Thursday, March 14, 2013

Weekly Local Draft: Losing with Borzhov

You often learn more from failure than from success. At least, you hope you do. Last night was my first losing record in a live Gatecrash draft, going 1-3. Sometimes you can just blame variance, and I certainly had some of that going on, but it wasn't the whole story. Getting better at a game with inherent variance requires being able to determine the extent to which the results were based on luck or decisions. Last night I made some bad decisions (primarily in the draft portion), but they were also a function of some bad luck.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, my P1P1 was a Boros Reckoner, very much a bomb in Limited. Ideally I wanted to go Boros. If you pick a bomb pack 1 that sets you along a particular path, it can be difficult to jump ship, but sometimes you need to. The problem was that the draft to my immediate right was also Boros. The reason I didn't pick up on this fact until early pack 3 (and by then it was far too late to switch) was that our draft pool had an unusually high concentration of red cards, which were flowing quite nicely. I picked up multiple Muggings, Massive Raids, and 2 Cinder Elementals. The problem was that by pack 3 I was sorely lacking in creatures (I had 10), especially the key 2-drops Boros needs to be really aggressive. I had picked up 1 Wojek Halberdiers and 1 Skyknight Legionnaire in Pack 2, but that's all I ended up with by the end of the draft. And that didn't cut it. My curve was much higher than I wanted, and I was forced to splash black to get up to 16 creatures. Ideally I want around 18 creatures in my Boros decks, with a high number of 2 and 3-drops.

In a lot of ways, this draft was like the online one from the last post. Strong bigger bombs set me into particular colors and I had problems filling out the bottom of my curve. So, some potential lessons learned:

  • Prioritize cheaper creatures earlier in aggro decks, even to the exclusion of removal (especially mediocre removal).
  • Don't get wedded to a guild based on a first pick. I actually evenly drafted black, white, and red in pack 1, ready to move in on Orzhov if it happened, but unfortunately it was cut pretty hard pack 2.
  • Do a better job at reading signals. The flow of red made me think Boros was reasonably open, but it was a bit of a false signal, since no multicolor Boros cards were coming through. I wish I had a record of the pack contents, because I think I missed a very clear signal that Gruul was wide open. We had no Gruul drafters in our pod at the end of the draft, so there must have been some green signals I missed in pack 1. I know I wasn't passed a Gruul guildmage, or a Rampager, or even a Gruul Charm early because those would have been clear signals, so they must have been more subtle.
However, it's possible that Pack 1 was just weak on Gruul and the signal was not strong enough to catch. These are definitely points to be mindful of, though. Especially prioritizing creatures. I do best with aggro decks with high creature counts, so deviating from the conventional wisdom that removal is almost always better than a reasonably efficient but unexciting creature (like a bear) is probably a good idea.

Overall I think my play was solid. Match 1 was heartbreaking, as I won Game 1, then my opponent came back from a 35-point life differential (I was at 36, while he was at 1) to win the game. I then mulliganed into a very mediocre 5-card hand and failed to draw anything in game 3. 

Matches 2 and 3 were both to solid decks, but I saved a complete rout by winning my last match 2-1. Overall my deck was simply clunky and slow, far too much so to be an effective Boros deck. I pulled a couple of money cards (the Reckoner and a Godless Shrine), so the draft was paid for, but ideally I'd like to win. Perhaps this was mostly just variance catching up with me. I've done very well in Gatecrash so far. But I'm sure there were some things, especially in the draft portion, that I could have done better, so I'll keep those in mind going forward.

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