Wow, I have learned a lot about Throne of Eldraine Limited already. This format is so different from anything I have drafted before.
I’m very unhappy with a 9-8 manabase. If you don’t draft with this in mind, starting from the very beginning, it’s quite difficult to cast your spells reliably. Below is an example of a draft where I was pushed into a powerful deck with bad mana. In the majority of Limited formats, I stand by how I navigated this draft by moving into what was open and pairing it with what I had; however, it’s possible that Throne of Eldraine requires a different approach.
For the following picks, I’ll describe what I took, why I took it, and why I think it was a mistake upon reflection. My mistakes compounded to where I reached a point of no return. It became “correct” to end up in a powerful deck with terrible mana; however, I had the option to navigate differently, and maybe then a different path would have presented itself.
It’s entirely possible that this specific seat didn’t have a proper solution outside of “play more lands so you have more colored sources, and still be unhappy.” But I think it’s a very useful exercise to reflect, analyze, and learn!
Pack 1, Pick 4
The Picks So Far:
Gold uncommons have a higher bar to pass in this format than usual. And Shinechaser doesn’t hit it. Not only is the card only above rate with both an artifact and an enchantment, but it doesn’t always maintain those buffers. An opponent can bounce their own creature that’s enchanted with Charmed Sleep to shrink Shinechaser. Many artifacts don’t stay on the battlefield forever because they are creatures or sacrifice for effects. Overall, all of my Azorius decks play Shinechaser, but I don’t see it as incentive.
Tempting Witch is a mediocre playable in many decks, but in decks that care about Food it is quite solid. It also has the upside of being the only option in the color I want to bias towards the most. Is it worth taking such a power-level hit to keep that consistency? No.
Brimstone Trebuchet has impressed me. Playing it alongside Smitten Swordmaster provides Rakdos Knights with an incredible amount of reach. It’s even amazing in Boros and Mono-Red. It also gets better in multiples, and can even play a good defensive role in Izzet to block flyers and turn on artifact synergies like Moonlit Scavengers. While it doesn’t directly pair with what’s in my pool so far, it can be playable alongside those colors and is in the discussion here. However, I think the other two options are better picks.
I took Oakhame Adversary. I view the card as more powerful than So Tiny by a reasonable margin. If it’s ever two mana, the card is an absurd rate, and at four mana the card is still quite good. And I don’t think taking the Adversary is unreasonable, but I think it’s better to take So Tiny. I like Fae of Wishes a lot, and this is a very strong start to a Dimir control deck. And Dimir has a mill theme, which makes So Tiny even better there. Mostly, I think it’s important to not speculate into too many colors. In most Draft formats, if my first five picks are five different colors, I don’t view that as a bad thing. In Throne of Eldraine, that’s not the recipe for success. However, if you look through this whole draft, that’s clearly a conclusion I came to after the fact.
The Picks So Far:
Wintermoor Commander was my pick, and I think it was a mistake. I think Smitten Swordmaster and Foreboding Fruit were better options. I think Mystic Sanctuary would have been in the discussion if I had taken So Tiny, but that’s not the world we live in!
So why was Wintermoor Commander wrong? Well, for the same reason I now believe Oakhome Adversary was wrong, but even more so. Adversary I view as a justifiable pick, this one less so. My thinking was that, if Orzhov is open, this pick lets me capitalize on it. I’m not missing much, and this way I don’t send an “Orzhov is open” signal downstream. This is with a mindset I have in every format:
However, this is exactly the mindset that is hurting me in Throne of Eldraine Limited. By speculating and wavering, I have fewer options when it comes to constructing my deck. In many formats, this doesn’t matter. The delta between the 23rd- and 26th-best card is not that large. But in this format, so many cards have higher color requirements that you end up playing multiple copies of Lost Legion in a deck that wants to play ten white sources in order to cast Ardenvale Tactician. With a higher density of playables, it’s easier to construct a deck that can cast every spell with ease, and hence there is a higher power-level bar for speculation.
The pick is between Smitten Swordmaster and Foreboding Fruit. I think Smitten Swordmaster is a much better card than Foreboding Fruit, but Fruit goes in more decks. My gut wants me to take Smitten Swordmaster because I always try and maximize the power of my deck, but this falls into the same trap that taking Wintermoor Commander falls into. Foreboding Fruit goes well with the cards I have drafted, and is in the color I’m biasing towards the most. It even pairs better with both of my nonblack cards than Smitten Swordmaster does.
This way of thinking goes against my usual approach to drafting in a fundamental way. And it’s going to take some getting used to. However, with what I have learned so far in the first week of this format, it’s necessary in order to succeed.
You can view the full draft log here! The deck was extremely powerful, but went 2-1. More than half the games I played had serious mana issues, and I intend on changing my draft strategy to have less deviation/speculation moving forward to minimize mana issues. In fact, it’s possible that it was correct to just play eighteen lands in this low-curve deck just to get a tenth black source. That may sound crazy, but when I say it’s time to start thinking about manabases from Pack 1, Pick 1, this is why!