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Out in Milan, Up in FNM

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I didn’t win GP: Milan.

I tried; I even reached Day 2, which means I am one of the first people to draft Innistrad in a competition. While Wizards of the Coast has rules in place about how drafting works with the double-faced cards, a lot of people have been curious about how it will actually pan out. Therefore, I bring you a report of what happened.

It was decided at the GP that we would be allowed thirty seconds at the start of each booster—after counting the cards in the pack—to show our double-faced cards to the rest of the table so that no one had an unfair advantage. We could not pass them around or talk, so, if you didn’t have the art memorized, tough luck. However, I think most people will recognize the key ones. Cue thirty seconds of people desperately craning their heads to see cards at the other end of the table. It all seemed to work out fine, though, and it led to a very informative first pick. If the person next to you opened Mayor of Avabruck, for example, he will almost certainly take it, so picking a non-Green card from your pack is advisable.

Interestingly, some Transform cards went around longer than I thought they deserved. I believe there are a number of reasons for this. People were reluctant to broadcast which colors they were picking, and they were also using the double-faced cards to decipher who else was in their color. The second point will, I think, actually become quite defining for this Draft format as it matures.

During the actual drafting process, it was tricky to observe who took which card. The judges asked us to place our picks twenty centimeters in front of us so that our selection could be clearly seen. However, to avoid disqualification from peeking, you could only really observe the person in front of you, the people to your left or right while passing (if you were careful), and the people opposite them. However, this is actually a lot of stuff to be observing, especially given that you also need to be considering your own picks. I didn’t see as much as I could have. This does mean the people on the ends receive a lot less information than someone centrally located. I drafted in both positions at the GP, and far preferred the center seat; if there is information to be had, I will gladly take it.

Well, I think that was everything of note about how the draft process was performed differently and how people’s actions differed because of it. I have to say, it’s mildly terrifying knowing that someone got two Ludevic's Test Subjects. When I mentioned this to my friend, he pointed out that my double–Sever the Bloodline was far more scary. I guess ignorance is bliss.

As my Bant Pod article went down so well two weeks ago, I thought I would return to it. I got to play the list for the second time last Friday at FNM. I made some changes from last time. Some I liked, and I now have a much better idea of where to take the deck next. RDW is, by far, the worst matchup for the deck, and with so much of it around in the meta, some thought needs to go into how to beat it.

Here is the list I ran:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Acidic Slime

1 Archon of Justice

1 Frost Titan

1 Kessig Cagebreakers

1 Razor Hippogriff

1 Skaab Ruinator

1 Sun Titan

2 Avacyn's Pilgrim

2 Fiend Hunter

2 Mentor of the Meek

2 Phantasmal Image

3 Viridian Emissary

4 Birds of Paradise

1 Peace Strider

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Spellskite

1 Wurmcoil Engine

2 Phyrexian Metamorph

1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

1 Thrun, the Last Troll

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

3 Beast Within

4 Birthing Pod

[/Spells]

[Lands]

2 Island

2 Plains

6 Forest

2 Moorland Haunt

3 Hinterland Harbor

4 Razorverge Thicket

4 Seachrome Coast

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Acidic Slime

1 Azure Mage

1 Grand Abolisher

1 Tree of Redemption

1 Viridian Corrupter

2 Trinket Mage

1 Spellskite

1 Sylvok Replica

3 Naturalize

3 Nihil Spellbomb

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

The main change from last week is the addition of Mentor of the Meek. I saw them in a Bant Pod list somewhere (I can’t remember where; I’m sorry for not giving credit), and I thought they seemed pretty sweet . . . but maybe too cute. The list I found was running a full playset, but I thought I would go with just two.

I cut the Ponders from the deck. This made me sad, but it was probably right. Most of the time, I’d see a card I wanted with two lands. With fewer shuffle effects, it’s hard to avoid the two dead draws. Since I wanted room for more creatures, Ponder had to go.

There was some interesting discussion on my previous Pod article about 5-drops. Precursor Golem and Kessig Cagebreakers were the main candidates. I love Precursor Golem; however, with Red in full bloom at the moment, I don’t think he makes it. Unless you draw him naturally so that you can Pod him away, I think he will too often die to an Incinerate and take his friends down with him. Kessig Cagebreakers, on the other hand, has a nice chunky back-end, and the power to potentially end games in one swing seems strong.

I thought I would try a couple of Fiend Hunters in the main deck, since he had impressed me last time. Thrun also received a main-deck upgrade, and Frost Titan is back! I cut the Beast Withins back to three copies, since you don’t want to draw duplicates too often.

The sideboard changed greatly, though it ended up skewed accidentally in one direction. A lot of graveyard, artifact, and enchantment hate, and not much else.

How did it go? Well, I ended up going 3–1–1. My loss was to RDW, and my draw was against a Burning Vengeance deck. I beat another RDW, Humans/Spirits Weenies, and U/B control. Best play of the night was Podding into Kessig Cagebreakers in turn three of extra time in order to swing in for 29 damage on turn five to take the match to a draw. Given that my opponent was on 20 life, it was the only conceivable way I could win that game.

Mentor of the Meek was amazing! On more than one occasion, I celebrated its awesomeness by Cloning it. It combines well with Cagebreakers, Sun Titan, and even Moorland Haunt to give you some sick card advantage. If I got more than one card from it, I basically won the game.

Skaab Ruinator performed badly for me. I kept drawing it naturally, which is awful, and the non-synergy between it, Moorland Haunt, Cagebreakers, and Sun Titan all started to grate too much. With my new desire to cut the Ruinator, I have decided that my motivation to stay in Blue has gone. It is time to move to warm climes and go with Red!

I never need much excuse to run Red in a deck. What good cards do we get for moving to warmer climes? Inferno Titan is a shoo-in. I love this guy; he loves to own Weenies and close out games fast. We also get to play Daybreak Ranger. Brian Kibler was the first to get excited about this card, and it is catching on. We can also run some main-deck Arc Trails to help us with those pesky Red decks.

Speaking of RDW, how are we going to beat it? Arc Trail will certainly help, but I think we need more than that—in the sideboard if nothing else. Timely Reinforcements is a card we can—and should—be playing. RDW has learned not to simply lose to it, but they still hate it. Wurmcoil Engine needs to stay in the main deck. I tried Tree of Redemption, and it was . . . okay. Nothing more than that. One game, I Cloned it, and then I just got confused about who had what number. We may also want to try some Vulshok Refugees in the sideboard. He is, sadly, a Human, but he’s still pretty awesome against Red. Especially since opponents probably won’t remember to bring in their Perilous Myrs to deal with him. There is also the need to cut down on the 1-mana dudes that just die and leave us mana-screwed, so we need to run more lands instead.

Here is a list I have put together. It is currently untested, but I’m excited about it nonetheless.

I like this deck, and I look forward to getting to try it out soon. Let me know if you like it, and happy Podding!

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