Drafting Digest: Kaladesh And #GPAtlanta!

You’re going to make Day 2 at #GPAtlanta, right? Of course you are! And when you do, you need to be on your Draft game! Ross Merriam is ready! To help you. Help him. Please help him. Please?

Kaladesh has descended upon us, and amid all the Coptery goodness (or not goodness, depending on your perspective) that has dominated the discussion in regards to the new Standard metagame, the Draft environment is still very new. The format won’t be unveiled on a competitive level until this weekend at #GPAtlanta so you still have a few days to prepare! What better way than by helping me prepare at the same time? After all, sharing is caring.

So to the benefit of both of us, here are two interesting picks from a recent Kaladesh draft. We start, as always, with pack one, pick one:

My first reaction? Wow, this pack is deep. Every card is playable, although Take Down is really only viable as an option out of the sideboard. But the thirteen others are all maindeck eligible. Deep packs like this are always of particular interest because they bring with them the chance to glean a lot of information about the rest of the table.

Of course it’s valuable to determine what colors the people immediately beside you are playing so you can avoid fighting with them, but of similar value is to determine which colors are being underdrafted by the table as a whole. That way, you can move in and reap the rewards of having great late picks in the draft. With an opening pack like this one, you can reasonably glean that information by what comes back on the wheel, so you should take the time to memorize the contents and be prepared when pick nine comes.

But in the meantime, what are we to take? I say the pick comes down to Scrapheap Scrounger, Voltaic Brawler, Thriving Rhino, or Aethertouch Renegade. The latter three are simply the most efficient bodies, and all of them have relevant abilities that elevate them even further. Aethertouch Renegade is a premier utility creature that can generate a ton of energy if you’re so dedicated.

I’m loath to take a gold card pick one, especially when Thriving Rhino isn’t significantly worse, so I’ll eliminate Voltaic Brawler. I’m not entirely sold on Aethertouch Renegade, but that may be due to our collective lack of experience with the format. Still, I’ll play it safe and narrow it down to Scrapheap Scrounger and Thriving Rhino.

Scrapheap Scrounger is appealing because it doesn’t trade down for Servo or Thopter tokens, it often trades up for three-mana creatures, and its recursion cost is not at all prohibitive. Moreover, you could reasonably play it in a non-black deck as a vanilla 3/2 for two mana; flexibility is always valuable. For those reasons I lean toward the rare here.

Fast forward a few picks. This is now our pool:

And for the next pick, I of course have the same pack on the wheel:

From the pool you can see we are solidly in black but because we’ve dabbled in other colors, we lack a solid direction for our second color. Having two of the three black cards come around is a good sign that being in black will pay off, as we are only fighting with one other drafter.

I can also see that red and green are being overdrafted early, since not even the relatively weak Wayward Giant came back around. Lastly, the fact that the only blue card and a solid common in its own right, Aether Theorist, is still in this pack is a strong signal that blue is open.

As a result, there is a strong case for moving in on the color and taking Aether Theorist, but I still prefer to keep my options open and take a black card here. Given the aggressive nature of the format, I lean toward Thriving Rats as a reasonable filler two-drop. I would, however, keep the knowledge gained from this pick in mind when deciding on a second color. Seeing a bomb could decide our direction for us. Outside of that, I would expect to end up in B/U most of the time.