Pack 1 pick 1:
This pick is fairly straightforward because Victim of Night is far and away the best card in the pack. Approximately two-thirds of the creatures in the format die to the removal, and being a cheap instant puts it over the top of most other cards (although costing double-Black does mean it will be harder to play if Black gets cut).
My pick: Victim of Night
Pack 1 pick 2:
This pick is much more difficult because the cards worth considering are much closer in terms of power (Makeshift Mauler and Unburial Rites). Unburial Rites is good when it’s paired with high creature quality and White mana for Flashback, but otherwise it’s on par with Ghoulcaller’s Chant depending on what the average-CMC/color composition of your deck is. Makeshift Mauler is the other option and is one of the key creatures in Blue-based graveyard decks because it’s quite robust as a four-mana 4/5. Unburial Rites is a slightly safer pick because it’s a bit more powerful than the Mauler, is more likely to allow us to play our Victim of Night, and has the potential to be very strong depending on the quality of creatures that we’re passed.
My pick: Unburial Rites
Pack 1 pick 3:
There are many good cards here, although Civilized Scholar stands above the other options by a fair margin. The main decision is between the Scholar and Stitched Drake. The Drake is the best Blue common creature because it’s a 3/4 flyer for three mana (rather efficient); it’s cheap and difficult to kill (both in combat and with spells). The card-quality that Civilized Scholar provides in addition to being able to dump creatures into the graveyard to fuel cards like Corpse Lunge/Stitched Drake is huge. Furthermore, the Scholar can also threaten to hit for a ton of damage which must be respected. The combination of those three characteristics shows how well-rounded and powerful the Scholar is. Overall the Scholar makes your deck flow very smoothly. As a side note, Morkrut Banshee is quite underwhelming because Morbid is difficult to utilize due to requiring a very specific game-state. For the Banshee to be even remotely good, one of two conditions must be true 1) you’re ahead on the board and the opponent is being forced to trade defensively. 2) you have enough mana to pair a sacrifice effect (Altar’s Reap, Stitcher’s Apprentice, Blazing Torch, Dead Weight, et al.) with summoning the Banshee in the same turn. Both game-states are difficult to reach and not nearly as likely to happen and most people would think which is why the Banshee is underwhelming during actual play.
My pick: Civilized Scholar
Pack 1 pick 4:
Unfortunately there are no great Blue/Black cards to compare with Avacynian Priest. It would be ideal if we could play all of our first-picks, but that’s not going to be the case a lot of the time because the most formats don’t lend themselves well to forcing specific color-combinations when compared to the impact of what the person feeding us is passing has. Splashing Civilized Scholar is reasonable because it is good in the late-game as much as the early, and so we should follow the yellow brick road by taking the Avacynian Priest. Diregraf Ghoul and Rotting Fensnake are both dramatically worse than the Priest and not even worth considering. It’s also important to note that both Prey Upon and Travel Preparations (two of the best Green tricks) are still in the pack, and if White is indeed open, then Green may be the next best color to fall back on if both Blue and Black end up not being good options.
My pick: Avacynian Priest
Pack 1 pick 5:
This pick is very underwhelming because it doesn’t point towards a specific color to rely on. Selhoff Occultist is the best card by a moderate margin but is in Blue (the color of which we have the least cards). We haven’t seen much Blue besides the pack with the Scholar/Drake which makes me hesitant to believe that we’ll end up in Blue, although both of those cards were very strong (which makes the signal a bit more credible). The drop-off in quality between the Occultist and other choices (Selfless Cathar, Altar’s Reap, and One-Eyed Scarecrow) is quite significant which means that we don’t lose much if this pick ends up being a waste. Altar’s Reap is the next best card but very niche and is usually a sideboard card against decks with lots of removal like Claustrophobia and Bonds of Faith.
My pick: Selhoff Occultist
Pack 1 pick 6:
We’ve seen a moderate amount of Red during the entire stretch of picks, although only a pair of Pitchburn Devils have been alluring enough to consider jumping into it (which isn’t good enough considering that most people dip into Red just for the removal which we’ve seen none of other than one Harvest Pyre early on). Again, the options don’t pair well with our previous five, and we must choose between Village Bell-Ringer and Fortress Crab. Both creatures are basically filler, and whichever creature we settle on, it hopefully won’t end up in the final version of our deck. If we take the previous thought into consideration, the best pick goes into the deck that will need the most help if we get derailed rather than the pick that pairs best with the color of cards that we already have.
My pick: Village Bell-Ringer
Pack 1 pick 7:
Creepy Doll can be difficult for some decks, but I’ve found it to be lacking because it’s expensive and doesn’t always accomplish much besides temporarily stalling the board. We’re desperately searching for a direction to head in, and Vampire Interloper is a reasonable signal that we should maintain course with Black (even if some Black archetypes don’t necessarily utilize the Interloper as well as others). The Interloper won’t be amazing in a slower deck, but it’s still early in the draft and the future is uncertain.
My pick: Vampire Interloper
Pack 1 pick 8:
Black seems to be open and we have a few options. Rotting Fensnake and Brain Weevil are both fine, although they’re more filler than anything else. The Weevil can be particularly good as a sideboard option against slower decks, but otherwise it usually isn’t great unless you have a lot of Zombies to feed. Lost in the Mist is an option, although taking it would mean that we assume that Blue is open which we don’t know yet. Even if Blue is open, Lost in the Mist is similar to Brain Weevil (a sideboard card against slow decks) and not one that should be started in the main.
My pick: Ghoulraiser
Pack 1 pick 9:
My pick: Markov Patrician
Pack 1 pick 10:
My pick: Stitchers Apprentice
Pack 1 pick 11:
My pick: Unbreathing Horde
Pack 1 pick 12:
My pick: Rotting Fensnake
Pack 1 pick 13:
My pick: Nevermore
Pack 1 pick 14:
My pick: Make a Wish
Pack 1 pick 15:
The first pack started off moderately well, but midway through we lost our direction and there were a few picks where our success seemed bleak. However, we managed to weather the storm and find shelter with Black as it proved to be open during the wheel with a series of fine picks. Regarding our second color, it would seem like Blue is the next likely candidate, although White is definitely an option. Green seemed like it had promise because of some late Prey Upon/Travel Preparations, but it dried up almost immediately afterwards. It’s difficult to say whether the second pack will be kind to us regarding Blue because of the Stitched Drake/Makeshift Mauler that we passed, and all we can do is this point is hope.
Pack 2 pick 1:
Skaab Ruinator is pretty good although it makes serious demands of a deck’s ability to fill its graveyard with food to cast it. Our deck is set up moderately well at the moment to play the Ruinator because we have a Civilized Scholar/Selhoff Occultist in addition to a healthy number of creatures. Galvanic Juggernaut could be a consideration because it’s going to end up in the deck regardless of what our second color ends up being, however it’s much less powerful than the Ruinator, and passing the 5/6 would potentially close the door on us for Blue in pack three.
My pick: Skaab Ruinator
Pack 2 pick 2:
This pick is fairly straightforward with Armored Skaab being the clear pick. The 1/4 helps immensely with most Blue/Black archetypes because they want to fill the graveyard to fuel their other spells like Stitched Drake. Additionally, the Skaab will usually defend well enough for the deck to piece together a winning board.
My pick: Armored Skaab
Pack 2 pick 3:
Markov Patrician is a good tool against the beatdown decks because it forces them to trade creatures or else race against a creature with lifelink (not usually an easy task). However, against most other decks the Patrician is slightly underwhelming because it doesn’t do anything special and is very vulnerable in combat. A second Selhoff Occultist is a better choice because our deck wants to be able to fill its graveyard, the body of a 2/3 is moderately good in early defense, and it can threaten to mill as a win condition in certain game-states. Other cards like Invisible Stalker and Delver of Secrets aren’t good enough on their own. Delver needs a high number of instants/sorceries to be good because the un-flipped version will have little to no impact on most games, and it’s not possible to have a deck that’s both good with Delver and Skaab Ruinator unless you run realllllllllllllllly good with the top of your deck. Invisible Stalker would be a fine option if we already had equipment like Butcher’s Cleaver or Silver-Inlaid Dagger, but that’s not the case here. Even if we had non-Cleaver equipment, this deck isn’t the type that would want that card in it.
My pick: Selhoff Occultist
Pack 2 pick 4:
Forbidden Alchemy is similar to Stitched Drake when comparing it with Civilized Scholar. Alchemy is another card that helps fuel most of the Blue-based decks with creature fodder to exile and flashback spells to utilize in addition to being an Impulse; it’s one of the better ways to ensure that your deck doesn’t run out of gas. Between the group of Forbidden Alchemy, Armored Skaab, Dream Twist, and Selhoff Occultist and cards that utilize the graveyard, most Blue decks will function quite well if they can maintain the proper balance between each group. However, balance isn’t always easy to achieve which either leaves a deck too light on gas or without enough fuel to be able to summon three-mana 3/4 flying beaters. Enter Civilized Scholar; he solves most of the problems that unbalanced decks run into: stumbling. Even in amazing decks, simply being able to filter your draw without necessarily utilizing the graveyard is a huge benefit that will lead to winning most games.
My pick: Civilized Scholar
Pack 2 pick 5:
Sensory Deprivation is quite useful against the spectrum of aggro decks that infest the format. Tempo is incredibly important and Sensory Deprivation helps solve the problem that the slower control decks tend to run into: being run over because they’re trading one-for-one with expensive spells against cheaper ones. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the aura Swords to Plowshares, but it does accomplish a lot for only one mana. Sensory Deprivation isn’t for every deck and certainly shouldn’t be jammed into an aggro one (unless it’s all evasive creatures) because your creatures won’t necessarily be able to bash through the opponent’s.
My pick: Sensory Deprivation
Pack 2 pick 6:
Skaab Goliath is quite large but often runs into the problem of taking a heavy toll on a deck’s graveyard resources. Six mana is a lot, and when you also factor in that we have a Skaab Ruinator, playing the Goliath isn’t going to work out as well as Stitched Drake. With that being said, Stitched Drake is still a better creature because it’s fairly inexpensive and will generally make more impact over the course of the game during those turns where Skaab Goliath is stranded in your hand.
My pick: Stitched Drake
Pack 2 pick 7:
My pick: Deranged Assistant
Pack 2 pick 8:
Corpse Lunge isn’t exactly Induce Despair as some people may believe. One of the problems that people overlook when they take Corpse Lunge is that the creatures in their deck have very low power, and suddenly their precious all-purpose removal is simply a lackluster Last Kiss. Between feeding Skaabs and having a low average power, Corpse Lunge is quite mediocre.
My pick: Sensory Deprivation
Pack 2 pick 9:
My pick: Sensory Deprivation
Pack 2 pick 10:
I won’t lie; Unbreathing Horde takes work (and a lot of it). Being less than a 3/3 seems rather miserable and not worth playing which means a deck needs tons of Zombies to ensure that the Horde is indeed a horde and not the start of a joke “So two Zombies that walk into a bar…” When the Skaab/Corpse Lunge problem is also factored in towards calculating the average size of the Horde, it’s easy to see why it wheels so often. Another problem acquiring enough Zombies is that there aren’t actually that many (six common, three uncommon, two rare, and two mythic which doesn’t include the other ways to get them like Cellar Door, Moan of the Unhallowed, Endless Ranks of the Damned, Army of the Damned, and Grimoire of the Dead). Nevertheless, it’s going to be relatively easy to pick up a Ghoulcaller’s Chant (the only interesting alternative pick), and so giving the Horde a chance isn’t out of the question.
My pick: Unbreathing Horde
Pack 2 pick 11:
My pick: Ghoulcaller’s Chant
Pack 2 pick 12:
My pick: Desperate Ravings
Pack 2 pick 13:
My pick: Paraselene
Pack 2 pick 14:
My pick: Night Terrors
Pack 2 pick 15:
The second pack was actually rather unreal because the vast majority of our picks were Blue, and many were also accompanied by other good Blue/Black cards. We’re on track for a powerful Blue/Black deck with almost enough playables to build one right now after having only seen two packs. I don’t expect to see as much Blue in the third pack as was present in the second one, but there should also be a relatively good amount of Black to help round out our picks.
Pack 3 pick 1:
I can’t stress how important cheap removal is and Dead Weight is an important piece of the puzzle of how we’ll be able to swing the tempo of a game into our favor if we’re behind. Forbidden Alchemy is a trap right now because we already have a number of ways to put cards into our graveyard (although having a way of almost never running out of steam would be nice), but we lack enough real removal to deal with problematic creatures that Sensory Deprivation doesn’t handle (like Mayor of Avabruck and Falkenrath Noble).
My pick: Dead Weight
Pack 3 pick 2:
My pick: Reaper from the Abyss
Pack 3 pick 3:
This pick isn’t one that you’ll see too often because Curse of Death’s Hold is a rare. Between the Curse, Forbidden Alchemy, and Falkenrath Noble, there are a few points to consider. An important question to answer is ‘How will an average game play out?’ We don’t have too many ways to put significant pressure on the opponent which means that Falkenrath Noble isn’t necessarily going to change the way the opponent attacks. The Noble is good but if we aren’t constantly trading creatures and/or putting the opponent in the position of needing to trade, then we won’t be able to take full advantage of the draining ability. Forbidden Alchemy is still a good option, but as I mentioned before, we have a number of ways of ensuring that our graveyard is always full. A few other points that were mentioned earlier were: 1) the average creature size in the deck, and 2) the lack of real removal. Curse of Death’s Hold helps alleviate the problem of playing with smaller creatures in addition to being a removal spell by itself. About one-fifth of the creatures will die straight up to the Curse, and the ones that don’t will be significantly weakened.
My pick: Curse of Death’s Hold
Pack 3 pick 4:
I alluded to this point earlier when looking at cards that fill graveyards and those that utilize the graveyard: it’s important to maintain a good balance of action and ways to find it. Civilized Scholar is generally better than Grasp of Phantoms because it has more benefits than the latter. Grasp is a good card, but it’s often costly and won’t necessarily advance your board as much as you’d like. I’m certainly not saying that Grasp is bad because it’s not, in fact it’s quite good. However, Scholar is better. Still, it’s important to keep a balance, and Grasp provides a certain effect that the deck still needs. Being able to deal with creatures that have become large due to Travel Preparations is huge, and we still haven’t seen a Silent Departure to fill that role.
My pick: Grasp of Phantoms
Pack 3 pick 5:
My pick: Walking Corpse
Pack 3 pick 6:
Moan of the Unhallowed is quite good because it can grind through most opposition and leave you up a few cards in the process; four 2/2 zombies is nothing to scoff at and most decks will have a tough time answering them while also dealing with the rest of your hand. Undead Alchemist is another interesting card that many people won’t evaluate properly because it’s a rare. Early on in a draft Moan is going to be a better choice than the Alchemist because it’s easier to make it good; you only need to cast Moan compared to getting enough zombies and reliably connect with them while the Alchemist is on the Battlefield. However, the draft is almost over and we have a nearly-complete picture of what our deck is going to look like. We have an above average number of zombies in addition to two Selhoff Occultists which also double as zombies (because they can mill creature cards). There’s enough synergy with the remaining cards in the deck to consider the Alchemist, and while it’s less likely to win a game against an aggro deck while our back is against the wall than Moan would, the Alchemist offers a different way to approach games.
My pick: Undead Alchemist
Pack 3 pick 7:
My pick: Deranged Assistant
Pack 3 pick 8:
Witchbane Orb is actually a reasonable sideboard card and is superior to either curse in the pack because our deck is vulnerable to both.
My pick: Witchbane Orb
Pack 3 pick 9:
My pick: Vampire Interloper
Pack 3 pick 10:
My pick: Curse of the Bloody Tome
Pack 3 pick 11:
My pick: Maw of the Mire
Pack 3 pick 12:
My pick: Rotting Fensnake
Pack 3 pick 13:
My pick: Moonmist
Pack 3 pick 14:
My pick: Gruesome Deformity
Pack 3 pick 15:
The last pack was quite reasonable, and we were able to pick up a number of unique cards that will fit well into the deck. Overall the draft was quite a success, and thankfully the rocky beginning was only that and not an indicator as to how the rest of the packs were going to pan out. We have a high quantity and type of playables which means there will be a number of ways to approach deck construction.
The cards that should be included regardless of what the deck looks like include the following fourteen (14) cards:
There are quite a few good cards left to put in, and many will take the deck towards one direction or the other in terms of how it plays out. Here is what’s left over:
If we break down the options into sub-groups, it will be easier to figure out exactly which we’ll be more likely be able to play in addition to comparing the various synergies that the groups have with each other.
Avacynian Priest is still a possibility especially considering the Unburial Rites that we also have. Being able to flashback the Rites in addition to having a tapper would prove to be quite advantageous in most games but would require two Plains, making Victim of Night very difficult to cast in the early game. Stitcher’s Apprentice is another worthy creature because it has synergy with three other cards in our deck: two Selhoff Occultists and Reaper from the Abyss. Being able to freely trigger those cards will prove to be a valuable tool in many games. The duo of Vampire Interlopers would give our deck a definite aggro feel to it and would make playing a lot of zombies much more attractive because Walking Corpse adds to the low-end of the curve while Rotting Fensnake hits rather hard. Markov Patrician is fine and will fit into most configurations.
In addition to the seven zombies above, there are also four more already in the deck (Armored Skaab, Skaab Ruinator, Stitched Drake, and Undead Alchemist). Ghoulraiser isn’t amazing with only four other zombies (three realistically since Skaab Ruinator doesn’t count), and a few filler Zombies would have to be included to make it worthwhile if the deck isn’t interested in a Gray Ogre. As an added bonus, the more zombies we include, the better Undead Alchemist and Unbreathing Horde get. I’d want to add one Fensnake at the minimum because it can trade with almost everything. Ghoulraiser isn’t usually an auto-include because it’s not always getting back a creature that’s good enough, but that isn’t the case with this deck. If we play all the zombies, then we have a realistic chance of Unbreathing Horde being good.
Ghoulcaller’s Chant is obviously going to be more effective as the number of zombies we plays increases while also being a better option than Unburial Rites if we aren’t splashing White as well. Ghoulcaller’s Chant will be more profitable in most cases (an exception being with Reaper from the Abyss and Skaab Ruinator) because of the potential Restock.
Sensory Deprivation’s inclusion will depend on whether or not we’re playing Vampire Interloper because that will mean that our small ground creatures are also trying to attack for damage (Selhoff Occultist). If we’re not planning on going aggro, then a few copies of Deprivation should find their way into the deck.
It’s unlikely that Desperate Ravings will be necessary, mainly because we’d have to add a Mountain or rely on a Scholar to filter it away. Regardless, without the Ravings we still have enough card-drawing to power through most flooding. Curse of the Bloody Tome and Night Terrors are better off in the sideboard as options against slower decks; both spells have their place, but it’s unlikely that they’ll carry enough weight by themselves to warrant their inclusion in the maindeck. Night Terrors is one of the cards that gets sideboarded in a lot, but it’s often not great against the average deck and better off used when you play against a slow deck and/or one with lots of flashback spells/bombs.
From the groups above, one option would be to play a bunch of men and a Ghoulcaller’s Chant. One card would need to be cut and it would probably be a Deranged Assistant because it doesn’t attack as well as the rest and would be there more as a support card for the Skaabs/Hordes.
The main problem with this setup is that most of the ground creatures are unimpressive, and without removal the board will stall, at which point the deck will be reliant on a Scholar, large Unbreathing Horde, or Interloper to break the stalemate. Granted, the listed cards that we can draw into to ensure we win most stalemates is higher than average. Another problem with building an aggro version is that it will be difficult to reliably put enough pressure on the opponent with the creatures that we have, and so the value of Vampire Interloper may not be as high as we are hoping due to the opponent being able to outrace us.
A controlling build of the deck would want to have Sensory Deprivation, Ghoulcaller’s Chant, Markov Patrician, and some number of zombies, although probably not the Unbreathing Hordes because they wouldn’t be amazing once we started cutting into the ranks of the undead.
The advantage that this build has is that the Priest is quite good at being able to protect against trading the Fensnakes with inferior creatures. Unburial Rites with flashback is also a moderate upgrade to Ghoulcaller’s Chant because of being able to get back Reaper twice (or whatever non-Zombie is needed at the time) at different points in the game. The major downside to splashing the White is that the mana gets a lot worse and the deck is likely to mulligan more frequently which will make it rely on Sensory Deprivation a lot against the aggro decks.
The more zombies that we include is going to make the deck much more of a grind to play against because Ghoulcaller’s Chant, Ghoulraiser, and Unbreathing Horde have the potential for card advantage built into them; overall that seems favorable. I dislike the White splash and the increased risk of mulliganing that comes with it. The upside to Avacynian Priest and Unburial Rites doesn’t seem great enough to warrant their cost.
The deck managed to go 3-0 without too much trouble. The only game that I lost was when I had to mulligan on the draw game one against a turn one Reckless Waif, turn two Bloodcrazed Neonate. I managed to stabilize but ended up dying to a flipped Kruin Outlaw with the help of Bonds of Faith.
I decided to take the middle ground, playing all of the zombies main and keeping both the Interlopers and Sensory Deprivations in the sideboard because I wanted to see if Unbreathing Horde was actually a viable option with ten zombies and a bunch of card-drawing/milling. Most of the time, the Horde was never bigger than a 3/3, and it would often be the case that I would have to wait for the natural progression of the game so that I could amass enough zombies to make the Horde a reasonable size. When the Horde was a 4/4 it was quite good because it would usually be able to eat two creatures and stick around to bash as a Gray Ogre, but two seemed like one too many as I drew it quite often. Overall, I’d want a few more zombies before running two Hordes.
Undead Alchemist actually got a lot of playing time in and was generally pretty good. There were games where I assembled both Occultists in addition to a Fensnake and Alchemist to mill the opponent out quite easily. In another game I stabilized very easily thanks simply to Stitched Drake and Undead Alchemist creating zombies to threaten trading with the opponent’s creatures. Not having to spend additional mana on the endeavor let me get even further ahead because I was able to cast other spells. The Alchemist was fine even when I had to trade because of the robust zombie synergies also present in the deck between Ghoulcaller’s Chant, Ghoulraiser, and Unbreathing Horde.
Reaper from the Abyss was obviously good. By the time it would enter the Battlefield, I’d usually be able to trigger morbid without trouble and turn it into an immediate Flametongue Kavu. Being a 6/6 flyer was also nice.
Curse of Death’s Hold was quite good. It would usually kill off at least one of the opponent’s creatures while making the others much more manageable for my Occultists to hold off.
I brought in Sensory Deprivation a few times because I played against aggro a lot. They were invaluable on the draw while being reasonable on the play, although I didn’t always need them because I was able to throw random creatures in the way to trade.