I lose so much on Magic Arena. Even better, there’s software to track it.
A truly abysmal run that culminated with a win percentage barely above a coin flip, the kind of numbers you love if you’re a casino. If you look closely, though, less than a quarter of my decks were Brokers, the de facto best colors in Streets of New Capenna (SNC) Draft. They covered all families, a new WUBRG family, and one no-family day, May 5th, when I drafted five times.
The key to making Top 250, though, is being able to draft really well twice.
On Arena, playing well in Limited is richly rewarded by putting you in a much smaller pool of players for an equal shot at an invitation to a tournament that could launch your Magic: The Gathering career. Spike a couple of drafts after turning Mythic and, in my experience, you can feel good about securing that invitation. This presumes that trophies are like coins in Mario Kart, and they very much aren’t. It all depends on what type of draft you’re doing.
Quick Draft Success
Over the same timeframe as above, I won 71.8% of my Quick Drafts.
The best thing about this is you can see that sweet little 32-10 run where I figured out the bots were giving away snow decks like they were packs of Innistrad: Crimson Vow. If you have an idea of what the AI values cards at, then you are drafting against your seven friends who used to play back in the day and probably still have some cards at mom’s house. You throw a little gold at a Quick Draft and cash in gems.
As always, let’s break down the latest bot rankings, but this time with a twist. The good folks at 17Lands have introduced a new filter that lets us select data from players who win and win frequently. I’ll look at where they draft cards compared to when those cards are selected by the average user in a Quick Draft to get a feel for when we can get some bargains.
I’ll be looking at Average Taken At (ATA) data, or which pick a card is usually selected with, for each group and see where there’s anything worth talking about. Like any thrift shop, your ability to get funky may vary.
Currently Underrated Commons
Fourteen out of the top fifteen cards on this list belong to Azorius decks, giving a clear indication of how powerful counters are in particular.
Sky Crier is going 1.8 picks later in Quick Draft right now as an insult to the flying Citizens of the world. If I can give a +1/+1 counter to anything not named Disciplined Duelist or Illuminator Virtuoso right now, it’s a Turn 2 Crier. Fortunately, Backup Agent (1.34 picks too late) is right there to plop one on a Bird for a change. When looking at Brokers Initiate and Raffine’s Guidance, you have four cards with a mana value of two or less. You should be playing faster here.
Seeing Dapper Shieldmate, Celestial Regulator, and especially a Backstreet freaking Bruiser tells me that counters really matter. Brokers Veteran is hanging out at #11, believe it or not. Connive is your best driver of this mechanic when you can play a little leaner on lands, but the occasional shield counter has proved to be more powerful than a lot of people guessed. Being around for regeneration was awful.
Currently Overrated Commons
On the flip side, commons that are going too early tend to fall in either Jund or Grixis piles.
A point of housekeeping: bad cards tend to be overdrafted by bots in the same way that I tend to overrate fast casual Italian food. I look at this as more indicative of the fact that we should avoid these colors broadly. If you can’t get the bad cards at a discount, think of what the good ones will cost you.
Light ‘Em Up at 2.44 picks early is a great example. I don’t mind getting a LEU late in a pack, but I certainly don’t think I’ve busted it yet in terms of casualty, so it’s a pricey sorcery-speed Shock a lot of the time. I can’t overpay for that.
On the flip side, Rooftop Nuisance (2.41 picks early) is a card that I actively want a copy of. Knowing I might have to splurge for one early but knowing I’ll wheel the Sky Crier out of that pack makes it less of a calculated risk and more of a draft strategy. I like Disdainful Stroke, but I’m not sure 2.76 picks early is worth it, even if it’s a card I also like.
Currently Underrated Uncommons and Rares
Here’s the deal: the bots tend to not underrate cards that earn you a lot of “vault progress.” The one exception is when they think that a card is too sideboardy for Best-of-One play. How else could you explain them taking Antagonize over Out of the Way? I was confident that the cycle of spells that name a specific color in them are going far too late. Nope. Most are right around where humans take them. For some reason, the bots are overdrafting Charms and underdrafting one of the best bounce spells to the tune of almost two full picks.
Before the Draft
I implore you: do not draft red.
Of the Top 25 underdrafted commons in Quick Draft, the only red card we get is Goldhound, with an honorable mention to Cabaretti Courtyard, which people will use to fetch a Forest or a Plains. No other common posts a positive rating, which is, in the context of these numbers, very bad. Expanding out to splashable rares, Professional Face-Breaker and Jaxis, the Troublemaker look like okay selections if you are bestowed with the minor miracle of free fixing late, but red seems like a trap.
My early goal in SNC Quick Draft is to hone in on cards in the Brokers pie early with an obvious preference for Azorius. Selesnya isn’t a terrible fallback either, so you’d rather have a card in white so you can pivot. Inspiring Overseer continues to win at rates higher than any uncommon in the color and is a fine start in any pack, not just a weak one.
The perfect scenario here: starting in white with an absolute bomb. Giada, Font of Hope may look like an odd inclusion, but consider that 3/2 Inspiring Overseers win games. Is Titan of Industry a better card than any of these? No argument here. Would I rather, given the choice, start with something that doesn’t need all of the green mana? I suppose you gathered by the sarcasm that I wouldn’t.
This is probably the end of the list of cards I’d take over Inspiring Overseer. Copy that? Psychic Pickpocket or Disciplined Duelist may look like the sore thumbs here at uncommon, but it’s really Raffine, Scheming Seer that requires the most work. I think Seer is worthy of a splash and sacrificing a little mid-draft equity by picking up some lands aggressively. Again, if you’re not touching Azorius colors, you need to be incredibly powerful.
Your Best Commons
Incredibly nice to pick up our fifth best common so late, isn’t it? Echo Inspector has been going a pick early to spite us, so I recommend you snag one when I see it as a nice top to my curve. It seems counterintuitive, but you can go to sixteen lands to make sure you have something to pitch to get the 3/4 body. Gathering Throng is an easy speculation in Premier Draft, but here bots overrate it, so you’re fighting an uphill battle going in. I wish you luck.
Quick Draft is an artform, just like any other form of Limited. Gambling that the bots won’t want something based on what you pass them is a risk, but one we have the data to make correctly more often than not. If you find yourself in a bind on a pick, don’t hesitate to stop and Tweet me a shot of it. You’ve got all day to nail it and two drafts to make Top 250.