Drafting Ravnica Part 1: Drafting Basics
Rav/Rav/Rav is a draft format that is quite skill intensive, but it has been far less explored than previous triple-set draft formats in past years, due to its timing (CHK/CHK/CHK had a much longer season and had SIX GPs scheduled for it and a Pro Tour. Talk about love . . .).
So what do you need to know about drafting in this format?
1) Drafting the Guilds is generally more effective than Drafting other color combos.
The Gold cards have a significant influence on Ravnica Limited, and if you draft a non-guild color combination, you will be left out of the fun. I mean come on, they're Golden cards. Who doesn't like Gold? Seriously though, the multicolored and guild-mana cards enable each guild to enhance their power in ways that the non-guild color combos cannot. While your RU Aggro deck may look great with flyers and general aggression, a WR deck will have a similarly fast deck with cards like Rally the Righteous and Lightning Helix to back them up.
2) Signalling is more important than ever in this format, as there are only four optimal two-color combinations, especially since these color combinations share colors with up to two others.
Signalling is a key when it comes to Ravnica draft, even moreso than in other formats. Unless you're in Dimir or Boros, odds are really good that your neighbors are fighting for your colors, and even in those two guilds, you will often be jostling for cards. Using signals to determine your colors and those of your neighbors will be key.
For example, take this pack:
- Hunted Dragon
- Vindictive Mob
- Trophy Hunter
- Oathsworn Giant
- Viashino Fangtail
- Greater Mossdog
- Leave No Trace
- Seismic Spike
- Golgari Rot Farm
- Shred Memory
- Sparkmage Apprentice
- Dromad Purebred
- Golgari Signet
What do you take?
Well, first lets look at any cards that are good or bombs. Two immediately stick out, Hunted Dragon and Viashino Fangtail. Both Require Double and are thus unsplashable. Either would move you into a Boros deck. And yet for this very reason neither of them is the right pick.
So Red is out. So what's the next best card in this pack? Clearly Oathsworn Giant. But with 2 red cards clearly enticing our neighbors, there's a good chance the two guys next to us will end up drafting Boros, and thus white will be quite cut off in pack 2. Add that to the fact that white is in two guilds, means that the guy in front of us is very likely (around 50%) to also be drafting white. So do we really want to be in white? Not really, and thus committing early with Oathsworn is probably out.
What's left? The only 3 choices are Mortipede, Trophy Hunter, and Greater Mossdog. Mortipede lodges you in Golgari unless you abandon it, so it's out. Both Trophy Hunter and Greater Mossdog give you an option of Selesnya or Golgari, or a combination which may prove useful considering that White is going to be cut off. Both of these cards would be good picks.
My Pick? Trophy Hunter. It's a house in GW because it makes up for Green's inability to deal with flyers, and is uncommon, which makes it much less likely to be seen again than the Mossdog.
SPECIAL BONUS: Those who picked the Mob can pat themselves on the back as well. While it wasn't my choice and the eventual draft probably wouldn't work out for them, picking the Mob sends the following drafters into WG and WR, leaving room for a UB drafter to really capitalize.
As this pack shows, impulse picking is ALMOST NEVER the right thing to do
3. If the Pack has Glare of Subdual, look at the signals you're sending, and then take the Glare.
Glare of Subdual is a notorious bomb. Even if you're in pack 3 and are solidly in Dimir, you are drafting Glare. It doesn't matter what signals you will send, shipping Glare is a travesty, and it will probably cost you your draft.
4. Make sure that the land total of your deck is fine with what you are trying to do.
Due to the differences in the tempo of each draft archetype in Ravnica, the amount of lands you run can be highly variable, from 15-18, and even 14 may be acceptable in extreme cases.
Things to note when considering lands: how high is the highest mana cost in your deck? When do you expect to cast it? What other mana producing spells do you have (Signets, Birds of Paradise, Elves of Deep Shadow, or Spectral Searchlights)?
Take this deck that I drafted, for example:
This deck is clearly using too many lands. It has one card with a CMC above 3, and expects to attack quickly. I'd reccomend 15 lands, and even 14 may be enough.
On the other hand, a Dimir mill deck may require 17-18 lands.
Here are the land count averages that each archetype should use, in my opinion:
Boros Aggro: 14-16
Selesnya Convoke: 16-18
Golgari Aggro-Contro: 16-18
Dimir Aggro: 15-17
Dimir Mill: 16-18.
Of course, don't take these numbers as untouchable canon. It all depends on your deck. Bouncelands in particular (like Golgari Rot Farm) can lower your land count and help a bit.
NOTE, Other mana sources besides lands are not interchangable with lands when it comes to deckbuilding. I saw a person build a Selesnya-Golgari deck with 15 lands, two signets, and a Searchlight. He got mana screwed in two games because his curve was fairly high. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE! While Signets, bouncelands, and other Mana sources may lower your needed mana, this does not mean that each additional one means one less land. Be CAREFUL OF THIS!
For more on how much mana to put in your draft deck, see Bateleur's excellent article here.
5. While three-color decks can be very good, don't go out of your way to draft them.
Three-color decks can be awesome in some cases, but don't go out of your way to draft three colors in the first pack. I've seen terrrible GWR decks drafted in this way. Personally, I believe that one should only jump into three colors when the cards force you to or when you have a powerful splash, but other circumstances can make it correct.
Just remember that a straight-up powerful Selesnya deck can whoop others as well as a Golgari-Selesnya deck, so don't get too cute with your deck from the start if you can help it.
That's it for this part. Join me for the next Ravnica Limited article, when I'll talk about signalling in depth.
And now, so you have things to think about for the next article, I present you all with an assignment.
I'll be talking about some specific drafts and signalling next article. Here is the 1st pack of a fellow forum goer's draft, and what he sees in his 1st pack. What do you pick? Why?
Pack 1, Pick 1:
Woebringer Demon, Cleansing Beam, Devouring Light, Seed Spark, Drift of Phantasms, Brainspoil, Compulsive Research, Sabertooth Alleycat, Screeching Griffen, Stone Seeder-Hierophant, Woodwraith Strangler, Infectious Host, Thoughtpicker Witch, Smash, Boros Fury-Shield
Pack 1, Pick 2:
- Loxodon Heirarch, Wojek Apothecary, Moroii, Gather Courage, Faith's Fetters, Consult the Necrosages, Sundering Vitae, Roofstalker Wight, Golgari Rot Farm, Terrarion, Bramble Elemental, Sadistic Augermage, Dimir Signet, Ordruun Commando
Pack 1, Pick 3:
Peregrine Mask, Grifter's Blade, Sundering Vitae, Galvanic Arc, Induce Paranoia, Dryad's Caress, Sadistic Augermage, Terraformer, Conclave Equenaut, Seeds of Strength, Woodwraith Strangler, Golgari Signet, Grayscaled Gharial.
Pack 1, Pick 4:
Goliath Spider, Leashling, Vindictive Mob, Fists of Ironwood, Ordruun Commando, Seismic Spike, Faith's Fetters, Infectious Host, Thoughtpicker Witch, Disembowel, Drift of Phantasms, Drake Familiar
Pack 1, Pick 5:
Hunted Dragon, Vindictive Mob, Oathsworn Giant, Leave No trace, Seismic Spike, Golgari Rot Farm, Dromad Purebred, Convolute, Golgari Signet, Sparkmage Apprentice, Shred Memory
Pack 1, Pick 6:
Leashling, Conclave Phalanx, Divebomber Griffen, Dogpile, Coalhauler Swine, Dimir Aqueduct, Drift of Phantasms, Terrarion, Incite Hysteria, Bramble Elemental
Pack 1, Pick 7:
Selesnya Sagittars, Overwhelm, Centaur Safeguard, Lurking Informant, Selesnya Signet, Elves of Deep Shadow, Rally the Righteous, Gaze of the Gorgon, Golgari Brownscale
Pack 1, Pick 8:
Dark Heart of the Wood, Thoughtpicker Witch, Coalhauler Swine, Golgari Rot Farm, Dogpile, Rain of Embers, Terrraformer, Peel from Reality
I look forward to seeing your picks and choices on the boards. Remember to explain why!
See you next time!
Editing: Dr. Tom
Chaosof99 and Sorryguy for serious help with my draft research.
All Those drafting 5cG in Rav/Rav/Rav