Lessons Learned The Hard Way: What I Learned About Mirrodin Drafting At Day Two Of The Grand Prix

My first two Mirrodin drafts took place at the top table after going 7-1 on Day One at Grand Prix: Kansas City. I made a lot of mistakes in those drafts, but I also learned a lot in the process. I just scratched my way up the steep part of the learning curve, so the path is still fresh in my mind. Those of you who are more advanced will be able to get a little out of this article – but it’s really intended for the players who are still trying to figure this draft format out.

Last time, I talked about the insights I gained into Mirrodin Sealed Deck in preparation for Grand Prix: Kansas City. Those insights (and my card pool) served me well, and I ended the Sealed Deck day of Grand Prix Kansas City with a 7-1 record.

My performance earned me the 8th seat at Draft Table #1. This good news was tempered by the fact that I had only done sealed deck preparation for the Grand Prix. The first draft of Grand Prix: Kansas City was my first Mirrodin Draft as well.

Both of my Grand Prix drafts took place at the top table. I made a lot of mistakes in those drafts, but I also learned a lot in the process. Much like my last article, I feel what I learned is particularly useful to those of you struggling with the format. I just scratched my way up the steep part of the learning curve, so the path is still fresh in my mind. Those of you who are more advanced will be able to get a little out of this article – but it’s really intended for the players who are still trying to figure this draft format out.

Going into the first draft, I had three things in mind:

  • Because I felt black was the weakest color and it’s best common (Consume Spirit) requires a heavy color commitment, I was only going to go into black if it was wide open.

  • Red’s burn and artifact removal made it the most attractive color to me. I would look for an excuse to draft red.

  • As in Sealed deck, the heavy artifact nature of the card pool would make it okay for me to draft three colors.

The table looked like this:

Seat 1: Nate Heiss

Seat 2: Ben Stark

Seat 3: Aaron Estrin

Seat 4: Jeff Fink

Seat 5: Joshua Wagener

Seat 6: Michael Krumb

Seat 7: David Petersen

Seat 8: Me

I ended up in seat 8, which meant I’d see one pick from everyone at the table before I had to make my first pick.

Much to my surprise, Nate, who was sitting immediately to my left, first-picked Molder Slug, passing Ben Stark a Spikeshot Goblin. I assumed Nate was going to try the”draft few-or-no artifacts” plan, but in any case I was happy to see someone sitting next to me passing that red card. (For the record, Nate explains why he went for this strategy in his Grand Prix reportThe Ferrett)

The rest of the pack went:

3rd pick (Arron): Taj-Nar Swordsmith.

4th Pick (Jeff): Thoughtcast

5th Pick (Joshua): Irradiate

6th Pick (Michael): Elf Replica

7th Pick (David) Nim Shrieker

I was pretty happy to see a black card picked in front of me.

8th +9th Pick (Me): Tooth of Chiss-Goria and Talisman of Impulse

I felt that both of these were playable artifacts that might make the cut, and I wanted to continue to stay flexible and get more information on what colors people were settling into.

10th Pick (David): Contaminated Blood

11th Pick (Michael): Viridian Joiner

12th Pick (Joshua): Wurmskin Forger

13th Pick (Jeff): Bloodscent

14th Pick (Arron): Razor Barrier

15th Pick (Ben): Tanglebloom

From here on out I will only cover the highlights of the draft – but for those of you who prefer a play-by-play, every pick of the entire draft was recorded by The Sideboard staff.

Things went fairly well for me throughout the first set of packs. I drafted white, blue, and artifact cards, while keeping an eye out for an opening to add red to my mix. That opening came in a big way in pack 7 when David opened Spikeshot Goblin and passed it to me, opting to support his black with a Pewter Golem. Pack 8 brought me further good fortune as I opened a card better than many Limited card pools: Pentavus.

My lack of preparation began to show in the second set of packs. In pack 12, I drafted Thought Prison over Cobalt Golem and Thoughtcast. In the next pack, I took a second Prison over a Seat of the Synod. Then in pack 14, I fourth-picked Lightning Coils over Dragon Blood (which I didn’t even notice!), Cobalt Golem, and Blinding Beam.

In three packs in a row I passed up good, solid main deck cards in exchange for semi-playable oddities that lived in my sideboard. So what went wrong?

Really, two things:

Draft Error #1:
I spent too much time reading the weird cards and trying to figure out if they were playable, and not enough time looking at the rest of the pack. By the time I figured out if the weird card was playable, it was my pick, and I had no time to think.


This kind of problem can come up every time you draft with a new set. To avoid making the same mistake I did, review the cards themselves (or pictures of them), not just text lists. Learn to recognize the cards by picture. Take the time before drafting to think about how useful each card would be in Limited play.

These steps will allow you to focus on the draft itself while the clock is ticking so you won’t miss a card like Dragon Blood.

Draft Error #2:

I made the classic mistake of undervaluing solid”backbone of the deck” cards. It’s easy to recognize bombs, but less flashy cards often don’t get proper respect.

While artifact lands and solid creatures will almost always make the cut and allow you to win many games, people don’t focus on them. You won’t hear a player complain,”He dropped turn 1 Seat – there was nothing I could do!”

A card like Cobalt Golem may hold off their flyer, buying you time to draw your Empyrial Plate and win the game. When people look back on the game, they tend to remember the bomb and forget the solid card that got them to the bomb.


Pay attention to those solid cards you’re always happy to run in your draft and sealed decks, and draft those cards as a little bit higher picks. If it comes down to a card that may be amazing in a very limited situation, or a solid card you know will be in your main deck, err on the side of the solid card.

Also, pay attention to how your deck is shaping up. You should be aware which types of cards you have a lot of, and what you need. If you have lots of Affinity cards, pick the artifact lands a little higher. If you’re light on creatures, draft them a little higher.

After my string of bad picks, I was almost redeemed by another second-pick Spikeshot Goblin. Nate had opened his second in Pack 16, and this time was passing in my direction. Unfortunately there wasn’t another card in this pack as juicy as Molder Slug, so this time the Goblin didn’t travel, and I had to settle for Soldier Replica.

My high picks worked out well at the end of the draft. In packs 21-24 I got fourth-pick Broodstar (why didn’t I pick that Seat!), third-pick Grab the Reins, second-pick Shatter, and first-pick Crystal Shard.

In the course of that draft, I made several small mispicks in addition to the big ones I listed… Yet when the draft was all said and done, I’d ended up with a pretty decent card pool.

Rob Dougherty, Draft One deck:

7 Island

5 Mountain

4 Plains

1 Leonin Den-Guard

1 Broodstar

1 Lumengrid Sentinel

2 Neurok Familiar

1 Spikeshot Goblin

1 Gold Myr

1 Iron Myr

1 Myr Enforcer

1 Pentavus

1 Silver Myr

1 Soldier Replica

1 Titanium Golem

1 Wizard Replica

1 Annul

1 Thirst for Knowledge

1 Grab the Reins

1 Shatter

1 Crystal Shard

1 Leonin Bladetrap

1 Slagwurm Armor

1 Talisman of Impulse

1 Tooth of Chiss-Goria

1 Vulshok Gauntlets

My biggest mistake in building the deck was running the Slagwurm Armor. As I said last time, adding toughness just isn’t that exciting. I sideboarded this card out constantly for the Krark-Clan Grunt.

With all of my mistakes from the draft fresh in my mind, I was a bit disheartened going into my matches. I have a couple of pieces of advice I give to people when they ask me how to improve their Magic game. And the first piece is:

When you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it.

Make a note of it, forgive yourself, and move on. I’ve seen so many matches lost not because of a mistake, but because of how badly a person plays after they make a mistake.

Fortunately, I was able to follow my own advice and go 2-0-1 with the deck. Clearly, despite my mistakes, the deck was quite powerful, so obviously more things went right than wrong.

My three guidelines entering the draft worked out very well, and I would strongly recommend them for others to follow. My openness to drafting three colors and preference for red allowed me to add that color later than I would have in previous blocks.

Drafting three colors allows you to pick much higher-quality cards. In my case, it gave me access to Shatter, Spikeshot Goblin and Grab the Reins. I did end up with powerful white cards like Blinding Beam in my sideboard, but this meant both that I had the option of bringing them in against my opponents and that I didn’t have to play against them.

The second piece of advice I give is also quite relevant to this draft:

Everybody makes mistakes when they play Magic. What makes the great players great is that they make fewer mistakes than the rest of us.

The only way to improve is to figure out what mistakes you’re making and correct them. So remember the mistakes you make, even when they didn’t matter in the outcome of the tournament. After the event is over, think about how to correct those mistakes so that you won’t make them in the future.

The fact that I”won my table” with a 2-0-1 record did not cause me to forget my mistakes. I spent as much time thinking about how to improve my game by eliminating those kind of mistakes as I would have if I went 0-3.

My second draft was also covered. I drafted an equipment-heavy deck with a Sword of Kaldra, two Vulshok Battlegear, and a Vulshok Gauntlets. To make sure I had enough fodder to go with the equipment, I ran a Nuisance Engine and two Raise the Alarms in addition to three Myrs and an Ornithopter.

Unfortunately, I lost to two decks with heavy tapping elements (equipment is not so good against Icy Manipulator!).

Rob Dougherty, Draft Two Deck:

8 Mountain

9 Plains

2 Auriok Bladewarden

1 Leonin Abunas

1 Krark-Clan Grunt

1 Ogre Leadfoot

1 Clockwork Condor

1 Copper Myr

2 Gold Myr

1 Hematite Golem

1 Ornithopter

1 Arrest

2 Raise the Alarm

1 Soul Nova

1 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Nuisance Engine

1 Sword of Kaldra

2 Vulshok Battlegear

1 Vulshok Gauntlets

My second draft was less error prone than my first, making it much less interesting to talk about. I did make one big mistake, however: That mistake was not picking Blinding Beam high enough, as it would have been such a good card with my aggressive deck. I had a chance at one on the bounce, but let it go, thinking I could pick more later in the draft.

Draft Error #3:

Some cards you desperately want one or two of but don’t want more. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have to pick the card now as you will be able get it latter, especially if you think the other drafters don’t recognize how good the card is.

This can backfire in two ways: The other drafters may indeed respect the card and keep later copies from you, or you might just not open any more of them.


Don’t be greedy. Take the card you need most for your deck right away. Don’t try and eke out a little extra edge by making picks based on imaginary scenarios of what might happen later in the draft.

To make my mistake even more stinging, one of my two losses with the deck came at the hands of the very Blinding Beam I should have picked for my deck.

While I think I learned a bit faster”under fire,” a Grand Prix day 2 certainly isn’t the appropriate place to be learning draft lessons. I count myself lucky to have escaped with 13th place.

With Extended season fast approaching, I’m going to go back to what I know best and concentrate on Constructed. My next article will be on the YMG Food Chain deck: How to play it, its true origins, and the story of the leaks!