8th Edition Draft Primer
8th Edition Booster Draft is, right now, easily the most popular format on Magic Online. I’ve been doing quite a few drafts myself and as there were almost no articles at all dealing with the format. I thought it is about time to write one.
Those are the good news, but there are also some problems. The first problem is that the Core Set is labelled “Advanced Level” while all sets like Odyssey or Scourge are “Expert Level”. The difference is that there are only few complicated cards and a lot less tricks than in other sets. The only real combat trick is Giant Growth and there are fewer creatures with abilities than in other sets. Creature standoffs happen a lot in 8th Edition Limited and as I mentioned, few of the common cards are good enough to break through if that comes up and in such cases the player who draws the more powerful uncommon or rare will come out ahead most of the time. I usually try to draft decks that don’t run into that kind of situation if possible. Creatures with flying are important and if you draft green, a good general rule is to always take the biggest guy available. The other colors don’t have that many good blockers and a couple of big, green men can usually just walk over anyones defenses. White, blue and black all offer some form of evasion and only removal should be drafted over those creatures.
The next issue to watch out for is something I really missed in Onslaught Block: you actually have to pay attention in the draft again. If you draft the same colors as the player passing to you in packs one and three, it is virtually impossible to get 22 good playables in two colors. In Onslaught, that doesn’t matter all that much. If you have a green-red deck and end up having first picks like Sparksmith, Timberwatch Elf and a good rare in Scourge, you will end up with a good deck, even if the guy passing to you drafts the same two colors. You might have to run two or three off-color morphs, but the colors are deep enough that even that might not happen. Overall, your card quality obviously won’t be great but your first picks mean that you have three cards that can win games on their own and that is all you need. In 8th Edition, that just won’t work out. Three first picks like Dark Banishing, Volcanic Hammer and Lightning Blast are surely a great start, but they don’t mean that you have a great deck just by themselves. You will need solid cards to go with them and as there are a lot of mediocre commons, you won’t get enough good ones if your colors clash with your neighbour. Sure, you can just splash some stuff and that works pretty well if green is your main color as you have access to Rampant Growth and Fertile Ground, but if you don’t end up with any ways to fix your mana, three colors isn’t really viable as there are a lot of cards that require two colored mana and you will lose too many games to mana issues.
If you have a black first pick, for example, and then draft some red cards, but there just aren’t any more black cards in the packs passed to you, you should really consider to leave black. You won’t be seeing anything when it comes to pack 3. That also means that signalizing is a bit more important. If you pass a rather bad pack with a Pacifism, you might not want to draft white. Sure, it’s not all that bad if you share a color with the guy behind you. After all, he will steal your cards only in pack 2 and you will get the better cards in pack 3 again. But if you can avoid it, do it.
Before I am going to talk about draft archetypes, I’ll list the colors and the playable cards in order that I draft those cards usually.
I’ve rarely seen a format where big green creatures are as good as in 8th Edition draft. If you have one of the three mana accelerators to play a turn four Spined Wurm and follow it up with a Craw Wurm, your opponent just loses most of the time as there are only few creatures big enough to block them on their own and there isn’t all that much removal around.
A lot of playable cards, but a lot of junk as well. I won’t be happy if I have to run any of the cards below Drudge Skeletons. Sure, they are fine and Coercion and Mind Rot can be great at times, but overall they just aren’t good enough. Looming Shade can be better then Vicious Hunger if you are almost monoblack but with less then 12 swamps, I’d leave him where he is right now. Overall, only one truly great card and not very deep, easily the worst of the five colors.
But as I mentioned before, the commons are not cards that win games on their own in this format. You can’t really rely on rares, but in a format where you draft with three identical boosters, you should see some of the good uncommons in your color. The previously best color, white, got the shaft here as the five Circles of Protection are uncommon and otherwise the quality in white isn’t that great either. All other colors have bombs though.
Red takes the top spot here. The best card is Blaze, followed by Orcish Artillery, Pyrotechnics, Lightning Blast and Pyroclasm along with some pretty good creatures like Lesser Gargadon. The only problem is that both Blaze and Pyrotechnics are excellent cards to splash, so you usually won’t find anyone willing to pass those.
The bottom two slots for uncommons go to green and white. Green has some really fine creatures. Spitting Spider, Living Terrain, Llanowar Behemoth, and Hunted Wumpus are all quite a bit better than the common creatures, but they aren’t as devastating as the red, blue or black cards. White is easily the worst with only Angel of Mercy and Chastise being excellent. Staunch Defenders, and Wall of Swords are good, but not great.
If you just look at the commons, green-white should be the best deck. There are also no common creatures around that could destroy this color combination, like my all-time favorite creature that should never have seen a printing machine – Sparksmith. But the more powerful cards are clearly uncommon and if you want to maximize your chance for game breaking cards, any combination of blue, red and black is the way to go. You really don’t want to go into a draft with a set color combination in mind as you won’t end up with enough playables more often then not.
The bad uncommons in green and white mean that I usually don’t like to go that way. White-red, white-blue, green-red and green-blue are by far my most favorite combinations. Green-x usually works quite well as well. The idea is to draft a green base and splash cards like Dark Banishing, Pacifism, Volcanic Hammer and powerful uncommons. If you draft this deck, you have to pick Rampant Growth and especially Fertile Ground a lot higher. You should still take the really good creatures over it, like Spined and Craw Wurm. Trained Armodon is not that great in this deck as you usually can’t run more then 9 forests. The common order for this deck is:
A good rule in this format is probably to just draft the colors you feel the most comfortable with, as long as you don’t get cut off. Every color combination definitely works and is good enough to win a draft with. But there is one final rule that I believe most people on Magic Online follow anyway: Rare draft! Most rares are better then commons anyway and with the current 4-3-2-2 payout, picking rares goes a long way towards drafting for free…
Have fun and rip those Birds and Wraths!
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