8-Way Forum Draft

I love drafting. Drafting is fun. But if one day my doctor tells me I have to eat less chocolate, drink less alcohol and cut down on my stress for the good of my health... I'll ignore him and die drafting. Maybe somewhere in the world there's a player so frosty cool that no matter what happens in a draft they are completely unfazed. But if so, one thing's for sure: that player isn't me.

The thing which frustrates me the most isn't when my opponent taps six to play and equip Loxodon Warhammer, losing me a critical game. Nor is it when I fail to draw my third land until turn six. Why not? Because experience has shown that these things are mostly chance and sooner or later I'll have my lucky breaks to make up. No, the thing that really bothers me is when the stuff I'm being passed just makes no sense and I struggle to put together a playable forty card stack, never mind something good. And the reason that it bothers me is because I know that a lot of the time reading the signals correctly and making the right choices isn't a matter of chance, it's a matter of skill. When I end up with a bad deck through what seems like horrible luck, there's always that concern in the back of my mind: is this pile of trash my fault?

This clever joke will make no sense
to our US readers.
Very occasionally, Wizards of the Coast treats us to a glimpse of how drafts really work. I am referring, of course, to their very fine online draft viewer. This marvelous tool allows you to sit behind a professional player as they make their picks, or follow a pack round the table seeing what everyone picked. It's a great learning experience... but unfortunately, all too often, what I end up learning is that some Constructed specialists are shockingly bad at drafting.

And anyway, I'm envious. Because what I really want is a draft viewer for my own drafts.

Enter my very own fairy godmother in the form of MTG Salvation member Shepherd. OK, he's not really my godmother. And although on the internet nobody knows you're a fairy, I rather suspect he isn't. But he is the guy who decided to take on the insanely tough task of running an eight team draft using only the poll capabilities of the site's forums. This would have been very cool, but the Limited forum moderator Gavin Verhey (Lesurgo) then stepped in to make it even cooler. He created locked sub-forums for each team and opened a bunch of real packs, sending the data on their contents to Shepherd to set up the draft.

You'll notice I'm talking about teams here. That's how we avoid one weaker player skewing the entire draft. Each seat consisted of a team of eight players voting on (and discussing) the best pick.

What's so amazing about this setup is that it substantially reduces the number of nonsensical picks. What we are left with is a draft we can really analyze heavily and attempt to learn some things much deeper than we ever could seeing through only a single player's eyes.

The difficulty I face in writing up the eight-way forum draft is this: the volume of data involved is simply enormous. So the approach I'm taking is to divide the write-up into two parts. In the first part (which you are reading right now), I'm going to walk you through my own team's draft. As you read, form your own ideas about which of our picks were right and which were wrong. But more importantly, form your own ideas about what was going on around us in the draft. Then in part two, I'll talk about what was happening in the other seats.

Besides myself, the team included FTW!, speedyartur, JD-Eclipse, Tahn, Ne0animeZ, Myrf and burek - by my estimation quite a strong team.

Ready? Let the draft begin!

Time Spiral

OMG! Cows! GG.

Our pick: Tromp the Domains

A very fortunate start! As anyone who knows the format will tell you, Tromple is an extremely powerful card. Also, it has the great advantage that if we don't end up in Green it loves to be splashed (because you want three basic land types when playing it anyway).

Our pick: Errant Ephemeron

Before you skip past this pack thinking "Yeah, yeah, passed an Ephemeron you lucksacks!", take a closer look. This pack is amazingly strong. Even more so than it seems, when you consider someone first-picked a Rare they liked better than all the stuff still here!

Our pick: Coal Stoker

This pick deserves some explanation. My immediate thought was to grab the Mystic Snake. Indeed, had this been a real draft online I likely would have clicked it without properly thinking things through. However, Tahn pointed out that Coal Stoker deserves serious consideration here. The reason is that Mystic Snake doesn't really indicate that either Blue or Green is open due to its tricky color requirements. Also, we hadn't really passed anything in Red yet and with Planar Chaos having strong Red this seemed like a good chance to tweak the signals we were sending in our favour.

In the end the pick was close enough that we reached no consensus at all. A narrow majority opted for the Stoker.

Our pick: Pentarch Paladin

Quite a horrible pack considering what we have so far. We took the Paladin on pure power level grounds.

Our pick: Crookclaw Transmuter

Finally - some Blue!

Our pick: Coral Trickster

And more Blue. It's starting to look like we have one viable color at least.

Our pick: Subterranean Shambler

This pick was again controversial. The question is, should the hard-to-use Evangelize (which would only be our second White card) be taken over the Shambler?

Personally, I find Shambler underpowered, but views on this seem to vary. An interest in securing Red won out in the end.

Our pick: Cancel

Pleasant surprise to see this eighth pick.

Our pick: Fury Sliver

Having seen this pack before, we aren't too disappointed, but this is useless for us.

Our pick: Dream Stalker

The strong pack comes back round and still has good stuff in it. Review the original pack to see why this Mindstab is not a signal!

Our pick: Tolarian Sentinel

Good to get a solidly playable card this late.

Then from the last four packs we picked up:

Eternity Snare
Brass Gnat
Paradox Haze
Screeching Sliver

Planar Chaos

Our pick: Chronozoa

When making an obvious pick like this, it's important to remember to look at the other cards in the pack before passing it on. In real drafts, I'm bad at doing this as thoroughly as I should. Fortunately, forum drafts always enable you to look back if you need to...

Our pick: Sunlance

This was the moment at which we began to sense our draft was going wrong. Ideally, this pack would have contained Pyrohemia. Failing that, at least a Prodigal Pyromancer or Dead//Gone. But no such luck.

Sunlance was chosen since as well as being splashable (although four color seemed unlikely now with Green having failed to flow from our right) we still couldn't rule out White as a main color.

Our pick: Reckless Wurm

Red! At last! With Primal Plasma still in the pack there was a decision to be made here, but in fact the team was unanimous. In retrospect, I wonder if this should have been discussed more.

Our pick: Malach of the Dawn

This was a key turning point in our draft. With Red again failing to show, there was talk of picking Gossamer Phantasm until it occurred to us that White was increasingly looking better than Red as our second main color. So we grabbed the Malach.

Our pick: Utopia Vow

Another really disappointing pack. Here we're faced with a choice between a decent Green card (which we would splash) or a mediocre White one. This was again debated at some length, with the Utopia Vow eventually edging ahead. If this pick was wrong, I'm inclined to blame the psychology of the situation. We'd convinced ourselves to take good White cards, but it's harder to take an unexciting card in a color having only just switched to it. There's a (completely illogical) feeling of "I switched for this?" which makes the pick seem unappealing.

Our pick: Malach of the Dawn

This, by contrast, was a pleasant surprise.

A quick aside: it's good to see angelic orders besides the seraphim making an appearance in Magic, but didn't Wizards skip one? I think we can predict with some confidence that chubby, flying babies will be making an appearance in Lorwyn. (But not too nekkid. Nobody wants lawsuits, right?)

Our pick: Aquamorph Entity

Straightforward pick.

Our pick: Utopia Vow

Oh - and there's the Red. Too late now, though. Another Vow to splash seems like the only option.

Our pick: Riftmarked Knight

Tahn actually predicted we'd see this card again. Remember that first pack? It was full of good White. And sure enough, the Knight made it round the table. We started to feel like we actually had a deck at this point.

Our pick: Timebender

This was a bit sad. We were hoping the Merfolk Thaumaturgist would still be in this pack. Whilst normally a weak card, it's quite good with double Malach of the Dawn as well as Aquamorph Entity.

We then picked up the following in the tail end of Planar Chaos:

Veiling Oddity
Ridged Kusite
Firefright Mage
Dash Hopes

Future Sight

Our pick: Knight of Sursi

With our deck looking well capable of winning endgames, we were pleased to see a card that would give us some early game. Still, this pick wasn't without controversy as speedyartur maintained Bound in Silence would be a better choice.

Our pick: Infiltrator il-Kor

Arguably one of the key format-defining cards in TPF. Infiltrator virtually forces the opponent to have removal of some kind. Certainly a good fit for our deck's needs at this point.

Our pick: Blade of the Sixth Pride
In retrospect, this is another pick I'm not confident we had right. Early discussion was between Leaden Fists and Blade of the Sixth Pride. As a two drop, we're certainly happy to see Blade and I think it's clearly correct over Fists here... but what about Even the Odds? I proposed it - and speedyartur voted for it - but it didn't manage to gather enough support in the time allowed for the pick.

Our pick: Foresee
Very good news... and an easy choice.

Our pick: Gift of Granite
And if you're thinking the other contender was Augur il-Vec, you might be puzzled by the fact that second place in the voting went to Tarmogoyf! I suspect some of our team had been playing too much Constructed!

Our pick: Edge of Autumn
When I proposed this pick I thought it was fairly radical, but in fact it ended up being a unanimous choice. Normally land search in a splash color is a bad plan, but Edge's cycling makes it runnable (albeit barely) even if you have no Green at all. In our deck it's better than that since it will occasionally accelerate us or mana fix a hand where we have our splash color but are missing Blue or White.

Our pick: Fatal Attraction
Simply a hate draft. There's nothing for us here. (I got laughed at - probably quite fairly - for suggesting we hate draft the Petroglyphs here.)

Our pick: Shivan Sand-Mage
Another hate draft. Even at this late stage our colors aren't flowing as well as we would like.

Our pick: Blind Phantasm
Although I still have the instinct to rare draft Glittering Wish here!

And for our last six we picked up:

Grave Scrabbler
Sarcomite Myr
Gift of Granite
Quiet Disrepair
Virulent Sliver
Oblivion Crown

Being quite low on playables, the deck mostly built itself...

8-Way Forum Draft, Team HurloonMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures (15)
1 Knight of Sursi
1 Infiltrator il-Kor
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Blade of the Sixth Pride
1 Coral Trickster
1 Aquamorph Entity
1 Riftmarked Knight
1 Timebender
1 Sarcomite Myr
1 Crookclaw Transmuter
1 Tolarian Sentinel
1 Chronozoa
2 Malach of the Dawn
1 Pentarch Paladin

Spells (7)
1 Sunlance
1 Cancel
1 Foresee
1 Edge of Autumn
2 Utopia Vow
1 Tromp the Domains

Lands (18)
8 Plains
7 Island
3 Forest

Why "Team Hurloon"? Well, the teams were naturally A-H so each was named after some Magic-related location (although why team A was "Arena" rather than "Adarkar" I have no idea).

So - how does the deck look? My general feeling was of a lot of power, but not much consistency. The mana's just horrible, but in any game where we don't get color screwed, we ought to have good chances.

Rather than leave you in suspense entirely until the second article, I'll briefly summarise the results of our matches.

God loves you, freaky micro-organism. Join the
side of righteousness!
Team Arena: 1-2. Strong, well balanced W/G deck. Double Riftsweeper was bad news for our deck. Double Hedge Troll plus Spectral Force also made things fairly difficult, but our deck cares less than most.
Team Benalia The one team we didn't manage to play against. They were apparently B/R, but more on their deck in part two.
Team Cabal 2-0 2-1 (two of our team played them - the better result is speedyartur's). An unusual G/B deck involving fast, flying attackers and some mid-range ground creatures backed by surprisingly little removal. Our one loss was to double Deepcavern Imp, but without the Madness cards to exploit the drawback even they weren't at their best. Avatar of Woe and Dread Return provided a theoretical threat, but it didn't quite materialize in the games I saw.
Team Dakmor 2-1 2-0 (again the better result is speedyartur's). Their deck was U/W/r, which interested me since it's quite rare for U/W to want or need to splash and here both decks did. Their mana was bad too (though not as bad as ours), but apart from that, their deck was quite different. With Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Outrider en-Kor, and Shade of Trokair backed by Shaper Parasite and Serendib Sorcerer, Dakmor were far less evasive than we were and far readier for a fast ground attack.
Team Eiganjo 2-0. A G/W/b deck with a Sliver sub-theme. Aside from a truly terrifying Sliver rush (raced by a timely Tromple) and a splashed Teneb, the Harvester the deck felt a bit slow and underpowered.
Team Fyndhorn 0-2 2-1 (speedyartur FTW!). A G/R/b deck with a great early game and a strong removal suite. In my matches, I was thoroughly owned by Prodigal Pyromancer and Sporesower Thallid.
Team Gaea 2-1. This was the team immediately to our left during the draft. They were solidly in Blue, but what really surprised me is that they were also in White! Not only that, but they too were in three colors... and their splash was Green for Mystic Snake! Some tight play by speedyartur pulled out a tough game three win after billythefridge Evangelized his Chronozoa!

Much more on the other teams' decks in part two, where I'll take a detailed look at the whole table and what determined each team's colors and prospects.

You have until then to ponder how you would have read and sent the various signals and what the decisions were which shaped the draft!


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