Welcome to my pick order list for triple-Magic Origins draft.
For my Pro Tour testing, I was unable to attend my team’s “drafting cabin” in the Czech woods due to work obligations, so I familiarized myself with the format by doing a bunch of drafts on Magic Online and by discussing cards with teammates once I got to Vancouver. It worked out for me, as I went 5-1 in Limited on my way to a 17th place finish at the Pro Tour.
In my experience, the format is fairly aggressive and tempo-oriented. Data from Rolle, whose replay scraping bots analyzed 58,000 games of Magic Origins Limited on Magic Online, supported this. In this data set, the average number of turns per game is 9.1 and the player who goes first in game 1 wins 51.1% of those games. This indicates that the format is quite fast—faster than Dragons of Tarkir Limited.
Renown creatures are largely responsible for this, as a turn-2 Topan Freeblade can lead to quick kills if unopposed. For that reason, your win percentage shoots up if you can play a creature on turn 2, and I aim for four or five 2-drops in this format. As always, the ones that remain good in the late game are still the best.
Mulligans are punishing. A mulligan to 6, which happened in 30.2% of the games on MTGO, reduces your win percentage to 37.3% (34.5% on the play and 40.3% on the draw) and a mulligan to 5, which happened in 5.6% of the games on MTGO, reduces your win percentage to 23.9% (20.0% on the play and 28.4% on the draw).
On Magic Online, the most frequently drafted color is white, but it doesn’t have the highest game win percentage. That honor goes to red. Below, you can see each color’s numbers based on the 58,000 games collected by Rolle’s replay scraping bots. (Each color’s win percentage is over 50%, which I guess is caused by certain players staying “colorless” if they immediately concede or disconnect.)
Red was also pointed out as the “best” color by my teammates, as it had the best match win percentage (by a lot) in the 16 practice drafts in the cabin. Green is a decent color to be in because it is deep and contains many playables. Blue is shallow and is the weakest color when you look at its lack of playables, but it can still be a fine support color, especially in case there are only two blue drafters at the table. White is good, but it is likely being overdrafted these days. Black is not great, although it’s better than the above numbers indicate when you don’t pair it with white.
In Magic Origins, which is a two-color format, black/red is the best archetype (winning 54.2% of its games on Magic Online) and black/white is the worst archetype (winning 49.1% of its games on Magic Online). The cabin drafts led to the exact same conclusion regarding best and worst archetype.
That’s all for raw data. Now, on to my pick order list! In this list, I ranked all cards in Magic Origins from high to low as a guide for the first-pick-first-pack decision. It is based on my estimations of the power of the cards during game play—the monetary value is not taken into account. Multicolored cards are ranked lower because you don’t want to commit to two colors from the get-go and colorless cards are ranked a little higher because they fit into every deck. I broke the list down into separate categories to make it easier to read and to allow me to intersperse some comments, but you can think of it as one continuous list if you like.
As a reminder, don’t mindlessly follow this pick order for the entirety of the draft. You need a good mana curve and a coherent game plan, and things can change a lot depending on what you have already picked so far. The list is just an indication for the first-pick-first-pack decision.
The Best Rares
In a paper draft, I would take all of these cards over any common or uncommon. Overall, the list of best rares is relatively small, and most of them are beatable. This means that the power level in this set is moderately flat.
The flip-‘walkers are all ranked a bit higher than they might deserve, but I have them over the top uncommons for signaling purposes. In a paper draft, you get to see when a double-faced card is opened and picked, and taking such a card early is a good way to stake a claim in a certain color. Even if Sentinel of the Eternal Watch might a better card than Kytheon, it is awkward to take the uncommon while sending the signal that white is open to your left. Your left neighbor will take the double-faced mythic rare and set you up for a poor second pack. In such a situation, I’d rather take Kytheon in the hope that my left neighbor doesn’t want to be white to the left of another white drafter. On Magic Online, where double-faced cards are not revealed, I may take Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, though.
Chandra is the worst of the bunch because she’s hard to flip, but I prefer being red because it’s the “best” color. So, I’ll take a slightly worse red card over a slightly better non-red card early on. This color preference is imposed everywhere else in the pick order list as well.
The Best Uncommons
The uncommons in this part of the list are all great. Whirler Rogue may be the most powerful one in the abstract, but it’s in the shallowest color and double-blue at that, so when it comes to my first pick of the first pack, I prefer the white 6-drop that dominates the board. There are more playable white cards than blue cards in the format, so it has a larger probability of eventually ending up in my deck.
I’m not entirely sure about some of the rares and mythics in this part of the list. For instance, Archangel of Tithes is an incredible card, but triple-white can be too taxing on the mana base, so I think I prefer Whirler Rogue.
The Best Commons
As I mentioned before, red cards are ranked a bit higher due to color preference, but I think Fiery Impulse would still be the top common in my list if it were a different color. The common red 3-drop creatures are all very good, but since there are a lot of them, you have to be careful not to pick them too highly during the draft, otherwise your curve will end up with more than six 3-drops, which is too many. Subterranean Scout is ranked relatively high because it’s the only red 2-drop I like playing. I’ve found Mage-Ring Bully and Dragon Fodder to be mediocre.
Leaf Gilder and Claustrophobia are cards that may be higher in other formats, but I had to put them lower because of the specific make-up of Magic Origins Limited. Green has three good 2-drops (Elvish Visionary, Leaf Gilder, Timberpack Wolf) so you can take Leaf Gilder a little lower and still end up with a fine curve. Blue has relatively few good commons or uncommons, so it often ends up as a support color in a deck with 7 Islands, in which case the early double-blue cost of Claustrophobia is prohibitive.
Finally, a few comments on high-risk high-reward rares:
- Kothophed, Soul Hoarder would be better as a 6/6 flier with no ability, as you can often die to the mandatory triggers.
- Avaricious Dragon is powerful in the late-game, but it can easily lose you the game if you play it on turn four. Think of it as a 6-drop, like a Gold-Forged Sentinel with a bonus, and you’ll be fine.
- Thopter Spy Network ranges from insane to unplayable, depending on your deck. It requires a fair amount of setup, and I will typically not play it unless I have at least 5 artifacts or Thopters.
- The 7-drops (Mage-Ring Responder, Alhammarret, and Gideon’s Phalanx) can all win games by themselves, but 7 is a lot of mana and the format is fast, so I don’t want to take them over the best commons and uncommons.
This is about where I put the gold uncommons, with the good red ones on top. They’re powerful, but it’s a hefty commitment early in the draft.
All gold cards indicate which cards improve in their respective color combination. For instance, when you’re red/black, Act of Treason is better because it synergizes nicely with Blazing Hellhound. Likewise, Returned Centaur is better in blue/black due to Possessed Skaab, Aspiring Aeronaut is better in white/blue because of Thunderclap Wyvern, and so on. It’s easy to grasp each two-color archetype like that.
You also see the best combat tricks around here in the list. Although I still prefer good removal spells to fill out the eight-or-so slots for noncreature spells in my draft decks, pump spells are great in this format because the renown keyword incentives opponents to block more. I don’t mind running three or even four. The large amount of playable combat tricks in the format also means that you can bluff-attack more frequently.
Lands are ranked relatively high because they’re colorless, which leaves you open. Rogue’s Passage is a great addition to any deck without double-color requirements in both colors, and I like 1-2 Evolving Wilds to improve my mana base in almost any two-color deck.
Willbreaker is interesting. It’s great when combined with cards like Grasp of the Hieromancer, Akroan Jailer, Alchemist’s Vial, Eyeblight Assassin, or Yeva’s Forcemage, but none of these cards are great by themselves, and Willbreaker is terrible without some combo potential. I think picking it around here is a good compromise, even if you’ll often have to leave it in your sideboard.
By now, we’ve gotten to the cards that are decent but that I can’t ever envision myself first picking. A few quick comments on certain cards:
- I’m not a fan of Read the Bones in this format. It’s playable, but I don’t want multiples, and paying 3 mana and 2 life to do something that doesn’t immediately affect the board can be a death sentence in this tempo-oriented format.
- Blightcaster and Blood-Cursed Knight are low on the list because white/black is a trap. Your cards heavily rely on enchantments, but there are not all that many to go around, and even when everything works, the synergies that you assemble are not all that impressive. The deck often turns out clumsily, and I recommend avoiding it.
- The pain lands are high picks for me if I’m in that color combination—I like consistent mana—but they’re ranked relatively low here because they’re gold cards for the purpose of the first-pick-first-pack decision.
- Maritime Guard, although it saddens me to say it, is a card that I’ve played more than once in this format. You just really need the 2-drops.
- Vryn Wingmare may look decent, but a 1-toughness flier in a world of Thopter tokens is not well-positioned.
There’s no clear hard line between “reasonable playables” and “filler material” as it’s still one continuous list in essence, but I’d rather not play most of the cards in this category. There are always exceptions—for example, you can sometimes get a powerful super-aggressive Goblin Glory Chaser plus Call of the Full Moon deck—but I usually end up cutting these cards from my deck.
Overall, the Magic Origins card pool seems relatively shallow, and you can encounter “empty” boosters that are devoid of playables fairly early. As a result, it can be dangerous to switch colors in the middle of the draft. If you do that, then you may not end up with enough playables.
If you take any of these cards as your first pick, then something is really really wrong. Well, unless you’re taking Alhammarret’s Archive in order to assemble Andrew Cuneo’s Blue/Red Tutelage deck, which just won Grand Prix San Diego in the hands of Michael Majors. I guess that’s an acceptable excuse.
I’ve enjoyed Magic Origins draft, but this weekend it’s Standard time for me: I’ll be in London, doing commentary together with Marijn Lybaert and Matej Zatlkaj. Can’t wait to see if Blue/Red Tutelage can take down another Grand Prix!