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Subject: Lessons from a Guildpact/Ravnica Draft rss

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Kelsey Rinella
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I happened to be lucky enough at the prerelease event for Guildpact that I was able to bring 9 packs home. I got three relatively inexperienced friends together, and we played a casual draft with two packs of Ravnica and two of Guildpact each. This session report will include a brief overview of the draft as I was able to observe it, and then some lessons about drafting.

The Draft
We opened Ravnica-Guildpact-Guildpact-Ravnica, in order to arrange that we passed both left and right with each set. I had had excellent results with Orzhov (Black/White) at the prerelease, and so tried to set that up with my early picks, hoping to add green as a third color. Unfortunately, the player to my right had heard of my success, and made a similar choice. I opened a Sacred Forge (the rare Red/White dual land), but chose Faith's Fetter's over it. By the time the pack got back to me, it was still there, which made me fairly confident that nobody was playing Boros (Red/White), as the pack was otherwise unimpressive in those colors. As a result, I took it, thinking that there might be some good Boros cards I could feel more comfortable splashing with that sort of mana support. Late on in the first pack's draft, I passed up a Viashino Fangtail, not wanting to go into red that heavily, a choice I would later regret.

My first pick from Guildpact was a Pillory of the Sleepless, which suited my initial game plan very well. However, as the pack went on, I saw some really incredible Gruul (Red/Green) cards going around, and so was pretty confident no one else was in those two colors. That sucked a bit, because I don't tend to enjoy the Gruul style of play, but I ended up caving in and picking up two Skarrgan Skybreakers, a Streetbreaker Wurm, a Rumbling Slum, and a Borborygmos. And a LOT of mana fixing, because I was now looking like I'd be playing a four-color deck, which is what happened.

I ended up with every color but blue, and had only a few color problems. My mana fixing was good, with two Silhana Starfletchers, a couple signets, two karoos (the collective nickname for the double lands that bounce a land to your hand), and two of the rare dual lands. In the end, the deck really only did three things well: crank out lots of mana in a variety of colors, drop big mean red-green creatures, and screw with my opponent's creatures (I ended up with two Pillories, as well as the Faith's Fetters and I think a Disembowel). That turned out to be enough in every match.

My opponents had the following decks:

Beth: green/white/black with heavy Selesnya influence, but no real game-winning cards. A Chorus of the Conclave was her only decent-sized creature. Otherwise a good deck, but it meant she rarely got the saproling engine really going, because they kept needing to chump-block the big things her opponents brought out.

Daniel: blue/black, with good evasion and some of the nice utility cards. He, too, had little in the way of really big stuff, which is often less of a problem for an evasion-heavy deck. Still, that lack is probably what cost him the match with Beth. A surprisingly good job of both drafting and deckbuilding from a first-time drafter who'd only really played about 5 games.

Smuck: red/blue/black, resting largely on the backs of Szadek, Lord of Secrets and a Djinn Illuminatus. Unfortunately, the Djinn didn't seem to work out that well, and he'd been hoping to get into green early in the draft, so had wasted some early picks on cards he didn't end up using (including Birds of Paradise). Had a ton of the Magemarks, but only seemed to derive real benefit from the blue one, which gives unblockability by anything without Defender.

Lessons Learned
It's been said elsewhere, but bears repeating: flexibility is often the key to a good draft. I'm really happy with the Sacred Forge pick, because it made it a lot easier for me to change my game plan and go heavily into Gruul. As a result of that decision, I was able to pick up a really surprising run of excellent Gruul cards, often after seeing the packs go all the way around the table. That pretty much won me the draft--I'm sure someone could have put together a crappy deck out of what I drafted, but it was awfully easy to assemble the pieces that fell into place so nicely into something very strong. So early picks of cards that leave a lot of options open seem pretty attractive to me right now.

Pillory of the Sleepless still seems like the standout common of the set. Absolutely wonderful, despite the frequency with which it goes on a creature that has some annoying ability it can still use. I think the psychological effect of playing a deck that has two or more Pillories is a big bonus. On the downside, there's a lot of creature-sacrificing available in the Ravnica block--I've been lucky not to run into any, as Pillories were a staple, not only of the deck built for this draft, but also of both of my decks at the prerelease (I played in two sealed-deck flights). Honorable mention goes to the Silhana Starfletcher--in a block which pushes one into three or even four colors, anything which gets you just what you need is very, very good. There's also a lot of little flyers out there; a resilient defense goes a long way.

Blue sucks. It just rots. That had to be expected, given that it's the only color which still has only two guilds, but one might have expected Izzet to be a little overpowered to help make up for it. Nope. I'm sure it'll be all sorts of fun in constructed, but the limited base available for blue just seems awful until Dissension.

Green/Black/White was a pretty good combination in Ravnica limited. Now it's outstanding, and the existence of so much good creature destruction plus the Pillory problem makes Golgari (Green/Black) really impressive. Repeatable threats, lots of sacrifice effects. Magnificent.


 
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omnicrondelicious
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Mostly agree with you except for the blue bit, I've had great success in RRGG with blue in 8-player draft (and sealed deck for that matter). But I find that blue is finicky - you need the right combo and your early picks will tell if that's going to happen or not. With the other colors, a smooth mana curve and a decent selection of cards will take you pretty far just by themselves. But not so with blue - synchronicity is key. I think black-white suffers that to some extent too, and since everyone seems to be hugely fond of it, it's overdrafted.

.b
 
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Stephen Tavener
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I'll quibble about blue as well. Blue/Black/Red can be very good; blue for fliers and bounce, red for direct damage and creature removal. The Wee Dragonauts and Torch Drakes are especially good in the end game.
 
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Kelsey Rinella
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I am proud to have opposed those who describe all who oppose them as "Tender Flowers" and "Special Snowflakes".
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In a later experience with a Ravinca/Ravnica/Guildpact draft, I had a very different experience than the one initially chronicled. I thought it might be worthwhile to try an enchantment-heavy Boros strategy with a splash of blue for Flight of Fancy and the blue magemark. Turns out, essentially no one else wanted any blue, so I had an almost entirely blue deck with splashes of red and white. If you can get it, there are absolutely marvelous tricks to be played with Mark of Eviction in such a deck--Steamcore Wierd with Galvanic Arc and Flight of Fancy makes a delightful target for repeated bounce. I also consistently underestimate the value of bounce spells like Peel from Reality and Repeal--one wouldn't think it would be possible to know this about oneself and still have it be true, but people are strange that way.

So the criticisms of others have not fallen on deaf ears. I am very happy with several of the Orzhov commons, and mostly disappointed with what I've seen Izzet doing, so I'm still inclined in the directions the original article suggested. Flexibility requires me to be open to blue, though, and it's better than I initially believed (possibly due to a relatively poor set of blue cards for that draft).
 
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