This was a hard article to figure out. I was racking my brain for days trying to come up with my next article. It was too soon to do another Bad Rare Deck article. The best ideas I could think of were issue articles, and one of those may very well be written soon (it needs to be). I just wasn’t in an issue state of mind right now, however.
Then I remembered that I wanted to do an article on some of these awful draft decks I’ve had recently. I enjoy relaxing to the occasional draft online. However, my drafting skills are a little rusty. Combine that with my insatiable desire to draft rares, and I sometimes have a problem building a solid deck.
About a third of my draft decks are good enough that you would not recognize a rare drafting strategy by looking at the final decklist. Another third of the time you can see a rare-based influence, but the deck still looks alright. However, there is that final third where the deck looks horrendous. They remind you of a bad b-grade horror film, “When Bad Draft Decks Attack!”
Some of these decks are funny enough that I thought to include a few for your enjoyment. These are examples of the absolute worst draft decks ever, and I hope that you enjoy them. To better illustrate how I got from three sealed booster packs to forty-five cards of poo, I’ll tell you how the draft started, what went wrong, and more.
8th Edition Tribal:
We begin our look at one of the Worst Draft Decks by examining my most recent misstep. The draft began easily enough. I cracked open a foil Elvish Champion and drafted it. The only other good cards in the pack were a Coastal Hornclaw and Volcanic Hammer. Since the Champion was not only rare but also shiny, I had to draft it. From there, the draft went downhill quickly. Let’s take a look:
1 Elvish Champion
1 Elvish Lyrist
3 Elvish Pioneer
1 Elvish Piper
1 Fyndhorn Elder
2 Norwood Ranger
1 Wood Elves
1 Creeping Mold
1 Giant Growth
1 Balance of Power
1 Remove Soul
1 Fleeting Image
1 Phantom Warrior
1 Sage Owl
1 Temporal Adept
1 Coat of Arms
I ended up drafting the Elf deck. There were seven rares in the deck – Balance of Power, Temporal Adept, Coat of Arms, Elvish Piper, Elvish Champion, Fleeting Image and Deflection. That’s not exactly a prime list of great rares for a draft deck.
Despite the presence of Blue, I only played two flyers – the Image and the Owl, plus the unblockable Phantom Warrior who doesn’t fit into the deck at all. This deck was all about powering out elves and sending beats.
I really had to work to find 23 cards that I drafted into the deck. I think that my next best card in these colors was a Fertile Ground or a Flash Counter or something.
I mentioned to everyone in the draft with me that my deck was going to be fun to play. Someone told me that I shouldn’t brag, because his deck was better. Of course, I responded that I never said I had a good deck, just a fun one.
When the first round began, I congratulated my opponent on receiving a bye. I then proceeded to thump him in the first game. I was embarrassed. This deck cannot actually win a match. The Laws of Magic simply won’t allow it. Besides, if I win, he’ll think I was being cocky and braggardly, when I really wasn’t.
The deck played smoothly, with was quite unsettling. My game went like this:
Turn One: Forest, Elvish Pioneer, Forest, Go
Turn Two: Island, Elvish Champion, Swing for Two, Go
Turn Three: Forest, Swing for Four, Drop Norwood Ranger, Drop Norwood Ranger, Go
Turn Four: Unsummon Your Creature (At end of his turn), Swing for Eight, Drop Sage Owl, Go
Turn Five: Play Unsummon fetched with Sage Owl, Swing for Nine, Game.
It was sick. Of course, in Game Two, I stare at an opening hand of three land, Balance of Power, Wood Elves, Coat of Arms and Sage Owl. It’s not the worst hand I could ever have seen, but it’s not that good. I choose to go with it due to the four lands (including the Wood Elves) and the Sage Owl. I end up drawing just one other creature for the game; Fleeting Image. My opponent plays Rod of Ruin. You’ll note that Rod of Ruin takes out all of my creatures. It’s not easy to see who won that game.
In Game Three, I get Coat of Arms and Elvish Champion out but my opponent kept killing my elves, leading to a victory for his two birds that each got +1/+1 due to my own Coat. Feh.
Ah well, the deck was never that good anyway.
Core Set Craziness:
This deck started out well enough. I rare drafted Trade Routes in the first pack. The second pack was missing its rare, so I took Angel of Mercy. In the third pack, I rare draft a Red card that’s unplayable in draft (Thieves’ Auction). The plan seems good enough, right?
This time, however, not enough rares in my color filtered to me. As a result, here’s what I played. (Caution, the following decklist is not for the faint of heart):
1 Circle of Protection: White
1 Circle of Protection: Blue
1 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Glorious Anthem
1 Angel of Mercy
1 Samite Healer
1 Suntail Hawk
1 Venerable Monk
1 Wall of Swords
1 Beast of Burden
1 Wall of Spears
1 Distorting Lens
1 Aven Fisher
1 Wall of Air
1 Wind Drake
1 Steal Artifact
1 Shifting Sky
1 Remove Soul
1 Trade Routes
On the plus side, the deck has a definite theme going on. Between Shifting Sky, Distorting Lens, and a variety of color hosers, this deck should be able to present problems. Circles of Protection with Shifting Sky and Distorting Lens is good. However, it’s more along the lines of Casual Friday Night good than it is in draft.
You’ll note the paucity of creatures. Three of my creatures are walls, which is never a good thing. Seven of my creatures can attack, so fear me. Fear me now. This deck reminds me of an old 7th Edition deck of crappiness I drafted and mentioned in a previous article (Rare Drafting for Wins and Profit).
With the Glorious Anthem, at least my creatures are bigger than normal. I can try to draw into good cards with Catalog and Trade Routes. I ever have a counterspell in Remove Soul and possibly removal with Steal Artifact.
I’d argue that this is the worst draft deck I’ve ever built. The problem was simply that the rares didn’t fall into my colors. Sure, there are a few rares here: Distorting Lens, Beast of Burden, Shifting Sky, Trade Routes, and Glorious Anthem. Nevertheless, many of my rares fell in different colors. One of my last rares drafted, in the third pack, was a Thorn Elemental, for example, with the second pick in the pack. I also had a Death Pit Offering, Mogg Sentry, Call of the Wild, and a few others I can’t remember.
The only way I was winning with this deck is if my opponent tripped over his cable, disconnecting him from the Internet for the night. Even a mana-screwed opponent would have time to draw out of it. Needless to say, I lost my match quickly.
I was simply too busy grabbing rares to care much about the change in color, and by the time I noticed, it was far too late. Ah well, that happens.
This deck is another recent draft design of mine. I ended the draft with sixteen rares, so I escaped a draft with 66% of the rares. That’s a good day in drafting. Although the deck I ended up with wasn’t as bad, it still could have been much better. Let’s take a look:
1 Body of Jukai
2 Child of Thorns
1 Hana Kami
1 Kami of the Hunt
1 Gnarled Mass
1 Kashi-Tribe Warriors
1 Orochi Ranger
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Venerable Kumo
1 Roar of the Jukai
1 Callow Jushi
1 Mistblade Shinobi
1 Ninja of the Deep Hours
1 Sire of the Storm
1 Soratami Savant
1 Mystic Restraints
1 Reach Through Mists
1 Sift Through Sands
1 Shell of the Last Kappa
This deck isn’t as bad as the first two, but you can still see the workings of several decks combined into this one. Some of the cards, like Body of Jukai and Shell of the Last Kappa are downright bad. It could play as an early beatdown deck with the right draw.
There are a few good cards in here. Sire of the Storm is great. Mystic Restraints is solid, Ninja of the Deep hours is good, and creatures like Gnarled Mass and Kami of the Hunt are fine. However, add to that some countermagic, a handful of flyers, and you have a very discordant deck.
I typically grab the best card in the pack when there is no rare (barring an expensive, tradable uncommon). That’s how I ended up with Sire of the Storm, for example. I did not play several rares in my colors, like Forbidden Orchard, Shisato, Whispering Hunter and Nourishing Shoal. I also grabbed other rares like He Who Hungers, Myojin of Cleansing Fire, Orb of Dreams, Reverse the Sands and Sensei Golden-Tail in addition to a few others.
In the first game, my opponent established dominance with Earthshaker and easily won. I was a little mana screwed because until the fifth turn, I had all Green mana and Blue cards, except for a lowly Child of Thorns.
In the second game, it was all me. I had a fast Child, Elder, Mass, Ninja hand. I played Mystic Restraints on my opponent’s Ronin Houndmaster. I kept playing creatures quickly, and overwhelmed him with bad creatures.
In the third game, I Hindered a critical Uyo, but I lost again to the power of Earthshaker. That wasn’t too bad, all things considered. It could have been much worse. Can rare-drafting be more valuable as a strategy in Kamigawa?
I want to revisit my Rare Drafting strategies, first laid out in one of my articles: Drafting for Wins and Profit. In that article, I outline strategies for rare drafting – when to do it, when not to do it, and so forth.
I wanted to retouch on those strategies for a new age. The new sets have a different feel to them when it comes to rare drafting. Let’s take a look at a few pointers that I’ve picked up.
Core Edition: Rare drafting 8th is a bad choice. When you rare draft, you are relying on the middle and late cards to build your deck. You are also depending on your ability to carry you through a few games.
The problem with the Core Set is that there is a guaranteed basic land in every pack. As a result, each pack has one less draftable card. You’ll still be taking rares, but when it gets time to pick cards for your deck, you are out one choice. This has a bigger impact on a rare drafter than it does on a regular drafter, so you have to beware. There’s a reason why most of my rare drafting horror stories come from basic set drafts.
When you draft a basic set, if you use the rare drafting principles, you need to be cautious of falling into this trap. However, you have a potential out with your rares. In this format, you want to follow your rares. Normally, you want to draft the best deck from the available cards left. The difference in an Core set draft is that with fewer cards to choose from, your rares selected can become your secret stash of goodness.
Let’s look at an example. Suppose that you have rare drafted a Bloodshot Cyclops. It’s certainly not the best card ever, but it’s playable. Now, let’s suppose that you’ve been drafting White pretty heavily, but there are no real White choices in the next pack. It’s time to choose a second color. You can take a Goblin Chariot putting yourself in Red, or swipe the Green Gorilla Chieftain. Although the Chieftain is the better choice normally, you already have a playable Red card, so you take the Chariot. In any other format, the Chieftain is a better card and you get a good card for your deck, which really helps the quality. In an 8th Edition draft, rare drafters are struggling to fill all 23 slots with playable cards, so you need to follow your rares as much as possible.
Kamigawa Block: My current experiences in Kamigawa Block are much different. The creature quality is so good that you can easily grab a bunch of creatures late and try a swarm strategy. Creatures win Limited games, so making sure you have enough creatures is key.
Green is a great color to use in Kamigawa draft. There are a lot of Green creatures that you can grab late. The perfect example is Humble Budoka. This Grizzly Bear can be drafted very late, but it works very well in a creature-based strategy. There are a variety of solid aggressive Green creatures available in Kamigawa Block late – from Child of Thorns to Orochi Ranger to Gnarled Mass and Burr Grafter. I’ve even hit Order of the Sacred Bell on the wheel.
With so many playable creatures available deep into the draft, rare drafters in Kamigawa Block are lucky. This is a format in which we can draft rare after rare and still have a deck that can threaten a match victory and receive the two packs that comes with it (in a 4-3-2-2 draft, of course).
Some rare drafters will disconnect and thus concede after drafting the packs. I find this to be very rude. Most people draft in order to play and try to win. Even though you are using a different tactic, you should still draft with an eye towards winning. It ruins the fun for everybody else if you won’t even bother to play the game.
Aren’t you reading a Magic article because it’s fun? Don’t you play Magic because it’s fun? Don’t you have a Magic: The Electronic account because it’s fun? Then you might as well play the game. Not only will it make you a better rare drafter, but you might get packs. Even the worst deck ever ca win a round if the opponent gets heavy mana screw or pings out.
You definitely need to play the game. It’s not fair to the game and the other players to not try and win.
Rebutting the Powers That Be
I’ve had people tell me that they loathe rare drafting – they absolutely hate it. They’ll mention that it ruins signaling, hurts nearby drafters and it is not genuine. They might also argue that rare drafting harms the essence or purity of drafting.
In addition to being awfully pejorative, these comments demonstrate a certain elitist, aristocratic attitude. They are also wrong. People play tournament Magic for essentially two reasons – fun and competition. Now, you can’t argue against someone else who is drafting for enjoyment on reasons that it isn’t fun. It is fun! So, all that’s left is the argument for winning.
Even this argument is flawed. Let’s assume an 8-4 payout structure, because that more fully supports the argument against rare drafting than the 4-3-2-2 structure. In this payout plan, if you win the entire draft, you receive 8 packs of cards. Let’s look at this payout thusly:
Winner: 3 packs + 2 tickets = 3 drafted packs and 8 sealed packs
Now, the above assumes that you win the tournament, which is the best case scenario. Assuming that you draft a deck because it is good, instead of for value, and here is what the worst case scenario looks like:
Loser: 3 packs + 2 tickets = 3 drafted packs (with just two rares, only one with value)
Now, you can get this loser result whether or not you win the first match. Even if you win two matches, you can still lose in the finals and just take home four packs. Now, let’s see what a rare drafter might do:
Loser, Rare Drafter: 3 packs + 2 tickets = 3 drafted packs (with 12 rares and two good uncommons)
This is, of course, the worst case scenario, but it’s usually the most likely in an 8-4 draft table. Now, if you play at a 4-3-2-2 table, which is much more popular, the rewards for drafting good decks drop. Winning is not rewarded as much. However, rare drafting is more profitable, because you can win the first match with some regularity. Imagine this as a regular scenario at a 4-3-2-2 table:
Rare Drafter: 3 packs + 2 tickets = 3 drafted packs (with 12 rares and two good uncommons) and 2 sealed packs
That looks like a really good deal. In fact, that looks like the best deal of the lot. The reward for playing to win is often less than the reward for playing to draft value (i.e. rare drafting). That’s an important theoretical point, because it proves that winning in order to get packs is moot. Therefore, the entire argument around, “You shouldn’t rare draft because you are trying to win,” is invalid, because, as we can see, rare drafting is not only smart in the long run, but it is also guaranteed compensation.
I also find arguments based on “It’s not in the spirit of the game,” to be elitist. If you find a list of the best drafters in the world, and you have a draft Online, with them cracking open something like a foil Chrome Mox or foil Cranial Extraction, most of them are taking it. Every player has a “money threshold.” A player’s money threshold is what value a card has to be in order for a player to take that card for its price, rather than draft a card for the deck. Some players will draft a great rare, like Birds of Paradise. Others will snatch a good foil rare, worth money. Some might just grab any old rare, because it has value to them. Everybody has a money threshold, even purists who claim that the draft should be solely about drafting the best deck. Everybody will take a Mox Sapphire in an Unl/Rev/4th draft rather than take the broken Fireball.
The only difference between a rare drafter and a purist is the money threshold. Virtually everybody has a money threshold, however, leaving us no real “purists.” I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed seeing some really bad draft decks and reading more about rare drafting strategies. I am the Internet’s Rare Drafting Expert, signing off.