(Metagame Archives) Draft Clinic: Alex Brown

Alex Brown

Hurrah! This is the first week of Infinite Crisis Booster Draft. Disappointingly, I can’t make a celebrity out of anyone else in my local playgroup this week, as we could only get eight for a draft. What this means is that yours truly had to put his name into the hat to make up the numbers. In turn, this also meant that I had the pleasure of holding up the whole draft by writing down picks and such. It is with painstaking care that I bring you this first look at drafting Infinite Crisis. No doubt your until now uninformed opinions of my own drafting will be put to the test, and there will be sweet revenge for all of those I chastised in earlier columns. Enjoy!

Pack 1, Pick 1

Ishmael Gregor ◊ Sabbac, Malevolent Marvel; Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant; Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Coercion, Team-Up; Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; House of Secrets; Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Join Us or Die; Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Catman, Thomas Blake; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Nightshade, Shadow Siren

Although this pack has a pretty straightforward pick, it is interesting nonetheless. I don’t think there is much of a case for taking anything except Kate Spencer first pick. I tend to pick 3+ ATK 2-drops over anything else early on, as they are the common denominator between drafting off-curve and on-curve decks. Regardless of which style of deck you end up with, you will always need 4+ 2-drops. Kate Spencer is one of the best 2-drops in the set and the only early-pick JSA character here. Alan Scott and Wonder Woman are decent, but hardly first picks.

Aside from this, the pack holds a few other important features. It contains a strong Villains United weenie contingent led by Dr. Psycho (who is good, but not at the level of Kate Spencer). At the time, I think I overrated this, assuming that those characters and the Coercion would send a few players down the line into Villains United. Really, there is only a lot of good filler here and I shouldn’t have been so concerned about it. Finally, the Checkmate 5-drop is an excellent third or fourth pick, so this pack is really set up to be straightforward downstream.

My Pick Then: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

My Pick Now: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Pack 1, Pick 2

Coercion, Team-Up; Relentless Pursuit; Black Adam, Teth-Adam; Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Abjuration, Magic; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Knightmare Scenario; Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Epic Battle; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Superman, Earth 2

With relatively little experience with Infinite Crisis Booster Draft (five drafts so far), I made a few mistakes in judgment here, although my pick was certainly fine. I considered the choices to be between Black Adam, Black Thorn, and Knightmare Scenario. My first mistake was that Abjuration should definitely have been a contender, and probably the pick. I am loathe to take Shadowpact at all, especially so early, but there are always archetypal cards that can turn the most mediocre of affiliations into a powerhouse Sealed Pack deck. Abjuration is that card for Shadowpact. While I don’t really have the space to embellish that statement here (rest assured I will in my card-by-card review at StarCityVs.com in a few weeks), I am convinced that I made a major misevaluation here. If Shadowpact had died out over the next few picks, I would have wasted one pick, but if it was open, as it usually is, I would have had the only common in the team that really justifies them.

So, having already erred with Abjuration, I think I also judged Knightmare Scenario a little too highly. Still, as I didn’t pick it, it is probably of little consequence. But in hindsight, it wasn’t really a contender this early in the draft. Black Adam is definitely an acceptable pick here, but I tend to shy away from committing to an on-curve deck so early in the draft. Additionally, I had mistakenly assumed that I had put more than one person on the scent of Villains United with my first pack. I picked Black Thorn here, who is a good pick even with her loyalty. She is a 3 ATK 2-drop, which as stated above is very important to me, and she gives me a toehold in Checkmate, the deepest affiliation in the set. Given that I had been passed a great Checkmate plot twist, too, I considered it safe to push into this affiliation.

My Pick Then: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

My Pick Now: Abjuration

Pack 1, Pick 3

Abjuration, Magic; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Deathstroke the Terminator, Lethal Weapon; Dr. Occult, Richard Occult; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; Black Adam, Ruthless Hero; Collecting Souls, Magic; Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Traitor to the Cause

At the time, I was unconcerned, but if I had taken the first Abjuration, I would have been looking very good with a second one here. Unfortunately, I was committed to a different path. There are several other decent third picks here. Black Thorn, Deathstroke, Carter Hall, and Deadshot are all fine depending on where you want to take your deck. For me, however, the path was clear.

I tend to try to draft against the grain. I feel that in a one-game format, you need to be doing something different to get an edge. For that reason, I default to off-curve rather than on-curve, as long as the format can support it. When I draft off-curve, I like to have six 2-drops and six 1-drops, and I find that the benefit of the strategy is that the 1-drops tend to come around late. Unfortunately, the 2-drops do not. Having had more experience than most with this strategy, I know that you really have to snap up the good 2-drops while you have the chance. Typically, this means 3 ATK and concealed status. Given that I think Checkmate is the easiest affiliation in which to get a good deck, and that the last pack suggested to me that I could get a good run from my dominant passer, I was very happy to take another Black Thorn here. The only issue is that this gives me a bit of uniqueness grief if I want to go off-curve, but that is almost negligible at this stage.

My Pick Then: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

My Pick Now: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne (though it clearly should be Abjuration if I had taken the first one)

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Collecting Souls, Magic; The Oblivion Bar; Check and Mate!; Allied Against the Dark, Team-Up; Amanda Waller, Queen; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Batman, Earth 2; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; No Mercy; Magical Lobotomy, Magic

This pack is the big time for me. By far, the two strongest cards are Checkmate. Who is better, Amanda Waller or the Robot? In this case, there is a correct answer. The Robot is excellent with 10 ATK and flight—very powerful indeed. On top of that, you get a decent boost ability, a KO effect that can be situationally game-breaking, and awesome synergy if you can get other OMACs into your deck. Still, Amanda Waller is better here.

The Queen is as good a skill tester as any in this format. When trying to be flexible early in the draft, Amanda Waller is the ultimate in keeping your options open. While she’s a decent beater in an on-curve deck, she is gold for off-curve. There she can hold the 4-slot down; stay hidden to keep numbers on off-initiatives; and most of all, be the best finisher you have. Remember, off-curve is about doing more with your resource points than your opponent is doing with his or hers. Being able to drop two 4-drops on turn 6 is about as good as it gets for off-curve. As I was looking to be off-curve at this stage (but always looking to stay flexible), Amanda Waller is definitely the pick here.

My Pick Then: Amanda Waller, Queen

My Pick Now: Amanda Waller, Queen

Pack 1, Pick 5

Catman, Thomas Blake; Traitor to the Cause; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Multiverse Power Battery; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; No Hope; Systematic Torture; Zatanna, Showstopper

Though I had made a significant error with the Abjuration(s), it looked as if I had gotten away with it last pack. Unfortunately, this pack posed a new type of problem. While I like Traitor to the Cause a lot, I will never take it this early, even with two concealed 2-drops. The strongest card in the pack is clearly Systematic Torture, but taking it would really put me in a bind. It is not so much that I was worried about having put my neighbors into Villains United (which I was), but that moving into an affiliation because of a plot twist is very dangerous. Abjuration is one thing, especially when it’s such a high pick, but moving into the middle of the draft, things will get much more complicated if you want to be tricky.

The issue is that this is absolutely a Villains United signal. Regardless of there having been a better VU card in the pack before, there could really have been only one in the last three picks for someone not to slam this with even the faintest hope of being VU. This means that not only is the rest of this pack probably going to have a few VU cards in it, but also that I can rely on stuff in the third pack, too. At the time, I was worried that I was trying to go off-curve and the KO effect probably wouldn’t be as necessary as another character, but in the end, I think I made another mistake. I took the Hawkgirl, reasoning that I could go JSA / Checkmate off-curve (probably the strongest off-curve archetype), where 2 ATK characters with flight for 1 are obviously the goods. Still, I didn’t need to be this loyal to Kate Spencer this early in the draft. I should have taken the Systematic Torture and bitten the bullet. Overall, it is just a better card, and if my seat was right for off-curve, I would find more 1-drops later on.

My Pick Then: Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

My Pick Now: Systematic Torture

Pack 1, Pick 6

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs; Double Play; Grand Gesture; Baddest of the Bad; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Superboy, Earth Prime; True Name, Magic

Given that I was committing myself to off-curve, I made a pick some of you might find surprising and snapped up Obsidian. This guy is amazing in off-curve, where you not only burn through plot twists, but you also need all the pumps you can get, even at the cost of a resource. Also, 8 ATK and flight is very tidy. Obviously, it was a bit depressing to see a Grand Gesture here, but once the Torture had been passed, I could never get into VU again. Superboy is of minor consideration here because if I wanted to slip back into curve, I would do so with affiliated guys.

My Pick Then: Obsidian, Todd James Rice

My Pick Now: Obsidian, Todd James Rice

Pack 1, Pick 7

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile; Threat Neutralized; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; A Moment of Crisis; Dodge the Bullet; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; Zatanna, Magical Manipulator

If you thought I didn’t really get good value for a sixth pick, then my seventh pushed me even further off-course. I took Huntress, who is fine, but not really what I am looking for in off-curve. You could make a case for Threat Neutralized, but I thought I better hedge my bets and keep some semblance of curve if it had to straighten out.

My Pick Then: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

My Pick Now: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Pack 1, Pick 8

Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster; Help Wanted, Team-Up; Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle, High-Tech Hero; Divination, Magic; Return of Donna Troy; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Death from Above

Another fairly dry pack. I think the call here is fifty-fifty, with me keeping my off-curve dream alive with Jamie Reyes. You can make a case for Death from Above, giving me something else to do with resource points and a better option for an on-curve deck (which was looking like a much bigger possibility), but I think Jamie offers more. Death is a just not good enough a lot of the time, as the ATK bonuses are not really anything more than average for their cost. Jamie gives me a beater, even if unaffiliated, who can be used for benefit if drawn when irrelevant to the board. All I had to do was pick up some equipment.

My Pick Then: Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle

My Pick Now: Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle

Pack 1, Pick 9

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; ; House of Secrets; Join Us or Die; Catman, Thomas Blake; Wonder Woman, Earth 2

I definitely made a mistake here. I picked Sasha, thinking that it looked like I had to get back on-curve. Wonder Woman is clearly better than Sasha. She’s playable, but not really pickable. It’s interesting that the Zazzala wheeled over Coercion; there are definitely fewer VU drafters than usual.

My Pick Then: Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

My Pick Now: Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Pack 1, Pick 10

Knightmare Scenario; Epic Battle; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Obviously, I was surprised to get this back. SLAM!

My Pick Then: Knightmare Scenario

My Pick Now: Knightmare Scenario

Pack 1, Pick 11

Abjuration, Magic; Collecting Souls, Magic; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Traitor to the Cause

Funnily enough, I didn’t really see this as an aberration at the time. I remain deeply embarrassed (and bemused by the player who took the first one but not the second one—he probably took Dr. Occult out of the pack, which is definitely wrong, but it’s not like I knew this at the time!).

My Pick Then: Traitor to the Cause

My Pick Now: Abjuration, Magic (defensive draft)

Pack 1, Pick 12

Collecting Souls, Magic; Check and Mate!; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall

Who knows, my deck might need an edge if it is mediocre.

My Pick Then: Check and Mate!

My Pick Now: Check and Mate!

Pack 1, Pick 13

Traitor to the Cause; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder

My Pick Then: Traitor To The Cause

My Pick Now: Traitor To The Cause

Pack 1, Pick 14

True Name, Magic

Pack 2, Pick 1

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon; Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine; Death from Above; No Hope; Harry Stein, King in Check; Magical Conduit, Magic; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero; Divination, Magic; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Roy Harper, Arsenal, Knight; True Name, Magic

With just enough gas to be acceptable as a first pack, I had some choices to make. Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero is the best card in the pack, though he needs archetypal assistance. Having passed the A Moment of Crisis earlier, I had already missed out on one of the crucial cards for making this guy good. Aside from that, I would definitely need to go back to on-curve with this guy, and I already had two 4-drops. Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight is decent, but really I can only make a case for him as an extremely conservative pick to stay in my affiliation. If I was going to go back on-curve, I’d be better off risking a bit more for more gain with Hawkman.

In the end, I went with Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl is a strong character (5 ATK and flight) who keeps my options open. I had yet to pick up any 3-drops, and she can slot right into off-curve or on-curve easily. Her power-up ability is much more useful than it seems, as well.

My Pick Then: Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

My Pick Now: Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Pack 2, Pick 2

Ishmael Gregor ◊ Sabbac, Malevolent Marvel; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Watch the Birdie!; Collecting Souls, Magic; Jay Garrick ◊ the Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Dr. Fate’s Tower; Ahmed Samsarra, White King; Thanagar; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

I made a terrible pick here. I don’t know whether it was because I was playing infinite Constructed before this or that I saw Nick Little bash Luke Bartter with this guy at the $10K in San Francisco, but I chose Ahmed Samsarra. In Constructed, his King status might not be such an issue, but in Sealed Pack, he is a whole different kettle of fish. On top of that, Samsarra wants to attack in Sealed Pack, not use his ridiculous ability. This guy could be good in the right deck, but mine wasn’t it.

What makes the pick so bad is that one of the best cards in the set, Dr. Fate’s Tower, was in this pack. Sure I didn’t have any Fate Artifacts, but they are not that hard to pick up and I already had Jaime Reyes to ensure that if I got all of them, I would be looking very good. On top of this, I had no locations for my Knightmare Scenario yet. This pick was a terrible error, and I think it was the biggest reason I wasn’t able to win this draft. Sure, I wanted to try out Ahmed, but the pick here was crystal clear.

My Pick Then: Ahmed Samsarra, White King

My Pick Now: Dr. Fate’s Tower

Pack 2, Pick 3

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Knightmare Scenario; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; Justice United, Team-Up; Traitor to the Cause; Graziella Reza, Knight; June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Good Witch; Revitalize; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Return Fire!

There are several decent cards in this pack, but only one that’s good for me. I need locations stat!

My Pick Then: Knightmare Scenario

My Pick Now: Knightmare Scenario

Pack 2, Pick 4

Join Us or Die; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Knightmare Scenario; Allied Against the Dark, Team-Up; Huntress, Earth 2; Lois Lane, Earth 2; Epic Battle; Heroic Rescue; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

While I would dearly have loved to have taken the third copy of Scenario, that would make my deck incredibly narrow and demand that I not only be mono-Checkmate (I had zero Team-Ups at this stage), but that I also pick up at least four locations. At this stage, I couldn’t guarantee that. Fortunately, the wonderful Annihilation Protocol gives me my first 5-drop, and a backup should I want a more aggressive curve.

My Pick Then: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 2, Pick 5

Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Ahmed Samsarra, White King; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Double Play; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; True Name, Magic; Checkmate Armory; I Still Hate Magic!; Spectral Slaughter, Magic; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall

D’oh! I have no idea how I Still Hate Magic! came this far, but whatever, I’ll take it. Unfortunately, that means I have to let another Ahmed go, but given how fragile he tended to be in the game I played later, this might have been a good thing.

My Pick Then: I Still Hate Magic!

My Pick Now: I Still Hate Magic!

Pack 2, Pick 6

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; Relentless Pursuit; Epic Battle; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Help Wanted, Team-Up; The Monitor, Guardian of the Multiverse; Black Alice, Lori Zechlin; Death from Above

Okay, without getting any more cheap 2-drops, I think my off-curve dream is over. I could hold onto it with Death or Pursuit, but this would be really bad drafting on my part. Sometimes, you have to know when to quit. Huntress, Reluctant Queen is easily the best card here for my deck, and with double Knightmare Scenario and no locations yet, I would have to take risks elsewhere.

My Pick Then: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

My Pick Now: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Pack 2, Pick 7

Amanda Waller, Queen; Watch the Birdie!; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Connie Webb, Knight; Checkmate Armory; Threat Neutralized; Pawn of the Black King; Nightshade, Eve Eden

That stinks. Three great cards for my deck, and this late in the draft, too. Well, as much as Pawn of the Black King would be devastating, I am in no position to take it right now. Threat Neutralized takes on extra significance with Ahmed in my pile, but it would still be a subpar trick that is protecting one other card in my deck. Black Queen is the best pick, and I feel sorry for myself and the awesome off-curve deck I almost had.

My Pick Then: Amanda Waller, Queen

My Pick Now: Amanda Waller, Queen

Pack 2, Pick 8

The Oblivion Bar; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Grand Gesture; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Ultra Humanite, Metahuman Manipulator; Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs; Cheetah, Feral Feline

Until now, it didn’t look like it had cost me anything not being in VU. Further, Cheetah is so good that I briefly reconsidered off-curve. Unfortunately, without Team-Ups and needing three more 2-drops in the last pack (as well as a bunch of locations), it was only a fantasy. I thought about cutting here, but I forced myself to swallow my pride and take the location. Oblivion Bar would do nothing in my deck except facilitate my Knightmares, but at this stage, I had to give them something.

My Pick Then: The Oblivion Bar

My Pick Now: The Oblivion Bar, with a nod to Cheetah, Feral Feline

Pack 2, Pick 9

Harry Stein, King in Check; Magical Conduit, Magic; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Divination, Magic; True Name, Magic; Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee;

Magical Conduit sticks out like a sore thumb here, but my deck isn’t good enough for me to cut it. Still with only two 3-drops, my choice is clear.

My Pick Then: The Penguin, Arms Merchant

My Pick Now: The Penguin, Arms Merchant

Pack 2, Pick 10

Collecting Souls, Magic; Dr. Fate’s Tower; Thanagar; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

The funny thing about Vs. Draft is that sometimes a pick can be so clear cut to begin with, and then a few clicks later, it is completely different. Having missed my chance at accumulating the necessary two-plus Fate Artifacts I needed to make this card good, I had missed my chance at Dr. Fate’s Tower. It still would have been an automatic slam if there wasn’t another amazing location in the pack, but that’s how quickly things can change. Simply enough, at this stage, with my deck in dire need of locations but also needing Team-Ups, I had to take Thanagar. That didn’t make me happy, but I had no one else to blame.

My Pick Then: Thanagar

My Pick Now: Thanagar

Pack 2, Pick 11

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Justice United, Team-Up;

An easy pick.

My Pick Then: Justice United, Team-Up

My pick now: Justice United, Team-Up

Pack 2, Pick 12

Join Us or Die; Lois Lane, Earth 2; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

Going back into on-curve, there was a chance I would need another 7-drop.

My Pick Then: The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

My Pick Now: The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

Pack 2, Pick 13

True Name, Magic; Spectral Slaughter, Magic

My Pick Then: Spectral Slaughter, Magic

My Pick Now: Spectral Slaughter, Magic

Pack 2, Pick 14

The Monitor, Guardian of the Multiverse

Pack 3, Pick 1

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Coercion, Team-Up; Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Zatanna, Showstopper; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Revitalize; Return Fire!; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Graziella Reza, Knight; Magical Lobotomy, Magic

At this stage, I was starting to get paranoid about 2-drops, having not seen any for a long time. For that reason, I probably made an error in taking Deadshot here. My thinking was that I would need to dedicate all of my marginal picks to getting locations, so I had to secure my curve first. Still, if that was the case, Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army or Graziella Reza, Knight were probably better picks, Deadshot is fine, but in my deck, I would find few ways to make a lot of use of him, so I probably should have passed him. This pick came down to pressure, and while not exactly wrong, it is likely incorrect. Between the other two picks, Checkmate 4-drops seem harder to come by (as I couldn’t play Harry Stein), so I would run the Robot, who has some synergy with my hidden 2-drops and Annihilation Protocol.

My Pick Then: Deadshot, Dead Aim

My Pick Now: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 2

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Sasha Bordeaux, Knight; Traitor to the Cause; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel; Deathstroke the Terminator, Ultimate Assassin; Richard Tyler ◊ Hourman, Man of The Hour; Double Play; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Ragman, Redeemer of Souls; Burning Gaze; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Target Acquired

Well, there’s the 2-drop I wanted. Still, even worse, there is the 7-drop Deathstroke who would have been the big payoff for being Villains United. Oh well. Still, there is really only one pick for me here, locations or not.

My Pick Then: Target Acquired

My Pick Now: Target Acquired

Pack 3, Pick 3

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Brother I Satellite; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Thanagarian Invasion; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Superman, Earth 2; Epic Battle; Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Heroic Rescue

YAUS! As soon as I saw the location, I couldn’t have cared less if the pack had a Wonka Golden Ticket in it. Sure Thanagarian Invasion is excellent, but there simply wasn’t a card I needed more at this stage than Brother I Satellite. With my second playable location (and maybe third if I could find no more), I had a curve fixer as well. This would take a lot of the pressure off my late-game and make Ahmed a ton better.

My Pick Then: Brother I Satellite

My Pick Now: Brother I Satellite

Pack 3, Pick 4

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Threat Neutralized; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Helm of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Systematic Torture; Scandal, Savage Spawn; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero; Catman, Thomas Blake;

Paul Van Der Werk must have loved it as I passed him his second Systematic Torture to go with his Deathstroke. Fortunately for me, I got a great pick in my second Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army. At this stage, I desperately needed another 5-drop, and between these and the search location, I could reliably skip on running the rubbish Phantom Stranger as backup. Letting another Hawkman through is definitely bad, but at least I had shipped them in opposite directions.

My Pick Then: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 5

Catman, Thomas Blake; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Brother I Satellite; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Deflection; Divination, Magic; Dr. Fate, Lord of Order; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man;

Oh . . . my . . . god. It doesn’t get any better than this. For further explanation, see Pack 3, Pick 3 and add exclamation points to taste.

My Pick Then: Brother I Satellite

My Pick Now: Brother I Satellite

Pack 3, Pick 6

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Sasha Bordeaux, Knight; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile; Revitalize; Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Zatanna, Showstopper; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion

I would have felt unbelievably vindicated if I had not picked up a Deadshot in the first pick of this pack. Unfortunately I did, but I still had a hole at my 3-slot, so Kendrick was an okay pick. I usually can’t stand 4 ATK on a 3-drop, but being concealed tempers this somewhat. It also gives me a non-Ahmed guy to search out on turn 3 if I am feeling fragile.

My Pick Then: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

My Pick Now: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Pack 3, Pick 7

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Catman, Thomas Blake; Batman, Earth 2; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Baddest of the Bad; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin; Zatanna, Showstopper; Stepping Between Worlds

Given that my remaining holes in the curve tended to be at the 4- and 5-slot, this was a big pick. While Obsidian had the flavor of the first pack, after having settled back into on-curve, Batman is a better pick.

My Pick Then: Batman, Earth 2

My Pick Now: Batman, Earth 2

Pack 3, Pick 8

The Calculator, Evil Oracle; Taking Up the Mantle; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Shazam, The Sorcerer; Relentless Pursuit; Secret Checkmate HQ; Rook Control

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. The 3-drop Calculator should never, ever go this late. He is the sort of guy I could take first pick, first pack. Well, I guess that’s the madness of the third pack. Paul on my left might be just about ready to propose when I pass him this! Luckily, there is a definite pick for me here in Secret Checkmate HQ, though the pack has a lot of quality for an eighth pick.

My Pick Then: Secret Checkmate HQ

My Pick Now: Secret Checkmate HQ

Pack 3, Pick 9

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Zatanna, Showstopper; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Revitalize;

Heh. As it so often seems to happen with the third pack, a card I was willing to take first pick wheels to me. C’est la vie!

My Pick Then: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 10

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel; Double Play; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army;

Good times. The 3-drop is a little mediocre on his own, but my double Annihilation Protocol makes him a certain starter.

My Pick Then: Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 11

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Heroic Rescue

Might as well take the decent 3-drop. This pack shows you how much of a mistake I made picking the 7-drop Sasha earlier.

My Pick Then: Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

My Pick Now: Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

Pack 3, Pick 12

Threat Neutralized; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; The Calculator, Crime Broker

Capping off a good run of picks, I get a decent kicker here. A bit of insurance for Ahmed, a bit of a pump, but all-in-all a heck of a twelfth pick. I thought at this stage that the third pack had really rescued me.

My Pick Then: Threat Neutralized

My Pick Now: Threat Neutralized

Pack 3, Pick 13

Catman, Thomas Blake; Dr. Fate, Lord of Order

8-drops are terrible, but this 3-drop shouldn’t be this late.

My Pick Then: Catman, Thomas Blake

My Pick Now: Catman, Thomas Blake

Pack 3, Pick 14

Zatanna, Showstopper

This was the deck I ended up with:

Characters

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

2 Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

Deadshot, Dead Aim

Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Ahmed Samsarra, White King

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

The Penguin, Arms, Merchant

2 Amanda Waller, Queen

Obsidian, Todd James Rice

Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Batman, Earth 2

2 Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

2 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

Plot Twists

Threat Neutralized

Target Acquired

2 Knightmare Scenario

Justice United, Team-Up

I Still Hate Magic!

Traitor to the Cause

Locations

Secret Checkmate HQ

2 Brother I Satellite

Thanagar

I went with a more middle-heavy curve because not only did I lack a few good extra plot twists and locations to go beyond the normal eleven (the second Traitor would have been too many), but also because I had so many power-ups that I wanted to be able to use the Brother I Satellites as combat tricks as well as curve fillers.

Funnily enough, I went a disappointing 1-2 with this deck. I lost the first game against Troy Armstrong, who was able to hit an awesome curve but nonetheless played well to take out a close match. Ahmed proved horrible in this match after he played Watch the Birdie! on it. This might seem random enough, but I got pounded earlier because my first few drops were hidden! I won the second game fairly easily after Adrian couldn’t hit a good curve at all. Finally, I lost the last game to James Kong, who brickwalled my turn 5 attack with Annihilation Protocol onto Black Alice with two Abjurations and a payment of half his life. It didn’t matter that I had +7 ATK, including OMAC Robots, giving him +2 ATK for the power-ups via Kendra Saunders. Good game.

Overall, I think my deck was okay. There were definitely elements that didn’t work as well as I would have liked (e.g. Ahmed), but overall, the power level was very high. I remain firm in my belief that Checkmate is the deepest affiliation in Infinite Crisis. Still, although my deck was very good, there was definitely a higher level of draft available in this tournament of which I wasn’t able to take advantage. Luke Bartter won with the Hawkman deck featuring Dr. Fate’s Tower. Paul lost in the finals to him with the VU nuts that I had passed him. Kongy beat me with the best mono-Shadowpact deck I have seen in a long time.

Mistakes I made earlier in the draft kept me from keeping my deck ahead of the pack. Remember, when you are drafting, you cannot evaluate your deck in a vacuum. You are dealing with much of the same information as everyone else; you are trying to draft the best deck at the table, not an artificially above-average deck. While I would have had to have had exceptional foresight to have snapped up the Villains United goodness that was coming through, I was definitely in a position to take advantage of the nut-high Shadowpact that was coming through, as well as the Fate Artifact engine that is so powerful in this format. There is even a possibility that the Hawkman deck could have been mine.

If you go back through the picks of this draft, you will find that I agree with most of the picks I made even now. However, the majority of the picks I disagree with were major mistakes. It pays to analyze your own drafts and see where you could have done better. We all need to realize that sometimes, even one mistake can be the difference between 1-2 and 3-0.

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