Posted in NEWS on May 10, 2014

By Tim Willoughby

Any time I find myself talking with Marshall Sutcliffe at Pro Tours about limited, it's only a matter of time before I hear the word value. Marshall isn't an economics professor, but given his focus on limited, it isn't necessarily surprising that he's thinking in these terms. In draft, everyone has 42 picks. From those picks you are probably looking at getting 23 cards to play in your main deck, plus a handful of reasonable sideboard options.

While in reality you only get three 'first picks' (choices from a fresh booster unhampered by any of your draft opponents having already taken a card), there are ways that you can feel like you've ended up with more. If you cut a colour really strongly in pack one, then in pack two you might get passed a card that you would value as if it were a first pick. If you correctly read the colours or strategies that other players are focusing on, you might be able to maneuver your picks to get particular cards to 'wheel' or go around the whole table and come back to you. Any time you get to pick a card that you value highly late, you are doing well, while any time you are stuck picking a card you don't value highly early, it might feel a little rough.

When a new set comes out, there is an interesting time where people are still working out the true values of cards. They simply might not know how good or bad a card is, having not played with it much. This is a really exciting time to draft, as it's where a little knowledge can pay dividends. Early in a format, those in the know can truly dominate in a way that might not be possible once the world catches up.

With Journey into Nyx, are there any cards that might be tricky to evaluate, and take a while to settle down in how people rate them? Absolutely. Asking around the room, here are some of the cards that have particularly drawn the attention of some.

Oppressive Rays

This one mana enchantment that puts a fairly hefty tax on creatures to do anything is a card that alters in value quite a bit over the course of any given game. On turn two or three, it more or less takes a creature out of the game for quite a while. On turn seven, this card will do comparatively little, though it is worth noting that with monstrosity costs in the mix, it is pretty tough to both activate the ability and attack or block in the same turn, so it isn't completely without use even later.

How do we get value from this card? Well, chances are nobody is picking it super early, we just need to find the right home for it. The best shell is probably in an aggressive white deck, such as red white heroic. Here, the early tempo play of disrupting an early blocker is particularly valuable, as your early turns are the best turns for getting in damage. If we can grab these on the lap then they are certainly worth a look.

Daring Thief

The ability on the rare Daring Thief is a complicated one. Switching control of permanents looks kind of symmetrical, but in point of fact there is lots of opportunity to switch your worst permanent for one of your opponents' best. This is powerful, and as such deserves a second look. Could this be a 'build around me' rare? If so, what are the other pieces of the puzzle, and how highly might we have to pick them?

This is the quandry that Swedish Hall of Famer Olle Rade has challenged himself with. Is the thief a 'build around' card? Your best chance of being able to make it work is to first pick it in pack one and then work on engineering the right way of making it shine, but is that worth it?

Tomoharu Saito managed to get one in the second draft of the competition, and has paired it with a couple of copies of Akroan Mastiff to potentially get inspired action going without having to get into the red zone as an attacker. Inspired is certainly part of the challenge of a card like Daring Thief - the other part is what to swap?

A simple answer is 'your worst X for their best X'. Assuming a fairly busy board, that will be fairly good. Where things get really interesting though is in the interaction between Daring Thief and static auras. The combo that Rade was looking at was dropping a Karametra's Favor on the Thief. The aura gives it a tap ability, meaning inspired is going to get going at some point. When inspired triggers, you also now have a nice boring enchantment to give control of, in return for whatever enchantment you fancy from the other side of the board. Remember that on the plane of Theros, that might well include an enchantment creature or two!

Another great enabler suggested by Thoralf Severin is Retraction Helix. After you've already done a switch or two, how about using Retraction Helix to tap your thief, to bounce one of the permanents you've given to your opponent, so you can cast it again?

All in all, Daring Thief remains something of a challenge, but the more I see it in action, the more it seems like a challenge worth undertaking. There's plenty of value there.