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Initial Technology – Drafting M10

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my article done by Sunday, since as Riki said, I was at the Los Angeles M10 Prerelease. Luckily, going to the prerelease was fun, and I got to see the new (and not so new) cards in action. Now that I have had a chance to play a bit with M10, it’s time to get some pick orders down. Like I always say, I don’t really like pick orders normally, but in this case I think they are mostly good.

Usually, pick orders aren’t that useful because they change so drastically once you have a few cards in your pile. Using Shards as an example, while Agony Warp may be better than Executioner’s Capsule, once you have a Sanctum Gargoyle you would rather have the Capsule. M10 doesn’t really have the same issue; a card that is higher on the pick order pretty much stays that way regardless of what you have already picked. Sure, at some point you need to take creatures over Doom Blades, but for the most part the better cards remain the better cards throughout the draft. The reason is synergy; Shards, much like every non-Core Set expansion (these used to be called “Expert Level” sets but I don’t think that terminology is really used anymore) has a bunch of very synergistic themes present. All of the Shards have cards that work well together, and it is very common that a deck composed of worse cards with better synergy can beat a deck full of insane cards that don’t really work together that well. It is also the reason that I love Esper so much; Esper decks tend to be very synergistic, with Ethersworn Shieldmage and Arsenal Thresher rewarding you quite nicely for playing mostly artifacts. The Green-based decks aren’t quite as good in that regard, so they have to win mostly based off the strength of their cards on their own.

M10, being a Core Set, doesn’t have the themes that a normal set would, so the decks are mostly just “good” cards, with not an incredible amount of synergy. There are some minor themes, and it is certainly good to try and look for them, but for the most part your Limited decks will just be a collection of spells and creatures that stand on their own. Without block-specific themes like Soulshift (Champions Block), Affinity (Mirrodin Block), Tribal (Lorwyn Block) and so on, there isn’t much to most cards besides what they do by themselves. This isn’t an indictment of M10, but just an observation of how the set seems to work. I drafted a good amount of both 10th and 9th Editions, and M10 hasn’t changed substantially in terms of Limited. It is a great set for what it aims to do, which is really represent the heart of Magic to newer players, but I am not greatly looking forward to playing professional-level events with it. I had a great time at the prerelease, but I don’t know how the set will hold up to a Grand Prix. I of course will see when Boston comes around, so I may be wildly off the mark. I certainly hope I am!

The good news is that pick orders are possibly more useful now than in any previous set (since I have never outlined any for a Core Set before)! You do have to consider mana curve and creature count, but you really should be pretty safe taking the best cards out of each pack in your colors. I won’t be ranking the rares today, since I haven’t played with most of them, but I will order the top 15 uncommons and commons of each color, as well as provide an overall list of top commons.

White

Serra Angel
Pacifism
Blinding Mage
Armored Ascension
Harm’s Way
Rhox Pikemaster
White Knight
Stormfront Pegasus
Divine Verdict
Razorfoot Griffin
Righteousness
Veteran Armorsmith
Veteran Swordsmith
Undead Slayer
Griffin Sentinel

I did say there were some minor themes; Veteran Armorsmith and Swordsmith can easily go up or down in the pick order, depending on what else you have in your pile. The top six picks are way better than the rest, since after White Knight the quality drops quite a bit. Righteousness and Armored Ascension are better than they would be normally, as there aren’t as many instant-speed removal spells as in other formats (although Ascension was a bomb even in Shadowmoor). For the same reason, [card]Divine Verdict[/card] is better than I would expect it to be. White is very deep, and many of the bottom commons / uncommons on the list are close to those that didn’t make the top 15. White decks look to be pretty aggressive, and might not play all that well with other colors. You aren’t going to be mono-color, but White seems like it is better with a small splash of another color rather than a whole bunch. Wb, if you will, rather than WB.

Blue

Mind Control
Air Elemental
Sleep
Wall of Frost
Snapping Drake
Essence Scatter
Wind Drake
Phantom Warrior
Merfolk Looter
Ice Cage
Illusionary Servant
Horned Turtle
Flashfreeze
Divination
Cancel

Blue has some awesome uncommons, but its commons are pretty lacking. There isn’t much past this list, and the bottom few aren’t really that sweet. It does seem like a decent support color, and counterspells are actually much better in this format than one would think. It is kind of neat that cards like Cancel and Divine Verdict are way better than they were in Shards/Lorwyn, since that does take some experience with the format to figure out (that, or reading a fine strategy article). This is a good example of a fairly static pick order, since I would really only start picking lower cards over higher ones in the case of Essence Scatter, since too many counters is usually a bad idea. Other than that, it really seems like you take the cards pretty much just in order.

Black

Doom Blade
Howling Banshee
Gravedigger
Tendrils of Corruption
Consume Spirit
Black Knight
Wall of Bone
Assassinate
Bog Wraith
Looming Shade
Drudge Skeletons
Sign in Blood
Deathmark
Mind Rot
Rise from the Grave

This it the list I think is the least useful, insofar as the cards change in valuation quite rapidly. Tendrils of Corruption, Consume Spirit, and Looming Shade can either be fantastic or mediocre, all based on how close to mono-Black you are. I saw a number of people draft mono-Black without much problem, so it seems like a pretty viable deck, and it lets you get some pretty late pick bombs. There really aren’t many decks at the table interested in all the really intensive black cards, so you should be able to pick up Doom Blade or Gravedigger early, and get ahold of some later pick Tendrils or Looming Shades. If this deck proves good, than Undead Slayer might go up in the White pick order, as he is kind of like Vindicate on a stick in this matchup.

Red

Fireball
Goblin Artillery
Lightning Bolt
Dragon Whelp
Prodigal Pyromancer
Pyroclasm
Seismic Strike
Stone Giant
Inferno Elemental
Act of Treason
Lava Axe
Berserkers of Blood Ridge
Ignite Disorder
Canyon Minotaur
Panic Attack

Red is kind of like Blue, in that it has some truly ridiculous uncommons but is severely lacking in the common department. Fireball is pretty easily splashable, but Goblin Artillery and Dragon Whelp aren’t, which makes them much riskier. In the non-aggressive Red decks, cards like Lava Axe and Panic Attack are almost unplayable, of course.

Green

Overrun (not even close)
Cudgel Troll
Acidic Slime
Stampeding Rhino
Borderland Ranger
Giant Spider
Deadly Recluse
Giant Growth
Llanowar Elves
Centaur Courser
Craw Wurm
Rampant Growth
Enormous Baloth
Howl of the Night Pack

Green has a solid mix of good commons and a few uncommons, including the always-absurd Overrun. While it’s mana cost may be a bit prohibitive, Overrun is one of the easiest ways to flat out win games. Just cast it with like three creatures out and you almost always just win immediately, or at worst make them chump with their whole board and go to like 3. Green doesn’t much that is particularly exciting past that, but it has a lot of good playables to fill a deck with, making it a likely main color. Splashing mana-fixing and vanilla creatures (much less Overrun) has never been too attractive, but pair Green with some good removal spells and you can usually go to town.

Artifacts/Lands

Gorgon’s Flail
Whispersilk Cloak
Rod of Ruin
Terramorphic Expanse

These slow and unexciting artifacts take on a new life when introduced to M10, where they are actually pretty good. The two equipment both provide a decisive advantage in a stalemate, and are much better than they appear. Rod of Ruin is a good threat, and is a decent source of card advantage, albeit at a pretty high cost. Terramorphic is a fine card, but not all that interesting in most two color decks. Once you start splashing a third color, the value of Expanse goes up greatly.

In the interest of assuming that you are not just drafting mono-color, I will combine the common lists to create a master list of the top 15 commons overall. Integrating the uncommons seems fruitless, as they would dominate the list, and you don’t often get to pick between Overrun and Fireball anyway (take Overrun). There are some considerations to take into account when looking at this list, like how aggressive your deck is or whatnot, but in a “normal” two color deck I would mostly stick to the list. I am excluding the mono-Black type cards, since they aren’t usually compared to other color cards anyway. Tendrils is still fine, since even cast off two Swamps it is pretty useful.

Top 15 Commons

Doom Blade
Pacifism
Lightning Bolt
Blinding Mage
Gravedigger
Stampeding Rhino
Snapping Drake
Borderland Ranger
Deadly Recluse
Essence Scatter
Tendrils of Corruption
Seismic Strike
Stormfront Pegasus
Divine Verdict
Llanowar Elves

I haven’t drafted M10 enough yet to have any solid preferences in terms of colors, but these lists reflect the relative strengths of the various commons and uncommons. Just go into the color of whatever bomb you open, preferably [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card].

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on our last Magic TV show, which we plan on making a weekly feature!

LSV

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