Today I'm going to talk about draft. I haven't written a draft article in a while, but given I haven't played Standard in a few weeks and GP Atlanta is this weekend, I figured that now is as good a time as any. I've been drafting multiple times a day on MTGO in preparation for Pro Tour: Journey into Nyx and GP Atlanta and I have played just about every type of deck in this format. Hopefully this article will help you do well at the GP this weekend or the TCGplayer Limited State Championships the weekend after.
The first thing to keep in mind is that when drafting with only one pack of Theros is that previous top tier archetypes in Theros Block draft are virtually gone. Additionally, Theros is a large set, which makes it even less likely that you'll see the commons you want than in the smaller sets Born and Journey.
For example, heroic decks lost a ton of power when Journey into Nyx was added to the draft format. Theros contained all of the best heroic creatures such as Battlewise Hoplite, Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, and Wingsteed Rider. While there are tons of tricks and ways to trigger heroic, without the good heroic creatures, this deck is nowhere near the power level it once was.
Another example is black devotion. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Disciple of Phenax were the all-stars of the deck, but with only one pack of Theros, there is no guarantee that we'll even get them. Without these powerful cards, "black devotion" just becomes "a pile of black cards."
With that out of the way, let's get started on the archetypes! BG Enchantments Combo
The BG Enchantments deck is the combo deck of the format. It's a self-mill style deck that uses cards like Kruphix's Insight and Commune with the Gods to fill up your graveyard, and then gains card advantage with Font of Return and Pharika's Mender. I've drafted this deck a few times and while it's a blast to play and very powerful, it can take a while to set up. This deck mostly revolves around two cards: Kruphix's Insight and Grim Guardian.
Grim Guardian is the backbone of the deck. You want to draft as many of these guys as possible because they get better the more you have in play. It might be difficult to get all of these guys in the draft because while most decks won't want a 1/4 for three, controlling decks like UB will be drafting these guys ahead of you. Kruphix's Insight is a card that will table. It's terrible in pretty much every green deck except this one, so most players will pass it up. Don't be surprised to see this card as late as 12th pick.
Strength of The Fallen is another card that makes this deck powerful. It's not always going to be present in the draft due to its rarity, but if you see one late in the pack you can be sure that you're the only player drafting this archetype. Combined with the self-mill cards, every enchantment you play will make one of your creatures too big to deal with causing your opponent to chump block every turn. If you have a Blood-Toll Harpy or other evasion creature in play, the game could end on the spot.
Another card to look for when drafting BG Enchantments is Nyx Weaver. This guy is really, really good. It's a great blocker and can get back any spell you want later in the game. One thing to keep in mind when playing this guy is to not let your library get too low. Once you have a great removal spell in your yard, it's probably time to sac him.
This deck is very defensive and will take a long time to win, but once you have board control it's very hard for your opponent to come back. Even if you can't break through, Grim Guardian plus every enchantment ever will give you inevitability. Surprisingly, one card I found that actually works in this strategy is Claim of Erebos. On paper, this card looks like unplayable trash but it's not as bad as you may think. Your opponent will be losing a few life points every turn with Grim Guardian, and with a Claim of Erebos attached to one, the life really adds up. I won't play this card against an aggressive deck or a deck with lots of removal, but it's great against the slower control decks of the format.Red Midrange
Red is by far the hardest color to draft in this block but when the color is open, you could wind up with a great deck. The problem is that red is not that good in Journey into Nyx. The top commons are Magma Spray and Bladetusk Boar, but after that the card quality goes downhill quickly. Therefore it's really hard to tell if red is open. Red is amazing in Born of the Gods, with fantastic commons like Bolt of Keranos, Kragma Butcher, and Fall of the Hammer. If you can't get a red signal in Journey and end up in a different color, you may miss out on the amazing red in Born of the Gods. Red isn't exactly amazing in Theros and with the exception of a few commons, it's relatively weak. With only one set having great red cards, red is really difficult to draft.
When I draft red I like to pair it up with either white or black. RG may seem like a powerful strategy, but I find that when I draft that combination I have a hard time dealing with large creatures. Most red removal deals up to three damage and if you need to kill a 4/4, you may find yourself coming up short. Unless you have multiple copies of Fall of the Hammer or Time to Feed, you'll have a hard time with the bigger guys. Red/blue is even worse at dealing with bigger guys. UR decks are pretty common on Magic Online, but I like to avoid them like the plague. I think that UR is the biggest trap you can get into, especially because it's easy to get sucked into the archetype in Journey into Nyx. Blue is pretty good in Journey, so if you're in blue and then get passed a couple of Magma Sprays, you may just end up playing UR and not even mean to. UR always looks good on paper but it's usually just a pile of blue and red cards with very little synergy. The only good UR decks I've seen are extremely aggressive decks with lots of early creatures and tempo. It's really hard to make the deck work so I would avoid it if possible.
Black and white are the best colors to pair with red because they offer great removal and support spells. Lately I've been drafting slower red decks with great success. That may seem strange because in Born of the Gods draft, red was a super aggressive color and RW Heroic was the fastest archetype in the format. With only one pack of Theros, the format has slowed down considerably.
Sigiled Skink is a card that I like, but it is by no means a red signal if you see it relatively late. Scrying is awesome, but at the end of the day this guy is still just a 2/1. He trades with everything and will usually be outclassed by turn four. That said I'm always happy to have one Sigiled Skink in my red deck. Even if you trade it off immediately, that one scry could make a huge difference in your game.
Bladetusk Boar is a very important card in red, no matter what color combination you draft. Your red deck will usually be on the aggressive side, and once your 2/1 creatures are outclassed by 2/3s and 1/4s, you will need some way of punching through those last points of damage and Bladetusk Boar does a great job at that. It's very hard to block outside of red decks because artifact creatures are nonexistent for the most part.
Overall, drafting red is a big risk in my opinion. You could wind up with a great pack one with something like two Bladetusk Boars, two Magma Sprays, and a Starfall. You can't really ask for anything better as far as commons go. If the red isn't there in Born of the Gods, you could potentially have a poor draft. Of course, all of this advice goes out the window of you open a bomb rare like Spawn of Thraxes or good uncommon such as Forgeborn Oreads. If you have a reason to go into red, by all means go for it.UW Midrange
This section is titled "UW Midrange," although when we were drafting Born of the Gods or triple Theros it would have been called "UW Heroic." As I've said before, the heroic deck has gotten much weaker when Journey into Nyx came out. It's still possible to draft a UW Heroic deck but with only one pack of Wingsteed Riders, Hopeful Eidolons, and Observant Alseids, you aren't as likely to draft the core of the deck as you were before. These days, UW Heroic is more of a traditional UW skies deck. You want to draft aggressive two-drop creatures to either beat down or trade with your opponent's dudes, but the early aggression is not as important as it once was. Cards like Akroan Mastiff and Supply-Line Cranes will be your all-stars. They both hold the ground pretty well while the Cranes can even act as a win condition. The Mastiff makes your opponent's bestowed creatures downright embarrassing.
UW is a very easy color combination to move into in the first pack as the commons are very deep and plentiful in Journey into Nyx. In addition to the Cranes and the Mastiff, we have Oreskos Swiftclaw, Hubris, War-Wing Siren, and Cloaked Siren just to name a few. Born of the Gods is the weaker pack for this color combination. Akroan Skyguard was a great heroic dude before, but now he may be nothing but a 1/1 flyer which is often not good enough. I've used my Skyguard to trade with a 2/1 creature plenty of times. There will be decks in which the Skyguard will be great but with less bestow creatures there is a good chance he won't be. You never want to use a trick on your Skyguard just to put a +1/+1 counter on him.
Blue is a little deeper than white in Born of the Gods with commons like Chorus of the Tides, Nyxborn Triton, and Sudden Storm, so you can expect a good pack from Born if you're in blue. I'm a huge fan of the Floodtide Serpent / Stratus Walk combo in this format. Floodtide Serpent is big enough to block almost everything and once you're in a position where you can attack with him, drawing an extra card every turn is game breaking in a format with little ways to gain card advantage. Scourgemark, Fate Foretold, and Karametra's Favor also work well here and it really surprises me when I see Floodtide Serpents going around late.
My favorite combat trick in Born of the Gods is Crypsis. The card is just amazing and has many applications. Obviously it can save your guy in combat, but it can also trigger inspired, give you another draw out of Oracle's Insight, and even Negate a Time to Feed or a Fall of the Hammer. The surprise blocker is usually something your opponent forgets about from a blue mage. Savage Surge is always blatantly obvious but players don't expect Crypsis nearly as often.
UW is my favorite deck to draft in this format. It has great creatures and lots of ways to gain small advantages. It's very flexible and gives you the option to draft aggro, tempo, or control. White even has enough removal by itself where you won't have to rely solely on bounce spells (usually the case for archetypes like UR or UG).UB Control
UB Control was arguably the strongest combination before Journey into Nyx so it's no surprise that it's still a viable archetype. A deck that combines solid flyers with powerful removal is always going to be good regardless of format.
The most important cards for this archetype may actually surprise you. You may think it's the removal spells. While you need to have removal when playing this deck, the cards that make this deck work are actually the ground stallers. Pharika's Chosen, Felhide Petrifier, and Baleful Eidolon are the cards you need to buy you time to set up. Your opponent probably isn't going to attack their larger creatures into these guys giving you chance to develop your board presence. Once you drop a Gray Merchant of Asphodel, you will be very far ahead. When playing any control decks, the longer the game goes, the better it is for you, and that statement holds true when playing this deck.
You're going to have good defensive creatures in play and you're opponent is going to have a hard time attacking you. In that situation, it's best not to just throw removal at random creatures. You may only have two to three removal spells in your deck, so you really need to be careful what you use your removal on. If you have a Pharika's Chosen in play to your opponent's Nessian Courser, you really don't need to use that removal. Just be patient and wait for something better to come along. While trading one-for-one is usually what you want to be doing, you still need to use your removal wisely, especially when playing a deck with smaller creatures than your opponent.
One of my favorite cards in this archetype is Disciple of Deceit. At uncommon, it's not always likely that you'll have the chance to draft this guy, but this is the exact card you want as your-two drop. His ability to tutor for cards in your deck is great when you're playing a deck full on one-ofs. For example, on turn four, you really don't need your Omenspeaker anymore, especially when your opponent has a board of three power guys. You can discard that Omenspeaker to tutor up a much more relevant spell such as Bile Blight, Feast of Dreams, or Voyage's End. It may be hard to untap this guy after turn three or so, but that's where Crypsis, Springleaf Drum, and Triton Tactics come in. Even something like Stratus Walk on a Disciple of Deceit will give you a way to attack with him without fear of blockers. Don't be surprised if this guy sees play in Standard at some point.Green
I don't have much to say about green because I don't think it really changed with Journey into Nyx. It is still the same type of deck with big creatures and pump spells. Green is slightly worse than before because there is virtually no removal outside of Time to Feed, and we have one less pack of that.
One strategy that green gave us in Journey into Nyx is the ramp deck. Journey offers two ramp spells, Golden Hind and Market Festival. The latter gives you the option to play more than two colors. I actually lost to a player at the Pro Tour playing this type of deck with finishers such as The Fallen God" href="https://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/magic_single_card.asp?cn=Revel of The Fallen God&ref=storehover">Revel of The Fallen God and powerful bestow creatures. I wouldn't go out of my way to force 5c Green because you never know what you'll get in the last two packs, but it's worth picking up a Market Festival if you have the chance. You never know, you might get passed a Chromanticore!
Golden Hind is good in any green deck and I would draft this guy as often as possible if I'm in the color. Ramp is very important in green decks because your creatures are usually big and slow. Born of the Gods didn't offer any ramp spells (Karametra's Favor is too situational), but Theros does have Voyaging Satyr. I hate going into Theros thinking "I really hope I open a Voyaging Satyr," so I make sure to pick up every Golden Hind I see in Journey.Wrapping Up
That's all I have for this week. I like this draft format a lot and I hope that this article helps you at GP Atlanta tomorrow. I'll be there ready to battle so be sure to say hi! Next week I'll be playing at the Florida TCGplayer Limited State Championships and I'm looking forward to that as well. See you in Atlanta!
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