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The letter L!ast week we took a look at the following pack and I asked you what you would take.

Agony Warp
Bloodpyre Elemental
Court Archers
Deft Duelist
Feral Hydra
Dregscape Zombie
Jhessian Lookout
Jund Battlemage
Jund Charm
Resounding Silence
Resounding Thunder
Swerve
Tortoise Formation
Shadowfeed

All right, let's break down the pack!

Unplayable
Tortoise Formation
Shadowfeed

I would rather run a twentieth land than play either of these cards in a 40 card deck.

Unimpressive, but Playable
Jhessian Lookout
Swerve

Both Swerve and Jhessian Lookout are worth playing if your deck can cast them easily. That being said, Swerve can be hard to cast (blue-red is not a very common color combination) and you wouldn't have to twist my arm too hard to leave a Jhessian Lookout in my sideboard.

Not Really Worth Considering
Bloodpyre Elemental
Court Archers
Deft Duelist
Dregscape Zombie

Bloodpyre Elemental, Court Archers, Dregscape Zombie and Deft Duelist are all cards that will be welcome inclusions in almost any deck that can cast them. However, they just aren't up to the same level as some of the truly top-notch cards that can be found in this pack.

The one card out of this group that's worth paying a bit of extra attention to is Deft Duelist. If it's the third pack and I'm drafting an aggressive white-blue exalted deck, without any splashes or fixing, then I'd probably take the Deft Duelist, as it is one of the best cards in that type of deck. Of course, you can't plan on getting exactly the type of deck where you would prefer a Deft Duelist over any of the other juicy options that this pack offers, so you will pretty much always be better off taking a more consistently good card.

Even if you do end up drafting a blue-white exalted deck, if you have an Arcane Sanctum and an Obelisk of Esper, then you would prefer to have the Agony Warp. Or if you're splashing some red you'd prefer Resounding Thunder, or if...

You get the picture. Taking Deft Duelist has very little upside and a lot of downside as the first pick in this pack. Compare that with the card on the next list that tend to have a lot of upside and varying amounts of downside and taking Deft Duelist here really isn't much of an option.

Cards that Are Worth Discussing
Jund Battlemage
Jund Charm
Resounding Silence
Resounding Thunder
Agony Warp
Feral Hydra

Alright, now we're getting to the good stuff. This is a pretty deep pack, filled with some very good cards. More than a few people pointed out via email and in the forums how happy they would be if they opened this pack in their Sealed pool.

The only card out of this bunch that I don't think is ever worth taking in this pack is Jund Battlemage. Head to head, Jund Battlemage loses out to Resounding Thunder pretty badly. In order for Jund Battlemage to be good, you need to be playing both red and green, and a lot of each too (Jund Battlemage doesn't make a particularly good splash). In order for Resounding Thunder to be good, you just need to have a couple of red sources. In color commitment, Resounding Thunder is the clear victor.

Even if you are playing a red-green-black deck, a situation that allows both of these cards to reach their full potential. Even then, I'd generally prefer to have Resounding Thunder early in the game, and I'd far prefer it once I hit 8 mana.

Resounding Silence just isn't up to the power level of the rest of the cards that we are discussing, but the fact that it is the only white card in the pack raises its value by quite a bit. Even though it is better than usual, I still wouldn't feel comfortable taking Resounding Silence over the likes of Resounding Thunder and Agony Warp.

I think that the pick really comes down to Jund Charm, Resounding Thunder, Agony Warp, and Feral Hydra. I would never think to question anyone who chose any of these four cards about their pick.

Jund Charm is probably the most powerful card in the pack, but that power comes with a pretty intense color commitment. If this were pack 2 or pack 3 and I was already in Jund, I would certainly take the Jund Charm. But as it is I wouldn't feel comfortable taking it in a pack with so many other good red and green cards.

Agony Warp is great, and it has the added benefit of being in two colors that are underrepresented in the pack. I can definitely see a strong argument for taking this card... but I'd prefer not to lock myself into blue and black with my first pick. The biggest problem that I have with taking Agony Warp first is that, in my experience, blue-black-X decks tend to be good only when you are getting passed a lot of blue and black. Don't get me wrong, I love getting passed an Agony Warp, since that's generally a pretty good sign that there will be more blue and black to come. But taking it first is a bit too much of a risk for me when there are other top-notch cards with only a single colored mana symbol in the pack.

So for me, the pick ultimately came down to Resounding Thunder vs. Feral Hydra. Both are easy to play and both are really good. I think that these two cards are fairly close in power level (though it's possible that Feral Hydra is just better), but the fact that the pack has so many other good Jund cards means that I would want to at least try my best to be in a different set of colors than my neighbors to the left are sure to be. For that reason, my pick would be Feral Hydra. After picking up the green monster, I'd be looking to draft a Bant deck, since this pack is unlikely to send my immediate neighbors into white or blue, but I'd be just as happy heading into Naya if I get passed some good red or green-white-red cards.

A lot of thought should go into every pick of a draft. Of course we don't have enough time to sit down and analyze the relative quality of all the cards in the pack and the different effects that you can have on your neighbors drafts depending on what you pass them and, and, and...

But if you are able to mentally separate the cards in your pack into different quality categories, then you will probably have a good sense of what you can take and roughly what signals you are going to be sending.

In this pack there was an absurd amount of awesome Jund cards. For that reason, I chose to stay away from any of the cards that would force me to fight heavily with my neighbors.

Try Lands First!

The tri-lands such as Savage Lands are amongst the top picks in the set. If you pick one up early in the draft, it ensures that you will be able to splash pretty much anything you see with little effort. Later in the draft, a single tri-land means that you will be able to splash practically anything you already have.

If you are playing all three colors that a tri-land produces, and you draw said tri-land, then you are probably going to be free of color problems for the rest of the game! In a format where you are almost always going to be playing three colors, the ability to fix your mana easily can't be overrated.

I've reached the point now where I'll take a first pack or on color tri over everything but top cards like Resounding Thunder or Executioner's Capsule. The ability to completely fix your mana is just that important.

On a similar note, I think that a lot of people are underrating the Obelisks. I am very happy to fit an on-shard Obelisk (i.e. Obelisk of Jund in a red-green-black deck) or two into pretty much any non-aggressive deck that I have. If you are avoiding the Obelisks because you think they are too slow, and you are having trouble playing your Carrion Thrashes in a timely manner, then you should probably think about adding more Obelisks to your decks.

Yes, the Obelisks are a bit slow, but they are often necessary. After all, there's nothing slower than not being able to play your spells at all.

Go Big or Go Home

While I was busy playing my heart out alongside 745 other dedicated gamers at Grand Prix–Kansas City, there were another 1,838 players slinging cards at Grand Prix–Paris. Arjan van Leeuwen was able to fight his way to the top of the biggest Magic tournament in history.

Arjan van Leeuwen's Top 8 Draft Deck
1st place, Grand Prix-Paris


The biggest take-away that I got from looking at this deck is a reminder that you don't always have to do something special to win in Limited. If you have good cards, and you play well, then you too might find yourself on top of your next eight-person draft, Friday Night Magic, PTQ, or 1,800 person Grand Prix. If your fundamentals are strong, good things tend to happen.

As far the deck itself, this deck is good, but it isn't extraordinary. There is one card that I feel really represents what this deck is all about, and that card is Thunder-Thrash Elder.

I find Thunder-Thrash Elder to be a very interesting card. If you have a number of Dragon Fodders and/or unearth creatures and/or cheap creatures with "come into play" effects such as Blister Beetle or Elvish Visionary, then Thunder-Thrash Elder can be an absolute all star. But if your deck consists of little but high quality creatures and removal, then it's not going to do much for you. Ideally, you want to play Thunder-Thrash Elder in a deck that has some cheap creatures that you can boost it with and a number of other large threats. By having the other large threats, Thunder-Thrash Elder makes them safer (because he is an ideal removal target) and the other large threats make Thunder-Thrash Elder safer (because they are ideal removal targets).

Arjan's deck is pretty much the perfect home for Thunder-Thrash Elder. He's got a Dragon Fodder, an unearthable Dregscape Zombie, an unearthable Vithian Stinger, and two Blister Beetles to sacrifice. To top that off, Aaron has a number of impressive fatties including Feral Hydra and Kresh the Bloodbraided to make his Thunder-Thrash Elders feel more at home.

Bonus Exercise

You've just drafted a pretty sweet black-red deck splashing a bit of blue and a bit of white. You know that you are going to be playing these 22 colored spells, the 2 Obelisks, and 16 lands. What basic lands do you add?

Mana Base Exercise


Oh, and post your answer in the forums! I love to read your responses on the forums and when you email them to me, but when you are thinking about a bonus exercise you should let everyone see what you think.

It's great to be able to compare what you think about a specific question with what other people think, and one of the best ways to do that is if you tell the world what you think on the forums!

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