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A draft walkthrough in preparation for Nationals.

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The letter I!t's that time of the year again. It's Nationals time. I love Nationals. It's where you get to compete against your comrades for something real, something that means something, something that means more than a PT invite. Nationals has been a tournament that's always frustrated me—I missed last years because I was travelling and have finished in the Top 16 for the previous eight years, so I'm as hungry as the rest of you to make the last eight.

There is always a heavy focus on the Standard portion of the event. Players often forget that, outside of the elimination rounds, half the tournament is Limited. Players who practice for Nationals might play over fifty games of Standard, but most will have done less than ten drafts. It is here that I have an edge, and it is probably easier to improve your edge with your Limited game than in Constructed. Here's a draft walkthrough to whet your teeth on.

Pack 1, Pick 1

Pack 1 -- Click to enlarge Herd Gnarr, Trespasser il-Vec, Amrou Scout, Grapeshot, Scarwood Treefolk, Two-Headed Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Pendelhaven Elder, Quilled Sliver, Basalt Gargoyle, Spectral Force, Arena, Island

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 2

Cloudchaser Kestrel, Drudge Reavers, Goblin Skycutter, Cancel, Penumbra Spider, Pentarch Ward, Jedit's Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Aetherflame Wall, Thunder Totem, Conflagrate, Trickbind, Withered Wretch

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 3

Coal Stoker, Deathspore Thallid, Tolarian Sentinel, Benalish Cavalry, Orcish Cannonade, Venser's Sliver, Clockspinning, Bogardan Rager, Sangrophage, Spirit Loop, Truth or Tale, Sudden Death, Island

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 4

Gemhide Sliver, Mindstab, Gaze of Justice, D'Avenant Healer, Wormwood Dryad, Mystical Teachings, Two-Headed Sliver, Fungal Reaches, Conflagrate, Faceless Devourer, Saffi Eriksdotter, Dodecapod

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 5

Mogg War Marshal, Think Twice, Ashcoat Bear, Brass Gnat, Savage Thallid, Screeching Sliver, Momentary Blink, Ghostflame Sliver, Paradise Plume, Academy Ruins, Pandemonium

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 6

Thallid Germinator, Terramorphic Expanse, Ancient Grudge, Greenseeker, Foriysian Interceptor, Basal Sliver, Drifter il-Dal, Opaline Sliver, Assembly-Worker, Sindbad

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 7

Ivory Giant, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Viscid Lemures, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Dread Return, Fool's Demise, Calciform Pools, Funeral Charm

Click here.

Pack 1, Pick 8

Ironclaw Buzzardiers, Detainment Spell, Bewilder, Call to the Netherworld, Cyclopean Giant, Opaline Sliver, Voidmage Husher, Aspect of Mongoose

Pick: Ironclaw Buzzardiers

Pack 1, Pick 9

Scarwood Treefolk, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Pendelhaven Elder, Quilled Sliver, Arena, Island

As expected, the Arena wheels. Now I'm definitely looking for any fattie that comes my way. It should be noted that you play the Arena in place of a spell, not a land, as it does not tap for mana.

Pick: Arena

Pack 1, Pick 10

Drudge Reavers, Pentarch Ward, Jedit's Dragoons, Sprout, Foriysian Interceptor, Aetherflame Wall

Pick: Jedit's Dragoons

Pack 1, Pick 11

Clockspinning, Sangrophage, Spirit Loop, Truth or Tale, Island

Pick: Spirit Loop

Pack 1, Pick 12

Gaze of Justice, D'Avenant Healer, Wormwood Dryad, Two-Headed Sliver

Pick: Wormwood Dryad

Pack 1, Pick 13

Brass Gnat, Screeching Sliver, Paradise Plume

Pick: Screeching Sliver

Pack 1, Pick 14

Ancient Grudge, Foriysian Interceptor

Pick: Ancient Grudge

Pack 1, Pick 15

Clockspinning

A fairly disappointing first pack. I'm solidly locked into green with the option to go into almost any colour. Sudden Death pulls be towards black, but I've received enough signals to suppose that red will be open in Future Sight. Let's see what Planar Chaos has to offer.

Pack 2, Pick 1

Pack 2 -- Click to enlarge Ridged Kusite, Saltfield Recluse, Needlepeak Spider, Reality Acid, Deadly Grub, Citanul Woodreaders, Brain Gorgers, Keldon Marauders, Simian Spirit Guide, Fa'adiyah Seer, Primal Plasma, Phantasmagorian, Hunting Wilds, Shrouded Lore, Braids, Conjurer Adept

Click here.

Pack 2, Pick 2

Giant Dustwasp, Stingscourger, Synchronous Sliver, Utopia Vow, Dawn Charm, Uktabi Drake, Blightspeaker, Aquamorph Entity, Melancholy, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Gossamer Phantasm, Timecrafting, Pouncing Wurm, Torchling

Click here.

Pack 2, Pick 3

Utopia Vow, Spitting Sliver, Aven Riftwatcher, Stingscourger, Evolution Charm, Shade of Trokair, Fury Charm, Piracy Charm, Skirk Shaman, Revered Dead, Deadwood Treefolk, Mantle of Leadership, Harmonize

Click here.

Pack 2, Pick 4

Dawn Charm, Cradle to Grave, Reality Acid, Citanul Woodreaders, Pallid Mycoderm, Keldon Marauders, Dust Corona, Essence Warden, Simian Spirit Guide, Auramancer's Guise, Waning Wurm, Groundbreaker

Pick: Citanul Woodreaders

Pack 2, Pick 5

Midnight Charm, Vitaspore Thallid, Deadly Grub, Firefright Mage, Blightspeaker, Seal of Primordium, Bog Serpent, Cautery Sliver, Lavacore Elemental, Frozen Aether, Fungal Behemoth

Pick: Blightspeaker

Pack 2, Pick 6

Battering Sliver, Utopia Vow, Veiling Oddity, Ghost Tactician, Fury Charm, Healing Leaves, Mana Tithe, Melancholy, Dismal Failure, Tidewalker

Pick: Utopia Vow

Pack 2, Pick 7

Dreamscape Artist, Ridged Kusite, Ghost Tactician, Wistful Thinking, Dash Hopes, Revered Dead, Melancholy, Vampiric Link, Frenetic Sliver

Pick: Melancholy

Pack 2, Pick 8

Spitting Sliver, Evolution Charm, Brain Gorgers, Dust Corona, Vitaspore Thallid, Fa'adiyah Seer, Dormant Sliver, Mantle of Leadership

Pick: Evolution Charm

Pack 2, Pick 9

Ridged Kusite, Deadly Grub, Brain Gorgers, Fa'adiyah Seer, Phantasmagorian, Shrouded Lore, Braids, Conjurer Adept

Pick: Brain Gorgers

Pack 2, Pick 10

Utopia Vow, Uktabi Drake, Melancholy, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Gossamer Phantasm, Timecrafting

This is a pick where I feel I differ from a lot of other players. Both Utopia Vow and Uktabi Drake bring something to the table that green often lacks—be it removal or evasion. I am light on both right now, and looking back it might have been in my interests to take the Utopia Vow, as I have three great card drawers and the Vow will help me win in the late game, but I felt like I needed a few more win conditions, so I took the personally favoured flyer.

Pick: Uktabi Drake

Pack 2, Pick 11

Spitting Sliver, Evolution Charm, Fury Charm, Revered Dead, Mantle of Leadership

Pick: Evolution Charm

Pack 2, Pick 12

Reality Acid, Dust Corona, Auramancer's Guise, Waning Wurm

Pick: Reality Acid

Pack 2, Pick 13

Deadly Grub, Firefright Mage, Bog Serpent

Pick: Bog Serpent

Pack 2, Pick 14

Ghost Tactician, Melancholy

Pick: Melancholy

Pack 2, Pick 15

Dash Hopes

After a few initial trying picks, the rest of the pack was pretty simple. There were three major impacts to the deck: three quality card advantage spells, two Evolution Charms meaning I can splash anything I want and return the Woodreaders in the late game, and Torchling prompting me towards red a little further. Arena is still a highly influential factor and I want to pick up a few more fatties to power it, now that I have enough card draw to piece them together. I picked up a lot of filler black cards to go with the Sudden Death if red dries up or I open some strong black cards, but for now I want to play the game-winning Torchling.

Pack 3, Pick 1

Pack 3 -- Click to enlarge Gathan Raiders, Llanowar Augur, Augur of Skulls, Sprout Swarm, Samite Censer-Bearer, Aven Augur, Frenzy Sliver, Ghostfire, Fomori Nomad, Patrician's Scorn, Logic Knot, Snake Cult Initiation, Emblem of the Warmind, Imperiosaur, Jhoira of the Ghitu

Click here.

Pack 3, Pick 2

Gift of Granite, Quiet Disrepair, Foresee, Rift Elemental, Augur il-Vec, Llanowar Empath, Whip-Spine Drake, Mass of Ghouls, Lucent Liminid, Thornweald Archer, Flowstone Embrace, Cloudseeder, Minions' Murmurs, Llanowar Reborn

Click here.

Pack 3, Pick 3

Grave Peril, Marshaling Cry, Kavu Primarch, Emberwilde Augur, Frenzy Sliver, Mesmeric Sliver, Patrician's Scorn, Sarcomite Myr, Henchfiend of Ukor, Thornweald Archer, Char-Rumbler, Utopia Mycon, Nihilith

Click here.

Pack 3, Pick 4

Unblinking Bleb, Llanowar Augur, Riddle of Lightning, Venser's Diffusion, Kavu Primarch, Homing Sliver, Lymph Sliver, Blind Phantasm, Virulent Sliver, Stronghold Rats, Dakmor Salvage, Centaur Omenreader

Click here.

Pack 3, Pick 5

Bogardan Lancer, Grave Peril, Wrap in Vigor, Nessian Courser, Grave Scrabbler, Henchfiend of Ukor, Lymph Sliver, Homing Sliver, Ramosian Revivalist, Second Wind, Street Wraith

Pick: Nessian Courser

Pack 3, Pick 6

Augur il-Vec, Petrified Plating, Bogardan Lancer, Venser's Diffusion, Blind Phantasm, Edge of Autumn, Fleshwrither, Bloodshot Trainee, Magus of the Moon, Wrap in Vigor

Pick: Edge of Autumn

Pack 3, Pick 7

Oblivion Crown, Saltskitter, Cutthroat il-Dal, Deepcavern Imp, Logic Knot, Lucent Liminid, Vedalken Aethermage, Virulent Sliver, Arcanum Wings

Pick: Lucent Liminid

Pack 3, Pick 8

Oblivion Crown, Cutthroat il-Dal, Mass of Ghouls, Vedalken Aethermage, Grinning Ignus, Sliversmith, Dust of Moments, Magus of the Moat

Pick: Grinning Ignus

Pack 3, Pick 9

Llanowar Augur, Augur of Skulls, Frenzy Sliver, Patrician's Scorn, Logic Knot, Snake Cult Initiation, Emblem of the Warmind

Pick: Augur of Skulls

Pack 3, Pick 10

Gift of Granite, Quiet Disrepair, Rift Elemental, Augur il-Vec, Minions' Murmurs, Llanowar Reborn

Pick: Llanowar Reborn

Pack 3, Pick 11

Grave Peril, Marshaling Cry, Frenzy Sliver, Patrician's Scorn, Utopia Mycon

Pick: Marshaling Cry

Pack 3, Pick 12

Llanowar Augur, Lymph Sliver, Virulent Sliver, Dakmor Salvage

Pick: Lymph Sliver

Pack 3, Pick 13

Grave Peril, Wrap in Vigor, Homing Sliver

Pick: Wrap in Vigor

Pack 3, Pick 14

Petrified Plating, Bogardan Lancer

Pick: Bogardan Lancer

Pack 3, Pick 15

Oblivion Crown

The rest of the draft was an auto-pilot, without any decisions to make. I managed to pick up a crucial Edge of Autumn and the ever-pleasing, slot-filling Nessian Courser. The land wheeled and a late Wrap in Vigor made it into the deck as its sole combat trick. I cut the Grinning Ignus in favour of the Mwonvuli Acid-Moss as I feel it has less impact on the game.

Interestingly, I could have taken the Mass of Ghouls and Deepcavern Imp that came late as well as the Augur of Skulls, but I feel that black would not have been worth playing in red's stead even then.

In the first game, I had a strong opening draw of a turn-four Imperiosaur, followed by a Spectral Force and the Arena, whilst he made a few irrelevant creatures that died to the Arena and the Spectral Force swung past his black creatures. I boarded in a Swamp and the Bog Serpent for the second game, where I again started killing off his men with the Arena, but he attacked me down to 6 with a continually shadowed Trespasser il-Vec before I Utopia Vowed it. I had drawn my Swamp but he had a Street Wraith to keep the pressure up. I Riddle of Lightninged it, but he brought it back with a Deadwood Treefolk. I had found my Spectral Force, and when the Wraith finally made it into the red zone, I sacrificed my Swamp to Edge of Autumn to block and won the game from there.

I played Sam Gomersall in the second round. He had a very good blue-red deck featuring the two Conflagrates I had passed in the draft. We had a gruelling war of attrition in the first game. I pulled ahead with a Citanul Woodreaders, which I recast off an Evolution Charm once it died. He had a Magus of the Arena to put me in a tight spot, but Torchling traded with it. I used my second Evolution Charm to bring the rare back, and he finished the job a few turns later.

Game 2 was a similar state of affairs where I fell behind to his Magus of the Arena, but I found a Thornweald Archer to stop him from activating it. The Archer died to a Grapeshot and the Magus starting killing off my guys. I fell to 9 before I found a Charm to bring it back from the dead to stave off the Magus again. I had my own Arena but nothing to utilize it with until I drew my Imperiorsaur. It seemed like the two 5/5s would trade to my Arena activation, but Sam drew the Brute Force to keep his alive. The Archers still held him off from activating his, until his Aetherflame Wall became large enough to be used as his activation body. He activated his Magus, he chose the Wall and I chose my Archer, and the Archer stayed alive thanks to my Wrap in Vigour, placing us in an Arena stalemate once again.

I had my Uktabi Drake that somehow managed to rule to air for several turns before dying to a Ghostfire but managing to drop Sam to 5 life. My deck was running a little light on action with both my bombs and a Woodreaders left. I drew the Torchling and finally enough Mountains to make a risky all-in, forcing all his blockers to block the red rare whilst the overlap felled him to zero.

I split the finals. It was a great deck but lacked good enough answers to cards like Prodigal Sorcerer and Saltfield Recluse, which I feared my finals opponent might have, or lots of black removal which my fatties would have difficulty with. The deck was powerful, mainly thanks to a combination of its rares and the deck's ability to draw them reliably. A few more removal spells and it would have been a great deck.

Best of luck at Nationals,

Q

P.S. I've been lucky enough to be included in the European Ballot of the Invitational this week. Although I feel that there are other players in the ballot who might well deserve the slot more than I, I really, really would like to go! If you would like to vote for me, please do. Thanks.

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