Last week I was listening to the Neal Oliver guest episode of Limited Resources, and in passing Oliver mentioned a Nathan Holiday article on Channel Fireball, in which Holiday talked about, as Oliver put it, “RG Bear Punch” and other Khans of Tarkir draft archetypes. Boy, did my ears perk up. As faithful readers know, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about my lack of success in Khans of Tarkir draft.

I chalked my losing streak up to both variance and the fact that I think aggro is at a disadvantage in the format. But when I went to Holiday’s story, and saw all these awesome aggro/tempo decks—including a pair of Gruul builds (the aforementioned RG Bear Punch), a UR deck, and an RB deck—I got inspired again.

Check this thing out:


God, what a beaut. That’s four-count-’em-four Savage Punches. And look at all those two- and three-ofs! I dunno, something about this deck just tickles my pleasure center.

One reason why is aesthetics. I’m a writer by trade, and when I’m writing or editing a story, I really hate it when paragraphs end mid-line, or dangle a couple words onto another line. I like paragraphs to be all of the same length, too: When I’m doing a round-up story—i.e., one which “rounds up” X different destinations for, say, great hotel cocktails—I want all of the items in the round-up to be more or less the exact same length.

Why exactly do I like this? I dunno, but symmetry is a thing that humans inherently appreciate as a measure of beauty, so that’s probably got something to do with it. And that impulse is probably extra pronounced in this particular human organism; I make my bed every day of my life, and my desktop icons are clean and minimal. Etc., etc.

I wanted to get some more perspective on this, so I asked Team Draft League member, Friend of Hipsters, and talented artist Kadar Brock—who has been known in the past to draft some sick four- and five-color builds—why he favored those kinds of decks, and if they, too, sparked his creative center like two-color decks do mine. Despite revealing that he’s actually been drafting a bit more two-color in Khans than I anticipated, KB did have this to say about why he digs drafting All The Colors:

“Why I like playing 4/5 color is because it pushes the limits of my deckbuilding and drafting experience. Failing makes me a better drafter and succeeding is really satisfying, as it allows me to basically chart some kind of ‘newish’ territory. That’s where the creativity of it comes in, I think. What I love about Magic, beyond the awesome art, is how it’s constantly evolving/changing/shifting in endless permutations and combinations. I like trying new combinations. It’s exciting. Last night I won multiple games after nearly decking myself off Secret Plans. I hadn’t done that before and it was sweet. A couple weeks back Cranial Archive was one of the best cards in an insane Sultai control deck. Trying out new things in Magic is what makes it fun. I like winning plenty. I just like winning in an exciting way even more, so sometimes I’ll go ahead and push toward that.”

I dig where KB is coming from. That’s why I like Magic, too. It just so happens that for me, though, at least for right now, drafting two-color is what has me feeling creative. So after reading Holiday’s article, I came home with all intentions of force-drafting RG Bear Punch.

As luck would have it, though, the MTGO gods presented me with another two-color path I hadn’t really explored yet: UG Tempo, featuring the one, the only, the first-pickable, the in fact kind of downright dumb and broken …


Sagu Mauler!

Honestly this card is just unfair. It’s a real Groan Test–passer, in the parlance of Limited Resources. But, hey, if it’s on your side of the table it’s OK. The 6/6 beast, as well as some strong subsequent cards, like Mystic of the Hidden Way, Pine Walker, and Crippling Chill, set me firmly on the Symmetrical Path of Blue-Green Greatness. I flirted a bit with a black splash, helped along by a Polluted Delta that I first-picked mostly for value out of a weakish second pack, but in the end decided to stay pure. Here’s the deck:

Screenshot (13)

Man was this fun to play! I was in a Khans 8-4 and won my first round when my Sultai opponent ran out of time. After that it was kind of cake walk, to be honest. I just played two-drops early, traded ’em with his or her morphs, then played my own morphs, flipped ’em, tempo’d out my opponent with bounce, and overwhelmed him or her with Awaken the Bear, Dragonscale Boon, and Become Immense. Sagu Mauler did a lot of unanswerable work in a couple games; that card plus Become Immense is basically GG.

In rounds two and three I beat opponents who were, to a greater or lesser extent, on the four- or five-color plan; my deck—most of the time, at least—was too consistent, streamlined, and powerful for them to get their shields up, fix their mana, and start casting stupid spells.

One thing I learned, too: While it’s common knowledge that two-drops are integral to a good aggressive deck, I realized why they are even more key in Khans. Given that, thanks to morph, virtually everyone has a nearly unlimited supply of Grey Ogres, an aggro deck isn’t going to work if you get yourself into a morph on morph battle situation, where all of your 2/2s trade for all of theirs. Rather what you need to do is get them on the back foot immediately, forcing them to trade their morphs for your plain-old Grizzly Bears, after which you start casting and flipping your own morphs.

As an added benefit, I’ve found that opponents often seem reluctant to trade a morph for your Grizzly Bears, even if it might be the right play for them to do so; there’s just something distasteful about trading your morph for “just” a Bear. So it’s a win-win for you: Either you clear out their morphs or you get some damage in and build out your board.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, kids. Best of luck to everyone battling it out at Grand Prix New Jersey this weekend, including quite a number of Hipsters. If you see one of us, say hey!

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. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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