Levelling Up – Drafting With Tiago Analysis

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With over thirty Drafting With Tiago drafts to his name, Portugal’s Magic dynamo looks back and takes stock of the first thirty in the series. From humble beginnings, in which the Shriekmaws did flow and the world vomited elves into his lap, to the more experimental strategies and picks he has tried, Tiago breaks down what has, and what hasn’t, been successful thus far…

The focus of my Magic attention of late has been Drafting because of the “Drafting With” series. After providing you with 30 daily drafts over the past month and a half I figured it would be a good time to look back analyze them and write an article about the “Drafting With” series to answer some questions and to explain some decisions.

It all started when I got the opportunity to pick up where Rich and Kenji left off (for their own reasons). At the time Lorwyn was still new to Magic Online and I had never drafted Lorwyn online (although I had drafted it regularly with paper cards). I thought the series would be something very interesting to do as I was always a big fan of Rich Hoaen and Kenji Tsumura and the “Drafting With” series. I never expected to be – or to become – as good as them as to me they’re clearly the first and second best Limited players in the world. I don’t know who might be the third since the gap is wide after them.

But by showing you my draft picks from 1 to 45 from all drafts I was not only sharing my decisions and offering you a guided view. I was also looking forward to sharpening my Limited game after a very long Constructed season. I was looking forward to drafting with regularity at least five times a week; to thinking carefully over all my picks and decisions; and to later sharing the final results with the readers and receiving the feedback criticisms and advice…. anything that would help me draft better in the future.

After 30 drafts I certainly feel I’m a better drafter than I was when I started doing the series. I acquired a lot more experience with the Lorwyn set got to try more cards and more strategies and there were many helpful comments that helped me realized some points I was missing. However not everything was roses and soon I started comparing this task to being a sports coach. No matter what you do be it right or wrong everyone has their own opinion and will voice it when they disagree as it’s impossible to go through picks 1 to 45 and have everyone agree with them all.

I broke down some statistics of the first 30 drafts the number of times I drafted an archetype and the total score combined.

Elves: 9-2 (6 Drafts)

Blue/Black Control: 6-2 (5 Drafts)

Merfolk: 6-2 (4 drafts)

Random Non Tribal decks: 3-4 (4 Drafts)

Goblins: 4-1 (3 Drafts)

Elementals: 4-1 (3 Drafts)

Treefolk: 4-1 (2 Drafts)

Kithkin: 1-2 (2 Drafts)

Faeries: 0-1 (1 Draft)

What basic conclusions can we achieve from this sample?

The first one I’ll admit: there were a lot of wins and some were with suboptimal decks. There was a week in which I had a good streak as opposed to some times where I just couldn’t win. In the first 30 drafts I managed to split the finals half of the time. Without being remarkable it’s good enough to pay for the packs used which means a very small money loss: just the equivalent of the Event Tickets required to sign in.

Another thing that’s pretty clear is that it doesn’t pay to simply draft a “good cards” deck with no tribal theme as I never made the finals in any of the four drafts when my deck wasn’t focusing on a creature type.

How can you explain just a single Faeries draft? The reason is that I moved on from it. The draft in which I considered Faeries had many Faeries enough to play with Spellstutter Sprite but lately every time that I draft Blue/Black even though I have some Faeries and Dreamspoiler Witches (a very important card in those decks) I wasn’t focusing on drafting Faeries but on drafting a Blue/Black control deck.

Some people pointed that Merfolk was a solid strategy since it usually gets you a 2-1 score at an eight-man pod and the results seem to indicate that. My opinion is that Merfolk can have many angles of attack many possible strategies but you’ll need certain power cards for them to work like Drowner of Secrets or Summon the School.

Despite being only two drafts Treefolk managed to make the finals both times. Treefolk is not the easiest of the tribes to get but when you do they sure are powerful. So far for me Red’s main tribes (Elementals Goblins and Giants) are pretty hit and miss and are tribes that I personally don’t favor that much.

I’ll be talking in more detail about some of the tribes I tried to draft during this period strategies that either served me well or that I was very receptive to when going into draft. The first one has to be Elves as people connect that tribe with me and because in chronoclogical order the elves were my first big plan.

Drafting Elves

When the “Drafting With” series started I didn’t like Elves any more than you but they were clearly the most underdrafted tribe. In my very first draft I had 3 Lys Alana Hunmaster by pick 4. I’ve said it countless times… I don’t like Green either for Constructed or Limited. Hlowever I felt Blue and particularly Faeries were overdrafted at the beginning so I tried to stay away from those Pestermites. As the series went on I realized I was winning a lot with the Elves and not just because of luck like in other drafts. The decks were good indeed. I might have started drafting Elves a little too often every time that I saw Lys Alana Huntmaster fourth pick or later. Some comments on the forums made me realize I was evaluating the card too high. Besides the archetype was no longer underdrafted and it was getting harder to pick up really good Elves decks.

The strength of the Elves deck is unlike other tribes where you need some engine to get things going. In Elves if you do have many of them you will somehow overrun the opponent. Plus despite Lys Alana Huntmaster being a high pick other very good cards for the Elf archtype rank a lot lower like Elvish Branchbender and Gilt-Leaf Ambush.

There are two different approaches to drafting Elves. The most obvioius one is picking the Green Elf cards and complementing them with Black for extra Elves removal and overall good cards. Examples would be Moonglove Winnower Eyeblight’s Ending Weed Strangle and Warren PIlferers. I ended up with some good Green/Black Elves decklists with very solid Elf themes as well as a rare or a Shriekmaw to top it off. Another more radical approach which I tried a couple of times is the almost Mono-Green deck that splashes White for two commons: Oblivion Ring because it’s good and deals with permanents that Green can’t handle and Surge of Thoughtweft as it’s a key card in a deck that centers around making many many 1/1 tokens and then attacking for ten or twelve damage. For me this is one of the best examples of this unorthodox strategy the perfect Green Elves splash White deck and it was one of the most criticized Drafts so far.

10 Forest
5 Plains
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Vivid Grove
1 Fistful of Force
3 Leaf Gilder
2 Lignify
2 Surge of Thoughtweft
1 Elvish Branchbender
2 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Gilt-Leaf Seer
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Jagged-Scar Archers
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Briarhorn
1 Elvish Promenade
2 Lys Alana Huntmaster
2 Nath’s Elite
1 Vigor

Drafting Kithkin

At some point it became clear to me that I wasn’t the single Elf drafter at the table. For a brief period of time I turned to the Kithkin the new underdrafted tribe of the block. The reason I did this was because of Plover Knghts and how late they were coming. Kithkin decks relying on bears just weren’t getting there. I managed to draft nearly Mono White Kithkin deck but they are still a little below par in power.

17 Plains
1 Avian Changeling
1 Cenn’s Heir
2 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Hillcomber Giant
2 Kinsbaile Balloonist
1 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
2 Kithkin Greatheart
2 Kithkin Healer
1 Militia’s Pride
2 Neck Snap
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Plover Knights
1 Purity
1 Runed Stalactite
1 Springjack Knight
1 Surge of Thoughtweft
1 Triclopean Sight
1 Wizened Cenn

Despite being underdrafted they weren’t as powerful as the underdrafted Elves so I decided I would try for them no longer. If possible I’d avoid them as they aren’t the most exciting archetype to draft especially in a world with as many routes as Lorwyn.

Drafting Blue/Black Control

This is the strategy I’ve been using most often of late though I’m not really forcing it. What happened was this: I’d open or get passed Mulldrifter an insane amount of time and it’s a card I value very highly (probably higher than anyone else). From there I’d go Blue/Black most of the time not really commiting to a tribe. The key here is to stay alive and win the long game through superior and powerful cards or card advantage trying to avoid engaginh in a direct creature combat as coping with that is tricky. Summing it up: you need tricks evasion and better cards than the vanilla curve creatures. This is a sample Blue/Black control deck.

7 Island
11 Swamp
1 Boggart Loggers
2 Dreamspoiler Witches
2 Eyeblight’s Ending
1 Ghostly Changeling
1 Glen Elendra Pranksters
1 Hornet Harasser
1 Moonglove Winnower
1 Mulldrifter
2 Nameless Inversion
1 Paperfin Rascal
1 Peppersmoke
1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
1 Skeletal Changeling
3 Warren Pilferers
1 Weed Strangle
1 Whirlpool Whelm
1 Aethersnipe

This is my favorite strategy at the moment. Do not depend on tribes but depend on the concepts explained above. Being Blue means that this strategy is sometimes impossible to execute. It’s not the strategy with which I’ve achieved the best results but it is the one I like the most. However I don’t feel it’s always viable so I’ll probably become more flexible or change to different tactics in the near future.

Thirty drafts from now things will have changed for sure with the inclusion of Morningtide. I’m curious to see what I will think about these drafts at the sixty draft mark. Meanwhile keep posting your comments on the drafts in the forums as they all have valuable information that has helped me improve as a drafter. And the consequence to that is better drafts for you to follow. Many thanks to everyone who has commented thus far.