When To Pick Lanes Early In Dominaria United Limited

When does staying open in Dominaria United Draft turn into a trap? Andy Ferguson shares insights from a draft that took a huge turn on its way to wins.

Defiler of Faith
Defiler of Faith, illustrated by Magali Villeneuve

Last week’s article tackled the “stay open” approach to drafting, a part of the spectrum I tend to lean towards, especially in Dominaria United. I did, however, mention that there were definite reasons to go for broke and pick a lane early.

There are a couple of benefits in doing so, like cutting off passing certain colors to your left, as well as having a more consistent manabase. The main benefit of carving out your lane early is that, if the colors you have chosen are open, your deck ends up being very powerful.

Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim Queen Allenal of Ruadach Baird, Argivian Recruiter

I started this article with the intent of illustrating the navigation of a dedicated or committed deck, but I had a better idea. A more meaningful article would be about navigating this path when it doesn’t work out, instead of when your colors are open and everything is rainbows and lollipops. To that end, here’s an example from a recent draft that took a huge turn before settling into a deck with a flawless record.

The Bomb Rare…

I hesitate to say opening a Wingmantle Chaplain will put you into certain colors from the first pick, because the Walls deck is so versatile and can be anywhere from two to five colors. Instead, let’s go with the instance of opening a bomb rare. For this example, let’s say you Pack 1, Pick 1 a Defiler of Faith.

Defiler of Faith

Now we have an outlined gameplan and color. You will be highly incentivized to pick up white permanents; in addition, your aim has now shifted towards a go-wide strategy, or at least some form of creature deck, immediately changing what kinds of cards you will prioritize. Flexible cards and speculating on lands are out. Instead, look for cards that fit your game plan, like Heroic Charge, Captain’s Call, Argivian Cavalier, or Argivian Phalanx

Another priority to consider in this example is to pass as few white cards as possible, also known as “cutting white.” When you cut a color, players to your left have little to no incentive to be in it. This will improve your likelihood of having good picks in that color during Pack 2. 

… And the Common Conundrum

One fun fact that you may not know is that most packs contain at least one common of each color. Let’s stick with the example of Pack 1, Pick 1 Defiler of Faith. You look at your second pick, and there is no white common. This is a huge red flag! You won’t need to acquire an entirely new plan, but be very aware that the player passing to you has a vested interest in white as well.

If white is clearly not available, you should know towards the middle-to-end of Pack 1. At this point, it would be wise to start hedging your bets by taking more flexible cards, keeping you open to the archetypes and colors you think are available.

The Call of the Lane

For the sake of discussion, how about the inverse? Let’s say you are staying open, taking a lot of flexible picks and lands, waiting to identify your lane, but Izzet (blue and red) aggro is abundant. When is the right time to pull the trigger?

Balmor, Battlemage Captain

For aggressive decks it’s difficult, because you start crossing the line picking cards that are only good in aggressive decks, possibly negating those picks if you don’t end up in that lane. You should treat these the same as speculative picks, and as you collect more pieces of Exodia, the picture will become more clear if that’s the lane you should be in or not.

This is a great draft log to examine, as it was very difficult to navigate. There were a few early clues, and some early speculative picks on lands paid dividends in Pack 3, allowing the final deck to function smoothly. I encourage you to take a look yourself, making sure to uncheck the “Show Picks” button to see what you would do!

Click here to see the final deck.