1. Limited at my LGS
Friday Night Magic at my LGS (Local Game Store) had two distinct groups of players: the Drafters and Team Constructed. A few mages occasionally visited the other guild but, for the most part, players stuck to their preferred format. When a new player arrived at the store, each group would recruit the novice to join their side. If a beginner listened to some of the more vocal members of Team Constructed describe draft, they might imagine the draft process goes like this: Eight Drafters open packs. The person who opens the most powerful rare is the Secret Winner of the draft (unless a more powerful rare is opened in packs 2 or 3). Then, the other cards magically dance their way from the packs into the Drafters’ decks. The Drafters play the games just in case the Secret Winner of the draft accidentally eats the rare or lights it on fire but it’s mostly just a formality. The Drafter who opens the best rares inevitably wins the draft and then they all go home.
Jokes aside, I’ve encountered a lot of players who give the same reason for disliking draft: the rares are all that matters (or matter too much).
As I transitioned from new face to known quantity at my LGS, I noticed that week after week, Friday after Friday, the same player was usually 2-0 heading in to the last round. Clearly, this was the best rare-opener at the store. Even more extraordinary, this skill followed him across town where he was regularly winning drafts at a different LGS. What I learned over time is that this player wasn’t great at opening rares, of course. He was great at applying limited fundamentals during the draft, deckbuilding, and games. Friday after Friday, draft after draft, he built functional two-color decks, made high percentage plays during the game, and won regularly. Despite what some my friends on Team Constructed will tell you, opening good rares is far from all that matters in draft (though it certainly helps). Consistent success in limited comes from following fundamentals. Plain and simple. These same fundamental skills that lead to success at your LGS are the ones that lead to success on the Eternal draft ladder. Today, we’re going back to the basics.
If you’re a high level drafter looking for an edge in Eternal draft, you’re probably not going to find it here. But if you’re like me, veteran drafter, maybe you need a reminder to follow fundamentals once in a while. The previous format made us all a very greedy bunch, after all. This article is intended to provide the limited deckbuilding guidelines that all dedicated drafters learn and internalize at some point. If you’re a newer drafter or just trying to build better limited decks: welcome! Let’s talk limited.
2. Limited against LSV
Ok, so you can win some games in Southern Maine by following fundamentals, but what if you want to compete at the highest level? Let’s move beyond the LGS and turn the difficulty up to 11. Let’s say you had to play exactly one game against occasional Eternal Streamer (and MTG Hall of Famer), LSV. As a handicap, you get two choices:
Option A) You are guaranteed to have a bomb rare in your deck.
Option B) You’re guaranteed to have power and cards to play on turns 2-5 while LSV experiences normal variance.
In a single game scenario, I could see taking the deck with the Dracoshaman Circlet
and just crossing your fingers. He’s LSV, he probably drafted a good deck and is going to be playing cards on curve anyway, so I might as well take the bomb. That sounds reasonable enough. But let's say you were going to play against LSV 1,000 times. Do you still take the bomb? What about 10,000 times? Are you still taking the bomb over the guarantee of playing your cards on curve?
Given the choice of option A or B over the course of 10,000 games, I think it would be wildly incorrect to choose option A even if I could pick the rare. Sure, there will be games where I draw and cast the bomb, but it’s not like LSV is just going to scoop because I played a great card. The best way for me to beat LSV is to use all of my power on turns 2-5 and hope that he can’t do the same either because he’s stuck on resources or just drew poorly. Over the course of so many games, LSV definitely will experience the bad end of variance. He’ll get stuck on two power while I spend five or six per turn. He can’t leverage his play skill nearly as much (I think?) if I’m casting multiple spells per turn while he’s casting one. Over such a long stretch, I think you’d win far more games against LSV by choosing option B instead of option A.
Obviously, I wouldn’t get a handicap if I were to see LSV in game. There would be no guarantee that I hit power and play cards until turn 6 or 7. What I can do, though, is build decks that maximize my chance to replicate option B in that game and any other. You can’t make yourself open better rares, but you can build decks that allow you to consistently cast your spells on curve by following fundamentals. Over your next 10,000 games, your focus should be to build draft decks that have a good chance to mimic option B. That’s all you have control over and, I would argue, what really determines most games of limited. .
Before I knew the first thing about Eternal draft’s archetypes or how to read signals in asynchronous draft, I would just follow drafting and deckbuilding fundamentals I learned from MTG. You can win a lot of games by building boring, functional two-color decks with decent creatures and interaction. You can sit down and draft a deck with the potential to win games in any format, even one you’ve never seen. To start, we’ll focus on these guidelines that provide the foundation for building consistent decks (with the potential to do broken things).
3. The Curve
I can’t explain the curve any better than Gavin Verhey did in this article
Quick version: You want variation and distribution when it comes to your cards’ casting cost. You want a certain number of cards that cost 2 power, 3 power, 4, 5, 6+. Most decks will have far more cheap cards (2-3 power) than expensive cards (4-6 power). The following 7-win decklists are used with permission from streamer & top drafter @Bettorup. You don’t even have to look at the cards. Just look look at the curve graphic in the top right corner.
Note the 1, 2, & 3 power columns compared to the 4, 5, & 6 columns in all instances.
If you looked at all the 7-win Eternal and MTG decklists over the past year, my guess is most of them would have a curve that looks similar. You maximimize the chances that you’re able to spend all your power on turns 2, 3, 4, and 5 if you focus on your curve. If you do that and play reasonable cards, not even great cards, you have a chance to win a huge percentage of games. Almost all limited decks are built/drafted with a curve in mind. You should be considering it on some level during the entire draft.
One aspect of the article I want to emphasize is that you should think about what turn you expect to cast the card instead of just its casting cost. Towering Arachnid
isn’t really a 2-drop. Relentless Pursuit
costs two but you will never play it on turn two. Your deck might have eight cards that cost 2 power but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have 8 cards you can play on turn two.
4. Curving Out with Commons
It feels really sweet when you outsmart your opponent, but in reality you don’t always need to do it to win games of limited. You’re playing against other smart people. You’re not going to outthink them all the time nor do you need to. Sometimes you win just because you played your cards on curve. It’s boring, but that’s the truth. Jon Finkel doesn’t lose 35% of his Pro Tour matches because he makes bad decisions or get outsmarted 35% of the time. He, and other players of his caliber, get the bad end of variance just like the rest of us. When that happens, you want to be the player who is attacking on turns 3, 4, and 5. Be boring. Take unexciting cards that fill out your curve. Pay for your next draft. Here are some examples of early “curve out” sequences that can happen with just commons.
Turn 2: Chainwhip Bludgeoner
Turn 3: Caravan Guard
Turn 4: Auric Official
imbuing Caravan Guard
Turn 5: Nightwatch Broadsword
Turn 6: Smogwing Tinker
A 6/8 ground creature, a relic weapon with 4 power, and a 4/4 flyer all on turn 6 sure ain’t bad. You won’t curve out like this every game, and you won’t win every single game even when you do, but you will have a chance to win all of those games.
Turn 2: Flameheart Patroller
Turn 3: Attack for 3. Rebel Sharpshooter
Turn 4: Corrosive Daggers
on Sharpshooter (make a rustling) and Chemical Rounds
. Attack for 7.
Turn 5: Gun Down
or Dusthoof Brawler
. Attack for 8.
Turn 6: Armed and Dangerous
or multiple cards.
You could easily replace Chemical Rounds
with Fire Symbol
on turn 4 in this sequence.
Turn 2: Apprentice Mage
Turn 3: Cult Recruiter
Turn 4: Battery Mage
Turn 5: Hunting Allosaur
Again, hands like this won’t happen every game, but you’ll be surprised how often they do if you build a deck with a good curve and consistent power base. The sequences described above don’t even have uncommons. You don’t always have to do broken things to win games. But you will lose every game in which you can’t cast your cards.
5. CABS (Cards that Affect the Board Strategy)
On episode 296
of Limited Resources
– A Fundamental Approach to Limited, host Marshall Sutcliffe and LSV give excellent insight into a number of topics, including building CABS decks. The acronym stands for “Cards that Affect the Board Strategy,” but my brain has internalized it as “Cards that Affect the Board State” which works just as well for me. One overarching theme of CABS and the fundamental Limited Resources approach is that it allows you to build functional decks with a good chance to win games almost every time you finish a draft. This approach isn’t very exciting. In fact, a lot of “correct” draft choices are incredibly safe and boring. But here’s the thing: you get to make interesting decisions in almost every game you play. That’s exciting. You get to win more games and draft more decks. That’s exciting. Be boring during the draft and deckbuilding. Have your fun while you’re making more meaningful choices and winning games more often.
As usual, I’ll recommend that you listen to the episode so you can hear directly from LSV – though I believe Marshall came up with the concept so credit to him. CABS decks consist of three things: units, removal spells (I would include relic weapons in this category for Eternal), and combat tricks. That’s it. No card draw spells of fancy relics. Just creatures, tricks, and removal. Marshall and LSV are quick to note that this isn’t the optimal way to draft, and that’s certainly true (you would never draft Vengeful Flight
, for example), but it’s a very good starting point for drafting and building limited decks. For those who don’t know, MTG decks consist of 40 cards instead of 45, so the details they provide about the number of units or spells a deck should have don’t directly apply to Eternal, though the ratios probably do if you’re mathematically inclined. The concepts, however, are 100% applicable. A quick aside: I spent a lot of time memorizing specific cards and interactions from the current MTG limited set when I first started drafting. While that time wasn’t exactly wasted, your time is far better utilized learning concepts that can apply across formats.
I won’t delve too deep into the three card types involved in CABS decks: units, removal, and combat tricks. Your deck should mostly be units. Your removal should be unconditional (more on this later) when you can get it. Your combat tricks should be tricky. For specific numbers, I will refer you to section 5 of Calebovitch’sdraft guide
, which recommends at least 15 creatures but preferably 17-19.
In this format, 18-19 is the correct number of power based on my experience. I usually start with 19 and look for a reason to stray from that. The newer you are, the more I encourage to err on the side of too much power instead of too few. Give yourself the best chance you can to cast all your spells. Nothing is less fun than sitting there with cards you can’t cast while your opponent kills you.
Rather than breaking down how many units and spells go in each Argent Depths archetype, I’d like to focus on are some examples of cards that don’t fit CABS theory. While we could talk about which combat tricks are most efficient or are better in which decks, the truth is that any combat trick is better than a dead card in your hand, so let’s take a look at potential dead cards. You can increase your win percentage significantly just by not putting narrow or suboptimal cards in your deck. Minimize mistakes to maximize win percentage applies to both gameplay and deckbuilding.
You want your cards to be playable, and worth the power you spent, as close to 100% of the time as possible. Every card is good sometimes. You want cards that are good all the time or a majority of the time. Don’t ask yourself what it could do. Ask yourself what it’s likely to do most of the time. Land's Edge
This card has impacted the outcome of exactly one of my Eternal games, as far as I can recall. A high level drafter played it in a Combrei deck and absolutely crushed me with it. That’s an example of someone who has internalized deckbuilding and knows when they can get away with it. Every other time I’ve seen it played, it was like my opponent spent three power to do nothing. I’ve also seen myself draft this card with high hopes and then put it in my pool during deckbuilding. If you put this card in your deck enough times, there will be some games where it does cool stuff and feels awesome. Your brain is much more likely to remember those games. You will quickly forget the games where it does stone cold nothing and you basically wasted a card. It’ll be cool sometimes but bad most of the time. Avoid those cards.
I have, I think, recovered from my Mysterious Waystone
addiction. When these decks work, they are extraordinarily fun and satisfying. I don’t even want to know how many bad Waystone decks I built. Truly horrendous piles of cards. Here’s a question you should ask yourself when you play a card like this: Would this have been better if it were some dorky creature that cost the same amount? In most games that I’ve cast Mysterious Waystone
, even casting a 4/4 would’ve been more impactful than a 5 cost relic that didn’t impact the board the turn that I played it. Casting a 4/4 isn’t nearly as fun as Mysterious Waystone
, but undoubtedly would’ve increased my win percentage in a lot of games. Barbarian Camp
This card has a place in this format. There are definitely decks that can play this card and get four power worth of value out of it. How do you build decks that meet that condition? I don’t know. I would have to think long and hard about whether or not to put this card in my deck. There will be games when your opponent has a wide board and this card looks unbeatable. Your brain will remember those games. There will be games when you play this card, it buffs two of your units, and literally any 4 cost creature in the format would’ve been a better play. Spending 4 power and a whole card is an awful lot of resources for a card that has the potential to do so little. Tainted Mark
I have not recovered from my Tainted Mark
addiction. If there is going to be a card that drafters will collectively overvalue and lose their minds over, it’s one that draws an extra card almost every turn (and sometimes on your opponent’s turn!). I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I think of all the extra cards I’ve drawn with Tainted Mark
. I do not look back fondly on the times I cast a 5-drop relic while I was being pummeled by creatures. This card is so good when it works. A lot of cards that don’t fit CABS are really good when they work. The problem is they don’t work a lot of the time and we tend to forget those games. I’m sure there have been games where I drew exactly one card off it and thought “yeah, Tainted Mark
was fine that game” as if cycling for 5 is an acceptable game action to take. Don’t get me wrong – Tainted Mark
is a good card. I almost always play it and it goes in a much higher percentage of decks than Land’s Edge, but I’ve included it here because sometimes you spend 5 power to do absolutely nothing and you should be aware when that happens. Bubble Shield
This is not a combat trick. This does not affect combat. This is a counter for an opponent’s removal spell. I think this card sees play in constructed and those types of cards are typically overvalued in draft. Will there be times when you negate your opponent’s Disappear
for 1 power? Sure. But there will also be times that your opponent misses their fourth power and you can’t really punish them because you have this in your hand instead of a creature. Or you can’t use this in combat because you don’t care about aegis in that scenario. There are specific decks that I might put this in, like Argenport, but your default setting should be to put this card in your pool. Draft and play cards that affect the board state and then look for exceptions to that, such as giving a creature aegis being more valuable because you have recursion.
You want cards that are good most of the time you cast them. You want cards that are good most of the times you cast them. You do not want cards that are amazing in some games but do nothing in others. You want cards that are good most of the time you cast them.
I’ve lost to my own Corpsebloom
s and Hunting Allosaur
s thanks to this card, just like everyone else. I’ve heard Hammerhand
horror stories. Those things happen. But sometimes you spend 4 or 6 power to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Remember those times. Burn them into your brain. This is exactly the kind of card you want to avoid. In a huge number of games, I pretty much guarantee you would’ve rather spent that 4-6 power on any vanilla unit.
6. Conditional Spells
Not all removal spells are created equal. Deathstrike
and Feeding Time
are examples of unconditional removal in that they can target any unit on the board. Annihilate
is an example of conditional removal with a very easy condition to meet. Lightning Strike
is conditional removal because you need the creature to attack first. Chemical Rounds
is an unconditional 2 damage. Gun Down
is a conditional 5 damage. The easier a condition is to meet, the better the removal spell is. You want to minimize the amount of conditional removal in your deck, though conditional removal is almost always better than no removal at all if you’re stuck in that spot. Ensnare
This card is doubly conditional: the creature has to be both attacking and have flying. I’ve played this card in the past, I can imagine decks where I’d play it in the future, and got blown out by it earlier this week. All that being said: ugh. This card is good a certain percentage of the time but other games it’s just dead. Think about how bad it is when you mulligan and lose a card. Effectively the same thing happens if you have a dead card in your hand. You can put this card in your deck, it will usually find a target, and sometimes it will be great. But I hate staring at this card in my hand and just hoping for a target. I have to be desperate for interaction to put this in my deck, though I’m quite happy to grab an etchings and put it in my market. Envelop
I will play this card but I will not like it. If I really need to trigger the multiple Blurhaze Wurm
s in my deck and don’t have mettle or forget, sure, I’ll play it. But I find myself unhappy with how this card performs most of the times that I put it in my deck. Like pretty much every card mentioned, there are going to be times when it is great, but I strongly encourage you to take note of when these cards are ineffective or straight up bad. I am so much higher on a card like Teleport
. This runs contrary to the Martin Juza rule (discussed below), but the extra flexibility that Teleport
provides is worth the extra 1 cost. You can bounce your own creatures to use their ultimates again, mess with opponent’s blocks when you attack, save your creatures from removal spells, and do 50 other things that Envelop
simply can’t do. You want cards that are flexible, like Teleport
, not cards that are conditional, like Envelop
7. Filling Deck Roles
“What does my deck want?” - I constantly ask myself this question after I’ve decided what colors I’m in. Though I don’t usually have specifics in mind, this means that I always have an idea of what I want my deck to look like when it’s finished – even if it’s just to have a good curve with some interaction. If I’m drafting Feln, my deck wants a lot of good removal and card draw. It doesn’t care about powerful 2 drops. If I’m drafting Xenan, my deck really wants cards I can play on my opponent’s turn. At the very least, I ask myself what my deck wants in between packs, though it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. Sometimes it’s specific, like seeing that my deck needs 2-drops so I have to take them over almost everything else in pack 4. In other cases it’s vague, like my deck really wants a piece of interaction or two out of pack 4 to be complete.
Here’s the CABS deck role checklist.
2. Removal Spells
3. Combat Tricks
When I draft/deckbuild, here are the essential roles that I’m thinking about and looking to fill in my deck:
3. Top End/Win Condition
Those three always stay, but certain archetypes have other roles that need to be filled. My mental list for Feln, for example, would probably look like this:
2. Interaction (preferably unconditional removal)
3. Card Draw
4. Recursion and/or Bomb.
Recursion is an important role to fill in the Feln deck, so I will first pick a False Demise over better cards in Pack 4 if that role hasn’t been filled yet.
A praxis deck probably has a mental checklist like this:
3. Top End/Win Condition
4. 5 cost spells.
I know I always mention two-drops first but that’s because they’re so important and go into every deck I build. A little less important in Eternal than MTG but still important. I feel so far behind if I don’t do anything until turn three.
Once you figure out what colors you’re in, you should determine what roles need to be filled in that specific deck. The further you are in the draft, the more you should be looking to fill roles instead of just taking the best card available. For example, I would never take Teleport
over Seasoned Spelunker
P2P2 because the unit is so much better. But I would take Teleport
in a heartbeat towards the end of pack 3 if the “interaction” role still needed to be filled in my deck.
Let’s look at the 2-drop units in Bettorup’s 7-win Rakano deck.
They include 3 Blazing Renegade
and an Overheating Minibot
. Gross. But they fill the two-drop role in this deck and that’s far more important than their individual card quality.
If the decks you draft consistenly have a good curve, a mixture of units and spells, and cards that impact the board, I promise you will have the opportunity to win more games, even if the cards you’re playing aren’t great. I loved Sunyveil’s example on episode 79
of Eternal Journey
. Sometimes your deck just needs a Direwood Rampager
. Put the stupid 6/4 in your deck if you have to. It doesn’t feel great while you deckbuild but it sure feels good to have something to do with 6 power on turn 6.
8. The Martin Juza Rule
I know this as a draft rule, not a deckbuilding rule, that exists because of deckbuilding constraints. I learned it as the Martin Juza (MTG Hall of Famer) rule and that’s what I call it in my head while I draft, but Gavin Verhey attributes it to Charles “Aceman” Dupont, so credit to him if he’s the originator. The rule is as follows: All other things being equal, draft/play the cheaper card. If you’re deciding between a 2-drop and a 4-drop halfway through pack 2 and you’re really not sure which one to take, take the 2-drop. This is only meant to be a tiebreaker. If it’s close, if you’re really not sure which card is better or which one your deck wants, just take the cheaper card. It’s unusual to finish a draft and find that you have too many cheap spells. Casting multiple spells per turn is usually a sign that your game is going well. If you’re not careful and just keep taking the most powerful card in the pack, though, it’s easy to end up with a deck full of cards that cost 5, 6, or 7 power. All other things being equal (i.e. quality, role), take the cheaper card.
I’m actually really curious to know if other drafters have their own tiebreakers. The Martin Juza rule is the only guideline I know and it makes sense to me so I apply it when I draft.
9. Splashing – The Rule of Three
I don’t know who to attribute it to, but conventional wisdom is that you want at least 3 sources of a color for every card you splash. So if you want to splash one Tota Pioneer
in your Combrei deck, you need three red sources. If you want the pioneer and Mightweaver
, you need 4 red sources. One very important note is that you don’t want to just add three fire sources to your power base and call it good. Your power base will be horrendous, you won’t draw your primary or secondary colors consistently, and you won’t have any fun. If you have a seek power and a trail maker, though, you can count those as red sources and only add one fire sigil to your deck.
My personal bar for splashing cards is high because the cost of a potentially dead card is significant, especially in this format compared to others. I’ll jump through a couple hoops to splash feeding time if my deck is light on removal, but I won’t compromise my power base to splash feeding time if I’m otherwise happy with my removal spells. Not being able to cast your cards obviously hurts your win percentage, but it’s also incredibly un-fun. I’ve lost plenty of long, complicated games that were really enjoyable. I’ve never lost a game with uncastable cards in hand and thought it was fun. Those games are miserable.
In general, you want your splash cards to be impactful later in the game. It’s usually incorrect to splash for something like a 2-drop, even a very good one, because your chances of playing it on turn 2 are so slim. This isn’t true for removal spells like annihilate which is equally good on turn 2 or turn 20. I never bend or break the rule of three. My decks will always have at least three sources for a splash card.
The Rule of Three applies when the card you want to splash requires a single faction to cast. You shouldn’t be splashing for cards with double influence requirements. It’s greedy and you shouldn’t do it. But just in case you do, here’s what it should look like. Let’s say I’m Elysian and open The Unforgiven
in pack 4. If I have a Forbidden Research
, I’d consider taking it and looking for two shadow symbols. If I have a Forbidden Research
and a petition, I’ll take the Unforgiven and then take the first Shadow symbol I see. Double influence from the symbol, double influence from the petition, double influence from the Forbidden Research
. Three sources. I’m Elysian so I’m already planning to play until the late game and the card is powerful enough to warrant splashing. This is all assuming there’s not a very good Time or Primal card in the pack. In that case, I’d just take the good card that I can easily cast.
10. Bending or Breaking the Rules
A saying I learned from a college professor (but a quick Google search attributes similar quotes to Picasso and the Dalai Lama) goes roughly like this: You have to learn the rules so you know which ones you can bend and which ones you can break. This applies well to both writing and deckbuilding. When I didn't know anything about Eternal draft, I just applied the drafting and deckbuilding rules. Once you learn a format, though, you start to figure out which rules you can bend and which you can break.
A @bettorup decklist that I really love. This is what it looks like when an experienced drafter knows how to break/bend the rules. See if you can find the outlier on this curve.
Did your eyes make it all the way over to the 7+ column? If you drafted your deck without a real plan and your curve has a column like that, go ahead and click the “edit deck” button before you play your games. This deck, however, has 4 units that produce power, one that potentially ramps and fixes, and one that makes five of the 7+ cost cards cheaper. This is knowing when you can get away with it. This comes with experience. I can’t speak for Bettorup, but in my case it also comes with building a lot of really bad decks while figuring out what I can get away with and what I can’t.
Here's an example of a deck that I got away with (7-0). Special thanks to @Siatarr for getting the screenshot.
A few notes:
- I felt like I needed another piece of interaction in this deck so splashing the third color was worth it. I have a Seek Power
and two Unbreakable Tradition
that can produce Primal, so putting a single Primal sigil in my power base gives me four total sources for a card that I'm always planning to play in the late game. Fills a role in my deck and follows the splashing rules.
2. Sand Warrior
s - A little bit greedy without Time symbols. Wasn't planning to play them on turn 2 and I have six other units that I can play on that turn. The fact that Unbreakable Tradition could produce double time is what swayed me. A 3/3 that costs 0 power is still a good play on turn 5, especially if you're attacking with a 10/10 Ancient Machinist
and need a blocker.
3. Just look at that high-powered rare. A 6-drop ambush creature that I'm always paying full price for. Devastating. It's the only rare in the deck. I checked Bettorup's decklists out of curiosity about the rares and I encourage you to do the same.
This deck was definitely bending the rules a little bit with the power requirements. I'm not convinced the 10Time/7Justice split was optimal even though it worked out. This is me seeing how far I can bend the rules. I wouldn't be looking to draft this in the Draft Championship.
11. Play 45 Cards (40 in MTG)
Always play 45 cards. I’ve written enough. You can play more than 45 cards if you’re alright with making your deck worse..
12. Be Boring
Losing games to rares feels awful. I get it, I really do. The losses sting the most and stick with us the longest. It can seem like great players always have rares in their deck. There are a few reasons for this. 1.) High-level drafters (Ben Stark, William Jensen, Paul Rietzl - not me. I do my best impression of them) prioritize being able to cast their cards and build decks accordingly. They’re usually able to cast their rares when they draw them. 2.) Great drafters maximize the value of their best cards. You can put Maeve, Walker of Aeons
in any Combrei deck and she’ll be great, but there’s a big difference between building around the Maeve you got in pack 1 compared to just slotting in the Maeve you were lucky enough to open in pack 4. 3.) If there’s a way to play a sweet rare that adheres to deckbuilding fundamentals, great drafters will find a way. And when their power base doesn’t support that sweet rare, they put it in their pool where it belongs. So yes, great players seem to have more rares and there are reasons for that.
I want to acknowledge something: It's very possible you lost because you got unlucky. I'll be honest - Of course there are games where I feel like I outplayed my opponent, my overall deck was better, and then I lose after they cast Rolant, Merciless
. The enlightened perspective is that variance just didn't go my way that game. Sometimes you lose to bomb rares. It's just part of what we signed up for. My reaction in the moment is usually something more like: "OH COOL! FUN GAME! SO GLAD I DID ALL THAT HARD WORK!" and then I rage draft. I'm a flawed individual and I'm working on it.The larger truth, though, the one that takes so many games of limited to learn, is that your ability to apply drafting and deckbuilding fundamentals will decide far more of your next 10,000 games than the number of rares your opponent plays against you.
If you’re newer to draft or looking to build better limited decks, here’s my advice: Be Boring. Try to draft two-color decks with a good curve and cards that impact the board consistently. Take the 2-drop that your deck wants even though it’s not exciting. Take the Direwood Rampager
and put that big dumb 6/4 at the top of your curve if that's what your deck needs. The truth is that increasing your win percentage doesn’t always look flashy. No one at your local game store is going to grab their buddy and say “come here and check out this game! Schaab is using all of his power, like, EVERY turn!” You don’t always get to outsmart your opponent. Sometimes you win games because you cast cards with your simple, efficient 2 color deck while your opponent hopes their power base works out. Boring is correct a lot of the time. Boring wins games. You know what’s not boring? Games of Eternal with interesting decisions. Drafting boring decks will provide you with a lot of those. Learn the rules for building consistent decks. Apply the rules. Internalize the rules. Make it to Masters with the rules.
Then figure out how you can break them.
HUGE thank you to Bettorup for letting me use his screenshots and decklists as examples. An excellent drafter/streamer that I started watching after hearing him on Eternal Journey. He talks about his thought process a lot while he drafts, which gives a ton of great insight in to how a consistently good drafter approaches the format.
My favorite episode of Limited Resources Inside the Elite Magic Mind with William "Huey" Jensen and Ben Stark
is incredible and I can't recommend it highly enough. Once you've worked really hard on fundamentals, you might find that a lot of your barriers are mental ones. I find it useful to have mental audio clips of Huey saying "A big part of the 'working hard' is just grinding through the losses. If you're the best player in the world, you're just not gonna win that many Magic tournaments" and Ben Stark saying "What are you even mad at? You're mad at your deck? It's a stack of playing cards. You're mad at luck? Luck isn't a person. Luck didn't do this to you." The whole episode is fantastic.
Thank you again to everyone for your feedback about my previous articles. Emotionally, hearing that someone has become a better drafter after reading my work feels like curving out with nothing but bombs. This game is great, the community is better, and it has been an absolute pleasure to contribute to the growing Eternal community. I love consuming Eternal content, would love to see more of it, and am so appreciative of those who currently create it. I won’t be able to dedicate much time to writing once the calendar turns to September, so any future articles will not occur with the same frequency as the first three. My goal is always to help people get better at draft so please feel free to email me at [email protected]
if there is something in particular you’d like to learn about. I’m hoping to start streaming a little bit over the next couple of months, so maybe we’ll get to talk about limited there. Until then, be excellent to each other and happy drafting!
All my Eternal writing can also be found here: Let's Talk Limited