This week I will share with you the fundamental rule of Magic Origins draft. I’ve been playing the format constantly for the last week to prepare for a sealed PPTQ this weekend and Grand Prix Detroit next weekend. And the games really come down to one thing: whoever casts more spells will win.

I will acknowledge that this is a good guideline for Magic in general. Assuming you have decent spells in your deck, playing more of them than your opponent does usually translates into victory. Unless they can negate your path to victory with situationally powerful cards, which is especially rare in limited, you will win by casting more spells. But this is especially true in Magic Origins draft, to the point that you should direct your strategy from pick one toward casting as many spells as possible.

You have to fill your deck with playable cards, but that’s the only limitation on the theory. Obviously if your deck is 15 Swamp and 25 Touch of Moonglove, being able to cast ten of them won’t get you anywhere even if we ignore the fact it can only target your own creatures. But nobody is doing that. As long as you don’t jam your decks full of unplayably bad cards, this limitation is irrelevant.


Here’s why the rule works so well in Magic Origins. Most of the spells are mediocre. The average power level is much lower than it has been since the last core set. Khans of Tarkir block was overflowing with powerful cards. You’d cut cards in Khans or Dragons that would be above average in a Magic Origins draft deck. Even the strong rares in Origins pale in comparison to the bombs of the past year.

The consequence of low power level is that most cards are interchangeable, and they mostly trade one for one. That means every game is a war of attrition. Having better cards than your opponent helps, but unless you get really lucky in the draft or read the signals so well that you manuever into a very open archetype, you aren’t going to have a significantly stronger average power level than your opponent. And thus, you want to trade one for one as much as possible and cast more spells to come out ahead.

How do you ensure you play the most spells? You need the mana to cast them. So what are the ways to ensure you have enough mana to cast your spells? Either play more lands, thus ensuring you hit all your lands drops; or play cheaper spells, thus ensuring that you can cast them even if you are short on lands. You could theoretically do both, but the more cheap spells you have the less you need extra lands, meaning that the benefits of each tactic diminish when you do both.

Mana Severance

Playing 18 lands does not help much in Magic Origins. The format is faster than most, and it lacks powerful mana sinks. Unlike either Khans of Tarkir or Theros, there are no mechanics that allow you to spend extra mana to upgrade cheap creatures. Both morph and monstrosity demanded and rewarded excess mana. Origins has nothing anywhere close. Renowned upgrades creatures, but it doesn’t use mana. An extra land also means you have one less spell in your deck. Flooding on mana is a surefire way to cast fewer spells.

And so we need to play cheaper spells. That’s probably not surprising if you’ve played the format very much. Everyone sings the praises of two drops, and there are even some good one drops like the obvious Anointer of Champions and the not-so-obvious Bonded Construct.  Yes, two drops are great, and the best two drops are very valuable. Topan Freeblade and Leaf Gilder are high picks, but Cleric of the Forward Order and Fetid Imp are also very strong. Even Mage-Ring Bully is better than it would be in most sets.

Most cards trade off, so you want to be trading with the cheaper card. Skyraker Giant is great, but it still trades with a renowned Topan Freeblade. Or it trades with Enshrouding Mist, which is even worse. This ties into the concept of tempo, which basically measures how efficiently you can leverage your mana. Over a long game, differences of a couple mana become irrelevant. If the game only lasts five turns, however, neither player can spend more than 15 mana without devoting some of that mana to generating more. And if every spell you cast costs two mana, you are going to play more spells than your opponent who plays three and four drops.


Yes, there are some amazing expensive cards. Most of them are worse than they look, though. You can only afford to spend six mana on one spell in Magic Origins if that card is better than two average cards. Sentinel of the Eternal Watch fits the bill, but most expensive spells don’t. During the draft, you should almost always lean toward picking the cheaper card.

That doesn’t mean you need to build an all-in aggressive deck. Just make sure you have a critical mass of cheap spells that can trade. I’ve sung the praises of Maritime Guard already, but it fits the bill because it usually trades with a pump spell or joins in on a good double-block. Take all the reasonable two and three drops, pick the good ones highly, and be very picky about any spell that costs more than four mana.

Try it out and let me know what you think. Cast more spells. Do what you can to make it harder for your opponent to cast more spells. (Usually that means applying pressure such that they have to react inefficiently.) Make all your spells trade with theirs. Come out slightly ahead. Profit.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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