Building Walls one brick at a time
What you need to know to draft your Wall Deck
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PT Philadelphia winner
4 GP top 8s
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In the last few articles we spoke about draft fundamentals, basics and so on without getting our hands dirty in a real draft.
I know theory is not a perfect way to improve one’s drafting skills. It will help you in general but you should also always keep in mind a ranking of the cards for each archetype you could draft; this ranking is the result of your experiences with that determined archetype. Every time you improve your own ideas about pick orders you will approach the capability to always pick the best card!
This time I will show you my own pick orders for a draft archetype, going deeper in the explanation of some choices.
The first time I heard about this archetype was from Alessandro Portaro, then I started trying it out focusing on the following plan: it’s a control deck that tries to stabilize the board with walls or high toughness creatures while the rest of the cards have only one goal: neutralize each card that can overwhelm your walls’ game-plan. In this category we find especially removal spells, then counterspells, and finally a number, or just a few, combat tricks if we are short on cards or if they are good enough for this kind of deck.
The same creatures you use to defend yourself will grant you the victory, killing your opponent when the game ends up in a stalemate. Sometimes you can enforce your endgame plan with big guys.
Let’s start from the first booster: Dragon’s maze!
A pick order is affected by other players’ pick-order: if 2 cards are equally good in your deck but one is commonly considered stronger, you will then probably see more cards that might be considered less important by opponent’s drafting different archetypes; this means that you need to pick the former cards higher if you need them.
This consideration introduces one important concept, in part general, in part typical of this archetype: pick bombs over everything, then removals and finally your useful walls; in fact, walls are not good in every archetype while removals fit well in almost every deck! I’m going to consider only common and uncommon cards in this top 15 pick order for Grixis Walls:
First two spots are for those split cards! After my premise it was easy to predict that removals were on top.
In particular these are really effective, giving us an easy 2 for 1; they are really close but I prefer Turn//Burn because it can manage bombs in the form of creatures even if there are others in play and the in long term it allows for better 2 for 1s than Far/Away. You could argue that turning an attacking creature into a 0/1 is not always a perfect removal because most of our creatures are walls but remember that most of our drops have at least 1 power anyway!
3-Haunter of Nightveil
This card is simply awesome. Once it hits the board everything will change: our opponent’s race will be stopped or really slowed down, you can block easily and get more value from your team of blockers.
Just one thing: use this card strictly as an enchantment, don’t use it to block (risking tricks) or to attack (Avenging Arrow , Executioner’s Swing etc.) unless it’s 100% safe or if you must do it!
This creature fits perfectly in this game-plan, blocks really well and can handle flyers too (don’t underestimate this element, most of your walls will only be able to block ground guys) and when it’s time to race it beats down like Gruul finishing the game in a really short time. Activating it will be quite easy as you will see from the rest of the pick-order.
5-Punish the Enemy
An instant speed removal that grants some damage, the fact that it is an instant is quite important because it lets us transform some creatures when we want to (Fluxcharger, Nivix Cyclops) ; 3 damage is still good, allowing us to speed up our counter-race!
Really effective removal at 2-cost, a rare thing in itself, can also sometimes help us to blow-out our opponent, increasing the strength of one of our creatures!
I really like that sometimes this removal can be versatile like a combat trick.
One of the best creatures you can run in this deck: an extremely good wall that can suddenly increase his power during an opponent’s attack to kill an attacker. In many situations this card can hold the board on its own if you have mana open and your opponent has no tricks (EX your opponent with 3 Centaur Tokens 3/3 and you with Nivix Cyclops in play and 5 mana open, and he knows that you run in your deck 1 Far//Away and 1 Punish the Enemy).
This can be a really good finisher too, counter-racing or killing a guy and bashing!
8-Blast Of Genius
Cons: sorcery and a high cost for a not guaranteed return, for example if you need to kill a big guy, and if you want to kill a small one it costs one more spell anyway.
Pros: if you really need to remove a creature with a small toughness (enchanted by Madcap Skills or simply a guildmage) it’s effective, even if it will grant less card advantage/selection; if the board needs no answers from you this will provide good card selection/advantage discarding a land; if you need to counter-race, this card can easily switch some of your creatures into beaters and deal some direct damage. It’s multicolored too, so it can be useful with Lobber Crew
Not cheap for its effect but still useful against small threats or to ambush something with Nivix Cyclops, in those case killing big creatures too.
A really good 2-drop, in a draft like this with so many combinations available, and many possibilities of playing more than just 2 colors, this can be a perfect blocker and a threat at the same time.
it’s a big body with a really good ability: it grants some death-touch to our walls and, with good future sight, a really strong interaction with Izzet Staticaster
Here there are no special combos, but it grants evasion to most of our better creatures and the capability to stop our opponent’s flying race
I’m not sure if this card should be picked higher. It helps you evolve your deck with a “flying” strategy with faster creatures and it’s a good blocker that exchanges with almost everything in the air!
Some black cards are evaluated worst because this deck is usually Izzet with a Black splash for more removal. This is the reason why fixers are so low in this pick-order, obviously your picks depend on which cards you already picked, keeping in mind all the basics we already talked about: synergies, not too many high drops and so on.
The dragon’s maze pick order is arranged considering mostly power level, with Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica things get worse. You have already 15 cards and every card needs to be evaluated considering what you already have.
Creating a pick-order here in that sense is quite impossible , that’s why I’ll continue considering the higher power level.
Here it depends if your base is UR or UB. In general I think Grisly Spectacle is better by itself, enabling other cards that work with graveyard and helping an hypothetical milling plan. It’s a solution for any threat you must face while Homing Lightning only removes creatures that we can probably already manage with our walls, anyway it can cause some 2/3 for 1s sometimes!
Killing Glare is less powerful than Grisly Spectacle but only has one black in its cost and that can be important if your base is UR.
4-Bane Alley Broker
We are control so we need to make some sort of advantage if we want to be pretty unbeatable in mid-long term. This card makes this possible, with enormous card selection and still card advantage in the long term.
Agoraphobia fits perfectly in this deck especially if we are paired against a deck with few or no flyers! It
always helps manage the stronger threat, and works perfectly if that threat has no strange abilities, like a Guildmage.
On flyers it can be worse because it can block our race too if our plan is flying with small guys.
This gives you time and sometimes represents some more advantage, e.g. against tokens, opponents with no cards in hand and auras. On top of that, 4/4 is a great body, good in defense and attack, really sweet.
7-Arrows of Justice
Play this card using your brain! It’s easy to fall into combat tricks or bloodrush, and here we see one of the characteristics of this archetype: you should end with a good number of instant removals, and with a lot of walls, so there are 2 cases in which you should allow a ground guy to pass through, HOW YOU SHOULD USE REMOVAL:
a) Their guy is a big one: here if you have removal, I suggest to make some team-block that grants just a 1 x 1 , now your opponent can make an exchange or try a trick, if he tries a trick your removal will be able to get some more value with a 2 for 1
b) They attack with small guys and try to overwhelm walls with tricks after block, you can easily solve like the EX before, but remember to try and get as much value from your removal as possible.
8-Call of the Nightwing
It’s really good by itself, creating a token and ciphering it, it gets more value if an evasive attacking creature is already in play when you cast this, making it in the worst case an Eyes in the Skies! If this begins to swarm you gain a chump-blocker each turn minimum, can deny some x/1 from attacking, or start a flying race in a stabilized boards.
Really good as a finisher by itself, after you solve the board, finish off with direct damage. If you have Breaking//Entering the value of this card really improves (5 mana 8 damage, 8 mana 16 damage, 11 mana 24 damage!!)
As I already said flying blockers are really useful, this body is what we need to take care of our flying board: it’s able to block any common or uncommon flyers without dying and, if it dies, it helps with some milling that is always good in this kind of deck
Not the best removal but still good because some Guildmages are really unbeatable sometimes, and it kills almost every early flyer. The real problem is that is not as versatile as others but still acceptable.
Counters are always good in this kind of deck, there are some cards that need a counter because they win in stalled boards (Teleportal); have you ever been in a stalled board with a counterspell in your hand? In that case you know the feeling of being sheltered from all the problems
Both good, I’m not sure who is better: Balustrade Spy is a perfect flyer blocker for the early drops and sometimes helps in a race, Undercity Informer costs 1 less and in the long term can win games alone, and has synergies with some fillers like Mortus Strider
Devour Flesh isn’t good , our strategy is stalling the board so a sacrifice effect would be nice on the 2nd turn (against Guildmage otherwise 2-drops are easy to manage for us), we rarely exchange creatures, anyway if your curve is totally lacking 2-drops pick this higher, even if there are some that will arrive late in the next pack!
Too easy Stalling the board is our plan , without attacking most of time or attacking with evasive guys, this card fits perfectly in the strategy, racing our opponent and sometimes allowing us to block the enchanted guy without chump-blocking!
The limit about non-flyers is really bad but the possibility of an “overload disaster” is sweet. With his normal casting we can manage some big ground guy that would be difficult to block otherwise. If our stalling plan has been reached, this can destroy his board.
Even if Assassin’s Strike can manage any kind of creature and grants an advantage in discarding, the impact feels better for the possibility to finish off our opponent but ,most of all, it’s an instant and I already told you how important this is in this deck!
The best wall we can play granting some damage each turn, many times we will end up with almost 9-10 multicolored spells in our deck!
Clearly if you already have a Maze Abomination his value increases, it gets better even if you have many that deals a small amount of damage (Mugging , Arrows of justice etc) helping them to finish off bigger creatures.
If you already have many blockers take this card higher then number 9 and 10 , card selection is awesome and sometime making two removal in one is too sweet.
Slightly better than Dimir Charm even if his removal effect doesn’t fit too well in this archetype. Spell Pierce and the Careful Study effect are really good anyway!
Not as good as in a flyer/tempo strategy, but this card is always good, even if we will end up with so many x/4 and this doesn’t improve too much our body qualities for team-blockers. Anyway it can really be useful in some boards with scavenged beasts, auras or big tokens.
The killing strategy of this deck can be by milling or by damage, if we have a milling plan some cards, such as this one, gain much value.
A pick-order is something like an overall guideline. Remember, I will always tell you to consider every card in relation to what you already have and to be open-minded!
See you next time, M14 is approaching and I feel excited to figure out some new strategies!