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Odyssey Rochester Review: Draft 3

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

In my third draft at Pro Tour-San Diego, the first few packs were a textbook example of the way to force white in Odyssey Rochester. Unfortunately, the rest of the packs were a textbook example of how too many broken rares can send a table straight to hell. I'll deal with these two issues in order, then get down to discussing issues involving my particular deck and the way I decided to build it.

I immediately saw what Jensen was up to and I wanted in.

In the first pack, there were two white cards worth playing. I don't remember exactly which cards they were, but it's actually important to realize that which cards they were wasn't important. All that matters is that there was one good enough for William Jensen to pick first in seat one, and another that was good enough for me to pick in seat five, even if it meant sacrificing a tiny bit of card quality to do it. This is probably the single most profitable pattern in all of Odyssey Rochester, the forcing of white by two players in opposite positions.

I touched upon the idea when I talked about the first draft, but there none of the players in a position to be the second half of the puzzle was willing to help. Then again, looked at in another sense, it actually proved just how effective the force can be. We were in seats 8 and 1, and even from there we kept everyone out, including a drafter three seats away from both of us who had a Kirtar's Wrath! Now that's a powerful force. If that works, what chance does the table stand when we're actually across from each other?

Unlike Dan Burdick at my first table, I immediately saw what Jensen was up to and I wanted in. Taking a white card first, I was quickly flanked by two red-green players who knew that my second color would likely be blue, and we got along fine the entire draft. In pack two, I was so confident in the plan that I decided to take a big risk and took Aether Burst over Shelter. That seems weird, because the Shelter is actually better than Burst much of the time and I was risking passing on a white card for little or no gain. However, I knew that to make the Top 8, I would have to get a great deck, and one way to do that would be to get multiple Bursts. This was only the second pack, and taking the first one here would set me up to take more of them very aggressively and prevent anyone else from having one that kept them taking Bursts early. Call it the Alan Comer syndrome, but I decided I wanted a shot at something degenerate.

I also kind of wanted the player in seat 6 to show his colors. By passing the Shelter, I give him a choice, which is generally something you don't want to do. If he takes the Shelter, that ruins the whole plan, and I may have to rethink the entire table. Then again, why should he? He's got a white-blue mage two seats to his left and another two to his right, so he's clearly out of position. If he passes the Shelter, he's then giving a clear signal that he doesn't want white, and Jensen gets to solidify his white on the wheel: The table is officially locked on that side, and Seat 3 was already looking quite black if I remember correctly. Was it a good risk? Looking back, maybe not, but I just had a feeling the Shelter would make it through. Part of that was probably from draft number one, part of that was my practice drafts, and part of it was just gut instinct.

At any rate, it worked. Jensen got a great wheel, and after a few picks it was clear that we would be the only two white players. Green went to the even numbered seats, and blue to the odd ones, giving everyone a respectable position. It looked like there would be a green-black deck in Seat 8, but somewhere along the line he managed to get out while the getting was good. That meant that black ended up even more underdrafted than white, since it's slightly deeper than white is, and both black decks ended up being ridiculous. It also left the other four players to fight over the scraps. The lesson here is that someone has to bite the bullet and draft an odd color combination, or the table can't balance. In this case, no one was willing to step up and do it.

Regardless, there was no way this table was going to be balanced. Jensen ended up with Amugaba and Persuasion, and that lack of bombs is what killed his deck at this table. Look at his deck, as well as mine:

William Jensen
u-w Rochester Draft Deck

Main DeckSideboard
8 Island
8 Plains
1 Abandoned Outpost
2 Angelic Wall 1 Auramancer 1 Aven Flock 1 Beloved Chaplain 1 Hallowed Healer 2 Mystic Zealot 1 Amugaba 1 Aven Windreader 1 Balshan Griffin 1 Cephalid Looter 1 Puppeteer 1 Scrivener
1 Embolden
1 Second Thoughts
1 Shelter
1 AEther Burst
1 Peek
1 Persuasion
2 Psionic Gift
1 Repel
2 Darkwater Egg
1 Cease-Fire
1 Confessor
1 Dedicated Martyr
1 Mystic Visionary
2 Sacred Rites
1 Testament of Faith
1 Aura Graft
1 Balshan Beguiler
1 Careful Study
1 Dematerialize
1 Escape Artist
1 Immobilizing Ink
1 Standstill
1 Words of Wisdom
1 Pardic Swordsmith
1 Primal Frenzy
1 Rites of Spring

Zvi Mowshowitz
u-w Rochester Draft Deck

Main DeckSideboard
8 Island
5 Plains
2 Abandoned Outpost
1 Angelic Wall 1 Aven Archer 1 Aven Cloudchaser 1 Aven Flock 2 Blessed Orator 1 Nomad Decoy 1 Cephalid Scout 1 Scrivener 1 Thought Devourer 1 Treetop Sentinel
1 Embolden
2 Kirtar's Desire
1 Kirtar's Wrath
1 Shelter
1 Aether Burst
1 Chamber of Manipulation
2 Peek
1 Persuasion
1 Psionic Gift
3 Words of Wisdom
1 Darkwater Catacombs
1 Limestone Golem
1 Steamclaw
1 Dedicated Martyr
1 Embolden
1 Bamboozle
1 Deluge
1 Escape Artist
1 Immobilizing Ink
1 Scrivener
1 Phantom Whelp
2 Thought Nibbler
1 Touch of Invisibility
1 Filthy Cur
1 Fledgling Imp
1 Zombie Assassin

His deck is very good. He got the Looter and Zealots I never got a chance at, and those help a lot. I was stuck replacing them with a Scout and a pair of Blessed Orators. I like Orator a lot, but it's no Mystic Zealot. The problem with his deck was that there was some utter ridiculousness out there, and like me he just couldn't deal with it. The player in seat three had Cabal Patriarch, two Shadowmage Infiltrators and Braids backed up by a solid deck. How is white-blue supposed to deal with that? I was putting my faith in Kirtar's Desire to stop the Infiltrators and then my own bombs for the win, but I wasn't fooling anyone. The other blue-black deck utterly crushed me when we played. If I hadn't opened the Wrath and the Persuasion near the end of the draft, I would have had nothing.

The problem is that when a table becomes the Battle of the Bombs, white-blue is not where you want to be. If a card like Cabal Patriarch comes down, this deck can use only its own bombs to try and deal with it. I have no good answer to a protected Amugaba beyond the Nomad Decoy. One good way to deal with such a situation is to have a deck so aggressive that other people's bombs don't get a chance to win the game, which wasn't an option. Another good way is to try and draft counters, but again I just never had a reasonable shot at them. Being able to get through your deck quickly is another big help, but I never got to draft Looter or Broker. Instead, I tried to get to my bombs the hard way.

The two cards involved were Peek and Words of Wisdom. The most direct way to shrink a deck is just to put cantrips in it. Peek draws one card, Words of Wisdom draws two. If I'm drawing cards faster than my opponents, even without card advantage, I'll still reach my bombs faster than they will. It also means that I can play less land, since I draw more cards early on. If I get an island and a plains, I should be able to cycle into the rest of the lands I need. Playing this deck with fifteen lands is actually a little heavier on land than a normal deck at seventeen with no cantrips of any kind. What I forgot was that I might have wanted to run eighteen lands normally without cantrips, which let me get just a little aggressive with the Words of Wisdom. It's easy to forget what baseline a deck should be building from, and think you have enough land when you really don't. This deck should have run sixteen lands, and cut one of the Words.

That was also my big error in the draft. When I took that last Words of Wisdom, I should have taken Animal Boneyard. I know exactly how I made that mistake. I was thinking that I had to cycle into the bombs I already had, the Persuasion and the Kirtar's Wrath, and didn't consider that I should have been looking for a third one. With Chamber of Manipulation, I had the chance to get free wins off the combo with Animal Boneyard. If both cards come up and both cards resolve and stay on the table, that's game against just about anything. The downside is that the Boneyard is pretty pathetic without the Chamber, especially since I have no way to discard it, but it would at least be a big help when I played against the other three blue decks where I was going to be at a disadvantage. I generally draft my blue decks with beating aggression in mind, and in this case I was forced to take those kinds of cards even more than usual and needed the opportunity to get lucky. Everyone kept telling me I should have taken the Boneyard, and after a while I realized they were right and I was wrong.

While the deck has Words of Wisdom where there should be land and the table was ridiculous, the deck still illustrates well what white-blue should try and achieve. It has a bunch of flyers, and everything on the ground is dedicated to holding the ground. The deck is very single minded - play flyers, hold the ground, kill you. It is also aggressive, with plenty of damage sources. The problem with it is that playing Words of Wisdom on turn two doesn't mean the deck has fixed its mana curve. It means that the deck gets to use its mana, but it's still falling behind and with the need sometimes to cast more than one it may fall behind even more than usual. I didn't realize how slow it was until I'd played a few rounds with it.

A final note worth making is Scrivener. Scriveners were very easy to get in San Diego, much easier than they should have been. In the right deck, especially the right blue-black deck but also in the other blue decks as well, Scrivener can be an opponent's worst nightmare, combining itself with removal or multiple Aether Bursts. White-blue has a much harder time using them well because it has less use for the resulting creature and more things to do for five mana without the black removal to ensure that there will always be something good to bring back. A player who gets Scriveners early and drafts the instants to go along with them will often get to do broken things later in the game, and when Aether Burst gets going with Scrivener it can totally dominate the game. If Scrivener continues to be this easy to get, that actually becomes a major consideration in choosing which deck to draft and which cards to draft for it early on.

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