Simon Says #41: Madness? This is Gatecrash! (GTC 8-4)

Creative strategies can give you an edge in Magic, and limited is no exception. I have been guilty of straying off the beaten path multiple times during my career, with a few hits and a lot of misses. My approach to drafting Gatecrash defies conventional wisdom, yet is brutal in its simplicity. Check out the opening discussion for a detailed discussion of my unique approach to Gatecrash limited. Crazy? You decide.

You can follow me on Twitter @simongoertzen,
or check out my Tumblr entitled Strategic Thoughts.

  1. Great draft as always Simon! Round 3 was a real knuckle-biter. Your opponent wasn’t playing boros, he was playing a r/w control deck planning to win the late game with bombs. I bet he had had either the skirmisher or firemane angel as well. I’ve noticed myself do similar things when I have good removal and top end, but not a lot of aggression, even in typically aggressive colors, like red + anything. The trick is to commit to it. He possibly should have splashed black for some extort. Anyways, thanks for the video!

  2. Nice draft,well played:)
    I would bet quite a sum that his lat 4 cards were smite,smite ,smite ,resistance….

  3. Great content, as always. I strongly agree with the strategy of surfing as long as possible. There was one draft where I first picked Cloudfin Raptor, followed by Wrecking Ogre, One Thousand Lashes and Skarrg Guildmage. I thought I already had a pretty open-minded approach to Gatecrash but you took the idea to a whole nother level.

  4. Thanks again for the lessons! One number you mentioned in the opening discussion just blew me away, but does explain a lot. I though it interesting again this year that when you and Marshall posted your first GateCrash videos, we saw some of the “newb” mistakes we were all making with the new format. Then I see you and Marshall playing at a level so far above myself (and yourselves from the beginning of the format). But today you answered why – “so far I have played in about 50 GateCrash drafts!” WOW! I haven’t kept count, but I probably have less than a 1/4 of that number. Which made another comment of yours make sense – when you referred to playing with Tower Defense – I have yet to see that card in play – I have never put it in one of my decks, and I have never seen it played by an opponent – but if you have played in 50 GateCrash drafts, you have probably literally seen every GC card played in some fashion or another. My hats off to you, sir! Keep up the good teaching with your draft videos!

  5. awesome! Spire Tracer does a ton of work for u in all the games. I need to get some respect to those little silhana’s children. On the other hand, i was disapointed how the Incursion Specialist showed up. Definitely not as good as i would expect in a deck loaded with cheap creature spells. Anyway, good work!

  6. Great stuff, even had the action packed finish.

    I’m intrigued by your surfing strategy in Gatecrash. Following your assessment of RTR with Selesnya and Azorius being your preferred guilds and so preferring to draft white early, this isn’t something I expected at all. In fact, with Orzhov and Boros being able to support the most drafters I put a premium on drafting white cards in the first pack and picking up on signals whether to go Orzhov or Boros, similar to the way you described taking sunspire griffin in RTR. It’s a pleasant surprise to see you go in the exact opposite direction in this format, I would just like to hear more about what makes it work. Is it because there is a larger number of playables, it’s harder to splash, there are more powerful gold cards or am I way off track?

  7. Great vids, just a small thing but R3G1 you once he had ordered the blockers to have your flux mage first you could have moved a counter over to the croc giving it an extra counter while still dealing lethal to the predator

  8. Wonderful! Amazing stuff. – My favorite part… talking strategy, then mid sentence pause: “oh no, its homing lightning… ahhhhhh”

  9. @ACOwen: If I recall this right he wanted to hold up the option for Pit Fight for the possible play after attacks. At this point the +1/+1 counter was not relevant.

  10. Simon, I can’t tell you how eagerly I anticipate each new installment of your series. Thanks for providing such high quality content.

  11. Hello Simon, thanks for recording your draft. It was fun to watch, informative, and just plain awesome. Keep up the good work. I’ll look forward to the next one.

  12. I really like your videos – especially that they are available in 1080 – nice to be able to read the cards properly.

    You talk about your magic online rating. Where do I see these ratings? Would be interested in them as well.


  13. Interesting as always, and staying open is absolutely a fine approach. But I’m guessing that this means you hardly ever play the aggressive boros deck? In my experience, that is a deck that to some degree requires you to commit much earlier than the other guilds/archetypes, since some of your best commons are cheap, 2-color cards that you don’t play in other decks. Halberdiers and Skyknight in particular.

    I don’t like to draft boros myself, since it’s often an all-or-nothing situation, both in terms of drafting and the draws you can get.

  14. Thanks for your comments!

    @Chris: Yes, that sounds plausible. I wouldn’t expect Madcap Skills to show up in an R/W control deck, but I’ve learned that my opinion on this cards differs a lot from what others think.

    @Brian and everybody else: This is what I was striving for when I started recording videos two years ago. It’s great to see that my content is striking a chord :).

    @Benjamin: I was hoping that I was playing around his situational removal spells :). Thankfully my evasive draw allowed for exactly that.

    @Lantis: I’ve had many games in which the Specialist played a crucial role. Don’t count him out just because he wasn’t an all-star this draft.

    @0m3n: Yes, I’m confused myself. This strategy is in fact very different from my way of drafting RTR. Maybe there was a similar strategy in RTR which I didn’t find? Maybe you could draft GTC like I did RTR? Or is there a decisive difference in both sets which makes the different approaches more likely to succeed? I will have to give this more though.

    @ACOwen: I wanted to keep up the mana for Pit Fight just to be super safe. It’s highly unlikely that there is a way to lose this game, but I wasn’t sure. If for some reason my opponent has a way to kill me AND suspects me to move the counter, he could pass priority, wait for me to tap out and kill me. I know that’s probably a little too paranoid, but the payoff from moving the counter just wasn’t there.

    @Luminance: You can rightclick on your username in Magic Online to see it. This works in V3, I believe it is disabled in the beta version. Sometimes you can see the rating of other players as well, but that’s not intented to be working.

    @Martin: I do, but only if it’s open. That means I have to be one of at most two Boros drafters at the table, which happens less often than Simic, Dimir, or Gruul being open. However, if things work out I always get the crititical mass of playables.

  15. I practically jumped out of my chair of joy when I saw this draft come up. You are definitely the best educational drafter out there and maybe even just plain the best on youtube. Some other drafters had me ragequit watching their draft after picking an idiot card or making an obvious misplay at some point. You have never let me down. Thanks for that! :P
    All jokes aside: Thanks for making these and keep them coming.
    Question: Have you noticed there is maybe some undiscovered archetype that could be easily forced/semi-forced?

  16. In last game in the first round you were quite safe once you drew the bioshift, as another more defensive line of play would have been to leave one guy back to block his ground guys and use the bioshift to kill his swimmer in response to any tricks used on it. Attacking was a better risk though as you would have a very large ooze left otherwise.

  17. I’d be interested in seeing how this strategy plays out with a whole table full of drafters adhering to it. I know it’s often possible to settle into guild colours quite quickly with this method, but when staying open, you are often not really cutting any colours.

    Is there not a danger that all 8 players spend the first 10 picks just taking the best card and nobody ends up in a guild?!

  18. @Fishy That happens a lot in my casual playgroup, where people pick cards at least as highly for their EDH decks as for their limited deck. Awkward 4-5 color decks are the result, and one can usually capitalize by passing the offcolor bombs and sticking to a lowcurve aggro strategy.

  19. This is by far the most influencing introduction you have ever given and you proceeded to follow up by winning the draft and beating a deck that was seemingly “opposite” of what you were trying to teach… long time fan… can’t wait for the next installment :)

  20. Hey Simon,
    What are your thoughts on using this strategy at the FNM level? Does your strategy of “surfing” rely on the other players at the table making the “correct” evaluation of cards so that we can read the signals?

  21. @Freek: Regarding undiscovered archetypes, the best I can come up with is Verdant Haven-fueled multicolor control. Not completely undiscovered, but quite open nonetheless. Other than that maybe the Dimir deck which is only going for mill? I have ended up in Haven Control once, but I prefer to draft one of the five guilds.

    @Ray: Bioshift can’t kill my opponent’s Nimbus Swimmer.

    @Fishy: Interesting question, but in practice the other players will settle into guilds more quickly. If everyone at the table drafted like me the guilds would still fall into place at around pick 4 to 6, I would say.

    @FNMnoob: You do not care as much about the other players’ evaluation. If they are good, you are getting good signals, and if they aren’t, you are getting the better cards whether or not your neighbors are in your guild. The strategy I described is best when your neighbors are sticking to their first or second pick because it is exceptionally powerful and they want to play the corresponding guild as a result. Having just returned from GP Utrecht, I can say that this happens at all levels of competition :).

  22. @Ray: Bioshift can’t kill my opponent’s Nimbus Swimmer.

    Why can’t you kill his nimbus swimmer with bioshift?

    Greetings Benjamin

  23. @Benjamin: Thanks for the correction. I assumed that Ray meant for me to take the counters from the Swimmer and put them onto one of my creatures. In the last game of round 1, I don’t think that giving my opponent a 7/7 Ooze is what I want to be doing. It’s especially awkward if he doesn’t play a combat trick to make the Swimmer lethal. Good point though.
    The funny thing about the Bioshift in that exchange is that I only won because my opponent decided to chumpblock the Denizen rather than taking the trade with the Slaughterhorn. That was incredibly close!

  24. This is the first time I’ve seen Incursion Specialist be a good card. You like some cards that other good players don’t really like (Spire Tracer for example), and it’s nice to see the difference in opinion. You are also staying open longer than them, though every good player is staying open now.

    What combat tricks do find especially easy or hard to play around in Gatecrash?

    Thanks for the draft, it was informative and exciting

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