Most people agree that draft walkthroughs are quite helpful. They are the drafter’s version of tournament reports, which can be picked apart in the interest of seeing where you might be going wrong in your own drafts. However, I’m not sure about anyone else but I’m a little bit sceptical about some of the draft walkthroughs I’ve seen lately. It always seems to me that the author either:
- Picks a stupid bomb early on and just builds a deck around it.
- Takes the best card out of the first two packs which coincidentally land them in two colors that flow fantastically all the way through Onslaught and beyond or
- Settles on a couple of colors early or forces them and then opens silly bombs in those colors later in the draft.
Now I don’t know about you – but this doesn’t sound like most of the drafts that I participate in. I have worked hard to get my Magic Online rating up to 1800, and I have done so mostly by grinding out results in drafts that haven’t always gone my way. I mean sure, there have been times when I have opened bombs or landed in underdrafted colors through sheer luck, but there have been far more occasions when I have had to change colors late or have ended up splashing because no colors have flowed properly. Or, most often, I have drafted okay and have ended up with a solid deck but with no bombs or amazing synergy or anything really to differentiate it from the other solid decks at the table.
Of course, invariably the person who is writing the walkthrough wins the draft, which just serves to make the whole thing look rather contrived. I sometimes wonder if writers are actually cheating a little by recording picks from several drafts until they win one. At best, they probably discarded the draft where they drafted a decent deck but lost in the first round to a turn 5 Silvos in games one and three. Maybe they think that people don’t want to read about failure. But if people are reading the walkthroughs to learn (rather than just kill time between 4 and 5 o’clock at work) then surely it would be far more useful to read about drafts where things didn’t go according to plan. Writing about a draft where everything goes perfectly is like writing a software manual without a troubleshooting guide. You’re basically saying,”This is what should happen; if it doesn’t, then you’re on your own.”
In this article I intend to write a different draft walkthrough; one where everything didn’t go according to plan and I didn’t win the draft. I can predict this in advance because I fully intend to keep recording draft picks until I find one where things go wrong. Some might say this is cheating just as much as the other walkthroughs – but at least I am being honest up front about what I intend to do. (And besides, I am just resetting the balance a little bit.)
However, before I start I would like to take a look at a few walkthroughs from various sources and try to illustrate my point. Before I start I just want to say that I think all of the following articles were well-written and, to a point, very useful for beginner to intermediate drafters. I merely want to point out how their utility is possibly not all it seems.
1) Walking with [author name="Tim Aten"]Tim Aten[/author]
I liked this article for a lot of reasons. I liked it because Tim is generally quite funny. I liked it because he ended up drafting White/Green, which not a lot of people do. I liked it because he never really saw any bombs. However, let’s take a look at what happens in this draft.
He starts by picking the most powerful card in the first couple of packs in Pacifism and Wirewood Savage. He then continues to pick the most powerful card in each booster. This is normally a dubious strategy, but it is saved by virtue of the fact that all of them are in green and white – the colors which he randomly picked with his first two choices. 5th pick Venomspout Brackus? 6th pick Elven Riders? This article should be renamed”The Day I Drafted with Seven People who Hate Green.” Here is a classic quote from the article:
Pack 6: For definitely the second pack in a row, and arguably the sixth pack in a row, the best card left in the pack is all mine. A powerful evasion gem in an otherwise weak pack? I’m happy at this point…
Pack 7: And yet again, I get the most powerful card.
And the joy doesn’t stop here. In Legions Tim bags two Daru Stingers in the first three packs and then has the cheek to bemoan the fact he isn’t in Red when he has to pass on an Imperial Hellkite. He also gets an Aven Warhawk and even manages to wheel a Wingbeat Warrior 9th pick. Scourge wasn’t terribly kind to him although to be fair he did stop to raredraft a Siege Gang Commander and then picked up two Noble Templars and some other reasonable cards.
To Tim’s credit, he seemed to play pretty well in the first two rounds before taking a draw in the final. Surely, in a draft walkthrough you shouldn’t take a draw, we are trying to learn something here… Unless what you are trying to teach us is”everyone takes a draw in the final of MTGO drafts.” He also seems to notice that too many draft walkthroughs end in victory for the writer when he says:
‘I’m a little disappointed that I won; I don’t want to perpetuate the impression that internet writers are infallible, or if you’re less gullible, that they only write about their successes to further their legacies.’
Very true Tim, very true.
2)”That’s Goblins, Boys!”
I think Nick deserves congratulations for this article because I think it is the most talked about draft walkthrough ever. He manages to stimulate the full range of opinions, from”This is amazing tech” to”This is a pile of crap.” This is not only on the StarCityGames forums, but also among randoms I happen to meet on MTGO. I remember for a couple of days after this went up, a steady stream of punters who recognized me as a StarCity writer PM’d me to ask what I thought of this article. The best thing about this article was that he didn’t actually win the draft, but got eliminated in the semi-final. However, in this case, this presented its own problem, which I will come back to later.
Therefore, you may wonder what issue I have with this article. Well, the fact is, it’s a prime example of a draft where the author gets extremely lucky. I’m not saying it was faked – in fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, as Nick expresses regret at many of the points I will raise here in the article itself – but let’s look at what happened. At the start of the article, he states:
‘The best way to provide this information would be to just join a draft on Magic Online and force Goblins, regardless of what I opened.’
Great idea! That’s the kind of attitude we need from writing one of these articles. I was hoping that Goblins just wouldn’t really flow at all and he would scrub out, not because I want Nick to fail but because I wanted to see a draft walkthrough that tackled the issues of what to do when a draft goes wrong.
The draft started with Nick getting passed a Sparksmith.
Now, as a veteran of a large number of MTGO drafts, I can state that this very rarely happens. The only time it normally happens is if there is a bomb rare in the pack, which seems to be the case here. Let’s do a bit of math: There are a hundred and ten commons in Onslaught, and eleven in each booster, so there is only a 10% chance that any given booster will contain a ‘Smith. If there is a ‘Smith in the booster, then there is at least an 80% chance you will take it as there are no commons and only a handful of non-commons you would take over it. Therefore, if you know you will be drafting red, the chance of you getting a Smith is about 12% (10% plus the small chance you get passed one). Now, given that Sparksmith is even better in the Goblins deck than in your average Red deck, it makes an amazing start to the draft if you get one. In fact, I don’t think Nick will mind at all if I say he severely lucked out here.
The rest of Onslaught pans out pretty much as expected, with Nick taking lots of cards higher than people normally would as they are great in his deck (although I must admit a sixth-pick Nantuko Husk is pretty weird). In Legions, he again gets the best common for his deck when he is passed a Skirk Marauder. The odds of this are far higher, as there are obviously less commons in Legions – but let’s just say that its still less than 50%. He also manages to bag two Flamewave Invokers and a few other useful goodies.
In Scourge, things get very silly when he opens Siege-Gang Commander. This is just the absolute best rare for the deck I can think of, maybe even better than the Onslaught gruesome twosome of Starstorm and Rorix. Given that nobody passes Siege Gangs (they rare-draft them and sell them for tickets); odds of this happening are 1 in 44.
I’m not going to bother multiplying out the odds, but I think it’s fair to say that Nick pretty much lucked out in this draft – which makes using this draft as a starting point on drafting Goblins pretty pointless. The fact that he lucked out and still only made the semi-final may even lead people to decide that the deck is not worth playing at all. To his credit, Nick reflects on this himself saying that he wished that he hadn’t opened the Siege-Gang. I have to concur.
3) Sottosanti Drafts a Bomb
This is probably the best example of what I am talking about in this article. Once you have read this, you will know exactly what I mean as it encompasses all the problems I have mentioned so far. To cut a long story short, Paul drafts Visara and then runs with it, with the added bonus that he picks up plenty of other decent black to go with it and lands in a second color, which also flows. For those of you who can’t be bothered to read the whole article, here is a rough translation.
I opened a Visara in Pack One, the best card in the format or possibly any Limited format ever. For the next few picks I take black cards, as nothing much else is being passed but then unbelievably I am passed a Riptide Shapeshifter 4th pick. Great – now I have a way of tutoring for Visara! It also makes blue my second color which is also jammy as it means I get a Kai and a Complicate 7th and 8th pick. I start to wonder why my karma is so good. Maybe it is because of that old lady I helped across the road yesterday.
The second Onslaught Pack started solidly enough but it lacked the”silly bomb” factor of the first one. I wondered if my luck had run out. When I was forced to take a lowly Mistform Wall with my 4th pick I decided I needed to do something and fast. While the 5th pick was in progress, I picked up the phone and pledged $50 to a charity dedicated to helping sick animals. The results were immediate. I was passed the 6th pack and found that it contained Doomed Necromancer! Now I had Visara, a way to tutor for her, and a way to get her back if, by some miracle, my opponent managed to kill her. This is it – I had finally struck gold; I was invincible with God-like powers.
I decided to test this on the next pick to be sure. I let the clock tick down and allowed my card to be picked automatically by the game. Would you believe it, it picked me a perfectly playable Discombobulate! I’m didn’t think it would make my deck because my deck was just so damn good, but still. I debated logging off, going for a pie and chips, and allowing the server to conduct the rest of the draft for me but I realize that this would not make a very good walkthrough so I carry on.
In Legions I start off with two Mistform Seaswifts and a Riptide Mangler. I was indignant at this as my God status should have demanded nothing less than Echo Tracers and Chromeshell Crabs. My anger must have been noted, as I got the Tracer in pack six – and just to show there were no hard feelings, I also got a Willbender in the following pack. I can’t remember the rest of Legions, I don’t think I got much else. Who cares? My deck is the nuts!
Round 1: I am worried that my luck will be balanced out by getting tough opponents. This myth is dispelled when in round 1 I get a newbie playing a 48-card G/R deck. I certainly don’t need Visara to win this one.
(By the way, I’m worried that I am not providing much help to people reading the article, so I’ll include some stuff about making sure you use your removal wisely so you don’t fall victim to the dreaded Elvish Warrior + Lavamancer’s Skill combo).
Semi-Final: My opponent has a reasonable deck but nothing that can deal with Covert Operative + Seaswift coming over every turn. He kills one, but I get it back with Necromancer. He accidentally concedes the match instead of the game. Go me! Still don’t need Visara.
Final: My opponent mulligans both games. I draw loads of good cards so win game one. Then I play Visara so win game two.
This article was posted shortly before Paul won the lottery and had an affair with Cameron Diaz.
So okay – I’ve given some good players a hard time about their draft walkthroughs so the question you are all asking is: Can I do better? Well, I don’t know but I’m going to try. For the last couple of weeks, I have been meticulously recording my drafts until I found one that went horribly wrong. This draft had everything: Colors drying up, difficult choices as to whether to swap colors, poor overall card quality – and yes, errors on my behalf, some of them are pretty glaring. I will point out where I think I went wrong as I go along. I realize that I am not going to come out of this walkthrough looking good – but then again the idea of draft walkthroughs is to help those reading, not to look good. Right?
Crown of Vigor
Dirge of Dread
I took the best card in the pack, noting that my neighbor will probably take Skirk Commando.
Disciple of Malice
Crown of Ascension
Crown of Suspicion
Wheel and Deal
Tricky pick. The best cards in the pack were all White, with the exception of Goblin Machinist – but the temptation to go into the U/W archetype is strong. Therefore, I decide to pick one of the white cards and I slightly prefer the Harrier over the others. Most of the best fliers in U/W come out on turn 4, so one that comes out on turn 3 is a good tempo jump. Having left the Commando in the last booster I hope that my neighbor takes the Machinist rather than a white card – or it’s no Daru Stingers for me.
Crown of Vigor
Chain of Acid
I note the Undorak in the pack may mean that I have breathing room in Green, and I debate taking it. However, I don’t like G/W or G/U much – and with Choking Tethers and Dreamer still in the pack, I don’t see any reason to contemplate moving out of U/W. I consider taking the Dreamer because I like taking creatures early on if possible to make sure I have enough. However, given the problems that U/W has dealing with certain creatures, I think that Tethers was the correct choice here. Add one mark to the”mistakes” box.
Crown of Fury
I’m surprised to see a Skill this late. I take it because there is nothing really for my deck (Crusader and Rampart are both a little slow for U/W) and because I want to keep the option open to change to U/R if necessary or even just have a splash.
A fairly clear-cut pick; nothing much else in the pack, let alone in my colors. I like to pick up a Biologist for the sideboard – but not this early.
A strange pick, to be sure. I like having one of these in the board, as it is a good way to protect your win condition against heavy removal decks. I don’t normally pick them this early, but there’s not a lot else here. Maybe the Defender would have been better, but on turn 5 I want to be playing evasive threats, not ground-based stall cards.
A bad pick; I should have taken Essence Fracture. I never really see many decent cyclers so this stays in the board whereas Essence Fracture would have been a great finishing card for a heavy flyers deck. Interesting to see Explosion going round so late.
Not a lot here. I take the Mistform Wall, wondering whether I should move into R/U given I now have a decent Skill target and the skill itself.
Again, there’s nothing in my colors – but I consider the Flesh to be good if I decide to go U/R or as a splash card if I don’t. It was also foil and looked very pretty.
A nice bonus this late on….
This is just in case I end up U/R and am really stuck for creatures. Looking back I see someone has actually taken the foil Forest out of this pack. How sad.
Master of the Veil
Bane of the Living
Lots of good cards for my deck here with Elite, Operative, Keeneye and Wingbeat all providing possible picks. I take the Elite in the hope of some Dragon Scales joy. Maybe one of the others will wheel.
A terrible pack that gives me nothing but another possible splash card. I have pretty much abandoned the idea of U/R by this stage, as no amazing red has been forthcoming in the first couple of Legions packs. Someone is going to get a late Timberwatch here. I hate people who aren’t me getting lucky; maybe I should have hatedrafted it.
Wall of Hope
Merchant of Secrets
Ark of Blight
Weaver of Lies
More multiple good cards in a pack to choose between and I take the Tracer with little hesitation. I do like Weaver of Lies in slower blue decks but in U/W it doesn’t do enough early on when I want to be playing a significant threat every turn.
I’m more than happy to take a Seaswift in fourth. The draft seems to be picking up again after a pretty average Onslaught pack.
A fairly obvious choice. Stoic Champion and Covert Operative would have also provided some value here but as I said, two-power flyers for three mana are pretty much the nuts – especially ones that have a useful morph ability too.
A pack pretty much devoid of anything for my deck. I take the Invoker, still thinking along the lines of a possible splash. It has been pointed out to me that I should have hated the Gourna. I concur.
Good times! All those blue cards I didn’t pass along the line in Onslaught are paying off.
All crap. However, I could maindeck this if the rest of the draft goes really bad.
I’m very happy that Operative wheeled. I have no hesitation about putting this in my maindeck.
You have to pick something – and I figure that a card that may allow accelerated fatties (read: Gournas) to be played against your deck could potentially be dangerous, so I hated it away.
Nice to have a Voidmage Apprentice to bring in against bombs. I am very happy about how Legions went. Now I just need to pick up the wealth of good White and Blue cards that should come my way in Scourge… At least that’s the plan.
Raven Guild Initiate
Torrent of Fire
Long Term Plans
Grip of Chaos
Not a good pack. Liberator will certainly make the main deck although I normally want to pick these 5th-6th, not 1st. Oh well, you take what you can get. I think it was too late to think about splashing Black for the Abomination, given that I may well already be splashing Red.
Goblin War Strike
One with Nature
A straight up choice between this and the Frontline Strategist. I take the Frozen Solid, because it is the only answer I have to Sparkie and Timberwatch, as well of a lot of other annoying creatures. In a pinch, they can also be put on an untapped Gourna to force a trade.
Claws of Wirewood
Ark of Blight
No qualms here; Silver Knight is a fantastic two-drop. There’s nothing much else in my colors anyway.
Looking back, this wasn’t a great pick. I looked at the pack and found nothing that really interested me. I could have played Wipe Clean or Dispersal Shield from the sideboard, or hated the Buzzard. However, I needed a Decree for the U/W control deck I am building for Onslaught Block, so I just raredrafted it, knowing that the impact on my deck would be pretty minimal.
Another Liberator gets added to the pile. Nothing else warrants consideration here.
Sometimes the colors flow well. Sometimes the colors flow badly. Sometimes you get passed a card that is borderline playable but you just say”Sod it – I’ll draft the four-ticket rare instead.” I am starting to get worried about my lack of playables – but when the draft is going badly like this one, recovering a third of your costs in one pick is often a good plan.
In retrospect, I don’t like this pick. Having already taken a Frozen Solid earlier, I think I should have taken the Strategist this time, which would have also bolstered my feeble creature pool a bit.
What a load of crap.
Oh dear, things are going badly. What I should have done here is assume I was going to splash the Skill and taken the Initiate as a good target. Instead I took a card that, like Initiate, is not aggressive enough – but unlike Initiate, is a bad Skill target. Oops.
You can normally tell how good a U/W deck is by how many Mercurial Kites it runs. The more it runs the worse it is. Its not that it’s a bad card per se, it’s just that it’s worse than a lot of other similar creatures – and so if you are playing them, your card quality is probably low. However, here I am thankful for it.
More land destruction for my sideboard, yay!
Was happy to get my initiate this late. Nothing else of any value here. Have a feeling I got really shafted somewhere along the line here. Where were the Rush of Knowledges? The Dragon Scales? The Zombie Cutthroats? The Shoreline Rangers? I think I may have been cut off from my right, although I saw little evidence of this during Onslaught. I would probably have got a better deck if I had gone R/U from the start – although to be honest, that’s easy to say with hindsight.