Rare Drafting For Wins And Profit
We all do it. Ever convince yourself that drafting a Voidmage Prodigy with the first overall pick is actually the best pick, and not just an attempt to grab a rare with some value?
After all, the Voidmage Prodigy is a two-mana, two-power drop - amazing tempo in the environment. If Glory Seeker is among the highest commons for white, then Voidmage Prodigy must be good. Plus, it morphs. And it commits to you drafting wizards, which we all know is a great tribe!
But yeah, we all really know why you drafted the Prodigy, and it had less to do with tempo and more to do with expanding your pocketbook or trade folder.
I have to admit it: I am a rare drafter.
My first online draft with Legions saw me yanking an Onslaught Fetchland, Blistering Firecat, Drinker of Sorrow, and the above mentioned El Budde. Four quality rares. I lost, but hey, why does that really matter when you can get a Firekitty?
I went to go check out the new 4/3/2/2 room. I played a few drafts here. Know what I learned? There are still sharks swimming in the kiddie pool. A 1751 here, a 1822 there and a 1887 in just a few minutes. So the waters are still treacherous.
Not that I ever cared. I was fishing for a different kind of animal.
But there is one difference between the 4/3/2/2 drafts and a normal ol' 8/4 one: It's harder to draft rares. That's just no good at all.
Anyways, here is some strategy. It's good for Online or Real Life drafting goodness.
Official Rare Drafting Strategy
There are essentially five categories of rares out there. Sometimes you get into a race to draft the most rares in your pod versus another pod, and that's a lot of fun. My record? Fourteen rares, out of twenty-four total.
But unless bulk is your goal, this is not a good plan because, ultimately, you'd like to balance the line between rare-drafting and drafting a good deck. After all, if you can procure some packs, then you can do more rare drafting. The trick is balance.
So, there are some specific rare drafting strategies, and there are five categories of rares. Identifying which rare belongs in which category is very important to your rare drafting success. Let's begin.
Highly Valuable Rares
These are those rares that are so valuable that you must draft them now. My Blistering Firekitty is an example of this card. You know the cards: Urza's Rage, Spiritmonger, Call of the Herd, Cunning Wish... . Sometimes these cards will not be the best cards in Limited, and so they will get passed a few spots before some lucky rare drafter can snatch it up. Picking up a Coat of Arms on the third pick in a 7th Edition draft is handy, as is plucking a Burning Wish on the fourth pick in an Odyssey draft. There is no real strategy here except"grab now!"
Some of these cards are highly valuable because they are quite good. As such, you can build a deck around them. Therefore, employing this strategy can garner you some powerful cards for your deck. Nothing out there says you can't win games with a big nasty and Highly Valuable Rare.
Broken in Limited but Low-Value Rares
These cards will go just as fast as the first group - but for a different reason. Kirtar's Wrath and Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor are among the best rares to crack in Odyssey in limited. But they have poor trade value. Your strategy here is different. If you want a BLBLVR card (Broken Limited But Low Value Rare), then you have to draft it immediately, but it may just sit in your binder for a while. These cards are good for a reason, though: No card is broken in Limited but worthless in Constructed.
Even Aboshan can be played in Constructed - he's not the best card ever, but he is great lockdown. These cards can be the backbone of your deck, and can help you cardstock. The best example of a BLBLVR card is Earthquake: Though rarely played in tournaments, the 'Quake is an excellent card. And it could be a great card in tourneys at any time if it breaks out. It's playable in Constructed and broken in Limited, but has a low value.
Average Value Rare
This rare is the hardest to assess. I've seen these fall to pick ten or eleven while also getting drafting around pick one or two. Rares in this category are playable in limited, and have moderate monetary value as well. Voidmage Prodigy started as a Highly Valuable Rare but has declined to average value. It's good in Limited, and certainly playable... But not that great. And it's worth some on the market, but not that much.
These rares will often fall where they do based on how good they are for a deck. These cards will be drafted when they are the best card for a deck or color, so you have to assess them carefully. When you open a pack, how do you know if an average value rare will make it back to you? Look at the pack. Take Torment, for example. I've often seen something like Crippling Fatigue, Faceless Butcher, Grotesque Hybrid, and Carrion Wurm in the same pack as an average rare like Ichorid. It's not a high value rare, but not a bad card either. You are more likely to see the Ichorid come back.
I just opened a 7th pack in a draft today and passed a Verduran Enchantress for a Merfolk Looter, which go for a lot online. There was a Giant Growth, Gorilla Chieftain, and Lure in the pack. The Enchantress is a decent card, and is certainly playable if you get a few enchantments, but no one is going to take it over the other cards unless it's because they want it for its value. Sure enough, the Enchantress came back.
Different people value these cards differently, so beware! Future Sight is a decent enough card with a halfway good value, so I'd say it's definitely an Average Value Rare, but some may value it more if a deck with Future Sights just won a local tournament, or if they need one for a deck or whatever.
Again, this is ultimately the hardest category to judge, and I have taken Average Value Rares from the one spot before if I can use it in my draft deck or if I don't expect it's return.
Poor Draft Card, Good Constructed Rare
We've all seen this and wondered what to do. It's a bad card in draft, but a halfway decent card elsewhere. It has value, just not anywhere in the games you're about to play... So where do you take it? Artificial Evolution is a good example. (Burning Wish might fit here except it has a high value, and we are looking for average value or below here.)
Artificial Evolution sticks in my mind because I recently drafted one late, then turned around and traded it for some tickets. Its ability is barely useful, and may make it into a deck from the sideboard in limited cases... But it has numerous uses outside of drafts. So much so that it holds a decent value with the Johnny crowd.
The number of these rares has dropped in recent sets. Invasion Block, for example, had a bunch of these cards - like Juntu Stakes for the two months that it was a good sideboard against Opposition Decks. But then Odyssey Block (and later Onslaught Block) neutered this category, but I mention it because the occasional rare will pop out in this one.
Basically, you want to draft it for its value, but you don't want to pick in early. You want to take it around where these drop - Pick 10-13th in a pack is typical.
Suck Cards That Have No Business Being Drafted
The final category of rares includes, unfortunately, a lot of rares. This is the suck category. It is due to the proliferation of these rares than drafting quantity does not really matter. A player who takes a Blistering Firekitty and nothing else makes out better than the one who grabs Psychic Trance, Wheel and Deal, and Kaboom!
Never draft one of these rares when you can draft a card for your deck. You'll be spending too many of your picks already on rares, that you can't spend time of the small stuff. If you miss out on a bad rare, it's no big deal when you got a good card for your deck.
When Is A Rare Not A Rare?
Before we leave strategy behind, there is one more important category of card left. For Magic: The Electronic, you need to know your high value uncommons. Due to the scarcity of cards in the environment, some uncommons have enough value that they are flat out worth more than rares. Learn which ones these are - Fact or Fiction, Flametongue Kavu, Merfolk Looter, Chainer's Edict, Roar of the Wurm, Psychatog, and others. It's easy to figure out which ones they are: If they are key components of good decks, then it is most likely a highly sought-after uncommon. Picking these up can be just as valuable as a good rare.
With All of These Rares, How Do You Win?
I am asked the above question constantly. I think that's funny. A good player can win with high frequency. A better player can rare draft and win with frequency.
I figure that I am a good player. I go about 50-50 in drafts where I rare draft. So I figure if I can go halfsies with a weakened deck, that I'm an above-average drafter.
Sometimes, however, you just luck into a good deck that can utilize your rares. Here is my most recent On-On-Le draft deck:
2 Lavamancer's Skill
1 Mistform Wall
1 Mistform Dreamer
1 Mistform Seaswift
1 Erratic Explosion
1 Pinpoint Avalanche
1 Keeneye Aven
3 Choking Tethers
1 Echo Tracer
2 Lonely Sandbar
Some other lands
Twenty-three cards plus seventeen lands, including two cycling lands and a Strand. It's a very good deck, in case you were wondering. The best play was using my Alchemist to untap Arcanis so that I could draw even more cards. Mwoo hah hah! It was a good draft, especially when you consider that I also drafted the following rares: Standardize, Psychic Trance, Clickslither, Ravenous Baloth, and Words of Worship.
Needless to say, I was claiming my eight-pack prize a few hours later.
For those who choose the rare drafting path, it is not always easy. Sometimes you get a nominee for"Worst Draft Deck Ever." Here is my own personal worst, from just over a week ago.
7th Edition - Blue and White and Suck All Over
Yes, my draft was so bad that I played Steal Artifact, Spellbook, Circle of Protection: Black, Baleful Stare, and Hibernation main. Ugh. However, I did have a 2/4 first striking Archivist one game, and that was interesting.
When I have a draft like this - and it happens with greater frequency later in the night - I just want to recoup my losses, then collapse into a little Abe-ball on my bed.
Yes, that's right. I want to rare draft even more.