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A Look at Dark Ascension Draft Archetypes

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Dark Ascension has been out for roughly a week, so I of course have been drafting non-stop. This new set is really fun for Limited, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far with you.

Let’s start with one of my favorite archetypes:

G/U Self-Mill

This deck is slightly less powerful than before, because with one fewer pack of Innistrad, there are not as many Spider Spawnings. The upside of drafting this deck is that Blue in Dark Ascension is very powerful. There are many good combat tricks that Dark Ascension provides, such as Griptide and Nephalia Seakite. If the mill plan does not go your way in the next few packs, at worst, you have a pretty decent control deck. Dark Ascension does provide us with some nice ways to mill yourself. Screeching Skaab is a nice little beater that you can play early and mill two cards. Tower Geist is a great two-for-one, and the card you don’t select ends up in your graveyard, which is a nice bonus.

Tracker's Instincts is an awesome card in the deck. It mills three cards, and you get to keep your best creature. It’s way better than Mulch because in the late game, Mulch does nothing but mana-flood you, and it’s an awful late-game top-deck. Tracker's Instincts is the exact opposite, and it also has flashback, which makes it that much better.

Dark Ascension doesn’t really provide many win conditions for this archetype. Ghoultree is a great card for the deck, but it’s rare, so it won’t come up very often. If you open or are passed a Ghoultree in pack one, it’s definitely worth taking to try to draft the archetype. It’s powerful enough that you can take the risk and hope for some Spider Spawnings in the next two packs.

One thing to watch out for when playing this deck is that the white mages may have Thraben Heretic. The Heretic is a very solid creature, and therefore main-deckable, and his ability just wrecks this deck.

Overall, the deck is still very strong with Dark Ascension added to the mix, and it’s arguably among the best archetypes in Innistrad Limited.

B/R Undying

B/R aggro was a pretty powerful deck with triple Innistrad. With the new set, the deck has evolved into a new archetype that takes advantage of the undying mechanic to the fullest. The most important card in the deck is Pyreheart Wolf. With that card, plus whatever 1- and 2-drops you can find, you’ll have the power to beat down your opponent very quickly. It doesn’t really matter what creatures you draft here—as long as they’re cheap and efficient. Removal and tricks are very important because the Wolf makes it extremely hard for your opponent to block effectively, so you end up gaining huge amounts of tempo. Undying Evil is an all-star in this deck, because not only does it save your creature in combat, but it comes back as a bigger threat.

Dark Ascension also provides us some new removal for the deck, such a Tragic Slip, Fires of Undeath, and Forge Devil. Markov Warlord is a great finisher, and it usually ends the game in combination with Pyreheart Wolf. Overall, this deck is extremely powerful with the right cards.

G/W Travel Preparations

G/W Travel Preparations is another very good aggressive strategy. This deck is all about playing small creatures early—usually a mana accelerator and something else—then casting Travel Preparations and flashing it back on turn three or four. Most decks have a hard time dealing with that line of play. The key to the deck is token generators, and Dark Ascension provided us with some really good ones. Gather the Townsfolk is a great card in the deck, as is Lingering Souls. Lingering Souls is among the best cards in the set for Limited, and it is usually a first pick. Even in G/W, it’s worth it to play Lingering Souls and splash black for the flashback. Four 1/1 tokens for 5 mana is very good, and when you add Travel Preparations to the mix, it becomes even better.

This archetype is all about tempo, so it’s important to draft cards that provide you with it. Both Niblis of the Mist and Niblis of the Urn tap creatures when they enter the battleifled or attack, so it’s vital to pick those up when drafting.

There are also some sweet rares from Dark Ascension that fit into this archetype very nicely. The first is Deranged Outcast. That, combined with Gather the Townsfolk and Doomed Traveler, makes combat impossible for your opponent. The card is insane, and it’s an automatic first pick. Thraben Doomsayer is another card that is a bomb in the archetype. The ability to make a creature every turn is amazing, and the card advantage that he provides should end games in your favor. It’s pretty risky to go to 5 or less life to activate fateful hour, so you shouldn’t actively try to lower your life total, but if you do go to 5 life, the +2/+2 to all of your creatures should end the game quickly.

Besides cheap creatures, combat tricks are also the key to this deck. Briarpack Alpha is a great new card and plays this role quite nicely. It also doubles as card advantage, so it’s definitely something to look for.

Once you know you are drafting this archetype, when you draft packs two and three, Travel Preparations must be picked very highly. Of course, if you open a rare bomb, you should probably take that instead, but Travel Preparations should be picked higher than solid creatures and removal—especially because you only draft two packs of Innistrad.

U/B Control

Triple Innistrad Draft was a relatively fast format, and the slow control decks were never very powerful. Dark Ascension will change that. There are a lot of cards in the set that fit nicely into a control deck. Most of the creatures in blue and black can provide card advantage, giving you a leg up on your opponent. Some examples are Bone to Ash, Dungeon Geists, Nephalia Seakite, Tower Geist, and Farbog Boneflinger.

There are also some really good removal spells that Dark Ascension provides. The first is Tragic Slip. This card can kill almost anything, and for b, it is easily among the best removal spells in the format. Another card I like a lot is Griptide. Grasp of Phantoms is a really good card, and Griptide does the same thing but as an instant, so it’s even better. You can cast it in response to your opponent’s combat trick, ruining your opponent’s plans. If you are the aggressor in your matchup, Griptide can also be a great tempo advantage spell.

I also really like Gruesome Discovery. If you can cast a cheap removal spell followed by this card, you can take the two best cards out of your opponent’s hand. If you’ve ever played Odyssey block and remember the card Last Rites, it’s very similar. Being able to choose multiple cards for your opponent to discard is a very powerful effect.

My favorite common creature is definitely Headless Skaab. A 3/6 with a very minor drawback is a huge threat. He is great both on offense and defense. He is very difficult to kill in combat—especially in a color combination with a lot of removal and tricks.

U/R Control/Burning Vengeance

The Burning Vengeance deck is very powerful. Again, as with all of these pre- Dark Ascension archetypes, they became a lot worse without the extra pack of Innistrad to find you your Burning Vengeances. On the plus side, this deck is pretty good even without Burning Vengeance, and it just plays out like a control deck. Red provides you with the burn, and blue provides you with flyers and other control elements.

The flashback spells are really what makes this deck powerful. Dark Ascension gives us access to a great new flashback spell: Faithless Looting. Mystic Retrieval also makes an appearance in this deck, depending on what removal you have. The more Brimstone Volleys you have, the better Mystic Retrieval becomes. Secrets of the Dead is an interesting card for the Burning Vengeance archetype because it gives you card advantage, so you never run out of gas. However, it is a bit slow, so don’t be afraid to side it out against the faster decks. Also, the trigger is not a “may” ability, so you really need to manage your library carefully with this card in play. I’ve seen people deck themselves with Secrets of the Dead.

One card from Dark Ascension that gave this deck a boost is Evolving Wilds. This land provides you with fixing for an off-color splash, so you won’t have any trouble flashing back all of your spells for value. Fires of Undeath and Forbidden Alchemy are the perfect cards to splash black for, and Burning Oil is a nice spell for a white splash.

R/G Werewolves

This archetype is pretty hard to draft because all of the Werewolves are double-faced cards, so there’s only one per pack. Also, most of the good Werewolves are rare, so you can really only draft this deck depending on what you open. If you are able to draft this deck, it can be quite powerful.

The first and most obvious rare you want to open is Huntmaster of the Fells. Being able to do repeatable damage and make creatures is too powerful to ignore. The other cards you want to look for are Mondronen Shaman and Wolfbitten Captive. Dark Ascension even provides a new lord for the deck, Immerwolf, in the uncommon slot.

To fill out the deck, any solid creature will do, but the cards that really shine are the creatures with undying. Strangleroot Geist and Young Wolf are both good in this deck. Mana acceleration is also important. Dark Ascension provides us with a new card, Scorned Villager, which plays that role nicely. Finally, Moonmist is worth playing to instantly transform your Werewolves. With a few Werewolves in play, the card can be a potential blowout in combat. Be sure to side it out against other green decks—the card is awful in the mirror.

W/X Spirits/Flyers

The white Spirit deck usually plays blue or black as a secondary color. Like the title says, this deck tries to overwhelm the opponent with efficient creatures and flyers, and it uses removal and combat tricks. The Dark Ascension cards to look for here are Lingering Souls, Elgaud Inquisitor, Niblis of the Urn, and Niblis of the Mist. The other color is usually just a support color for this archetype. The main color, white, provides you with the creatures and some removal, while the secondary colors give you the utility and tools you need to push through. Black and red give you removal, blue gives you counterspells, bounce, and combat tricks, and green gives you the pump spells.

I really like the W/B version on this deck. There are a lot of synergies with sacrificing your own creatures. For example, black gives you access to Altar's Reap, and white has many creatures that you don’t mind sacrificing. Elgaud Inquisitor, Doomed Traveler, Elder Cathar, and Mausoleum Guard are all creatures that are better after they die. In addition, Unruly Mob and Village Elder both become better when your creatures die. W/B is among my favorite Draft archetypes in this format.

Top Cards

Here are my top picks at the moment:

Top 5 White Commons

5. Elgaud Inquisitor

4. Gather the Townsfolk

3. Loyal Cathar

2. Niblis of the Mist

1. Niblis of the Urn

Best white uncommon: Lingering Souls

Top 5 Blue Commons

5. Screeching Skaab

4. Bone to Ash

3. Nephalia Seakite

2. Headless Skaab

1. Griptide

Best blue uncommon: Niblis of the Breath

Top 5 Black Commons

5. Reap the Seagraf

4. Gruesome Discovery

3. Death's Caress

2. Undying Evil

1. Tragic Slip

Best black uncommon: Farbog Boneflinger

Top 5 Red Commons

5. Faithless Looting

4. Torch Fiend

3. Toch Fiend

2. Wrack with Madness

1. Fires of Undeath

Best red uncommon: Pyreheart Wolf

Top 5 Green Commons

5. Ulvenwald Bear

4. Kessig Recluse

3. Dawntreader Elk

2. Crushing Vines

1. Scorned Villager

Best green uncommon: Briarpack Alpha




I think Dark Ascension is a great set for Limited. Although it’s not as powerful as triple Innistrad, it does give us some new archetypes to think about. I really like drafting with the one pack of Dark Ascension first—instead of Innistrad. It really encourages drafting decks rather than just drafting cards.

Thanks for reading my article. Be sure to come back next week. I’ll be playing in Pro Tour: Honolulu this weekend, so if all goes well, I’ll have a tournament report for you. Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @AllWeDoIsWinMTG

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