From the beginning, War of the Spark struck me as a draft format that would be better suited for casual drafting than competitive grinding. Years of story machinations and armies of planeswalkers put huge demands on the design team, and it was natural that Limited would have to take a back seat. There’s nothing wrong with that—massive planeswalker wars don’t come around too often, hopefully. But I did not see much point in going deep to learn the secrets of the draft format.

Fortunately I have a good draft group in town, and we get together regularly to crack packs. Our War of the Spark drafts have been tons of fun. We might get through ten before moving on, depending on how eager we are to draft Modern Horizons. The regulars all know what they’re doing, and we redraft the rares, so these aren’t exactly casual matches of Magic. But the stakes are low enough that it doesn’t really matter if you finish 1-2. That encourages plenty of nonsense and experimentation, but also some amazing decks.

I’ve ended up drafting a blue deck every time so far. That fits my general draft profile, but there are so many powerful blue cards in War of the Spark. I feel obligated to take them. Here is my favorite draft deck from the format—and maybe ever—a comfortable 3-0 if I’ve ever seen one.

Amass in B Minor

Creatures (8)
Eternal Taskmaster
Lazotep Reaver
Erratic Visionary
Vraska’s Finisher
Shriekdiver
Spark Double
Herald of the Dreadhorde
Eternal Skylord

Spells (15)
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Dreadhorde Invasion
Callous Dismissal
Toll of the Invasion
Relentless Advance
Spark Harvest
Ob Nixlis’s Cruelty
Sorin’s Thirst
Jace’s Triumph
Aid the Fallen
Lands (17)
Swamp
Island

Sideboard (19)
Saheeli’s Silverwing
Sky Theater Strix
Shriekdiver
Banehound
Duskmantle Operative
Ashiok’s Skulker
Tithebearer Giant
Totally Lost
Tamiyo’s Epiphany
Bond of Insight
Crush Dissent
Elite Guardmage
Chandra’s Pyrohelix
Demolish
Steady Aim
Gideon’s Sacrifice

Obviously I was lucky opening packs, and lucky that folks didn’t want Callous Dismissal as much as I did. But this deck was an absurd joy to play. Aid the Fallen might not be the best in a deck with so few creature cards, but it didn’t really matter. I did get to bring back Liliana after my opponent two-for-oned themself to get her off the board, so that was nice. Spark Double was in a similarly awkward spot, but copying a Shriekdiver with haste and +1/+1 doesn’t suck.

Amass is the real star of the deck however, and my favorite mechanic in the set. Cards like Callous Dismissal and Toll of the Invasion get much better with Amass 1 tacked on. Lazotep Reaver gets the ball rolling perfectly. Relentless Advance doesn’t seem too popular, but I like it quite a bit. Blue spells that make tokens tend to overperform, and you always want to make your Army bigger.

Every time I play Eternal Skylord, my opponent either slumps their shoulders—or they pick it up, read it, and then slump their shoulders. By itself the card offers massive value. In a deck with reasonable amounts of amass, it’s Cloudgoat Ranger with haste. I know there are many extremely powerful cards in War of the Spark. Maybe don’t pass Eternal Skylord, though.

The expected glut of planeswalkers has been pleasantly uncrowded, at least in my experience. Each draft has roughly twenty-four walkers in the card pool, but enough are clunkers or end up in decks that can’t cast them. The end result, at least within a single draft pod, is a couple per deck with a few decks packing more. Liliana, Dreadhorde General is obviously absurd, as are Ugin, the Ineffable and a few others among the rares and mythics. Those don’t show up too often within a single paper pod, thankfully; and the uncommon masses warp the format much less than expected.

Honestly, I think I prefer uncommon planeswalkers with static abilities over enchantments in draft. Cards like Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor and Angrath, Captain of Chaos wreak havoc much like other powerful noncreature permanents; but every deck can get rid of them simply by attacking. No more needing to sideboard in some plains to cast Expose to Daylight in your Dimir or Rakdos deck. You can answer these walkers with the strategy you already employ to win. I might change my tune if these uncommon walkers became an evergreen fixture of Limited formats, but for now they feel refreshing.

This format also sparked one of my favorite debates: do you want to be on the draw? I can see the argument in War of the Spark draft: games are slow and grindy, you rarely get run over, removal is plentiful and efficient, and you dig an extra card deeper for your bombs. But planeswalker-heavy formats demand board presence—you have to be able to attack quickly and regularly, even if you aren’t an aggressive deck. (Shout out to Shriekdiver and Sky Theater Strix for doing good work in this regard.) Plus, the planeswalkers and other powerful cards provide so much virtual card advantage that being up one card means less. I’ve gladly chosen to be on the play throughout my War of the Spark drafts, and it has served me well.

For years I lived and died by the depth of the current draft environment. Visits to Zendikar and Ixalan were tougher to manage than our stops on Ravnica, Amonkhet, and Innistrad. But now that there’s basically no reason to play competitive Limited anymore, I can sit back and enjoy the over-the-top fun in War of the Spark drafts every week with my friends. We draft fanatics can enjoy the back seat from time to time.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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