Welcome back for a new season at the Draft Factory! For the first time, we're being hosted by 5 Color Combo, so don't forget to check out their other content once you're done brushing up on your drafting skills!
I did a lot of drafting over the pre-release weekend, but it's still hard to gauge the strength of certain cards, and where they should be in the pick order. I'm learning as I go just like all of you, and as a result my first draft of a new set is always a little messy. But you have to admit, that Wild West feeling of charting the unknown during the first few weeks is always a blast!
So, with that in mind, let's jump right into it!
My opening pack is pretty unexciting. There are a couple decent playables in red and green between Hinterland Logger and Dance with Devils, but neither of them are especially high on my pick order list.
On the other hand, I've found Angelic Purge to be very strong in any white deck I play. Being able to pitch a land or a clue token to kill a big threat on the board makes the drawback a lot more palatable than being forced to just sacrifice a creature; and if your deck wants to activate Delirium, it can even be an upside.
Lambholt Pacifist is easily the strongest card in this pack, with a great set of stats for 2 mana. WG is also a fairly strong color pairing in this set, so even though I'd prefer to stay open this early in the draft, I'm pretty happy taking this as my second pick.
I should note that this pack, like the first, is fairly low powered. There aren't really any other cards to pull me in any specific direction, and the person to my right took a rare, which means I have no signals to read from this pack. There are too many cards that are just better than everything here in the rare slot.
With nothing great in green or white, my attention turns to red, which has two stand-out cards. Devils' Playground just brings a lot of power to the board that is difficult for the opponent to interact with, and Skin Invasion has a lot of flexibility, along with its potential for a self-contained 2-for-1. I've not actually been able to play with the latter card yet, but I just like Devils' Playground too much to pass, and if I'm going to go into red I may as well avoid sending signals to my left by passing what is likely to be seen as the stronger card.
Immediately after a pack with no green, we have a pack with a couple good green cards and no red. This could mean any number of things, from uneven color distribution in packs, to drafters just picking things willy-nilly because the set is new and they don't know what the good cards are yet.
If I'm going to grab a green 4-drop, I may as well take the one with the highest upside, so I snag the Briarbridge Patrol. While Intrepid Provisioner is a fine card, its setup cost is quite a bit higher than the former, requiring you to curve out properly, be the beatdown, and have decent attacks. It's a card I wouldn't mind running one of in a Humans deck, but definitely feels like a filler card.
And if I'm struggling to decide between two cards that fill the same slot in my deck, I like to take the uncommon, since I'm far less likely to see another copy come around during the draft.
This pack has quite a bit of green in it, and Cult of the Waxing Moon is good enough of a pick 5 for a straight up windmill slam. A 5/4 body trumps most creatures any other color will want to play at that point in the game, and since I've not decided on my second color, there's every chance that I could end up in the Werewolf deck, where the synergies can really go off.
With one clue generator under my belt, and two strong blue cards going pretty late, I decide to speculate on Sleep Paralysis. Reduce to Ashes would have been a fine pick since I already have a red card in my pile, but it's just clunky enough that this feels like the correct spot to test the waters on blue, since it looks like it may be open.
I don't know if anybody else got the memo, but Mad Prophet is really good. Geistblast is very good too, but since I'm not planning on pivoting both of my colors, the chances I'll get to play its secondary ability are slim to none, making it a really expensive Shock.
At this point, I have to wonder if the RG Werewolves deck is open. Since a 3/3 that can't block for 3 is a bit worse in a non-Werewolf red deck, I could see Howlpack Wolf wheeling the table if there were other good red cards in this pack.Wicker Witch would be a safe pick that could be played in any deck, since I don't actually know what my colors are supposed to be, but I'd rather take the risk and hope the synergy deck is open.
My primary colors right now are green and red, but I still have that Angelic Purge I took as my first pick. I don't really like any of the other cards in this pack, so I take Stone Quarry to give me the option of splashing white.
That's a pretty late Ghoulcaller's Accomplice, but I think I can chalk it up to drafters not realizing how good it is yet, since it looks pretty unimpressive on its face. Since I'm already pushing red, I take Spiteful Motives to fill a combat trick slot in my deck.
It's doubtful I'll play an Insolent Neonate, but I don't want any of these other cards, and I'd rather take the red card to signal to my left that red is dry.
Since I'm already signaling that red is closed, I've no reason to switch it up and shut down green at this point. I'm not going to play either card, so I may as well stay the course and take the Hulking Devil.
Senseless Rage could make the Neonate playable. It's not a great card, but it's something worth considering during deckbuilding, when I look at how many discard outlets I have in my deck.
End of Pack 1❮ ❯
I ended up with a lot of chaff, and not much in the way of synergies. It looks like I'm leaning toward RG, but with so few green cards in my pool (although the ones I have are very good), what I open in pack 2 could completely swing me in another direction. Blue was relatively open halfway through the pack, and I have some of the makings for a decent UR Spells deck. White was also cut pretty hard from the right, so if I open a white bomb, I could just take all the white cards from my left and fill in the holes in pack 3.
My pool looks pretty scattered right now, but I can take it in a few different directions, so it's all going to depend on what I open when I crack pack 2.
While Moonlight Hunt is a great piece of removal, I can't guarantee that I'll end up with enough Werewolves to make it playable, even if I end up in RG. Quilled Wolf would alleviate some of that concern, and it's a very solid 2-drop, since its activated ability makes it relevant into the late game. But Tireless Tracker has the capability of being a bomb in its own right, and it's strong enough that I might even consider splashing for it if it synergizes with some of the other cards in my deck.
I guess I'm just going all-in on green now. Solitary Hunter is one of the best 4-drop commons I can get for the RG deck, and still plays well in any other color pairing. Voldaren Duelist is also very good, but I'd rather take the card that pushes me toward a more synergistic deck.
There are a number of good blue cards here, but since I've only taken the single Sleep Paralysis and I've already taken a couple more green cards, I don't see any reason to jump ship now.
After the last couple picks, this one is rather unexciting. If I stick with RG, none of my choices are terrific. Ember-Eye Wolf and Village Messenger are both playable, though I think the former is a little stronger, since it can be a real threat when you have the mana to pump it. Tormenting Voice is fine, but I haven't picked up any Madness cards that makes me care about the discard, and I can pick up card filtering pretty late if I absolutely feel like I need it.
Although I said Ember-Eye Wolf is a little better, I decide to go with Village Messenger because I already have a Cult of the Waxing Moon in my deck.
I'm tempted to take Stensia Masquerade just to find out how good “all your attackers have First Strike” is when I know the second ability won't come into play. But since I don't have a game plan against fliers yet, I decide to pick up Watcher in the Web.
This pack is very depressing, and makes me wonder if I was wrong about sticking to RG. I take the only card in my color for signaling purposes and pass a pack full of playable blue cards.
It's unexciting, but Aim High will likely make the final cut, just for the sake of being a playable combat trick in an aggressive deck. Dissension in the Ranks is eye-catching, but in my experience it has such a high setup cost that it usually rots in your hand.
With two Clue generators in my deck, I decide to pick up Confront the Unknown for potential synergy plays. The only other pick here is Dual Shot, but it's a pure sideboard card, and I'd rather take the combat trick that has a shot at being maindeckable.
Highland Lake is an interesting option, but most blue cards that are worth splashing are double-blue, which makes me feel like it would be a waste of a pick to take the land here. Plus, splashing a third color in an aggro deck can destabilize your mana base enough to disrupt your deck's primary plan of attack.
And with a single pick, I'm right back in. I'm happy to see another Howlpack Wolf for my deck, it makes me feel a bit better about the last few horrible packs. Although, I still feel sad looking at all the playable blue cards I'm missing out on.
Crawling Sensation would be a great pickup if I were BG rather than RG, but since I've no Delirium cards to enable and no graveyard recursion to abuse the effect, there's no reason to pick it over Clip Wings, which is a fine sideboard card.
Rush of Adrenaline might be a consideration if I didn't already have two combat tricks in my card pool.
With absolutely no cards in my colors, I take the only card that I'd be able to play in my deck, and really really hope I don't have to do so.
Oddly enough, I'm pretty happy to see the Ember-Eye Wolf come back around. It synergizes with the rest of my deck and takes a 2-drop slot, which I'm in desperate need of filling this late in the draft.
With no playable cards, I start the “green is totally taken, so stay out of my colors!!” dance.
I'll ship blue to the people on my right all day long if it encourages them to pivot out of green or red.
End of Pack 2❮ ❯
My deck doesn't look horrendous so far, despite some of the mediocre cards I've had to take. I'd really like to ship out some of the weaker and non-synergistic cards, but since I've only got 16 cards that make up the core of my deck at this point, I can't be too picky about whatever I get in the last pack as long as it fills out my curve. I do, however, need to put higher priority on removal spells; as it stands, I'm running purely on combat tricks.
The Gitrog Monster is almost worth splashing, but with two fantastic cards for my deck that I can't pass up, I'll have to ship it down the line for somebody else to play with. I want both Duskwatch Recruiter and Howlpack Resurgence, but I have to go with the creature because of my current lack of 2-drops.
Another great pack for me, Quilled Wolf looks to be a snap pick, but I can't ignore the sheer brute strength that Gatstaf Arsonists brings to the table. My 2-drop slot still needs another creature or two, but I could also use another beater on the top end, and the Arsonists are far less likely to wheel.
Inner Struggle is a little pricey, but it's often just a straight up removal spell. Being an instant makes it an easy inclusion for my removal-light deck.
There are a lot of red cards here, but the best one for my archetype is Convicted Killer. It doesn't look like much as a 2/2 for 3, but it becomes quite the beater once it's flipped.
A second Cult of the Waxing Moon? We just picked up multiple flip cards in this pack, so I guess it's all aboard the train to value town!!
And the Howlpack Resurgence wheels, making me wish this were a paper draft so I could physically windmill slam it.
Sanguinary Mage is a nice defensive 2-drop, on the chance that I need to sideboard in a quicker defensive start against BR Vampires.
With no more signals to be had, there's no reason for me to pass a huge-bodied blocker to my left, on the off chance that player is in blue.
Here's what I ended up with.
The third pack really fleshed out not only our playables, but our synergies as well. 7 Flip cards all but guarantees that double Cult of the Waxing Moon will see some value, and there are more than enough wolves and Werewolves here for Howlpack Resurgence to be a real beating. Most of the non-synergy cards just come with their own built-in power, like Devils' Playground and Tireless Tracker. Bloodmad Vampire is the odd card out, but my only other option was to run another Ember-Eye Wolf, and I wasn't sure having two low-toughness mana sinks would be ideal, when I already have a number of things I want to be doing with my mana.
The deck is right about where I want it in terms of aggression, and I've even managed to get a couple sources of card draw, which will help me in any game that happens to go long.
The first round just goes to show that little mistakes can cascade into game-losing scenarios. Dropping the land before Tireless Tracker put me in a position where I couldn't crack a Clue and turn it into a 4/3, since I didn't draw any more land. Were it a 4/3, my opponent couldn't have killed it with Explosive Apparatus, and would have been forced to trade it and another creature to kill it. I would have been in a far better position to get aggressive with that sort of board state, and could have out-raced my opponent to the finish, rather than flagging behind his single flier that I couldn't interact with.
That aside, the larger issue I had with this draft was how open Blue seemed to be at various points. I'm struggling with going all in on Blue, because most packs just have nothing exciting at the common tier. When I see a great blue common, it's come around 6th-8th pick when I've already decided what colors I'm pushing for. Blue usually ends up being ridiculously open in packs 2 and 3, at which point when pivoting would be detrimental to my entire draft.
I can't help but wonder if this issue is because I undervalue a lot of blue cards, or if Blue is simply weak at the common level. If it's the latter, would it be worth forcing Blue early and reap the benefits, taking all the cards that nobody else wants because they avoided the color as well? Considering how synergy-driven and build-around focused this set is, there's every chance that jumping in on a color that's weak at common, but has strong build-around uncommons, is absolutely the correct choice. And if enough players avoid the color in your average draft, the self-correcting nature of limited could mean a flood of playables comes your way.