In this list, all cards are ranked from high to low as a guide for the first-pick-first-pack decision in a regular Journey/Born/Theros draft. The list does not take the monetary value of a card into account, and multicolored cards are ranked relatively low because of the loss of flexibility and the danger of committing to two colors right from the start.
Although the list is influenced by discussions with many others (including members of Team ChannelFireball), it is based on my own preferences, experiences, and ideas. Specifically, it is influenced by my strong preference for drafting blue/green. This color combination had an impressive 70% match win percentage in our practice drafts, despite the decks never looking super impressive, which spurred the saying that “’Blue/green crap’ never loses”.
And it makes sense: There is synergy between big green monsters and blue bounce spells, as well as green acceleration and big blue flyers, so you often end up with a nice deck. Moreover, both colors are very deep in every pack in the block, which means that you’ll receive reasonable picks even if someone is drafting the same colors next to you. This is especially true for green, which I consider to be the best color in JBT draft. I would not recommend forcing a color outright, but you’ll see the blue and green cards ranked more highly than you might expect, as it is the color combination I feel most comfortable with.
Another relevant factor that influenced my list is my belief that you have to take early drops (i.e., creatures with mana cost four or less) very highly. You can only play so many combat tricks, bounce spells, and 5+ drops, especially if you want to tempo out. Moreover, in Journey into Nyx, there are strive combat tricks instead of bestow creatures at common, which places an extra premium on having enough creatures. I generally try to have at least 5 creatures after the first booster, 10 creatures after the second, and 15 after the third. If I have a shortage of creatures and already have a bunch of instant-speed spells, then I’ll happily take Swordwise Centaur over Retraction Helix in Born of the Gods, for example. In the end, a deck without creatures will have a hard time getting anywhere.
With that in mind, here is my list:
Twenty Thoughts on Drafting with Journey into Nyx
- Crystalline Nautilus is often very disappointing as opponents can easily take it out with Coordinated Assault, Akroan Mastiff, and various other targeting effects. However, it becomes much better when you combine it with constellation creatures like Oakheart Dryads or Harvestguard Alseids: Simply bestow the Nautilus on an opposing creature and immediately target it with one of your constellation guys. This way, you create your own Flametongue Kavu.
- There are plenty of Centaurs in the format that are boosted by Pheres-Band Warchief. The most notable ones at common are Lagonna-Band Elder, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, Nessian Courser, Nylea’s Disciple, Pheres-Band Centaurs, Pheres-Band Thunderhoof, Pheres-Band Tromper, Returned Centaur, and Swordwise Centaur. All of those cards become higher picks when you’ve drafted their lord.
- Battlefield Thaumaturge is always reasonable, but in certain decks it can be as good as Golden Hind. Specifically, a deck filled with targeted spells like Voyage’s End or Lash of the Whip, or Colossal Heroics. The green trick is by far the best card to combine the Thaumaturge with, as it only costs one mana to target an additional creature. This can lead to complete blowouts during combat.
- Renowned Weaver makes enchantment creatures, thereby allowing you to trigger constellation abilities at instant speed. So if I already have two copies of Oakheart Dryads, then I’ll take Renowned Weaver much higher. The same holds for the inspired creature from Born of the Gods like Aerie Worshippers—they make enchantment creatures, too.
- If you have Disciple of Deceit in your deck, then memorize all cards for every mana cost before sitting down for your first game. You don’t want to discard a card and discover that you have nothing left to find. I speak from experience.
- Aerial Formation can be a beautiful way to stop a lethal attack involving Noble Quarry if you have a lot of non-flying creatures in play. Is there any better way to win a game than by making opposing unicorns fly?
- Blue/red is still the worst archetype. It had the worst match win percentage in our practice drafts, and the decks never seem to come together. The underlying reason might be that both blue and red are support colors. One way or another, I would recommend staying away unless both colors seem incredibly open or you get passed Keranos in the middle of the first booster.
- If for one reason or another you do end up in blue/red, then try to go for some synergy. The Knowledge and Power archetype is a bit too speculative (it is hard to assemble enough repetitive scry effects to make it worth it) but Riptide Chimera may be worth it. The only blue/red deck with a positive record in our practice drafts was a wonderful double-Riptide Chimera/double Messenger’s Speed brew. Sometimes you just have to go deep.
- You rarely want to do this, but it is important to remember that you can put the uncommon bestow guys from Journey into Nyx on your opponent’s creatures. Better to put Spirespine on that Akroan Mastiff and kill it rather than to get your voltron creature tapped down every turn.
- Sometimes it is easy to think that a card does something it does not, or vice versa. Two of the more egregious ones: Desperate Stand is a sorcery, and Gnarled Scarhide is a Minotaur. I had to learn the hard way that Desperate Stand is not in the same league as Coordinated Assault and that Gnarled Scarhide is boosted by Rageblood Shaman. Don’t let that happen to you.
- With Bladetusk Boar and Dreadbringer Lampads at common, Bronze Sable and other artifact creatures have gotten a little better. At worst, they are excellent sideboard cards against the intimidate creatures.
- Daring Thief allows for various nice tricks. First, you can tap it down with your own Akroan Mastiff or Glimpse the Sun God. Second, you can exchange control of one of your Auras (say, Chosen by Heliod) for one of your opponent’s enchantment creatures, which essentially gives you a creature for free. Third, if you ever get the combo of Daring Thief + Retraction Helix + Mnemonic Wall, then it is very hard to lose—you trade your Wall for their best creature every turn, bounce it back to your hand with the Helix, and then replay the Wall to do it all over again.
- Ritual of the Returned and Font of Return are pretty bad cards in general, but they become reasonable when you pick up two or more Satyr Wayfinders or Commune with the Gods. The best green/black decks are the ones that take advantage of the graveyard synergies.
- Be careful when your opponent attacks with two 2/3s into your two 3/3s! Back in the day, you only had Coordinated Assault and Dauntless Onslaught to worry about, but now there’s an entire pack worth of common strive cards. You don’t want to be blown out by Nature’s Panoply in a situation like that. So, it’s probably best to block only one of the 2/3s. If you’re not scared of Necrobite, then the best way to play around (strive) combat tricks in that situation is to double-block one of the 2/3s with both of your 3/3s.
- I view Feast of Dreams in a similar way as Ray of Dissolution: it is a powerful instant-speed way to deal with enchantments, but you don’t want to be stuck with dead cards in your hand. So, I don’t want to be running too many (i.e., more than two) of those cards in my main deck. Fortunately, Feast of Dreams can have utility even against a deck without any enchantments at all, as you can enchant your opponent’s creature with Scourgemark or Nyxborn Eidolon to make it a legal target.
- Skybind is in general a pretty bad card that shouldn’t make your main deck. However, it can be a good sideboard card against decks with plenty of enchantments like Cast into Darkness, Pin to the Earth, or Fearsome Temper. Just blink the creature that the Aura is on. It can also function as hard removal against Mistcutter Hydra, Fated Intervention, and the like. And if everything else fails, you could always blink your own Satyr Grovedancer or Omenspeaker. Always keep an eye out for the situations in which bad cards become good.
- Bounce has gotten a little worse now that there is one less pack of common bestow creatures and Ordeals. Nevertheless, cards like Hubris remain relatively high picks and will almost always make your deck. You can even get some additional value from Hubris by targeting your own creature. I remember a game in which my opening hand contained Hypnotic Siren, Stratus Walk, and Hubris, so I played my enchantments to get some early damage in and to dig deeper into my deck, and eventually bounced both back to my hand and took control of my opponent’s best creature on turn seven.
- My second-favorite draft archetype (directly behind blue/green) is mono-red. Cards like Dragon Mantle or Spawn of Thraxes reward you for staying mono-color, and I’ve often found red to be underdrafted. If I start the draft with a good red card, then I will try to cut the color extra hard, as there are substantial rewards to being mono-color and, moreover, red is amazing in Born of the Gods, so you can reap the rewards if you never pass red cards to your left.
- I love consistent mana bases, but even I tend to shy away from Mana Confluence in two-color decks. Limited often comes down to damage races, and a Mana Confluence in your opening hand will often deal 4 damage to you, which is a significant cost. However, when the draft goes wrong and I am running a 3-color deck or a Nylea’s Presence (which transforms Mana Confluence into a painless land) then I can see myself playing one Mana Confluence.
- Triton Cavalry is always a nice card to have, even if it has gotten harder to consistently trigger heroic nowadays because there are no common bestow creatures in Journey into Nyx. However, Triton Cavalry works with non-bestow Auras as well, and I love going off with 2 Stratus Walk. Drawing a card for every two spare mana you have available is an easy route to victory.