MTG Draft Night: War of the Spark

We’ve been putting off MTG draft nights for too long, so last week we just put an ultimatum out: draft was going to happen that week for sure.

Because we had short notice, a number of the regular crew weren’t able to make it. That was, in essence, fine because we were going to try to limit it to 8 people anyway. As of late, the numbers have ballooned to as many as 12 people at a draft night, which makes logistics and seating in my house quite difficult. So, by limiting it to eight players, we figured to make it a little more reasonable.

We talked about how to equitably reduce the player count down to eight though, and came up with a number of possibilities. Do we draw names from a hat? Give priority to some players based upon pre-determined qualifications? Make it a free-for-all? After much deliberation, we opted for a combination of the latter two.

First, we gave prioritization to those who come to game nights at least somewhat regularly. Five of the most common people that play at draft nights come to game night as well. I like the idea of rewarding those who come on the regular, so we started there. For the last three spots, we had six people leftover (based upon who attended last time). To make it fair to all of them, I sent out an email blast and just made it first come, first serve.

To my surprise, a number of people just couldn’t make it on short notice. In fact, of the six people, only one was able to attend, leaving us with two extra spots to fill. I wound up opening it up to a former co-worker of mine, and his girlfriend, and the happily accepted. We also had a last minute cancellation the night of the draft, and absolutely scrambled to fill that spot. I personally asked at least half a dozen people, none of which were available. We ultimately found two people that could fill the spot, and settled on Sam’s friend: Dison.

To reserve your spot, I told everyone they had to pre-pay $25 (non-refundable). The issue with refunds is that if we have people cancel last minute, not only do we have an odd spot that makes pairings weird, but we also have purchased cards and food for that spot. Now, I said “non-refundable,” but in practice, it’s only non-refundable if we can’t find a paying person to fill the slot. In this case, we did get payment and refund the entry fee.

We went with “War of the Spark,” which is something that at least one of our players was clamoring for. Not only was it a set that he seemed particularly interested in, but it was also a brand new set–something we’d never done before. Sadly, he wasn’t able to make it this time, so we’ll need to run a similar event in the future.

Preparation:

Since it was last minute, we had to buy the box locally, which increased the base cost a bit ($115 as compared to the $90-100 boxes we normally buy). I set entry at $25 each because $20 each would’ve only left $45 for food for eight people and even if I bought pizza, that seemed incredibly unrealistic. At $85 though, I was able to buy everyone a NY strip steak, broccoli, and baked taters. Overall, it makes for a pretty great drafting experience.

In preparation for the draft itself, I did a little exploratory drafting using Bestiaire and Draftsim and decided that all of the colors seemed viable. In particular, I seemed to like the following color combinations:

  • Black / Blue
  • Blue / White
  • Black / White (not a strong theme, but such good removal)
  • White / Green
  • Green / Blue (if you got a bunch of flying merfolk, this could be nuts)

None of the combos I liked included red, but it has a lot of direct damage. I would occasionally find myself picking up a bomb and drafting red/green, but the online simulators snapped up all of the red damage, that it wasn’t viable online.

The Draft:

We didn’t do anything particularly new or exciting about the draft this time, although we did randomize draft spots (and opponents) by drawing numbers out of a hat. We did this in advance, so that everyone knew that they would play five opponents that night: which was everyone except the people immediately to their left and right. The thought was, that you’d be less likely to hate-draft things if you knew that the guy next to you could use them to beat down your opponents.

When I opened my first pack, I had to pick between an Ugin and a foil Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion. I suspect most people would’ve had an easy decision, but I did hesitate briefly. I ultimately went with Ugin because I wasn’t in love with red in the set and I also wanted to keep my color options open. My second pick was a deathsprout–not because I particularly liked the color combo, but because it was the best thing in the pack. It was early enough that I could go that route, but leave myself flexible. Shortly thereafter I picked up a Gleaming Overseer, which granted protection and evasion and I started off on a path towards U/B amass.

Halfway through the first pack, white was clearly open though, so I started picking up what I could in removal there. At that point, black also seemed really open (though later on, it would seem that the players on either side of me also decided that it was open and got into it as well).

My first few packs I drafted very few creatures. Since white was mostly a splash for me, and it turned out that the players on either side of me were drafting black, while the two players to my left were in blue, that’s understandable. There frankly just weren’t many creatures there to draft. Still, I was getting some surprising cards at the bottom of packs: I had a last pick Gateway Plaza that I was very pleased with. I also picked up a Wanderer’s Strike with an 8th pick or so, which seemed too good to be true.

With the cards I had, I built a control deck for sure. It frankly reminds me a lot of the deck I built for our 5th edition draft, although much of my control cards came from white, and I had more sources of damage (though not much more). This particular deck didn’t have a critter naively bigger than a 2/2 (unless you count a 1/4), but I occasionally was able to amass a critter up in the 5/5 range.

  • Creatures:
    • 1x Aven Eternal
    • 2x Law-Rune Enforcer
    • 2x Gleaming Overseer
    • 1x Grateful Apparation
    • 2x Lazotep Reaver
    • 1x Trusted Pegasus
    • 1x Vizier of the Scorpion
    • 1x Vraska’s Finisher
  • Removal:
    • 1x Bleeding Edge
    • 1x Divine Arrow
    • 1x Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty
    • 1x Spark Harvest
    • 2x Wanderer’s Strike
  • Spells:
    • 1x Callous Dismisal
    • 1x Commence the Endgame
  • Planeswalkers:
    • 1x Ugin, the Ineffable
    • 1x Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor
    • 1x Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence
    • 1x Kaya, Bane of the Dead
  • Lands:
    • 1x Gateway Plaza
    • 6x Swamp
    • 6x Plains
    • 4x Island

Though that was my deck, that was far from what I considered the end of my playables. In the Unstable draft, I wound up losing my sideboard for most the evening, so I played stock with everything. This time, I was much more fast and loose, swapping things between many of my games. My sideboard included:

  • Stuff I actually used:
    • 1x Martyr for the Cause
    • 1x Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
    • 1x Wanderer’s Strike (I had three total)
    • 1x Spark Double
    • 1x Callous Dismisal (two total)
    • 1x Ashiok, Dream Renderer
  • Other stuff:
    • 1x Erratic Visionary
    • 1x Sky Theater Strix
    • 2x War Screecher
    • 1x Pouncing Lynx
    • 2x Spellkeeper Weird
    • 1x Naga Eternal
    • 1x Flux Channeler
    • 2x Teyo’s Lightshield
    • 1x Makeshift Battalion
    • 2x Thunder Drake
    • 1x Bulwark Giant
    • 1x Deathsprout
    • 1x Teferi, Time Raveler
    • 1x Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
    • 1x Feather, the Redeemed

Some cards, like the Davriel, and Spark Double were actually in my base incarnation of the deck. I wound up pulling them out because they seemed to have minimal effect on the game. Davriel was great if I was ahead and they were already low on cards, but I didn’t have the stuff in my deck to really protect him in many games. Spark Double ran into the problem that I never seemed to get it when I had a good planeswalker out, so it sat in my hand because I didn’t want to waste it making another 2/2.

The Games:

My games played a lot like the days of 5th edition as well, wherein it would take me a while to stabilize the board, with me generally dipping down below 10 health before getting to a point where I could establish control. There were a couple of games where my opponent would get me down to around 4 life, and then I’d somehow stem the bleeding, and hold tight for another 5-10 turns while slowing beating them down with a flyer or menacing army token. One game, Sam even took me down to 1 life before stalling out, which had to be frustrating.

Throughout my first games I played super-slow control style. From what I could tell reading the room, the format was not fast at all, so I had little to worry about. By the time I got to the third round, I opted to speed the deck up a little bit, and wound up taking out the Shadowmage and Spark Double. Eventually, by the fourth round, I realized that I wound need more ways to deal with big critters, so I went even lower on the mana curve and dropped in another callous dismisal (actually, now that I think of it, I don’t think I had either in the deck during the first iteration).

I wound up going 5-0 for the night, with a loss in a game against Derek (who went 1-4). He just hit fast with his R/G deck and I never had time to stabalize. Oddly enough, the games that I did best in over the entire evening–were against Dison, who took second overall. He had a U/G deck based proliferate and two hydra critters he had. In the first game, he never managed to get more than three lands, while the second game resulted in a mana flood. In both games though, my deck just spit out cheap critters and hit all of my land drops, turning into a speed beatdown deck (well, as speedy as it could be)–but I was swinging away from turn two on. We wound up playing a third game to see what it would be like in a fair game, and my deck was just on top of it as it ever was. Granted, my critters came out slightly slower, but I had all of the control I needed to deal with his big hydras. I wound up unsummoning it twice before killing it altogether. I just happened to have an answer to everything he dropped. So, in all three games, I managed not to lose a single life.

The aftermath:

In looking at the totals, the rankings looked something like this:

  1. Rob (5-0)
  2. Dison (4-1)
  3. Joe (3-2)
  4. Amanda (3-2)
  5. Bryce (3-2)
  6. Sam (2-3)
  7. Derek (1-4)
  8. Jesse (0-5)

Without more information about how they did in their games, I don’t know how to declare tie breakers for 3rd place. Joe wound up beating Amanda in their game, but losing to Bryce; while Amanda and Bryce never played (since they sat next to each other).

I’m not sure why specifically, but it seemed like more fun this time than previous nights. Winning always seems to have something to do with it, but based upon impressions from others, it didn’t seem like it was required. I’m not sure if it was the smaller group, the set itself, or the players we had, but a great time was had by all. Of course, our baseline draft nights are all pretty great, so maybe it was just that it’d been too long and we were due for a good game of magic. Whatever the case, it was great fun and I can’t wait to do it again!

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