In Magic the Gathering “Limited” is a format that is played in either booster draft or sealed. In booster draft eight players sit around a table, open up three booster packs each one after the other and then pick their cards as they pass between choices. In sealed players open up six booster packs and then build a deck out of those cards. Limited offers a different style of play than other formats. It’s often slower and very creature dependent and you’ll be playing with a smaller 40 card deck as opposed to the usual 60 card deck in constructed Magic. It’s a good starting point for players getting into Magic because you get to keep all of the cards you open; these cards can be traded for other cards or used to build standard decks.
Limited is the format that brought me back into Magic. I’m of the opinion that you never truly quit Magic, you just take breaks until something brings you back in. Booster drafting was the siren’s song that led my ship straight into the rocks. There’s something exciting about the way drafting works. In formats like Modern and Standard the players share a card pool that everyone has access to. In drafting the players all share a card pool but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see all of it. You’ll be sitting around a table with seven other players who will be trying to build a better deck than you and everyone else around them.
The goal of these articles is to give you the knowledge to make sure your Limited deck is the best deck at that table. There’s a lot to touch on to get there, but I’m hoping that each week you come away from one of these with some new information that you didn’t have before.
The basic rule for drafting is BREAD. This isn’t really the end all and be all of strategies to follow when drafting, but it’s a good starting point for new drafters. B is for Bombs, the cards that win you the game when you resolve them. R is for Removal, arguably the most important part of your deck. E is for Efficiency, which are the cards the build the backbone of your deck. A is for Aggro, the cards that build your board and hit hard early. D is for Dregs, which are the cards that you don’t want to pick and probably won’t have a place in your deck. Calling it BREAD is a nice convenient way to remember the order for picks, but, as I said earlier, this isn’t really the end all and be all of strategies for drafting. I personally put most removal higher than bombs, because if removal can beat most bombs it should rightly rank higher. I will admit BREAD is catchier than RBEAD, but just remember that this rule is the basic starting point to simplify it. We will dig deeper than just this.
I figured the best place for us to start was to do a draft together. I’ll simulate a booster draft and talk through the majority of my picks. The current draft format is DTK-DTK-FRF. That’s two Dragons of Tarkir packs and one Fate Reforged pack. This can be a surprisingly fast format where going wide and constantly attacking is a much better plan than turtling your way to victory. With that quick, and brief, introduction aside let’s get to Pack One, Pick One.
Let’s follow the BREAD principle for Pack One, Pick One. Our biggest bomb is the Deathbringer Regent. If it hits the board when it’s clogged up with creatures you get a Wrath effect that leaves you with your own shiny 5/6 dragon on the field. Casting him to a near empty board is less ideal, but it’ll still be a 5/6 flier when you do. Other noticeable cards include Dragon-Scarred Bear, Marsh Hulk, Guardian Shield-Bearer and Herald of Dromoka. I’d feel good taking the Deathbringer because when you pass these cards to the next player you will only be leaving a Marsh Hulk in that pack signifying that black is pretty closed off. You do leave green open to your opponents, so it’s probably for the better to just write off green for the rest of the draft. Get in our deck Deathbringer Regent.
Pack One, Pick Two:
So immediately we can see that the player that passed us this took the rare. There are no bombs showing up in this pack so let’s start looking for some removal. We’ll start in colour. The two black removal cards are Coat with Venom and Defeat. Coat with Venom is incredibly versatile as it can not only double as offensive but it can also be used defensively. It’s also costed very well. I’m snapping up Coat with Venom in this pack. The other removal, Enduring Victory and Tread Upon, are both good cards, but I can stay on colour which is good at this point. The less colours I bog my decisions with now, the easier it’ll be to adapt to signs I’ll get further in the draft.
Pack One, Pick Three:
Luckily with this pack we can still stay on colour but we are definitely getting some noticeable signs. White is still very much open, almost to the point that I am debating diving into it now while I still have the chance. Blue seems pretty dry from this direction and red is wishy-washy. Green seems open and black is showing us Marsh Hulk, a very strong card. Hedonist’s Trove
is not the kind of card you want to be casting in Limited. If I take the Marsh Hulk now that will put two cards at the high end of my curve, so I want to start prioritizing lower costed creatures later on. Albeit the versatility with Marsh Hulk being a Megamorph is enticing. I think I’m going to take the plunge and grab the Enduring Victory. Letting two of those go by would be ignoring the signs of jumping into white now.
Pack One, Pick Four:
I feel, seeing these cards in front of me, that we’re reading these signs pretty well. Although only one white card is a bit disconcerting, it being a strong removal spell is a good thing. Self-Inflicted Wound and Shambling Goblin aren’t slouches either. Self-Inflicted Wound is a strong sideboard card and Shambling Goblin is a great early game card and a good exploit target. However, we’re snapping up the Marsh Hulk with this pick.
Pack One, Pick Five:
The white cards are calling to us. Misthoof Kirin is a great early game card that will eat some removal allowing even bigger threats to hit the board unhindered. Artful Maneuver is a strong spell and Glaring Aegis is one of the few Auras I’d actually play. We’re taking the Kirin and loving the fact that we do.
The next few picks of this pack I’ll list out here.
P1P6: Kolaghan Skirmisher – A 2/2 dasher that makes a strong early game.
P1P7: Center Soul – An instant protection spell with rebound.
P1P8: Aven Tactician – A 2/3 flier that bolsters for 1 when it enters the battlefield.
P1P9: Marsh Hulk – Grabbed a second one of these guys, wheeling it from the pack we opened.
P1P10: Lightwalker – A 2/1 for 2 that gains flying if it has a +1/+1 counter on it.
The remaining cards we grabbed were Gravepurges and Foul-Tongue Shrieks in the dregs portion of the packs. We have a pretty good looking white/black deck going on. This allows us to splash if we get any bombs that feature either of these colours. We’re going to put a focus into our curve for this next pack, we want to cast something each turn in the game. You do that by having a good mana curve – you don’t want a lot of low costed creatures or a lot of high costed creatures, you want a nice balance. Curving out will definitely be a subject for a later post.
Pack Two, Pick One:
This pack is a bit rough. The three cards on colour are kind of duds. Mind Rot is a good card in certain decks, but this isn’t one of them. We don’t need another Center Soul. Resupply costs 6 to gain 6 life – not something we want to be doing. The Ruthless Deathfang is splashable and is our best bet here. If we play it will remain to be seen.
Pack Two, Pick Two:
This one is a lot nicer. I’m leaning towards the Hand of Silumgar here because of the Deathtouch ability. Anything that gums up the board early and can trade with something a lot better is a good thing. Your opponent doesn’t want to swing into a Deathtouch creature with their bombs, so playing Hand of Silumgar always feels good. Although Radiant Purge seems strong it’s best to note we’ve only seen one multicoloured creature and that was the Ruthless Deathfang we just picked up. Let’s go with Oh goodie, another Radiant Purge. My point from the last pick still stands. There is a lot of good white in this pack. Student of Ojutai has high toughness and gradually heals you throughout the game. Lightwalker is strong, but the card jumping out to me is Herald of Dromoka. Let’s snap that card up and focus on our early game – that was our intended goal.
Pack Two, Pick Four:
Flatten is one of, if not, the best commons in this format. If you see Flatten at any point and you are in black pick it up. If you are only one colour and you see a Flatten pick it up and take it as a sign that you should be in black.
Pack Two, Pick Five:
And just fresh off the heels of an awesome pick we have another one passed to us. Butcher’s Glee can blow out combat. It gains you life and regenerates your creature. It has the reach for a small creature to kill a bigger one and still make it out unscathed. It also can be used to make a creature bigger just to get some lost life back. Seeing this card is awesome, even with there being little other white or black in this pack.
Here’s the next few picks in text form.
P2P6: Another Hand of Silumgar or a Vulturous Aven, our air game is a bit lacking so I’m taking the Aven on this one, a 2/3 flier for 4 with a possible Sign in Blood exploit ability.
P2P7: Champion of Arashin, a 3/2 warrior with Lifelink for 4.
P2P8: Qarsi Sadist, a 1/3 for 2. Not happy with this one, but I would side this in against aggressive decks.
P2P9: Wheeling the Mind Rot we take it this time.
P2P10 – P15: Dregs finish us off, but we grab a Deadly Wanderings. Not too sure how this card feels to me as I haven’t had the chance to play with it. It seems like it could be great or it could be a trap – which is usually how traps work.
We move into our final pack, Fate Reforged. This draft is looking good. We want to pick up some early to mid curve creatures as well as any Harsh Sustenance‘s we see. A Gurmag Angler would also be nice.
Pack Three, Pick One:
Okay. Okay. A lot good here. Douse in Gloom is a strong card. Dragon Bell Monk is great too. Jeskai Infiltrator is a card I always find myself losing to. However that Daghatar the Adamant is calling to us. He’s on colour both in casting cost and ability and he’s the perfectly costed bomb to add to our deck to round up our heavy hitters. He can steal counters from opponents, as we don’t have many cards that grant counters, but worst case scenario he’s a 4/4 for 4. Just don’t Manifest him. Daghatar, get in our deck!
Pack Three, Pick Two:
There is that Harsh Sustenance we were hoping for. This is the benefit of going in with enemy colours into the Fate Reforged pack. There’s also a War Flare which would reward a player in red/white. Other noticeable cards: Cloudform, Hunt the Weak, Whisk Away and Temur Battle Rage. Luckily Harsh Sustenance is strong in our deck.
Pack Three, Pick Three:
Our draft is trying to tell us something again. We just grabbed Harsh Sustenance, a card that rewards you having creatures on the board, and then it gives us a bunch of low cost creatures. With this one we want the Typhoid Rats because a 1/1 with Deathtouch for 1 is strong at pretty much any point in the game.
Pack Three, Pick Four:
Now looking at the white and black cards is pretty unexciting in this pack. But there is a little gem waiting for us here. That Dismal Backwater allows us to definitely splash for that Ruthless Deathfang we picked up in P2P1. Let’s snatch that up now because I don’t think we’ll see another on colour gain land in this draft.
Pack Three, Pick Five:
Holy cow. We have two strong on colour removal spells here. Getting these cards at Pick 2 is a luxury, getting them at Pick 5 is a holy grail. Although Sandblast is cheaper, the versatility of Reach of Shadows makes this a pick for me. That card is strong and relatively well costed for what it can do. Let’s hope we continue to get cards like this.
Here are the remaining few notable picks in our FRF packs:
P3P6: We saw another Dismal Backwater so I picked that up.
P3P7: Alesha’s Vanguard, a 3/3 for four with a dash ability was our pick here.
P3P8: Picked up an Abzan Advantage specifically for sideboard tech – don’t want to lose to a Citadel Siege in this draft.
P3P9: Dragon Bell Monk wheeled so I picked that one up. Happily to do so as well.
P3P10-P15: Our dregs brought us nowhere exciting. Nothing of note here.
Our draft went pretty well. I feel like we received a lot of good cards passed to us and we read the signs well to allow us to get some really awesome picks. Now of course going up against AI in drafting is a lot different than going up against humans but it’s still great practice. If you can’t get on MTGO or to an FNM drafting online against AI is something you should definitely do to keep your drafting skills sharp.
Next comes the deck building. You’ll take the 45 cards you’ve chosen and cut it down to 22-23 playable cards, then you’ll add 17-18 land cards that are provided to you. Deck building is something I’ll be covering in detail but, for now, I wanted to give you guys a taste into my thought process when it comes to drafting. Do you disagree with any of my picks? If you do please comment, I’d love to talk about them. Discussion like that is the best way to grow as a drafter. After all, we just want to make sure we always have the best deck at the table.
At the end of each post I am going to post a screen cap from a draft. Whether it be a Pack One, Pick One or something else. I want to know what all the readers would take as their choice. Let me know in the comments and then next week I’ll let you know what I would’ve taken in that situation.
Here is this week’s Draft Dilemma, a pack One, Pick One: