While the MetaManiacs crew is new to the world of UFS (soon to be UniVersus), we are no strangers to draft formats in games. As we approached the Yu Yu Hakusho Pre-release, there was a small amount of trepidation on my part as, bluntly, many games try to support draft formats but aren’t really set up to do so in a satisfying way.
With no real idea of how well the format will play, I went in to my first pack with just a vague idea of which Characters I was interested in, and my first pack’s rare didn’t set me down any particularly strong path (I don’t even recall what it was). Instead, I opted for Life Force Thread, an attack which threatened a lot of consistent damage, and from there I pieced together a deck whose playstyle was all out aggro in Rando‘s symbols. My theory was that other players may be messing around with trying to get particular synergies to work in a more limited format, and I just wanted to punch their face in as fast as possible. Rando’s ability to steal the opponent’s attacks from the discard was the biggest draw for me – not only for getting to snag powerful abilities of cards I didn’t draft, but for simply ensuring that I’ve always got that ONE extra attack in hand – and this proved absolutely vital to keeping my pressure up.
I got lucky and opened up a True Identity in one of the packs, which was an MVP every time I had it out, and ended up filling in a number of slots with a lot of Kurama’s reversal attacks and The Yoko Spirit, which gave me a way to push through an attack early on to get my momentum going to turn on Rando’s potent Enhance ability. These also gave me the option of pushing additional damage on the opponent’s turn for a great tempo swing, which I was able to take advantage of a couple of times throughout the rounds.
In the end, the deck turned out pretty solidly, though I’m sure a veteran could have crafted something much meaner. But it worked for the playstyle I needed for my level of experience, and I’m not disappointed at all with the performance. Let’s jump into that!
I sat down immediately to a mirror match, but based on some lighthearted table talk during the draft, I knew that my opponent was able to draft a number of spicy URs, while my luck left me dry on that front. If her build was anything like mine, it was going to be a lot of luck to see who could push through damage faster. Both games were down to the wire, with both of us getting into single digits of vitality left. I think I had a bit more experience (relatively speaking, at least), and was able to sequence things at least a bit tighter than her, and in these full-on aggro mirrors, getting that little edge to get one extra attack to connect is all that is needed to secure the W.
As excited as I was to steal her URs, I mostly used my own Form ability to try to use her Life Force Threads in addition to my own to connect with as many as possible. She did get to shoot off a Rando’s Spirit Gun at one point, but I had to take the hit and thus wasn’t able to snag it from her after it went to Momentum.
My round 2 opponent was none other than fellow MetaManiac Jordan Syverson, who was working with a mean Hiei deck and the absolute beating Ice Dragon Seiryu. That card is going to be a house in constructed, but in draft it’s on a whole new level. His plan? Draw Ice Dragon, attack with Ice Dragon, hit with Ice Dragon, and play it from momentum again next turn with Hiei’s ability.
In game one, his plan worked…flawlessly. I could hardly get a board developed and never had an effective enough block to stop it – that’s the issue when you go all-in on aggro like this! Despite my several Characters in the deck solely to block with, I just wasn’t able to set anything up where I could match the speed Hiei was giving Ice Dragon and was forced out of the game very quickly.
I went into game 2 despondently, but things very quickly turned around as he checked Ice Dragon to play a foundation on his first turn. I was perfectly positioned, being on the play with several foundations, so on my second turn I used Rando’s form to copy Ice Dragon, froze some of his foundations, and pushed back. He got set on his back foot from this and couldn’t generate momentum quickly enough, and that advantage is exactly what my deck needed to aggro out the game afterwards.
Game 3 he mulliganed aggressively to try to see Ice Dragon again, but didn’t get it first turn. We ended up with a solid back and forth game until he checked Ice Dragon in the middle, and then misplayed by failing to use an ability he had to tuck it back into his deck. That gave me a turn to lead with Ice Dragon and pump with Rando’s enhance, and push all out to close the game. Had he played that, there would have been a tighter game and he may well have just come out to win it!
Our final round I was paired against a newer player playing Botan. I wasn’t totally sure how to approach this match – Botan’s playstyle doesn’t seem to be quite as straightforward as Rando or Hiei – but I figured if I could connect with a few big attacks, I could make her incremental life gain less meaningful, so I felt like I had a good advantage.
What I wasn’t expecting was to see so many powerful Yusuke cards! Botan came out swinging with Spirit Charged Kicks powering some massive attacks, and my opponent had smartly drafted multiple (at LEAST 2!) Spirit Guns, which really allowed him to put pressure on me in a way I was not prepared for. While I tried to turn the tide by using his own Spirit Guns against him (fully appreciating the imitation of the story), in the first game I got whittled down quickly and he seemed to have the right blocks for me every turn, so I could never quite seal the deal despite getting him down to 7 Vitality before he finished me off.
Game 2 got off to an absolutely stellar start, where I was able to land a True Identity on board and push damage very quickly starting on the second turn. This was a game where my Precise Blows really came in handy, as on the turn when he tried to pressure me back, I was able to stop one of his Safe attacks with a Precise Blow, sealing it and letting me reversal with an additional Precise Blow, which he then had to try to block, messing up his hand and his card flow for the turn. I was able to perfect finish this game, taking no damage at all with some perfectly aggressive hands, again thanks to Rando always giving me an extra attack when I needed it (and stealing Spirit Charged Kick is brutal!).
On to game 3 – and this one has an unfortunately anticlimactic ending. Several turns in, we realized that my opponent was playing at least 4 copies of Reborn Human in his deck, which doesn’t match any of Botan’s resources. He had already played one that game and it was several turns in, so we had to call the judge and the only reasonable call was to issue a game loss and try to fix the deck However, as this was the last game of the last round, that ended up giving the win to me. I chalk this up to our whole area being pretty inexperienced in UFS drafting – we should have caught this very quickly and there would have been no issues!
While the final round was an unfortunate ending, the rest of the games were a total rollercoaster. My number one takeaway is that drafting in UFS/UniVersus is actually better than most non-Magic: the Gathering games that I’ve experienced, and surprisingly so. The resource system (with the restriction of chaining removed for draft) allows you enough flexibility in drafting where you can generally fill out any character’s deck just fine, and the set size and narrow focus means you end up with decks that actually feel more like de-powered constructed decks that just have a little spice thrown in. The quantity of packs used also means it’s not uncommon for a deck to be able to hit multiple copies of the same rare (as was the case in several of our decks).
I felt like Rando was a great choice to play because of his innate flexibility, but I have to say I was jealous of the insane combos Hiei could perform, and surprised by the power of Botan’s consistent life drain (and Yusuke’s super powerful attacks). Nobody in our draft ended up with Kuwabara, who seems to be the favorite among the veterans, so again I’ll chalk that up to a mix of inexperience and perhaps some of us just liking certain characters as fans of the show. Regardless, I found this format thrilling to play and a great reminder of what a good system UFS/UniVersus is, and I eagerly await my next chance to throw down in a draft format event. If you have not had the chance to try it yet, don’t hesitate to join in at the next prerelease or side event – hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did!