-Steve Bahnaman

Jund_Charm

Hindsight is 20/20, but I have made a concerted effort *not* to look at Bryan’s results in writing this commentary.  Starting only from the first pick without looking ahead, I’m going to redraft this myself.  To start with though, Bryan makes the good point that when you first-pick Jund Charm, you don’t exactly commit yourself as hard as some people think…in fact, you really still have three or four plans theoretically open because Naya Splash Black and, to a lesser extent, Grixis Splash Green, are options too.  Jund-based 5-color control and Jund-based control decks can both be quite strong.  So can Jund Aggro.  The 5-color control draft archetype often uses rather underdrafted Jund-based cards like Pestilent Kathari, to stall the opponent until it can start to play big beaters, and Black and Red have the most removal options in every set in the format.  Black-Red is a good base for 5-color control, and having green if Bryan does play all three of these colors heavily allows access to Druid of the Anima and Trace of Abundance.

But I wouldn’t have taken the Jund Charm.  This is a matter of preference, not a matter of power, but let me tell you why.

I am a huge Blue fan, and that can include Esper or Grixis.  I don’t prefer Bant, but I don’t fear it.  So pack 1 pick 1, I would take Couriers Capsule.  What happens then?

P1P1: Couriers Capsule over Jund Charm, Scavenger Drake, Akrasan Squire

P1P2: Sanctum Gargoyle over Vithian Stinger, Tidehollow Strix, Qasali Ambusher, Wild Nacatl
I am at this point trying to put the player to my left into Red.  I could take the Stinger but that stretches me to Grixis; may as well take the card that combos with my first pick.  At this point my lean would be W-U heavy Esper.  I could be fully 3-color Esper, depending on what comes.

P1P3: Fleshbag Marauder over Ranger of Eos, Topan Ascetic, Knight of the Skyward Eye
I have surrendered Red already and basically done so with Green, so taking a card that’s best in a W/G deck (the Ranger) seems very wrong.  I don’t want to be Bant, so it’s not Ascetic or Skyward Eye.  There might be some guy a couple picks past me that gets Squire, Nacatl, then Ranger, but that’s not my problem.  In my deck Ranger will just be a 3/2.  Fleshbag doesn’t commit me to black but it gives me something.

P1P4: Obelisk of Esper over Naya Panorama, Mosstodon, Scourge Devil
I like Mosstodon better than Scourge Devil in Bryan’s Jund build anyway, but that’s not the point.  For me this is a signal play.  I might not always play an Obelisk in an Esper deck, but it gives me a chance to send more Red-Green to my left.

P1P5: Crumbling Necropolis over Call to Heel, Dregscape Zombie, Guardians of Akrasa
The tri-land is obvious, but Call to Heel and Guardians of Akrasa are both good in Esper decks with flyers.   Call to Heel would be better, but Guardians is especially underrated here: stop a medium-sized ground creature while pumping Darklit GargoyleDregscape Zombie in my opinion is never the right pick; there are so many (like 8!) common 2-drops you want in later packs that it shouldn’t make an Esper deck.

Tidehollow_Strix

P1P6: Bant Panorama over Algae Gharial
Bryan gets a total gift here; Gharial is menacing and just won’t die, but it won’t make my deck.  Bant Panorama *could* if absolutely necessary.

P1P7: Kathari Screecher over Windwright Mage, Grixis Panorama
At the last Pro Tour, a drafter who favored Esper notably first picked one of these.  I don’t do that often but Pick 7 is very late for this guy who basically always gets in for 6.

P1P8: Tidehollow Strix
This guy is so good to come so late.

P1P9: Volcanic Submersion
I might have this played against me.  I’m surprised Bryan took Lichs Mirror over this, because it is playable.

P1P10: Grixis Battlemage
I could play this looter in a pinch anyway.  The fact I have a Crumbling Necropolis makes me slightly happy here because the red “can’t block” ability is totally useful against an Ember Weaver or whatever a green deck might have to defend against my aerial men.

P1P11: Cancel
Cancel makes this deck somewhat often: get 4 power of flyers down, wait.

P1P12: Shore Snapper
I rarely even side this guy in against blue, but sometimes I should.

At this point I have the following playables:

2-drop: Couriers Capsule, Tidehollow Strix
3-drop: Kathari Screecher, Grix Battlemage, Fleshbag Marauder , Cancel
4-drop: Sanctum Gargoyle

Land: Crumbling Necropolis, Bant Panorama
Fixer: Obelisk of Esper

I like having some fixers this early; you want to be able to draft Blades over Borderposts in Esper decks.  It’s hard to look at Pack 2 since I was intentionally shipping what Bryan was taking in almost every case, but we can be fairly sure at least that I’d get (we can assume pretty well that if White or Blue cards made it to Bryan who was passing them, they’d get to me)

Martial_Coup

P2P1: Martial Coup.  This is less awkward for me than for Bryan, but luck is luck. Martial Coup is an absolute shining bomb, and probably the best single card in the limited format.

P2P2: Gleam of Resistance.  I love this card in Esper: it’s a mass-removal hoser that fixes with the landcycling AND often gets in the last 3 points of damage.  It also turns your always-tapped flyers into a powerful and surprising defensive force in the damage race.  It’s super good in this deck.  Esper decks benefit heavily from their *flexibility* in addition to their relentless flying attack. Tidehollow Strix is a 2-damage flying aggro dude and a kind of removal spell. Gleam of Resistance has 4 uses, all of which are game-changing. Sanctum Gargoyle can keep you on offense by getting back a Strix (any Strix will do), get you more cards with a Couriers Capsule, or recycle a bomb. Call to Heel can net you explosive card advantage with a Gargoyle, bounce that last blocker, or nullify a combat trick. Flexibility is the most underrated thing about the Esper deck, and Gleam of Resistance fits very nicely.

P2P3: Faerie Mechanist.

P2P4: Wretched Banquet or Traumatic Visions.

P2P5: Parasitic Strix.

P2P6: Drag Down (if it still gets to us) or Unsummon Unsummon is good with Sanctum and Strix and Alchemist.  It’s also like a Time Walk for your opponent sometimes.  Even with the new rules it’s fine.
etc., etc., on Pack 2. It’s hard to see the last few picks as valid since the player to my left may have been color-forced by our choices.

Pack 3 would probably look roughly the same.

P3P1: Sewn-Eye DrakeBituminous Blast is insane, obviously, but I want to be able to play it soon rather than wait for the mana to cast it off of a fixer.  I don’t like to overcomplicate my Esper decks.

P3P2: Glassdust Hulk.  With a a fair number of artifacts in the deck, he’s an unblockable 4-power that acts as the curve-topper for Esper.

P3P3: Crystallization.  One reason I like being in White is that these tend to come fairly late and fill the removal hole that White decks often have.

P3P4: Deny Reality.  A good play: bounce your Pale Recluse, swing for 5.

P3P5: Shield of the Righteous.  An artifact that I might play; it’s good in decks with 2/3 flyers.

Ethersworn_Shieldmage

P3P6: Thopter Foundry.  Thanks guys! This card comes frequently and makes Esper even more flexible. It’s a Devouring Greed in some cases, and turns your opponent’s removal spells into bad permanent Humbles.

P3P7: Ethercaste Knight.  I have no idea what that Glory of Warfare is still doing in the pack, but you have to build your own deck. Ethercaste blocks some 2-drops and pumps some fliers.

P3P8: Ethersworn Shieldmage.  So late!

P3P9: The Sewn-Eye Drake tables in Bryan’s draft, mocking me.

P3P10: I am wondering whether the Deny Reality should table, but I’ll play 2.

P3P11: Esper SojournersTwiddle-draw is a totally valid 3-mana trick.

P3P12: My Deny Reality tables too?  Guess I should’ve taken the Ardent Plea or something? Nah.

I don’t like my deck better than Bryan’s, necessarily, but I do like my deck, especially with a few more cards from Conflux in my colors (which would have been there).  Many drafts, especially in Alara block where color combinations are so key, could have been 2 or 3 drafts, all of which could have been good.  I could have first-picked the Akrasan Squire and had a pretty good G/W aggro deck.

Neither of us really makes a bad choice with our first pick.  Throughout this format he’s tended to prefer black-red while I’ve tended to prefer blue-based decks.  There is a comfort-level situation to this.  Drafting an archetype you’re comfortable with makes you more likely to *play* correctly: what to bounce, what to block, what to kill before it does 8 damage over 4 turns, whether you’re going to outrace.  I’ll draft anything, but your preferences do have actual value beyond subjectivity.  You’re going to pick up more undervalued cards in colors you play more often because you understand them better.  And again, you’re also going to play better with decks you’ve played before, just like in constructed.

The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that so much of what archetypes or colors are the best, or what decks you draft that are the strongest of all, is totally luck-based.  Whatever happened in this draft, we were going to open a Martial Coup.  We were going to get passed what we got passed because of our right-sided drafters’ abilities, deficiencies, and preferences.  My Esper deck tends to be better set up mana-wise for a Coup than Bryan’s, but that isn’t a good decision on my part.  Just lucky.  His deck is ready for the Bituminous Blast and I have to take a way worse card, but that’s not a bad decision.  Just unlucky.