Every Tuesday night I’ve been glued to my computer watching coverage of the Team Draft Super League. I am super excited to be participating next week in the TDSL, and in preparation I’ve been doing a lot of Drafts. Every minute I can spare I’ve been firing off an Amonkhet Draft.
I was inspired by Eric Froehlich’s article on his Team Draft, so this week I’m going to walk you through one of my Drafts in a Competitive League, and go over my thought process for each pick. I will admit that I still have a low degree of confidence in this format because of how drastically cards differ in value from one archetype to another.
Pack 1 Pick 1
My Pick: Commit // Memory
Here I take Commit // Memory out of a pretty weak pack. I think Exemplar of Strength is on par with Commit // Memory because it’s in a slightly better color, and I generally don’t want to begin the Draft with a blue card, but I’m perfectly comfortable drafting blue and there’s an outside chance I could table that Enigma Drake. Exemplar is a perfectly reasonable pick here, but I chose to take the slightly more powerful card in the slightly weaker color.
Pack 1 Pick 2
My Pick: Ruthless Sniper
Here we see another Enigma Drake, which goes quite well with my Commit // Memory, but at the same time Ruthless Sniper is excellent in a U/B Cycling deck. In fact, it’s one of the very few reasons to continue on that route as the archetype is generally pretty weak. Another compelling card in this pack is Trial of Ambition. Trial of Ambition is actually quite poor in a U/B deck in my experience, as the Cartouches are pretty underwhelming there. I take notice of the Sacred Excavation in this pack, a card that’s really solid in U/B Cycling, but generally comes around. I decide to take Ruthless Sniper because it is excellent in U/B and can also be a role player in other color combinations, while not nearly as good in other archetypes.
Enigma Drake and Trial of Ambition are both very reasonable picks and I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking either card. Drafting isn’t always about getting every pick 100% correct—it’s about making small margin decisions early and executing your plan with later picks.
Pack 1 Pick 3
My Pick: Splendid Agony
Punished for not taking Enigma Drake! I see a pack with what most people would consider 3 viable picks between Enigma Drake, Fan Bearer, and Final Reward. There’s a common and a rare missing, and there are only 2 commons I would consider taking over Fan Bearer: Magma Spray and Gust Walker. My Ruthless Sniper wants me to stay in U/B and knowing the person on my right likely took a red or white card, I decide to stay the course and take what I think is the best card for a U/B deck, Splendid Agony. In most other archetypes I like Final Reward better, but in U/B it’s important to have early tempo-positive plays, and Splendid Agony is one of the few ways to catch back up in these colors.
Pack 1 Pick 4
My Pick: Cryptic Serpent
U/B has a problem closing games, and Cryptic Serpent can be an excellent finisher. No cards here are good enough to make me want to switch. The best card in the pack is probably Bitterblade Warrior, and Cryptic Serpent is on par with that anyways.
Pack 1 Pick 5
My Pick: Hieroglyphic Illumination
Hooded Brawler is a premium common and a signal that green is coming. Other than that, there are a couple of low curve black creatures and a Hieroglyphic Illumination. While I do want a way to stop an early onslaught in U/B, getting a cheap cycler that goes well with both my Ruthless Sniper and my Cryptic Serpent is fine. I could still switch colors here, but the problem is that Hooded Brawler is also weak with the cards I have already selected. I’m noticing at this point that I’m not seeing any red and very little white in these packs. Though Tah-Crop Elite is probably the second best card in the pack, it’s not high in the white commons rankings.
Pack 1 Pick 6
My Pick: Seeker of Insight
This is a weak pack again, but I get a solid card for my deck in Seeker of Insight. Seeker of Insight is awesome at blocking weaker 2-drops early, and allowing you to cycle excess lands late. It also goes well with my Ruthless Sniper. I’m still considering the possibility that the Enigma Drakes I passed wheel if no one is in blue and I take note of the Tormenting Voice, a card I’d love to have in the U/R Spells archetype. Faith of the Devoted, while I’ll play it in a deck with a bunch of cyclers and Seeker of Insight, isn’t an impressive card. It’s too hard to kill with in a control deck, and is extremely clunky against decks that are pressuring you. I wouldn’t be unhappy to get it on the wheel but I’m not going to prioritize it, even in U/B Cycling.
Pack 1 Pick 7
My Pick: Horror of the Broken Lands
Pretty easy pick. Horror of the Broken Lands is an excellent blocker and provides a huge threat in the late game. The fact that it cycles for 1 mana and works well with Wander in Death, a card that is pivotal to U/B Cycling in my experience, makes this a solid pickup. I again note the Tormenting Voice and I’m pretty sad I didn’t dive head-first into an Enigma Drake deck pick 2.
Pack 1 Pick 8
My Pick: Merciless Javelineer
This is another pick I expect would draw a lot of criticism. I mostly view Pitiless Vizier as replacement level, and don’t find it particularly effective in U/B Cycling because it has difficulty blocking and surviving on turn 4. If I get some fixing, Merciless Javelineer is a way to dump excess lands and deal with small creatures. The fact that I expect to get Wander in Death at some point allows me to cast this on turn 4, trade it off the same as Pitiless Vizier, and potentially get it back later. Merciless Javelineer also plays extremely well with Ruthless Sniper, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility I get a second Sniper at this point in the Draft. I take the high upside pick here as I can always get Pitiless Vizier later.
Pack 1 Pick 9
My Pick: Cancel
Blighted Bat has such a low chance to make my deck that I decide to take a card I sideboard a lot in Cancel. Cancel is effective against other slow decks and ramp decks so I like to have access to it. This is my opening pack that had a bunch of green cards, Essence Scatter, and Enigma Drake. This tells me there are potentially two other blue drafters at the table, which is a scary situation because blue is generally too weak to be divided three ways.
Pack 1 Pick 10
My Pick: Sacred Excavation
The Sacred Excavation I noted when I took Ruthless Sniper came back as I hoped. Sacred Excavation has over-performed for me in U/B Cycling, especially in conjunction with Wander in Death. If you can keep the battlefield stable you can generate a ton of value off of these two spells, and even create an “infinite loop” with Scribe of the Mindful, though I general only sideboard in Scribe against very controlling decks because it’s too weak to block with.
Pack 1 Pick 11
My Pick: Reduce // Rubble
I take a Reduce // Rubble here as my U/B deck isn’t looking for a Grizzly Bears and I may want another counterspell effect. I also may end up splashing the Merciless Javelineer, which means I could cast the Rubble.
Pack 1 Pick 12
My Pick: Winds of Rebuke
Solid playable to interact with early creatures, and I’m not looking for combat tricks in U/B Cycling. Winds of Rebuke has some minor synergy with the Cryptic Serpent and Sacred Excavation, and hopefully some Wander in Deaths.
Pack 1 Pick 13
My Pick: Mighty Leap
Pack 1 Pick 14
My Pick: Scribe of the Mindful
Pack 1 Pick 15
My Pick: Mountain
After pack 1 I’m pretty solidly in U/B. I had some opportunity to go U/R early and the option to switch into green in pick 4 when I selected Cryptic Serpent over Bitterblade Warrior, and when I selected Hieroglyphic Illumination over Hooded Brawler pick 5. I’d still be willing to switch for a bomb rare, but other than that I’m just looking to stay the course, likely.
Pack 2 Pick 1
My Pick: Vizier of the Tumbling Sands
Well, this is Enigma Drake number 4 I’m passing. Vizier of Tumbling Sands is excellent in U/B Cycling. Vizier acts as a mana creature early, allows you to play your 5-drop cyclers like Horror of the Broken Lands and Shimmerscale Drake a turn early, and lets you attack with them and still threaten to block. Vizier is also an excellent combat trick if you cycle it, untap a creature like Pitiless Vizier, and eat a creature. All that said, I’m not that happy with Vizier of the Tumbling Sands as a first pick, as it’s typically the kind of payoff I expect later in a pack for being a player willing to draft blue.
Pack 2 Pick 2
My Pick: Baleful Ammit
This pack is loaded with black cards for me, and there are reasonable arguments for a few of them. Horror of the Broken Lands is a great, cheap cycler for my Ruthless Sniper, and Splendid Agony is an important spell for U/B Cycling. I decide to take Baleful Ammit because I think it’s the best overall card in the pack. I can hopefully dump the counters onto some early Seeker of Insights or Doomed Dissenters. Baleful Ammit also gives me the ability to gain life in an archetype that is often playing from behind, which is a unique effect. My confidence level in this pick is low, as Splendid Agony is a good choice as well. I’m hoping to table something here with 4 solid black cards.
Pack 2 Pick 3
My Pick: Wander in Death
I notice the Merciless Javelineer again in this pack, but have no interest in taking a second copy, especially not over Wander in Death, a key component for being able to generate tons of value in U/B Cycling after you’ve stabilized the board. I’m happy with Wander in Death, but still need some more cheap cycling creatures such as Horror of the Broken Lands and River Serpent to get good use out of it.
Pack 2 Pick 4
My Pick: Lay Bare the Heart
A demoralizing pack. Fan Bearer and Emberhorn Minotaur are both excellent cards I’m shipping along, and I’m not taking much for my deck. I strongly consider Evolving Wilds, but not having a solid curve leads me to want Lay Bare the Heart as a cheap spell that can break up the opponent’s curve and help me cast an early Cryptic Serpent. Cryptic Serpent and Horror of the Broken Lands are my only real win conditions at the moment, so Illusory Wrappings is just that much worse than it already is as mediocre filler. In retrospect, Evolving Wilds may be the correct pick, as Lay Bare the Heart is unlikely to make my deck and is mostly just a solid sideboard card, whereas Wilds could let me play a high-powered spell in Merciless Javelineer.
Pack 2 Pick 5
My Pick: Shimmerscale Drake
This is a pretty easy Shimmerscale Drake. Winds of Rebuke is a solid cheap interaction spell to combat decks relying on Cartouches, but Shimmerscale Drake gives me another cycler, another win condition, and another way to generate value off of both my Wander in Death and Sacred Excavation.
Pack 2 Pick 6
My Pick: Horror of the Broken Lands
Pack 2 Pick 7
My Pick: Compelling Argument
This is a choice between Floodwaters and Compelling Argument. I’m content playing 1 Floodwaters, but I’d prefer to make sure I get a cheap cycler like Compelling Argument to enable my Cryptic Serpent and Ruthless Sniper, and to use as a fall back plan of milling my opponent out along with Sacred Excavation.
Pack 2 Pick 8
My Pick: Evolving Wilds
I’m fine playing Scarab Feast in this deck as a cheap cycling spell for all the reasons I’ve mentioned before, but I can also still play my Merciless Javelineer. Zenith Seeker is one of the reasons U/B Cycling isn’t a great archetype, as it’s a payoff for drafting a bunch of cycling cards but not even remotely good in U/B. I choose to take Evolving Wilds to help set up a potential splash.
Pack 2 Pick 9
My Pick: Hekma Sentinels
I take Hekma Sentinels here to fill out a 3-drop, and I’m hoping to not have to play this card because it’s another mediocre payoff for cycling that isn’t quite good enough.
Pack 2 Pick 10
My Pick: Nest of Scarabs
Pack 2 Pick 11
My Pick: Naga Oracle
Naga Oracle is a fine last card for a deck, but one I usually don’t play.
Pack 2 Pick 12
My Pick: Illusory Wrappings
Pack 2 Pick 13
My Pick: Painful Lesson
Pack 2 Pick 14
My Pick: Island
Pack 2 Pick 15
My Pick: Forest
After the second pack I’m fully committed to U/B Cycling. My power level is low, but I have a lot of important commons for the archetype so I’m really hoping to find some payoff cards for my archetype like Drake Haven or another Ruthless Sniper. My curve is also too high at this point, so picking up a small creature or two like a Dune Beetle or Festering Mummy would help me stave off aggressive starts and hopefully take over later in the game with bigger creatures and card advantage.
Pack 3 Pick 1
My Pick: Cartouche of Ambition
An overall weak pack for me again here. Heaven // Earth is clearly the best card in the pack while the only cards I’d be interested in putting in my deck at this point are Cartouche of Ambition and Compelling Argument. I take Cartouche of Ambition as it goes relatively well with my Horror of the Broken Lands and Cryptic Serpent as a way to get back into the game against aggro decks.
Pack 3 Pick 2
My Pick: Essence Scatter
I have the option of taking another Cartouche of Ambition, a Trial of Knowledge, or an Essence Scatter. My deck doesn’t want a Cursed Minotaur as I’m more interested in blocking with my 3-drop than attacking with it at this point. Trial of Knowledge is a nice way to generate a lot of value, especially with Cartouches, but my deck is still looking for cheap ways to interact, so I pick up Essence Scatter.
Pack 3 Pick 3
My Pick: Shimmerscale Drake
I’m literally shaking my head at this point. Magma Spray would be a nice fit with the 4 Enigma Drakes I passed. I get a Shimmerscale Drake here, which leaves my deck looking clunky. I note the Dune Beetle as a potential card I could wheel that would fill a nice, cheap, defensive role in my deck.
Pack 3 Pick 4
My Pick: Wander in Death
Enigma Drake number 5 comes and goes. I have a choice between a second Wander in Death and a Grim Strider. This is an easy pick as Grim Strider is at its worst in U/B Cycling. The archetype generally tends to have a few cards in hand and doesn’t come out of the gates fast, sometimes just cycles in the early turns so Grim Strider won’t even be castable on turn 4. I’ll just stick with the game plan of generating enough value to take over the late game with a higher quantity of spells as opposed to more powerful cards.
Pack 3 Pick 5
My Pick: Evolving Wilds
Well, this is an unfortunate pick 5 as I don’t get a solid card for my deck, but I do get to make sure that I can play the Merciless Javelineer I picked up. I note again the Dune Beetle and the Scarab Feast as cards that could potentially wheel.
Pack 3 Pick 6
My Pick: Stir the Sands
This is a fortunate pack for me. I pick up a Stir the Sands, potentially the most powerful spell in my deck. Soul Stinger is a solid playable, great against aggro decks that are trying to fight on the ground.
Pack 3 Pick 7
My Pick: Dune Beetle
I want to make sure I lock up a 2-drop that can effectively block, even though I may wheel the other two I passed. I haven’t seen any late Festering Mummys, which is a card I’d prefer to fill that role, but Dune Beetle is serviceable curve filler in this deck, though I’m not excited to play it.
Pack 3 Pick 8
My Pick: Wasteland Scorpion
Easy Wasteland Scorpion here. I like Wasteland Scorpion a lot more than most other players, and its especially good in defensive decks. Having the ability to trade with any ground creature and come back with Wander in Death and Sacred Excavation makes it really easy to lock up the ground.
Pack 3 Pick 9
My Pick: Evolving Wilds
I’m not sure if I should even play a third Evolving Wilds because you want to cycle early in these decks, but there are no other playables for me in the pack. I don’t want more than 1 copy of Scribe of the Mindful, so I just settle on another fixer.
Pack 3 Pick 10
My Pick: Soulstinger
Happy to see Soulstinger table as it’s a solid way to stop ground creatures from attacking and a good curve filler in U/B Cycling.
Pack 3 Pick 11
My Pick: Dune Beetle
Though I’m unlikely to maindeck 3 Dune Beetle, it’s a nice sideboard option.
Pack 3 Pick 12
My Pick: Ancient Crab
Pack 3 Pick 13
My Pick: Ancient Crab
Pack 3 Pick 14
My Pick: Scarab Feast
A nice pickup. I could see potentially maindecking Scarab Feast.
Pack 3 Pick 15
My Pick: Haze of Pollen
Overall I think my deck is mediocre. I’m in one of the worst archetypes with a low power level. My deck is weak to solid aggressive decks as I don’t have much in the way of interaction. I do, however, think my deck is excellent against grindy decks. I have a lot of inevitability with double Wander in Death and Sacred Excavation.
Here’s how I decided to build the deck:
The only card in my sideboard I considered maindecking was Scarab Feast as an additional 1-mana cycler. I didn’t want any more vanilla blocking creatures than the singular Dune Beetle. My sideboard was flexible, and allowed me to board down on slower cards like Sacred Excavation for more cheap blocking creatures, or board out cards like Dune Beetle and Cartouche of Ambition against control decks for Lay Bare the Heart, Scribe of the Mindful, and Cancel.
I managed to go 3-0 with this deck playing against the actual Enigma Drake deck I passed in the pod, a solid B/W Zombies deck, and a G/W Exert aggro deck. I felt like the deck was better than it looked, but it was missing one or two more pieces of removal and didn’t necessarily need any bombs as it was actually pretty good at closing out the game with a bunch of the big cycling creatures and Cryptic Serpent.
This is not what my typical Amonkhet Draft decks looks like. I like to be a low-curve white or red creature-based deck with combat tricks. Blocking in this format is difficult because of exert, so putting your opponents on the back foot and forcing them to block is a solid recipe for wins.
This Draft was actually pretty straightforward beyond the first couple of picks, but the early picks were interesting. Tell me if you think there were any picks you’d make differently, or any cards you think I over- or under-value. Look for me and Dem Boyz next week on Team Draft Super League.