Strategies and Tips for Triple J

Triple Judgment Draft

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If you've been on Magic Online for very long at all, chances are you've at least thought about entering a triple-JudgmentTM booster draft. Until recently, the prizes for Constructed tournaments were only Judgment packs, so almost everyone has found themselves with a surplus at one time or another. With the value of online Judgment at an all-time low for this reason, what better way to use those packs than to draft them?

Drafting three packs of a set with only 143 cards is already a little strange, and it gets even crazier when the colors aren't even close to each other in terms of quantity or quality. Signaling is just as important as ever, although the strangeness of the format allows things like drafting white behind another white drafter or having no one at all at the table drafting black to make sense. White is certainly the strongest color in Judgment, with the depth and the strength of its commons and uncommons far surpassing all the other colors except green, which is close behind at second best. Blue is next, mainly due to the presence of Wormfang Drake, and then red and black unsurprisingly bring up the rear.

The Value Of Enchantments

Paul's Picks
Top 5 Commons
WHITE
1. Shieldmage Advocate
2. Phantom Nomad
3. Benevolent Bodyguard
4. Prismatic Strands
5. Guided Strike
BLUE
1. Wormfang Drake
2. Mirror Wall
3. Lost in Thought
4. Aven Fogbringer
5. Keep Watch
BLACK
1. Toxic Stench
2. Treacherous Werewolf
3. Cabal Trainee
4. Earsplitting Rats
RED
1. Arcane Teachings
2. Barbarian Bully
3. Lava Dart
4. Goretusk Firebeast
5. Ember Shot
5. Rats' Feast
GREEN
1. Phantom Tiger
2. Ironshell Beetle
3. Giant Warthog
4. Sudden Strength
5. Nullmage Advocate
With almost of the removal being situational or expensive and no bounce in the set at all, enchantments play a much larger role than usual. Cards like Arcane Teachings, Exoskeletal Armor, Elephant Guide, and Unquestioned Authority all create monstrous creatures that have little to fear other than Venomous Vines (which is quite worthy of the main deck in this format). With the high quantity of Benevolent Bodyguards floating around, often even the Vines isn't enough to stop the beats. The Bodyguard's ability will, however, cause a green enchantment to fall off.

With the lack of bounce in mind, draft enchantments higher than you normally would. However, remember that you still need warm bodies to wear them. I tend to have two or three Benevolent Bodyguards in most of my decks as they allow me to ignore tricks like Chastise and make playing with enchantments completely safe.

Traffic Jams

To be honest, many Judgment draft games will stall on the ground. Due to the aforementioned lack of removal, phantoms can feel free to run into each other all day long without much harassment. While it is certainly not impossible to break through, many games will come down to who has the better stall breaker. Arcane Teachings is the premiere card for this purpose, as it almost guarantees board control to the player who manages to keep it out for any length of time. Not only do you gain a large defender, but you can also abuse the phantom mechanic by taking down larger creatures on the other side one shot at a time.

When times are good, the creature can swing in for large chunks of the opposing life total. Even when the board is at a complete stalemate, you have a one point per turn clock on the table, which is often enough to do nine or ten points of damage over the course of a triple-Judgment draft game. Dwarven Driller also deserves an honorable mention as a red stall breaker, as he puts continuous pressure on the your opponent's resources.

Battle Screech and Wormfang Drake are two great cards that put a fast clock on your opponent through the air. Nothing in the set other than Lost In Thought can effectively handle a turn three 3/4 flier, regardless of the fact that a smaller creature is needed to go under it. Be wary of playing a Wormfang Drake when your opponent has a mountain or swamp untapped, however, because you will lose the Drake if your other creature is killed in response. Toxic Stench and Lava Dart are the main cards to worry about. Battle Screech is the bane of green decks, as the only answer in that color is the uncommon Anurid Swarmsnapper.

Finally, Wonder is an easy way to end any game where your opponent doesn't have an active advocate. With an advocate in play, Wonder will probably keep bouncing in and out of the graveyard as it dies in combat and then returned in an endless cycle. Since Trained Pronghorn, Barbarian Bully, and Cephalid Inkshrouder are the only consistent discard enablers in the set, it's hard to ever keep Wonder in the graveyard for more than a second.

Dealing With The 'Yard

The graveyard's role in triple Judgment draft is much different than in OdysseyTM draft due to the presence of the advocates. Suddenly, having cards in your graveyard (especially less useful cards like lands) becomes a double-edged sword. Not only do your opponent's advocates provide extremely useful effects for him or her, they also take you away from threshold one bite at a time. A big weakness of threshold-based decks in triple Judgment is that your opponent's advocates will either always be powered up or you will have an empty graveyard (which doesn't bode well for your threshold creatures).

Black is the most affected by this, with most of black's strong cards such as Toxic Stench only coming into their own when threshold has been achieved. Green mainly just has the Anurid Barkripper, which is almost never worth playing in triple Judgment draft, as it's not worth the necessary effort to make it a 4/4. Red has Swirling Sandstorm, which is generally not useful. It can occasionally be made to work well in certain decks, such as one with a lot of Mental Notes and a Wonder or two. Unfortunately, most white decks will be ready with Prismatic Strands, although there's usually no way to discard it at instant speed to cast it for free. White has Battlewise Aven and the insane Vigilant Sentry, which sees its value fall in Judgment draft for the above reasons. Blue simply has no threshold cards at all.

Drafting...Black?

The only time that I would suggest pursuing a threshold strategy is when you are drafting black. Both black-blue and black-red are good possibilities, with blue providing Mental Note and red providing Book Burning. Although it may sound crazy to pick black in Judgment draft, if you are the only one at the table doing so it's possible to come out with the best deck. The key lies in getting many, many Toxic Stenches along with three or four of the threshold enabler of choice. Your Treacherous Werewolves and Vampires should almost always be large, which is a little dangerous, but with all your removal you can usually clear the way. Toxic Stench also allows you to remove annoying Shieldmage Advocates that would hamper your efforts to maintain threshold and beat your opponent.

For a long time I wanted to try drafting a black deck but would always get lured away due to opening a Battle Screech or some other great white card. Finally, in one draft I opened a poor pack and just decided to try it out. My black-red deck of chaos and death ended up running over the other, more peaceful builds at the table. Here's what that deck looked like.

My Personal Strategy

I have found the most consistent way to win a triple Judgment draft is by combining white with either blue or red. White has unparalleled depth in the Judgment set and is able to control almost any game. Shieldmage Advocate, which incidentally is my most-drafted Judgment card, is extremely strong and generally undervalued by most players. Spells like Battle Screech and Phantom Flock in the uncommon slot are very capable of winning the game. Blue simply has Wormfang Drake, which is often good enough to win games on its own. The reason to draft red also lies in one common: Arcane Teachings. If you are passed even one Arcane Teachings in the first pack, it's a good sign that the drafter to your right is probably not in red, and you can never have enough Teachings.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with drafting green, it's drafted fairly heavily and doesn't have any methods of winning other than pounding through on the ground. Uncommons like Phantom Centaur and Elephant Guide go a long way towards making that possible. The problem lies in beating the cards that I mentioned above, namely Arcane Teachings and Wormfang Drake, as well as the devastating damage prevention of Prismatic Strands. Your best hope against the Drake is to overwhelm your opponent with superior numbers, since a creature had to go under the Drake and it most likely won't be held back to block. Against Teachings you just have to run Venomous Vines and hope that there aren't any Benevolent Bodyguards nearby.

Combining green with blue results in a little bit of synergy, but unfortunately the tempo options of bounce and countermagic aren't available. Also, the threshold strategy that many green-blue Odyssey decks followed isn't a tempting option here. Your best hope in this color combination lies in presenting a strong offense on both the ground and in the air, while using cards like Lost In Thought as temporary removal. Green also provides the best Drake food in the set in the form of Ironshell Beetle.

Red can be splashed into almost any deck. I have won a number of drafts with green-white or white-blue decks that included a couple mountains for one or two copies of Arcane Teachings. If red is a main color, be sure to think about including a Flaring Pain or two in the main deck. It can be used to surprise players relying on Prismatic Strands or Shieldmage Advocates and allows you to kill the ever-present phantoms in one shot. Finally, black-red or black-blue are always options if it seems like no one else at the table has the same idea.

Sample Decks

Here are some more examples of 3-0 draft decks I've put together.

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