Cube Holistic Wisdom - Rooster Drafting
In this article, I'll be taking a break from my insomnia-curing “how to build a cube” theoretical articles to talk about a mostly-unknown way to draft a cube known as “rooster drafting”. I'll also give you a breakdown of the format.
In a recent The Third Power episode, we talked about alternate ways to draft a cube and one of the topics that I covered was “rooster drafting”. Rooster Drafting was a Limited format created by former Limited Resources co-host, Denny's aficionado, and present Wizards of the Coast game designer Ryan Spain. It was covered in the Limited Resources episode #84 (“Community Cup, Ho!”) at about the 36 minute mark, but I'll discuss it in this article in more detail.
How DO you Rooster Draft?
Rooster drafting is a hybrid between several formats such as Sealed, Winchester, Winston, Rotisserie and Rochester (“Rooster” being a mix of booster + rotisserie.) I've heard it described as “drafting the packs for your sealed pool” and that's a pretty good description of the format. In further detail, this is Rooster drafting:
- Both players take an equal number of evenly-sized packs from a cube. For example, both players make 6 packs with 15 cards in them.
- Once the packs are made, reveal the contents of all of them.
- Decide who has first pick.
- The first player (player A) looks at all available packs and takes 1 pack.
- The next player (player B) looks at the available packs and takes 2 packs.
- Player A takes 2 packs, player B takes 2 packs, repeat until the last pack remains, which is taken.
- Make decks.
When I've Rooster drafted with my cube, I've used six packs of fifteen cards for each person in the draft (with 2 people) because that's what I generally use for cube sealed. Ryan and Marshall talked about how they mainly used Rooster drafting as a two-person format but people on the MTGSalvation cube forum who discussed doing a forum rooster draft introduced a very interesting idea. Due to cube packs not having a set size like regular Magic packs, you can change the number of cards in them as well as the number of cards in the pool as you wish, so long as each player has an even number of packs in the pool. I recommend staying close to 90 cards for each player, as when I've Roostered with about 60 cards per player, your deck building options became extremely limited. Changing the number of cards in the pack can help you to tune the environment, as the smaller the packs get, the more control someone has over their deck's contents and it starts to get closer to something like a cube Rotisserie draft (although you won't ever have anywhere near that amount of control.)
If you're doing a Rooster draft with more than two players, the picking gets a little different, and if you've ever done a cube Rotisserie draft like fellow SCG writer Justin Parnell hosts and plays in, it's similar to that where the players at each end of the line get two picks except for the first pick in the draft. If you're new to Rotisserie drafting, check out this article on the mothership for a more visual explanation : just replace Lorwyn cards with cube packs.
I'm a fan of cube sealed but I've encountered people who haven't liked it as much because of having a lack of control over a cube sealed deck's contents, especially when using a small amount of cards like four packs of fifteen cards. While I don't find this to be the case in cube sealed, Rooster drafting mixes the sealed experience with being able to customize your deck like you can in a booster draft. In the Rooster Walkthough, you'll see a Stoneforge Mystic taken early in the draft and the player being rewarded by taking a few Swords for his deck later in the draft, like someone can easily do in a Booster draft. In a cube sealed, there are no such opportunities for customization . If you open a pool with Stoneforge Mystic and no equipment, well, them's the breaks. Rooster drafts are a nice middle ground where you cede some control to the packs that are opened, but you still retain a lot of that control, especially if you have your packs lean towards the smaller side.
Much like Winchester, Rochester and Rotisserie drafting, the open information in the draft can spur some very interesting conversations and can make for an enriching cube experience. I recently did a Winchester cube draft with Adam Styborski's pauper cube and one of my favorite parts was the open dialogue about how the packs were shaping up and what directions we could take our decks. You can also take advantage of the open information to Jedi mind trick your opponent, if you're into that sort of thing.
Rooster drafts tend to take less time than full-fledged booster drafts, although it's not as fast as doing a cube sealed deck, as there's a similar time lag that comes from opening a cube sealed pool and fully digesting the information and realizing what the directions that you can take your pool and deck. Ryan and Marshall talked about how they would Rooster draft when playing poker and I can easily see how that could happen, as Rooster drafts can be done quickly.
Rooster drafts can also reduce the disparity between picks. It can be frustrating as a cube designer to see packs with an obvious first pick, like a Mirrodin/Scars Sword or Jace, the Mind Sculptor (well, in the draft, it's probably anything but frustrating!). Due to the first player taking a pack and the second player (if you're doing a two-player Rooster draft) getting two packs, the disparity between the first and second player isn't very big (if at all) even if the 1st player gets to take an opening pack with a windmill slammingly insane card.
Rooster Draft Walkthrough
I recently did a Rooster draft with my friend Justin, manager of Ogre's Games in St. Louis (as they have a copy of my cube in the store) who, like everybody else (including 99.9% of the people reading this article) hadn't heard of Rooster drafting. After explaining the format, we made twelve packs of fifteen cards. Justin won the die roll and got first pick. The packs were as follows:
Pack 1: Mind Stone, Moldgraf Monstrosity, Azure Mage, Cloudgoat Ranger, Izzet Signet, Phantasmal Image, Krosan Tusker, Keldon Champion, Dimir Signet, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Murderous Redcap, Skinrender, Keiga, the Tide Star, Aether Adept and Sensei's Divining Top.
Pack 2: Wooded Foothills, Fyndhorn Elves, Pouncing Jaguar, Terminate, Breeding Pool, Vampire Lacerator, Spectral Procession, Savannah Lions, Keldon Vandals, Blistering Firecat, Oblivion Stone, Sword of War and Peace, Baneslayer Angel, Moat and Balance.
Pack 3: Ancestral Recall, Hero of Oxid Ridge, Regrowth, Char, Deranged Hermit, Force Spike, Soltari Trooper, Phantom Centaur, Inferno Titan, Nezumi Graverobber, Horizon Canopy, Tangle Wire, Lavaclaw Reaches, Solemn Simulacrum and Kor Sanctifiers.
Pack 4: Timetwister, Pelakka Wurm, Student of Warfare, Birds of Paradise, Decree of Justice, Sword of Fire and Ice, Yavimaya Elder, Hellspark Elemental, Grand Coliseum, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Verdant Catacombs, Thornling, Rishadan Port, Black Knight and Path to Exile.
Pack 5: Chandra, the Firebrand, Nantuko Shade, Maze of Ith, Wasteland, Karn Liberated, Gideon Jura, Desolation Angel, Mother of Runes, Trygon Predator, Treetop Village, Sword of Light and Shadow, Necromancy, Sower of Temptation, Sarkhan Vol and Vengevine.
Pack 6: Umezawa's Jitte, Lodestone Golem, Yosei, the Morning Star, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Pithing Needle, Preordain, Swords to Plowshares, Sacred Foundry, Upheaval, Koth of the Hammer, Mox Diamond, Flooded Strand, Chain Lightning, Thrun, the Last Troll and Bloodghast.
Pack 7: Mind Twist, Vampiric Tutor, Underground Sea, Exalted Angel, Wild Mongrel, Shrine of Burning Rage, Go For The Throat, Stillmoon Cavalier, Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Spellskite, Dark Confidant, Animate Dead, Stoneforge Mystic, Lightning Helix and Bayou.
Pack 8: Zo-Zu, the Punisher, Leonin Relic-Warder, Capsize, Fireblast, Mire Boa, Kor Skyfisher, Wall of Omens, Maelstrom Pulse, Bituminous Blast, Reveillark, Glen Elendra Archmage, Loam Lion, Wheel of Fortune, Electrolyze and Marsh Flats.
Pack 9: Mox Sapphire, Smokestack, Masticore, Uktabi Orangutan, Call of the Herd, Jungle Lion, Firebolt, Molten-Tail Masticore, Chainer's Edict, Sarcomancy, Watery Grave, Blade Splicer, Figure of Destiny, Chandra's Phoenix and Hearth Kami.
Pack 10: Lightning Greaves, Celestial Colonnade, Dark Ritual, Eternal Witness, Knight of Meadowgrain, Mox Jet, Prophetic Bolt, Ankh of Mishra, Wildfire, Rout, Psionic Blast, Simic Signet, Skullclamp, Kokusho and Vedalken Shackles.
Pack 11: Siege-Gang Commander, Arc Trail, Grave Titan, Lu Xun, Scholar General, Jace, Memory Adept, Pianna, Nomad Captain, Coralhelm Commander, Tarmogoyf, Imperial Seal, Worldly Tutor, Sylvan Library, Mutavault, Plateau, Mishra's Factory and Grafted Wargear.
Pack 12: Sol Ring, Bonesplitter, Wild Dogs, Skittering Skirge, Carnophage, Manic Vandal, River Boa, Staggershock, Cloistered Youth, Lightning Bolt, Qasali Pridemage, Thieving Magpie, Duress, Psychatog and Dauthi Horror.
Part of the fun of cube drafting is hearing everyone say how amazing their packs are (“I have a Dark Confidant, a Stoneforge Mystic, AND an Umezawa's Jitte in here! What do I take ? this is insane!”) and we had a similar experience when we were “cracking the packs,” particularly the one with Dark Confidant, Mind Twist, and Animate Dead.
As Justin won the die roll, he went first, and took the pack with Mind Twist. There was no power in the pack (although Mind Twist is a brutal cube card,) but a pack with Dark Confidant, Mind Twist, Animate Dead, Go For the Throat, Vampiric Tutor, and some black dual lands make up the core of a solid B/X deck. Oh, and Stoneforge Mystic + Exalted Angel too. Looks like he's Orzhov!
I then took the packs with Sol Ring and the pack with Mox Sapphire. Just as Justin threw down the gauntlet on drafting black, I was looking to draft red-based aggro, looking at the pool. I still wasn't sure on whether I wanted to draft red/green or red/black, but those first two packs kept those paths open . However, as I expected Justin to go into black, I was thinking that R/G beats would be my plan with something like Molten-Tail Masticore to top my curve.
Justin then took the pack with Umezawa's Jitte and the pack with a thousand planeswalkers (including Karn, Liberated) to solidify himself into Orzhov midrange with a lot of mid-to-late game value cards like the planeswalkers, Maze of Ith, fliers galore and a Sword of Light and Shadow.
I then decided to be greedy and take the Ancestral Recall pack and the Timetwister pick. When opening the packs, I thought that the pack with Ancestral Recall was funny as it was “red-green beats… and Ancestral ,” which seemed like a solid pick. Taking the pack with Timetwister, in retrospect, was pretty loose as I too fixated on ways to splash Ancestral Recall. I definitely should have taken the pack with Wooded Foothills, as it would have given me similarly strong red-green beaters, a sword (admittedly, an inferior one to Sword of Fire and Ice in Sword of War and Peace,), a hate-pick of Moat, and a Wooded Foothills, which in retrospect is where I wanted to be.
Justin took the Wooded Foothills pack to solidify his midrange white deck (Baneslayer AND Moat, such daggers for my burn deck!) and the pack with Lightning Greaves, which had some more solid white cards and… a Mox Jet? Going 9th pack? Wow!
I took the pack with Siege-Gang Commander, as it provided a solid curve-topper to my deck and the pack with Mind Stone. It took me some time to decide between giving Justin the Zo-Zu pack and the Mind Stone pack and, again, in retrospect, I should have taken the Zo-Zu pack as it had Fireblast and Wheel of Fortune, two cards that are all-stars in any red aggro deck. As Justin took the last pack, we were ready to build decks. I initially built a red-green (splashing blue deck) but it was inferior to a red-black (splashing blue) build that I made, as I did not too well with the R/G version since I never really drew into the burn that I needed . But I won in game 3 with the R/B deck as my “attack with cheap guys in the early game, burn him out after he stabilizes” plan came together and worked out. The decks were as follows:
1 Maze of Ith
1 Mox Diamond
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Lightning Helix
1 Animate Dead
1 Go For The Throat
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Chandra, the Firebrand
1 Gideon Jura
1 Mind Twist
1 Mother of Runes
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Wall of Omens
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Stillmoon Cavalier
1 Exalted Angel
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Mox Jet
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Marsh Flats
1 Flooded Strand
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Imperial Seal
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Sol Ring
1 Chainer's Edict
1 Tangle Wire
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Grafted Wargear
1 Figure of Destiny
1 Hearth Kami
1 Skittering Skirge
1 Hellspark Elemental
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Manic Vandal
1 Chandra's Phoenix
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Keldon Champion
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Rishadan Port
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
1 Grand Coliseum
1 Mishra's Factory
I'd have probably have tried to play Rout, Desolation Angel and Karn, Liberated in Justin's deck (over one of the Swords, Reveillark and Chandra) and I should have played some more cheap burn in my deck like Firebolt and Arc Trail, but overall, the decks turned out really well . I was pleased with how the Rooster draft experience went, as was Justin. I've been recently testing Skittering Skirge in my cube and he really impressed me in this draft; there was an awkward moment when I had to have him die to my casting Manic Vandal so that I could kill a Lightning Greaves on a Stillmoon Cavalier, but every other time he attacked in the air repeatedly for 3 and Justin had to assume that I could play around its drawback and kill it ASAP, a la Abyssal Persecutor.
I hope that this article has given you some insight on a new, fun, and flexible way to draft your cube. If you have trouble getting the four people needed to draft your cube and you've had your fill of Sealed, Winston, and Winchester, then Rooster is another way to enjoy the best draft environment ever created. Also, let me know in the comments which pack you'd take first if you were in this Rooster draft and if you like these non-“how to build a cube” style of articles.
May all of your opening packs contain Sol Rings!
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My blog, I'd Rather Be Cubing, featuring my powered & pauper cube lists: http://idratherbecubing.wordpress.com
Cube podcast that Anthony Avitollo and I co-host: The Third Power