Flesh and Blood Draft – Pack 1, Pick 1 Isn’t Everything

In the Flesh and Blood Draft format, there are a number of pivotal moments during the process that dictate whether your draft is going to work out or not. As nice as it is to open a really powerful card for your first pick of the first pack, the most important part of your draft happens a few picks later, usually between pick four and seven. These are the important picks because this is when you have access to more information about which cards the players to your right didn’t pick. These signals can give you an idea of which classes or strategies are “open” and which classes are heavily picked by other players. In turn, it’s this information that should guide you in which direction you should commence the rest of your draft. Today, I’ll illustrate the importance of these signals by using a Tales of Aria draft as an example.


Header - Pack 1, Pick 1

Here we can see a very powerful pack, with some standout cards. For me, the most stand out card is Winter’s Wail. In general, permanents have a high impact during a game, because they start in play – we do not have to draw into it. This is the reason why equipment is often picked quite highly, even though it might not be as impactful as some other cards. The fact that they start in play can be enough to give us an edge in a game.

There’s some argument for picking some other cards, but let’s say for argument’s sake we decide to lock in the Winter’s Wail and commit to the Guardian class from the get go. We’re passing a Sigil of Suffering (Red), a Lightning Press (Yellow) and an Evergreen (Blue), and we can expect the players to our left to be picking these. Paying attention to what we’re passing can help us make decisions further down the draft.

Power vs. Versatility

Usually in a draft, there will be a dilemma of going for powerful picks or versatile picks. Power and versatility are important because there are pros and cons to both. Power usually means you are committing yourself to a particular strategy with a pick, while versatility means you’re more likely to end up playing the versatile card, as it’s more fitting to a multitude of classes or strategies. In this pick, Winter’s Weil locks us into a Guardian only card, while the blue Evergreen or yellow Lightning Press would keep us more open, as they’re great cards for two of their corresponding heroes.


Header - Pack 1, Pick 2

This is a strange pack with the three blue Earth cards. Blue pitch Earth cards are great for both Oldhim and Briar. Passing all three could send a bit of a signal to the players on our left that Earth is open, which could actually happen regardless of what we pick.

The decision here is whether we go for the blue Ice card in the form of Chill to the Bone or grab one of the blue Earth cards. Chill to the Bone synergizes well with Winter’s Wail, but the card itself is not that amazing. There’s also the possibility a good Ice card or Guardian card has been drafted by the player to our right, as there isn’t much of either in this pack. While the Ice card could be the correct pick here, Earth, even in Oldhim, is powerful due to his hero ability. Let’s say we pick the blue Burgeoning here and hope to wheel one of the other blues.


Header - Pack 1, Pick 3

In this pack, it’s hard to get any good signals, as the power level seems quite even throughout the pack and the equipment slot is missing, making it harder to solidify what the person to our right is picking. The stand out card for our current draft is the blue Weave Ice here. The card works very well with Winter’s Wail and can help close out games in the late game with a fused attack. Other interesting notes is the lack of Earth cards – there’s a yellow Ball Lightning and some red arrows, but again, it seems too early to make predictions on what’s open and what is getting picked on the right. Let’s say we pick the blue Weave Ice.


Header - Pack 1, Pick 4

This is where we should have some alarm bells ringing. We have an incredible Lightning equipment in the form of Mark of Lightning, a solid Lightning card in the form of Weave Lightning, a great Earth card in the form of Evergreen and a couple of solid Runeblade cards in the form of Singeing Steelblade and the blue Bramble Spark.

What should also inform our pick decision is also what is missing. Ice is clearly lacking in this pack, and so is Guardian in general. There’s a strong signal that Lightning and Runeblade in general are quite open from the right. Now we have to make a decision of whether we stick with the Guardian plan or switch. Because Evergreen is a powerful pick that still works with our current plan and can work in case we switch, I’d lock it in here and see if we can get more information from the next pick.


Header - Pack 1, Pick 5

This is where things get interesting. We continue to see some strong Lightning and Runeblade signals with the red Heaven’s Claw, another red Singeing Steelblade and yellow Explosive Growth. Having such a high rate of Lightning, Ranger and Runeblade cards suggests that Earth, Ice and good Guardian are getting heavily picked on our right.

This makes going down the Oldhim path very risky. If we commit to Oldhim, chances are the players to our right will continue to cut us off the cards we need in Pack 1 and again in Pack 3. Also, if we assume players on our left did not go Oldhim, we could get a few decent picks at the start of Pack 2, but even the middle and end of Pack 2 will most likely lack strong Oldhim cards. There are a number of picks here that lead us down very different paths. A blue Emerging Avalanche would mean committing to our original Winter’s Wail plan, a red Singeing Steelblade opens us up to Runeblade, and same thing for red Heaven’s Claw.

There are clear signals now that one or more players to our right are in Oldhim, doing what we wanted to do with our few picks. Pushing through with the plan could be disastrous, as chances are if the pattern repeats, we won’t be getting any playables in the last five picks of this pack, and we might actually struggle to pick enough playables to construct a 30-card Oldhim deck in total.


Header - Knowing When to Pivot

Winter's Wail (Regular)Burgeoning (Blue) (Regular)Weave Ice (Blue) (Regular)Evergreen (Red) (Regular)

Looking back at our picks, we actually have some solid cards for Briar. The blue Burgeoning and red Evergreen are good all rounders for an Earth based Briar deck. Giving up the Winter’s Wail and blue Weave Ice can be tough, but I think it’s necessary to make the switch here to Briar because of the strong signals we’re getting from our right.

Often in a draft, it’s the picks between four and around seven that are the most important because this is where we get more information on what players on our right are choosing to pass. We saw cards like Mark of Lightning and other powerful Lexi and Briar cards consistently getting passed, meaning the players to our right simply weren’t interested in those. This is why switching out of Oldhim and into Briar makes sense in the long term of the draft.

A few things to note is that we have passed some powerful Lightning and Runeblade picks to our left, meaning there’s a strong probability at least one of the players on our left is Lightning, Runeblade or both. This can hinder our picks in Pack 2, but we should be able to get some decent Lightning and Runeblade picks early in the pack, and hopefully some decent Earth cards later on in the pack. Switching to Runeblade does somewhat solidify us for Pack 3, which hopefully should look similar to Pack 1 in terms of picks.

Even now, in Pack 5, picking up a Lightning or Runeblade card and switching back to Oldhim, if there are some good picks around Pick 6 to 8, isn’t the end of the world. There are enough playables for both to sit on the fence for a few picks. In terms of ultimately switching to Runeblade, picking up that Winter’s Wail as Pick 1, just turns it into a powerful hate draft. Taking away that powerful weapon, could actually mean you are denying one of your opponent’s an edge and could in the end work out well for your draft.

Ultimately, even though we got a dream first pick Pack 1 in this Tales of Aria Draft, it’s further down the draft that we got some information on what other players are doing. For me, the rule of thumb is between Pick 4 and 7 that we start getting a clearer idea of what other players are picking, based on what they’ve passed and therefore this is actually the most important part of the draft. These pieces of information are the signals that should be dictating how we should sculpt our draft. Sometimes the best thing we can do in a Draft is pick up on these signals and pivot our draft accordingly to continue getting playable picks and ultimately build a strong deck.

The beauty of drafting is finding that balance of picking powerful cards or versatile cards early that help us decide which direction we want to go with the draft in those pivotal picks. Sometimes locking in a strategy Pack 1 Pick 1 can work out, sometimes it’s correct to switch as late as pick 13 to 14. Drafts can be very dynamic, especially in that very first half of the draft. Being aware of picking up signals from your right and knowing what signals you’re passing to your left can have a major impact on how well your draft goes, especially in those crucial picks in the first half of Pack 1.

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