t's no secret how much I love dinosaurs. Alpha Tyrranax was actually one of my favorite cards from Scars of Mirrodin. And yes, in case you were wondering, I am still a small child at heart (and no, my love of gigantic green monsters like Alpha Tyrranax, Molder Beast, or the long-extinct Moss Kami isn't what makes me a child—it's the fact that I love ice cream, cartoons and won't watch scary movies that makes me a small child).
As far as I'm concerned, some fast mana, some good removal, and some giant, prehistoric monsters are all the ingredients you need for a winning deck. Heck, Ari Lax was able to make it all the way to the finals of Grand Prix–Nashville drafting nothing but Dinosaur decks all day.
Ari Lax's Dinosaur Draft
Scars of Mirrodin Booster Draft - 2nd Place - 2010 Grand Prix–Nashville
A recipe for success!
That said, there are still a number of things that can go wrong—heck, you can even lose games where you cast a turn-four Alpha Tyrranax (though not many ... ).
There are four types of problems that you tend to run into while piloting a deck built around gigantic green monsters.
- You didn't get enough mana to cast your big creatures.
- Your opponent had answers for your big threats.
- You managed to cast your big threats, but your opponent had even bigger threats.
- You managed to cast your big threats, but it wasn't enough (or it wasn't fast enough) as your opponent was still able to outrace you thanks to some combination of early pressure, evasion creatures and chump blockers.
There's no easy solution for any of these problems, but let's look at some easy ways to minimize the chance that you will be plagued by them.
1. You didn't get enough mana to cast your big creatures: You need to play a bunch of mana sources in order to reliably cast your five and six mana threats, but even then you are going to get mana screwed from time to time. If my deck has three five-drops and two or more six-drops, then I'm going to want to play at least eighteen mana sources, but I would prefer to have nineteen or even as many as twenty-one mana sources if some of them are mana Myr, Llanowar Elves, or something similarly fragile.
Remember, you can't spell 'fragile' without 'agile'
2. Your opponent had answers for your big threats: You can play cards like Turn Aside to protect your best creatures, but you still won't be able to do much if your opponent draws a mitt-full of removal spells.
The best thing that you can do to combat removal, (and to minimize the chance that your opponent will overrun you/out-tempo you early) is to fill your deck up with a lot of good plays for the early-mid game so you can survive long enough to cast your big threats—and force your opponent to use some of his or her removal on your four drops leaving your Alpha Tyrranaxes.
By baiting your opponent's removal spells with Blade-Tribe Berserkers, Tangle Anglers, and such, you greatly increase the chance that your dinosaurs will survive long enough to make sure that your opponent is extinct.
3. You managed to cast your big threats, but your opponent had even bigger threats: If you're worried that your opponent might play some humongous threats, then you could try to beat him or her before he or she can cast them. But killing your opponent before he or she has time to cast powerful spells can be easier said than done when you're playing a deck full of fatties.
So unless you are confident that you will be able to kill your opponent quickly, you should try to hold onto your removal until your opponent plays something that you absolutely have to kill.
4. You managed to cast your big threats—but it wasn't enough (or it wasn't fast enough) as your opponent was still able to outrace you thanks to some combination of early pressure, evasion creatures, and/or chump blockers: But if you put too many early and mid game creatures in your deck, then you are going to have to give up on mana, big threats, and/or tricks—and when you do take away from any one of those things, your deck will become less focused on the fatty plan.
Not that there's anything wrong with playing an aggressive or mid-range deck that has a few big threats, but once you have a dozen two- or three-drops in your deck, you are playing something that is distinctly different from the Dinosaur fueled decks that make me giddy.
If only there was a big threat that also made it really difficult for you to lose a race ...
Oh well. It's too bad that there isn't. I guess we're just going to have to make sure that we load our decks up with a bunch of cheap creatures ...
Can you hold on for just a second, I'm getting a phone call from Kelly Digges.
"Hey Kelly, what's up?"
"You're telling me that I have a new preview card for this week?"
"And it's exactly the card that my Dinosaur draft decks are looking for?"
"I'm sorry, you're breaking up a little bit. How much life?"
"You don't say!"
"Well, you're still going to have to email me the card image just so I can be sure that you're not messing with me."
*Note: If Fangren Marauder has itself become an artifact for some reason, you'll gain 5 life when it is put into a graveyard from the battlefield.
If this card were just a 5/5 for , it would still be completely reasonable. I wouldn't take it too early, but if I needed a big threat to fill out my deck, there are way worse options.
I would still think that this card would be quite good if you only gained 2 life. Two artifacts trade in combat, that's 4 life. And 4 life is a lot, right?
This card caused me to do so many double takes.
5 life! For every artifact! 5 life! Seriously!
With a Fangren Marauder on the board, if two artifacts trade in combat, or if a Sylvok Replica blows something up, I'll gain 10 life! (No, I don't plan on going easy on the exclamation points anytime soon! Thank you for asking though!)
You're going to lose a lot of races when you have a Fangren Marauder on the board ...
No wait, actually, you're not going to lose many races at all. Pop two Spellbombs? That's 10 life right there!
Evasion shmeshmasion. A few hits from a Sky-Eel School won't do much when you're gaining 5 life every time an artifact hits the bin.
Hey, what about Origin Spellbomb? That's 10 life + a chump block right there!
It would really suck when an Alpha Tyrranx would get Arrested. Want to Arrest a Fangren Marauder? Go ahead! I'm going to gain a million life while my 5/5 is locked up.
Fangren Marauder is a great card to splash. It's expensive, it only has a single colored mana in its mana cost, and it's going to have a huge effect on pretty much any game where it hits the board.
Given how huge of an effect Fangren Marauder can have on the game, and how easily splashable it is—I already know that it's going to be a pretty easy first-pick.
A New Order
For those of you who haven't already read the announcement here, the pack order in booster drafts is about to change.
Beginning with Mirrodin Besieged, booster drafts will begin with the most recent set. This is a change from the current drafting order, which adds new sets to the end of the drafting order as they're released.
For example, if you run an event with 2 boosters of Scars of Mirrodin and 1 booster of Mirrodin Besieged, players will open the packs in the order Mirrodin Besieged / Scars of Mirrodin / Scars of Mirrodin. When the set codenamed "Action" is released, the draft order will be "Action" / Mirrodin Besieged / Scars of Mirrodin.
This means that when we sit down for booster drafts over the next few months, we will begin the festivities by unwrapping a pack of Mirrodin Besieged. As a result, we are going to have to completely rethink the way that we look at Scars of Mirrodin.
This also means that we can have more fun poring over the previews trying to identify the best cards in the set.
Previously, if there was a really powerful card in a second or third set, then we might draft in such a way that we would maximize our chances of being able to utilize it should we open it—but it would be a lot harder to build a deck around a card like Fangren Marauder if we were merely hoping to open it in the final pack than it is when we can crack it open and immediately get to work.
I'll be back next week with another new preview card!