This past weekend, my local game store decided to try something different. Normally, drafts in New York City are Swiss, have two prizes packs per person, and cost $15-$17. Twenty Sided ran $12 Single Elimination drafts with one prize pack per person and fired drafts all day long. I loved this decision and would love to see more of it, particularly the weekend a set releases. It provides ample opportunity to repeatedly draft the new set, learn its intricacies, and experiment. Also, it lets us cheaply and repeatedly draft, which is awesome.

Plus, you can use prize packs to pay for drafts. So, if you go 2-0, you can split the finals and draft for $3 (or win the finals and draft for free). Well, this past Sunday was a very good day for yours truly; I drafted four times, tried out three completely different decks, and didn’t lose a match. Here’s what I drafted and what I learned:

Draft 1

Deck #1: WB Allies

WB seems like an easy and powerful deck. Cohort is a strong, grindy mechanic (which is good with the board stalls you can easily create with all your 1/4s). Vampire Envoy is nuts and one of the best commons in the set, except for Oblivion Strike. Oh, and you’ve got access to Oblivion Strike, which could quite easily be the best common in Oath of the Gatewatch.
Draft 2

Deck #2: GU Stuff

This deck did nothing exciting but worked well. It curved out, it cast Nissa’s Judgment, and it won. The big takeaway from this deck is that blue seems weaker in Oath, and therefore more likely to be open in the third pack. If your deck is wanting for some power, you stand a decent chance to get passed a Clutch of Currents or Eldrazi Skyspawner in Battle for the Zendikar.

Draft 3

Deck #3: RWubc Cohort Bombs

This was undeniably the most fun deck of the day. This was a control deck that had plenty of angles of victory. The mana was surprisingly consistent and the top end was difficult for other decks to top. I don’t expect folks to open and get passed cards this good often, but it’s worth noting that there’s enough fixing to support greedy multicolor decks like this (so long as you prioritize fixing and stall the board). It’s also worth noting that this has a heavy ally component, even if that’s not how the deck was winning most of the time.
Draft 4

Deck #4: WB Lifegain/Allies

While this deck is full of allies, it cares far more about gaining life than having allies. It has two creatures with Rally, zero creatures with support, and one more Allies-matter card in General Tazri. The WB lifegain theme from Battle for Zendikar has finally found the two enablers it’s been waiting for: Ondu War Cleric and the far superior Vampire Envoy. Change your BfZ card evaluations accordingly.

First Response

I’m still mulling over my thoughts from the first weekend. I feel that there’s much more to explore, particularly base blue and base red decks. While I don’t have any sweeping conclusions about the format, I do have a bunch of first impressions to share.

  • WB is really good. I expect that this will self-correct and WB will soon be overdrafted. That said, White-Black has a variety of angles of attack, between lifegain, Cohort, and aggro, so I think a pod can support 2.5 drafters in the color combination without all of their decks being horrible.
  • Anticipate got better. It’s a cheap spell for Surge, it smoothes your mana, and it helps you find your colorless sources (which are effectively a third color). This format pushes blue decks to want both a second color and colorless mana, so smoothing should be welcome in most blue decks.
  • Green is better. Netcaster Spider and Tajuru Pathwarden may not be complicated cards, but they’re surprisingly strong. Plus, green no longer has bad Converge cards to clunk up its draws and its creatures match up favorably against Oath’s substantially smaller Eldrazi.
  • Ingest and Processors are a lot worse. There’s not a lot of exiling in Oath, so Ruin Processor is worse and Mist Intruder may not be playable in most decks. Also, with so little awaken, Halimar Tidecaller has far fewer cards to recur.
  • Colorless should be treated like a splash color most of the time. Some people think that two colorless sources is enough for Warping Wail or Endbringer. They are wrong; they need a third source (at least). Some people think that four Wastes aren’t too taxing on their seventeen land manabase to turn on Stalking Drone. They are wrong; they’re conceding too much of their mana base to a splash. I suspect that this is still an eighteen land format, and most tricolor decks (which a two color deck with a colorless splash effectively is) want eighteen lands.
  • Unknown Shores and Holdout Settlement are decent. They’re ideal lands for splashing a colorless mana card or getting your colorless activation. They allow you to splash strong cards, particularly that Clutch of Currents you may get passed in pack three. You can even use Holdout Settlement to gain a life with Vampire Envoy (seriously, I love that card. It comboes with everything).
  • Surge is awkward. I don’t deny that cost reduction mechanics are very good. Getting a 3/3 flying for 2U or a 3/2 menace for 1R is an amazing deal. The problem is turning surge on without messing up your curve or playing suboptimal cards. I quite like Anticipate as a playable card that’s essentially free when you surge off it, as well as Hedron Crawler to accelerate you into your surge spells. Bone Saw, however, is not a playable magic card, even if it is essentially adding 2 or 4 to your mana pool.
  • The equipment subtheme doesn’t work. The equipment in Oath ranges from fairly weak to unplayable, same as the equipment in BfZ. I suspect that this theme is there for Constructed; in Limited, I consider it to be even more of a trap than Converge was in BfZ.
  • Reality Hemorrhage isn’t insane. Oath is full of 2/3s and larger creatures, none of which die to a two mana Shock. I think you still run multiple copies, but perhaps it shouldn’t be a super high pick and perhaps you should side some or all out in some matchups.

That’s about all I took away from this weekend, other than that Magic is fun, winning is fun, and playing with skilled friends is most fun of all. Hopefully this information is of use and perhaps has some truth to it. Please feel free to share your comments below. And, as always, thanks for reading.

—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, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.