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Going Deep With Dialogue On Pack 1, Pick 2

Ryan Saxe is going deep on Pack 1, Pick 2! With a strong first pick and long-term plans possible, there’s a lot to consider!

Obsessive Stitcher, illustrated by Joe Slucher

Everybody always wants to know about which card is better for Pack 1, Pick 1. But this only scratches the surface of the wonderful nuances of Drafting. Some picks are much harder than others, and Pack 1, Pick 1 is the most formulaic with the least nuance and difficulty. While I normally discuss three to five picks in my articles, today I only discuss one. It’s quite rare for a pack to contain so many options, each of which exemplify an important lesson. But this specific draft contained one of the most involved Pack 1, Pick 2 decisions I have ever had.

Take a look at the pack below. Take your time. Really consider every option. Try to come up with involved logic for each potential pick. Did you come to the same conclusion I did? Did we have similar logic? I genuinely want to know, so make sure to tag me on Twitter (@rcsaxe) with your takes on this decision!

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

Grasp of Darkness, Swift Response

Grasp of Darkness and Swift Response are both very solid common removal spells. Grasp of Darkness is significantly better than Swift Response, so much so that I believe I would happily start a draft with Grasp of Darkness, but not Swift Response. So why is Swift Response in the discussion, then? Staying on-color with Aven Gagglemaster is worth quite a lot. I think Aven Gagglemaster is in the same ballpark as Grasp of Darkness. While I’m not married to the flyer, having access to it significantly bumps the value of any white card and any flyer, as I’m incentivized to navigate my draft towards a deck that can maximize the Aven. This leads to evaluating Swift Response above Grasp of Darkness.

But how do I really know this bumps up the value above Grasp and not below? Dialogue. The number one piece of advice I give to players asking about how to level up their Draft game is to work on an internal dialogue. If you ask yourself the right questions, it becomes easier to make close picks. Here’s an example of a question I asked myself in this scenario:

If my first pick was Primal Might, would I take Hunter’s Edge over Grasp of Darkness?

My answer was yes. This scenario is basically the same as above: a powerful first pick on-color with a removal spell worse than Grasp of Darkness. I could boil down the scenario to an abstract of “on-color decision related to two removal spells” and pose a question (or questions) to help come to a conclusion. The more questions like this I ask, the clearer my stance becomes. The best part about this is that you can frame questions using cards from older formats which you have more experience with to help come to a conclusion.

Llanowar Visionary

Unfortunately, self-prodding via dialogue isn’t as helpful when you can’t come up with such clear comparisons. Llanowar Visionary, as I stated earlier this week, is the best common. It’s better than Grasp of Darkness, and I believe by a noticeable margin. My intuition says that the value of Swift Response lies between that margin, and I would prefer to take Elvish Visionary here.

This describes a reasonable baseline. A powerful card that’s off-color as a reasonable decision places a “prove yourself” emphasis on the rest of the cards in this pack. And if they can’t, then the pick will be Llanowar Visionary.

Obsessive Stitcher

Obsessive Stitcher is an extremely powerful uncommon in an archetype I expect to perform well.

But it’s still a gold card that can’t pair with my first pick. Pack 1, Pick 1, I would take Llanowar Visionary over Obsessive Stitcher. So why then is the Stitcher in consideration? It’s a rare case of context, but this pack is so powerful that Rise Again has a reasonable chance to wheel. The next black drafter is likely to take Grasp of Darkness.

If I could be 100% certain that Rise Again would wheel out of this pack, I would take Obsessive Stitcher. Christian Calcano taught me that concept about five years ago. When you can get two good cards out of a pack thanks to having a reasonable model of what might wheel, it’s often correct to capitalize on this. However, this technique is often applied for contextual bad cards. That’s how Calcano showed this to me. He told me to take Call the Bloodline in Shadows over Innistrad because Senseless Rage would wheel. While there was a better card than Call the Bloodline in that pack, Call the Bloodline plus Senseless Rage was better than that card.

In this pack, Rise Again is too good of a card to guarantee the wheel, unlike the Senseless Rage example. So this begs the question, “At what probability of wheeling Rise is Stitcher the best pick?” While that question is difficult to answer, I’m fairly certain the number is above 50%, and that there is less than a 50% chance this Rise wheels. However, if you believe most people are likely to pass Rise, I genuinely believe Obsessive Stitcher could be the correct pick out of this pack.

Chrome Replicator

This leaves Chrome Replicator. Originally, I saw this card and my eyes bugged out of my head. I thought it was totally busted but it’s not. Similar to considering Obsessive Stitcher through the probability of Rise Again wheeling, the value of Chrome Replicator sits on the probability of triggering the ability. I’ve heard many players say that the floor of a 4/4 body for five mana is acceptable. It’s not. That rate hasn’t been close to acceptable in a very long time. Recent Limited formats relegate Wind Drake and Nessian Courser with upside to the sideboard. If the fail-rate is significant, this card isn’t worth it. My initial evaluation says that this is almost never triggering above 50% of the time, but that as long as it triggers above 30%, the card is an acceptable inclusion. 70% significantly below par is acceptable when the 30% is significantly above par. Doing some math, this means that the card becomes playable under the following circumstances:

1. At least one four-of.

2. At least two three-ofs.

3. At least four two-ofs.

And starting a draft with that in mind is reasonably achievable. However, that’s just for me to consider playing the card. I’m not excited to aim for “acceptable inclusion,” and asking for more than this is fairly difficult, especially since the math above assumes that those cards survive, which is a pretty strong assumption. Overall, I expect this card to be swingy, and not particularly amazing. Making it truly amazing will happen, but it’s non-trivial.

So what’s my pick?

Llanowar Visionary. I think there’s a world where many players are low on Rise Again, and hence Obsessive Stitcher is the pick. There’s a world where Auras are prevalent and the cheap removal is just a necessary pickup. There’s also a world where I’m completely wrong about Chrome Replicator, and it’s too powerful to pass here. However, the world I’m hedging on as the real world is the one where Llanowar Visionary is the correct pick.

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