Draft Strategies #2

Posted in Feature on April 1, 2006

By Olivier Ruel


Keeping options opened

I don't know where exactly it comes from, but as far as I can remember, my brother and I almost always agreed on everything about Magic. Is it about similar education or some kind of brother connection? Is it because we've always did everything together and always reached nearly the same level in everything? Or is it because we've been playing Magic for 10 years, mostly together? Probably a bit of everything. That's why I usually find it interesting when we disagree in draft, the format in which discussing strategies with others is the most instructive. And that happened last week end.

Let's go back a week ago, in Cardiff, Wales. After posting a 2-1 record on both day two drafts, Antoine grabbed a slot for Top 8.


Pack 1

Antoine's first pack offered him a choice between Dream Leash, Viashino Fangtail and Mark of Eviction. Both blue cards are pretty equivalent, above Fangtail. Antoine went for the Leash. Then he had to make a crucial decision between Master Warcraft and Last Gasp.
Tough pick here - I think picking Gasp was the good choice, as Warcraft and Leash wouldn't really fit in the same kind of deck, as Warcraft is a great card in slow decks that control the board or in fast decks that can't finish their opponent. None of them applies to blue decks using double blue mana spells, except, maybe, for Boros splash blue. In RGD, though, with the adding of UW and UG, Warcraft might be the best pick.
Then, why did Antoine take the Removal when he could play a spoiler for sure?
For one very simple reason: when you are making up your mind between two cards, the most clever choice is often to pick the one you will play for sure. If he had taken Mark first pick, the good choice would have probably been to go for the Warcraft, but in this situation, Antoine made a wise decision. The more you wait to determine your third color, the more options you will have afterwards.
His choice was rewarded by a third pick Moroi.


Pack 2

Antoine applied this strategy as he usually does, and then came the time to tear a second booster pack. Gleancrawler and Last gasp were the two best cards in it. Antoine had some thoughts for about half a second before picking his second copy of the black removal, as Gleancrawler is great in green decks in which your guys die in combat much more often, and in which fatty boom boom are necessaries. I would still pick Gasp over it in an aggro deck, but that would be closer. Here, picking the removal clearly is the best option. Then Antoine picked Shambling Shell over Tattered Drake. Interesting choice, as he had a couple of green Signets already. I disagree though as he would very probably end up in UBR ou UBW depending on what is coming on the third pack.
Let's say the draft is RGD and this is first pack. Antoine is already planning to play UB after five or six picks when this situation occurs. Of course, the UG guild could incite him going for the green card, but that would still be a wrong pick, as he wouldn't receive any feedback in the second pack, the Guildpact pack.
One last reason why I don't like this pick: if you want your right neighbour to pass you good cards in the last pack, help him to go on opposite colors as yours. The player on his right playing GB would mean UR is coming in the third booster pack, instead of this he took the card out of his right's neighbor’s deck.


Pack 3

Antoine opened Gelectrode, Shrieking Grotesque and Dagerclaw Imp. Daggerclaw imp is great in aggro deck, but not that good in UB. Grotesque is solid but would force Antoine to go White, and finally Gelectrode is by far the best card in the pack but it would make Antoine Red.
Once again, Antoine went for the card he would play for sure, the Imp. And that's where I deeply disagree with him. I understand the desire to get a stable deck, and to keep options open, but what do you keep options for if you don't pick what might be the best uncommon in the set? Of course Antoine had no red fixer, nor many Instants (only the 2 Last Gasp), but that would probably have come, and Red might be coming too despite the fact he didn't receive much in the first pack.
Antoine's desire to preserve flexibility is good at first, but when you don't seize the opportunity, the effect is exactly the opposite as the one expected, and you just lose a pick.
If he had taken the Red guy, Antoine's third pack would have been Izzet Signet, 2 Train of thoughts, Izzet chronarch, Stratozepilid, and Orzhov Euthanist. Instead he picked the Imp over the 0/1, Grotesque over one Train of Thoughts, Euthanist is less good in his deck and Chronarch is one of his three splashes.
Of course Antoine had two Selesnya Signet, so adding white would have been easier, but in the case he would really have wanted to go UBW, the Grotesque would have been better than Daggerclaw Imp in his deck. Here's Antoine's deck in the end. Pretty solid, with three 4/4 flyers for the kill. The presence of five colors seems a little weird, but the mana can apparently support them.


Antoine Ruel - GP Cardiff top 8

Download Arena Decklist

He lost his quarter final to Julian Jardine to Master Warcraft on game 1 and to a big mana flood on game 2. I know, for now, all the drafts I covered lost in the quarters, I'll try to talk about a winning deck next time!

You can find the draft report by Frank Karsten, the Quarter finals between Antoine & Julian and everything about Cardiff here

By the way, Cardiff was great time, even if a GP with fewer than 30 local players is a little bit unusual. Here are few pics I took in London where I stayed a few days at Quentin Martin before the GP, and some pictures of the GP itself.

Left to right, Quentin, Antoine, Saimah (Quentin's girlfriend) left foot I believe, José and Jennah (Quentin and Saimah's flat mate)

Cardiff, Wales... No wait, this is a picture from Honolulu

Julien Nuijten needs 3-0 on the last draft, admire the masterpiece (one more Nephilim made it to the deck after I took this shot)



Which would you pick?
Steamcore Weird 257 76.0%
Ogre Savant 81 24.0%
Total 338 100.0%

If I play a very control deck, I will take Weird, but 90% of the time my pick will be Savant. The tempo it imposes is amazing, and I think he's much better than Vedalken Dismisser in early game. In any beatdown deck, as RWU aggro, his three power will be very useful too. Weird doesn't always do something, and despite it is very good, people should stop looking at it as a Flametongue Kavu. Flametongue could kill nearly anything, and was 4 power for four manas, it'd be the best common+uncommon in the format by far.
Though I agree that it is better in a control deck with not many removals, if you don't want to die to a flyer, Selesnya Guildmage or Selesnya Evangel. But if I've enough removal or if I play aggro, I'll take Ogre Savant.

[The survey originally included in this article has been removed.]

One last thing, I realize I didn't have a word for Joery, Helene and Vicky, for the great work they do. Without them this page wouldn't exist, look so good and you would see English mistakes in nearly every sentence. Thanks a lot to each of you!

I wrote about the exciting Cardiff, Wales, listening to The Arcade Fire/FUNERAL again because the other CDs were too far, and then to Elliot Smith/FROM A BASEMENT ON THE HILL, definitely one of my 5-6 favorite records.

Latest Feature Articles


September 17, 2021

The Returning Legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt by, Doug Beyer, Ari Zirulnik, and Grace Fong

A return to Innistrad means the return of some of our favorite characters! In case you missed it, make sure to check out the new legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt from yesterday's artic...

Learn More


September 16, 2021

The New Legends of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt by, Ari Zirulnik and Grace Fong

Harvesttide is wild this year! Tons of new faces showed up to the party—let's do some introductions. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Adeline is an excellent tactician and an unyielding fo...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All