“But the RARES” they shouted. “Those winning draft decks had rares in them!” – Magic players, always
The examples provided in my guide to building better draft decks contained cards like Poet’s Quill and Tempted by the Oriq, leading some to fairly point out that the lists didn’t support my theme of downplaying the rares. The reasons are pretty simple: I wanted to use winning decklists and need all the rares and variance available to trophy on the Mythic Arena ladder. My name is Schaab – not Shota, not Shahar, not Sheth Manfield.
Building “boring” decks (i.e. prioritizing consistency over power level) isn’t going to set you apart once you reach Mythic, but it sure can help get you there.
In the simplest terms possible, new drafters get the impression that this is the order of importance for draft success:
- Powerful cards (usually rares)
- Consistently functional decks
When really your priorities should be as follows:
- Consistently functional decks
- Powerful cards
Of course the rares and powerful cards matter. They just don’t matter as much as people think. And they certainly don’t matter as much as being able to reliably cast your cards.
This got me wondering how far I could climb the ladder while avoiding the rares entirely. So after some bot games, a color challenge, and a small investment in the new player bundle, I had an account solely for rareless drafting.
Let’s take an uncommon approach to the Strixhaven Arena ladder and see where it gets us. We’ll take a look at our first boring deck, a few interesting draft choices, and features of gameplay at the Bronze level. Let’s Talk Limited!
Bomb Rares passed: 1
17lands doesn’t include P1P1 choices, but I can tell you there was a Blue Sun’s Zenith and Draconic Intervention in this pack.
Killian certainly falls into the category of uncommons that play like rares (Turn 4 Killian, Study Break, Expanded Anatomy is my personal favorite sequence). While it’s highly unusual for me to take a gold card Pick 1, this is an adjustment I’ve made for Strixhaven in the past few weeks. I’ll take an early chance on cards like Killian, Rootha, or Quandrix Apprentice because they’re all-stars in their respective decks.
Silverquill was open so I was able to play my first pick and the draft was pretty straightforward. We’ll look at the final decklist and a couple draft choices I’m unsure of.
If I were going to write a Magic love poem, it would be about 2-drops. Ten playable 2-drops in this deck! Ten!
Pack 1 Pick 2
Not 100% sure if Orator over Rise of Extus was correct. Leaning towards Silverquill, I’m fine with only having a single Rise in my build, but I’ll take any number of high quality two-drops. Plus, the Martin Juza Rule (if you’re not sure, take the cheaper card).
Pack 1 Pick 9
Hindsight is 20/20, but my final build would’ve much rather had the Guiding Voice instead of Reflective Golem. My reasoning was that I’d probably see another Voice if one tabled so I could get more later in the draft. Plus the golem already worked well with the Killian and Expanded Anatomy in my pool, so I took the creature.
Pack 2 Pick 1
Lash of Malice is so important. Let’s you kill a blocker and add to the board on turn 3 if you’re on the play. Let’s you recover some tempo by killing their 2-drop on end-step and then playing your own two-drop on the draw. Lots of good cards here but the first Lash is phenomenal.
Technically we passed an on-color rare Pick 2 but I would’ve take the Professor of Symbology anyway. Despark is not great.
Pack 2 Pick 3
Selfless Glyphweaver is a good rare but we won’t miss it. The tough choice was between the first Arrogant Poet or the first Silverquill Apprentice. I went with the cheaper creature because I already had the same number of 2 & 3 drops and will almost always lean towards the turn 2 play in that case.
Pack 2 Pick 6
So our colors are open. I didn’t have a 4-drop and Combat Professor is a very good one, so I took the first professor over the second summoning. Even after playing the games and winning some thanks to Combat Professor, I’m still unsure about this choice.
Pack 3 Pick 5
Here I am taking an off-color lesson instead of an on-color rare. Yiiiiiiikes.
Pack 3 Pick 8
These are the kind of choices you get to make when you draft the open colors (the easy way, in this instance). Decided I wanted the second Laureate more than the third Combat Professor or second Humiliate. I feel good about this pick but I could see taking a different card.
The draft played out a little strangely. Silverquill and Lorehold were clearly the open colleges but I somehow never saw a Study Break or a second Guiding Voice. This might’ve been a triple Rip Apart Lorehold deck if not for the first pick Killian swaying my early choices. Either white deck would’ve been fine in this seat – anything else would’ve been difficult.
Again, here’s the final list:
This deck plays 16 lands for three reasons: 1. I have a campus so I still have 9 white sources and 8 black sources 2. Low curve and the six-mana spell can be reduced by Killian 3. Pilgrim of Ages acts as the pseudo 17th land.
Play two-drops, new players. Your fellow new players usually don’t and your win percentage will skyrocket. I played two-drops in all seven games, my opponents played a 2-drop in only two.
^ This is the recipe for success. Two drops! ::clap clap:: Two drops! ::clap clap::
I could draft this deck at FNM, hand it to a new player, say “Use all your mana every turn if you can. Inkling Summoning should be the first lesson you grab most of the time” and they would have a very good chance to win games. Even if they don’t win, they get to make interesting choices and develop their skill.
As mentioned earlier, I’m not among the elite when it comes to Magic. Still, the number of games I’ve played is in the tens of thousands so there is some degree of separation between me and a new drafter. Of the games I played, I’d say 2-3 of them required a degree of skill that would be unreasonable for a newer player.
Nassari is a hard card to beat, especially when they rudely steal your Professor of Symbology. Nearly dead here, would’ve died if I didn’t chump block thanks to the Enthusiastic Study and Infuriate.
My entire board flies thanks to Stonerise Spirit and Thunderous Orator’s ability. I don’t think they accounted for the Orator when they made their play.
Maybe a newer player doesn’t trophy with this deck, but they would have a good chance to win 4-5 games, an outcome I think most novices would be extremely pleased with.
Now let’s think back to Pack 1 Pick 1 and imagine a new player trying to build an effective Blue Sun’s Zenith deck. Holy bananas what a disaster.
Sure can’t complain about a 7-0 start for an Uncommon Approach.
To keep the results consistent, I’ll only Premier draft with this account. Now at 3200 gems, we have two drafts in the bank and ready to go!
Here are some things I expect during this process:
- I expect to hit a very real ceiling where it becomes difficult for me to win more than 50% of my games.
- I expect to draft really focused decks. My judgment gets skewed by rares just like everyone else. I get lazy while I draft sometimes and I simply can’t afford to do that if I’m not drafting the most powerful cards.
- I’ll probably draft decks that try to shorten the game. Opponents can’t draw all their rares if they’re dead.
The main reason I won these games is that I played two-drops and my opponents didn’t. Booooorrrrriiiiiinnnnnnggggggg (but winning is so fun!). We passed some bomb rares, played against a couple, and came away with a perfect record thanks our turn 2 plays.
Taking a boring approach doesn’t mean you never draft rares or mythics. You draft them when they fit into your boring, functional deck. You learn to draft boring decks like the one we reviewed today – then apply the same concepts and include rares.
You have to learn to do this:
Before you can do this:
Thanks for reading and remember: Be Boring during the draft and deckbuilding – Be extraordinary during your games. Happy drafting!
– Schaab. Draft Enthusiast, Mardu Vehicles Pilot
I’m still figuring out what kind of Magic content I want to create, so please let me know if you’re interested in An Uncommon Approach becoming a series. I can only do it after I’ve learned a draft set, so I’m thinking it might be a unique perspective to provide a month or two after a set has been released. Thanks for the feedback!