No, this is not an article about Zombies in Standard and how good they are against the red menace.
It’s been 28 days now since I first drafted the set. And today I want to revisit this Draft, which I recorded and made some notes about. When talking through my picks from today’s perspective, I’m going to assume I picked the cards my old self did. Talking about imaginary picks doesn’t make sense past booster 1 since it doesn’t take into account what my left neighbor drafted.
Ready? Here we go:
- Chaos Maw: Red seems to have lots of removal, so drafting a red control deck has to be possible. Maw seems to be exactly what a control deck needs, being a sweeper as well as a finisher in one card.
- Ominous Sphinx: Air Elemental with upside. This card must be very strong. I’m not sure if there will still be a cycling deck, but even outside of that, there will not be any blue deck that doesn’t play this card.
- Torment of Venom: Removal with upside. Probably better than Unsummon, Camel, or the gold card.
28 days later: My pick order hasn’t changed since then—I would still do the same. Red Control is viable indeed. Torment was a bit weaker than expected, but still better than the rest.
- Abrade: Perfect with my first pick, cheap spot removal being exactly what a red control deck wants. Even if I end up in aggro or midrange, Abrade will be premium.
- Puncturing Blow: This might be too expensive if the format plays out as fast as the old one, but you probably still want some effects like these.
- Bitterbow Sharpshooters: I’m remembering Sentinel Spider, which was premium at one time. It was originally printed in a core set as far as I remember, which used to be slower most of the time, but the stats still seem decent.
28 days later: Again, this seemed to be a rather easy task. If two fine cards share the color of your first pick, just grab the better one. This I remember knowing even 28 months ago.
- Ifnir Deadlands: This seems likee a great card, filling a land spot in your deck and working as removal. Black-Red has lots of removal, so it’ll be easy to reach the late game.
- Harrier Naga: Chaos Maw seems to be best with green since you can ramp into it and some of your creatures survive its effect. Naga brings solid stats to the fight.
- Ramunap Excavator: If you cycle some lands early on, this might deliver some card advantage. Since your lands do count in the late game with an expensive bomb, playing some from your graveyard could be relevant.
28 days later: I would draft differently today. The green cards are really not that impressive since this deck probably doesn’t want to beat down, and aggressive decks just fly or exert over them. Even though they look fine, they’re not as good at blocking as these kind of cards used to be. Ifnir Deadlands is the best card in the pack, but black is very weak and goes better in aggro decks than in control ones. I would pick Aven of Enduring Hope, which impressed me quite a bit, over Deadlands and Traveler’s Amulet.
- Sifter Wurm: This reminds me of Pelakka Wurm, and it seems to be even better. Scry 3 is better when you’re already at 7 mana than drawing a card, and gaining a bit less life in exchange seems like a fine deal.
- Wretched Camel: I’m up for some more Deserts anyway, so this will make my deck.
- Ruin Rat: Against decks which attack you on the ground, this is a fine pick.
28 days later: I would still pick the Wurm, but my followup would be Khenra Scrapper. I’m still not a fan of aggro decks, but I do admit that taking this and trying a more aggressive route would be a valid option.
- Rhonas’s Stalwart: This does not fit in this deck, but I have to draft some curve. In order not to die too early, it should be fine to have a bear to block.
- Frontline Devastator: Again, if I have to take a more aggressive card, then let’s grab the cheaper one.
- Gift of Strength: A deck with fatties usually doesn’t want combat tricks. Still, against some exert creatures, it might do the trick.
28 days later: Devastator has impressed me, even in slower decks. I would pick it here, over Lurching Rotbeast, which I found very playable in every black deck. It blocks better than it looks, and cycling is so cheap that this card is just fine.
- Harrier Naga: This is exactly what you’d expect for 3 mana, and it seems I’m more green than black or red.
- Lethal Sting: Removal is removal. The downside seems real, but I probably end up with enough creatures to support this anyway.
- Beneath the Sands: Ramp is good if you already have some expensive payoff cards. This even cycles if you’re completely flooded.
- Bitterbow Sharpshooters: As I already mentioned, this card seems very good in a deck like that. It survives Chaos Maw, and it plays defense until the Flagships take over.
- Razaketh’s Rite: With two nice high-end options so far, a cycling tutor seems like a perfect addition.
- Wretched Camel: Even though I didn’t see another Desert so far, there are still plenty of picks to come.
28 days later: Sharpshooters is a gift from the heavens indeed, and showcases how packs look when green is wide open. Razaketh’s Rite wasn’t as spectacular as I hoped, but I always played it in decks with expensive bombs and was happy about it. Camel was replaceable for me. I would pick Liliana’s Defeat over it.
- Desert of the Glorified: There’s the cycling land I was hoping for. I would love to play 2-3 of them in the end.
- Ruin Rat: Probably better than Stalwart in this kind of deck.
- Scrounger of Souls: Seems playable, and survives Chaos Maw.
28 days later: Fair enough—not a whole lot to argue with that. The late Desert is a sign that black was open this Draft.
- Wretched Camel: Enough said about this card. Even got another Desert. Get in!
- Carrion Screecher: Against some decks, this might be fine. I’d rather start without this in my deck though.
- Nissa’s Defeat: If I play against the Wurm enchantment, who knows…
28 days later: Camel goes first for sure, then I would pick Without Weakness over Screecher. Defeat is fine against people that put ramp enchantments on Forests to cast Wurm enchantments, but that hasn’t happened too often yet. Weakness is a fine sideboard card against white decks with Sandblast and Market.
- Accursed Horde: I don’t want to play it, but I don’t want to give away inappropriate signs either.
- Gift of Strength: Again, fine, but nothing spectacular.
- Oketra’s Last Mercy: I like rares. I really do.
28 days later: Nothing to discuss here. Let’s move on to booster 2.
- Razaketh’s Rite: Not the pack I was hoping for. Since I didn’t open a good red card, I probably have to abandon it since my neighbor didn’t pass me anything besides Abrade. Rite gets worse without Hellion, but I still have Sifter Wurm as a target. Who knows, maybe I can still splash off Chaos Maw off 2 Gift of Paradise.
- Oasis Ritualist: This ramps and fixes. Sign me up.
- Liliana’s Defeat: Premium sideboard card.
28 days later: Well, this happens when you try to draft too smart. Even though the Rite pick is cute, it’s way off. I would pick Unquenchable Thirst and try to splash it, over Ritualist and Rite. I have not been that impressed with the Defeats, by the way. It feels like playing Doom Blade against a black deck. Yes, you can hit. But you usually only hit like 50% of their creatures. Not as premium as I originally thought, but nice sideboard cards anyway.
- Puncturing Blow: Red wasn’t open, but maybe I get a good pack 2 and have to abandon green instead. Blow seems enough better than the alternatives.
- Hashep Oasis: Another Desert would be great in this deck, and this even provides some additional value.
- Wretched Camel: I still need some 2s to make this deck work. Might as well start taking them now.
28 days later: It’s possible to benefit from cutting red in pack 2. Maybe there are even some control cards like Electrify in pack 3 if the person to my left is a red aggro deck. I can still stand behind these picks.
- Ambuscade: This should be the best common in the set. I already have plenty of creatures that work well with it, I’m happy with this pickup.
- Granitic Titan: One or two expensive cyclers should be fine in a control deck, if I end up in red.
- Khenra Eternal: Yay, another bear. Lucky me!
28 days later: Besides knowing that the best common in the format is not Ambuscade, I would still pick it here, followed by the actual best common, Unquenchable Thirst. Frontline Devastator is better than Titan and Khenra, so here’s a bronze trophy for you.
- Doomfall: While this doesn’t seem great, it has two relevant modes for Limited. Modal spells were always great, and this should be no exception.
- Ruin Rat: This only has one mode, which is great against some decks, but very weak against others. Deathtouch works well with Ambuscade, but as I already have some 2s, I’m passing.
- Blur of Blades: Seems like the best red card in here, even though this would probably still be a sideboard card.
28 days later: I like these picks. If I didn’t have two 7-drops, I would draft Hazoret’s Undying Fury over Ruin Rat or Blur. I still feel like this rare is underrated, and just like Imminent Doom, another underrated red rare, it’s very good in very few decks, but there it truly shines. Hint: Both decks play Traveler’s Amulet.
- Marauding Boneslasher: This Ambuscades well, and making the deck a little bit more midrange makes prior picks like Stalwart better.
- Frilled Sandwalla: This should be fine but not spectacular. Especially aggressive decks will want this little lizard.
- Survivor’s Encampment: With some Desert synergies and possible splashes, this might be fine. But I probably don’t want to splash anyway.
28 days later: Yes, you do, stupid! Always splash, always be greedy, and always collect those rares. You will need fixing for that, lots of fixing. Encampment over Sandwalla and Slasher for Nico Senior.
- Rhonas’s Stalwart: Yes, let’s be a bit more aggressive and midrange. A little less conversation, a little more action, please!
- Lurching Rotbeast: Filler, but should be fine.
- Dune Diviner: Not enough Deserts for that, I guess.
28 days later: Even though it hurts my heart to admit that, at this point, I should probably move away from control indeed and start picking some more 2-drops. Dune Diviner is pretty good in some decks, but with my Desert count so far, it will not be.
- Lethal Sting: Cool, another removal. My creature count should be high enough for that.
- Oasis Ritualist: Now that I’m more aggressive, there’s no room for ramp.
- Torment of Scarabs: This looks weird, but could be a fine sideboard card.
28 days later: Approved! Even though I still wish I had taken slower cards so I could grab the Ritualist here. On a side note: Much has been written about Torment. For me, it’s essentially a Marauding Boneslasher in a non-Zombie deck—if you’re much more aggressive than your opponent, play it. If you’re not, then don’t. If your deck is a 1-4 on an aggro-control scale from 1-10, then main deck it (and sideboard it out against faster decks and sometimes on the draw). If you’re a 5-10, sideboard it in against even slower decks.
- Frilled Sandwalla: Looks fine—I’ll probably start this in my main deck.
- Scrounger of Souls: Works well with Ambuscade, but not the rest of the deck.
- Torment of Scarabs: Again, for sideboard only.
28 days later: Correct. Torments gets better in multiple (also in a mix). And it’s too late to pick Aven now.
- Liliana’s Defeat: Fine sideboard card.
- Moaning Wall: Not the deck for it, unless I desperately need another main-deck card.
- Graven Abomination: If it would at least cycle…
28 days later: Still the same pick order. Time for pack 3.
- Final Reward: Pretty obvious pick here.
- Electrify: If I end up with some fixing, I might splash this together with Abrade. It’s pretty unlikely that I get enough fixing, though.
- Giant Spider: While not being a great aggro card, it will surely be good against the blue flyers.
28 days later: Most decisions will be rather obvious here in pack 3. Giant Spider and Electrify are both cards that have gotten better—Electrify because of eternalize, and Spider because of the format shift.
- Bitterblade Warrior: More aggressive 2-drops. Can’t have enough of them in aggro if I remember correctly.
- Neheb, the Worthy: Another potential red slash. I’d have had a great Jund deck if I had drafted some fixing earlier.
- Shed Weakness: Combat tricks are fine, especially if they cost 1 mana in a deck with lots of 2-drops.
28 days later: Nothing to add here. With the -1/-1 synergies, I would take Weakness over Neheb at this point.
- Hooded Brawler: One of the few reasons to be an aggressive green deck.
- Shed Weakness: Still fine.
- Pouncing Cheetah: Filler. Maybe a little better since people stop playing around it.
28 days later: Thumbs up.
- Horror of the Broken Lands: The deck still needs some cards, so I can’t just grab the rare land. With only 12 creatures so far, Horror feels safer than Wander.
- Wander in Death: While this is a great card in midrange decks, most of my creatures are just too vanilla to have an impact in the late game if cast again. Not the right deck for this card to shine.
- Initiate’s Companion: I have better 2-drops, so I don’t desperately need this kitty.
28 days later: This pick is closer than I thought because Wander is much better in this environment than it was in the last one, since there’s plenty of removal out there. I think it’s still correct.
- Horror of the Broken Lands: Another one of these solid but spectacular fatties.
- Greater Sandwurm: Might be a fine sideboard card against slow decks with removal or walls.
- Naga Vitalist: It doesn’t seem to be the right deck for this. I don’t have too many cards to ramp into.
28 days later: Naga Vitalist should go second here—it plays well with Lethal Sting, and gives you a nice plan B if you keep a hand without 2-drops. Side note: Evolving Wilds that late is a rare sight nowadays.
- Decimator Beetle: No comment.
- Quarry Hauler: There are a few counter synergies left in the format. But not as many as there were.
- Gift of Paradise: If I ever really need Chaos Maw out of the board…
28 days later: So lucky!
- Trial of Ambition: A pretty nice pack 7. This works well with the Doomfall I already have, even though I will not get my hands on a Cartouche anytime soon.
- Soulstinger: In a slower deck, this would eventually be better than Trial. In this deck, it shouldn’t.
- Stinging Shot: Since Hour of Devastation offered more flyers, this could move to my main deck more often than it did.
28 days later: I played Stinging Shot very often indeed. The slower format makes 2-mana cyclers easier to play, and having additional answers to flyers is very nice.
- Painful Lesson: In a grindy matchup on the play, this is fine. I don’t want to have it in my main deck, though.
- Gift of Paradise: Again, for the sideboard.
- New Perspectives: Because why not. Running out of relevant picks there.
28 days later: This looks like the end of relevant picks, and indeed, and it was. There has been plenty of mana fixing in pack 3, so drafting something more durdly with the inclusion of Chaos Maw would have worked out in the end. Still, I was happy with my deck—happier than I would be nowadays. Here’s the list I ran:
In the end, I lost my first round against God-Pharaoh’s Gift. I learned my lesson and started drafting durdly decks as well. What can be said about the format at this point?
There are some things mana can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Manalith.
This is my conclusion of the format so far. I really enjoy playing it, as well as the nearly endless possibilities this durdly format offers.