In the past few weeks I’ve played in a handful of drafts, going 3-0 in most of my paper drafts and averaging 2-1 in my online drafts. I’ve also read a few articles on the format and watched a dozen drafts by very good limited players. I’m here to share what I’ve learned!
5 Color Control?
This is Ravnica block; there is an abundance of mana-fixing, so the first thing you might wonder is how viable a multi-color strategy is for the draft format. Although you can potentially draft the most powerful deck, this is a high variance strategy. I don’t recommend this archetype for two reasons:
You might not have enough powerful cards. Usually, the most talented limited players are able to read and send good signals in order to pick up high quality playables in the later packs. When you’re drafting a multi-color strategy, though, you have to prioritize fixing high since most of it comes from the first pack. This means you have to bank on being passed bombs in the later two packs. Sometimes, those bombs just don’t get passed to you, and you’re stuck with the same average cards that everyone is running, except that your deck is less consistent because of the color requirements.
You might not draw your cards in the correct order. Let’s say you do manage to draft a solid deck with good fixing and enough power; you still have to draw well. The goal is usually to play a cluestone on turn three and then start pumping out five and six-drops. A great starting hand would be 3-4 lands with all of you colors, a cluestone, a 2-drop, and two expensive spells. There are just too many ways for this to go wrong. If you’re missing a 2-drop, you can easily get run over by an aggressive deck (yes they do exist in this format). If you’re missing the cluestone, the hand becomes very clunky. If you’re missing the expensive spells, you end up flooding out because you have to run more lands and cluestones than your opponent. When you’re playing at least 6 games, one of these will happen to you.
Because of these sources of inconsistency, I would not recommend forcing a five color strategy. I would only draft this kind of archetype if I opened a very powerful bomb and then was passed a very good uncommon in another color (such as Haunter of Nightveil). After that, I would start looking to take guildgates and cluestones, and keeping my fingers crossed for the later packs.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a guildgate in every DGM pack. That means that it’s easy to notice if someone else is drafting this archetype. If you suddenly notice that the packs you are being passed don’t have guildgates but still have decent cards, you might want to abandon your strategy if it’s not too late.
Two Color Strategies
I believe that a two color strategy with a very light splash (1-2 cards) is the most successful strategy in RTR block draft. You trade away a bit of power for consistency, but the power-level of a two color deck can still be high if drafted correctly. The problem with most three color decks is the lack of focus. You can’t be an aggressive deck, and with the exception of Grixis and Esper, being a control deck is difficult. For the rest of this article, I will be focusing on two color strategies. Before we talk specifics, let me introduce you to two approaches to drafting a two color deck:
Forcing a Gatecrash Guild
This seamed to be Team Channel Fireball’s strategy during the pro tour. The idea is to pick a GTC guild and cut it off as much as possible, hopefully putting the neighbors on your left out of your guild. That way, in the second pack, you will be rewarded with the best cards from your guild.
Choosing a Return to Ravnica Guild
The idea here is to find an RTR guild that is open in the first pack and hope to get rewarded in the third pack. Since the format is still new, a lot of people try to stay open and draft multicolor decks. It’s more likely that drafters will solidify themselves in a GTC guild because the GTC pack is opened before the RTR pack. For example, in the first pack, a player might be prioritizing fixing very highly to stay open; in the second pack, he gets passed some good multicolored cards and ends up playing one of the GTC guilds. This means that the many cards in RTR that aren’t very splashable, such as Call of the Conclave or Centaur’s Healer, come around late. An important thing to note is to not abandon the train halfway through. You will have to pass a lot of powerful cards in the second pack that may look very tempting to splash, but you should just take the less powerful, more consistent card in order to pick up enough playables for your deck.
The better approach obviously depends on the metagame at your shop. If everyone decides to force a GTC guild, then choosing a RTR guild will easily lead you to victory, and vice versa. Instead of discussing an approach, let’s look into specific guilds. In my experience, the guilds I have seen succeed the most are Selesnya, Rakdos, Azorius, and Dimir.
A big draw to Selesnya is that there are many multicolored commons and uncommons in the third pack that are not desired by players drafting multicolor strategies, including the most powerful guildmage. There are also enough powerful mono-colored green and white cards in the GTC pack to support your deck. The strategy is to kill your opponent as fast as possible with the help of the multitude of pumpspells and auras in the format. Once you’ve solidified yourself into Selesnya, the picks should be pretty easy, so I’ve made a list of the cards you should look out for in DGM to draft the guild ordered by relative power-level.
- Unflinching Courage, Bronzebeak Moa, Alive/Well
- Kraul Warrior, Give/Take, Tronstani’s Summoner, Haazda Snare Squad
- Thrashing Mossdog, Armored Wolf-Rider, Boros Mastiff, Battering Krasis
Here is a sample Selesnya deck that went 3-0 in a 8-4 queue on MTGO. The split cards are Alive/Well and Armed/Dangerous.
Like Selesnya, your goal is to beatdown with Rakdos. Unfortunately, you are less likely to get enough quality playables and you might have to play some sketchy one drops, but nevertheless, Rakdos is still very powerful. Instead of pumpspells, you get the best removal cards in the set and some burn for reach. Here are the cards in DGM you should look out for.
- Carnage Gladiator, Rakdos Drake, Rubblebelt Makka, Spike Jester
- Punish the Enemy, Toil/Trouble, Ubal Sar Gatekeeper,
- Weapon’s Surge, Fatal Fumes, Hired Torturer
Sample Rakdos deck that went 3-0 in an 8-4. The split card is Turn/Burn
Flying is a very powerful keyword in this set. With Dragon’s Maze in the mix, the average power-toughness ratio is very low, which means the board often stalls. Having evasion ends the game very quickly, while your many 1/4s and 2/4s prevent your opponent from racing. One problem with Azorius is that the amount of playables in DGM is pretty low, and the blue cards in GTC are not very exciting. These picks should put you in Azorius:
- Ascended Lawmage, Deputy of Acquittals, Jelenn Sphinx
- Haazda Snare Squad, Steeple Roc, Wind Drake
- Boros Mastiff, Runner’s Bane
Sample Azorius Deck that went 3-0 in an 8-4.
Your goal when playing Dimir is very similar to that of an Azorius mage. I actually like Dimir a lot more because of your access to good removal. Dimir was one of the best guilds in GTC and there are also a lot more quality Dimir cards in DGM. You even have the flexibility of being a control deck, in case you don’t get enough evasion. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my previous article here. Here are the DGM cards to look out for:
- Far/Away, Haunter of Nightveil, Warped Physique
- Hired Torturer, Pilfered Plans, Rakdos Drake, Wind Drake, Woodlot Crawler
- Fatal Fumes, Maze Glider, Runner’s Bane, Gatekeepers
The Other Guilds
Of the other guilds, I’ve seen Golgari, Simic, and Orzhov do well, but I won’t go into much detail on these guilds because I don’t have enough experience yet. Boros and Izzet seem relatively weak because of the lack of high quality playables. Gruul seems like a good base if you want to play some sort of ramp strategy. I will finish this guide with more information on the other guilds in a few weeks after I play some more drafts.
- Vanilla 2/2s are still not good in this set unless you are very aggressive and/or have a lot of pump spells to support them. There are just too many 2/3s and 1/4s.
- If you pass a lot of Runner’s Banes, be sure to prioritize pump spells and auras in later packs to counter it (Runner’s Bane falls off if the creature’s power ever exceeds 3)
- Izzet Staticaster and Electrikery are now playable. There are many x/1s from GTC and DGM that they punish. Also, Izzet Staticaster works well with Maze Abomination.
- Cheap, multicolored cards in RTR or GTC like Wojek Halberdiers go around later.
- Civic Saber is pretty good.
- Court Street Denizen and Eyes in the Skies work well together.
- Rubblebelt Rhino gets better with the auras from GTC and DGM.
- Voidwalk is kind of playable. RTR has a lot of enter the battlefield effects and tokens that you can take advantage.
- Way of the Thief and Ogre Jailbreaker get an upgrade due to the extra gates.
I hope this article was helpful for those of you who are still struggling to draft this set. Thanks for reading, and good luck cracking packs!