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Draft All the Things!

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Since M12 is the draft format for both Nationals and the Pro Tour, I’ve been beach-balls deep drafting the set on Magic Online. I’m prepared to share with you all what I’ve learned so far. Everyone and his brother has been saying that it is an aggressive format, and I tend to agree. It’s not quite as insane as Zendikar was, meaning you actually get to play your 6- and 7-mana bombs. You can definitely draft a slower control deck; you just need to have cards in your deck that can keep you alive long enough to play your more powerful cards. In a previous article, I mentioned that when I approach a new Limited format, I look to find out if it’s correct to play first or draw first, and the correct number of lands to play. In M12, you generally want to play first since many decks can just run you over, but in the event both you and your opponent have slower decks, by all means choose to draw first.

With this information in hand, we can make better decisions both in the draft and in matches. Due to the aggressive nature of the format, I tend to prioritize quality creatures over mediocre removal. For example, I will pretty much take Gorehorn Minotaurs over any common except for Doom Blade. All of the Bloodthirst creatures are good, but Minotaurs especially are gigantic. Speaking of Bloodthirst, in any Red or Black deck, I like having at least one combat trick, since your opponent is going to want to block almost every time. Every color has access to one, so they’re not that hard to pick up. Knowing the Bloodthirst creatures that exist is very important in deciding on whether to block. For example, let’s say you have a Chandra's Outrage (and no other removal spells) in your hand, it’s turn four, and he’s attacking into your creature that can trade with his. Do you block? If he doesn’t have access to rr, you can safely let it through because you can kill any Bloodthirst creature he plays. But if he does have rr, you should block, because you won’t be able to deal with a Gorehorn Minotaurs. If your opponent is U/W, you can safely remove Bloodthirst from the equation altogether.

As far as the relative strengths of each color go, Green is unsurprisingly bad, but unlike in previous core set drafts, I’m not averse to drafting it if I can get certain cards. The only nonrares that will cause me to commit to Green early are Jade Mage, Overrun, and Stingerfling Spider. While Green certainly has some other quality cards to offer, chances are that I won’t be happy with my deck if it’s Green and doesn’t have one of the above three cards. Red and White are the deepest colors, with both many quality creatures and removal spells in at common. Blue and Black tend to be support colors, which isn’t to say you can’t have a heavy Blue or Black deck, just that it will be less common. I’m not going to go into pick orders, because they change a lot depending on your deck. If you’re short on creatures, you’re going to take creatures higher, that much is obvious. It’s less obvious when you’re debating between two cards of similar power level. My general rule of thumb is: When in doubt, take the cheaper card.

Looking at the drafts I’ve recorded, I tend to draft Blue or Black the most, and Red or Green the least. Color preference definitely plays a part, but this is also a function of what is being overdrafted or underdrafted on Magic Online. For some reason, people just don’t want to take Mind Control, so I end up in Blue more frequently than I should. Ideally, I’d like to be the B/R Bloodthirst deck every time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The key is to stay flexible and to know when colors are open and when they’ve dried up. That’s something that is pretty difficult to teach, but you get a feel for it the more you play.

It’s time to take what we’ve learned and put it into practice. Here’s a sample draft that I’ve done as I’m writing this article:

Pack 1, Pick 1:


My Pick:


Wow. Just wow. This might be the worst pack of M12 I’ve ever seen. There’s not a single card in the pack I’d be happy about first-picking. My logic for taking the Greatsword here is that it’s an artifact, so there’s a better chance I’ll play it versus any of the other cards. I don’t even really like it, and could see cutting it. Even the rare isn’t worth taking! Just garbage.

Pack 1, Pick 2:


My Pick:


The choice here is between Stormfront Pegasus, Blood Ogre, and Merfolk Looter. I quickly eliminate the Looter since there are two other quality Blue cards in the pack, and with the awful pack preceding this one, there’s a good chance at least one person to my left will jump into Blue. My preference here is Blood Ogre, but I have no idea if that’s actually correct. I hope it works out.

Pack 1, Pick 3:


My Pick:


Pack 1, Pick 4:


My Pick:


I’m just trying to stay flexible here. I’m not seeing any Red cards, but the packs have been mostly junk, so I’m hedging my packs in case the next pack is better or if I can pick up on a color being open.

Pack 1, Pick 5:


My Pick:


Taking the best card and moving on.

Pack 1, Pick 6:


My Pick:


Jeeeeeez. Okay, this has to stop somewhere. This is turning into a train-wreck.

Pack 1, Pick 7:


My Pick:


Pack 1, Pick 8:


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Pack 1, Pick 9:


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Pack 1, Pick 10:


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Pack 1, Pick 11:


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Pack 1, Pick 12:


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Pack 1, Pick 13:


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Pack 1, Pick 14:


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Pack 1, Pick 15:


My Pick:


It goes without saying: That pack did not go well. At all.

Pack 2, Pick 1:


My Pick:


Pack 2, Pick 2:


My Pick:


I really want to take Azure Mage here, but I’m concerned with my lack of removal. Also, I’m pretty sure that Blue just isn’t going to work out for me.

Pack 2, Pick 3:


My Pick:


Pack 2, Pick 4:


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Pack 2, Pick 5:


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Pack 2, Pick 6:


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Pack 2, Pick 7:


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Pack 2, Pick 8:


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Pack 2, Pick 9:


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Pack 2, Pick 10:


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Pack 2, Pick 11:


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Pack 2, Pick 12:


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Pack 2, Pick 13:


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Pack 2, Pick 14:


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Pack 2, Pick 15:


My Pick:


I’m pretty much settled into B/R, but I’m really not happy with my deck.

Pack 3, Pick 1:


My Pick:


Pack 3, Pick 2:


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Pack 3, Pick 3:


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Pack 3, Pick 4:


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Pack 3, Pick 5:


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Pack 3, Pick 6:


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Pack 3, Pick 7:


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Pack 3, Pick 8:


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Pack 3, Pick 9:


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Pack 3, Pick 10:


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Pack 3, Pick 11:


My Pick:


I think this is a mispick. I’d thought I had enough playables, but I was counting Buried Ruin as one of them. It’s nice to have Distress sometimes, but I think my deck would have been better with a second Giant.

Pack 3, Pick 12:


My Pick:


Pack 3, Pick 13:


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Pack 3, Pick 14:


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Pack 3, Pick 15:


My Pick:


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This is what I ended up playing:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Blood Ogre

1 Bonebreaker Giant

1 Drifting Shade

1 Fiery Hellhound

1 Goblin Arsonist

1 Goblin Tunneler

1 Gorehorn Minotaurs

1 Reassembling Skeleton

2 Duskhunter Bat

2 Gravedigger

1 Crumbling Colossus

1 Solemn Simulacrum

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

1 Doom Blade

1 Shock

1 Slaughter Cry

1 Sorin's Thirst

1 Fireball

2 Lava Axe

1 Goblin War Paint

1 Greatsword

[/Spells]

[Lands]

6 Swamp

9 Mountain

1 Buried Ruin

1 Dragonskull Summit

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

Round 1, Game 1

I keep four lands, Fireball, Reassembling Skeleton, and Solemn Simulacrum on the draw. His first play of the game is a turn-four Aven Fleetwing, while all I’m doing is attacking with my 1/1. I play a Solemn, but he answers back with a Timely Reinforcements and a Phantasmal Bear. I equip my sad robot with a Goblin War Paint and send it into the red zone. My opponent decides to block with his Bear and only two of his tokens. I get the full blowout as I eat one of his tokens with a Sorin's Thirst before damage. I have a Buried Ruin in hand, so I could just let the trade happen, but I want to grind out more value with it. He adds an Assault Griffin to his board and continues to beat down with Aven Fleetwing. He decides to not press his luck and try to trade with my Solemn a second time, and just allows the attack through, allowing me to play a kicked Duskhunter Bat. I’m not really interested in trading the Bat for his Griffin, since my hand is Fireball, Lava Axe, and Buried Ruin, so I take the full five from his attack. I crack back with my Solemn and flyer, but the 4/4 gets chump-blocked by a Soldier token. I do some math and decide to Axe him a question, figuring if my next attack gets through, the Fireball will be lethal. I guess this seems somewhat fishy, as he plays a Day of Judgment on his turn after attacking. I am totally fine with this, oddly enough, since he loses his board while I get to rebuy two-thirds of my team, even drawing a card in the process. I draw the second Lava Axe, so winning from this point is academic.

Round 1, Game 2

This time, I keep a hand of three lands, double Lava Axe, Reassembling Skeleton, and Gravedigger. His first play of the game is a Merfolk Mesmerist, which my opponent decides to activate during his main phase on the following turn, hitting a land and a Goblin Arsonist. This makes no sense at all to me. Not only does he open himself up for a point of damage for no reason, he conveniently stocks the graveyard with a creature for me to get back with Gravedigger. Unfortunately for me, I can’t take much advantage of the situation, as I have only drawn lands so far. I get my free point of damage and am forced to ship the turn. Aven Fleetwing joins the party, so I am planning on playing the Gravedigger since I am falling behind on board. I draw a Fiery Hellhound, so I play that instead, and hope that my opponent will be foolish enough to give me a better Gravedigger target. No such luck, as he plays a pair of Auras, a Spirit Mantle on his Fleetwing, and an Ice Cage on my Hound. I’m not too worried about the Ice Cage, as I can target my creature with the Goblin Arsonist, but the flyer is going to be a problem. My deck can only serve up another land, so my original play will have to do. My opponent doesn’t seem to have that problem at all, as he draws an Assault Griffin to quicken my clock. The Duskhunter Bat on top of my deck is hoping to trade with it, but Stave Off ensures that I am still firmly entrenched up . . . um . . . poop creek. I still have 10 points of burn in my hand, so I just send in all my men each turn, hoping to get enough damage in. My opponent decides to attack with his Merfolk Mesmerist for no reason on my last turn to live, giving me outs to kill him, but alas, I instead draw yet another land.

Round 1, Game 3

I keep Swamp, Mountain, Buried Ruin, Goblin Tunneler, Doom Blade, Gravedigger, and Bonebreaker Giant on the play. My opponent leads with a turn-one Pride Guardian, which is of course amazing against Tunneler. I don’t exactly have much to do, so it does actually hold me off from attacking for a couple turns until I play a Drifting Shade on turn four. He counters with an Assault Griffin on his turn. I only have one Swamp in play, so I want to trade my flyer for his, especially considering the Gravedigger I have. I miss my fifth land-drop, so I decide not to attack, leaving up Doom Blade in case he tries to get cute with Spirit Mantle, otherwise offering the trade. My opponent has other plans, and plays a Pacifism on my oh-so-threatening 1/1 flyer. I want to save the Doom Blade for something bigger, since I have Shock and Sorin's Thirst in my deck that can kill the Griffin, so I just take 3. [Looking back, I really should have played the Doom Blade, since I didn’t actually have any of those other spells in hand, and wouldn’t really get another opportunity to play it for a while.] I draw a fifth land to play Bonebreaker Giant, but it is countered with a Flashfreeze, allowing my opponent to untap and play Peregrine Griffin. I feel like I really need to advance my board, since I essentially have nothing in play, so I opt to play a Gravedigger instead of killing one of his flyers. My plan is to play a 2/2 Duskhunter Bat the following turn and Doom Blade his Peregrine Griffin. This will require me to draw a second Swamp. Naturally, I don’t, but I still don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I can still trade for his Assault Griffin, and I guess I can take 2 more damage. My plans are ruined by an end-of-turn Unsummon, forcing me to chump-block an Armored Warhorse with a Fiery Hellhound. I still can’t draw land, and to make matters worse, I can’t afford to attack with Gravedigger, since I need to leave back a blocker for his Warhorse. Okay, new plan: Doom Blade the Peregrine Griffin, double-block the Warhorse with Goblin Tunneler and Gravedigger, and go to 1 from the Assault Griffin, hoping to draw a Shock or something so I don’t have to use Fireball quite yet. The Doom Blade is Cancelled. Awkward. This forces me to use the Fireball to kill the Assault Griffin to not die, which means I will have a much harder time dealing with his Peregrine Griffin. I go to 2, then draw Gorehorn Minotaurs. I have a path to victory: chump-block with Duskhunter Bat and get it back with Gravedigger while playing out as many men as possible. It isn’t a good plan, but it’s the only way I am going to win at this point. I get in with an unblockable Zombie, then play out a 2/2 flyer and a 5/5 Minotaur. Aven Fleetwing makes sure that I won’t be able to buy myself another turn, so I am more or less drawing dead.




Well, there you have it. Probably not the best example of my drafting strategy in action, but sometimes your draft is a train-wreck and there’s not much you can do about it. I wasn’t expecting to do well with the deck, but it’s pretty frustrating when you are punished for your mistakes and your opponents aren’t. I hope you all enjoyed this article. If you’d like to see more drafts in the future, please let me know in the comments.

Until next time,

Nassim Ketita

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