I’m not normally the Draft guy. I’ve always played more Constructed than Limited, as it’s more important for high-level tournaments. I never really felt the joy that comes from cracking that first booster pack.
There have been some exceptions. Khans of Tarkir, Magic Origins, and Shards of Alara, to name a few. While I really disliked Amonkhet, I am pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoy playing this Draft format. I’ve already played over 70 Drafts, and I’m still finding new and exciting things.
In Amonkhet, the only way to win was to attack. The exert cards made blocking terrible. When Hour of Devastation was spoiled, I was afraid that more of the same was going to happen. I was looking through the spoiler, seeing more exert cards and a mechanic called afflict that discourages blocking. Luckily, I was wrong, and I believe this Draft format should be included in the discussion for the best ever. Today I’ll talk a bit about how I approach drafting this set. Given the fact that I’ve played so many Drafts, I feel pretty comfortable with the archetypes. I’ve also started doing pretty well recently, including my 5-1 result at the Pro Tour.
The first thing to know in this set is that you should be trying to draft decks and not cards. This has been the rule for many of the modern sets but I think it is super important in this format. The reason for this is that each and every color has both great offensive and great defensive options, which is not that common. Even blue, which is often the slower color, has some great aggressive options like Spellweaver Eternal and Aerial Guide.
During our Team Limited meeting, we were trying to rank the blue commons and uncommons. I was arguing that we should rate Aerial Guide over Sinuous Striker, because when I was drafting blue I usually ended up in aggressive decks with Aerial Guide. In the end, I was convinced by my teammates that Sinuous Striker is likely a better card in a vacuum, but it should illustrate the point that it all depends on your deck. In aggressive decks, you definitely want the Guide, whereas if you’re control, you want the Striker.
When it comes to colors, red is the best color by a wide margin. You have great commons and uncommons, including the secret mythic rare in Sand Strangler. Then I’d say green, white, and blue are basically on the same level, with black being the worst. I almost never want to end up black unless I have a good B/W Zombies deck.
Otherwise, almost every color combination is viable. The one I like the least is R/B. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good red-black, which is weird because it was one of my favorite archetypes in triple-Amonkhet. But if you manage to open The Scorpion God, go nuts.
Aside on the Gods: I’ve seen some people on social media complaining about how overpowered the Gods are, but I actually quite like their presence. They’re obviously very powerful, but they are expensive 2-color mythic rares. I wish there were more answers to handle them, but overall I’m glad they exist.
At the start of the Draft I tend to not look at the color of the cards I’m picking and instead concentrate on the power level. The presence of some reasonable fixing (Survivor’s Encampment, Traveler’s Amulet, and Manalith) along with the 4/5-color green decks makes splashing easy. It’s not unusual for me to have 4 cards of different colors after the first 5 picks. After that I usually try to find what’s open and settle into that.
As for the common Deserts, they’re the reason this format is so great. I really wish we could have cycling lands in every single set. I don’t mean to say I pick them highly, I’m not afraid to. This happened to me at the PT where I already had some Desert synergy cards, so I first picked Desert of the Glorified out of a weak pack. Have in mind that those synergies exist, and pick the Deserts based on how many of them effects you have. It goes without saying that they become a greater priority if you have cards like Sand Strangler compared to cards like Desert’s Hold. Yes, it’s nice to gain 3 life, but Desert’s Hold is still going to be a great card, while Hill Giant is very medium.
Because of the Deserts, I 17 lands in most of my decks. This number goes down if I have low curve and Traveler’s Amulet (U/R) or goes up if I have a lot of beef and a lot of Deserts (some green decks). At the PT, I decided to play 15 lands because I had a super low-curve deck—only 1 Desert and 3 Crash Through. Even that was still possibly wrong. Overall, I think it’s better to be flooded than screwed, so if in doubt, play extra land.
When the set came out, I wrote about the cycles in Hour of Devastation. In it, I heaped high praise on the Defeat cards. I thought I would pick them highly, but reality turned out differently. I still like the white one quite a bit as it feels great to take care of embalm and eternalize creatures, but I don’t usually pick the others very highly—usually like 7th-10th pick. I mostly pick them over filler-level cards, but not over the good main-deck cards.
I’ll leave you with 5 of my favorite archetypes. The first three are what I consider to be the best, while the last two are ones that worked well for me and might be a bit under the radar. We had a Facebook group where my teammates and I shared screenshots of our Draft decks from MTGO. For each and every one of the archetypes I’ll share a deck that should give you an idea of how the deck is supposed to look. A big thanks to my teammates for letting me use those!
This the best and my favorite archetype in Hour of Devastation Limited. There are a bunch of ways to approach U/R. The one I’m sharing is the very aggressive version with multiple Crash Throughs and 15 lands. I believe Crash Through is one of the most underrated cards in the whole set. At the PT, I got the card last pick in both of my Drafts. It works well with Magmaroth, as well as prowess creatures like Thorned Moloch and Spellweaver Eternal.
Speaking of Eternal, that card is the key to this archetype, and you want as many of them as you can get your hands on. Other than that, you just want cheap creatures and interactive spells. I love Cartouche of Knowledge. My teammates and I were thrilled every time we would get that card in the last pack. I’m not a huge fan of Unquenchable Thirst in this archetype, as you often don’t have an incentive to play many Deserts, and it’s really poor in this deck if you can’t tap their guy. With that said, the card is still great and I pick it highly. If I do, I’d rather end up somewhere else than U/R. Riddleform is also a great card and I have to admit that I’ve first picked my fair share of them.
This is basically the Oasis Ritualist deck. If you get into the archetype, there are very few cards in the common and uncommon slot that you want to pick over it. Usually I get into this archetype by picking a couple removal spells or a bomb rare to start my Draft. After that, you want to make sure that green is open, as this deck tends to be mono-green with a bunch of splashes. I like to prioritize Deserts a bit higher in this as you often end up with bunch of Unquenchable Thirst and Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs. When drafting this archetype, you should be careful to have enough beef. The most ideal card is obviously Sandwurm Convergence, but Overwhelming Splendor, Sifter Wurm, and Chaos Maw are also pretty great. My favorite finisher is River Hoopoe. This little guy usually closes the game pretty quickly, and after a few activations your biggest worry becomes decking yourself. Overall, this archetype is likely the most fun as you get to do a ton of sweet stuff.
(The last card in the deck should be a 2nd Solitary Camel.)
Good old boring Boros. All you want here is a good curve, a couple tricks, and a rare or two. Not much else to say here. One card I’d like to highlight is Unconventional Tactics. Originally, I thought it would be good only in a B/W Zombies deck but I’ve been pretty happy with it in Boros as well. There are some Zombies in this combination you want to play like Frontline Devastator, Binding Mummy, and Mummy Paramount. Combined with embalm/eternalize creatures, it makes the Tactics quite a good card.
I’m usually not a fan of G/W when it comes to Limited. This set is an exception. The deck I posted doesn’t look like much, but I managed to 3-0 quite easily with it. Deserts are pretty good in this archetype as both Sidewinder Naga and Solitary Camel are great. This archetype gets a huge boost from the G/W multicolor cards like Appeal // Authority and Pride Sovereign—bombs if you have access to both colors. Another two cards I want to highlight are Dauntless Aven, as it works great with all the exert creatures, and Djeru’s Renunciation. Renunciation overperformed for me, as clearing the way for green fatties is important. When drafting this try to prioritize the good 2-drops: Oketra’s Avenger and Rhonas’s Stalwart. This is also the only archetype in which I like Overcome.
This last one is bit of a weird deck. It’s the Unquenchable Thirst control deck, so you should pick Deserts highly. Basically you just want to pick all the good defensive cards: Thirst, Wall, Vizier of the Anointed, and combine them with removal spells. Those are usually going to be red, but white or black also help. Also try and get your hands on every value card you see. You usually want to splash a rare or two, so I like picking Amulet and Manalith when I get the chance. You often end up Grixis (Nicol Bolas) or Jeskai (Approach of the Second Sun). When this deck comes together, it might just be the best archetype, as you have a bunch of answers for everything and a powerful endgame.
That’s it from me today. I hope you enjoyed this endeavor into Hour of Devastation Limited as much as I enjoy drafting the set!