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Losing Dominaria Drafts: Some Advanced Tips


Shalai, Voice of Plenty
So, when you're looking to 3-0 that Dominaria draft, you would naturally turn to person who hasn't played Magic in so long, he's never actually played against a planeswalker.

I mean, I know what planeswalkers do. I literally wrote the article on MagicTheGathering.com that introduced planeswalkers to casual players. I could list you several planeswalkers and what they do.

I'm just . . .  not entirely sure how you defeat them.

I know it has something to do with declaring attacks at them, or countering them, or burning them, literally burning your opponent's set of Jace, the Mind Sculptors and watching as he cries because four flaming Jaces is kind of like the scene in Dark Knight where the Joker sets fire to a warehouse of money.

But honestly? Someday I'll play a draft and someone will drop a Teferi and I'll just smile, say "GG," then flee out the back before anyone finds out what a fraud I am.

So am I, shall we say, experienced in the methods of modern Magic? No.

Ah, but was I a master of Magic a decade ago, back when I was one of the world's most popular Magic writers?

Also no.

My greatest feat in Magic was winning an Invasion Limited PTQ, in Alaska, with under 30 people in attendance. And I'm pretty sure my finals opponent was a moose.

But like so many other ancient grognards, I crawled out of my dusty crypt the minute Dominaria was spoiled, because the set looked that good. I went to the prerelease and went a respectable 3-2, losing to the #1 and #2 players because they had ridiculous bombs squared.

(Look, I try not to get bitter, but when you're facing Lyra Dawnbringer and Blackblade Reforged, followed in the next round by Helm of the Host on a Shalai, Voice of Plenty, it kind of feels like the God of Rares has taken raining on your proverbial parade.)

So I signed up for MTG Arena, and spent the whole weekend drafting Dominaria. And let me tell you, my old skills have not atrophied one bit. I could still probably beat a moose in a 30-man PTQ.

So, if you want to learn how to win a Dominaria draft, I am not your mustelid.

But I have great, great experience in how to lose Dominaria drafts.

Let me share with you my wisdom.

Spend Time Devising Clever Card Nicknames.

I was watching Pascal Maynard draft Dominaria, and when his mouse pointer accidentally hovered over a Serra Disciple, he made a disgusted noise like a garbage disposal backing up.

"I do not understand this card," he said. "People play this and pray they can drop a Dub on it, and hope that their opponent doesn't have removal."

I, who then currently had two Serra Disciples in his draft deck, had never felt more personally called out.

But how could I not overvalue Dub? Because I'd had a nice bw deck at the prerelease, and whenever I dropped a Dub on something I wasn't entering the combat step -- I was entering the dubstep. At which point I'd cry "DROP THE BASS!" as I attacked and did a lightswitch rave wriggledance in my seat.

This is, I'm sure, vital information for your next PTQ.

But it's not just Dub in itself! If you should, by chance, drop a Dub on a Skizzik, it's now called a Skrillex and your damage dealt is measured in "Bangarangs." I'm sorry, I don't make the rules.

And what if, as Brian David-Marshall points out, I power out an early Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp and put a Dub on it? Why, it's the old Rub-a-Dub!

A dub on a Thorn Elemental? That's a Dub-a-shrub!1

And if you put two Dubs on a creature, you'd have to wink at your opponent and tell her "I guess I'm Dub-ling down," at which point you pull out a pair of sunglasses and cross your arms and play that prerecorded message on your phone that says "DEAL WITH IT."

I mean, with all those great puns to be made, how could you not third-pick Dub?

So my advice, assuming you'd like to lose as many games as possible, is to spend a lot of time devising clever nicknames for your duders. I mean, when Academy Drake comes into play, you should absolutely hum "You used to call me on my cell phone" and do the little dance. Whenever you cast Marywn the Nurturer, get on your best Princess Bride funny priest voice and croak, "Mar-wyn - Mar-wyn is whut bwings elves togevvuh . . . "

Then, when you bomb out because you realized that you can sing "Time of Ice" to Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" and spent your next combat phase trying to figure out a filk lyric that didn't have "sacrifice" as the next line because Time of Ice bounces, you can be satisfied that your Vorthos cover band game is strong.

It's Never Too Late To Switch To Another Color.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
One of the nice things about 2018 technology is that I can watch pros draft. And here's the amazing thing about watching actually competent people draft:

They don't wander around picking colors like a sugared-up six-year-old in a candy shop.

Like, maybe they'll venture a fourth-pick in an alternate secondary color to see if it's open? And then they'll realize, nah, that Naban, Dean of Iteration wasn't useful, and they'll wind up with a two-color deck.

A two-color deck?

That's crazy!

Do what I do, my friends: figure your color is open and switch. At any time. Don't worry about where you are in the draft -- the good White cards are flowing, mise amigos, and this bonanza will never end! Maybe it's pack 2, pick 9, but that Adeliz, the Cinder Wind just wheeled, so of course that's the signal to Transformers your draft from a substandard gw deck into an even more substandard ur deck!

No, wait. You don't have enough playables to go ur. And you didn't really get any mana fixing, either. But you can always go urg -- that's a classic archetype in Dominaria draft. We call it the "hot mess."

I myself have attempted to switch colors as late as pack three, pick four. That is advanced losing tech.

Furthermore, I have discovered that the pros have yet to discover this amazing tech that I, myself, pioneered -- I call it "splashing a color." And the great news is that you can splash a color for any reason, at any time. Picked up a single Tatyova, Benthic Druid in your draft? Splash it. Who gives a hoot what it does to your mana, or if in fact it turns your deck from a tight beatdown deck into a mangled half-control, half-beatdown deck?

Like George Bluth said, there's always color in the manana stand. Splash a single Eviscerate! It works in Sealed. And is there really a difference between Sealed and Draft?

There's a reason they call it "splash damage."

Don't Pay Too Much Attention To The UI.

Fungal Plots
You know what card's a stone-cold beating in Dominaria? Fungal Plots.

It's won my opponents games whenever I've cast it.

Because I have this special trick for losing: click the wrong side. I had a game where I had a pair of Saprolings (one enchanted with Dub, of course -- and no, I'm not kidding) that was staving off my opponent's offense, and I wanted to make another Saproling.

"What's that?" Magic Arena said helpfully. "You want to sacrifice your entire board? Here ya go!"

The good news was, I had 2 mana, two life, and a spanking-new card in hand when I died.

If you're a master loser like me, you can utilize the UI to squeeze losses out of unalloyed victories. Did you know that if you double-click through the attack phase in just the right rhythm, you can accidentally commit to sending your entire board into your opponent's army to be devoured whole?

Or you can take a pro tip from me: when using an emergency Llanowar Envoy activation to squeeze out that second Red mana to get your Verix Bladewing out, misclick. Of course you meant to spend two Green mana to get a Green mana! That's a winning strategy, dumping your mana down a hole.

The point is, if you're not familiar with how the card works, just guess. Click whatever looks good. It'll work out beautifully for your opponents.

Channel Your Inner Leroy Jenkins.

It's been a war of attrition in this game -- both of us saving our removal for only the choicest of threats, picking off fliers and menacing creatures until all that's left is the bog-standard Dominaria ground stall, him with five filler creatures and you with your four.

It's taken skill to get here. Skill and caution.

And then you cast that Yavimaya Sapherd, giving you an extra 3 power on your board. You plan your attack, looking at an all-out rush, figuring out how he'd block - and then you realize he's got a Green and three White open and a card in hand, so you think about what combat tricks could complicate your assault, and --

Wait a minute, you think.

This is math.

I didn't come here to do math.

And so you're like, "Heck with it, let's just see what happens!" and you turn them all sideways. And let me give you the finest piece of Magic strategy that I know.

If you play to see what happens, you will certainly see what happens.

And usually "what happens" is disastrous. They have the trick. Or you didn't think through all the blocks and they had some way of blunting your onslaught and coming out ahead.

I mean, I've watched pros play, and they spend time thinking -- but really, is that how you want to spend your down time? You're not a computer, man. Relax. Let the flow of the game carry you straight into the 0-3 bin.

And yes, you'll lose. Horribly. Probably to a kid who's eight years younger than you are. But they'll go home with this nasty headache and this pain in their biceps from hauling all these free Dominaria packs out to the door, whereas you will be free to drink a beer and claim it's all manascrew, man.

Which leads me to my final tip:

Bourbon Is Delicious. Drink A Lot Of Bourbon When You Draft.

I mean, wait until you're 21, kids. But nothing loses you a draft faster when it's 1:30 am on a weekend and you've swigged three large carafes of delicious, delicious Blanton's and the room is spinning and wheeeeeeee cards.

I think I played a six-color deck. I don't know how. But dang if Blanton's isn't wonderful.


Ferrett Steinmetz, a.k.a. Ferrett, The

@ferretthimself on Twitter

P.S. -- If you remember me from 2008 and have ever asked, "What is that Ferrett boy up to these days?" -- well, he's written four novels, each reasonably successful, each full of weirdness. If ya feel like ordering my novels -- and I'd suggest starting with my videogamemancy book Flex -- they're available in the ad below.

I'll be back next week. We'll see how long they rope me in from there on.

1 Thank you, Twitter user @Swainwalker!

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