Monday, September 16, 2019

Magic the Gathering Arena - Limited Draft Woes and Wins

I've decided to blog more about Magic the Gathering since I'm really having fun with it and some content in this dusty corner of the web would be good.

One of my favourite things to do in MtG Arena is Limited Drafting mode. In this mode (which costs 5000 gold or 750 gems) you and 7 bots have 3 rounds in which you open a 14 card pack, pick a card, and pass along to the next player until all the cards in the packs are gone. After 3 rounds of this you have 42 cards to make a 40 card deck (with access to any basic lands you need).

Then you play against other human players with their own 40 card limited draft decks. You keep going until you win 7 games or have lost 3, and then you collect rewards (packs and gems) based on the number of wins. And you get to keep the 42 cards you drafted.

I like it a lot because in "regular" MtG games with 60 card pre-constructed decks people can make some really powerful combos and archetypes, especially if they play a lot and have access to a lot of rares and mythic rares in their collection in Arena, but in the Limited Draft mode the playing field is a lot more even as everyone only has access to at most three rares (or occasionally 4 if a bot passes one) and you have to work hard to make a good deck out of the cards available to you.

The current Limit Draft mode is using three packs of the M20 release cards and I've been enjoying it a lot after the craziness of the War of the Spark release earlier this year where there were so many bombs (i.e. great game winning cards). M20 has a few bombs too but also is loaded with lots of common removal spells of all colours.

Usually I am pretty average in Limited, Recently I had a run of terrible drafts in which I went 0-3, 1-3, and 0-3 again. Ugh. Usually I'm happy with going 3-4 wins, ecstatic with 5 or 6 wins, and have never strung together 7 wins in a draft. In M20 I was averaging about 3 wins per draft until I hit this bad streak of 1 win in 10 games over three drafts. So after a break I sat down, paid my gold for a new draft, and cracked open the first pack.

The rare in my first pack (each pack has 1 rare, 3 uncommon (or 4?), and the rest common) was Knight of the Ebon Legion. I love this guy! First off, he's black and that's my favourite of the 5 colours. Secondly, he's got a low casting cost but can bump himself up temporarily. And thirdly, he grows if you do damage to the opponent.

I continue drafting the first packs, picking up more black cards but also some decent white cards and a few red removal cards. I don't pick a definite direction for my deck until I've had a chance to see most of the cards available to me in the second and third packs.

My second pack pick 1 offered a terrible rare, a Leyline enchantment (I don't recall the colour, they are all bad) so I continued picking up red, white, and black cards.

Then I got to the third pack and opened... Cavalier of Gales, the blue version of the Cavalier cycle! This is horrible! Not the card, its great: 5/5 flying, drawing cards when it enters the battlefield, and when it dies it goes into the library instead of graveyard. Its one of the best of the 5 Cavaliers for sure. But horrible because I've not been drafting many blue cards and a spell that requires 3 blue mana is very hard to splash with mana fixing of which I had none of.

I took it anyways (always good for the collection) and tried to see what other good blue cards I could get from the last packs to see if I could main blue and black and splash white or red, but I had some really good white cards to go with my black ones, and the rest of the blue cards were meh at best.

In the end when I made my deck I reluctantly left the Cavalier of Gales on the sideboard and with a sigh worked on a black white deck.

Final Deck List. Sorry I didn't get a nice Arena screenshot of the deck.
I didn't feel great. I ended up with a deck with not a lot in the way of bombs to win the game, so I was going to have to sludge through with my smaller fliers and removal and hope the Knight can steal a game or two.

I started to play. I won the first game, and the second one too. "Well!" I thought, "that's a much better result than the last three drafts!" Then I played in a third and fourth game and those were wins as well. "What the heck?" I asked myself, "How is this happening?!"

What seemed to be happening is that my numerous removal would take care of my opponent's big creatures while my small fliers dealt the chip damage I needed to win. Occasionally the Ebon Order knight would get going and run away with the game, and sometimes the Herald of the Sun would show up and flip the table, but usually it was just trade bomb for bomb and then win on the wings of Gorging Vultures and Dawning Angels. The Dawning was especially helpful with the 4 life she gave when I cast her, meaning I could afford to get low early on and flight back when I had the mana and spells I needed.

With 4 wins under my belt, and no losses, I was doing better than average. Usually when I start a draft with 3-4 wins it means the game must punish me with 3 losses from mana floods or mana screws or opponents with ridiculous decks. But amazingly this time the stars aligned and I won games 5, 6, and 7! I went 7-0 for the first time with this fairly plain deck.

So it just goes to show that sometimes the best decks are the ones without a bunch of flashy bombs, but just solid creatures and spells to back it up.

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