This week’s a bit of a grab bag—or, as they say in the provinces, a pot-au-feu—but mainly we’re going to be taking a look at how the Dragon’s Maze Limited format is shaping up, based on some recent results of mine.

Here’s the nut graf: I really love this format. Also: I hate Fatal Fumes. Man that card is frustrating. Sure, sometimes it kills a Truefire Paladin or a guildmage and you’re pleased as punch, but at other times it’s an awkward-to-set-up removal spell that, oddly enough—in a format with bloodrush—leaves YOU open to a two-for-one, rather than the other way around, as a god’s-honest removal spell should.

A few weeks ago, on the day before the SCG Open team sealed event in New Jersey, I drafted with some Twenty-Sided regulars at the home of Mark Burstiner and his lovely girlfriend (and pup). (Thanks Mark!) It was a lovely day for an outdoor draft. I first-picked a Far // Away and went pretty firmly thereafter into Esper, finishing up 3-0 before taking off to see Mud, directed by my friend and fellow Arkansan Jeff Nichols, at the new movie theater in Williamsburg. Never thought I’d see the day. (Also, Mud is really good. Go see it. NB: I did not grow up quite how the kids in Mud did, but I know folks who did.)

A still from Mud.

A still from Mud.

After a couple of weeks on the bench from Twenty Sided, due to travel and other commitments, I got back on the horse this past Friday night, just sneaking in under the wire to draft. I had learned at Emerald Knights in Cali that an unopposed two-color strategy can pretty much roll over anything else on the table. So after being placed in a pod with Rob C., Derek, Chase, Micah, and Nick; and being presented with a Tajic, Blade of the Legion staring back out at me in pack one; I slammed Tajic and never looked back.

It helped that Nick promptly shipped me a foil Warleader’s Helix—which he of course hated to do, and said as much—thus cementing me in Boros. Here’s how the deck turned out:


A few notes on signaling: In a typical triple-set draft, the signals you send—meaning the cards you ship to your left—are not nearly as important as the signals you are receiving from your right. Why? It’s simple: All the packs are the same, and you will be getting one pack from your right and two from your left. Two > one. Make sense?

But full-block Dragon’s Maze is quite a different animal. Why? Because there are five guilds in Gatecrash and five guilds in Return to Ravnica—so if you start your draft by cutting Boros, Gruul, Orzhov, Dimir, or Simic hard, that makes it much more likely that you will be passed powerful gold cards in your guild from your left in pack two.

Similarly, you can plan ahead by the signals you are receiving. If you are in Boros—having, say, first-picked a Viashino Firstblade, which is a fine first pick—but you notice you also are getting passed good green or white cards, you can potentially plan ahead to be in Naya: Boros and Selesnya (with an emphasis on Boros, b/c of the reversal of the draft flow order in pack two) in Dragon’s Maze; Boros in Gatecrash; and back to Selesnya in Return to Ravnica. It’s complicated, but you see what I’m getting at.

Jones 'n' Bones in the back room.

Jones ‘n’ Bones in the back room.

But what happens if you open or get passed one of those bonkers three-color fuse cards in Dragon’s Maze, and really want to take it? Depending on which it is, I think you take it—but be aware of the path it’s sending you down.

Take Beck // Call, for instance—a stone bomb, I think, though I haven’t yet had the pleasure to play it. B // C is white, blue, and green. So what guild do you prioritize cutting in pack one? Simic, while keeping an eye out to see whether or not Azorius or Selesnya seem to be flowing from your right. If you can tell—and you can’t always, given that Dragon’s Maze is an all-over-the-place, 10-guild set, but try—note which color combo seems to be flowing better, so that in Gatecrash you can try to heighten that signal in pack three (RTR) by cutting cards of those colors.

Same thing goes for Flesh // Blood, a Jund-colored card which isn’t necessarily a first pick, though it could be: If you take F // B, cut Gruul and keep an eye out for whether Rakdos or Golgari are flowing better in pack one; then snap up Gruul cards in pack two and cut what black cards you can as you pass to the right.

Monique grinding it out.

Monique grinding it out.

Like I said, it’s complicated—and things get even more complex when you are thinking about first-picking, say, a Return to Ravnica–guilded card, such as Lavinia, Exava, Varolz, Melek/Izzet (not that you would), or Emmara (ditto). You probably just go ahead and slam one of the first three anyway, but I think then you want to switch immediately into cutting a Gatecrash guild, and just leave L., E., or V. to chill out until they get backup in pack three. Otherwise it’s just going to be all backwards.

And but so: Prior to that long dissertation on signaling, I was talking about my Boros draft deck at 20SS last Friday. If memory serves—I didn’t take notes on these games—I took rounds one and two, against Micah and Chase, respectively, relatively easily. If you have a strong and aggressive two-color deck, you really can just roll over those people who are doing somewhat more durdly, three-or-more-color stuff.

Micah styling.

Micah V.

Chase keeping it cool.

Chase C.

In the finals I get paired up against all-around good dude Derek Heaton, who was on Golgari with white. We each took a game, Derek dropping Lotleth Troll—man, that card is so frustrating in Limited—pretty much on T2 each game, and so it all came down to game three, which was a heartbreaker and a nailbiter.

The great Derek Heaton.

The great Derek H.

Derek mulled to four on the draw, and of course I thought I had it in the bag. I start with 2X Chainwalkers, unleashed, while D. slams LOL Troll on turn two or three. I swing in with the ‘walkers while he doesn’t have B up for regen, and Derek takes six. I have Frostburn Weird and Massive Raid in hand. So I go to Raid Derek’s troll while he has three cards in hand, thinking that he will have to discard his whole hand to save troll, and even only then if he has three creatures in hand.

But I screwed up. I didn’t think about how Massive Raid was going to two damage max, not three—I had it in my head as Annihilating Fire, which it’s not—and then D. discarded two creatures (the Lure elf and another scavenger) to save and grow his troll.

After that the board got mad clogged, and the troll got scavenged onto to make it a 6/5—but D. couldn’t really attack, as I had a bunch of threatening creatures. D. eventually got out Zarichi Tiger, as well, and started gaining two life per turn while I was hitting him for three in the air with Steeple Roc. I also realized at some point that D. had Ready // Willing in hand, which he’d blown me out with in G1, and the mana to fuse it.

Eventually I draw my second raid, with seven creatures on the board. Derek is at nine life. I swing in with Roc, dropping him to six, and move to pass the turn—at which point, as expected, Derek activates Tiger, and I respond with Raid for seven.

The board not long before I went for the win with Massive Raid No. 2.

The board not long before I went for the win with Massive Raid No. 2.

D. thinks for a long time and finally figures out the play—he casts Ready with extort, untapping his Tiger and putting him to seven life. And then, fatally, he activates Tiger again, going up to nine life. Then Raid resolves, dropping him to two, and then his first Tiger activation resolves, putting him up to four life. Sigh.

Next turn Derek puts Holy Mantle on the Troll and swings in with him and his Kingpin’s Pet for the win. GGs, buddy, seriously.

But I made a really, really stupid mistake as well. I never should have cast that first Raid on his troll, even if the Raid had been Annihilating Fire. I should have just held back once troll hit the table and played the long game, building out my board and eventually drawing my second Raid, which I could have cast all in one turn, doing 14 to Derek and definitely getting the win. But I didn’t, and finished 2-1, netting me six packs, after earlier deciding to split with Derek.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, but I’ll leave you with a few MODO screenshots from this past weekend. This first one, a release sealed deck queue—or “valqueue,” as I like to call it, b/c the prize support is so good, is Junk build that I thought was really good but ended up only going 2-2:

5-18 WBG DGM sealed

Next we’ve got a mess of a four-color deck that ended up 1-2 in a Swiss. I first-picked Flesh // Blood and, well, you can see what happened:

5-19 BGRu DGM 1-2 deck

I also went 2-1 in another Swiss with a weird Izzet build, but I forgot to screenshot that.

And finally we’ve got a tight, super-aggressive Naya deck that I used to take down an 8-4—beating Hipsters’ own Zach B. in the finals, on his stream (thanks for the hospitality, Zach!). I barely didn’t make it to the finals of this draft, but on my last turn in G2 I top-decked Traitorous Instinct and used it to steal my opponent’s Ragebeast—which, thanks to my Maze Behemoth, got trample and dropped my opp. from like 14 to -1, after an all-in swing. Just goes to show that you should never, ever give up:

5-19 Naya DGM 8-4 winning deck

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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