Drafting Digest: Grand Prix Louisville Prep!

We’ve got a big Limited Grand Prix coming up this weekend, and Ross Merriam wants to help you get ready! Do you agree with Ross’s picks and thought processes? How would you shape this draft?

We’re trying something a little different with the Digest today. Standard won’t be relevant until Kaladesh is released and looking at nothing but Modern and Legacy decks can get a bit stale. With #GPLouisville this weekend, it’s the perfect time for a final look at Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited.

I’ll be covering two tough picks from a recent draft that rising Magic player Jake Mondello played on Magic Online, the opening pick of the draft and then one later in the pack. Jake may have drafted this format more than anyone else I know and has a Limited Grand Prix Top 8 to his name, defeating yours truly in the quarterfinals, so he was a natural consult for this piece. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Three cards stand out to me here: Thalia’s Lancers, Geist of the Archives, and Noose Constrictor.

The rare is a mediocre card on its own, but if you find anything good to tutor for with it, its value quickly rises. If that card is a legitimate bomb, the Lancers is close to a second copy of it, and sometimes even better.

That potential so early in a draft is tempting, but ultimately a trap. You’re sacrificing a significant amount of guaranteed power in order to make a great scenario, you receiving a bomb rare, even better. So unless you desperately need to 3-0, I would look to the other two, which are both great cards on their own.

Geist of the Archives is excellent in the U/W Spirits archetype, which leverages a ground blocker very well with all its fliers, but in reality, any blue deck will be happy with the card selection it provides. The 0/4 body naturally lengthens games, which is exactly what you want to do with a repeated source of card selection, so the card is internally consistent in what it’s trying to accomplish.

Noose Constrictor is a much more aggressive card, since the mere threat of its ability will help it dominate combat even against 2/3s and 3/3s. It serves as a premium outlet for madness and helps you achieve delirium by discarding spare cards of missing types. Noose Constrictor is similar in power level to Geist of the Archives, but its potential to be a key piece for maximizing the potential of your other cards makes it the pick for me.

Fortunately, Jake took Noose Constrictor in this draft as well (great minds, eh?), so we can look a little further in the draft at a key moment:

As you can see, we’ve been able to stay open in this draft by taking only green cards, including one of the best cards in the set in Clear Shot, although having two copies of the mediocre Backwoods Survivalists this early isn’t ideal. But the following pick presents us with a problem, since Waxing Moon is not a reasonable option. We have to dip into a second color here, and in doing so let’s assume that we haven’t seen any clear signals as to what other color might be open. Let’s look at our next pick below:

The options are Hanweir Battlements, Graf Rats, Laboratory Brute, and Lunarch Mantle.

These are all reasonable playables on their own except for Graf Rats, which needs Midnight Scavengers. This late in the pack, there’s no way we see a copy, but there’s still a second pack, and if you do pair the meld cards, Graf Rats is much better than anything else here.

You might be thinking that taking the Graf Rats for its upside is a trap just like Thalia’s Lancers, but this late in the pack the calculus changes. The cards you’re giving up on for the upside are much worse this late in the pack–even if you end up not playing the Graf Rats, you won’t really miss whatever card you could have taken, whereas if you see a Midnight Scavengers in the next pack, even though it’s a very good card on its own, you will regret not having a Graf Rats to go with it.

Early in the draft, take the best card. But late in the pack, when the opportunity cost is lower, take risks. One of the keys to a successful draft is getting good value out of your later picks, and Graf Rats is the best way to accomplish that here.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Jake didn’t take Graf Rats and somehow wheeled a Midnight Scavengers tenth pick. Unfortunately there’s no justice and he got another Graf Rats in Pack 2. Some people just have all the luck.