Today we have two picks that can only be answered with context! One is in the middle of Pack 2, the other at the beginning of Pack 3. These are the kinds of picks that are about more than just your ability to evaluate cards. We can all look at a Welding Sparks and a Thriving Grubs and come to the conclusion that the removal spell is better. But sometimes you need to disregard everything and focus on your curve.
There is a very useful skill at work here. It is the ability to identify what you need and/or are lacking. You can actually go even further and attempt to make picks early on to minimize the potential picks where you are “forced” to take a card you need over the “best” card in the pack. Drafting is an optimization problem, and this is one of the many tricks you can use to maximize your experience. But getting into that skill, in detail, would be a whole other article. For now, take it as some food for thought, and enjoy deciphering the following draft pool:
Pack 2, Pick 7
The Picks So Far:
Okay, take a minute to dissect this draft so far and analyze what the colors of the deck are. What the plan of the deck is. What's missing. (I won't tell you until after you make your pick. Ha!)
Okay, done now? Good. Yes, I was quite lucky to open two very good mythics and prioritize some copies of Renegade Map so I can play them both. We have an R/G beatdown/midrange deck here with an Ajani Unyielding for a long-game plan.
The best card in the pack is Chandra's Revolution. The card with the highest potential upside (and variance, mind that) is Siege Modification, since we have a Heart of Kiran. I'm going to start by saying that the Modification is not the pick here, but it is very enticing, especially since I'm pretty sure I'll wheel a Consulate Dreadnought (but you all couldn't know that).
So we have a removal spell, a two-drop, and Destructive Tampering. I want to take a minute to talk about Destructive Tampering since I haven't yet in any of my articles. This card has impressed me. I have always been a fan of Falter effects in Limited, and this is the best we have seen since Seismic Elemental. The thing is, I have almost never had the card be straight dead. Either they have an artifact or I want to slug through a barrage of blockers. I don't know why this has almost always been the case, but it has! I actively want one in all of my red decks and I even like having two because sometimes it can be the best card in your deck in a specific matchup. So access to a second copy in the board is actually quite useful. That being said, neither it nor Chandra's Revolution is the pick here. I'm taking Druid of the Cowl.
That's right. I'm taking the card that's least exciting in my deck with only one four-drop (albeit good with Ajani, but I also need a white source, etc.). Remember when I asked what the deck was missing? Go back and count. I have only seven creatures! That's a problem. The thing is, I could probably pick up more creatures later, but I want to prevent myself from having to take a card like Spontaneous Artist over something more impactful that's not a creature. I already have a reasonable amount of interaction with two copies of Prey Upon and a Hungry Flames. I'm fine on all cylinders besides creature count, so let's fix that before it actually becomes a problem and take Druid of the Cowl!
Pack 3, Pick 3
The Picks So Far:
And new cards:
We've grabbed a bomb rare from Pack 3 already and upped the creature count of the deck to twelve! But the following pack does provide quite a dilemma.
The definitive best card in the pack for us is Blossoming Defense. Using it to protect a highly impactful card like Scrapper Champion; Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter; or Heart of Kiran makes it even better than usual. I'll say this a lot, but cheap, flexible, spells are always premium. Imagine if Destructive Tampering was only one mana! Blossoming Defense is a split card between a solid combat trick and a counterspell for removal. It's easy to leave up the one mana, and, well, let's just leave it at the card is great.
But then we have Attune with Aether. And we have this Ajani Unyielding. Ugh. If we take Attune with Aether, then Ajani becomes a free splash. As is, we have three sources because of two copies of Renegade Map, but there is something many people tend to forget about splashing with the Map: Renegade Map is a tapped source and hence worse for splashing than Attune with Aether. If I have Ajani Unyielding in hand and no white source, I have one source (Plains) in my deck that I can draw and cast Ajani immediately and two sources that would delay it a full turn. Attune with Aether would double the number of untapped white sources in my deck.
All that being said, three white sources is enough to happily splash Ajani Unyielding and hence I don't feel a necessity towards Attune with Aether. It's also possible there will be another Attune coming in the next five picks. In Pack 2, I highly prioritized Renegade Map because of Ajani. Although none of you saw it, I took Renegade Map over some great Magic cards (obviously nothing like a Ridgescale Tusker, though).
I did this for two reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure I got to play this Ajani Unyielding. But I also wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be “forced” to take fixing later in the draft. Since I took those Maps, I have the luxury of taking Blossoming Defense here, which is what I'm going to do. Blossoming Defense is not only an impactful combat trick, it is an irreplaceable card and I'm ecstatic I get to play it in my deck!
If you remember in the beginning of this article I mentioned the skill of discerning what you need as well as drafting in such a manner that minimizes the potential for being “forced” to take something less impactful. Hopefully this draft provided a glimpse into that skill. Employ this. Learn this. And I promise it will optimize your card quality (and the cohesion of your deck) in future drafts!