Stark Reality – Drafting DGR

Dragon’s Maze introduces a lot of cheap, powerful gold cards, and most of the best gold commons are from the Gatecrash guilds. The best and most important of these are [card]Beetleform Mage[/card], [card]Zhur-taa Druid[/card], [card]Tithe Drinker[/card], and [card]Viashino Firstblade[/card].

[draft]beetleform mage
zhur-taa druid
tithe drinker
viashino firstblade[/draft]

[card]Pilfered Plans[/card] would complete the cycle, but it’s way worse than those four. I think if you open or get passed any of those four cards, you MUST take them over more flexible cards. If you don’t, you do not have the opportunity to draft a second one if you get passed it over the next couple picks because someone not far to your left will end up in your guild. If your guild is a Gatecrash guild, that is completely unacceptable and will ruin your draft. You have to have the opportunity to draft one of those four first or second picks, then again when they come 3-5th pick, and completely cut off that guild, in order to get a great draft deck. 

On the other hand, if you don’t see more of that guild and just pick up mostly one color cards afterwards, then instead of looking for picks 3-5 to define your draft, you look for picks 6-10 to do so. At this point, unless you full-blown Yahtzee pack 2 with running amazing cards, you mostly plan to be a Return to Ravnica guild. If you received green and white cards (for example) picks 6-10 pack 1, then you know you are going to have access to a lot of packs worth of first-pickable Selesyna cards and that is what we are really trying to accomplish with our draft strategy.

We want to have access to the maximum number of packs worth of strong first-pickable gold/guild cards. If you are drafting the powerful gold cards, then you aren’t very concerned with which color you end up in, mostly just which guild. Wizards basically made that very easy for us, as Boros, Simic, Gruul, and Orzhov are all very good in Gatecrash and all have a marquee gold common listed above. Dimir, on the other hand, has no good marquee gold common in Dragon’s Maze ([card]Pilfered Plans[/card] is mediocre) and is the worst guild by miles in Gatecrash.

If you have to go to plan B (see which colors come late to then plan for pack 3), then colors matter again and not just guilds. You end up drafting mostly non-gold cards until pack 3, then you slam a guild. In this scenario, it’s a bit better to be more one color than two because it allows you to slam into two guilds and not just one. You do not always have this option and should not force it. If you are seeing both green and white cards late in pack 1, then just draft GW—however, if you are mostly seeing green late in pack 1, then prioritize the green cards in pack 2 so that you have the option to be either Golgari or Selesnya in pack 3, depending on what you open and are passed.

The curveball comes when you have to take good Return to Ravnica guild gold cards early in pack 1. Truthfully, I don’t know exactly what is best in this scenario. Obviously if you open cards like [card]Putrefy[/card], [card]Lavinia of the Tenth[/card], or [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card], you want to draft them and make a good deck because they are so powerful. I think these are the only drafts where you want to be very open and flexible. While I can’t go through every example in the set, all 3 of those, and especially the first 2, are pretty splashable, so when I open these types of cards I just try and read the draft and take cards like [card]Punish the Enemy[/card] over [card]Viashino Firstblade[/card] and stay open.

In this case, your power can come from these cards, so you can draft a mediocre deck most of the time by staying open, and have your two powerful cards to really swing games. You do not really need a great deck to win games—this lower variance strategy in general is worse, because without a couple great power cards these mediocre (stay open during the draft portion) decks don’t beat anything. They don’t punish your opponents’ 3-color decks, while they’re missing a color or land drop. As I always say when I talk about Limited, you don’t need some complex plan and amazing synergy to win games. A lot of games are won because you hit your curve while your opponent does not, and your deck is in a position to punish them either with your powerful proactive strategies like cheap creatures plus extort or evolve that just put the game out of reach for him when he stumbles, or where if you stumble a little bit and your opponent is playing more solutions and less quick powerful synergy you can climb back in and win some games.

In conclusion, there are three ways my Dragon’s Maze drafts can go. Plan A is to start out hard and heavy in a Gatecrash guild by cutting off the gold cards from that guild and drafting it the whole way through. This happens the most often and results in the best decks. However it does not account for getting hit with some good cards late in pack one or if you open the uncommon and rare Return to Ravnica guild powerful gold cards.

Plan B is you started open or started with a gold card from a Gatecrash guild but then didn’t get much more of it and end up getting some nice clear signals from the middle to the end of pack 1. And, since you didn’t have a great focused deck at this point you want to take advantage of that, so you draft those good late cards and plan to draft a Return to Ravnica guild. Whether you have the ability to be mostly one color so you have two main options in pack 3, or mostly two colors so you only have 1 isn’t a choice you get to make. It is dictated by the cards you happen to have drafted and happen to get late. It is better to have two options but you should not go out of your way to create that, you should let the draft guide you in this situation, since you are trying to move into what is open.

Plan C, or the curveball, explains what I like to do if I open or get passed early in pack 1 the powerful gold cards from the Return to Ravnica block guilds. That would be draft those cards and stay as open as possible through pack 1, since you do not need and cannot put to particularly good use the cheap powerful synergistic gold commons listed at the start of the article. Then, by the end of pack 1 you should have a good idea of where your draft is going. This may sound inferior to drafting the better synergistic decks, but it isn’t, since it’s much lower variance, and while you may not have the dream deck as often, you will be able to put away opponents and win games because of the power offered by these cards. It is bad to draft a bunch of flexible cards in the hope of getting the 2-3 power cards you need to make a good deck, but it is not bad to draft flexible solutions if you already start off with a power card. Most of the time you will get at least 1 more and make a deck that can put away opponents on their back foot or in average games, whether by Putrefying their key creature or at a key time slamming cards like [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] or [card]Lavinia of the Tenth[/card] and winning with them.


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