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Drafting Blue/Red


Welcome back to Very Limited. Last week, we discussed strategy for drafting B/G in BTT. I’ve had a great deal of success drafting black-based control decks in this format, but I’ve recently been winning a lot with a color combination that I rarely ended up in. The U/R deck can be a tricky combination in this Limited format. Red is quite powerful in Born of the Gods, but it becomes weak for the second and third packs. I believe U/R is the most powerful color combination for red in this format. Today, we’ll be discussing the strengths, goals, and shortcomings of the U/R deck in BTT Limited.

Spellheart Chimera
I’m usually trying to avoid red, but I’m still taking Fall of the Hammer and Bolt of Keranos when I’m supposed to. Sometimes, the red deck comes to us; we can’t help being passed a bunch of good cards. Generally speaking, I feel pretty bad when I’m taking red cards. I feel that my deck usually ends up on the weaker side because of how poorly packs two and three can go. Luckily, blue is super-deep in Theros, and drafting the U/R deck gives us a lot of synergy and allows us to build a great tempo strategy.

Being aggressive is good with the U/R deck. We want to be poking in early damage so we can close the game later with something like Sudden Storm or Sea God's Revenge. Speaking of Sudden Storm, that card skyrockets in value when playing a deck that might include cards like Spellheart Chimera and Flamespeaker Adept. Sudden Storm is drastically better in more aggressive decks, and that’s precisely what we’re trying to build here.

Drafting U/R often forces us to be taking creatures over spells, even when the spell might be slightly better. It can be difficult to assemble enough guys in the U/R deck when there are so many nice spells going around. We want at least fourteen creatures in our deck in most cases—this is a format that rewards decks with a lot of guys, especially bestow creatures. There’re a lot of interesting bestow targets for this deck, and the bestow route is something I feel is the best option for this type of deck.

Let’s take a look at our pick orders in Born of the Gods, starting with the best possible card to open for the archetype and ending with a card that I would be okay with including in my main deck:

Flame-Wreathed Phoenix

Oracle's Insight

Lightning Volley

Now let’s recap.

Best Rares

Arbiter of the Ideal

The best rare for the deck in Born of the Gods is Flame-Wreathed Phoenix. The card has tremendous implications for longer games and functions as a game-ending force when it comes down early and the opponent is forced to pay tribute.

The next best rare for the deck is Forgestoker Dragon. The card seems perfect for this type of deck, shooting stuff, faltering, and being a Dragon. We should be happy to snap up this bomb whenever we see it.

Arbiter of the Ideal is also a huge bomb; the card can take over a game by itself if it goes unanswered. Even if the opponent is able to block for a turn or two with Nessian Asp before he or she has mana for monstrosity, we’re still having free cards put directly into play.

Best Uncommons

Siren of the Fanged Coast

I wouldn’t take either of the best uncommons over Sudden Storm or Fall of the Hammer.

Siren of the Fanged Coast gives us a huge flying body. It’s rare we’ll be able to Control Magic with this, but it’ll usually be lackluster when we do.

Akroan Conscriptor dominates games in which it goes unchecked in the U/R heroic strategy. People like to build Voltrons in this format with bestow, and this is the perfect card to punish people for it.

Best Commons

Sudden Storm

Sudden Storm is at its best in the U/R deck. We are able to scry, and we are able to continue beating while our opponent is trying to assemble the perfect construct via bestow. It combos very nicely with Flamespeaker Adept, which is among the better cards we can pick up pretty late in packs two and three.

Fall of the Hammer and Bolt of Keranos are great spot-removal spells. These two cards are pretty much the only nonrare reasons I would ever be taking red cards early in a BTT Draft.

Okay, so we made it through pack one, and we ended up with red cards. This is where things get tricky. The good red dries up quickly in packs two and three. Luckily, blue is easily the best color in packs two and three, and it does a nice job picking up the slack. How can we maximize the value of cards like Fall of the Hammer and Bolt of Keranos going forward? Should we prioritize signaling?

We can maximize the power of our superior removal by playing an aggressive deck with a good curve. Drafting a decent number of bestow creatures will let us curve out in a big portion of our games. It’s important to remember the gaps in our curve, especially in the third pack. It’s also important to remember how many instant and/or sorcery spells we’re probably playing. Spellheart Chimera is fine when we have seven spells, but it grows progressive better as we have more. We really don’t want to play too few creatures, but our deck can probably support that if we’ve picked up some late Divinations. Spellheart Chimera becomes pretty awesome once we have nine instant and/or sorcery spells in our deck.

Stormbreath Dragon
We should naturally be signaling to the players around us by taking the best cards for our deck. I don’t want to prioritize a particular color in the first pack because I’m much happier just taking the best card every time. Once we make it to the second and third packs, we need to be taking the best cards for our deck every time if we want the deck to end up looking ideal.

This is the order in which I would suggest taking cards from Theros when drafting the U/R deck:

Voyage's End

Fanatic of Mogis

Now let’s recap.

Best Rares

Prognostic Sphinx

Stormbreath Dragon comes down and immediately declares a race that you’re probably winning. Protection from white is extremely relevant in the air in this format, and it isn’t unusual to assassinate an opponent with the monstrosity activation.

Prognostic Sphinx dominates the skies and helps us set up the big finishing turn we’re looking for with the U/R deck.

Hammer of Purphoros makes the top of our deck very exciting and ensures that even our flooded draws will have plenty of action down the road.

Best Uncommons

Thassa's Emissary

Thassa's Emissary is an efficient body that can take over the game if it is able to connect a few times. Throw a cheap bestow cost into the mix, and we see the best possible uncommon for the U/R deck.

Sea God's Revenge is very good at helping us set up a big turn to win the game. This card is much better when we’re ahead or close to it, and the U/R deck is an archetype with which we really want that to be the case in the midgame—when Sea God's Revenge is at its best.

Triton Tactics is usually a huge blowout. The card has steadily risen in everyone’s pick orders with good reason. Throw inspired into the mix, and the card becomes reasonably absurd.

Best Commons

Lightning Strike

Nimbus Naiad lets us be aggressive with our 3- or 4-drop even when it becomes trumped. It’s also a Wind Drake on turn three if we don’t have anything else to do. The versatility and power of every angle of Nimbus Naiad make it a slam dunk here.

Lightning Strike is a great removal spell that can finish off our opponent. We see these going later than they should because so many players have been conditioned to avoid drafting red.

Voyage's End is a cheap trick that really pushes the tempo angle of the U/R deck.

I’ve had a lot of success drafting U/R over the last week. The format has shaken out enough that people are starting to avoid red, and the amount of efficient removal we’re able to pick up does a great job of maximizing the effectiveness of blue’s strong and evasive creature base. Be sure to have this option up your sleeve in preparation for upcoming Pro Tour Qualifier Top 8s and Day 2 of Grand Prix Philadelphia. This is among the least drafted archetypes, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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