Tuesday 12 April 2016

The Rotisserie: Conclusions and Results

The rotisserie was simultaneously somewhat standard yet also unusual. It was standard in that most of the common top archetypes were drafted with and impressively strong correlation between the top cube cards and the things picked. Most of the good cards were picked and the ones that were not were due to there not being a suitable archetype for them.

The rotisserie was unusual in there being very little competition or conflict. With most of the players going mono or mono with a splash there was only some minor overlap in things people were after. On top of people being well spread in colours the same was true of archetyes meaning even less overlap and conflict. Despite people being so self contained and needing less picks (the more basic lands you intend to play the more spare picks you have to use on hate picks) from being basically mono  there was very little hate drafting. Almost all of the hate picks were actually hedging ones, removing cards that were problems for themselves rather that ones that damage the archetype itself.

Another oddity with the rotisserie is that no one had any sort of blue based control deck. The most control player at the table was Copperline George with his Reccurring Nightmare Abzan deck while The Phyrexian had the most actual countermagic available in his Splinter Twin deck. There were very few wraths at the table making for an interesting meta. All told this wound up worst for Action Dan with his white weenie. Despite him looking like he had the best deck after the draft a meta with no classic control decks turned out to be a problem. White weenie benefits from a diverse and stretched meta. It is robust, solid and reliable and able to hedge against other decks very easily without hurting the list. Despite doing this better than anyone else with his draft it didn't come together for him on the day.

The matchups were generally very even, people had selected and built their decks so that we all had a close to 50/50 matchup in most cases. Copperline George and his Abzan deck was the only one which was quite polar, looking favourable against aggressive creature decks and quite weak to the combo decks. This was likely a sensible choice given 2 combo opponents to 4 aggro ones. This bias and acceptance of weaker matchups is again the likely result of there being no classic control at the table.

It was incredibly easy to predict archetypes and even final deck lists for people from very early on in this draft. It was this transparency which made it quite a standard and quite a friendly draft and also why the resulting decks were so incredibly balanced and fair looking. Regardless of the results I was very impressed with everyones efforts in the draft, there was a huge range of skills and experience sat at the table. A pie chart of total time spent playing magic would be 95% me and the remaining 5% the rest of the group. Remove me from that chart and Swanker and The Phyrexian have 95% of the area. I might have been playing magic for twenty plus years, I might have played more magic in the last year than four of the people in the draft have done in their whole lives combined and yet you couldn't really tell that difference from the picks.

We have already embarked on another rotisserie based on the fun and success of this one. This next one is an 8 man one with a new player with comparable MtG experience to myself joining the previous group. It will be interesting to see what different ideas he brings to the table. The draft is substantially more unclear where people are going and much more competitive over cards thus far. Partly this is because of the extra player but also I think due to some increased confidence in people having done it before with good success. I will post the draft when we are completed, hopefully in about three weeks time.

I highly recommend this "online" pre-draft way of rotisserie-ing a cube. It saves time on the day so that you can play more games but also gives you loads of time to think about your deck, plan, prepare and generally be involved in something in the long build up to it. The day we played the games felt like a tournament we had all prepared for and were all anticipating. It allows less experienced players the time they need to research or talk about what they should be doing so that they not only have a very competitive deck at the end of it but learn a huge amount in the process as well.

Before we move onto the results themselves I want to highlight some of the best picks and plans people made use of in the draft. I also briefly want to talk about some of the things I had considered while making my picks.

Sideshow Cob always intended to go affinity but had what looked like a very messy opener to the draft. His reasoning was very sound and generally a good plan in this format. His first picks of Mana Vault and Grim Monolith heavily lock other people out of artifact based decks so while they are weak cards for affinity they secure him the rest of the cards another artifact deck might compete for. It also removes the chance that there will be two artifact decks in the field which is good for him as well. Too many artifacts and people start to run main deck hate and make things more uncomfortable. His later picks of Tinker and some fat targets were a backup plan incase heavy hate came his way and made affinity too much of a stretch. Some very good draft strategy used there.

Flame Slash, Unsummon and Lightning Axe were exceptional picks from The Phyrexian. There were some problem cards for his combo in the field, many of which had 4 toughness. You really can't afford to be playing 2 and 3 mana removal against the kinds of aggro deck in this field. With damage to face being unusually irrelevant in his deck he could afford to go exotic and play rarely seen red burn spells that did the job perfectly. Unsummon is nice in this capacity too while also being able to protect his combo (after I stole his Spellskite!).

Pillar of Flame was pretty optimal from Swanker and won his some games outright. It turns out hitting a Kitchen Finks with this makes a Searing Blaze look low value and Swanker was good at doing that. I also really liked the balance of cards Action Dan picked and selected as main deck hate and hedging. I had myself planned to take away both his Thalia and the Aethersworn Canonist that Sideshow Cob stole simply because they are so much extra effort for me to beat.

I wanted to go High Tide from the outset as it is powerful, different and most importantly mono. Being mono means I don't need to fight for dual lands and I can have a lot of spare picks to allow me to tune the list or hate pick away things I fear. Storm is very hard to conventionally disrupt but plenty of cards exist that are very dangerous for you and I wanted to be able to steal the ones that seemed like they might be playable against me. Flusterstorm was one of the few I actually managed to take with the white hatebears going pretty quick and no decks able to support stuff like Mind Break Trap sensibly.

The risk with High Tide is that there is little redundancy in your stuff, you need all the key stuff, want most of the important stuff and a lot of that stuff is high powered high pick things. The things that aren't are really obvious and liable to be hate picked. I was lucky I managed to get basically all the things I really wanted and needed. The only one of my fist 12 picks that were not essential to the list was Treasure Cruise. Due to this fragility I had a vast number of backup plans and directions I could go at various stages of the draft.

I had to take the High Tide near the end of the important stuff so as to not fully give the game away and leave myself wide open to hate drafts but it is the most important card in the list. My back up for losing High Tide was going into green and perhaps even white for Heartbeat of Spring and potentially Mirari's Wake. A very similar sort of deck and thus able to use all my previous picks to good effect. Merfolk was my other backup plan. Had I lost any of the cards previous to High Tide I would have picked up Vedalken Shackles and True Name Nemesis as my next two picks and gone down that route. It worked quite well with my picks and remained an option for a long time given that I was mono blue. It would not have been an ideal backup given the meta and would have suffered far worse than white weenie. Being the aggro deck that has the weakest threats and the slowest clock, as well as the least removal, is not a place you want to be. Having some good tools against control decks is of little use when there are none!

A big part of Rotisserie is knowing not only what you are aiming for but all the alternate paths you can take once you have set upon that route. If something suddenly doesn't go to plan you want outs, being forced to play a significantly under par deck just because someone identified and took a key card from you is brutal. A good plan is one with lots of low cost high potency alternatives. I really wanted Sapphire Medalion but I left it late because it is a card I had backups for. It did get hated so I scooped up a Helm of Awakening as a quick fix direct replacement. After significant thought however I decided I was quite afraid of playing Helm in the meta and decided to splash white for Sunscape Familiar. Obviously I was very lucky to still have such a clean white splash at that stage of the draft.

Enough jabber, have some results;


Swanker 6 - 0

Me 5 - 1

Copperline George 3 - 3

Old Fava Beens 2 - 4

The Phyrexian 2 - 4

Sideshow Cob 2 - 4

Action Dan 1 - 5

Sideshow Cob The Phyrexian Copperline George Me Action Dan Old Fava Beens Swanker
Sideshow Cob na 2 – 1 1 – 2 0 – 2 1 – 2 2 – 0 0 – 2
The Phyrexian 1 – 2 na 2 – 0 1 – 2 2 – 1 0 – 2 1 – 2
Copperline George 2 – 1 0 – 2 na 0 – 2 2 – 1 2 – 0 0 – 2
Me 2 – 0 2 – 1 2 – 0 na 2 – 0 2 – 0 1 – 2
Action Dan 2 – 1 1 – 2 1 - 2 0 – 2 na 0 – 2 1 – 2
Old Fava Beens 0 – 2 2 – 0 0 – 2 0 – 2 2 – 0 na 0 – 2
Swanker 2 – 0 2 – 1 2 – 0 2 – 1 2 – 1 2 – 0 na


The results may look a little one sided but that is what happens when you do a best of three rather than the thousands of games you need to get a relevant data set of how the matchups or players perform. The main thing I took from the results is a great example of the classic game mantra, to quote MFPallytime - "Success is a mindset".

Having seven players we had someone spectating each round, in the first round this was Swanker (we all had full decklists so he didn't get any free info). He lives with Copperline George and has been mentoring him and helping to some extent with the draft. I was playing against George and being invested in his results Swanker was spectating our match. What I did to George should really be censored. One sided isn'y even close to a description. It was a good matchup for me and my deck ran well. I hard cast Emrakul turn four game one and Brainfroze away his whole library turn three in the next. It was filthy, even I felt bad with my win.

Having seen this horror, this abuse unfold Swanker rightly wanted to punish me. He knows he can play, knew he had a good deck and had a strong incentive to avenge his fallen comrade. As George pickup up his cards Swanker got up and asked him to step aside with great purpose. He had a fire in his eye! Normally mild mannered and not overly competitive Swanker had new found reason to win. He played exceptional magic against me, took me down and carried on with that momentum throughout the rest of the day. To do well in Mtg or any other competitive game you have to believe you can win and have a strong desire to do so. Swanker knew he could win and I inadvertently gave him the desire to do so that day. You can practice hard, prepare loads, do your research and it all helps but wanting it is still the main thing in my experience. 


  1. Brainfreeze for the win turn three is impressive. I assume you got Frantic Search and Time Spiral? I'm setting one of these up for my play group currently, did you impose any sort of time limits on draft picks? I'd prefer to do it over email without restrictions, but I'm getting some push back from people concerned about how long it will take.

  2. took us about 3 week to do the draft, we imposed no time limit but ruthlessly abused slow people in an attempt to speed them up. We considered 24 or 48 hour pick timer but in reality thought that would encourage people to take longer so left it unrestricted. It turns out you get pretty hooked and it is only real life restrictions that get in the way of people making their picks rapidly.

  3. Hey Nick, I just joined your blog. I love your top cards posts! I consider them one of my best sources when weighing card choices. I particularly enjoy Top Draw, Quality, Counters, and Bounce.
    I would love to hear your thoughts on artifact ramp (aka mana rocks). There are so many to choose from, and since you are so cut throat in your card selections, I figured myself and others could learn a lot from a Top Mana Rocks list.
    If you could find the time and energy to do that, I would be so appreciative! And if not, keep up the great work!

    1. And just so you know how much I need your expertise, here's the list I'm having to whittle down (only colorless and blue for now):

      Apprentice Wizard
      Palladium Myr
      Solemn Simulacrum
      Chrome Mox
      Mana Crypt
      Mox Diamond
      Mox Opal
      Mana Vault
      Sol Ring
      Grim Monolith
      Basalt Monolith
      Worn Powerstone
      Thran Dynamo
      Gilded Lotus
      Sea Scryer
      Plague Myr
      Silver Myr
      Everflowing Chalice
      Coldsteel Heart
      Corrupted Powerstone
      Fellwar Stone
      Guardian Idol
      Mind Stone
      Prismatic Lens
      Sky Diamond
      Star Compass
      Thought Vessel
      Hedron Archive
      Sisay's Ring
      Ur-Golem's Eye
      Wayfarer's Bauble

      And I'm sure there's still some more I'm missing...ughhh
      Dreamstone Hedron