Welcome back to Very Limited. This week, we’ll be talking about a double-edged sword. “Staying open,” or being flexible with our colors, will allow us to situate ourselves in the most open color combination and, presumably, allow us to end up with a better-than-average deck each time. Some Draft formats, such as Return to Ravnica block, never gave us a chance to stay open—we would be forced to take very specific cards based on the colors of the cards we had already taken, and the power level of our Draft was often subject to the whim of a random-number generator. Born of the Gods, Theros, Theros is much different, though. There’s an opportunity for us to be rewarded handsomely for keeping our options open.
We need to stop forcing archetypes when drafting Theros block. Sure, we may have had success forcing W/U repeatedly, but that’s not going to happen on Magic Online or in a Grand Prix, and it’s certainly not going to help at the Pro Tour. We often see people forcing aggressive strategies at large events. This used to be an effective way to end up with a fast deck when everyone else was looking to craft a beauty, but times have changed, and it’s become the default setting for players who are nervous about their first forays into high-level Limited competition. Remaining open in your first Draft at Grand Prix Montreal this weekend will almost assuredly serve you better than trying to force a W/X heroic deck that five other people at your table will also be trying to force. Going all-in on a specific plan after our first or second pick isn’t drafting a deck, it’s the equivalent of crossing our fingers and hoping things pan out better for us than the others at the table. We want control over our destiny. We want to be calling the shots. We want to decide what deck we’re drafting based on the information we have about what other people are taking or passing.
Gild or Arbiter of the Ideal.
Speaking of heroic white decks, does anyone actually win with these things? It feels as though we play against some W/X heroic deck in every round of every Draft on Magic Online. These decks are very over-drafted, and the power level represented here isn’t strong enough for people to be forcing it as hard as they are. The W/X heroic decks are fine, but the free wins we can pick up with a fast heroic strategy are offset by the lackluster card power level that will have trouble breaking through whatever 5-mana creature an opponent decides to play. It’s fine to draft a white heroic strategy, but forcing it is generally a way to pick up a win or two, not a way to win the Draft.
Our strategy will usually leave us with a very strong deck, but there’s an added bonus to keeping our options open. By taking strong cards across different colors in the first pack, we’re significantly weakening our opponents’ decks. For that sweet rare that someone would’ve seen third- or fourth-pick, he or she doesn’t get it. This generally weakens the average power level of decks at the table, especially those around you, and it should make a lot of the possible matches in the Draft a lot easier.
How do we know a color is open? It’s possible to be hooked when a player passes a strong card to us despite being in that color, but it’s usually safe to assume that a color is open when we are passed a few strong cards of the same color from the same direction. For example, we’d know blue was open if we saw a pack-two, pick-two Nimbus Naiad, a pick-three Thassa's Emissary, and a pick-four Vaporkin. That may seem to be an extreme example, but it’s a pretty ordinary unfolding of events in this Draft format.
Nylea's Presence, Traveler's Amulet, and Unknown Shores. Five-color green or even five-color decks with with two or three Traveler's Amulets are very capable of winning a Draft. In fact, my win ratio with five-color green strategies is quite high in this format. Chromanticore is something that you should seriously consider taking when there aren’t very strong cards in a pack—the card is bustedly bombtastic in a deck that can cast it, and it’s essentially a Baneslayer Angel that needs to be killed twice.
Next week, we’ll go back to looking at specific Draft archetypes and pick orders. It’s important that we remember to keep our options open if the new Draft format, though. The fact that a particular archetype seems strong doesn’t mean it will be available in any given Draft. Going forward, I’ll discuss Draft archetypes and talk about when we should be drafting them based on the cards we happened to have picked up in the first pack and the first few picks of the second pack. In the meantime, try a more objective approach to the new Draft format. You won’t be disappointed, and your results will improve drastically with time.