Competitive Success

The last two nights have been competitive ones. For those who don’t want all the cory details, suffice to say that Thuesday night we had out first ultimate frisbee game of the season, and it went really well! And then last night Subrata and I went to Superstars for Friday Night Magic, which also went surprisingly well for me.

For those who do want the gory details, read on…

Frisbee was one of the better first-nights-of-the-season I can recall having. Although I was not in top condition, I was not nearly as exhausted by the end of it as I’d expected, and I was still playing decent points as things were winding down. In the last game I even had a three-point run where I made a hard cut to catch a score, and two points later icked up a turnover and hucked it into the end zone for a score – very rare for me since my arm is mediocre and so I don’t huck much. Subrata and I also hooked up for a score in the first game, when I caught a turnover and saw him break in the end zone – he made a nice catch to grab it as it flew past the guy covering him.

I think we were lucky that the rain held off ’til Friday; it was actually a terrific night for frisbee. Next week is our team’s bye week, and then we’ll play every non-holiday week until the end of the year. (The spring half of the season’s schedule will be up around New Year’s, I assume.)

Magic featured a 10-person booster draft, and Subrata and I were in the same draft for a change. This was our first time drafting the new Lorwyn set, which has a tribal theme, which means in addition to the color divisions there are also “tribes” of creatures (goblins, merfolk, faerie, treefolk, elves, etc.) who span colors. So you can get additional synergy among your cards by having many cards from the same tribe, or from tribes which interact with one another. I’d done many single-player practice drafts of Lorwyn and felt ready to try the real thing.

Unfortunately, coming out of the draft I felt like I’d blown it completely: I ended up with a mix of blue/white/red with very little tribal interaction. I felt like the colors coming my way changed every 8 picks or so, and I had extended stretches towards the end where I was getting few-if-any cards in any of my three colors! So I worked to cobble together a deck, deciding to punt on white and going blue/red, mainly because that’s where most of my tricks and creature removal lay.

Things didn’t look much brighter after my first match, where I quickly lost the first two games (in best-of-three), and aso lost the consolation game, although I put up a good fight there.

For the second match I was up against Subrata, and to my surprise my deck suddenly came together, and I beat him 2 out of 3 games. The final match was against a regular at the store whom I’d played before, and again to my surprise I won two out of three, and the loss was by the slimmest of margins. So despite what I thought was a mishmash of a draft, I ended up with my best showing at a draft at this store to date!

I think I enjoy draft the best when learning a new set, since finding the emergent properties of some of the cards is a heck of a lot of fun. I’d reasoned out some of them in my practice drafts, but nothing beats actually playing with the cards. I think my deck’s best bit of interaction went like this:

  1. Played Flamekin Harbinger and searched my deck for my Changeling Berserker (which, being a Changeling, is also an Elemental).
  2. Championed the Flamekin Harbinger with the Changeling Berserker, removing the former from play.
  3. Played my Mistbound Clique, championing the Berserker (which counts as a Faerie since it’s a Changeling). This brings the Flamekin Harbinger back into play, so I get to search my library again, this time for Consuming Bonfire – an Elemental sorcery.
  4. Kill Subrata’s Changeling Hero with the Bonfire, since he’d just searched for it with his own Harbinger so I knew he was going to play it. He knew I had a way to kill it, but he had little choice at that point in the game, since I had a 4/4 flyer on the board.

(n.b.: Any game in which my opponent says “Damn you!” is a good game, regardless of whether I win or lose.)

Between our decks, Subrata and I both learned the value of Harbingers and Champions in Lorwyn. Green has two terrific harbingers: Elvish Harbinger also produces multicolored mana, and Treefolk Harbinger lets you search for Forests as well as some killer Treefolk, such as the Dauntless Dourbark that Subrata had, not to mention the Changeling Titan. (Happily, Changelings are also Treefolk, so Consuming Bonfire can take down the Titan easily enough.)

Subrata also noted (indirectly) that my deck had some nifty acceleration in it. The Inner-Flame Acolyte can target itself when it comes into play, meaning you get a 4/2 creature with Haste for 3 mana, making it highly desirable to make trades in the first two turns so the board is clear for it to thwack your opponent on turn 3. (I had two Acolytes, which was awesome.) And the Blades of Velis Vel can give two creatures +2/+0, which can work really well in trading small creatures for large creatures, or thwacking your opponent hard if he chooses not to block.

The other new mechanic in Lorwyn that I like is Clash. There are several good creatures in Lorwyn who are reasonably priced for their basic stats: I had two of them, an Adder-Staff Boggart which is 1R for a 2/1, and a Paperfin Rascal, which is 2U for a 2/2 – both perfectly reasonable. But when you play them, you Clash, which means the following occurs:

  1. You reveal the top card of your library, and have the choice of leaving it on top or putting it on the bottom. This is like doing a Scry 1, except that your opponent knows what the card was.
  2. Your opponent gets to do the same thing, which obviously isn’t good for you, but isn’t the worst thing.
  3. If you win the Clash, then your creature gets +1/+1, permanently. This means the creatures I had would be a 3/2 or a 3/3 respectively, for the same cost.

I was very lucky in winning my Clashes, I probably won 2/3ds of them, which helped make my desk faster. Clash is even niftier if you have what I think of as “Clash enhancers”, like Sylvan Echoes or Entangling Trap. Subrata had some of these enhancers, but fortunately they didn’t get into play early enough to hose me. Also fortunately, I didn’t play against someone with Hunter of Eyeblights, which would be death to such creatures.

(There’s some interesting stuff about the background of Clash here.)

I’m less impressed with the other major Lorwyn mechanic, Evoke. It’s sort of a “consolation prize” for a creature card if you don’t have the mana to play the creature, which is better than nothing at all, but it’s not usually a reason to draft a card. I don’t think I played a card with Evoke once during the night. It would be more useful if playing a card for its Evoke cost allowed you to play it as an Instant, but that’s not the case. Bummer. Contrast with the Champion mechanic where the “additional cost” of removing a creature to play the champion can actually be a useful bit of trickery rather than a penalty.

As for the other two Lorwyn mechanics, I think Hideaway is a neat idea, but the cards using it are of questionable value. Future cards might use it more effectively. On the other hand, the new Planeswalker card type is undoubtedly cool, as are all five of the Lorwyn Planeswalkers. Subrata drafted Jace Beleren, but fortunately I never saw him. (You can read pretty much everything you need to know about Planeswalkers here.)

So from first experience Lorwyn gets a big “thumbs up” from me. I still think I could have drafted better than I did, but I’m very happy that I fielded a competitive deck, even if I did sort of stumble into it. Next time maybe I’ll actually come out of the draft feeling like I have the building blocks of a solid deck. I still feel like I have some sort of mental block when drafting quality cards that work well together. If I ever figure out how to get past that, then I’ll be in a happy place.

3 thoughts on “Competitive Success”

  1. I am, too! I kept all my old cards because I figured it would be a fine game to introduced nephews or kids-of-friends to years down the road, but I never figured I’d take it up again!

    And the really amazing thing is that it’s better today than it was back when I played (1994-1997, or the Ice Age-through-Tempest sets); Wizards is much better at designing coherent sets with interesting themes and interactions, and making them work well with surrounding sets, and making them balanced without being too powerful or too wimpy.

    There was an article on the Wizards web site that the creators in the early days didn’t expect it would last so long either, and as a result they keep having to scrounge for new names for similar spells. The article lamented that had they known, they would have used archetypal words like Invisibility on lame cards! 🙂

  2. I am generally impressed with the newer sets. I’m not fond of the “making you keep buying cards” mentality, but the new cards are interesting enough to overcome that (and I’m also in a different place money-wise than I was 14 years ago; it’s all about maximizing my time these days).

    I was pretty happy with my draft – my picks didn’t generally lead me astray (I opened Doran, the Siege Tower; Jace Berelan; and a foil dual-land) and I ended up with a good offensive deck. One thing I have to remember to do more is to see if there are useful “counters” for the limited removal in Lorwyn; one sequence that worked out well for me went like this:

    Opponent: “I attack with these four guys.”
    Me: “OK, those two fly, so I’ll block this guy with this Treefolk and the other one with Doran.”
    Opponent: “I’ll Neck Snap Doran.”
    Me: “OK, I’ll Heal his Scars [regenerating him, gaining me 5 life, and enabling my other treefolk to deal damage equal to his toughness, killing his guy].”
    Opponent: “Nice.”

    I’ve decided I like Lorwyn’s “interactiveness” quite a bit: the cards are synergistic with each other, and without being parasitic; the set encourages interaction with the other players; the lack of removal means the games are less wars of attrition and more “right-trick-at-the-right-time”/tempo-based.

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