Drafting Digest: Core Set’s New Dawn

Ryan Saxe goes to work on the new Limited format! If you’re grabbing a draft or two this weekend at SCG Worcester, get some practice in here!

Now that the Prerelease is behind us, I’ve learned a good amount about the
Sealed format. While Draft and Sealed are likely quite different, there are
some cards that I believe I was wrong about that I mentioned in some
previous articles:

  • Lich’s Caress is better than I thought. Usually five-mana removal
    spells are good but not great because you’re often trading down on
    mana. But that extra three life matters so much more than I thought
    it would and can completely swing a game.
  • Cavalry Drillmaster doesn’t pack as much of a punch as I hoped.
    Unfortunately, there are quite a few ways to punish one-toughness
    creatures. Now, this may be colored by the difference in speed from
    Sealed to Draft; however, I thought this was going to be a card
    that I would want to take early. I now doubt that will be the case.
  • Aether Tunnel just doesn’t get the job done because of the number
    of interactive spells at common. This likely isn’t surprising to
    most of you, as most players were low on this card, but I had a
    hunch it may fill a pivotal role. As it turns out, I just don’t
    want this card in my deck unless I have Vine Mare, and even then,
    it might require some other synergy to push into the maindeck. I
    definitely would take Druid of the Cowl out of
    that pack

So, while Draft is going up tomorrow (I’m writing this on Sunday), I’m
expecting this format to be in the middle in terms of speed. Aggressive
decks are viable and so are control decks, but often you’ll be looking at a
pile of solid cards that combine to be a usual midrange Limited deck. With
all of that in mind, let’s look at a draft!

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

The Pick:

Windreader Sphinx is a powerful card, but seven mana is a lot. If you have other fliers, you can get immediate value, which is important on a seven-drop; however, casting a seven-mana-spell is never easy. My guess is Windreader Sphinx will be best suited in a multi-color deck that wants to utilize Manalith, which will mitigate the expensive cost of the Sphinx. Usually at the beginning of any format, I take rares just to get data on them. However, I think a seven-mana flyer is on the easier side to evaluate, and data isn’t as important in that case. Personally, I think both other options are better starts to a draft.

Herald of Faith is a pretty great Magic card. Five mana for a 4/3 flier is already a pretty solid rate, but the incidental lifegain tacked on makes it difficult to race. The three toughness does make it trade down as well as die to more removal spells, but it’s still a card I think worthy of a first pick. The question is: Is it better than Ajani’s Pridemate?

I think the answer to that question is no. While a vanilla bear is not good enough for most Limited decks, if you can reliably get just one counter on Ajani’s Pridemate, it’s well worth it. And it has the potential to snowball out of control. While both white cards in this pack are powerful, there’s a limit to five-mana spells you can put in your deck, where that’s not really the case about cheaper cards. I can usually pick up an Angel of the Dawn for my white decks, but I won’t always get access to such a premium two-drop. So, I’m taking Ajani’s Pridemate and will be on the lookout for cards that synergize with it. Note that I am not interested in cards that gain life that don’t pull their own weight such as Ajani’s Welcome. But I would rather take genuinely good cards that have lifegain tacked on, such as Dwarven Priest.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

I think we can all agree that Angel of the Dawn is the worst card out of these options. That being said, it is on-color with my first pick. Does that edge it ahead of Vine Mare or Lightning Strike? Personally, I don’t think so. I see a world where Vine Mare isn’t as unfair as it looks due to an abundance of three-power creatures and then the Angel would be a step above given starting with a good white card. But at the moment I’m expecting Vine Mare to be very good.

First off, I think Lightning Strike as a splashable and efficient removal spell is a better card to pick up than Vine Mare. But does access to Ajani’s Pridemate change that evaluation? The logic I could get behind is that Vine Mare is likely at its best in W/G due to the enchantment-oriented archetype. So, it pairs well with the Pridemate. Hence, by the metric of archetypal cohesion, Ajani’s Pridemate with Vine Mare is better than Ajani’s Pridemate with Lightning Strike. That being said, I don’t believe that the use of that metric here is better than simply taking the best card out of this pack, which is why I’m going to take Lightning Strike.