Magic is many games. Limited and Constructed feel very different, and even various formats within those categories can vary widely. This can be intimidating, but I think it is one of the coolest parts of the game. These days I stick mainly to Constructed formats, but back in the day I only played Limited. And I’m here to show you that learning one format reinforces your skills in others.

What if I told you can use fundamentals from Limited and apply them to Constructed formats? Can drafting really make you a better Standard player? Yes it can. Let’s look at what Limited can teach us about building decks, analyzing combat situations, and using our mana efficiently.

Deck Building

Sealed and Draft offer different deck building techniques and strategies, but you can carry over tools to Constructed from both. Building sealed decks and playing tournaments can open your eyes to powerful cards and hidden gems, especially in the first few weeks after a set release. When building a sealed pool, you can see cards and interactions that normally wouldn’t cross your radar for Constructed.

When you are forced to play with cards much less powerful than constructed staples, you have to think outside the box. Getting accustomed to doing that can help you find hidden gems to play in your constructed deck. Back in Theros season, Satyr Wayfinder showed its power in Limited before people realized how well it enabled graveyard decks in Standard. Eventually it became a Standard staple. You can also find useful sideboard cards from poring over Sealed pools.

Drafting involves more active deck construction than the sit-at-home style of Constructed and even Sealed. You must be able to recognize powerful cards and construct a curve of threats with adequate support spells, and do it on the fly. This is especially true during professional drafts on Day 2 of a Grand Prix or at a Mythic Championship, where you are unable to look at your previous picks mid-pack.

You can develop two important skills during professional drafts. Learning to think on the fly is the big one. The most amount of time you have in between picks is 40 seconds, so you do not have much time to react. Second, you learn to remember your drafted cards, track the contents of your deck, and to recognize a wide variety of cards on sight. This can condition you to see strategies a bit faster in a broader sense, and to quicken your reaction times during gameplay. On top of all that, learning to quickly identifying cards that play well together will save time during Constructed playtesting and deck tuning.

Combat Analysis

Most Limited games center around combat. Unless you are on a Ryan Saxe special, you need to navigate many combat steps each game. Limited will force you to learn how to assess the board and understand where you stand in each combat situation. This training will bring rewards when you go to Constructed.

Limited games can develop into board stalls that make attacking difficult. Here is where you learn to assess a crowded board and line up potential blocks in your head. You also have to focus on the damage you face on the swingback—where you stand in the potential race. These fundamentals are the easiest to carry over to Constructed, especially in creature-based mirror matches. If anybody remembers Theros Standard, the Green Red Devotion mirror matches really favored players who know how to analyze combat scenarios. Being able to navigate those combat steps and to find openings for attacks will win you many Constructed games. The less prepared player will make more mistakes, or simply give up due to fatigue.

Combat tricks play a much larger role in Limited than Constructed. But there are some Standard (and older format) decks that do play combat tricks. Being more familiar with how to play around combat tricks in Limited will help you navigate these situations in Constructed more easily. Protective spells like Dive Down or Blossoming Defense can surprise you in combat if you aren’t attuned to them. The Green-Red Landfall deck from Battle for Zendikar Standard played Become Immense. And sometimes creatures have inherent tricks, like Bristling Hydra, that can trip up unprepared opponents. Learning how to play around those and assess potential combat scenarios with tricks included will serve you well across Constructed events.

Mana Efficiency

Mana efficiency is a key component of Limited games. You want to be able to use your mana effectively every. When you waste mana in Limited, especially over multiple turns, you tend to fall behind. Each turn is an opportunity to develop your gameplan and build to victory.

This holds true for constructed as well. If you look at a control deck in Standard that continuously holds up counterspells, being unable use those counters can cause the control player to fall behind. The opposing player might choose not to cast anything, or sequence their spells to avoid being countered. The big difference in Constructed is that you can fill your deck with cantrips or other ways to use your mana when you can’t or don’t want to develop your board. When I build Limited decks, I look for flood insurance cards so that I never waste my mana even if I do not have spells to cast. Across all formats, finding ways to maximize your mana efficiency will increase your success.

Next time you play a Limited event, try and look out for these steps. See if you can relate what you do in both formats. See how these formats also differ within these steps. If you are also only a Limited player, try to use these fundamentals to play Constructed events as well.

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Championship. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal. When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.