I recently bought a box of M19 boosters with a view to drafting them with some friends. For those of you whom I have already lost, read this then come back, it’ll explain the method of drafting Magic: the Gathering (amongst other games) and the advantages of the format. If you’re back, or if you stayed, let’s talk M19, the latest core set.
Magic’s core sets are comprised of recent and classic cards, usually returning a few basic strategies such as; Slivers, the vile swarming creatures that bolster one another; Illusions, fragile creatures that are remarkably powerful for their cost; and in this set, dragons. Here we tell the story of Magic’s other other big bad, that isn’t the Eldrazi or Yawgmoth, the planeswalking draconic mastermind Nicol Bolas, his early years, the awakening of his spark, and the butchering of his siblings.
My first draw was this card:
Fair enough, I’ve not built a decent red deck in a while, and the likelihood of the whole thing staying red was unlikely, it is a draft, you’re never in complete control of the situation. A few Havoc Devils, some Shocks and a Lava Axe or two made the decision easier, some solid damage dealing to mingle with the discarding and drawing offered by the pyromancer above. The solitary Guttersnipe made my growing collection of instant and sorcery cards far more devastating, especially as I started piling in some white cards…
Two of the cards that formed the backbone of my actual gameplay, were these:
Filling my field with enough defence, and giving them enough teeth to make me a little daunting to attack or from whom to defend. A few field control spells like Hieromancer’s Cage and Luminous Bonds made my game a little easier, but none of this, no none of it, put the target on my back bigger than these two:
Nothing upsets people quite like the amount of life you can gain by piling on the cheap creature spells. One Heroic Reinforcements gains me 3 health alongside a bit of damage dished out by a Guttersnipe, and I still have a smidge of mana left over for… let’s see now, a Viashino Pyromancer or a Trusty Packbeast to ensure that horsie goes nowhere?
We played twice, one five-point-star and one free-for-all. Other decks around the table included a hideous black/blue manipulation deck that made the game a struggle for anyone not on its side, a green/red deck which amassed some truly horrible monsters and dealt astounding amounts of damage, a three colour deck that was built around Chromium the Mutable which sadly didn’t amount to a great deal thanks to some really bad draws, and a black/white deck that proved tough to topple and brought some truly game-changing combos to the field.
So help me I cannot recall who won either game. I think I won the five-point-star post mortem, after I doomed myself to become the nemesis of half the table with some big early shots, and after my two allies beat each other to a near standstill, one resolved that he would rather see me win the game overall than see his opponent win. His Death Baron led a monstrous army of zombie tokens, not numerous, just far more potent than they ought to have been. His opponent (my ally) proved that a Vampire Neonate offering life siphoning on tap was something to be feared, alongside the Uncomfortable Chill that bolstered his defence.
Oddly, Highland Game proved the making of the green/red deck, alongside the variety of bolstering of damage from various red and green spells like Titanic Growth. Wanting to defy your friend his 2 life gained is an oddly powerful motivator considering what you end up losing. Our fifth player managed to play Chromium once, and it achieved very little before she was killed almost passively by the amount of casual damage being thrown around the table. Better luck next time, those were some bad draws.
My favourite moment came with the casting of this card:
One brief moment of glory, in which I put up a line of defence that died shortly thereafter. I built up enough health to spare me a few more rounds, put enough creatures in front of me to withstand a few attacks, but ultimately it was a brief flash of wonder before I was defeated. Worth it.
M19 In Brief
I have a lot more deck ideas to have spawned from the rest of the box once I opened it, alongside a few other recent sets, boosters, and some old favourites. I have a mill deck to entirely rebuild with a heavy discard focus because I am a sadist who likes the idea of opponents paralysed by the inability to take action. That, and my last mill deck (featuring some valuable cards) has vanished into the proverbial aether.
However, I have my mind on a deck combining all five colours, all five elder dragons (as I have them) and a lot of walls. Either that, or pull out the Dragons of Tarkir and go all out on the sky-offensive in glorious technicolour. I have an abundance of cards relating to dragons, it almost seems necessary, but I lack a few that would make it all the more entertaining.
In M19 there are a lot of possibilities, the set being a little generic does make a high quality synergy like allies seem unlikely, but there are ways and means of combining it to make for some interesting, if not outright sadistic decks. I have some work to do, but I will let you know what comes out the other side.