Oath of the Gatewatch: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Multicolor and Lands
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, I’ll be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
The pre-release is over, and I have to be honest with you; I had an absolutely miserable time of it. I ended up going 3-11 overall after 4 tournaments, and my card pools were at best middling but usually depressing. I’ll talk more about how I did as well as post sample decks later in this article, but for now I’m going to finish up the series with multicolor and land cards from OGW. If you want to read about what I thought about BFZ’s, you can click on this link and read up about them.
The best non-rare multicolor is hands down Baloth Null. This 4/5 beater exudes value from every pore. He’s not just a beefier Gravedigger, he ate 2.5 of those zombies and with the weight he put on he turned into muscle so he could better grab 2 of your creatures from your graveyard. He’s even in GB, which is full of delicious targets such as various Eldrazi, big green finishers like Tajuru Pathwarden, and deadly black enablers like Kalitas. He’s also worth a splash of green in your black deck or black in your green deck. This is a card you’d want to take first in draft and then try to work him into your deck later on, he’s that good.
RATING: 4 Stars
I really didn’t know what to think of the Support mechanic going into the pre-release weekend and it ended up being my undoing. Lots of the stronger BFZ/OGW archetypes tend to be midrange which means games are long and grindy. I was unfortunate enough to play against a devoted GW Support deck with my Mardu Ally/Eldrazi aggro deck and found myself constantly unable to attack due to my opponent’s ever strengthening army. Joraga Auxiliary was part of my problem. It is rather unassuming early on, but later in the game it becomes very dangerous if you can’t finish off your opponent. I would recommend them if you’re playing GW or Abzan midrange decks, but if you’re more of an aggro deck you might not get to take full advantage of the card.
RATING: 3 stars
Stormchaser Mage is another pretty sweet card. He attacks the turn he comes into play and is able to block rather well too. Limited decks don’t tend to have that many non-creature spells, but if you play the ones you do have at the right time, he can become quite the fearsome blocker/attacker. UR Eldrazi seems like the obvious spot for him, but he might be worth a splash in UB or UW flyers as well if you have some decent mana fixing.
RATING: 3 Stars
Nice bounce effect, okay body, but where Reflector Mage can really shine is right next to Eldrazi Displacer. You could completely lock down your opponent and take over the game. His more natural home would be in a UW flyer deck alongside some tempo and white kill spells, but I think he’s worth splashing in a UB or RW deck as well. It’s nice to have a tempo effect tacked onto a body.
RATING: 3.5 stars
Finally a creature with a 3/3 body instead of a 2/3! There are so many creatures with 2 power and 3 toughness in this format that it makes the games incredibly grinding. It’s tough to trade with or power through opponents without combat tricks, but Relentless Hunter can get it down by herself. I mean, look at her! She’s riding a freaking rock dinosaur! Good both early and late game, especially if you’re mana flooding. GR Landfall would make good use of the Hunter, but I’d be careful about splashing her. What makes the card good is that you can pump her up with 3 mana. If you’re splashing it in another deck, taking full of her pump ability becomes a lot harder. It will depend on your mana base.
RATING: 3.5 stars
The least impressive of the non-Eldrazi multicolor creatures, but still alright as a creature. It’s a 2/4 flyer that will block a lot of cards, and it only costs 4 mana which isn’t too bad. This card works real well alongside cards like Ondu War Cleric, so if you can load up on a bunch of those in draft and then play Cliffhaven Vampire you’ll get some real bang for your buck. The rares Felidar Sovereign, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim have good synergy with it as well, but as far as what you’re more likely to see and be more consistent with, the War Cleric is the way to go. If you’re going to splash it with anything, go green. Jaddi Offshoot, Nissa’s Renewal, and Retreat to Kazandu become terrifying with him in play. His effectiveness will really depend on what you draft/open in sealed.
RATING: 3 Stars
I can not stress enough how important invasion is in this format. The battlefield gets so clogged up with creatures that unless you have flyers or great removal you’re not getting through. Mindmelter not only acts as consistent, albeit slow clock, but he also eats away at your opponent’s hand later in the game. If your opponent is waiting to draw that last mana they need to cast their finisher, nothing is sweeter than making them exile their last hope and dream. Great in UB flyers first and foremost, but also splashable in GB as well I think.
RATING: 3.5 stars
I really liked Flayer Drone. It’s incredibly aggressive, and if you’re playing with a decent number of colorless creature cards it gives you some reach too with its secondary effect. As I stated above, there were A LOT of cards with 3 toughness which made it hard to attack through with 2 power creatures, so having 3 power and first strike makes Flayer Drone quite effective. BR Eldrazi aggro seems like a good spot for it, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad splash in UB flyers or GB either, especially if you have a lot of scion producing effects. A card like Brood Monitor can be pretty deadly if he’s in play.
RATING: 3 Stars
Cool combat trick, as it makes your opponent waste a precious removal spell, but probably the least impressive of the Eldrazi uncommon cycle. The color combination is decent, as green gives you big creatures and ramp while blue gives you flyers and tempo spells. It wouldn’t necessarily be an auto-include in a UG deck, but it would certainly be given more thought than of those barely playable cards that you would cut first. I also wouldn’t waste an early pick in draft on it either if there was something better available like a better creature or removal. Use it if you want to strengthen the tempo effects in your deck. It might just trade favorably as a blocker and give you an advantage the following turn.
RATING: 3 Stars
Besides the obvious mana fixing when you play it, what makes this card playable is that you also give yourself a way to cast colorless cards and play colorless abilities once it untaps. I would probably take a card like Evolving Wilds over it in draft if I could, but if you’re splashing for a third color this is somewhat safer than playing a solitary land that could screw you up later on. At least you can cast this for a card in your main colors.
RATING: 3 Stars
Wizards was really good to include this card in the set. It’s great for helping you to cast those splashed or multicolor cards, and at the same time it acts as a source for those special colorless cards as well. If you need color fixing, grab Unknown Shores. It’s one of the best non-basics in this format. Both this card and Evolving Wilds will see a lot of play.
RATING: 3.5 stars
While not as good as an Unknown Shores because it relies on you having a creature to use its ability, Holdout Settlement should still get the job done. Just prepare yourself for some inconsistency. There were a few times during the pre-release tournaments where I wanted to use this card for mana but couldn’t draw a creature for the life of me. As far as lands are concerned, it’s a bit inconsistent. If you’re playing lots of cheaper creatures it’s probably alright.
RATING: 3 Stars
The uncommon tap land cycle is welcome, but it all comes down to the luck of the draw. They’ll be somewhat easy to get in draft early on but if wait too long you won’t be able to get any. I’m not going to go over each of the different lands separately, but will I give a list of the 5 that will probably see the most play.
- Meandering River (UW Flyers)
- Tranquil Expanse (GW Support/Abzan Allies
- Cinder Barrens (BR Eldrazi/Mardu Allies)
- GR (Landfall)
- Submerged Boneyard (UB/Esper flyers)
Results and Sample Decks
As I stated above, I did absolutely abysmally at the pre-releases I attended. Sometimes you need a wake up call like this to re-evaluate your way of thinking so that next time you’re ready for it. For the last part of this article I plan on sharing each of my decks and the my reasoning behind choosing each archetype. I’ll then say how the deck did against other archetypes I faced, and discuss why I won or loss. I’ll also talk about what I plan to do next time in order to fix my problems. Hopefully by calling out my own mistakes this time, I won’t repeat them again in the future.
What pulled me towards this deck was the creatures but more importantly the removal. The colorless Eldrazi could have gone in any deck, but green hands down had the best creatures. When I opened the bomb of Omnath, Locus of Rage I pretty much felt like I had to play that color combination. However, the removal I opened was all in black, and I felt that I needed to splash those in order to be able to deal with opponent’s cards.
The deck looked pretty strong to me, but what I didn’t plan on was how much the colorless mana symbols would screw me up. I was basically playing a 2 color deck with 2 splashes (colorless and black) and my mana base couldn’t handle it. I went 1-2 at a 49 person midnight tournament, losing to an Abzan Allies deck when I couldn’t draw removal for his Veteran Warleader, beating a GB deck thanks to the large size of my creatures, and then losing in the final round against GR landfall because my deck was simply too slow.
The double mana symbols on a few of the cards were hard to consistently cast, and I feel that is where I went wrong. I should have dropped the 2 black creatures and played another red or green creature card instead in their place to help with consistency, and then switched out some swamps for more mountains and forests. This probably would have made Tar Snare unplayable, but the consistency probably would have more than made up for it.
On Saturday afternoon I played in another tournament in town, this one a 46 player event. I went with UB Eldrazi. This deck felt more consistent than the 3.5 color deck I played the night before, and the removal was great. I had 3 exiling effects, a tempo card, the +3/-3 instant, and the -5/-5 black card. I had some flyers, ramp, and a fairly decent curve. So why did I end up going 0-3 drop?
Luck. Or should I said, lack there of. Magic tends to be a game of luck from time to time, and in round 1 I ended up facing a BR Eldrazi opponent with Thought Knot Seer and Reality Smasher that came into play early and punished me while I tried to stabilize. His removal was better and well times and I was simply outmatched. In round 2 I faced a GW deck and was on the cusp of winning the round with my 8/8 Deceiver of Form when my opponent played Breaker of Armies with a Strider Harness equipped and absolutely wiped my board. I had the Defiler of Truth but against an 11/9 there was no way to get rid of it. I played all my creatures just to chump but never drew my removal. In round 3, I lost another close game to a RW Allies/Landfall deck when my board stalled, and after that I decided I was done and dropped.
I thought this deck was consistent, but perhaps I had too many 4 drops in the deck. I found myself sometimes missing a land drop and being stuck at 3 mana, so if I were to play a deck like this again I think I would have played 18 land instead of 17. Another few 2 to 3 drops might have helped out as well. The finishers were okay in this deck, but I rarely was able to play them in time because this deck was a bit top heavy.
As for this Naya allies build, I ended up going 1-2 with it. I thought it was alright, but the double green and double white cards ended up being harder to cast than I thought. I basically built this card around Munda’s Vanguard and Gladeheart Cavalry. I was hoping to just play a lot of creatures and then beef them up with those two bombs to finish my opponent. Looking back on the deck, it was a mess and didn’t really have a clear way of achieving those combination of cards consistently. My removal also wasn’t great and that came back to bite me in the ass as I lost to a GB deck and RW Allies deck that had better synergy and removal than me. I beat a UB Eldrazi deck in round 2, but that was it.
Green and white probably would have been better to play alone with a splash of red for the Elemental and the 4 damage burn spell. I could see turning this into more of a GW support based deck with a splash that would have given me more reach. By this point I had learned through various losses that you simply can’t build a deck with a balanced curve with some removal and hope for the best. You need an early, middle, and late game plan. Spells other than removal are necessary, especially if don’t have a lot of finishers/bombs to play with.
In my last deck, I got tricked into thinking Munda, Ambush Leader and a group of 7-8 Allies were good. As you can see, I have lots of synergy with the Ally theme, but my removal was pretty bad. That’s why I was hoping to go all in with aggro and try to reach critical mass before my opponent could put up a good defense. The exact opposite happened though. Munda grabbed me lots of Allies alright, but they had no way to push their damage through. They were stonewalled early and were rarely able to attack. I found myself waiting to draw a removal spell in order to be able to safely attack, but it rarely happened and all that time spent building up my team allowed my opponent to do the same as well as to drop some bombs.
I went 1-4 at this 42 person event with the Mardu Allies/Eldrazi deck, losing to GW Support (opponent stonewalled me), RW Ally/Support (he had lots of support spells that gave him the upper hand), UB/w Eldrazi (was board wiped before I could close out the game), RW (was stonewalled again), and only managed to win against Mardu Eldrazi in round 2.
The UG deck I made out of my pool, even with almost zero removal, ended up being much better than I thought it would be. It was very consistent at getting flyers out on turn 3 and 4, and opponents usually had a problem blocking all of those flyers in the air. I just wish I had played with this deck a little bit more instead.
What I Learned
The most important lessons I learned about BFZ/OGW limited during pre-release weekend were:
- Aggro is a trap. It’s much better to build a balanced midrange deck.
- The Cohort mechanic really isn’t that great as a main strategy, but a few of the effects are nice to have (such as Ondu War Cleric).
- Finishers are fewer and far between. During BFZ limited it was easy to grab a few Eldrazi, but now that it’s 3 BFZ/3 OGW in sealed and 2 OGW/1 BFZ in draft, grabbing an easily splashable finisher became a lot harder.
- Evasion is stronger/more important than ever. UW or UB flyer decks can do a lot of damage and it’s hard for many decks to do anything about them. Menace was also pretty effective.
- Removal is a lot better. Black still has the best ones, but red burn got better as well. White also has a decent amount of exiling effects as well, and even blue has a good amount of tempo spells. Drafting a good removal package should be much easier in draft this time around than before.
I’m kind of happy I didn’t sign up for Grand Prix Nagoya. I don’t feel like I’m ready for the format yet, and I need a lot more time to look through the cards to re-evaluate missed synergies such as Support. OGW/BFZ limited seems deep, and should offer a challenging experience to those of you limited players out there. Sealed and draft aren’t really my strong point, but I do want to continue getting better at the format. Therefore, I’d like to hear from you guys how you evaluate your cards effectively and how you go about building your decks. By the time the next set is released, I’d like to be a capable limited player again.
And with that, my series on the Oath of the Gatewatch limited cards is done. Thanks for reading and I hope you check back again soon.