Into the Mix

Posted in Limited Information on July 15, 2008

By Steve Sadin

I went to the Eventide Prerelease this weekend, and this set seems pretty cool. To get a sense of how I feel about the format, on Saturday I played in a Prerelease flight at 9 a.m. and then drafted until 1 a.m. Then I spent most of Sunday drafting.

I am preparing for Grand Prix–Madrid and U.S. Nationals right now, so I have a bit of extra motivation to get a ton of practice drafting Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide, but upcoming tournaments aside, I've cleared my schedule so that I'll be able to draft after work every night this week.

Always Know your Format

To start off my weekend, I played in a prerelease Sealed where everyone was given three booster packs of Eventide to go with their Shadowmoor tournament pack.

I built a reasonable black-blue deck that I went 2-2 with. I absentmindedly disassembled my Sealed before typing it up.

One of the biggest mistakes that I made before Grand Prix–Indianapolis was that I didn't play enough games with my practice Sealed decks against other Sealed decks. I would just build a deck from a Sealed pool, analyze it a bit, talk it over, and that would be it.

Cankerous_ThirstThat process definitely saved me time, but it ultimately wasn't an area that was worth cutting corners in. I missed a lot of quirks about playing the format that I probably would have picked up on had I just played against ten, or even five, Sealed decks.

I even fell victim to not understanding enough about this Sealed format when I was playing at the Prerelease when I forgot that everyone had an extra pack to build with. I wound up going 2-2 in my flight, losing one of my matches because I screwed up really badly (I also tried my hardest to throw away one of the matches that I won, but fortunately I had a lot of removal to get me through it) and the other because I made a judgment call on when to use a removal spell that would have been fine had my opponent only had two packs to build his deck with.

Next time you are playing at a Prerelease that gives people three boosters and a tournament pack to build their decks with (small set Prereleases, generally), keep in mind that an extra booster means more removal, better creatures, more bombs, and an easier time sticking to two colors.

Introducing the "Draft Multiplier"

Generally, Draft decks tend to be better than Sealed decks. Even though you have the equivalent of five packs when you are building a Sealed deck as compared to only three when you are drafting, the vastly increased control that you have over what cards are going to be in your pile when you begin constructing your deck when you are drafting tends to be more significant than the two additional booster packs that you get in a Sealed deck.

While sure, you could say something like, "Any sort of control over what is going to be in your pool is significantly more than the zero control that you get when you are opening up a Sealed pool." And that is technically true, but that doesn't actually do anything to address just how much better your pool gets when you draft it.

Spitting_ImageIn most formats, a deck drafted at an eight-person table will be about as good as a Sealed deck built from six packs. In some formats, such as the tribal heavy Lorwyn, it would probably take as many as seven or even eight booster packs to build a deck that is as good as a draft deck. This is because when you were building a Lorwyn Sealed deck (normal, five-pack Sealed), even if you got really good green, it could be split evenly between Elves and Treefolk. Sure your deck might still turn out pretty nicely for a Sealed deck, but it would have a lot of trouble standing up to a finely tuned Merfolk or Goblin deck that someone drafted.

(Saying that it might take eight packs before you get a Lorwyn Sealed deck that is as good as a Lorwyn Draft deck is probably a bit of an exaggeration because players might just get so much removal, changelings, and mana-fixing after seven packs that it doesn't matter that you are missing out on some tribal goodies)

I'm going to call the additional per pack value that you get out of drafting your deck instead of opening a Sealed pool the "Draft Multiplier." (This name feels really clunky and potentially misleading; if you have a better idea, please post it in the forums. If I see one that I like, I'll be sure to use it from now on.) What the Draft Multiplier measures is how much power you get in your finished deck per pack when you draft that pack instead of opening it. That means that a multiplier of 2.0 would put a Draft (three packs) on even footing with a small-set Prerelease Sealed Deck (equivalent of six packs).

In a more traditional format, such as Time Spiral / Planar Chaos / Future Sight, I'd put the Draft Multiplier at around 1.8-2.1. In the tribal-heavy Lorwyn, I'd put the Draft Multiplier at around 2.2-2.5 (I'd be hard pressed to imagine the multiplier going much higher than that). Three packs times 2.2 to 2.5 yields the figure I cited above of seven or eight packs of Sealed to equal one Lorwyn Draft deck.

Thought_ReflectionI'm not certain if the Draft Multiplier is a good universal tool, or if it too subjective. If you draft with a lot of people who like to hate-draft, then your multipliers will always be on the low end of things. If you draft with a bunch of inexperienced drafters that just don't have a very good sense of what is going on, then your multiplier might be absurdly high.

Your own experience or inexperience with the format can also dramatically affect the multiplier. Heck, even a tendency to rare-draft (yours, or that of people around you) can throw the multiplier for a loop.

I'm trying to account for these differences by including a range for each format, but the ranges that I have are pretty large in order to take into account as many variables as possible. It's possible that I give up way too much by including such a large range. On the other hand, if I didn't have a large range then I would alienate a lot of people by giving them numbers that just don't apply to them.

I'd really like to hear as much feedback as possible on this idea so I can know if I should try to expand on it, or if I am just barking up the wrong tree entirely.

That being said, for Shadowmoor / Eventide, I'd put the Draft Multiplier around 1.5-1.8.

If you multiply 1.5 by three packs, you get 4.5, less than one full Sealed deck pool. That's right, I actually think that Shadowmoor / Eventide Sealed Decks will often be better than Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide draft decks.

The reasons for this are pretty straightforward: the abundance of hybrid cards just makes it so easy to play your spells. If you play a two-color Sealed deck, then you will be able to play more than half of your cards. But that generally won't be what you want to do. From what I've figured out about the format so far, I'm almost certain that it is right to build the majority of your Sealed decks as base single-color with two splash colors.

This allows you to take full advantage of the most powerful hybrid-heavy cards such as Unmake and Deity of Scars, and still make room for your best removal cards such as Recumbent Bliss and Puncture Blast.

Puncture Blast

Before the release of Shadowmoor I wrote an article about how to build a Sealed deck for non-hybrid formats. In that article, I stress more than anything else the importance of getting your count right, to make sure that you are looking at the right colors that you can actually build your deck with.

That technique should be thrown almost completely out the window with Shadowmoor and Eventide. It's just so easy to build a playable Sealed deck in this format. Not only that, but your cards are generally going to be really good, and your mana is going to be really good.

Really, the biggest advantage that a Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide Draft deck gets over a Shadowmoor / Eventide Sealed deck is that you are able to draft for certain synergies, such as Power of Fire + creatures (but I haven't played enough Sealed to know just significant that difference is).

Power of Fire
Duergar Mine-Captain

Almost every Shadowmoor / Eventide Sealed deck is going to be good, and great Shadowmoor / Eventide Sealed decks are going to be quite common and quite deadly.

So, it's going to be easier to get a bad Draft deck than a bad Sealed deck and easier to get a great Sealed deck than a great Draft deck. Beyond a greater ability to set up synergies, pretty much the only thing that Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide Draft decks have going for them is that the good ones are generally going to have fewer curve problems than their Sealed Deck counterparts will.

While I could very easily be off-base by saying that Sealed decks are better than Draft decks in this format, I don't think I am. After I've played some more Sealed Deck (probably sometime after Grand Prix–Madrid), I'll let you know if I still feel this way.

Some Things to Consider

First off, the hybrid Auras from Shadowmoor have dropped significantly in value. No longer can you first-pick a Steel of the Godhead and be confident that things will work out. Because there are now only two packs to get appropriate hybrid creatures, you have to be a lot more cautious before you pick up your hybrid Auras.

Of course if you have enough creatures to use a hybrid Aura effectively, you will still want it, and they are good enough that they will still be worth taking fairly early in the first pack, but you have to remember that you are going to be disappointed by them a lot more often then you were previously.

Steel of the Godhead

When drafting Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide, you really want to be able to take advantage of as many color-heavy cards as possible. The best way to do that is to play a single base color and one or two splash colors.

In Shadowmoor, there is the Boggart Ram-Gang cycle of creatures that cost three hybrid mana, the Corrupt cycle, and the Mistmeadow Witch cycle as significant non-rare reasons to commit to a color or color pair. These cards are all uncommons, and all very good. If you get one of these, then it would be quite reasonable to try to draft your deck around it.

Then there are cards like Incremental Blight or Spectral Procession that give strong incentives for being able to play them, and rares such as Godhead of Awe, Twilight Shepherd, or the Lieges that come up infrequently but, when they do show up, will often dramatically affect the way you draft.

Hearthfire Hobgoblin
In Eventide, you have Fire at Will and Unmake at common, Cankerous Thirst at uncommon, and the Hearthfire Hobgoblin cycle (of similar triple-hybrid creatures) at uncommon to reward you for being in the appropriate base color or color pair. At rare there is the new cycle of Lieges and the new cycle of Spirit Avatars, including the Prerelease card (and the very first Eventide card that we got to see) Overbeing of Myth.

So, what does this all mean?

Well, it means that you want to be in a base color that your neighbors aren't in.

Now you might be saying to yourself, "Duh, Steve, you always want to be in a base color that your neighbors aren't in. Why don't you tell us something useful?" But there is a lot more to it than the normal desire not to fight with your neighbors.

If you are able to identify an open base color, and then stick to it, you will often get rewarded in very big ways. Everyone is still going to grab the best single-colored-mana removal spells, such as Puncture Blast, the moment they see them, but heavily colored cards will often go uncontested, allowing you to do things like scoop up relatively late Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Unmakes, and Flickerwisps in your white deck.

As important as it is to have a base color, you don't want to—or have to—commit to one too early. Unless I have a very good reason to, I don't want to commit to a base color until the second pack. However, you will often have a very good reason to commit after your very first pick of the draft. Sure, you can, and sometimes should, switch away from white after first picking a Twilight Shepherd, but you obviously don't want to.

And if you open up a Godhead of Awe, you'd better be prepared to fight tooth and nail to be able to play it. But, barring a very good reason to commit to a base color, you should bide your time. If you draft a Plumeveil and don't end up playing it, no biggie. There are plenty of good fish in the sea.

What Do You Think about the Draft Multiplier?

The Draft Multiplier is very much a work in progress, but I think it might be a useful tool to help better understand the inner workings of a Sealed Deck format.

Is there anything that you think I can do to improve it?

Take care,
Steve Sadin

Latest Limited Information Articles


January 6, 2016

A Surge of Support by, Marshall Sutcliffe

Last week we blew your mind with five unreal uncommons from Oath of the Gatewatch. This week we'll be scaling things back a bit. After all, we have to leave you with some surprises from t...

Learn More


December 30, 2015

Five Amazing Threes by, Marshall Sutcliffe

I'm sitting in a cafe in Barcelona, sipping on a freshly squeezed orange juice while I go over the Oath of the Gatewatch preview cards for this column. I almost spit some of said orange j...

Learn More



Limited Information Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All