Born of the Gods draft is now fully in swing, released both in paper and online, and I’ve had my first few chances to draft with the set. Over the past week I’ve done eight BNG/THS/THS drafts, thrice in real life and five times online. Here’s what I’ve learned:

I suck at Born of the Gods draft.

Well, that may be overstating the case. Online I’ve collectively gone 7-4, but IRL I’ve put up a miserable 2-5, going 2-1 at Friday Night Magic and a horribly sucky double 0-2 in Team Draft League. What the hell is going wrong?

At FNM I drafted a Valentine’s Day RW special, featuring three-count-‘em-three copies of Loyal Pegasus, all of which came around really late in pack one; I didn’t spend high picks on them. I had a pretty aggressive deck, but lost to Hugh in the first round. When I asked him what he thought of the Pegasi, he, in his inimitable punster way, said, “That card is garbo.”

Hugh.

Hugh.

He might be right. Either it’s amazing or it does stone nothing. But after I lost in three games to Hugh, the first two of which were really weird (he mulled to five G1, I mulled to five and won G2), we played another set and I won handily. “Do I get to count that in my person win/loss stats?” I asked him jokingly. “Whatever gets you through the night,” Hugh said. (He didn’t say that.)

I did win my next matches, against Alex J. and Matt C., nice guys both; Alex’s deck was an BG build splashing blue for Agent of Horizons, and I forget what Matt was on—he said himself, though, that it wasn’t the best deck he’s ever drafted. “Every time I get on Hipsters I have the worst deck,” he lamented. No worries, dude! Me and you both are drafting piles, evidently.

Alex (and Hugh).

Alex (and Hugh).

Matt. Your deck wasn't so bad, man!

Matt. Your deck wasn’t so bad, man!

On Sunday and Monday my Team Draft League crew had back-to-back matches, against the Abeysitters on Sunday and Jung Gunz on Monday. Here is where the wheels really come off.

In pack one pick one of the first draft I open up a pack containing Asphyxiate, Eater of Hope, and Bolt of Keranos. Now, I know full well that Eater of Hope isn’t the bombiest bomb that’s ever bombed, but it is a dragon that, if you untap with it, is nigh-unbeatable; and, given that I didn’t want to ship him to good player Abe, to my left (“hate drafting,” as it’s known, is more of a concern in team draft), I took it.

Then some blue started flowing—Retraction Helix, Divination—and I chose not to read those signals, but rather to start down an Orzhov path. I don’t know about you guys, but oftentimes when I am getting shipped a good color that I am not in already, I wait until it is too late (or so I think) to jump—and then I think, “Well, *now* I certainly can’t go into X color; I just shipped two good cards while I was deciding whether or not I was getting a signal!”

Which of course is stupid. Sure, I might have inadvertantly put the player to *my* left in X color, but who cares! He or she is only going to be passing me one pack, whereas theoretically the blue I was being shipped in pack one will pick up right where it left off in pack three.

I ended up with a weakish deck with some definite power at the top end, in the form of Eater of Hope and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. In R1 I had Dylan’s GB hordes on the ropes in G3, with Elspeth out on the table and threatening to go ultimate the following turn—until Dylan bestowed Cavern Lampad onto his already-huge Centaur Battlemaster and swung in for 14 points of unblockable intimidate damage. What good are you to me now, seven Elspeth soldier tokens!

Then Jon Pena smashed me and it was all over, as my team got swept in R1.

So what happened on Monday? I went back to Dave’s place and did the same damn thing, but worst: draft a weak-as-shit BW deck with basically no win cons other than a singleton Scholar of Atheros.

What the hell happened!? This draft I am less sure. I opened and first-picked an Archetype of Courage, which I knew from drafting over the weekend online could be really strong. Then Zach Barash, of “Drawing Live” fame, shipped me an Ephara’s Enlightenment and I thought, hey, sweet: UW heroic. I know how to do this.

But then the blue dried up—and so did the white, really. What *was* coming around was black, and I picked up on these signals and ended pack one with a pair of Asphyxiates, a Nyxborn Eidolon or two, and some other dece black cards.

Pack two was a train wreck, though. Nothing at all seemed open, and saw nary a Wingsteed Rider (or any other good white heroic creature, for that matter)! I did get a Tormented Hero and a Scholar and a Hopeful Eidolon, but holy shit if I didn’t end pack one with exactly six creatures. I know—it’s shameful. I had all the tricks, but no support.

Also it killed me in pack two pick one when I was forced (or so I thought) to take Thassa, God of the Sea, over Keepsake Gorgon. I had an idea that Zach, to my right, might be in blue, as I had seen so few blue cards in pack one; and I just didn’t feel like I could pass that card to a strong player on the opposing team. So I shipped the Keepsake, which thankfully made it to my teammate Brendan, yet I had a worse deck because of it.

Long story short, my team got swept again, 0-5. My deck was the literal pits. But I really don’t know what else I could have done.

In my car later, giving Brendan a ride home, we talked through the draft. Where did it all go wrong? What am I doing wrong in Born of the Gods?

For the previous day’s draft, I knew I had done it to myself by ignoring strong blue signals. But honestly in the second draft I just couldn’t identify what I had done wrong, other than just straight-up missing something; I saw black was open; I took black cards; but all the good black cards were clumped up into single packs; I never saw any Wingsteed Riders or Phalanx Leaders in pack two (I honestly just don’t think they were opened in that round of Theros packs); and Zach (who turned out to be in RW) just scooped ‘em all up in pack three, in addition to what seemed like nine million Dragon’s Mantles and God’s Willings (I even got two God’s Willings in pack two, so I do think that white was open to my left—the cards just weren’t there).

And team draft is a weird animal; there are six fewer packs of cards opened, and hate drafting is much more of a thing. The former is probably far more important than the latter, as you are far more unlikely to see multiples of key commons like Wingsteed Rider or Lightning Strike.

What’s the answer? BMac (Brendan, from “None Shall Pass Bombs”) seems to think the strategy might be to stay in entirely one color in Born of the Gods, and figure out your second color in the Theros packs. Born of the Gods itself is weird, though; I feel like there are far fewer objectively strong cards, which makes signals muddier and forces you to draft a synergistic deck rather than just a pile of good cards.

But, I was doing that on Theros—what changed!? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just new at the format, which totally makes sense. Draftin’ ain’t easy, especially when you are playing against really good players, which is true of everyone in Team Draft League. It always take me a while to get my feet under me in a new format, at least in draft (I’m usually much better in sealed, even right from the get-go).

As I said to Brendan and Dave on Monday evening, though, I really don’t want to beat ourselves up too much over the 0-2 (soon to become 0-3, following this conversation) skid that we started out on. After all, as I have mentioned to the dudes, at the inaugural Player’s Invitational (or whatever the hell they call it) a year or two ago, Reid Duke finished the day at like 0-8. Reid Fucking Duke! I mean, somebody’s gotta lose, right? And when the tournament is composed entirely of good players, well, some good players are going to get the shit beat out of them.

So you gotta take your lumps and losses with a grain of salt, stay positive, and try to learn from your mistakes. As I said to Brendan, who is coming with me to Grand Prix Montreal in mid-March, as he left my car on Monday night, “It’s all good, man; we’re just getting our losses out of the way before the GP.” And, hey—if taking a couple back-to-back beatings is what it takes to help me do well on the bigger stage of the Grand Prix, I’m happy to have those beatings. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or, well, it maims you. There is that.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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