Going Aggressive in Return to Ravnica Block Draft

Posted in Event Coverage on May 17, 2013

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

It's easy to believe that piecing together two or more guilds is exactly what Dragon's Maze brings to Return to Ravnica Block Booster Draft. But if you watch some of the players at the Pro Tour draft, it's another story. Planning on an aggressive deck and focusing in on just one guild is a potent strategy that Martin Jůza and Zvi Mowshowitz brought with them.

Martin Jůza is one of many players here this weekend who emphasizes an aggressively-built deck in this Booster Draft format.

Why would you aim to be aggressive? "I like aggressive. I like two-color decks." Martin Jůza explained. "A lot of the people started drafting four or five colors, taking the best cards out of the pack and all the fixing. They play all these powerful cards, then they play against Boros that goes two-drop, three-drop, four-drop then tricks, and there's never a time from them to play their good seven-drop like Trostani's Summoner."

Zvi Mowshowitz echoed similar thoughts. "Because your mana will work, and your opponents will spend turn three playing a Cluestone, playing a turn one Guildgate and quite possibly a turn two Guildgate as well. They'll be on five six-drop cards, even seven mana and splashing colors, and they won't want your cards. Your goal is to have a Gatecrash deck," referring to the speed of previous Limited format.

Jůza agreed with looking to set up an excellent manabase. "I want my mana to be good so I can play that two-drop, three-drop, four-drop," he said. "I'd rather have two mana 2/2s with no abilities and be able to put pressure on my opponent early in the game. Your tricks will pretty much do the rest."

Zvi was more specific about the mana you'd need. "You get an 8-8 or an 9-8 manabase and a good curve," he explained, pointing out the number of basic lands you'd look to use in the deck. "Though you have to make sure you can break through all these defensive cards they have now. If you're aggressive, you're taking completely different cards than they are. You can try can go under what they're trying to do. That's the plan. Anybody can take the more expensive cards because they're splashable, essentially."

Haazda Snare Squad

Executing your draft plan is straightforward for aggressive decks. Zvi recounted this from his experience drafting so far. "If you cut the cards available pretty hard," he said, "there's basically no way the next few players could be Boros behind me, so I know that pack is open. In Dragon's Maze I like Haazda Snare Squad above all the others to start the draft. You're looking to put yourself into the position to see which of the aggressive guilds you want to be, so I like to start with a bunch of white cards if at all possible. If Azorius or Selesnya is open at all, you can set up for that, then all you have to do is survive Gatecrash. You're in a great spot to pick up the cards you want in the third pack."

"Of course, you have to ask yourself if you properly forced Boros," Zvi said, changing to look at how to make the most of the second pack. "If you take the cards really aggressively, you can feel like you've never passed anything that makes another go into Boros. Take, for example, packs that are blank for Boros. If the pack is a blank, they're going to taking something else which means they're going to be thinking something else, especially if you do that multiple times."

Zhur-Taa Druid

Jůza also felt Gatecrash was the place to look. "Each of the Gatecrash guilds in the first pack has a common that stands out." The Simic's Beetleform Mage. Tithe Drinker is great for Orzhov. Viashino Firstblade is great for Boros; it helps you with battalion and deals 4 damage when it comes into play. Gruul has Zhur-Taa Druid, which is great because it ramps you to Zhur-Taa Swine and the more expensive Gruul cards but also deals damage to them every single turn. I'm really hoping to start out the draft with one of these four commons." Jůza took the Gruul example even further. "What you're doing is taking all the red and green cards so the people behind you aren't, which means in the second pack they'll pass you all the Gruul cards."

Another set of commons is considered information for the format: Guildgates. Replacing the basic lands in Dragon's Maze packs, and spread across the other two that follow, Gates are a card you'll always see. But do they fit into an aggressive deck's plan?

"The Gates are fine if you're splashing," Jůza said. "Sometimes you draft a really nice deck that's four colors with all the fixing and everything comes together, but that's like one-in-five drafts that happens. I'd probably play Boros Guildgate in a Boros deck. You'd play a two-drop on turn two, then Guildgate, two-drop on turn three."

Zvi similarly dismissed them: "You intention is not to need them. You don't want to pass Boros Guildgate and go Boros because then that person can play your cards, and will want your cards even if they're not Boros. You keep in mind, 'Have I passed the wrong Guildgates?'."

Whether you like the idea of going aggressive or if the allure of multicolor mayhem is too strong, being prepared for the possibility of sitting across from a fast deck is something every player will have to keep in mind for this Draft format.

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