8 Way Forum Draft, Part 2
By Dom Camus on September 4th, 2007 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now
Welcome back to the 8-Way Forum Draft!
Hopefully, you read Part One? I say this not only because it's a splendid article that everyone should read, but also because today's article will make far more sense if you've read it.
Last time I talked mostly about my own team. Now, it's time to take a look at the whole table...
Hopefully that diagram is self-explanatory to some degree. Each team's seat is marked, together with the directions in which the packs were passed. Also noted is the final color mix of each team's deck, where big symbols denote a main color and small symbols denote a splash.
I'm going to begin by taking a brief look at the distribution of each color around the table.
White: With five drafters running White as a main color, this appears overdrafted. Best placed is Team Arena, with first shot at six packs worth of White cards. Worst placed are Gaea and Hurloon - that can't be good!
Blue: Three drafters with Blue main is actually light for Blue. Team Hurloon are best placed with an outrageous eight packs worth of Blue to choose from. Worst placed looks like Team Gaea again!
Black: Two main and two splashes is about average for Black - a favourite color for splashing. What's a lot less reasonable is that the two Black drafters are side by side. Team Cabal are the winners here. Team Benalia... not so much. But possibly an even bigger winner is Team Fyndhorn. They're only splashing Black, but not only do they get first shot at eight packs it's also Time Spiral and Future Sight. This is what you want where Black in concerned since Planar Chaos is the weakest set for Black Commons.
Red: Two Red drafters and one splash sees Red apparently underdrafted. Team Fyndhorn are again the winners here, with Team Benalia also looking fine due to being directly opposite.
Green: With four main drafters and two splashes, Green is overdrafted at this table. Team Eiganjo seem to come off the worst here, with Team Arena escaping relatively unscathed.
But as we will see, this doesn't tell the whole story of the strengths and weaknesses of the various decks. Before we do any analysis of all this, here's the raw info on the teams and their decks:
Seat A - Team Arena
Seat B - Team Benalia
Seat C - Team Cabal
Seat D - Team Dakmor
Seat E - Team Eijango
Seat F - Team Fyndhorn
Team Gaea decided to force "Fat Arm.dec"Seat G - Team Gaea
Seat H - Team Hurloon
So here's how I feel the decks worked out in terms of power, ranked from best to worst:
Arena - A very nearly perfect W/G rush deck. The deck's reliability and card quality are both very high.
Fyndhorn - Great speed, power and control. The deck's only weakness is bad mana. Despite this, it's still very strong.
Hurloon - A scary concentration of bombs and evasive offence but essentially no defence. Also has bad mana.
Eiganjo - Stronger on paper than it felt to play against. A bit slow and weak against evasion, but has some chances.
Dakmor - Underpowered creature base with bad early drops. Also has shaky mana and no good answers to big things
Gaea - Short of good ways to win. Generally underpowered.
Cabal - Underpowered, janky and lacking removal.
Benalia - Hopeless creature base. Has a few outstanding cards, but needs a lucky draw to win.
(Some of these are likely to be a bit controversial. I'm told by armada that I'm an aggro player at heart, so perhaps I underrate the more controllish decks.)
It's notable that the top three decks are those which (between them) secured the best access to the five colors. And the top two are those which each came out top for two colors. Surprise winners are Team Gaea, who managed to salvage a fairly reasonable deck from what should have been a disastrous color mix.
Having discussed how everything worked out for the eight teams, it's time to turn our attention to how they got there. What were the key choices each team made and how might things have been different? Before we can discuss that, I need to equip you with some reference materials (you won't want to read all of this at once):
* All the discussion and picks for the entire draft are now open here.
* Shepherd compiled all the information into a convenient Excel spreadsheet for your viewing pleasure.
* And in case you can't view .xls files very conveniently, I've put it online as a Google document.
* DrKlingmann compiled an interesting summary of the color breakdown of cards which appeared in the draft.
I'm going to handle this by starting with the teams I see as more successful and working backwards. I asked Team Arena how they chose their colors. This was their response:
Quite a bit of interesting stuff in there. The two trolls in question were cards we (Team Hurloon) passed. Why did we do that? The trouble was, we just hadn't seen much Green during Time Spiral and at that point we were not in White but did want Blue. That Team Arena first picked a Spectral Force explains why we were passed a pack which still had Errant Ephemeron, Psionic Blast and a variety of other goodies in it.
Originally Posted by DrKlingmann
We happily jumped into White after taking a third pick Castle Raptors
and fourth pick Temporal Isolation
. Then we walked into Green because of our first pick Spectral Force
and those two Hedge Trolls
in Planar Chaos. In Time Spiral we were not sure about Green because it was heavily cut from our right side. Luckily for us only team Cabal stayed in Green. So we managed to get two pretty Riftsweepers.
What about that third pick Castle Raptors? First pick from that pack was Team Cabal's Avatar of Woe. Certainly a powerful card, but in my view eight mana is just too much. On the other hand that was the same pack that had the Pentarch Paladin in it, so wanting to avoid taking a White card whilst putting their neighbour into White was also a factor. But wait... the Pentarch Paladin made it all the way round to us, so what did Team Benalia take?! Gemhide Sliver. I think that was probably a mistake, but there was some thinking behind it. They had first picked Kaervek the Merciless and had hoped to see a good card in either Black or Red. But failing that, their preferred approach was to aim for GRb or GBr with the Sliver providing a good start in terms of mana acceleration and fixing.
Switching our attention now to Team Cabal, they adopted a strategy of very deliberately signalling. At pick two they passed Temporal Isolation in favour of Scryb Ranger and as it turned out that was both their final colors found in two picks! Their deck ended up weaker than it might of done as a choice between Urborg Syphon-Mage and Thallid Germinator ended in a tie, which a coin flip resolved in favour of the Germinator! Coins can be cruel like that. Still, they were cheered up quite a bit on receiving a seventh pick Sudden Death. In a normal draft I expect they'd have just assumed a table full of bad players. But if we take a look at the pack it came from I expect you can see how it happened!
Moving round to Team Benalia they too decide to pass the Temporal Isolation in favour of focussing on as few colors as possible. Of course, with Black and Green both being taken to their right, things went predictably wrong. Being inflexible is considered by many players to be a bad thing and on the day Team Benalia were unlucky enough to serve as an example of why this is. They proceeded to be unlucky again as Planar Chaos offered them an opening pack containing nothing better in their colors than Brute Force! Some days, everything goes wrong at once.
That end of the board now makes some sense. I talked about Team Hurloon's draft in part one, so let's move all the way round to Team Gaea. Their draft was very strange indeed. Time Spiral went well. They drafted mostly solid Blue cards, plus Mystic Snake, Momentary Blink and Evangelize. Then in Planar Chaos the Blue cards seemed to be there as they picked up no fewer than four (!!!) copies of Erratic Mutation. It wasn't until around pick nine of the second pack that they began to see a problem... they were very low on creatures. Then their first pack of Future Sight presented them with a key decision since it contained a Tombstalker! Was it too late to go U/B? In the end they passed the big flyer, but ended up regretting it.
Moving on to Team Fyndhorn... this team got an amazing start in Green, plus a Strangling Soot which they took over Sudden Death. Interestingly, by pick six they felt Red was being cut to their right (couldn't be further from the truth) but narrowly voted to take Blazing Blade Askari over Chromatic Star from a weak pack. By the end of Time Spiral they had several playable Red cards, which was enough to motivate them to first pick Dead//Gone in Planar Chaos. From that point their draft never looked back. They also faced a tough choice as to whether or not to take the Tombstalker, but again passed it!
Team Eiganjo (actually Eijango - everyone's been wrongly typing it for weeks - but I can't bring myself to carry on doing it) ended up seduced by the Sliver side. Fayul says it best during the first comment on pick six:
...because at that point the team had drafted Gemhide and Might Slivers. Personally, I am less convinced. I'm of the opinion that in order to draft Slivers one has to pick good cards early and Slivers late. Making an army of 4/4s with Might Sliver or 4/6s by adding Watcher might sound cool, but it's not quite so cool when the opponent's 12th pick Basal Sliver trades with your Might Sliver. That said, I was a lot more convinced when in the first game I actually played against Fayul she assembled an army of four huge Slivers with Regeneration. They managed to pick up two Sinew Slivers from Planar Chaos, but again at the cost of picking them a bit earlier than usual. In the end the gods did not smile on Eiganjo and the team saw relatively few late Slivers. Their splashed Teneb the Harvester was a nice bonus in terms of adding to the deck's capacity to win.
I am the biggest fan of Fortify in the known universe but i'm pretty sure we have to take Watcher Sliver here. Do we? Really? I mean it's Fortify, jeez. Can we please take Fortify?
I'm pretty sure Watcher is correct, though.
Which just leaves Team Dakmor. After a first pick Outrider en-Kor the packs were a little unkind and a second pick Coal Stoker was followed by a choice between Cloudchaser Kestrel, Snapback and Evangelize. The voting ended in a tie between the first two and the coin of cruelty struck again, making the team take the Snapback. All was not yet decided, though. Pick five offered Empty the Warrens and with a Coal Stoker already in hand the team were divided... but preferred Momentary Blink. The start of Planar Chaos was very kind, offering Sunlance, Shaper Parasite and a third pick Serendib Sorceror to settle their colors. In a strange twist of fate they did end up splashing Red... but all cards they picked up from packs in Future Sight which had nothing else for them!
Having now had a look at everything that was going on it's time to draw some conclusions. Or at least attempt to.
Batman knows it's time to abandon his first
pick.First and most importantly, this draft provides a good illustration of the key principle that listening to signals properly is much more important than sending them clearly. Team Cabal and Team Benalia ended up badly off because Cabal placed too high an emphasis on sending a clear White signal... which Benalia then preferred to pass on to their left. Had Benalia been R/W they would have had a much stronger deck. Team Arena were the team to do well out of this by the very straightforward approach of reading and responding to the very clear White signal.
Second, the number of colors in the decks here is interesting to note. The majority of my TPF draft decks are two color, but here the majority are three color. Not only that, but the three color decks mostly have mediocre mana and are still on average stronger than the two color decks. I think that for the most part this is a consequence of the difficulty this table had settling into colors. A less turbulent table would likely see more strong two-color decks.
Last but not least the draft has increased my appreciation for the importance of good card valuation. Taking a weaker card and passing stronger ones not only weakens your own deck, it also risks sending out misleading signals.
This second part of the write up has, of necessity, been two parts opinion to one part fact. But the great thing about this project is that all the data is there. You can sift through it all for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Many thanks to Shepherd and Lesurgo for making all this possible. And thanks also to the other sixty-three players. It was fun!
By Dom Camus on September 4th, 2007 · Filed in Limited · Comments not available just now
About Dom Camus
Dom Camus is a player of games, a pooter wizard, a graphic artist, a mighty pirate, a moose herder and a liar. When he's not playing other games, he plays Magic the Gathering.