Windmill Slam: Battle for Zendikar Draft #3

Denis pours himself a tall one (of apple juice) and tackles his BFZ-demons solo.

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  1. Without any spoiler, you are just crazy on that Denis. :P

    Granted, I haven’t watched the games so it could go great for you, but it is not the deck I would have tried to make.

    Additionally, as has been noted, I am bad at magic, so who cares what I think? :P

  2. Great Quality there Denis. two draft videos instead of a round one. Dont quit your day job

  3. Passing the sharpshooter first pick (and again when it wheeled! it WHEELED!) was 100% wrong. That card makes combat a nightmare for your opponent as long as you have five mana up, and it can double as removal against white or red decks that rely on X/1s.

    Not playing Ulamog is also crazy in my view – like you said, you win the game if you ever cast it. Plus, you could’ve built your deck in such a way as to reliably stall out the game, and draw him with Oracle of Dust.

  4. Hi Denis,
    Hoo boy, well, you asked for it (repeatedly), and I have a slow day at work, so I watched your draft in great detail and wrote the fucking Encyclopedia Britannica over here. I really love your content and I do think I can identify a lot of your problems with the format. I hope this is taken as the constructive criticism as which it is meant.
    A few things before we really get into it:
    A disclaimer – I am best described as an intermediate magic player. I play draft FNMs and just tons of MTGO Swiss queues. At FNM there are four guys (including me) that each win the draft about 23% of the time. My match win rate at FNM is about 70% in most sets. I only very occasionally play 8-4’s online as I’m not much of a gambler, but I play ~120 swiss drafts of most sets. On average through the last 4 sets, I win just over 60% of my matches. In BFZ so far I am at 63%, but that includes a tear of 76% over the last 20 drafts I’ve done. I also had a lot of trouble figuring out this format, but I really feel like I’ve got the hang of it now. So take my advice with the appropriate measure of salt you feel is warranted by that information.
    Second, the general observations: I think you need to have a clear personal understanding of which decks are worth going for in the format.
    My list has two “families” of good decks:
    The Esper Decks (U/W Skies, W/B Control, U/B Devoid, and the Esper Control deck which is white-based and “splashes” one or both of the other two colors – W/U/b being the most common configuration I’ve had). These decks want early blockers, evasion, and spells that give card advantage.
    The Grixis Decks – of these I feel R/B is by far the worst. Aggression is rarely good in the format, but if there’s a deck that pulls it off, it’s R/B devoid. You’ll notice U/B devoid overlaps the previous category. What this means in general is that Blue is the safest color to start with by far – three of its decks are great.
    Then there’s the medium deck: Naya Allies (or some subset thereof, but basically always including white). This deck can really come together, and it can really fall apart. Usually you get into this by taking some white removal spells early and then a pile of Ally uncommons no one wants falls into your lap. Then it can be… okayyyyy. But you can still braw your deck in the wrong order. This deck is much better against the grixis family than the Esper family, which has access to lots of walls and lifegain. Once your opponent has withstood the crazy six-rally-trigger turn, if they are still alive, you’re probably gonna lose. You’re paying 5 mana for 2/1s and 2/2s. You can also never ever ever beat the card Rising Miasma, and a sideboarded Roilmage’s Trick (which there always seem to be seventeen of) completely eats your breakfast.
    The rest of the green decks are garbage. Just so so bad. I will admit I have lost to a super-nut R/G landfall deck, and also that I once won a draft with a Bant Control deck that really really wished it was an Esper Control deck. Other than that, through 87 drafts so far, I’ve never seen any of these decks perform even sort of adequately. Particularly don’t play the B/G sacrifice deck. It doesn’t do anything.
    This leads me to the general criticism of your draft strategy. I think you strongly overvalue every card with aggressive qualities. I think you thoroughly overvalue poor removal that doesn’t address the problems your deck is going to have. I think you criminally undervalue card advantage in this format. And I think you focus on filling your curve too early rather than taking powerful but speculative picks while you wait for information about which deck is open. Synergy, evasion, and card advantage are the keys to this format. Curve and tempo are things to think about once the pillars of your deck are stable.
    So, here we go: I went through every one of your picks and commented on the draft. I am a crazy person.
    P1P1 – I would actually go ahead and take the Sunken Hollow here. Basically, here’s my thought on first picks in BFZ draft: the format is so synergistic that I think you should expect to play your first pick less than 20% of the time. You can’t simply jam your first pick into a deck of whatever cards you can make it work with. You absolutely must read the signals coming from your right. Given that, I will take a 1 ticket rare over any non-rare card with the following exceptions.
    Uncommon: Angel of Renewal, Bane of Bala Ged, Coastal Discovery, Dampening Pulse, Deathless Behemoth, Drana’s Emissary, Grip of Desolation, Halimar Tidecaller, Hedron Archive, Retreat to Emeria, Roil Spout, Rolling Thunder, Ruination Guide, Stasis Snare, Vile Aggregate, Windrider Patrol
    Common: Benthic Infiltrator, Clutch of Currents, Complete Disregard, Eldrazi Skyspawner, Ghostly Sentinel, Gideon’s Reproach, Nettle Drone
    All of these are either A) Premium removal, especially 2-for-1 removal like Grip, Rolling Thunder, or Roil Spout – or very efficient, flexible, instant-speed removal. B) Great colorless or splashable cards that go in a wide variety of decks – Bane of Bala Ged, Coastal Discovery, Dampening Pulse, etc. or C) Cards that are one of the absolute cards in one of the absolute best decks – Halimar Tidecaller, Drana’s Emissary, Vile Aggregate.
    On to why I would specifically NOT take Outnumber – Look, this card is objectively a good card. I’m not denying that. But it’s never going to be one of your absolute top cards unless you are in a bad deck – it’s R/G landfall (to kill early blockers) and Naya Allies (lots of cheap creatures and tokens) that want this. In other decks, the card does between 2 and 4 damage, but the creatures with 2-4 toughness are not what the good red decks (ie the red devoid decks) fear – the aggressive R/B decks can force favorable trades and the U/R deck blocks midsize dudes all day. These decks want more consistent removal that is not as situational, so it can for sure pick off the one relevant threat – Stonefury and Touch of the Void are the go-to red removal spells.
    If I wasn’t taking the rare here, I would take Tightening Coils – the Blue decks really like to knock a thing out of the air, and can have some trouble with things like Deathless Behemoth, against which the coils are great. It’s not that I think coils are better than Outnumber, but coils is better in the blue BFZ decks than outnumber is in the red ones.
    I do not thing Hagra Sharpshooter is anywhere near the running. It does so very close to nothing.

    P1P2 – Rare missing, no information to be had. Touch of the Void is a great card and is probably the pick, whether you first-picked Outnumber, Tightening Coils, or Sunken Hollow. Sludge Crawler is also a consideration for me, especially in the world where I took Sunken Hollow or Tightening Coils – if the U/B devoid train is boarding at your seat, get on.
    P1P3 – This pack is missing an uncommon and a rare, and the other two uncommons are junk; still no information to be had. I think the sentinel is a good choice.
    P1P4 – Again missing only uncommons and a rare. This is a rough pack. I think I would lean towards the evolving wilds as well. Had my picks gone Hollow, Touch, Sentinel, I would also strongly consider Silent Skimmer, a good piece of reach for the R/B devoid deck.
    P1P5 – OK, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen you pick Salvage Drone, refer to it as a good card, and play it in your deck. Let’s talk about Salvage Drone. A loot on death is nice, but you still lost a card. Here is a list of the non-rare turn 2 plays that DO NOT blank a Salvage Drone: Anticipate, Coralhelm Guide, Kor Castigator, Rot Shambler. Everything else can either block it, attack through it, or (in one case) send 3/1 tramplers at it and also force it to stay back to hold off its own attack. I believe it is blanked by every three-drop in the set. So we’re talking about a card that has 0-1 turns of usefulness on the draw or 1-2 on the play. This card is awful. If you take nothing else from this ridiculous goddamn novel I’m writing, Please, Please, Please don’t play this card anymore. I would take Spell Shrivel here – It’s actually a MORE effective and reliable processing enabler. And while it’s not a GREAT late-game topdeck, it’s certainly preferable to the turn-10 Salvage Drone off the top nutpunch. Note that this is the first pack it’s possible to deduce a missing common, which is either Complete Disregard or Demon’s Grasp; I’m inclined to say it was a disregard we are missing, given that it was someone’s fourth pick or higher. For my source here see
    P1P6 – This pack is missing 3 commons, at least one of which is red. Notably it includes two very solid white commons and one OK white common. It is very unlikely another white common is missing from this pack. It is probably missing a Kozilek’s Channeler and/or Benthic Infiltrator. At this point I would be very skeptical about the openness of the devoid decks. I would strongly consider taking the Courier Griffin with an eye towards U/W fliers or Esper Control. That seems the most open to me at this point. At this point my pool would be Hollow, Touch, Sentinel, Wilds, Shrivel. My thought process is about leaning towards the archetype that is the best COMBINATION of power and openness. All that said, I think with your picks right now leaning heavily toward devoid, in the real world of your draft, the Mist Intruder is the correct pick, but you should be about ready to jump ship.
    P1P7 – This is the tightening coils in every world. Great card to get 7th. Common run information is hazy at this point, it’s missing a blue Run A card, probably Clutch of Currents, a green Run A card, I’m guessing Tajuru Stalwart, and another card from Run A or C1, ie a black, blue, or green card.
    P1P8 – Can’t analyze this pack too well card-by-card but it’s nonetheless clear to me — I believe this is the point at which you NEED to jump ship. Red is not coming through for you. Devoid is not coming through for you. At this point, even given your previous picks, you should take Fortified Rampart. It’s a really sweet card in this set. Completely shuts down early game. Costs two mana. Just a sweet card. At this point my picks are Hollow, Touch, Sentinel, Wilds, Shrivel, Griffin, Coils. I toss out the Sentinel and the Touch, take the Rampart, and feel GREAT about my start on U/W fliers or Esper Control. From here on out, though, your picks affect what is left and my universe diverges sharply from yours. A word on Coralhelm Guide – it is not a “solid card”. I don’t feel AS strongly here as about Salvage Drone, but I think the Guide is BAD. I only would play it in a deck that I felt REALLY didn’t get there but had, like, Deathless Behemoth and Ulamog’s Despoiler or something. The body is blanked soooo fast and the ability just eats your turn and lets your opponent get ahead unless they are already very close to dead. Reach is not what the blue decks hurt for.
    P1P9 – This was a junky pack to start with. Looming Spires is correct, I think, given all your previous picks. There’s nothing in this pack specifically that makes me want to switch if I haven’t already. Note the Kalastria Nightwatch still here from a bad pack; that card is very very good.
    P1P10 – Incubator drone is the pick. If Kalastria Healer is there in my reality I take that.
    P1P11 – Invoker is correct. Invoker is love. Invoker is life. In my universe I gank it.
    P1P12 – Nothing here for you. Felidar Cub in my timeline maybe.
    P1P13 – Scour, yep yep.
    P1P14/15 – Nothing. So, at this point, assuming all cards wheel the same, in my world you have a Sunken Hollow, an Evolving Wilds, a Spell Shrivel, a Courier Griffin, a Tightening Coils, a Fortified Rampart, a Kalastria Nightwatch, a Kalastria Healer, a Felidar Cub, and a Scour from Existence. Six good playable spells in Esper, two fixers for Esper, a lifegain subtheme, two more filler playables if I need them, two evasive threats, a removal spell (2 if you count the aforementioned filler playable, Scour), a counterspell, and $1.50. Seems like a good start. Pack two of course this is less applicable since you would be passed different cards had you passed different cards.
    P2P1 – Yeah, you take a foil Ulamog. Of course.
    P2P2 – You’re underselling Adverse Conditions. It doesn’t look good, but it is good. I can’t really articulate EXACTLY why, but it’s just a nice little package for this set. Unexciting but pretty good.
    P2P3 – Murk Strider, yep yep. Hopefully in my universe, Gideon’s Reproach.
    P2P4 – I would take another Coils (or Medic in the Esper timeline), but Spawning Bed is close.
    P2P5 – I agree with the Spell Shrivel. In my universe I actually take Ruin Processor to go with my previous Spell Shrivel and my Kalastria Nightwatch.
    P2P6 – I definitely think you should take a second Invoker here. I think you’re way overvaluing Valakut Predator and I think it’s part of your general overvaluing of aggressive cards. Predator just loses so much value after about turn 5. A second Invoker is not insane but I like it better than Predator. Note the Shadow Glider here for my deck, maybe.
    P2P7 – Benthic Infiltrator is the pick.
    P2P8 – This is where aggression is really calling you. Don’t go there! Sliderunner is bad. In your deck I take Sure Strike. It’s OK. It probably lives in the board, but sided in against foolish and headstrong opponents when they attack a bunch of stuff into your blockers.
    P2P9 – Oh man I wish you were in my deck to take the Cloud Manta. It absolutely does not go in U/R devoid though. So there’s nothing here for you. Note how absent the red cards are; I think you’re red drafter #3 at this table.
    P2P10 – Nothing. Junk pack. Roilmage’s trick is sideboardable in the control decks.
    P2P11-15 – Garbage. I agree with your garbage picks.
    P3P1 – Oh my god the nuts for my deck! Noyan DARRRRRRR! But you take Nettle Drone, and that’s 100% correct.
    P3P2 – Clutch is the pick. Nice pickup.
    P3P3 – OK, I said the thing earlier about how if you take one thing from this goddamn tome, it’s “don’t play Salvage Drone”, and that still stands. But if you take 2 things – if you think there might be an island in your deck, DO NOT PASS Coastal Discovery. I think this is like the single greatest example of your misunderstanding of the format. Card advantage is ridiculous important, and 4/4s are ridiculous good. I would take it over every non-rare except Grip of Desolation, and unlike Grip, it’s splashable. Take this carddddddd.
    P3P4 – Oh Jesus it hurts so bad. You passed two consecutive Coastal Discovery. Jesus Lord. I’ve had the double-discovery deck. It is freakin’ unbeatable.
    P3P5 – I dunno if I would call Cryptic Cruiser a good card per se. It needs a lot of help to not be a hill giant. I’m pretty sure hill giants are garbage in this set. You should take either Tightening Coils or Kozilek’s Sentinel. It’s pretty close.
    P3P6 – Vestige or Oracle are each fine. Note the Ghostly Sentinel here for my sweeeeet Esper Control deck with two Coastal Discoveries and a Noyan Dar. Also the Healer.
    P3P7 – Sweet Mist Intruder. That’s the pick in my deck too, remember that I supposedly picked a Ruin Processor.
    P3P8 – I think you should have taken a second Adverse Conditions. I’ve covered my thoughts on all the cards you consider in the pack. Not to beat a dead horse but you should have been in Esper and taken a Courier Griffin.
    P3P9/P10 – Two more Cloud Mantas for me, nothing for you.
    P3P11 – I wouldn’t put anticipate in the board just yet, I’d play 3 of them before I’d play my first Valakut Predator, Salvage Drone, or Coralhelm Guide.
    P3P12 – It probably doesn’t make my hypothetical deck, but note the Vampiric Rites super late. It’s a better card than it looks. Remember Shadows of the Past? It’s kinda like that.
    P3P13-15 – Nothing here
    I think my criticism of your deckbuilding would be pretty much a rehash of thinks that have been quite thoroughly hashed. So I’ll skip on that. I also have not yet watched the rounds, but I usually think your play skill is fine and your lines are good. I think the problem is in your drafting of the set. I think you need to get an aggressive mindset and “solid cards” out of your head and focus on finding the deck (not the colors) that is open at your seat.
    I hope this hasn’t been too harsh, though I know for sure it has been too long. I really enjoy your content and I’m sad to see you having so much trouble. I hope this was helpful to you.