How I Won ONE Limited at the MTG Pro Tour

I’ve had a good run in Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited, culminating in a 5-1 booster draft record at the Pro Tour. But the format didn’t always come naturally to me. I think I’ve had a couple of revelations about how to approach the format which have helped me to maximize my win rate and minimize my chances of winding up with a weak deck.

This Limited Highlight won’t be all-encompassing, and it won’t include pick orders or exhaustive color rankings (we have plenty of Limited experts who do those things here on ChannelFireball.com). Instead, I want to give you my general strategy for approaching the format. From there, you can take what you like, leave what you don’t, and incorporate it as appropriate into the various archetypes you draft.


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Cheap Cards

In the early days of the new format, there was a lot of chatter about how fast and unforgiving it was. Like most MTG discussions, there were some helpful truths in the background. Also like most MTG discussions, people started talking in extremes, and taking things way too far.

True – A player having an uncontested fast start can lead to a big advantage. 

True – You want to have a low mana curve with plenty of cards that cost one and two mana. 

I took these discussions to heart, and did what I thought I was supposed to do, which was to build hyper-aggressive toxic decks with lots of combat tricks. And I lost.

False – You have to be super aggressive. 

False – The format is all about toxic and corrupted.

The Dust Settles

So we have a format where cheap cards are important and everybody plays a bunch of cheap (see: lower impact) cards. People are unwilling to keep slow hands, resulting in more mulligans than usual. 

The result is that there’s this early-game flurry of action where the cheap cards trade off. And then what? Then the player who mulliganed, or who drew six lands to the opponent’s four, is going to be out of resources and lose. Your next job is to make sure you aren’t that player. Here are some techniques that can help:

  • Consistent mana, with plenty of cheap creatures and removal spells will reduce the number of hands you have to mulligan.
  • Play a lower land count to help with flooding. I like 15 or 16 in most decks. This doesn’t mean drafting normally, cutting two lands and hoping it magically works out. It means drafting a low-curve deck that can operate on a smaller number of lands. 
  • Play the Sphere lands that sacrifice to draw cards. There’s definitely some tension between a fast format, a low land count and enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands. However, these are good and you shouldn’t underrate them. I usually like to have two or three. They’re even more important in your green decks with Contagious Vorrac.

  • Loot away extra lands. Axiom Engraver is an unsung hero of the format.

  • Play higher-impact cards. Ever wonder why Chimney Rabble has such a high win rate on the 17lands card ratings? It’s a perfect card to pull you ahead against an opponent focusing on small, cheap creatures. 

Chimney Rabble is an interesting card in this format in that it’s not a natural fit in any of the cookie cutter, prescribed draft archetypes. It’s simply a strong creature, plain and simple. I started playing cards like Chimney Rabble and I started winning more. 

Toxic and Corrupted

I dislike toxic and I loathe corrupted. I acknowledge that people can be successful with these mechanics, and I’m not necessarily trying to impose my preferences on everyone reading. However, if you feel like the format is “all about” this stuff, please allow me to plead my case. 

When your creature says toxic on it, the translation is that it has bad stats and trades unfavorably with Hexgold Slash. Toxic creatures hit hard when unanswered, which makes them appealing. But the better your opponents are at the format, the less your toxic creatures are going to go uncontested. 

Corrupted is a win-more mechanic. It’s not the most extreme version of such a thing, but corrupted works when you have a good start, and is often useless when you don’t. Guess what: I don’t play with corrupted cards, and I still win most games where I have a good start! If you want to maximize your win rate, then you’re going to have to win games where you lose the die roll and need to play defensively. 

I like to evaluate the corrupted cards based on what they do without corrupted, and then add a small premium on top of that. In other words, I’m fine with a card like Viral Spawning, because it’s decent at face value and then picks up value if I achieve corrupted later in the game. On the other hand, I won’t be caught dead with a Sinew Dancer because I don’t want to be stuck with a crumby 1/1 doing nothing for most of the game. 

I often hear claims like “Crawling Chorus is the best white common.” Fine. I’m happy if people are having a good experience with it. I’ll play a focused toxic beatdown deck if it’s very open, but I’m not going to engage in that fight. If everyone else wants to second-pick the Crawling Choruses, I’ll happily build a Chimney Rabble midrange deck instead.

What Do I Like?

I like the color red. I actually can’t remember the last time I’ve had quite this strong a color preference in booster draft. Red is deep in playables and I like the way it pairs with every other color. It has no toxic mechanic, so its cards aren’t split between multiple identities. 

Red also has the best sideboard options, with two things in particular that I’d like to point out.

Hazardous Blast is awesome. It’s a way to break a board stall and most of your opponents will have some tokens or one-toughness creatures that you can incidentally kill. Best of all, there will be one or two players at the table doing the Phyrexian Mite/Pestilent Syphoner stuff who will just fold when you cast it. I like to draft two copies of Hazardous Blast and maindeck one of them. Nahiri’s Sacrifice is another option to sideboard in against small creatures.

Similarly, there will be one or two players at every table who will be crying when you sideboard in three Shatter effects against them. Red Sun’s Twilight is the only one of its cycle that isn’t a strong maindeck card. That said, it’s still worth a high pick if you’re playing Best-of-Three because of how amazing it is off the sideboard. 

Shrapnel Slinger is a playable two-drop in a format where two-drops are great. Sometimes you’ll trade it straight up for their Cephalopod Sentry. Other times you’ll sacrifice a Planar Disruptioned creature to pick up some free value. 

Wrapping Up

Red is my favorite color, and I was fortunate to get two solid red decks at the Pro Tour.


If you look closely, you’ll notice that neither one is particularly linear in terms of following the prescribed synergies of the set. They both have a good mana curve with plenty of cheap cards, high individual card quality and deep sideboards.

You don’t need to do something extreme in this format. In fact, I think it’s a great format to let your opponent do the extreme thing, dismantle them with cheap blockers and removal and then win with your solidly-built deck and individually powerful cards. 

1 thought on “How I Won ONE Limited at the MTG Pro Tour”

  1. Jace the Mind Sculptor

    Hi Reid,
    Congratz on the Pro Tour win! And thanks for the interesting thoughts. One question though: is it possible to show the PT decks in a different way? Some of it is barely visible due to reflections. Thanks! And keep up the good work!

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