Ned Flanders: “Well, I guess this is a case where we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Principal Skinner: “I don’t agree to that.”

One particularly interesting facet of this Dragons of Tarkir draft format is that nobody can seem to agree on what colors or archetypes are best. After the Pro Tour a few high-profile pick orders were published, most notably Huey Jensen’s and Frank Karsten’s, both on ChannelFireball. I highly recommend checking out both. (It’s worth noting that StarCityGames lately seems to be turning almost totally away from Limited content, which bums me out; CFB, on the other hand, seems to be stepping it up in the 40-card department.)

Huey said that The Pantheon’s picks for best colors, in order, was as follows:

1. Black
2. Red (This was more like 1a, we thought black and red were very close)
3. Blue
4. White
5. Green (Distant 5)

And Karsten’s:

1. Black
2. Red
3. Green
4. Blue
5. White

OK, so there’s some agreement there, at the top at least. But the wildly different valuation of green—a “distant 5” in one list, and third in another—gives me pause.

Meanwhile, over at Limited Resources, recently LSV and Marshall were singing the praises of UB, basically declaring it the best deck by a mile. (LSV also noted that Team Channel Fireball didn’t do so hot in the Limited portion of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, so perhaps take that with a grain of salt.)

Karsten agrees with LSV to some extent, calling UB “the archetype with the most potential power,” but he also acknowledges that you have to take exploit cards very highly. If you don’t—or if the right cards just don’t happen to be in the draft, or you are competing with someone else for them—your deck’s going to be crap. I fell into this trap recently at a Team Draft League match, drafting one half of a great UB exploit deck (the blue half, which is arguably the gas to black’s engine, and thus not so great if it’s not fueling anything).

I talked about this with my Team Draft League captain, Anthony L. He had some great perspective. Now, neither one of us is on the level with Huey, Karsten, or LSV, of course, but we’re both decent players, and I think our experience counts for something. Anthony said (emphasis mine):

“This draft format has been tougher for me to crack than Khans and Fate, not as much success online at least. Exploit feels like mono black in Avacyn, if its open, it’s great, but if you’re fighting for the good cards, it’s really rough. None of their cards are that powerful by themselves and don’t help you win the game outright (e.g. even Sidisi, Undead Vizier needs to search up a win condition), it’s just about grinding more advantage. I feel like green is the best color, followed by red and white. Synergy is more important than power level versus the past two formats (when taking the highest card quality in your color was generally right). One example, the 2/4 green creature for 3 is significantly above rate, but is not very good, while the 4/1 that helps get formidable is quite good.”

Green is the best! And, as faithful readers know, I’ve been having my best success in the format with green, specifically green-white, which I know I’ve seen people (I forget where, but I think the Limited Resources sub-reddit) call straight-up “unplayable.” For real? I know this is sealed, but fellow Hipster Brendan “BMac” McNamara commented on my article last week, saying, “Green-White has been a popular choice at the top tables of sealed PPTQs I’ve played in this format.”

What’s going on here? Honestly I’m not sure, but this format seems to be the most in recent memory that people can’t seem to come to a consensus on, or wherein people value certain colors and color pairs wildly differently. Does this mean the format is very well-balanced? Are me and Anthony wrong? Is there even a “wrong,” or is draft such an inherently self-regulating animal that everyone can be right, depending on the draft? For instance, Dimir in Gatecrash was widely accepted to be the worst guild—but because of that, you could frequently assemble some utterly bonkah Dimir decks, because nine times out of 10, if you were drafting Dimir, you were the only one at the table doing so. (Oh, the sweet, sweet feeling of wheeling a Dinrova Horror.)

Of course all we can do is keep playing, and see where things settle. I’m also really looking forward to Matthew Watkins’ upcoming (I hope) Dragons of Tarkir draft analysis to put some hard data behind these suppostions. If you’re unfamiliar with Matt and his work under the column Ars Arcanum, for each draft format he watches about a billion online drafts, and records which colors and color pairs are the winningest, as well as other germane format data like speed (based on the average turn on which games end) and so on. Check out his Fate Reforged draft analysis to whet your appetite.

I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions on Dragons’ best colors and archetypes, too, so make with the comments—and with a quickness! I’ve got a Team Draft League match to win tonight and, hopefully, a PPTQ Top 8 draft to spike tomorrow.

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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