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Drafting Magic 2015

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Finally, it’s release weekend! After weeks of anticipation, we finally have a chance to draft Magic 2015. Over the last week, my friends and I have been drafting our prize packs from the prerelease. Today, we’ll be talking about overarching strategy in Magic 2015 Draft.

Natural Allies

Dauntless River Marshal
When drafting a two-colored deck in Magic 2015, we really want to be playing allied colors. Dauntless River Marshal, Jorubai Murk Lurker, Nightfire Giant, Kird Chieftain, and Sunblade Elf are very powerful cards that often go reasonably late, especially in packs two and three. By playing an allied-color combination, we set ourselves up to grab some of these first-pick-quality cards very late in the second and third packs.

We obviously can’t be forcing a specific two-colored combination this early in the format. How do we ensure that we end up in an allied color combination most of the time?

In many previous formats, I recommended taking powerful cards, regardless of color, with our first five or so picks, allowing us to see what’s open before we start pushing a specific deck. In Magic 2015, I recommend committing very early. When we first-pick a blue card, we should be trying to take a blue card with our second pick, too, unless there’s a first-pick-quality card of another color. Feel free to grab Dauntless River Marshal, Jorubai Murk Lurker, Nightfire Giant, Kird Chieftain, or Sunblade Elf if they’re partially on-color, at which point it becomes reasonable to start grabbing cards from that second color as well.

By jamming one color as hard as we possibly can in the first pack, we strongly urge the players on our left out of that color. After all, it’s hard to justify playing black when we’ve only been passed two or three remotely playable black cards. By encouraging people not to draft that specific color, we’ve successfully cornered all three allied-basic-land uncommons that we might care about. Using this strategy, we’ll happily find ourselves picking up a lot of strong cards, especially early, in the second pack. Also, by focusing on a single color as much as possible in the first pack, we can start to form an understanding of what the player on our right is doing. It’s fine to overlap one of our colors with that player, but we don’t want to be drafting the exact same combination.

Signaling or Recognizing Signals

Ulcerate
Signaling, in general, should be taken very lightly in our early Drafts of a new set. Different players will evaluate cards differently. We shouldn’t expect a player on our left to be a specific color just because we passed him or her something very good in that color. This is a moving target, though, and we can make assumptions about our neighbors’ decks if we know they’re strong players or have a specific Draft color preferences. Obviously strong cards can still be used as signals when passed. If we pass a pack with Ulcerate and nothing that comes close, one of the players on our left is definitely going to pick it up and assume it’s a signal that black is open. Basically, we need to send signals with very powerful cards.

Again, Dauntless River Marshal, Jorubai Murk Lurker, Nightfire Giant, Kird Chieftain, and Sunblade Elf have a big effect on the format. These cards are the perfect signals to push the people on our left away from what we’re trying to do. For example, first-picking a black card and passing Sunblade Elf encourages at least one of the players on our left to be G/W specifically, meaning that black and its two allied colors will be more open. There’s nothing wrong with first-picking one of the allied-land creatures, but I like taking a powerful card from the opposite end of the color wheel whenever possible if we open one of the these powerful uncommons.

Escape Hatches

Black Cat
It’s easy for a deck to turn out terrible in Magic 2015. It’s wise to recognize escape hatches that let us turn our bad decks into creations with the ability to win games. Black has the easiest and most obvious escape hatch in the Black Cat deck. Black Cat is a card that most people don’t want at all. If we’re able to grab two or three Black Cats and two or three Mind Rots, we can choose to draw first and win a lot of games with unimpressive creatures simply because our opponent has no cards in hand.

A lot of time, we’ll be jamming green cards and find ourselves unable to find the top end or general power level that’s necessary to make our deck as good as it can be. If we’ve first-picked a strong green card and passed Jorubai Murk Lurker, as we often will when presented with that decision, we might find ourselves taking green cards with our next six or seven picks. Green seems a bit underdrafted, and the cards are all playable. The pile of green creatures with one or two copies of Hunter's Ambush is one of the few 3–0 decks I’ve seen thus far.

Bombs

Spectra Ward
In general, Magic 2015 is a pretty fair and balanced format. However, there are a few cards that seem to be far better than all the others. These are the cards we should never pass. By leaning on one color very hard, we allow ourselves to open one of these in pack two or three and play its color as our second. Let’s talk about the most bombtastic cards in Magic 2015.

Spectra Ward This might actually be the best card in the set. I knew this would be good, but I didn’t think it would be better than the Souls or the Planeswalkers. I was wrong. This card is pretty much unbeatable. Take it if you see it, and try as hard as you possibly can to make it fit into your deck. There are a lot of free wins to be had.

Indulgent Tormentor A 5/3 flyer for 5 mana would already be a first-pick-quality card, but the extra text turns this into something that’s really not fair at all.

Soul of Innistrad, Soul of Zendikar, Soul of Shandalar, Soul of Theros, Soul of New Phyrexia, and Soul of Ravnica All of the Souls are absurd. A lot of people are trying to rank them in terms of power level. I think Soul of Theros and Soul of Shandalar are the two best, followed by Soul of Zendikar. The truth of the matter if that all of these are first picks that have the potential to make games unwinnable for the opponent.

Ajani Steadfast Good Planeswalkers are especially strong in Limited when both players have boards at most stages of the game. Ajani Steadfast closes games very quickly when we’re even slightly ahead. The card isn’t incredible on defense, but it shouldn’t be hard to engineer a turn in which we cast it, use it to grow our team, and then force our opponent to make less than optimal attacks to take it off the table.

Chandra, Pyromaster
Chandra, Pyromaster Drawing free cards and pinging things every turn is obnoxiously good.

Cone of Flame It’s only an uncommon, but it’s definitely better than the vast majority of rares. I assumed that everyone knew how good this was, but I saw them go third-pick in the first pack of my first Magic 2015 Draft. This is easily the best uncommon in the set.

Liliana Vess Planeswalkers that are good in Limited are usually very good therein.

Garruk, Apex Predator This is the kind of card we can splash one of the two colors for. We won’t need the splashed color until very late in the game, and the card we’ll be splashing for usually wins the game by itself.




Magic 2015 promises to be an exciting Draft format that rewards play skill and drafting ability. Next week, we’ll break down the cards of Magic 2015 and start firming up our pick orders for each specific color. We’ll have a stronger understanding of our goals in the format when we have more Drafts under our belts. Don’t miss this weekend’s Release Event festivities! Let’s draft!


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