From the Sideboard—The Flagstaff Draft Report, Innistrad Edition

By Jeremy Broomfield

“Be Prepared”? “Use the Force”?

I don’t usually like to force a draft archetype unless I’m a) very familiar and b) kinda bored with a draft environment. This doesn’t happen very often, because I only draft IRL and with a newborn baby in the house I’m lucky to get out twice a month. But the kids I take drafting started pestering me as soon as spring break ended, asking if we could draft Innistrad. I cautiously explained that if the store had the packs, and if we brought enough people, and if the remaining drafters were interested, then maybe, maybe I would get my shot at drafting the legendary Travel Preparations deck.

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Except I didn’t say that last bit out loud.

Today when five of us arrived at The Geekery in Flagstaff, AZ, we found that the conditions I enumerated had been met, and we sat down to draft triple INN, a format bursting with options and becoming rarer by the day.

I promised myself that if I ever got this chance, I’d either go for Travel Prep or Spider Spawning, two decks that relied on commons or relatively unpopular uncommons. I chose Travel Preparations on this day because, well, it’s so damn sexy! It’s a deck built around the powerful common, and almost impossible to pull off in DKA-INN-INN drafts, and I never got a chance to try it. Short of opening Olivia in my first pack, I felt sure that I wouldn’t get off track. The key elements are at least 3x Travel Prep, some removal, and cheap, preferably evasive G and W creatures. Especially nice to have are Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Orchard Spirit, and Darkthicket Wolf.

The Draft

Pack one pick one, and there’s Travel Preparations staring back at me…. in front of a startling pile of other really good spells and Sulfur Falls. Since part of my thing is making sure that I play MTG for free, I took the dual land (which only turned out to be worth $6) but I promised myself that if the TP wheeled, I would take it as a sign and commit to living the dream. P1P2 I took Into the Maw of Hell, followed by Skirsdag Cultist, Unburial Rites, Geistflame, Brimstone Volley, Geistflame, Vampire Interloper, and: TRAVEL PREPARATIONS on the turntable!

So this is where it got hard. I watched amazing stuff go by, both in B and R, and passed rare after rare to the drafters on either side of me. Though I kept a Sever the Bloodline that came P2P5 (!), I passed Endless Ranks of the Dead, Evil Twin, Instigator Gang, Moldgraf Monstrosity, and Rooftop Storm. In other news, I passed a Slayer of the Wicked in favor of Doomed Traveler because I was betting the early drop would be essential. As I nervously looked over my cards at the end of pack two, I counted seven playable G or W creatures, 2x Travel Prep, Caravan Vigil, and a Traveler’s Amulet, an important part of your preparations if you anticipate wet weather in the form of a splash (nyuk nyuk) as seemed fairly likely. So I was looking for a really good run: about 10 playable creatures (that does NOT include Kindercatch, before you ask) in the next 14 cards.

I was surprisingly lucky in that regard, ending up with enough that only a small splash was necessary. As I had drafted the aforementioned mana-fixers (the Vigil and Amulet) I dipped into R for 2x Riot Devils, and while I was at it I cut Prey Upon for Brimstone Volley. With no rares and only two uncommons, I hoped this deck would testify to the importance of synergy (as opposed to bombs) in draft for those who still lack faith. Speaking of faith, I planned to put the Bonds of Faith on one of my seven humans more often than using it to Pacify enemy creatures.

Jeremy’s Travel Preparations Deck

  1. Doomed Traveler

    Blazing Torch
    Caravan Vigil
    Traveler’s Amulet
  2. Ambush Viper
    Avacynian Priest
    Cloistered Youth
    Darkthicket Wolf
    Hamlet Captain
    Silverchase Fox
    Unruly Mob

    Bonds of Faith
    3x Travel Preparations
  3. Chapel Geist
    2x Riot Devils
    Villagers of Estwald

    Brimstone Volley
  4. Woodland Sleuth
  5. Grizzled Outcasts
    Somberwald Spider
  • 8 Plains
  • 7 Forest
  • 2 Mountain

The Other Decks
The deck types in the draft broke down thusly: Travel Preparations, UB Delver Blade, Werewolves, RB Vampires, RB Vampires, Mono-white Humans, UG Mulch, GW Humans.

Round 1 vs RB Vampires
My first opponent was a student of mine named Max. Game one we both took a mulligan to six, I dropped a Traveler (Doomed despite all his careful preparations), and he answered with Bloodcrazed Neonate. I put Bonds of Faith on my own dude to make him scary, only to have a Volley of Brimstone make him one with the mulch. His spirit soldiered on, and even got pumped a few times along with a Silverchase Fox, but Max had drafted 2x Nightbird’s Clutches, which seems like it should be bad, but a slightly more expensive sorcery version of Feeling of Dread can really push your aggro deck’s lethal damage through. Which is what happened after his Neonate got bigger and an Interloper joined the party. 0-1

But in the next two games, Travel Prep did what it was supposed to, and both ended before turn six. Games 2-1, matches 1-0.

Round 2 vs UB DelverBlade
My opponent landed Invisible Stalker on T2 of game one and I gulped. That card is so ridiculous. I cast Avacynian Priest, who would turn out to be useless against his very human deck. When my Faith-bonded Doomed Traveler started hitting, I felt better, but then he dropped Runechanter’s Pike and his yard full of spells made it mighty. But he didn’t want to swing, as he had no blockers for my little dudes, who grew stronger thanks to TP. He equipped Trepanation Blade and swung, but he had used up his flashback cards and the Pike wasn’t as good, and the blade only milled one card.  I asked him if he had drafted one of the Butcher’s Cleavers that I saw, and he said no, only the Pike, Blade, and a Demonmail Hauberk. My dudes took G1 soon after. 1-0

G2 was an ugly defeat for me as he dropped three little dudes followed by Skirsdag High Priest. Without removal, I had to bluff and swing, because what else could I do? I think he sac’d a creature to his Disciple of Griselbrand, allowing his Priest to summon a badass Demon to mug my Chapel Geist, and the next turn brought another Demon. I scooped.

G3 I got an Unholy Fiend pumped, only to have him play Tribute to Hunger for five. I despaired for a moment, but a morbidly obese Somberwald Spider is really nasty, and after some exciting back and forth, I finally closed out the game. Games 2-1, matches 2-0.

Round 3 vs RG Werewolves
Theoretically my TP deck should be well-positioned to duel werewolves because I can—and fervently aspire to—cast two spells a turn even in later turns with TP’s awesome four-mana cast-then-flashback cost. But my opponent (my student M_____) got a steady stream of awesome lycanthropes in the draft, and his deck was a bit… bitey. You know what card is really good for killing attackers? Spidery Grasp, of which M_____ had 2x. My deck did not perform as well as it needed to to keep the wolves at bay, and G1 was over fast. 0-1

G2 I had a good draw and was able to sweep away blockers and get in for damage fast. G3 went really long, and we went to turns, finally ending in a draw with my Unruly Mob staring down 2x Bane of Hanweir. Very lucky for me. 1-1-0 in games. I ended up 2-1-0 for the tourney, good enough for second place, as M______ hadn’t lost a game in R1 (I’m so proud!).

Balance Sheet
Ahem. This was not a week when I cracked money rares in excess of the $15 draft cost, as Sulfur Falls is apparently not in high demand. But I had a draft credit from the store that I was all too happy to use. So that’s nice.

Lessons from the Day
Travel Preparations is awesome, despite some of my difficulties. It’s cheap, resilient, and vicious. I would love to try it again, but if we draft triple Innistrad again, I have to try to force Spider Spawning….

See you next time! Remember—unsleeve the lands you borrowed from the store and give them back before you leave!

Jeremy Broomfield came to MTG later than most boys (age 33, sometime during Shadowmoor block), which helped him to avoid a really prolonged Timmy stage. The folks he played Magic with most regularly in Brooklyn were intelligent, capable, hygienic, solvent, and good at playing Magic. They disdained Constructed in favor of Limited, and when he played with them—mostly in booster drafts at someone’s apartment—he was definitely the sucker at the table. When he moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Sedona, AZ, in 2010, his Magic experiences declined in frequency (the mean age of Sedona residents is probably 35 years over the mean age of Magic players, so he must drive for a while to find a draft). He found local communities in the thrall of Standard, and after preaching the gospel of Limited seemingly in vain, he has found a regular draft at The Geekery in Flagstaff. He is happy now. When he’s not playing Magic he teaches oil painting at a boarding school, where he lives with his wife and seven-month-old daughter.

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