Thursday, July 30, 2009

Magi's Guide to Repack Drafting

Repack Drafting originally finds it's inspiration from a conversation years ago. The topic was Final Exams at great schools of Wizardry, like Urza's own Tolarian Academy. The idea was that students would have participated in a draft exam with spells from through out the known multiverse. It also turns out that this offers a wonderful budget alternative to the drafting concept. The cost of a repack draft ends up being roughly the same cost as a new pack of retail product, but nets you a drafted collection of 45 cards.

Now because of these two factors, this draft environment becomes completely different than what most mages are used to. First off, Rare Drafting as a concept is out. Secondly, block drafting strategies are out the window too. There simply is not enough valuable cards, or single block cards to make either of these a viable option.

Beyond that, most of your general draft strategies will still apply. You want to keep most of your drafting to two colors. Draft decks of 3+ colors will require dedicated fixing in order to function consistently. Dedicated fixing can be hard to find in this format, since the majority of Magic's history has not focused on such things. Aligned colors will be easier to play, as they combine concepts more readily, and are supported by more cards in Magic's history. Enemy pairs will produce more powerful decks when constructed properly, but have seen fewer sets supporting these combinations thus far in Magic's history.

A number of old concepts will raise their heads in events like these. Banding actually becomes a playable ability, allowing it's controller to make very favorable blocks. Since this format is often ruled by small creatures, banding on a creature larger then 1/1, can be a real power piece in combat mathematics.

My personal MVP for the month of April (the last major repack month) was Wall of Spears. It's colorless casting cost makes this an ideal early pick, allowing the drafter time to read the color signals coming around. The combination of first strike, power of 2 and a relevant toughness of 3, make this a power house card that will hold the red zone amazingly well.

Now this brings up an interesting regarding repack drafts. Often cards are printed at different commonalty levels at different points in time. Wall of Spears has had five printing, 3 at common, and 2 at uncommon, so it is readily available, but how should it appear in packs? Most of the time cards will appear at the highest commonality for which they were printed. Wall of Spears for instance has so much impact as a common, that it truly warps the envirnment. One draft event in April featured a deck with two copies of Wall of Spears as a common, basicly giving it sure victory in any ground war. The deck only lost two games in the three round event. One loss was to a deck full of dedicated flyers, and the other was a loss to sideboarded in dedicated artifact removal.

The M10 rules revision have made deathtouch a far more relivant ability for creatures. Only 11 common creatures exist to date with deathtouch, and three additional non-creature commons make use of the key word. This will become more relevant to the format, as more creatures are printed with the ability.

This format like any other drafting format, is ruled by commons, and it's important to recognize a "bomb" common when it comes around. For instance did you know the two thirds of all the common creatures printed in magic have a power and or toughness of 2 or less. Yes really, 2/3rds! What this means is that a creature with a power and or toughness of 3 or more is a bomb in this format. So now the question is what colors will bring you more large creatures on average? The answer is not a surprise, Green.

Green currently sports 199+ creatures with toughness of 3 or more, and 170 with power of 3 or greater, and 25 of those have trample! After that comes (in order) Black, White, Red and Blue. It's also important to remember that one in three blue common creatures feature an evasive ability. This format is ruled by good common creatures, simply because good removal is so scarce.

Creatures with firststrike and a power of 2 also need to be given additional consideration, as they kill roughly 65% of all common creatures in the game. This point is well illustrated again by Wall of Spears. A force like that will not be denied in this format, and most be dealt with either by some form of limited removal, or multiple block situations. Many of these will leed to card advantage for you. There have only been arounf 50 creatures to sport this combination of attributes. All of them sould be considered carefully as a pick. Anaaba Bodyguard in particular is one to be on the look out for. It has been printed at common 3 times, one of which was in Homelands (arguably the most overprinted set inthe history of Magic). Since it has never been printed at any higher commonality, and may be one of the most printed commons in history, you are almost certain it will pop up in nearly any repack draft event. Be sure before you pass it, as it may be worth going/splashing red even late in the picking process.

The ability to interact with your opponent, or their board position, is the next important consideration in drafting. There is very little good removal to be found, and what there is most often is found in red and black. Artifact and Enchantment removal are pretty easy to come by, but tend to be less relevant. This makes artifact creatures a bit of a gamble, but some can be well worth it, like with Wall of Spears detailed above. My next article on repack drafting will focus on interactive cards, and other factors for consideration.

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