Jelger Weigersma saved me with a one-word MSN message: "Draft?" Since time immemorial it has been the Pros' pastime to team Booster Draft. Even in the golden age when Rochestering was still possible, it was too time-consuming to waste away the time during the byes or waiting for the Top 8 to pan out. It is still a relevant format, used in the Top 4 of a team PTQ, although there haven't been any of these in a while. Two teams of three sit in a circle, one player of the first team, then one of the other team, and so on (ABABAB), and then it proceeds just like a normal draft. At the end, the members of each team converge and help each other construct their decks and share the information they gleaned from the draft. Then every player plays the other players in the opposing team, and at the end of the nine matches, one team stands triumphant and, generally speaking, wins all the rares.
There are variations. It is not exclusively six player; many eight-player team drafts are done, although they tend to take a long time if the round robin format is kept. Sometimes players are unhappy at the strength of the opposing team (remember, there are the rares at stake), in this case, you can begin the draft like a regular draft and then randomly assign teams afterwards. This is often done whilst we draft in preparation for a Pro Tour because it has no influence on how you draft.
There are a couple of new skills at work in a team draft. For a start, there are only six of you drafting, so the total card pool is weaker as there are less cards. You also get to wheel two picks earlier, meaning you can often plan ahead with ease. Remembering everything you pass is also even more crucial as you will have to play all of your opponents, meaning you have to think extra hard about passing a Damnation rather than hating it for the good of the team (this is often a tricky decision and you have to look at the rest of the pack to see if you and your team mate three over will benefit more than them having a Damnation).
Whereas hating is never correct to do in a normal draft, its potential blossoms here. Cooperation is not the name of the game. Whereas in a regular draft, you wish to send clear signals to the player on your left so that you keep him out of your colours and both of you wind up with better decks, it is not the case in team draft. You want to hook the player on your left into your colours whenever possible. You want to send them bad signals, so that they delve into your colours early, either wasting valuable picks when they realise the error of their ways or dominating them completely if they stick with it, resulting in a vastly inferior deck and several more wins for your team.
With these new skills in mind, here is a draft I did teaming with Jelger and Tiago Chan against a squad of Americans:
Pack 1, Pick 1
Pack 1 - Click to EnlargeTemporal Eddy, Tendrils of Corruption, Lightning Axe, Mogg War Marshal, Temporal Isolation, Think Twice, Jedit's Dragoons, Savage Thallid, Ancient Grudge, Flickering Spirit, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Tromp the Domains, Conflagrate, Gemstone Caverns, Sacred Mesa
This pack is an astonishing thirteen playables deep, meaning that I will wheel another good card and then a Savage Thallid. Sacred Mesa is an easy pick here, and the good news is that I will almost certainly be wheeling the Knight of the Holy Nimbus as Lightning Axe, Tromp the Domains, Tendrils of Corruption, Conflagrate, and Temporal Isolation are way too powerful to wheel. I predict the guy on my left to take the Tromp, although he could easily follow up his first pick with an in-colour Axe or Isolation, so I don't really know what colours to hook him in.
Pick: Sacred Mesa
Pack 1, Pick 2
Spinneret Sliver, Fortify, Spiketail Drakeling, Flamecore Elemental, Mana Skimmer, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Two-Headed Sliver, Blazing Blade Askari, Shadow Sliver, Ophidian Eye, Spirit Loop, Truth or Tale, Sudden Death, Saffi Eriksdotter
Pick: Sudden Death
Pack 1, Pick 3
Feebleness, Castle Raptors, Chromatic Star, Tolarian Sentinel, Flowstone Channeler, Trespasser il-Vec, Prismatic Lens, Clockspinning, Sidewinder Sliver, Viscid Lemures, Dementia Sliver, Dread Return, Voidmage Prodigy
This is that signal you always pray for when you open a bomb rare—the sign that the colour is open. It should be noted that there is a Voidmage Prodigy, so I'll remember to play around him during games as he is normally fairly obvious to spot as a morph.
Pick: Castle Raptors
Pack 1, Pick 4
Ashcoat Bear, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Thallid Germinator, Call to the Netherworld, Drifter il-Dal, Havenwood Wurm, Basal Sliver, Sage of Epityr, Cavalry Master, Aspect of Mongoose, Curse of the Cabal, Leviathan
White is still flowing strong and I am incredibly unlikely to deviate from it, but I'm having difficulty finding my other colour. There was a Trespasser il-Vec in the last pack and a Thallid Germinator in this one; neither are good enough signals. Red is being cut and white is open. However, here we are faced with a choice. I normally take the Cavalry Master here as he is a great card. I also want to take the Cloudchaser Kestrel to protect my Mesa, but I know that Knight of the Holy Nimbus will wheel, so I opt for the better card.
Pick: Cavalry Master
Pack 1, Pick 5
No reason for me to stray here. The Saltcrusted Steppe is tempting, but I'll stay on course with the Rebel.
Pick: Zealot il-Vec
Pack 1, Pick 6
It looks like green will be my accompanying colour, and black still has the potential to be open too. However, Benalish Cavalry is still the most powerful card in the pack, so I stay on track.
Pick: Benalish Cavalry
Pack 1, Pick 7
All three white cards wheeled as expected—except for Isolation, but that was never coming back.
Pack 1, Pick 8
Even though I have yet to take a single green card, it is still my best option for a second colour after black for the Sudden Death I have. This makes picking Saffi Eriksdotter a viable choice, but I am not sure I will end up green, especially as it is unlikely to be flowing in the next booster because of all the green I passed. I also prefer Fortify as a card, as it is a much-needed combat trick in a format where they tend to be regrettably absent. My decision is made even easier knowing that I already have two solid early drops and if it is green that I will be coupled with, then early creatures will flow with abundance.
Pack 1, Picks 9 through 15
Pick: Curse of the Cabal
Pick: Pentarch Ward
Pick: Watcher Sliver
Pick: Temporal Eddy
Pick: Ophidian Eye
I end up with nothing of note in the late picks except for a Feebleness and a Watcher Sliver. I'm still trying hard to find my second colour, although given the depth of white coming my way, it is likely I am the only white drafter on the table and could well end up mono-coloured.
Pack 2, Pick 1
Pack 2 - Click to EnlargeSpitting Sliver, Veiling Oddity, Synchronous Sliver, Giant Dustwasp, Dawn Charm, Wistful Thinking, Keldon Marauders, Dash Hopes, Essence Warden, Mana Tithe, Bog Serpent, Timecrafting, Pouncing Wurm, Riptide Pilferer, Extirpate
This is a very disappointing pack to open as there is nothing for me. I take the only good card, as I think that the colour will come during Future Sight even though it will be weak here in Planar Chaos.
Pick: Giant Dustwasp
Pack 2, Pick 2
Erratic Mutation, Cradle to Grave, Reflex Sliver, Dreamscape Artist, Citanul Woodreaders, Pallid Mycoderm, Keldon Marauders, Dust Corona, Healing Leaves, Prodigal Pyromancer, Cautery Sliver, Lavacore Elemental, Reckless Wurm, Spellshift
Once more, no white cards, forcing me to make an awkward decision. Prodigal Pyromancer is tempting, especially given that I can definitely wheel the Cautery Sliver, but Red is being completely cut off on my right. I think that blue is also being denied to me, and Erratic Mutation isn't enough to make me delve into the colour. This brings it down to Cradle to the Grave versus Citanul Woodreaders. I think this is close, as I enjoy playing white-black, although I prefer to go into it with an Amrou Scout or Rathi Trapper. However, because I think that green is more open, even given that my Sudden Death is more powerful than my Dustwasp, I follow the signals.
Pick: Citanul Woodreaders
Pack 2, Pick 3
Synchronous Sliver, Needlepeak Spider, Mire Boa, Aven Riftwatcher, Vitaspore Thallid, Dash Hopes, Aquamorph Entity, Gossamer Phantasm, Bog Serpent, Revered Dead, Frenetic Sliver, Shrouded Lore, Dust Elemental
I'm a little surprised to see a Mire Boa here still, which might bode well for me, but I am relieved to see the Dust Elemental. I was beginning to think that the guy on my left had switched into white.
Pick: Dust Elemental
Pack 2, Pick 4
More black and green cards, but nothing good enough to tempt me away from the Shade of Trokair.
Pick: Shade of Trokair
Pack 2, Pick 5
I have a dilemma here. I can take the Poultice Sliver to go with my Watcher Sliver and pick up some Lymph Slivers in the next pack for the defensive package, or I can take one of the more powerful splash cards. Blightspeaker is the more powerful of the two, and I already have two rebels to search for, but I would rather play green. I love Uktabi Drake as a card, and it helps provide my already fairly aggressive deck with some needed evasion. I know that I do not want my splash colour to be very deep as I will have so much white (needing a lot of Plains with Shade and Knight in my pile), so I can afford to flit around indecisively, although I would rather not. In hindsight, I feel I might have made a marginal error in my pick here.
Pack 2, Pick 6
Although I am obviously never picking Hunting Wilds here, it saddens me a little that I went with black over green in my last pick.
Pick: Saltfield Recluse
Pack 2, Picks 7 through 15
Pick: Spitting Sliver
Pick: Cautery Sliver
Pick: Bog Serpent
Pick: Seal of Primordium
Pick: Keldon Marauders
Pick: Lavacore Elemental
Pick: Dash Hopes
Nothing exciting happened in the last few picks. I picked up a bunch of unexciting Black cards, pushing further in the colour's direction. Now it is time to crack open the new set and see what it has to say.
Pack 3, Pick 1
Pack 3 - Click to EnlargeKavu Primarch, Foresee, Emberwilde Augur, Putrid Cyclops, Augur il-Vec, Fomori Nomad, Patrician's Scorn, Logic Knot, Nessian Courser, Grave Scrabbler, Henchfiend of Ukor, Street Wraith, Bloodshot Trainee, Spellwild Ouphe, Grove of the Burnwillows
After cracking open the Mesa, my first picks have gone dramatically downhill. In a scrabble to find a playable I once more go with a green card, further dividing me as to the nature of my second colour.
Pick: Kavu Primarch
Pack 3, Pick 2
Ichor Slick, Petrified Plating, Bogardan Lancer, Venser's Diffusion, Sprout Swarm, Oblivion Crown, Whip-Spine Drake, Lymph Sliver, Homing Sliver, Sporoloth Ancient, Grave Scrabbler, Mistmeadow Skulk, Zoetic Cavern, Bonded Fetch
This pack presents some very tricky options. There are two powerful on-colour cards in the form of Mistmeadow Skulk and Whip-Spine Drake; and there are two top cards in our two splash options—Ichor Slick or Sprout Swarm. Normally, I would always advocate taking a main colour spell here when your splash colour is unknown, if the card was strong enough and the splashed cards were not ridiculous. However, they're both really good here. I still think green is more open than black, so I would take the Swarm over the Slick, but I think that the Drake is powerful enough to take over both given my splash uncertainty. Somehow, amongst the madness of hastily scribbling down my pick options to bring this draft to you guys, I fail to notice the Drake in the pack, and ashamedly pick the Swarm. Oops.
Pick: Sprout Swarm
Pack 3, Pick 3
Knight of Sursi, Grave Peril, Wrap in Vigor, Samite Censer-Bearer, Infiltrator il-Kor, Blind Phantasm, Virulent Sliver, Mass of Ghouls, Vedalken Aethermage, Blade of the Sixth Pride, Boldwyr Intimidator, Bound in Silence, Oriss, Samite Guardian
Here lies a veritable wealth of white cards. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the rare versus the uncommon. Sure, the removal is great, and that it can be searched for with Blightspeaker is quaint; but we are not sure if we are playing black. Besides, it just is not as powerful as the board-dominating rare. Luckily for me, I should also wheel something from this pack, too.
Pick: Oriss, Samite Guardian
Pack 3, Pick 4
Goldmeadow Lookout is a tricky card to evaluate. It looks awesome at first glance, seeming to produce enough power to win the game by itself. When you reflect deeper, though, you realise that this is a slow and resource-heavy ability that will tie down your white mana. I've played it several times now, and my first impression still holds. It is deceptively powerful. Death Rattle is the kind of splash card you would happily take over the Lookout, but I am still unsure as to my second colour.
Pick: Goldmeadow Lookout
Pack 3, Pick 5
Marshaling Cry is nice, but this pick is a no-brainer.
Pick: Lucent Liminid
Pack 3, Pick 6
Saltskitter is a card I keep wanting to play as I'm beginning to think it's not bad at all, but there's no way I can pick it here.
Pick: Blade of the Sixth Pride
Pack 3, Pick 7
I pick up the Street Wraith here, as black is probably going to be my splash given that I have more cards in that colour and it should prove a useful sideboard card.
Pick: Street Wraith
Pack 3, Pick 8
I have no idea what the Fetch is still doing here. Someone must have misclicked... There are several good cards for me here, but none of them come close in power to the Mistmeadow Skulk. This guy dominates the board in a really small way. Oxymoronic sentences like that might get me in trouble, but the Skulk frustrates combat and nibbles away at life totals.
Pick: Mistmeadow Skulk
Pack 3, Pick 9
As expected, I get to wheel a goodie from this pack. The rebel is simply inferior to the other card, irrelevant of curve issues.
Pick: Knight of Sursi
Pack 3, Pick 10
Pick: Lymph Sliver
Pack 3, Pick 11
Pick: Rift Elemental
Pack 3, Pick 12
Pick: Witch's Mist
Pack 3, Pick 13
Pick: Patrician's Scorn
Pack 3, Pick 14
Pick: Homing Sliver
Pack 3, Pick 15
Pick: Samite Censer-Bearer
Maybe I should have made my decision about my second colour a little earlier, but looking back I still cannot find the point where it was an easy decision to make, given that I had mistakenly picked the Sprout Swarm over the Whip-Spine Drake. I was worried that this would be a fairly dull draft to begin with as I was getting such a juicy hook-up in white, but it wasn't the case. I splashed black in the end as it fit the deck better, providing it with removal and slightly better playables.
My first two opponents both played black, enabling me to take out the weak, three-card Sliver package to bring in Street Wraith, Bog Serpent, and Pentarch Ward/Melancholy. The deck was very good and won these matches with ease despite bad draws. It won one game against a blue-black mage with Sacred Mesa in hand the whole game. I lost a very frustrating third match due to a misclick, so that I failed to make a land drop on my first turn thanks to F6 auto-yielding the whole turn. I almost won the game and could never have lost it if it weren't for F6. Ah well.
Until next time,