THS: U/R spells

Earlier this week, I had a chance to draft the U/R spells/scry deck that I’d theorized about in previous posts but that I hadn’t drafted yet. Here was my deck:

1 Omenspeaker
3 Crackling Triton
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Purphoros’s Emissary
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Stoneshock Giant
3 Magma Jet
2 Lightning Strike
1 Voyage’s End
1 Hammer of Purphoros
3 Griptide
1 Steam Augury
1 Rage of Purphoros

9 Mountains
8 Islands

Sideboard:
1 Fleetfeather Sandals
2 Akroan Crusader
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Wild Celebrants
1 Titan’s Strength
1 Spark Jolt
2 Boulderfall
1 Sealock Monster
1 Mnemonic Wall
2 Fate Foretold
2 Stymied Hopes
1 Reaper of the Wilds
1 Fleshmad Steed

This was an extremely casual draft and only one other drafter at the table was in red, which is how I ended up with 10 removal/bounce spells. The first pack I opened was weak and I took Griptide over a Steam Augury that I thought might table (it didn’t). I then took a Lightning Strike over a Vaporkin, and then a Magma Jet, followed by a second one later in the pack. I also picked up a Steam Augury (not the one I opened) and a Spellheart Chimera (over a Flamespeaker Adept) later in the pack, both cards that I would have usually ignored if I hadn’t previously thought through what a U/R deck might look like. I opened Hammer of Purphoros in the second pack and obviously took it. (I learned later that another Hammer of Purphoros was dedrafted fourth pick by the person next to me; red was wide open.) The rest of the draft was more removal and whatever creatures I could pick up, including a couple of late Crackling Tritons.

The deck didn’t end up being quite the U/R spells deck I’d envisioned. It didn’t have any Flamespeaker Adepts (I saw 2 but took removal over one and a Spellheart Chimera over the other) and I would have preferred more Spellheart and Prescient Chimeras. However, the plethora of removal made it really strong and I ended up going 5-1 (10-2 in games) over the course of the evening.

Some things I learned:

  • Make sure to pick up an Annul or 2 for your sideboard because this deck has no other ways to deal with enchantments. Similarly, it’s a good idea to have a Wild Celebrants or 2 for your sideboard or even your maindeck, in case your opponents have a weapon of the gods or an aggressive start followed by a Prowler’s Helm.
  • All but one of the creatures in my deck had toughness >= 3 which largely invalidated any Pharika’s Cures and Magma Jets that my opponents were running. There are only a few blue or red creatures with toughness <= 2 that you really want to run anyway (Master of Waves, Nimbus Naiad, Vaporkin, Labyrinth Champion, and potentially Fanatic of Mogis), so it doesn't make sense to run cards like Spearpoint Oread since those provide targets for these removal spells.
  • In the summary of archetypes in THS/THS/THS, I’d theorized which cards would work well in this deck. I was wrong about a couple of them. There are many 5cc spells you’d prefer to run over Mnemonic Wall, like Prescient Chimera, Rage of Purphoros, and Wild Celebrants. Triton Fortune Hunter and Wavecrash Triton also don’t work well in this deck as it has a relatively low creature count, so you don’t want many spells that target your own creatures. Bestow creatures are often a good way to add targeting effects to your deck without increasing your spell count, but all the common bestow creatures have a toughness of 2, which is suboptimal for the reasons described above. Finally, there are many other creatures at 3cc that you’d rather run in this deck — Spellheart Chimera, Flamespeaker Adept, Crackling Triton, and Meletis Charlatan — all of which have a toughness of 3.
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BNG: Compact FAQ

This is a compact version of the Born of the Gods FAQ (9 pages vs. 22 pages for the original).

BNG: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in the format. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain things. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return permanent to owner’s hand), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), I (instant), L (land), lose X (lose X life), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), reanimate (return permanent from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Steam Augury is described as a flipped Fact or Fiction to avoid having to write the full description.

BNG: Compact spoiler

This is a 7-page version of the full Born of the Gods spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 29 pages and the printable spoiler at MTGSalvation is 46 pages so I’m hoping this saves trees, and it’s certainly easier to carry around in your pocket.

THS: Archetype wheel

Theros Archetype Wheel

If we take all the archetypes discussed in my post summarizing archetypes in Theros draft and plot them on a color wheel, this is what we get. A line between 2 colors indicates that there is an archetype that spans those 2 colors (monocolor and 5-color decks are indicated by an arrow from the color to itself), and is labeled with the archetype name. A thick line indicates that the archetype is more likely to come together in a draft because it relies on fewer key cards, requires fewer uncommons/rares, or shares cards with fewer other archetypes; these are the archetypes that were bolded in that post and can usually support 2 drafters at an 8-man draft. Archetypes that rely on specific rares, require multiple copies of a common/uncommon in order to function, or that share cards with multiple other archetypes are riskier to attempt and are indicated with thinner lines; these archetypes can usually support 1 drafter per table. Archetypes that I haven’t drafted yet are indicated with a dashed line; these usually won’t have any drafters since they need multiple uncommons/rares in order to function. If you want to read more about a particular archetype, that post has a list of the key cards for each archetype and links to more detailed descriptions.

The purpose of the archetype wheel is to help us see visually which colors support the most number of archetypes and, therefore, offer the most flexibility. This can help when choosing between 2 cards of similar power levels in the early stages of a draft. For instance, black supports the most number of color combinations and can be paired with any of the other colors, or be played on its own if you get enough black cards. However, most of the B/X decks are similar and rely on the same core of black cards, so you have to compete more with players for those key cards. Green allows the least number of color combinations and so offers the least flexibility; this is one of the reasons it is the least popular color in Theros. Note that white can support more drafters than it might seem because W/U and W/R can often support 2 drafters each. This means that you should consider taking a white or black card over a blue or red card of equal quality early in a draft, and that you should avoid taking a green card unless it’s a bomb.

This is roughly in line with my color preferences in Theros draft. Getting passed a Favored Hoplite or Phalanx Leader will almost certainly put me in W/X, getting passed a Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Keepsake Gorgon will usually put me in B/X, and I will likely try to play or splash a Sea God’s Revenge. Early in a draft, I will also usually take Coordinated Assault, Fanatic of Mogis, Kragma Warcaller, and Battlewise Hoplite over everything except in-color bombs and removal but I won’t work as hard to end up with a deck that can play them. On the other hand, very few cards can cause me to play green in this format since I’ve had consistently poor performance with G/X decks, even when I am one of the only green drafters at the table. (Or perhaps I just haven’t figured out how to draft green in this format — a friend recently said he’d won several drafts with monogreen and G/W heroic decks with a curve ending at 3.)

Weaving all this information together, we can conclude that a typical draft will likely have:

This means that a typical draft will have 6 aggro decks and only 2 control decks. There will usually be 4-5 white decks, 3-4 blue decks, 3 black decks, 3 red decks, and 1-2 green decks. White and red only appear in 1 control deck each, W/B control and U/R spells respectively, and the latter is unlikely to come together in most drafts, so you don’t usually want to use early picks to take control cards in those colors. There’s also only 1 black aggro deck (B/R Minotaurs), so you don’t usually want to use early picks to take aggressive cards in those colors.

THS: G/U skies

I had a chance last night to draft one of the archetypes I’d theorized about in my last post. After taking a Curse of the Swine from my first pack, I got passed a Mistcutter Hydra. (I guess the person to my right dislikes green even more than I do in this format!) After a few packs with uninspiring choices, I saw a Vaporkin and a Voyaging Satyr midway into the pack; knowing that G/U is more likely to be a skies deck than a ramp deck helped me realize that Vaporkin was the better pick. The prior analysis also helped me realize I should draft the Warriors’ Lesson I was passed late in the pack, even though it is a card I usually avoid (it often ends up just cycling, and is useless if you don’t have creatures with evasion). It turned out to be excellent in the deck but it might not have occurred to me to draft it if I hadn’t described the archetype in my last post. (Btw, don’t forget to gain life if you also have Horizon Chimera on the table.)

One of the weakness of G/U is that it lacks hard removal, but my deck lacked even the bounce and counterspells that help compensate for that. As a result, I decided to splash white for the Elspeth Sun’s Champion that I’d opened in pack 2 and a Divine Verdict. The final decklist was:

2 Vaporkin
2 Voyaging Satyr
1 Nimbus Naiad
1 Opaline Unicorn
2 Agent of Horizons
1 Wavecrash Triton
2 Horizon Chimera
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Nessian Asp
1 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Horizon Scholar
= 15 creatures

2 Warriors' Lesson
1 Triton Tactics
1 Traveler's Amulet
1 Nylea's Presence
1 Divine Verdict
1 Elspeth Sun's Champion
1 Curse of the Swine
= 8 non-creatures

1 Prowler's Helm
1 Fleetfeather Sandals
2 Guardian of Meletis
2 Shredding Winds
2 Commune with the Gods
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Satyr Hedonist
3 Benthic Giant
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Demolish
1 Boon of Erebos
1 Viper's Kiss
1 Forest (foil)
= 19 sideboard cards

This list conforms somewhat to the G/U skies outline that I laid out in my last post, but lacks the early defense and bounce/counterspells that I’d believed were an important component of such decks. However, I did have mana acceleration in place of the early defense, and I had some hard removal in place of bounce/counterspells.

The deck went 3-1. Elspeth Sun’s Champion won a couple of games and Divine Verdict was also excellent, and was particularly devastating when the white mana for it came from Prized Unicorn or Nylea’s Presence since my opponent would usually play around Divine Verdict in that case if they hadn’t already seen Plains previously. Elspeth Sun’s champion did languish in my hand during one game, but was fine the rest of the time due to the Voyaging Satyrs which often provided the second white mana.

THS: Summary of archetypes

Here’s a summary of the M14 archetypes I’m aware of, along with some of the key cards for each archetype. (If I’ve missed any archetypes, feel free to post them in the comments.) Archetypes in bold require fewer uncommons/rares or have more substitutes, and are therefore more likely to come together in a draft. These archetypes may also be able to support more than one drafter at an 8-person draft. “+” is used to separate different categories of cards required for the archetype. Italics denote cards that are secondary for this archetype and should usually only be drafted once you have a number of the non-italicized cards listed. [] indicates that a card is rare or mythic.

Aggro decks (usually W/X):

  • W/U heroic: Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Battlewise Hoplite, Vaporkin + creatures with bestow + Auras (Ordeals, cantrip Auras, Aqueous Form) + tricks (Gods Willing, Dauntless Onslaught, Triton Tactics) + Divine Verdict/bounce
  • R/W aggro (usually Humans): Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Akroan Hoplite, Priest of Iroas + Human Lords (Cavalry Pegasus, [Titan of Eternal Fire]) + creatures with bestow + Auras (Ordeals, cantrip Auras) + tricks (Coordinated Assault, Gods Willing, Dauntless Onslaught, Titan’s Strength) + removal (Divine Verdict, red burn) + finishers (Fanatic of Mogis, Portent of Betrayal)
  • B/R Minotaurs: Minotaur Lords (Kragma Warcaller, [Rageblood Shaman]) + Minotaurs (Fanatic of Mogis, Deathbellow Raider, Minotaur Skullcleaver, Borderland Minotaur) + removal (red burn) + tricks (Coordinated Assault, Boon of Erebos, Titan’s Strength)
  • G/U skies: creatures with evasion (Vaporkin, Nimbus Naiad, Agent of Horizons, Horizon Chimera) + Warriors’ Lesson + defense (Omenspeaker, Sedge Scorpion) + bounce/Dissolve

Control decks (usually B/X):

  • Monoblack: Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Keepsake Gorgon, Disciple of Phenax, Insatiable Harpy + early defense (Baleful Eidolon, Returned Phalanx) + removal (Pharika’s Cure, Sip of Hemlock) + Read the Bones
  • W/B control: monoblack cards + win conditions ([Triad of Fates], Sentry of the Underworld, Evangel of Heliod, Scholar of Athreos) + removal (Last Breath, Divine Verdict)
  • U/B control: monoblack cards + Shipwreck Singer (ideally with Triton Tactics) + bounce/Dissolve + Opaline Unicorn + defense (Omenspeaker, Coastline Chimera) + win conditions (Horizon Scholar, Prescient Chimera)
  • B/G devotion control: monoblack cards + Nemesis of Mortals, Nessian Asp, Pharika’s Mender + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple) + mana acceleration (Voyaging Satyr, Burnished Hart, Opaline Unicorn) + Time to Feed
  • B/G graveyard (untested): Nemesis of Mortals, Pharika’s Mender, [Nighthowler], [Whip of Erebos] + Commune with the Gods, Returned Centaur + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple)
  • 5-color green (untested): bombs across multiple colors + mana fixing (Burnished Hart, Prized Unicorn, Nylea’s Presence, Traveler’s Amulet, Shimmering Grotto) + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple)
  • U/R spells (untested): spells-matter cards (Flamespeaker Adept, [Meletis Charlatan], Spellheart Chimera, Prescient Chimera, Mnemonic Wall) + card advantage ([Steam Augury], Triton Fortune Hunter, Thassa’s Emissary) + bounce/removal/Dissolve + defense (Omenspeaker, Crackling Triton, Wavecrash Triton) + Titan’s Strength