Drafting G/W With Dark Ascension

It seems people have forgotten the power of green/white in Limited recently. Brad Nelson tells you exactly how to draft this format and why he loves it so much!

I wrote an article about how powerful yet under drafted G/W was right when Innistrad came out. This deck was by far the most powerful archetype in the format, but at the time, very few people realized this. The inclusion of Dark Ascension has changed many things about drafting this format, but one thing that’s still the same is the power of this archetype. This deck is one that I find myself drafting almost all of the time, and today I’ll talk about why this is still the best deck and how to be prepared to pick up on the signals.

Travel Preparations is the heart of the archetype. This card is so powerful that it is amazing it is actually a common. We figured this out before Dark Ascension—you rarely saw one go late in triple Innistrad Draft.

However, things have changed with Dark Ascension. While Travel Preparations is not a weaker card in the format, Innistrad is not the first pack in the draft anymore.

Ever since Wizards changed the order of packs in draft, it’s turned the way we draft upside down. It’s made drafting much more fun. You get to start with new cards, and you can draft around them better. This means the new cards have a higher impact on Limited.

However it did take away a small edge. It’s harder to rely on getting certain commons (or uncommons) from the last pack because it’s from a larger set. This makes it harder to bank on getting certain cards and thus harder to use certain strategies.

Dark Ascension Draft is very aggressive, and the new lords changed the game. It’s almost always correct to first-pick them, and having such powerful creatures helps you nut-draw an opponent.

All of these things have lowered the number of green/white drafters in the average pod. There is no specific card in Dark Ascension that will put a player into both of these colors, and many of the other spells will lock a specific drafter into two colors almost immediately. This right here is a reason to try to get into green/white, since one of your colors will almost always be open, but the true secret is that few of the drafters can actually take the card Travel Preparations.

Travel Preparations falls in this very interesting spot where you can actually count on obtaining at least one copy of this card when drafting the two packs of Innistrad. Even though it is difficult to rely on certain cards in the big set when drafting, this doesn’t apply for multicolored cards in under-drafted archetypes. G/W falls in this category, since so many more people are pushed into other color combinations earlier in the draft. Even though the drafters around you might share a single color with you, it does not mean they are able to take the powerful common. This makes it very easy to fill decks with a handful of good spells, some random creatures, and as many Travel Preparations that get opened in the draft.

The biggest question after you know this is when to actually move in on green and white. There are many cards in the first pack that push players into white as their primary color, but there are very few good green cards and even fewer first picks. Vorapede, Briarpack Alpha, Deranged Outcast, Wolfbitten Captive, and Increasing Savagery are the only cards that I can see people first picking. Almost no one will start out a draft in the color green, and most will end up taking a removal spell or captain. Both red and black are very deep, and there are so many good removal spells in these colors. This means that there is a very high percentage chance that the draft will start off with 3-4 red and/or black first picks, 1-3 white cards, 0-2 lord creatures, 1 blue card, and 0 green cards.

The power of the green cards in the set is comically bad compared to how powerful it was in Innistrad, which is one of the reasons people shy away from this color in pack one. This is a good thing to keep track of since you can position yourself to have very good packs after sacrificing some early picks with mediocre green cards. Dawntreader Elk is not even close to as powerful as Fires of Undeath, but position is very important when trying to be the only prepared traveler.

It is not that difficult to figure out when green is open. Briarpack Alpha is the biggest signal, since it is commonly passed as deep as third pick, but the true secret is how late a Kessig Recluse will go. I know that some players out there do the same thing I am talking about, and this is the card you have to watch for in the first couple picks. This guy is very strong and one of the first cards you want to cut if you are trying to be the only player with Travel Preparations. If you see this card as late as fifth or sixth, you are in the clear that green is open to your right. I often abandon one of my colors if the other one is white when I see this guy that late.

This is the most common way to stumble into drafting green/white: picking up decent white cards and then hitting one green card that is a signal. There tends to not be any amazing red or black cards in the pack and a decent number of green and/or white creatures. This is when both colors of your deck are open on your right.

The more aggressive way to force this archetype is to move into green early and just take all the playable spells in the color. Forcing green in pack one will cause you to start the draft with weaker cards than your opponents. They will be taking removal, fliers, and just all around better spells while you pick up mediocre green guys. However this helps set you up for the more powerful green cards in the future. Of course, if you start failing to see either green or white cards, it’s time to move out. You have to be able to judge when to abandon ship.

If you see one of your colors, but not both, then it’s fine to stay in green/white. You want to base your deck around one primary color anyway.

For instance, if you find yourself cutting green cards with a steady stream of them coming, but you barely see anything playable in white, just stay the course; pick up every single green durdle in sight. Don’t be tempted by Wild Hungers just because you see some Hinterland Hermits and Russet Wolves go by.

Then in pack two, pick spells in this order:

1. Bomb Rares (Geist-Honored Monk, Gavony Township, Angelic Overseer, Garruk Relentless, etc.)

It is pretty obvious that these cards are the highest priority when you see them.

2. Travel Preparations, Avacyn’s Pilgrim

These two cards are much more powerful than anything else you can reasonably get your hands on. Turn-one Avacyn’s Pilgrim not only sets up the Travel Preparations nut draws but helps you gain a ton of tempo to turn that into Werewolves flips much earlier in the game. They also allow you to always be the one with mana for combat tricks, since you’ll be the first person on the board with pressure.

It gets tricky when you find both of these cards in the same pack. It is not always correct to take one or the other. If you are lacking in two-drops and have a higher curve, Pilgrim is the correct choice.

The reason these spells are higher than premium removal is that green/white does not need removal if they have multiples of these spells. The deck is a very well-tuned machine when it just has cheap creatures, Pilgrims, Travel Preparations, and more combat tricks to help fight in the red zone.

3. Removal of any kind

White should be more open in this pack, so it is very important to pick up on the great removal spells white has to offer now. You will not get much of an opportunity to pick up Bonds of Faith or Avacyn’s Priest in pack three. I tend to find myself in trouble when I take removal over anything above in this list. Speed is very important.

Most of the green spells in this set are either underplayed or overplayed, so it is worth looking at them individually.

The biggest sleeper in this set is Village Survivors. Vigilance is a very powerful ability when both players are trying to attack all of the time. Having the ability to attack and block is very powerful. This is one of the cards that I think people ignore, and they shouldn’t. Taking this guy higher than a possible playable will help you when cutting green in the first pack. This guy also makes Scorned Villager a more powerful card, since you will need some acceleration to fuel these higher-casting-cost spells. Avacyn’s Pilgrim is one of the most powerful commons you can be looking for in Innistrad, and Scorned Villagers helps him make those high-powered plays.

Young Wolf is not a creature that I am happy to play with, but he is much more powerful than a Doomed Traveler. Being able to come back with a decent body makes this guy decent when you fill a deck with pump spells. It tends to table, so it is good to know when this guy is in your first or second pack to help out with trying to get enough playables in any given draft.

I did not like this creature are first, but that is because I never found a home for her. This gal is not going to fit every single green/white strategy, but it does go well with tons of acceleration and combat tricks. You want decks that can afford not playing anything the following turn to get her to power on. Once night falls on this creature, having Ranger’s Guile to protect her will force your opponent to interact with the spell right away. Taking a hit from Howlpack of Estwald is not a big deal, but gaining card advantage is one thing an opponent will not be able to ignore.

All of these guys are very similar. These are the two-drops that you want to fill your deck when trying to beat down with dudes and Travel Preparations. The specific spell doesn’t matter—so long as it costs two and has two power. It’s a tried and true formula!

This is a white card worth mentioning. This guy might look like Mausoleum Guard at first glance, but he is much better in this archetype. Decks with a ton of evasion can just ignore the Guard and take two damage while racing. Lifelink is far from ignorable, and this guy becomes very powerful backed up with Travel Preparations. Don’t bend over backward for one of these guys, since four-drops tend to be on the expensive side, but he is very much a playable card.

Now for the overrated cards.

These cards are very similar because both of them are very weak without morbid and only slightly better with. The problem with morbid in G/W is that the best versions of the decks never have good spots to trigger this ability. Things rarely die in the first few turns; these cards never see their full potential in time. Hunger of the Howlpack is one of the weakest pump spells for this archetype.

This card is not really overrated, but it’s important to state that it is unplayable. This is just another Kindercatch that should not see play unless you want it for specific matchups post sideboard or your deck ended up in a bad place. There are just too many under-drafted five-drops in this archetype that are better.

The most important thing to watch for when trying to force this archetype is that there isn’t a green/white drafter close to you on your right. You don’t want to get cut from Travel Preparations! That’s the whole point of going green/white in Dark Ascension. You can still end up with a very powerful deck if the person to your right is white/black and the person to their right is green/blue, since neither person will be picking up the beloved sorcery. Give this a try on Magic Online or at a local draft. I wrote about green/white when it was grossly under-drafted a few months ago, but it was time for a refresher.

As of right now I will not be online for the next week since I have other travels to prepare for. I am going to be spending this week in Vegas for my brother’s 21st birthday and then making my way to the Baltimore StarCityGames.com Invitational. I can’t wait to see you guys there this weekend.