Welcome back to Very Limited. Khans of Tarkir is finally here, and it’s time to start drafting. I went undefeated in two prerelease events as Sultai, and I managed to acquire enough packs to draft a bunch since then. Today, I’ll be discussing my strategy for the new Draft format.
I really like the idea of grinding my opponents out in Khans of Tarkir Draft. Everyone’s mana bases are clunky enough that they’re not applying quick pressure. We passively gain life with our lands. It’s basically the best format ever.
What do I mean by durdling? I mean we want to be passively sitting around while our opponent throws all of his or her resources into beating us. If we’re able to weather the storm, our superior card quality and sheer card numbers will assuredly assure our victory.
It’s been quite some time since this was a viable Draft strategy, but Khans of Tarkir is absolutely perfect for the durdle. Playing this style of Magic means squeezing every ounce of card advantage out of a game. If you’re wondering how to maximize removal spells and when to play card-draw, I recommend rereading the section on “using our instant-speed removal to its fullest potential” in this piece.
Everyone is going to have a clunky deck. Often, they’ll be playing bears that don’t affect the board much. Their mana bases will usually be bad or slow. By aggressively cornering the lands early and taking only the strongest cards early, we decrease the amount of fixing at the table and put others into panic mode once we’re in pack three. This gives us the opportunity to pick up a lot of very late awesomeness. Mythic creatures, End Hostilities, and Siege Rhino have all been passed to me in the third packs because a player absolutely needed a land for his or her deck or the player had no hope of casting the bomb in question. We can also grind people out even if our deck has a lower mean power level in terms of average pick order. The removal in the format is versatile enough that one high-toughness creature is often enough to dominate the battlefield until we have enough cards to take over and start attacking. I’ve played a five-colored monstrosity in two Sealed events and three Drafts. I haven’t lost a match yet; in fact, I’ve only lost two games.
So, how should our deck look if we’re drafting a monstrosity like this?
We want roughly two to four card-draw spells. Dig Through Time is the best, Treasure Cruise and Bitter Revelation are tier two, and Weave Fate is tier three. Having a decent amount of card-draw lets us win the long game after all the relevant cards have been traded.
We want seven to eleven creatures, and we’re favoring toughness heavily with our creatures. We can play a single 2/5 and invalidate a huge portion of the opponent’s side of the board. We’ll talk about what creatures are best, but the way we win doesn’t really matter. The way we’ll be drafting may also reward us with some very late, bomby creatures.
We also want five to eleven removal spells. All the removal is good. In a lot of recent sets, the removal hasn’t played very well against the tempo-based nature of the format. Removal is bound to be excellent when we’re trying to trade card for card, and most of the creatures in the format don’t do anything upon entering the battlefield.
We want two to three Banners. They may seem bad, but they bring us to our removal spells faster, and they help fix our mana. We can refund them for other cards as the games go late, and it’s good to be able to play out our hand faster when we’re drafting card-draw spells.
Then, we want a decent mana base, which usually involves seven to eleven nonbasic lands. Tri-lands are obviously the best, but we should be happy to pick up the life-gain duals, too.
How do we end up with the right mix? Let’s talk about the order in which we’ll be taking cards.
We’ll break down the cards in tiers of power level.
These are bomb rares and mythics. Duneblast and End Hostilities are both tremendously strong, and they have been the backbones of my deck on multiple occasions. The especially strong rare and mythic creatures also fall into this category. We’ll also be taking fetch lands very high, and while it’s mostly to pad our collections, they also happen to be quite strong in the Draft format.
These are tri-lands, Sultai Soothsayer, and Warden of the Eye. We need tri-lands if we ever want to be casting our spells. For reference of how high we should be taking the tri-lands, I’ve taken them over Arc Lightning and over Master of Pearls already. Sultai Soothsayer and Warden of the Eye are tremendously powerful cards that work exceptionally well in the deck we’re drafting. We’re going for a grind, and these two are tremendous tools.
Here we see Bear's Companion, Mardu Roughrider, Armament Corps, life-gain dual lands, Treasure Cruise, Bitter Revelation, and other removal spells. Aggressively go after the card-draw early when looking at an option from this tier so we’re not in panic mode later. Delve creatures like Sultai Scavenger and Hooting Mandrills join this tier if we already have Bitter Revelations or Sultai Soothsayers; otherwise, those cards would be included in the next tier.
Here are random creatures with high toughness, deathtouch, or some type of utility, Weave Fate, and Banners. Also consider the three-color common morphs. Dragon's Eye Savants are actually tremendous when drafting this deck. We can aggressively block the opponent’s morphs, make that player sink a whole extra turn into them, and then leave ourselves with a 0/6 and a removal spell at the ready. It’s really good at taking wind out of people’s sails. Sidisi's Pet is pretty good as a 1/4 lifelink. It gums things up very well.
These are unfortunate playables and sideboard cards. Rakshasa's Secret is a great sideboard card for when we’re on the draw, especially if we have some delve cards. Scout the Borders and Embodiment of Spring are both playable but not particularly exciting, though Scout the Borders can be very strong if we have three or more delve creatures or two copies of Treasure Cruise.
The five-color control deck is an art form. Learning how to draft it well may take a couple tries, but the rewards are vast, especially if the people you draft with aren’t taking the lands high enough. This is the perfect archetype for release Drafts. You’ll make the people around you have bad decks (you’re five colors), your deck will certainly be capable of beating anyone who wants to overpower it, and your deck is tremendously well-suited for long games—which, in my experience, is basically ninety-five percent of games in this format. Go forth, and harness the power of all five colors.
Captain Planet and all that.