It’s no secret that I love Limited in all its forms. No format is as unpredictable or odd as one of my all-time favorites: Chaos Draft.

In the Eye of Chaos

Chaos draft has many forms, but the simplest (yet wackiest) is as follows: reach into a bag, bucket, or hat (basically, anything that hides its contents) containing packs from all across Magic’s long history. The three packs that you remove are what you’ll draft (in whatever order you see fit). Everyone at the table does this, and hopefully by the end you’ll have as many different expansions as possible. Then you draft as usual.

“But Zach,” one might ask, “why spend an entire article on Chaos? Sure, it’s fun, but where’s the strategy?” Happy to oblige.

Hostile Realm

In the world of Chaos, pick orders shift dramatically. Bombs and normally high picks become traps: Arcbound Ravager, Favored Hoplite, and Megantic Sliver are unlikely to find the artifacts, ordeals, and slivers that they need and become much weaker.

Some synergies appear that might never have existed: ever used Sage of Fables (one of my personal favorites in Chaos) to draw cards with Juniper Order Ranger or Wingcrafter? How about using Daru Stinger in concert with Elder Cathar or getting Baleful Eidolon back with Crawling Filth? This is one of the most unique elements of Chaos Draft and arguably its most fun.

Back to Basics

Chaos draft rewards good fundamentals above all else. There aren’t many synergies (and those that exist may not be obvious), so dragons (really any giant flying monsters or game-ending creatures like Plated Slagwurm), powerful removal spells, and card advantage are most important. Remember your B.R.E.A.D. …well, remember your B.R.E.: Bombs, Removal, and Evasion are important. A and D often stand for different things; Archetypes generally don’t exist and without them there’s little one needs to Defensively pick.

Games tend towards board stalls (due to the lack of inherent synergies between cards), so cards that force through board stalls or create them become better. Azure Drake is fairly perfect in this regard, since it both blocks well and is an evasive attacker. Equipment, even otherwise weak equipment like Greatsword or Bladed Bracers become much better since they’re a form of card advantage that (thanks to the aforementioned board stalls) you’ll have plenty of time and mana to use. Mana sinks like Ill-Tempered Cyclops or Hired Torturer, recurring effects like Ivy Lane Denizen and Academy Raider, and even cards like Millstone or Goblin Fireslinger can be win conditions given how long games can go.

One can also anticipate board stalls and craft powerful beatdown decks. Every set is guaranteed to have a Goblin Piker or Grizzly Bears. Every set has combat tricks or burn, most have a Falter or Threaten variant, and all have auras. Every set has flying creatures and a counterspell if you prefer tempo/aggro control or common giant monsters if you’re a beatdown player. Get enough of these, keep your curve low, and you’ll be smashing opponents who came to a race with grindy cards like Jayemdae Tome.

Journey of Discovery

Chaos has something for everyone. For Timmy, it’s the most unpredictable Limited format, one which will never be the same twice. For Johnny, card combinations which may have never before been done become possible. For Spike (who might scoff at such a casual format), there’s the ability to demonstrate Limited expertise, playing skill, and card knowledge when devoid of defined pick orders, predetermined synergies, or preparation. It’s not the easiest event to find and hosting a great draft requires investing in a lot of packs, but I strongly recommend it. Even if you can’t go all the way back to Ice Age or Invasion, you can still draft from Standard (where you can Drown in Filth into March of the Returned or have Dramatic Rescue in a WU heroic/skies deck).

Normally, I’d post a Chaos decklist here, but since at the time of writing I have yet to draft (though by the time this is posted, I will have), that’ll have to wait until another time. As always, thanks for reading, and may the Chaos be with you!

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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