It’s hot in New York City, and M15 is ablaze in our current Draft League season. If you all don’t know about team draft league, check out our website, as well as fellow Hipsters writer Matt Jones’ TDL primer! It’s been a blast learning how to draft a core set. I came back to Magic just in time for M14, but I sucked at drafting that set as I was still trying to reset myself to the game. But now, with M15, I’ve got enough experience with limited to make confident decisions and draft great decks. And my teammates Justin “Nightfire Giant” Beckertt and Kadar “Get Staffed” Brock have been ideal partners for this endeavor.

We make a solid team because we each prefer different draft strategies, and these preferences create a balance that maximizes how we as a team prioritize cards; ideally we will build different decks that attack our opponents from three separate, strategic angles. I am without a doubt the aggressive drafter. I love aggressive limited strategies. Back in Theros block, I preferred white, and while never forcing it, I always felt confident when an aggressive white deck was there for me. M15 is no different. Except now, I have found myself happily forcing white decks, and to great success. Unfortunately, this success rate has been a double-edged sword; whenever forcing white I usually find it hard to lose, whereas whenever I avoid white I struggle to stay alive. Justin moves in on big plays and high amounts of removal, and Kadar prefers to slow down the game.

Overall my individual success rate in M15 limited games has been just above 50%. My team record after four weeks is 2-2, our second loss occuring on Monday night. Both losses are in part due to all of us shipping white to the opposing team. Yes, it’s been that simple. Sure, the enemy can open better than we can, but ultimately without a white drafter among us we come up short with answers to aggressive strategies. And white is very clearly the best color in the format. Triplicate Spirits and Sanctified Charge, when supported, have a power level that plays a different game than the rest of the format. It’s left me pondering over how best to go forward combating the format.

I might get some flack for this, but after giving this a lot of thought, the age old concept of BREAD has been surfacing in my mind with regards to M15 limited. It is arguable that one can actually apply the BREAD concept, with a slight revision, to pick orders for this format. If you are unfamiliar with BREAD, this was the initial established science to drafting limited back in the old days. When looking at any pack, you could break down the ‘correct’ pick like so:

B – Bomb – shit that takes over the game 

R – Removal –  blows your shit up

E – Evasion – cant touch this shit

A – Aggressive – get in under your shit

D – Dudes – stands around talking some shit

Just open the pack, and check down the line. No bombs? Go for the removal. No removal? Go for a creature with evasion. And so on. This concept held true for quite some time, definitely for as long as I played as a teenager. With modern Magic, WotC has poured enough consideration into limited formats that this concept no longer holds weight, as we can now discuss concepts like card synergies, archetypes that were greater than the sum of their parts. Take the most recent block format for example: drafting Theros rewarded synergy over raw power, period. Sure, there were bombs, and removal is always removal, but the format was elegantly devised along a synergistic through line, due to the formats core mechanics devotion and heroic, and one could take down an 8-man without much consideration for cards with a high raw power level and focusing on maximizing card synergy.

With M15, and perhaps this was also true for past core set draft formats, the concept of card synergy is weakened somewhat, archetypes are less defined, and as a result the individual power level of a card spikes up in value. And aside from convoke, the most clearly defined and readily drafted ‘archetype’, one can apply a modified version of BREAD to evaluating pick orders. Let’s call it SPREAD!

S – Synergy – convoke, graveyard, artifacts matter, ‘gold’ creatures

P – Power – souls, planeswalkers, Scuttling Doom Engine

R – Removal – Cone of Flame, Pillar of Light, Into the Void, Flesh to Dust, Lightning Strike

E – Efficiency – Geist of the Moors, Krenko’s Enforcer, Netcaster SpiderSign in BloodCoral Barrier

A – Aggressive – little dude-bros

D – Dudes – just your average bros

When looking at any pack of M15, I argue you can apply this checklist to evaluate what card is best suited for your deck, with consideration for your overall mana curve. Do I believe this to be the science to drafting M15? Certainly not, but it’s a viable strategy, and utterly defensible conceptually. To further break some of this down:

1. Synergy versus Raw Power – These two are always in contest with each other when confronted with both in the same pack. The further into the draft you are, the more readily you can prioritize the need for one or the other. Either your deck wants the card that further solidifies your gameplan, or the card is so powerful it threatens to warp the game around itself when resolved on the battlefield. Or, you open Soul of Theros. In most cases, these are the most valuable cards in your deck. Synergy will help guide your draft towards supporting the interactions inherent in the cards abilities or keywords, as in Triplicate Spirits. Raw Power will give your deck the punch it might need to stabilize the game, or finish it.

2. Different Qualities of Removal – These are your suite of interactive cards. Aside from the obvious strengths of Lightning Strike and Flesh to Dust, cards like Into the Void provide strong tempo plays that also count as removal.

3. Evaluating Efficiency – I exemplified some of the efficient threats, card advantage engines, and defensive creatures, all bundled into one category. By the time you are considering efficiency you should have an idea of what your deck is aiming to do, i.e., be aggressive, defensive, etc, and prioritize your picks according to that gameplan. As Marshall Sutcliffe once so beautifully put it on Limited Resources, each draft pick is akin to further realizing a painting. These are the meat of your deck.

4. Aggro dudes and filler dudes – Early drops are important for curve considerations, whereas average bros are there to fill in the space, and should be able to attack and block well enough to warrant inclusion in your 23.

That’s about it. Try it and tell me if i’m at all correct on this one. But if you don’t agree, i’d love to hear your feedback! I’m still wrapping my head around the differences in drafting Core Set versus drafting a block format. Also, if you haven’t looked at it yet, Hipsters writer Brendan McNamara, an excellent defensive drafter, has a fantastic primer on how to combat the aggressive strategies in M15 limited!

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to Tourach. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him atderek.gallen@gmail.com.

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