Setting the Scene – Draft Archetypes

Posted in Event Coverage on July 31, 2016

By Craig Jones

On Day 2 of Grand Prix Stockholm the action switched to Booster Draft. As Eldritch Moon had just been released, this was the first chance to see the how the set drafted in high level play.

In draft the goal is normally to end up with a two-color deck. Mono-color has more advantages in terms of reliability, but in practice tends not to happen unless one color is completely shunned by all the other players at the table. Some draft formats have allowed three, four or even five-color wackiness, but this requires an abundance of mana-fixing, which the Shadows over Innistrad block didn't have.

Two-color decks were the norm with triple Shadows over Innistrad Booster draft and they tended to follow these archetypes:

Allied colors are the “tribal” colors.

W/U – Spirits. Evasion creatures with flying backed up with bounce and removal to give them time to close out the match. This is a classic white-blue draft archetype. In Shadows over Innistrad the creatures are mostly Spirits and there are a few Spirits matter cards. Eldritch Moon added a few more, including some constructed-quality Spirits, but as these are rare they were not likely to come up often in draft.

U/B – Zombies. While blue-black is nominally the zombie (of two distinct flavors) color in Shadows over Innistrad, it is also the “kill everything and slowly grind your opponent to death with card advantage” color. This will likely be the same with Eldritch Moon, although I remembered a comment from Anton Jonsson on Day 1 where he said he hadn't seen many good control strategies.

B/R – Vampires. In Shadows over Innistrad black-red was the madness color with both discard outlets and cards with madness. Eldritch Moon has brought in more of the same but at the cost of less chances to pick up star commons Fiery Temper and Voldaran Duelist.

R/G – Werewolves. This is where the first warping changes of Eldritch Moon will likely make an appearance. Shadows over Innistrad Werewolves transform from Human to Werewolf when no spells are played in a turn. Eldritch Moon Werewolves transform from Werewolf to squiggly tentacle monsters for a one-time mana cost. The two triggers complement each other by providing an outlet to sink mana into on those turns where no spells are played in order to transform Werewolves into bigger threats. Both types offer versatility through being early plays that can also double-up as late game threats when they transform. The new Eldritch Moon Werewolves give the player more control over their transformations, but are less able to punish slow starts from an opponent.

W/G – Humans. Humans are the most ubiquitous tribe in Shadows over Innistrad and benefit from a number of tribal synergy cards in both Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. Quick beats backed up with efficient combat tricks has long been a staple strategy of this color combination.

It's once we move to the enemy color pairs that the addition of Eldritch Moon really shakes things up.

U/G (Pre-Eldritch Moon) - Clues.
U/G (Post-Eldritch Moon) - Emerge?

Clue-based strategies are going to be a struggle to pull off with only one booster of Investigate cards. In place is the new emerge mechanic. Blue seems to be the color best positioned to take advantage of the new mechanics with some nice sacrifice fodder in Exultant Cultist and Enlightened Maniac. From there it can either move into green or black.

G/B – Delirium. Green-black has long been the graveyard matters color, so it makes sense that it's the color best positioned to take advantage of four different card types in the graveyard. It also got some new toys in Eldritch Moon.

W/R – Humans, with added burn! Similar to W/G, but with more ways to make things dead without needing to get in combat (although with cards like Abandon Reason, red is perfectly capable of giving a combat step a good wrecking in its own right).

B/W. In Magic Origins, white-black is the enchantments matter color. Eldritch Moon also appears to have a little bit of that mechanical flavor. Ironclad Slayer fetches auras back from the graveyard, which synergizes very well with new removal spell Boon of Emrakul (or Dead Weight). The pieces are all common, which makes it very draftable.

U/R – In Shadows over Innistrad this was the spells matter color with both Pyre Hound and multiple prowess creatures benefitting from a heavy instant and sorcery count in the deck. With Eldritch Moon reinforcing this theme with solid commons like Thermo-Alchemist, there was some buzz about this strategy at GP Stockholm. For an example of what this deck might look like, check out Tobi's companion draft piece on Eliot Boussaud.

During the day I went around and asked some of the more famous players here what they liked to draft and what they looked for.

Multiple PT Top 8er Marijn Lybaert: “Black/red vampires.” And the cards he was looking for: “The two-mana discard outlets.”

GP Bologna Winner Kayure Patel: “Blue-green emerge. That's what the team said. When in doubt, do what Raoul Zimmermann says.”

2014 WMC Winner with Denmark Thomas Enevoldsen: “It's only my second draft, so no preferences. Maybe white because it's good in both boosters.”

PT Prague 2006 Quarterfinalist Quentin Martin: “The best card. Take the best card for the first seven cards and then see what archetype that drops you in.”

He also talked about the possibilities of black-white, mainly because of how interesting it was to play. “You don't have big guys, you don't have card advantage, you have fight for each little edge.”

I think Quentin relishes those kind of games.

Swedish Hall of Famer Anton Jonsson: “Something fast. White probably.”

He turned to fellow Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog, “Any preferences for this draft format?”

And, well, you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words…


Herzog was in Stockholm this weekend, but it was for a music festival on Saturday.

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