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Like most players attending Pro Tour Dominaria, I’ve been drafting a lot, not that you need an excuse to draft Dominaria. The set is really fun to play and I don’t think I’ve seen or heard anyone say they didn’t enjoy it.
My track record was abysmal at first, but I’ve been doing much better recently thanks to a few important changes in how I evaluated certain cards. If you’ve been drafting a bunch, some or most of these observations might be obvious, but it’s always useful to look back at the cards you misjudged so you can avoid the same trap next time.
As someone who started playing a long time ago, when Wizards didn’t design the sets and the cards the way they do now, I’ve found that I have biases toward certain cards or card types, which leads me to overestimate or underestimate some of the new ones at first.
And if you haven’t had a chance to draft more than a few times or at all, then I think I might be able to give you a little head start so you don’t repeat my mistakes.
Cards I Underrated at First
This Equipment didn’t really seem playable to me, even in a Wizards deck, but I quickly changed my mind after one of my opponents dealt 10 or 12 damage to me with it, including 6 on the final turn. This may sound dumb, and it’s probably not the kind of thing I should be admitting to if I want to keep my job, but I hadn’t really considered that you could just move it around and deal more than 2 damage a turn.
As a general rule, 1-mana creatures are bad in Limited and I thought Lavarunner was no exception, but he’ll find a home in some of your more aggressive blue-red decks or even mono-red decks. Between Opt, Shivan Fire, Warlord’s Fury, and Divination, he can quickly become a 2/2 and his Wizard creature type makes him valuable if you happen to pick up Adeliz, the Cinder Wind, Firefist Adept, or if you’re extremely lucky, Naru Meha, Master Wizard.
As someone who’s always thought Rampant Growth effects were bad and that you’re usually better off playing an extra land over them, I wasn’t convinced that Llanowar Elves was going to be a high pick—but I was wrong. Dominaria is a rather slow format—you’ll usually have a use for up to 8 mana in your green decks and the Elf truly shines with cards like Divination and Dark Bargain. The fact that you start ramping on turn 1 as opposed as turn 2 or 3 is a big plus, and the extra body might be valuable to chump block one of the numerous large creature in the format or to sacrifice to a Thallid Omnivore.
Anarchist– and Scrivener-type effects were always fine but nothing to write home about. Chronicler is different. Unlike Ixalan where a lot of the 2-drops were great and you didn’t mind playing up to six or seven, the Dominaria ones are quite bad. You’ll want to avoid having to play with Cabal Evangel, Keldon Warcaller, Rat Colony, or Bloodstone Goblin, and I had undervalued the fact that Chronicler and Caligo Skin-Witch can do double-duty. On a side note: If I had one tip about Dominaria Draft, it would be to play around Skin-Witch as often as possible. If your opponent is in black, he’ll have one or two in his deck more likely than not.
While usually not ideal, I think it’s perfectly fine to play this card in your Draft deck, which I didn’t at first.
I don’t always main deck the blue trick, but the card has overperformed for me.
Garna, the Bloodflame
For some reason, I really looked down on the red-black gold uncommon. It didn’t look as appealing as the other parts of the cycle, and while it might not be on the power level of a Slimefoot, the Stowaway, the card is still really good. Her abilities didn’t seem relevant enough, but it only took one Draft and a few games to change my mind.
While cards like Cancel have been seeing play in Limited formats, it felt like Syncopate was worse enough that it shouldn’t, but once again, the fact that the format is slower, with more expensive cards, and the fact that a lot of the cheap drops are bad allows the reprint to shine both as an early curve play and in the late game.
I didn’t necessarily consider the cards on my underrated list totally unplayable at first, but I went from consistently making fun of my opponents for having Llanowar Scout in their deck to being happy to play one or two in some of mine. While you shouldn’t always run it, it will shine in decks with multiple Dark Bargain or Divination. If you’re going to maindeck it, consider boarding it out on the play.
Cards I Overrated
A Savannah Lions with an upside—what’s not to like? Most of your decks won’t be aggressive enough though—the format is filled with 2-mana 1/3s and the Bodyguard’s ability is awkward and hard to set up.
This one comes with an asterisk. Having started with Dominaria Sealed deck where Surveyor was the common you hoped to open the most, I had it a bit too high in my pick order—the card is still very good.
I was picking the Juggernaut high, especially early in the Draft to keep my options open, but I think its power level is a bit low compared to a lot of the other uncommons and some of the commons I was taking it over.
Time of Ice
While I still think the card is very good, I don’t rate it quite as highly as I used to and I’m not sure I would pick it over something like Eviscerate.
I drafted a sweet B/U/G deck with two Tatyova and the Self-Replicator in my very first Draft and ended up losing to the actual mirror match when my B/U/G opponent went off sooner than me with his own Replicator. I kept picking it highly after that but it’s been mostly disappointing since, sometimes not even making the cut.
Part of it has to do with the fact that you want to try out the rares as much as you can before the Pro Tour and part of it has to do with the fact that Ruinous Blast won me the game every time I drew it in one of my first Drafts, but I was picking these cards way too highly in general.
Weight of Memory
I have a bias toward rarity. When in doubt, I’ll pick the rare/uncommon, and I was picking Weight over Divination without thinking twice about it. But despite the extra card, the 5-mana card is worse.
A card I was picking extremely high at first until I had to cut it from my 40 for the second or third time in a row because it didn’t have enough synergy with the rest of my deck.
The Saga only truly shines in aggressive decks, which you usually won’t end up with, especially in black.
Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood
The super Sengir Vampire isn’t as good as he looks, and I was going too far out of my way to splash it in my black-green decks.
Cards You Might Be Underrating
Every time I pick or play this card on my stream, someone will ask why and whether it is even playable. While it isn’t a bomb, I would be thrilled if my deck was good enough to cut the Bombardment.
I don’t think anyone really believes the card is bad, but every time I’ve picked three or more Divinations, someone has suggested I cut some number of it from my deck, which is almost always going to be wrong.
The Mirari Conjecture
I see this card going late consistently and I think it’s a bomb. While it would be a nice problem to have, I don’t know between the blue rare Saga or Icy Manipulator which one I would take pack 1 pick 1 at the PT.
Speaking of the Mirari Conjecture
After drafting and 3-0’ing with a sweet blue-black deck featuring The Mirari Conjecture and two Rona, Disciple of Gix, I decided to build a creatureless, planeswalkerless Standard Conjecture deck. I played the deck a bunch on stream and it was showing promise, so I was planning to write about it, but then I started chaining losses and decided the deck wasn’t good enough to warrant its own article. Still, I know a lot of my viewers enjoyed watching the deck play out, so here it is, for reference:
You’ll notice that your only main-deck win condition is Mastermind’s Acquisition. I started with only one and a Torment of Hailfire, but figured having a second Acquisition would leave me with fewer dead draws.
The deck is fun to play. The sweetest part is definitely going off with Yahenni’s Expertise the turn you get the third Conjecture trigger. Unfortunately, I think the deck is a bit too clunky for the current Standard. I thought blanking a lot of your opponent’s cards by not having creatures or planeswalkers would be a high enough upside, but it hasn’t played out that way, especially as this advantage mostly evaporates after sideboard.
If I don’t believe the deck is tier 1 in Standard, it is apparently MTG Arena compatible as I learned thanks to twitch chat and Ali, so it might be good enough for Arena “Standard,” which means that it could be a viable archetype after the next rotation.
— Ali Aintrazi (@AliEldrazi) May 19, 2018
That’s it for today, but let me know which cards you felt you undervalued or overvalued at first in Dominaria Draft.
Also, let me know if I’m wrong, and if you are indeed interested in reading about my non-competitive brews in the future.