Leading in to Pro Tour Dark Ascension I was under the belief that to be successful in this draft format you needed to avoid all the tricksy decks that revolved around synergy and focus purely on two color beatdown decks. I thought this partly because of my own inexperience drafting the crazy decks properly, and that the better limited players in our group had been consistently winning with the aggressive decks, and I only began to start winning myself when I joined them. Now don’t get me wrong I still love a good green-white or red-black aggro deck and it’s easily my go to if I wanna score that 2-1 record without much effort. But it is important to know what is available to you and how to draft it. After the PT I spoke with some people from the other beach house and they were all convinced that goofy decks, specifically Spider Spawning decks, were not only viable but the best in the format. The reason they gave was that pack 1 was just so bad for the deck that nobody would even consider playing it so in the later packs you would be the only person at the table in that deck and you would get [card]Mulch[/card] and [card]Dream Twist[/card] with three cards left in the pack. I have to admit this surprised me but after trying it a couple times I have to agree that it’s certainly still a strong deck if you can get it. Today I will talk about how to rank the cards in pack 1 assuming you are going to force Spider Spawning so you know how to do it. Let me be clear, these card evaluations are only under the assumption that you intend to draft Blue-Green mill yourself.

[draft]Tower Geist
Kessig Recluse
Tracker’s Instincts
Nephalia Seakite
Dawntreader Elk
Scorned Villager
Screeching Skaab
Thought Scour[/draft]

These are the cards that are not the absolute most powerful, but have the most synergy in the self-mill deck and simply make the most sense. You should put a high priority on these, and I would hope you were already putting a high priority on a card like [card]Tower Geist[/card].

[card]Kessig Recluse[/card] is a pretty interesting card. In our group we all basically agreed that it was the best green common but only because there wasn’t much competition for that slot. On top of that he’s just in a weird spot since he is very good at what he does, but what he does isn’t something a green deck normally wants considering that all the good green cards from Innistrad lend themselves to pretty aggressive strategies. Luckily [card]Kessig Recluse[/card] feels right at home in a blue-green deck that spends most of its turns setting up to do something pretty powerful later.

[card]Tracker’s Instincts[/card] is another one of those cards that was basically made for this style deck. It does everything [card]Mulch[/card] does but a little differently and with flashback, so when all my decks already would play any number of [card]Mulch[/card]es it’s a good indicator that this one is pretty sweet. It can be a little awkward that it’s a self-mill card that puts creatures into your hand and not your graveyard but its still a powerful effect and is worth the small sacrifice.

Next is [card]Nephalia Seakite[/card] and this card really packs a punch. It’s deceptively stronger than it looks given the context of the format and how many 2/2s are running around. It’s a creature which is a very tangible bonus for this deck and it’s an excellent defender. I especially like how I can leave mana open for this or something along the lines of [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card]/[card]Think Twice[/card] and never really get punished by someone playing around it.

[card]Dawntreader Elk[/card] is another card almost custom made for this deck. It does many things for a very little investment cost including help you splash (since the deck is usually three or four colors) and provide an early play which often this deck is lacking. I would aim to take the Elk high and always play as many as I could get.

[card]Scorned Villager[/card] is overall a better card than [card]Dawntreader Elk[/card] but I still would pick it lower because it doesn’t color-fix and it doesn’t end up in the graveyard to fuel [card]Gnaw to the Bone[/card] and [card]Spider Spawning[/card]. But make no mistake [card]Scorned Villager[/card] is a still a very good card for this strategy, and again a card I will actively seek out.

[card]Screeching Skaab[/card] looks much better than it actually is. On paper it’s just a slightly worse [card]Armored Skaab[/card] but in practice it’s just a slightly better [card]Thought Scour[/card]. I mean don’t get me wrong I still take it when I can get it and I will almost always play it, but it’s worse than something like [card]Deranged Assistant[/card] and most of your nut draws will not contain a [card]Screeching Skaab[/card]. But it is still an enabler and can never really be too bad.

[card]Thought Scour[/card] is certainly playable but never impressive, I like it with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] but that is a pretty mild synergy and would rarely affect my decision-making during the draft portion. It’s just a card that can lean your towards a Spider Spawning deck if you get a couple green playables with 2 [card]Thought Scour[/card]s, a [card]Screeching Skaab[/card], and just one more playable card for the deck.

[draft]Niblis of the Breath
Briarpack Alpha
Strangleroot Geist
Soul Seizer
Stormbound Geist
Relentless Skaabs
Somberwald Dryad
Lambholt Elder
Young Wolf[/draft]

This group of cards doesn’t add any huge amount of percentage points to any self-mill deck that would randomly pick them up, but they are all cards that are just plain ‘good’. I would almost always play all of these unless I had a strong reason not to, and the only one that doesn’t work well in the deck is [card]Stormbound Geist[/card], mainly because it can’t block effectively. That said it’s still a very good card. The rest of the creatures on the list with Undying are just amazing, they just shut down any attacking creatures in their tracks. I even like the Young Wolf as a green [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], you get to chump block then you have a 2/2 which will usually trade for something. You can’t ask for much more out of a simple 1 drop creature.

[draft]Ulvenwald Bear
Griptide
Divination
Chant of the Skifsang
Gravetiller Wurm
Hollowhenge Beast
Village Survivors
Crushing Vines[/draft]

These are all pretty bad, but playable. You don’t really want these in your deck but they may end up making it just because you’ve decided to draft a deck with poor options in pack 1, and that’s acceptable. [card]Ulvenwald Bear[/card] is an awesome card in a red-green or green-white aggressive deck but it is nearly impossible for blue-green to trigger the morbid that makes him worthwhile. [card]Griptide[/card] is another card that’s value is maximized in an aggressive tempo-oriented strategy that you just won’t find in successful Spider Spawning decks, I like that it works well with [card]Nephalia Seakite[/card] but it just doesn’t do enough for its steep cost. I’m more willing to play more Griptides and Divinations in my deck based on how many [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] I end up with, but both are pretty mediocre.

[card]Chant of the Skifsang[/card] and [card]Crushing Vines[/card] are primarily sideboard cards in that they are pretty inefficient at what they do until they do it to something that costs 5+. You never want a card like this in your opening hand in a normal deck and having it in your starting seven will hurt you more in a self-mill deck because all you have to do is avoid getting run over early and take over late game. Admittedly the Chant is more playable than the Vines but it’s still pretty weak overall.

[card]Gravetiller Wurm[/card], [card]Hollowhenge Beast[/card], and [card]Village Survivors[/card] are basically all the same card and all worse than [card]Grizzled Outcasts[/card]. You can play 1 or 2 of these but that’s about it and none of them have an ability that helps you in any meaningful way but they up your creature count and fill out your curve. Nothing special but hey it could be worse.

[draft]Mystic Retrieval
Grim Flowering
Wolfhunter’s Quiver[/draft]

These are all ‘power’ cards for when you can’t get the actual power cards you want. Like let’s say you finish the draft and never get a [card]Memory’s Journey[/card], if you have the proper fixing and your deck requires that type of effect you can simply play a [card]Mystic Retrieval[/card] instead. It works pretty well with [card]Runic Repetition[/card] and as long as you don’t get decked you can just keep using it over and over to loop any instant or sorcery, even red ones like [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] or [card]Harvest Pyre[/card] if you want to go that deep. It acts a little like an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] in triple innistrad decks that would have [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card] but no [card]Memory’s Journey[/card].

I have yet to try [card]Grim Flowering[/card] but it looks like it should be powerful enough. 6 mana isn’t too high and as long as you don’t die when you cast it drawing 7 to 10 cards should be enough to let you overpower any opponent. But like I said my main problem with it is I believe there is a very real chance of it just killing you any time you cast it.

[card]Wolfhunter’s Quiver[/card] is a card that can win any longer game given you have the resources to commit to it, which shouldn’t be hard if you plan to gain 50 life with a [card]Gnaw to the Bone[/card]. The Quiver works incredibly well with stuff like [card]Ambush Viper[/card] and [card]Kessig Recluse[/card], letting you deathtouch down any creatures you wish. This isn’t an auto include but can be exactly what a deck wants, I would treat this card on a case by case basis.

[draft]Secrets of the Dead
Altar of the Lost
Wild Hunger
Headless Skaab
Bone to Ash
Chill of Foreboding[/draft]

I would basically never play any of these. [card]Chill of Foreboding[/card] is the most playable and I can only see it working if I tried to draft some kind of mill deck where I planning to win by decking them, and the only way that makes sense is if I have [card]Increasing Confusion[/card]. I’d say that’s asking a lot to make a certain card playable. [card]Headless Skaab[/card] is the second most playable here and it just routinely underperforms so I’ve continued to rank it lower and lower, these kinds of decks don’t like [card]Makeshift Mauler[/card] much and he’s a way better defensive creature since he doesn’t come into play tapped. You could maybe play 1 in a bad version of the deck but if you have 2 you are in trouble. As far as [card]Altar of the Lost[/card] and [card]Secrets of the Dead[/card], I’ve watched Conley and Matt Nass try each of these and my best advice would be kids, don’t try this at home. On a bad day these are stone blanks and don’t help you at all, and on a good day when everything goes right they barely make it as the value of what a full card should be.

Well that’s about all the Commons and Uncommons I consider worthwhile for the self-mill deck and honestly it looks much better than I expected that it would. Many of the cards are marginal but that’s just because many of the cards in the first set are marginal for all decks not just this one. I hope this helped put into perspective what cards you should be prioritizing higher and how to navigate through Dark Ascension when trying to draft my favorite deck from Innistrad.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter