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Let Me Entertain You

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I’ve just finished eighteenth in my Nationals. I hope I will be able to give you a tournament report next week, though right now I am very tired and slightly crushed. Also, it has come to my attention this weekend that there are a minority of players who still think I am just lucky. This saddens me. I would have thought that people would look at my results and decide it has gone a little bit far now to be just luck. Yet even today, while still in contention up until Round 13, an opponent told one of my friends—whom he was playing at the time—that I was only getting lucky. I should really buy a lottery ticket at this point.

Silly people aside, I want to take a break from theory this week and look at M12 Draft in a lighter light. The set has now been out for a while now, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch it being played in various venues, including here at Nationals, and I have seen some pretty funky interactions and fun plays I wanted to share with you.

First, if you have not seen Vengeful Pharaoh in action, he is one scary beast. If you have not seen Vengeful Pharaoh in a double act with Merfolk Looter, you have not truly appreciated fear! In a set with zero graveyard hate and Oblivion Ring and Celestial Purge as the only exile effects, the continual looting of the Pharaoh into the graveyard, which results in you having the inability to attack unless you have some Hexproof guys, is just absurd! If you have a chance to play with and abuse this guy, I strongly recommend it. It is one of the most powerful yet underrated rares in the set, and I frequently seeing it being passed.

One of the judges at my local store reminded us all that the correct strategy (pinch of salt here, please) against a mill deck is to sideboard in sixty-two basic lands and the rest of your draft pool. You then need only draw your Zombie Infestation and just make Zombies the entire game. When the mill deck then goes aggro with Pentavus, simply top-deck your only possible out from your 104-card library (Act of Treason). Yeah, he was a bit lucky. The mill player decided to draw for this game and had Mana Leak in his opening hand for the Zombie Infestation—but it resolved on turn two before he had enough mana for the counterspell. Seriously, though, it is a reasonable tactic to board in extra cards against a good mill deck, especially if you had the sort of draft where you had to cut from thirty to twenty-three cards. Don’t go to extremes, though.

Call to the Grave is a very good card if you have any Zombies, some sort of token-generator, or a Reassembling Skeleton. At Nationals, I looked over at the game next to me and had to stop myself from laughing at the board state. One guy had Call to the Grave and a Throne of Empires to generate a stream of tokens to sacrifice. Seems good, except his opponent had found his Reassembling Skeleton. Yeah, not much going on there.

I personally got to live the dream with Throne, Crown, and Scepter of Empires in a casual draft I did at Nationals. I would not recommend this tactic in a serious draft. I assembled it once (and he conceded in response, so I didn’t even get to play shenanigans with it). There are definitely players guilty of having opened the Throne and then picking up all the Crowns and Scepters they see. While fun, it’s not really worth it, even though all the components are good cards. There was one match at my store where both players had a Throne on the table. And there were three Crowns in total on the board. This is, perhaps, he-who-draws-Scepter-wins?

Crumbling Colossus is an amusing card that can be made better with some nice tricks. You can Unsummon it in response to the sacrifice trigger after combat damage. You can Fling it after combat damage. You can Gravedigger it back to your hand. Most fun of all, you can draft a Sundial of the Infinite to end your turn in response to the sacrifice trigger. I haven’t seen anyone draft this yet. Please let me know if you have, because it’s such a cute interaction.

At Nationals, there was an excellent game where the winner won by damage but without dealing any via combat. It was a U/B deck. He cast Sorin's Vengeance, taking his opponent to 10 life. He then used his Elixir of Immortality to shuffle it back into his library. Next turn, he drew and then used Merfolk Looter to loot into the same Sorin's Vengeance—and won on the spot. Nice.

Warstorm Surge is a fun enough card by itself. You can imagine the fun you can have with Pentavus and this card. Also, Grave Titan is pretty big game—but then, he always is.

Grim Lavamancer is an excellent rare; however, it is often difficult to arrange for stuff to end up in your graveyard. In the absence of an opponent kindly milling you, there are a number of excellent solutions. Merfolk Looter turns your dead draws into good draws, and then you can throw the trash at your opponent’s creatures or face. Alternatively, if he’s kind enough to play a Belltower Sphinx, you can Combust it to avoid damage and generate Lavamancer fodder (I have seen this done). Isn’t it nice when opponents help you out?

There are a number of interesting interactions with Illusions in the set that I certainly have had to have pointed out to me. Goblin Bangchuckers do not have to risk their lives to kill Illusions, since they target, but then the Illusion goes away so the coin flip doesn’t happen. Arbalest Elite gets to kill attacking or blocking Illusions and still gets to untap next turn. Vengeful Pharaoh can safely kill Illusions from the graveyard and stay there. A Fireball with 1 damage divided between three targets which includes two Illusions and a 1/1 will result in the 1/1 dying as damage is divided on resolution, after the Illusions have been sacrificed.

Actually, Fireball is pretty fun. My friend (who is a judge) got to Fireball for 4 targeting a Devouring Swarm, a Jade Mage, and his opponent. In response, the opponent sacrificed the Mage to the Devouring Swarm . . . this resulted in 2 damage being dealt to the Swarm and opponent instead of just 1 to all three. Hehe. I guess being a judge is good for understanding interactions.

Okay, that’s all I can manage to think of for now. Please posting amusing stories in the comments; right now, I have to go sleep. Come back next week!

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