February 23, 2015

Draft Walkthrough

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As a culmination of the "Booster Draft" series, I'd like to walk through a complete booster draft. I'll explain how I used the concepts discussed in Level One to inform my decisions, and how I navigated toward a finished product.


Here are the previous articles in the "Booster Draft" series:


"The Basics of Booster Draft"


"Signals in Booster Draft"


"Booster Draft, Part 3"


I'll be using an actual draft that I played recently on Magic Online. It was the Top 8 of a large tournament called the Magic Online Championship Series, so the stakes were high and the competition was stiff.


Pack 1



Pyrotechnics is "premium removal" and would be a fine first pick. All things being equal, I'd take Pyrotechnics because taking a single-colored card over a multicolored card gives you more flexibility as the draft progresses. However, Dromoka, the Eternal is a bomb and is a tier above Pyrotechnics and anything else in the pack. It's a clear pick and a great start to the draft.



Despite the fact that Dromoka is not a black card, the fact that it's both white and green offers a tremendous incentive to draft Abzan. In Khans of Tarkir, Abzan is an excellent color combination, while there's little reason to stick to straight green-white and no reason at all to draft Bant (green-white-blue) or Naya (red-green-white). After first-picking Dromoka, second-picking a black card is nearly the same as second-picking a green or white card.


That said, Whisperer of the Wilds is an appealing choice as it's solidly in the "strong filler" tier. Sibsig Muckdraggers is not a bomb in terms of its mana efficiency, but it can sometimes approximate a bomb in the sense that it has an extremely large impact on the game and cannot be easily replaced with a different card later in the draft.


Card advantage and irreplaceability win out for this pick, and I take the powerful Sibsig Muckdraggers.



For pick three, I strongly consider Typhoid Rats, which is a solid defensive card for the early game. However, in Khans of Tarkir, particularly if you're open to drafting the "Multicolor Control" archetype, it's good to take early dual lands over any card that you won't desperately miss in your deck. Taking Bloodfell Caves here doesn't mean that I'm switching into red, I just want the flexibility to pick a red bomb like a Butcher of the Horde if I'm fortunate enough to see one later in the draft.



Again, I take a dual land over cards that I don't particularly need for my deck.



A "strong filler" card in Whisperer of the Wilds, and an early play that's good in control decks and aggressive decks alike.





Receiving a second Sibsig Muckdraggers so late is both a great addition to my deck and a very promising signal. The fact that the other seven drafters passed up on the Muckdraggers is a hint that they might not be interested in drafting slow, controlling decks involving black.




Just like choosing your colors in a booster draft, you want to be choosing an archetype. Archetypes have flexibility and its often okay to blur the lines of an archetype a little bit, but it is very important to have some end vision for the way your draft is going to go, and the way your deck is going to end up.


At this point in the draft, I'd settled into drafting one of my favorite archetypes: "Multicolor Control." The Multicolor Control deck is most often based in black and green, but can be three, four, or five colors as you please. The key to the archetype is to pick mana fixing early, so you can have the flexibility to pick up bombs in any colors if you see them later in the draft.


Other hallmarks of Multicolor Control include card advantage, lots of removal, and often a delve theme. I'd received some signals that Multicolor Control might be an open archetype because I got Sibsig Muckdraggers very late, and I was able to pick up a lot of dual lands in the first pack.



So I'm solidly in the Multicolor Control archetype where card drawing is very valuable. However, early defense is also important. Despite the fact that I take Enhanced Awareness, in retrospect I feel that Typhoid Rats would've been a better pick. Regardless, both cards are good for my deck at this point in the draft.



I'm hoping not to play any of these cards in my main deck, so I choose the one that I might sideboard in to answer an opposing bomb.





Pack 2



Abzan Ascendancy is at its best in a deck with lots of creatures. Nevertheless, it is a bomb and I take it here. This pick will cause me to put more emphasis on cheap creatures (particularly in black and green, which are shaping up to be my main colors), so that Abzan Ascendancy will have more synergy with my deck.



Duneblast is the perfect card for my deck! It's a bomb, and one of the absolute best bombs possible for a multicolor control deck.


Also note the signals received from the player on my left here. Duneblast and Suspension Field are both better than any common in Khans of Tarkir, and yet a common was missing from the pack. From this, I can infer (not with complete certainty, mind you), that the player to my left is not drafting white, and is probably not drafting both black and green, as otherwise he or she would've likely taken the Duneblast as a possible splash. This is good news for me!


At this point in the draft, I feel like I have my powerful late game locked up. I'll be prioritizing early defense and smooth mana. I'll also look for a little bit of card drawing to ensure that I can hit my land drops and bridge the gap to the late game.



Mardu Hateblade is far worse than Typhoid Rats for my deck because white might still wind up as a splash color, in which case I can't count on casting it on turn one or turn two. Highland Game or Glacial Stalker are reasonable options, as is Dismal Backwater. However, I go with Rakshasa's Secret because it provides card advantage and has great synergy with my two Sibsig Muckdraggers (or any expensive delve cards for that matter).



Dig Through Time is a borderline bomb, and fits perfectly in my deck. First, I'd been looking for a little bit of card drawing, and Dig Though Time is the best card-draw spell in the format! Second, my deck has a delve theme, and I'll be prioritizing cards like Rakshasa's Secret and Scout the Borders. The only concern here is that it costs two blue mana, and I'm not sure yet whether blue will be a main color or a splash color.



The specifics of what I've already drafted play a big role in this pick. Between Dromoka, the Eternal; Duneblast; Abzan Ascendancy; Dig Through Time; and two Sibsig Muckdraggers, I already have more than enough late game! I have no need for Riverwheel Aerialists or Shambling Attendants, despite the fact that they're normally decent cards for this archetype. Similarly, Enhanced Awareness and Dig Through Time are better (for my deck) than Treasure Cruise, and I don't need more of that effect. I take a dual land over cards that I hope not to play with anyway.



Under different circumstances, I might've jumped at Villainous Wealth, but I don't need more late game. I badly want Archers' Parapet, but I have little fixing for white mana and need the land more.



Since I have no red cards left, I take the "strong filler" morph creature over a red dual land.



Abzan Banner is not a strong card, but I don't mind playing one Banner in my Multicolor Control decks, especially with as many powerful late-game cards as I already have. Moreover, I need more mana fixing, particularly for white.




I need the land more than I need expensive cards, despite the fact that Rite of the Serpent and Sultai Scavenger would both be good cards for my deck.







Pack 3



Another bomb! I've been quite fortunate in the rares I've seen this draft.



Flying Crane Technique is a bomb, but fits well with neither my colors nor my strategy. Murderous Cut, as premium removal, is a clear pick.



My draft is going well for a number of reasons, but I'm still struggling in terms of early defense. Highland Game is the best card in this pack for prolonging the game and ensuring that I survive to cast my bombs.




At this point I'm definitely playing green, black, and white, probably with a bit of blue; I'm most likely not playing red. Two cheap removal spells in white are guaranteed to be a good additions to my deck.



Sultai Charm is a premium removal spell and finally locks me in on playing blue.



I'd jump at Wetland Sambar if it was a green creature, but since I might not have a ton of blue mana in my finished product, it might not be reliable as a two-drop. Rakshasa Vizier isn't exactly what I need, but is a very good card in a deck with delve.



I've given up on red, and just need to take the best defensive cards to round out my deck.




If these were nonred Banners I might be interested, but instead I take Cancel for my sideboard to bring in against a slow deck with bombs.




Mana considerations aside, Sultai Ascendancy is a better card than Scout the Borders. However, in the end I wind up deciding to restrict blue to a splash color, and Scout the Borders would've been a better pick.





Here's what the finished product looked like:





reiderrabbit—2nd Place, MOCS #7974043


































This was a super high-power draft deck, able to make use of four rares and plenty of other late-game card advantage. Its weakness was a quick creature rush, as the mana curve was a bit too high and it only had three cards that cost less than three mana.


I decided to play a minimal amount of blue. My deck was powerful enough that I could count on having inevitability—so long as I could survive I would win the game with or without the blue cards. Because of this, mana consistency was my top priority and I simply wanted to minimize the number of things that could go wrong.


As it turned out, my draft would've turned out better if I'd immediately committed to Abzan and never looked back. However, much of the draft was devoted to staying open to opportunities, and it was largely coincidence that the rares I opened all fit into the Abzan colors instead of touching into red or blue.


I also fell victim to a very classic pitfall, which is that I didn't prioritize the key pieces of my deck. I picked expensive cards early, and found myself scrambling for early creatures at the end of the draft, often having to pass up more powerful cards in the process. A pick that illustrates this issue was pack 1 pick 2, where I took Sibsig Muckdraggers over Whisperer of the Wilds. I took the Muckdraggers because I viewed it as a powerful and irreplaceable card, but there's a strong argument for taking the cheaper card.


Every single deck wants premium two-drop creatures, but not every single deck wants a creature as expensive as Sibsig Muckdraggers. Moreover, I ended up with a deck that did make good use of Muckdraggers, but I also wound up with plenty of excellent other expensive cards! I viewed this as a very close pick. Given my uncertainty, perhaps it would've been wise to err on the side of the cheaper creature.


This was certainly a challenging draft with plenty of places where even experienced drafters might make different decisions. Two picks that I almost certainly made wrong were pack 1 pick 11, where I took Enhanced Awareness over Typhoid Rats, and pack 3 pick 12, where I took Sultai Ascendancy over Scout the Borders. If I'd had two more playable cards in the Abzan colors, I could've built a more rock-solid deck without the need to play a nineteenth land or to stretch for playables.


I played the deck to a 2–1 record, finishing in 2nd place to a good, aggressive RG deck (admittedly, this was my weakness). I found it to be quite an interesting draft, and I learned a lot from it. I hope you did as well!






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