Marshall Sutcliffe recently ran an excellent article about “going deep” in Limited. The basic premise of this is intentionally forcing an obscure or alternative draft strategy, mostly just to see how it works. The example Marshall uses in his article is Burning Vengeance from Innistrad. Build-around-me uncommons are an excellent example of this practice, especially in a triple-set draft environment, but it can apply to mechanics as well. For example, you could go deep on inspired in BTT draft, using Springleaf Drum and Triton Tactics to extract maximum value from inspired creatures.
A few drafts ago, I had the opportunity to go deep myself. However, the card I went deep on was no simple uncommon…
Pack 1 Pick 1: Hour of Need. An excellent uncommon and a great start to the draft. You pick up the next pack, and thumb through the available options. You pause when you reach the rare, which is still in the pack. A Dictate of Kruphix.
You consider the merits of taking a the Dictate. It’s on-colour with your first pick, and can certainly be quite powerful if properly built around. You also haven’t yet played a Dictate, through you have passed one in a previous draft. Eventually you decide to give it a try. The best way to judge a card is by playing with it, and who knows when you’ll see another one.
As it happens, the answer to that question is “real soon”. As you pick up the 4th pack and skim through it, you find yourself once again being met by a Dictate of Kruphix. You put your head in your hands and consider just how deep you should go. Somewhere deep inside, however, you already know the answer.
It’s time to go real deep.
Without further ado, I present the deck in all its glory:
2 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Bronze Sable
1 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Sigiled Starfish
2 Nyxborn Triton
1 Chorus of the Tides
2 Bladetusk Boar
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Siren of the Fanged Coast
2 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
1 Bolt of Keranos
1 Thassa’s Rebuff
1 Hour of Need
1 Sudden Storm
2 Temple of Epiphany
This deck would definitely not have existed without my decision to go deep on the Dictates. Building around the flash enchantment substantially changed my pick priorities. I’ll break down some general categories:
Countermand – Once I had the second Dictate, I valued Countermand extremely highly. While the mill text is generally irrelevant to a majority of games, for this deck, it was an active avenue to victory as it would cause my opponents to run out of cards first. I only ended up with two, but I likely would have played a third given the option.
Burn – I was confident that my deck would be able to win the long game, due to Dictates and Countermands. My concern was surviving up until that point. The Theros pack was extremely kind to me in this regard. I think my first 3 picks of Theros were Strike, Strike, Jet, and they were all fantastic. Dealing with the early threats gave the deck room to breathe, and sometimes I could just play a tempo game with fliers, and then point the burn at my opponents faces to finish them.
Early Creatures – These guys were a concession to not being run over by a fast aggro deck. Starfish is clearly the MVP here, purely by doing what Starfish normally does. Nyxborn Triton was an acceptable body due to blocking the 2/X’s of the format, that had extra utility due to bestow.
Late Creatures – However, the 4-drops and above were generally very clunky, due to the need to hold up removal while deploying threats. This made Bladetusk Boar likely the worst creature in the deck – there was just no room to cast him while holding up a counter or burn until beyond turn 6. Chorus of the Tides was similarly weak, though amusingly if it had been Cloaked Siren it would have been one of the best creatures in the deck. Siren was probably the best of the creatures that attack, as between the rest of the removal in the deck, he generally became a 4/4 because my opponents couldn’t give up the only creature they had in play.
Mnemonic Wall – Yeah, this gets its own section. This was possibly the best Mnemonic Wall deck I have built in the format. With the wide variety of spells available to the deck, the Wall was able to provide exactly the effect that was required at any point. Wall returning Strike was a common one, but my absolute favourite of the night was 9 mana, Wall returning Countermand, when my opponent had no creatures in play.
Other Stuff – This deck was 16 lands, which was a conscious decision. I figured between the Dictates and all the scry available in the deck, I would have no concerns not hitting my land drops, and I was basically correct. When the deck made it to full-on turbo Dictate mode, I never had any concerns with land drops.
The Thassa’s Rebuff was possibly the worst mistake in the deck, however. I figured it would be okay with a Dictate and some random blue creatures. However, it frequently did nothing while I had no nonland permanents on the board.
Hour of Need was still good in this deck, despite it not being used that much. The additional angle of attack Hour gives a blue deck is phenomenal, and it was still great here.
My first game was an interesting one, mostly because my deck didn’t function at all like I planned it to. I was paired up against RW aggro and narrowly won a close game after beating down with my fliers and Boars. The second game, however, delivered. It was a glorious display of Burn, Dictate, Counter, more removal, and eventually finding my second Dictate and milling the opponent. I could have won with Hour of Need, but when you build a deck that wins with Dictate, you just want to make it happen.
Ultimately, this deck came second in the draft pod, losing only to the eventual first place player in round 2. Round 3 saw another match vs aggro, which also died to a flurry of lighting, followed by mass card draw (they even had a Fate Unraveler, the nerve!). This goes to show that “going deep” doesn’t necessary mean “losing with style”. If you can figure out your strategy to win, and correctly prioritize the cards that will enable that strategy, then you too could end up with a sweet deck that is doing something unconventional, but also something super fun.
If I hadn’t decided to go deep, I wouldn’t have ended up with one of the most fun decks I’ve played in the format. Hopefully, you too can come up with a sweet brew by deviating from the conventional draft strategies and trying something new.
Until next time,