Reid Duke has been working overtime lately. In his quest to secure Platinum Pro Club status he’s been hitting the Grand Prix circuit hard. Last weekend he scored a Top 4 at Grand Prix Singapore, and here at Montreal he snuck into Day 2 with a 7-2 record, needing to finish strong to pocket more Pro Points.
When he’s not traversing the globe chasing glory as a member of the mighty Pantheon, Duke moonlights as the author of the “Level One” article series. In it, Duke examines different facets of the game as an introductory tool for the competitive-minded player. After a quick 2-0 start to his first draft, I managed to steal him for ten minutes to get his view on the important lessons players can take away from Dragons of Tarkir.
“In contrast to previous draft formats, Dragons of Tarkir / Fate Reforged draft was a return to Magic’s fundamentals. It was almost like a Core Set in that way, with a focus on the nuts-and-bolts of limited. One thing I found interesting about it was that the colors were not only quite deep – you could rely on getting enough playables – but that there was a relative flatness of power-level for all but the premium commons. This made speculative drafting a lot less risky. You could afford to spend picks branching out into new colors without sacrificing the overall power of your deck, and reap big rewards for getting into an open color.”
I asked if this flatness made reading signals harder. “You definitely have to pay closer attention. You could be drafting red behind another red drafter and getting picks that are fine, but you won’t be getting those marquee uncommons and rares.” In a way, you need to recalibrate your expectations based on the format, rather than relying on past habits.
“That actually leads into another takeaway. It’s a controversial opinion, but I think this format is actually quite slow. A high percentage of the time you’re going to wind up in a stalled board state. So you need to identify those cards that can break that. Again, part of this is having access to the powerful cards in your colors, but also knowing the less-powerful ones that have a role to play. A good example is one that Andrew Cuneo found – Tapestry of the Ages. It’s a four-mana artifact, spend two and tap it to draw a card, but you can only do it if you cast a non-creature spell this turn. So basically it’s worse than Jayemdae Tome, a card that seems way too slow at first glance. In one of these stalls where you’re both matching threats and answers it can really let you take over.”
So it’s about understanding the types of game states you’re likely to find yourself in, and constructing your deck so that it will thrive in those situations. The idea of being prepared for the late game came up again when I asked about the format’s mild multicolor theme, and if the tools available made playing three colors worth it. “I would say you can play two colors with a splash, but not more than that. You also want to mindful of what cards you’re splashing for. Make sure they’re going to have an impact.”
“Overall I liked Dragons a lot. It was refreshing, but not the sort of set you want revisit. I’m excited to be moving on to Magic Origins.”