except that I was very weak against flying in the second round and I think siding in the Pit Fights would have helped me on that front. It would have at least helped me slow down the onslaught of flyers coming at my face. All of my games this tournament split, that’s kind of exciting to, knowing you’re on the verge and coming back from behind and winning out.
There was one other thing I wanted to talk about before I closed out this article. I’ve been trying to find ways to liquidate my Magic card collection and actually maximize the value of the cards that I do have. I decided to go with an online trading site called PucaTrade. PucaTrade works similarly to a few video game sites that I’ve used to trade with. Where you are not trading one for one, you’re trading for an amount of points, and then you use those points as currency to get other cards. Everything happens automatically on the back end so you just get updates on when you need to send cards and when you’re going to be receiving cards. While it takes some doing setting up, you’ll need to manually add a lot of the cards on both the have and the wants, and you’ll also need to add additional copies if you like playsets of things. What I’m going to try to do is use it to get rid of cards that I am no longer using or have far too many of and try to get some of those more expensive cards out of it. We’ll see how successful I’ll be (and seeing how I’ll need hundreds of dollars worth of points, it may take me a little while). I’ll try to keep a running tally of my PucaTrade points. So far, I have 250 points for signing up and re-tweeting the link. The points don’t translate well to dollars, but from the looks of it, about every 100 points is a dollar in real currency. This week I’m just starting it, I added most of the cards that I’m willing to part with from my current draft to my “have” list we’ll see if any of those go in the coming weeks. So, we’ll see how this experiment goes.
Also, remember to vote Red in YMTC. I think it is really the best option in terms of power level and challenge for the community. I would love to see better and more interesting red cards and what better way than voting on it for the community card.
Robert Chesley has been slinging cards since ’96. He has become a FNM regular and plays sealed online on Mondays. Check out his ramblings on twitter @Urzishra.