The City That Never Sleeps

Posted in Feature on April 19, 2006

By Brian Rogers

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about my last couple of articles. I am still looking for more input so I can make my articles better for you. If you have any thoughts about what you read here, or what you would like to see, please send them to Bunny_MAXX[at]yahoo.com. I created this email address specifically to get your insight, and am always happy to hear what you say, good and bad.

For now, it seems obvious from what I have already heard from all of you that you want to hear more about real-world situations. You want actual play and draft scenarios fit into what I write here. Well, that is exactly what I am going to try to do, and I am hoping to start by looking at the kind of things I think about when I draft Ravnica block, something I call “triangle theory.”

I love to play Limited; in fact, I am almost exclusively a Limited player. This is not to say I am a Limited specialist; my skills at Draft about the same as you might expect from anyone who has been playing Magic for over 10 years (man, I am old). Rather, what I mean is, I do not play any Constructed formats at all. I judge these formats, and I understand how they work, but I don’t keep up with sideboard tech, and I am not up on all of the latest trends in deckbuilding. Hence, most of what I write about will be focused on Sealed Deck or Draft. Also, if I post a Constructed deck, be careful—it’s probably not very good.

Drafting in the City

As soon as Ravnica: City of Guilds came out, it was apparent that it was much different from any previous Magic expansion. Sitting down for my first draft, I immediately started thinking about what guild I was going to draft, not what color or colors. After drafting a couple of times, I started to expand this view. Instead of drafting just one guild, I started to draft two guilds that had one color in common. This helped to expand the capabilities of my draft decks as well as increase the viable cards I had available to put into my decks. Before doing this, I noticed I had a much harder time deciding which intermediate-level cards to put into my deck. By drafting two guilds, I had many more top-tier playable cards to put into my deck.

This also helped when directions changed during the draft. For instance, if I started drafting cards from the Conclave guild, green and white, but I found that someone upstream in the draft was taking all of the good green and white cards, I could start drafting either black or red, whichever there were more cards available for. This gives you a start for your third color or second guild choice. Then, when the direction of the draft changes, there should be some Conclave guild cards coming your way since you already know that the supply of good Conclave cards has forced many of the players in that direction to go with other guilds.

Since white is a transition color in two of the guilds in Ravnica: City of Guilds, it allows me to link the Conclave and the Boros guilds into my deck. Green is also a transition color; it links the Conclave and the Golgari guilds. This makes the Conclave guild special. It is one of the two guilds, along with the Golgari guild, that give you the flexibility to go two different directions with your color/guild choice. This means that many players are predisposed to choose either the Golgari or Conclave guilds as their initial choice as a guild to draft. This further results in green being overdrafted and harder to get enough good cards for. Ultimately, this also makes it more difficult to play green/white/black as many drafters seek both of these guild options. On the other hand, blue and red are often underdrafted. If you can notice this early enough in the draft, it may provide you with an opportunity to get deeper draft while ignoring this theory.

The Signing of the Guildpact

Once Guildpact came out, it drastically changed the way I looked at drafting this block. A full 1/3 of your draft, and subsequently your deck, should be made up of Guildpact. Guildpact focuses on red as its only transition point, but this is far less significant as you should already have made your color choices once you get to the third pack. Because of this, it is important that you plan to incorporate one of the Guildpact guilds into your deck starting with your first pick.

At this point, I start looking at what I call triangle theory. Of course, there are a lot of possible color combinations you can draft out there, but getting a combination that will provide you with the best possible group of resources to draft from is key.

Focusing on the three new guilds available with Guildpact, let’s look at some of the more favorable possibilities for drafting. The Izzet guild is the guild that has the least favorable outlook for draft based on this theory. The Izzet guild, blue/red, will allow you to combine cards from either the Boros guild or the House of Dimir to form a two-guild deck. I call these “V” combinations.

The Orzhov guild also has two “V” combinations when combined with either the Boros Guild or the House of Dimir. However, if you combine the Orzhov with the Golgari and the Conclave, you get a “triangle” combination. A triangle combination is a group of guilds that will allow you to take advantage of a two-guild draft choice from Ravnica: City of Guilds and successfully combine them with a third guild that exists in Guildpact. The Gruul also have a triangle combination when paired with the Conclave and the Boros guild. They also have a “V” combination with the Golgari guild.

After adding Guildpact, these are the most favorable color combinations. Even though the triangle combinations allow you to have a broader range of draft possibilities, that does not necessarily make them better choices. Once again, you may notice that the Conclave is part of both of the triangle combinations. This means that based on this theory, more players are going to attempt to draft that guild early on, which can result in that combination being overdrafted. This is part of why I often draft either the Boros guild or the House of Dimir initially, with the idea of playing the Izzet guild in the third pack. This strategy also allows you to pick up some of the underdrafted blue and red cards in the first two packs to augment your deck later.

Dissension in the Ranks

Let me say, first of all, that I don’t know anything at all about what cards will be in Dissension. I haven’t seen any advanced information, and no one has given me any reason to think that what I am about to talk about is correct. That being said, let’s assume that the three guilds represented in Dissension will be blue/green, blue/white, and black/red.

Based on this assumption, it seems to me that we can extrapolate the triangle theory I have been talking about to build a triangle using one guild from each of the three sets of the Ravnica block. This will give you five potential triangle draft options, each of which was a “V” combination before Dissension’s release. The reason for this is simple. One of the color combinations in Dissension fills in the third side of the “V” to turn it into a triangle.

By completing a triangle, you will be able to take advantage of all of the resources you draft from each pack and better plan for what cards and guilds you want to draft from. This theory will also help you look at how valuable each of the guilds will be when it comes time to draft so you can have some idea beforehand how over- or underdrafted that guild may be.

The triangle combinations available with this theoretical Dissension set will be red/white/blue, red/black/blue, green/black/red, black/white/red, and black/blue/white. Two colors that are never mentioned together in any of these combinations are green and white. The Conclave, one of the most important guilds prior to Dissension, becomes the least important guild now for building your deck. The Golgari guild also loses some clout, as it is only involved in one of these combinations.

The Boros guild and the House Dimir become much more important once this new set is released. Each of these guilds is integrated into two different color combinations. This is doubly important as these two guilds offer you two ways to go once you open your second pack.

With Guildpact, the Izzet guild suddenly became one of the most versatile, now tied with the Orzhov guild, each of them being used in two of the triangle combinations. The Gruul remain in one triangle combination only. As for Dissension, the black/red guild will be by far the most important guild to complete a triangle, as it will be part of three of the potential triangles. The blue/white guild will be next, capping off two different combinations, but blue/green will not be represented in any. This almost makes me wonder, with the Conclave not being used in any of these combinations, will blue/green/white be a good option since not many players will be focused on drafting it?

To the Prerelease

None of this is set in stone. Dissension isn’t even out yet. Wizards of the Coast has a way of throwing curve balls at all of us, so some surprises in Dissension may make everything I talked about here totally out of sync with reality.

On April 22, I will be in Columbus judging at the Dissension Prerelease. I hope to see some of you there and get some great stories to put into my next article. Saturday is always really hectic, so if I don’t have time to talk to you there, I apologize, but look for me Sunday, when things are way more laid back and we will have some time to chat. You can look forward to seeing an article about what the prerelease was like and what interesting things happened there the following week.

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