Day two! It had been a few months since I’d had the opportunity to draft on Sunday in a Grand Prix. Being back there in Orlando felt good.

My draft started with a first-pick Thousand Winds. Khans draft presents an inherent tension between picking powerful cards and assembling a functional mana base. When do you take powerful gold cards? What about dual- and tri-lands? Fortunately for me, I had the easy pick of an extremely powerful card that is monocolored. I was especially happy to get one of the best blue cards. It seems really important to draft an open color combination, and I felt that blue would be the least popular color to draft in the early days of the format. Blue is tricky and has the least creatures of any color, so it takes longer for people to figure out how to draft blue decks.

deathrite

After being banned from Modern, Deathrite Shaman had to resort to freelance work at Magic conventions.

The draft went fairly well for me, it seemed. My first three picks were Thousand Winds, Frontier Bivouac, and Force Away. After that I was passed three Kin-Tree Invocation in a row. That card has a lot of variance, since you can’t even cast it unless you have a creature on board. (Technically you can cast it, if you feel like enabling morbid.) But I liked the idea of a defensive Sultai deck with a lot of toughness that could randomly drop 8/8s on the board in the late game while having the occasional 4/4 on turn two or 5/5 on turn three. Token-making spells also help fuel delve. In pack two I was rewarded by being passed Necropolis Fiend and two Sultai Charms.

The rest of the deck came together reasonably. Here’s what I built:

Sultai Charm School

Creatures (12)
Disowned Ancestor
Archer’s Parapet
Tuskguard Captain
Glacial Stalker
Abomination of Gudul
Krumar Bond-Kin
Swarm of Bloodflies
Rotting Mastodon
Sultai Scavenger
Thousand Winds
Necropolis Fiend

Spells (10)
Kin-Tree Invocation
Sultai Charm
Debilitating Injury
Force Away
Death Frenzy
Rite of the Serpent
Bitter Revelation
Treasure Cruise
Lands (18)
Fontier Bivouac
Jungle Hollow
Dismal Backwater
Island
Swamp
Forest

Sideboard (16)
Kin-Tree Invocation
Jeskai Elder
Monastery Flock
Sidisi’s Pet
Scaldkin
Rotting Mastodon
Efreet Weaponmaster
Disdainful Stroke
Awaken the Bear
Dead Drop
Dutiful Return
Molting Snakeskin
Sultai Banner
Retribution of the Ancients
Cranial Archive
Tormenting Voice

Looking back on it now, this deck is really short on creatures. Monastery Flock should have been in the maindeck, and possibly Sidisi’s Pet as well. It turns out defensive morphs that flip cheaply are quite strong, especially in a late-game Sultai deck. Of course, making room for either of those cards requires cuts from the other cards, and there aren’t easy choices there.

Kin-Tree Invocation turns out to be quite awkward in a Sultai deck that is heavy on removal because it pressures your deck to have more creatures despite already filling one of the creature slots in your deck. Playing 18 lands (as almost all decks want to do in Khans) already cuts one of the spell slots from your deck, making the choice of remaining spells more difficult. Adding Monastery Flock clearly makes Kin-Tree Invocation better, but a Sultai deck without removal and card draw ends up looking like a bad Temur deck. It was probably best to cut one of the Kin-Tree Invocations, or perhaps treat them as pseudo-removal spells for neutralizing an opposing ground threat and therefore cut Rite of the Serpent.

For round ten I faced off against Scott Alter, with whom I had drawn in round seven of day one. Picking up a draw in a big tournament makes your later pairings quirky as you are most likely to be paired with other draw-holders. Anyway, Scott had a strong Temur deck and we played another epic three-game match. I felt sure I would win the first game when I got the game to go late, resolved a Treasure Cruise for one mana, and played both my giant flying bombs. But Scott had three Savage Punches and used them to maximum effect on my threats when I was tapped out and unable to defend. I ran out of gas and lost.

In the second game against Scott I had my first run-in with the weird world of competitive tournament morph rules. In the mid-game, I had a spot where I had two cards left in hand: Krumar Bond-Kin and Swarm of Bloodflies. I chose to play the morph and pass. Scott then attacked with his morph, I blocked with my new morph, we both passed priority, and did the “what did I trade for” flip. Except when I flipped my morph, it was Swarm of Bloodflies! I probably looked like I had just been punched in the stomach. Being down a game already, this simple mistake (putting the wrong card down on accident) also certainly would cost me the match. We called a judge and I put my best advocate hat on and pleaded my case not to get an automatic game loss. The floor judge ruled it a game loss, so I appealed. After much back and forth and consultation among the head judges for the event, I was able to win the appeal and have my mistake downgraded to a warning. Basically, it was clear that I had no intent to cheat (why would I immediately block and flip if I was trying to cheat?) and the only other card in my hand was a morph with the same color and converted mana cost of the card I played face down (so it’s easy to think you played the correct card on a quick glance).

With that “near miss” out of the way, I of course went on to win the second game. It was looking good for me in game three as well, until a fateful turn when I had to decide whether to play out a second Kin-Tree token (as a 5/5) or hold up Sultai Charm. Scott’s board was Alpine Grizzly, Heir of the Wilds, and Sagu Archer. I was nine life and starting to take over the game. I chose to play out the 5/5 token, tapping down to one open mana. Scott then untapped and cast Barrage of Boulders, which I had not seen all match despite going through most of our decks in both games one and two, and I was dead. If I had held up Sultai Charm, I could have killed the grizzly to turn off ferocious (and perhaps fearing that Scott wouldn’t have cast the barrage), but I couldn’t and I died. Regardless, it was a great match and I told Scott that it was karma paying him back after the morph judge call.

I then proceeded to lose round eleven thanks to drawing two Kin-Tree Invocation with an empty board and then seeing no creatures for the rest of the game. I made up for it by winning the round twelve slugfest between 0-2 draft decks, putting me at 8-3-1 on the tournament and firmly out of contention for anything other than a minimum cash.

orlando draft two

I never get sick of this view.

My second draft started exactly the same as my first, with Thousand Winds followed by Frontier Bivouac. This time Temur was somewhat open and I assembled a strong and interesting deck.

Temur Kung Fu

Creatures (13)
Embodiment of Spring
Highland Game
Smoke Teller
Jeskai Elder
Heir of the Wilds
Alpine Grizzly
Canyon Lurkers
Glacial Stalker
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Snowhorn Rider
Whirlwind Adept
Riverwheel Aerialists
Thousand Winds

Spells (9)
Flying Crane Technique
Master the Way
Waterwhirl
Set Adrift
Crippling Chill
Savage Punch
Roar of Challenge
Awaken the Bear
Lands (18)
Frontier Bivouac
Mystic Monastery
Blossoming Sands
Thornwood Falls
Island
Forest
Mountain

Sideboard (16)
Embodiment of Spring
Kin-Tree Warden
Horde Ambusher
Bloodfire Expert
Burn Away
Arrow Storm
Quiet Contemplation
Disdainful Stroke
Stubborn Denial
Naturalize
Goblinslide
Tormenting Voice
Erase
Disowned Ancestor
Bitter Revelation

It was clear during the draft that multiple people were fighting me for Temur cards, but that there were plenty to go around anyway. I hedged toward Jeskai after opening Flying Crane Technique in pack two, and while I stayed a Temur deck I think this helped me get plenty of cards that worked for my deck despite fighting others for the Temur gold cards. There was a period of time during deck-building when I had Quiet Contemplation in the main. Eventually I decided that the deck needed more creatures and less durdling, so I settled on the blue-green-splash-red deck with a lot of tempo blowouts.

I won round thirteen in a Temur-ish mirror match. The best turn of the tournament for me happened in this match. My opponent is still at 20 life and has two creatures on board. I had just played a Riverwheel Aerialists in the hopes of stabilizing. The aerialists prevent the attack, and then on my next turn I cast Master the Way to kill one of the opposing creatures, then Savage Punch to kill the other. I attacked for eight damage and won a few turns later.

I lost the next round to a strong Sultai deck that had too much removal for my thin suite of creatures. I actually lost this match three games to zero, because after I scooped to an overwhelming board state in game one, my opponent forgot to reveal a random morph. I didn’t even notice until we were shuffling for game two, so I called a judge and I retroactively was given the win in game one. Despite mulling to five on the play for game two, my opponent drew like a champ and crushed me, then went on to win game three as well on the back of a well-timed Death Frenzy to clear my board and strand multiple tricks in my hand. Once again the morph ruling worked in my favor but I still lost the match.

At this point I was 9-4-1 and dead to win anything. I played out the last round, another Temur mirror, and won both games by casting Flying Crane Technique. As soon as I won the match I packed my stuff and ran out to meet Hunter in a cab to the airport to catch our flight. We made it just in time to eat a reasonable meal of enchiladas and board our plane. Using the in-flight Wi-Fi I learned that my 10-4-1 record put me in 105th place, just below the top 100 payout cut. So it goes.

Overall I had a great time at Grand Prix Orlando and can’t wait to explore Khans of Tarkir limited in more depth over the coming weeks. This weekend I plan to hit up two PTQs in the New York area, so hopefully I’ll have a great story to share next week. Thanks for reading!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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