Drafting is probably the most unique, entertaining and skill intense format of MTG. Traditionally, you sit down in a pod of 8 people, each of whom is given 3 boosters. They each open the first one, pick a card from it and pass the remaining cards to the person to the left until all the cards are picked. Then they repeat the same with the next two packs, reversing the direction each time. With the pool of 42 cards they have picked, the players then build a 40 card deck and play a short 8 man Swiss tournament within their pod.
MTGA Quick Draft is slightly different. Each player is still given 3 packs, but the pod they are drafting with consists of 7 AI bots. The player drafts a 42 card pool and plays against other players until he either achieves 7 victories or loses 3 times.
What makes drafts so skill intense is the fact the deck’s power and synergy comes from the familiarity with the format’s cards, metagame and available archetypes. The deck’s power will generally originate from a well built common/uncommon core, and will be significantly empowered by occasional rare or mythic “bombs”.
Here are a few tips that can help you during your first MTG draft run. Remember these are TIPS not RULES, don’t be afraid to deviate from them, and most importantly, listen to your gut sometimes.
- - Limited decks generally run between 16 and 19 lands
- - Watch out for the curve. Make sure to account for early, mid and late game!
- - B.R.E.A.D (Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, Duds)
- - Removal is very powerful in limited
- - Make sure to draft enough creatures
- - Some constructed cards are bad in limited and vice versa
- - Don’t commit to a color(combination) too early
Hour of Devastation (2x Hour of Devastation and 1x Amonkhet packs) is one of my favorite limited formats of recent years, possibly only second to Dominaria. There are few key characteristics to consider before jumping into the format’s cards and archetypes as such;
- - Hour of Devastation is a very aggressive format. Most creatures benefit greatly from attacking and are not very good on the defense (i.e. Afflict: Whenever a creature with this ability becomes blocked, defending player loses life equal to the Afflict value)
- - With a distinct lack of common/uncommon wipes and re-use of units through “Eternalize” and “Embalm” combined with the previous point, it’s more efficient or at the very least easier to build a wide board as opposed to tall.
- - It’s relatively easy to splash a 3rd color into the existing two-color archetypes, so it’s advisable to pick off-color bombs even without hate picking (you should still avoid picking cards with two off-color symbols in their mana cost).
Technically speaking all 10 color pairs are viable archetypes in this limited format, but I will focus on those I am most familiar with :
Ramp, the ultimate Timmy deck is single handedly enabled by Oasis Ritualist. This card makes it easy to splash into your third, fourth or even fifth color, accelerates you into your large, pricy creatures and with 4 toughness survives the most common/efficient removal of the format.
These are the other c/uc cards you should look out for when building a limited ramp deck. At the same time we need something to ramp into right? We will be looking for fatties (creatures with high power/toughness), creatures with reusable mana sinks (abilities that we can dump our mana into) and high mana cost - high payoff sorceries and enchantments.
This archetype is likely the least picky when it comes to bombs so you can just go nuts and pick whatever you can get your hands on.
Similar to Oasis Ritualist in Ramp, Spellweaver Eternal is the single most important card for this archetype. It’s very aggressive, with insane stats for a 2 drop. If you manage to keep the pressure on the opponent, a single Spellweaver Eternal and a couple well timed removal spells can lead you to victory. This archetype relies on a combination of spells and creature to establish early threats and protect/trade them favorably to gain a tempo advantage your opponent can’t recover from.
The uncommons and commons you should be looking for synergise incredibly with the deck. Crash Through is likely one of the most underrated cards in the format. With the majority of your creatures having Prowess, it essentially buffs the board by 1, cycles through your deck and reduces the efficiency of your opponent’s blocks even further.
This archetype is likely relying the least on its bomb. Nevertheless… Bombs are a bit harder to pick for this deck as well. Due to it’s insanely low mana curve and the ability to cycle efficiently, these decks run as low as 15 lands, making it hard to include high mana cost cards or even off-color splashes. The cards you should be looking out for are:
You will notice there are actually very few of them. As I’ve said, the deck is fairly set in what it does, so including bombs often dilutes its power. That said, if you open something powerful that is not on the list, feel free to include it.
What’s the only thing better than a Zombie? A Mummy. Amonkhet Zombies are just that, and are coincidentally my favorite archetype in Hour of Devastation. I must warn you, drafting a tribal deck can quickly end in a disaster. I don’t know how the AI will handle drafts, but a zombie deck receiving the picks they want will likely be a sight to behold. One that gets hatepicked however… Not so much.
The mummies work similar to any other tribe; they buff, synergise and trigger each other's abilities. The best zombies in HoD are stuck at uncommon, and since the best common ones are from Amonkhet which we will only draft once, and as a third pack at that, this is an incredibly risky archetype to pick. Zombies thrive on locking down the opponent’s blockers and overwhelming them with a horde of midrange creatures that slowly chip away at the opponent’s life.
The truth is just about any bomb you can splash into Zombies will help. More or less every Embalm/Eternalize unit triggers the Zombie tribals, and they are often powerful on their own.
The WR Archetype is amongst the most explosive in HoD. With it's low mana curve, creatures with weak defensive but very efficient aggressive stats and a plethora of combat tricks, White and Red both offer ways to gain and maintain tempo in early and mid game, but sacrifise the late game for it.
Don't be afraid to exert your creatures. With the untaping synergies and combat tricks, exert value can often amount to several card's worth of tempo advantage!
The bombs available to WR Aggro either help push the early game, or provide a game ending evasion/reach.
I hope this short primer helps you take your first steps into the MTG limited format with decent success. Remember not to follow the archetypes too rigidly and try out new and fun stuff. Let us know how you did while we prepare a primer for the upcoming Dominaria draft!