How NOT To Draft RGD #1

I made the unfortunate decision very, very late Friday night to draft RGD, despite having had two very tall red drinks with too much Jager in them and being exhausted from working 9 hours that day. Having not actually drafted RGD very much in recent years(essentially zero), I assumed it would go something like the way Conley’s videos go on ChannelFireball.com, where the mana is flawless and spells come as needed. What I had forgotten is that reading color signals was a huge part of the draft process in those days, and that those signals would be very hard to send/receive since most don’t have a firm grasp on the power level of mid pack cards aka. the important ones that tend to send signals. To make matters worse, it was no longer Nix Pax as it was earlier that week. Nix Tix is the new game, and due to my terrible performance in those drafts I was short Ravnica packs since those were only received in the event of making the finals or better in a draft(yeah, it was that bad). I promptly paid NINE tickets for one since they doubled in price after Nix Tix started. Let’s see if I can properly point out where the train left the tracks…

 

 Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:
Alright, so far so good. Peel isn’t as good without damage on the stack, but is a fine card with flexible effects. It’s also a single color, and one I really, really enjoy in RGD. Golgari Rotwurm is sweet too, but it’s two colors in a guild I generally don’t like, and although splashing is hardly an issue, the guy is not nearly as good as he was in RRR or even RRG. Losing those extra packs of Selesnya and Golgari hurt his value.
Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:
It’s really boom or bust with Ravnica packs. The power level is generally pretty low, unless it’s obscenely high. The middle ground doesn’t have a whole lot really, so packs tend to drop off fast, unless a particular color combination is overloaded in a particular pack. Four picks, including mine, and this pack is pretty much done. Five if you count the land, which is OK I suppose, but on the board tricks that cost four mana and tapping is asking alot. It’s no Vault of the Archangel.
Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:
This is the first mistake. Signets with Green in them are kinda weak. In most draft decks someone wants to play Green to play cards like Farseek, or Civic Wayfinder, or Starfletcher. Yeah, it accelerates, but it isn’t as good as Centaur Safeguard, a card that will almost certainly make any Green or White deck I play. Yes, it’s only P4P1, but one has to simultaneously be fluid and plan ahead in this format. Always think about future packs and guild combinations. Right now I was considering Esper or Grixis. I hadn’t seen a Green card I wanted to play outside the Rotwurm, who isn’t awesome anyway. Taking the Signet is the wimpy pick, and when you do that too often, you end up with a deck like I did.
  Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:
It’s possible Terrarion is the pick, but Strands is actually pretty good as a Mind Rot and win condition protector. Card advantage will win those longer games.
Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:
Although I milled multiple people out with this guy alone, he is, just like Golgari Rotwurm, not nearly as powerful as he was in RRR. It’s tough to mill people out without lots of Dimir cards. Also, Three Dreams is totally insane in one of the color combinations I was considering. In Esper you can get Faith’s Fetters, Plumes of Peace, Stasis Cell, Pillory of the Sleepless, not to mention various offensive Auras or rares like Followed Footsteps(which COULD still be coming, but is unlikely). Entrancer was great, but this was a pick I regretted constantly during games.
Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:
Yeah, I really didn’t pick Psychic Drain here after taking an Entrancer over Three Dreams. More wimpy picks. Don’t worry, I pay for it later. I have to play actual games with this deck.
Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:
Large man is large. Incidentally, you can ramp right from Patagia Viper to this guy. Neat!
Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

As you can see, sometimes there just isn’t anything to say about mid level packs. Necroplasm is the only card I thought was worth a damn(Gaze is alright as filler I guess). It kills tokens and small guys, something I bet my deck would have issues with. A sideboard card to be sure, but an effective one.
Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 14:

My Pick:

14th pick bad removal. Whee! Three Dreams. ::cough cough::
Pack 1 pick 15:

My Pick:

 Pack 2 pick 1:
            
My Pick:
Easy pick. I wanted to be either Esper or Grixis, and this sets me nicely down one of those paths. If I had opened Ogre Savant or Weird, I would have taken it over the Thrull, even though I’ve noticed in several of these drafts that Orzhov is woefully underdrafted.
Pack 2 pick 2:
           
My Pick:
Contrary to what some people believe, Agent of Masks isn’t very good. I would play it if forced to, but it’s an underwhelming creature at the five slot. Either way, removal is far more important.
Pack 2 pick 3:
          
My Pick:
Castigate isn’t terrible, and neither is Revnant Patriarch. With luck, one might wheel from this pretty strong pack.
Pack 2 pick 4:
         
My Pick:
I like Withstand in more aggressive decks, and I don’t yet know just how much White or Black I’ll be running, so this time the Signet is correct. I could take Starfletcher and try for the Bant + 1 plan that many decks seem to be, but I didn’t think it was worth the gamble since I could play the Signet in either deck.
Pack 2 pick 5:
        
My Pick:
Giftsies! Our splash is set now, if that’s what we choose to do.
Pack 2 pick 6:
        
My Pick:
It’s very possible that Storm Herd is the right call, but as weak as Mourning Thrull is, it buys a fair amount of time.
Pack 2 pick 7:
       
My Pick:
I’m pretty sure this was just bad. I’m hoping to get a few more finishers, using cards like this to buy time, but this guy just isn’t good. Maybe if I was already set on win conditions with a VERY slow deck I would think about this guy, but I gave up another, better creature in Mourning Thrull to take this. Thunderheads wouldn’t have been bad even. Bad Jager!
Pack 2 pick 8:
      
My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 9:
     
My Pick:

I’m hoping to get some Plumes of Peace in pack three for my deck without Three Dreams ::facepalm::. Nothing else here is playable for me anyway.
Pack 2 pick 10:
    
My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 11:
    
My Pick:

I should have seen the Green fat coming late and just nabbed the Nodorog here.
Pack 2 pick 12:
   
My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 13:
  
My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 14:
 
My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 1:
            
My Pick:

After a quick check to ensure Spell Snare wasn’t $8 like real ones are, the Halo hit my pile. It’s a fine card in general, but I always see a Simic Ragworm late in pack three. Note that there will be almost no Black cards I will want from this last pack, and half of my six Black playables are marginal at best. This causes Simic to be a viable choice in this pack in addition to Azorius since I’m so short on playable cards.
Pack 3 pick 2:
           
My Pick:
At least, that’s what I should have thought. I decided to take the Enemy here because I wasn’t giving up much, and it’s still splashable, but really Beacon Hawk is pretty good, the Graftmage is OK, and Simic Ragworm, despite coming late, is fine too. More importantly, any other choice would automatically make the deck. This brings my Black total to 7, with 4 that I really want to play. Another terrible pick.
Pack 3 pick 3:
          
My Pick:
There’s always one pack that was just made for you. This was mine, and I really wanted, nay NEEDED to wheel anything from this one.
Pack 3 pick 4:
         
My Pick:
Starting to get somewhere. Wherever I’m going, it doesn’t involve lots of creatures though.
Pack 3 pick 5:
        
My Pick:
I should just plan to be Simic every time. Man the bombs go late from this color! And yes, this is a bomb in these times.
Pack 3 pick 6:
        
My Pick:
The second finisher I needed. Now to just try to clean up the creature count a bit.
Pack 3 pick 7:
       
My Pick:
One!
Pack 3 pick 8:
      
My Pick:
Still one but we’re happy!
Pack 3 pick 9:
     
My Pick:
Two and now unhappy!
Pack 3 pick 10:
    
My Pick:
And there it is. Three and happy again!
Pack 3 pick 11:
    
My Pick:
I have my limits. I could mill someone yes, but I just can’t play Enigma Eidolon after I already have the White one.
Pack 3 pick 12:
   
My Pick:
Four!
Pack 3 pick 13:
  
My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 14:
 
My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My Pick:

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Well, it worked out OK, but my creature count was very, very low, and I had to rely on playing bad aggro decks and not the slow, bomb laden control decks I was sure were out there. I somehow beat a guy who had two Rakdos Ickspitters and two Absolver Thrull to go with Plagued Rusalka in round one. I milled him Game one with a regenerating Entrancer, and ramped from Patagia Viper into Guardian when he knew I had the Guardian(Castigate) and he had a Plagued Rusalka. I also beat a very weird five color control deck that I’m pretty sure just drew terribly. I even tried to help him out in Game One by Forecasting Plumes on a Stinkweed Imp while he had a Dimir House Guard in play, then just playing the Plumes on the Imp instead of the tapped Guard that was beating on me, or just reforecasting each turn since we were even in the race. That’s Jager for you.
I was offered a split in the finals, with me getting 4 packs and my opponent the QP(all RGD drafts are 4-3-2-2). The pack he traded me was even a Ravnica pack. Whee!
This walkthrough wasn’t the most helpful to someone trying to learn or relearn how to draft this complex format, but I touched on a key point earlier. Having an overall plan and being fluid in the execution of said plan is the number one most important thing to remember when drafting RGD. Before I took my first pick(Peel From Reality), I had already started to think about what I can do with that in terms of color combinations. Thinking about how many guilds you will have access to each pack is pretty important. If you have a stray pack(where you are getting nothing), you need to have a plan in case you aren’t getting the number of playables you had hoped, and in particular what pack are you stranded in. For example,  if you want to be Naya you will have no guilds in pack three. However, by pack three you will know exactly what your core spell count is, and there will be very little guessing about whether you need to branch out or change entirely. However, if you want to be Bant, your weak pack is pack two. Are you willing to sit on the sidelines, taking Ghost Wardens and other, weaker cards in preparation for the big payoff in Dissension? If you think you can get there, a focused Bant aggro deck is probably one of the best non-five color decks in the format, but it’s a huge risk, and requires some discipline. Can you really take a Ghost Warden over a Pillory or a Blind Hunter? Other oddities exist as well, such as RGU. This deck almost ALWAYS ends up adding a fourth color because it has to reach for playables both in pack one where it has no guild, and in pack three, where it could be scrambling to complete a deck. Despite this, it’s still very popular, mostly on the back of cards like Assault Zepplid followed up by Ogre Savant.
All this, well, it’s quite a bit to think about. Maybe this is why it was so popular. This was, in one writer’s humble opinion, the most complex draft format ever, and although it was rather simple to get something that you could at least sorta play(evidenced by my deck above), it was very tough to have drafted 100% correctly, even taking the random chance of the packs aside. RGD draft rivals even ISD Sealed, where sometimes one had three or more playable decks! Hope this got you in the mood to RGD. I know it worked for me!
Nigel
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