Triple-KTK Draft Archetypes

This week I have been drafting incessantly because 1) I am playing GP Nashville this weekend, and 2) KTK is the nut. Here’s what I’ve learned about KTK draft:

KTK is flush with playables, which is an interesting shift from M15. M15 had lots of unplayable cards, so many packs had only one reasonable card to choose from. In contrast, when confronted with the options in KTK draft, there is more room for creativity. Because everyone’s deck will be at least “playable,” it’s especially important to have a plan for gaining an edge. In my experience, there are three main ways to do that in this format.

Power Level

The most obvious way to gain an edge is to play more powerful spells than the opponent. It is not difficult to play three colors and splash a fourth, or even play solid four-color. However, in order to employ this strategy, it is necessary to dedicate some picks to mana-fixing (Banners don’t count). The effectiveness of a multicolor strategy is determined by how highly other players draft lands. If lands are going late, then early picks can be spent on powerful multicolor cards, and mana-fixing picked up for free. If lands are hard to find, then early picks are split between powerful cards and lands, so you will either end up with weaker cards, or not be able to cast all of your powerful spells. A good rule of thumb for this strategy is uncommons, then mana-fixing, then commons. Also, morphs are particularly valuable, because they make hands without perfect mana keepable. Here is an example that would have a couple more lands in a perfect world (3-0):

(Click for big version)

I do not recommend a full-on five-color approach. Playing three main colors and splashing a fourth is quite different than splashing a fourth and fifth. Splashing cards of two different colors means that too many of your spells will be uncastable at any given time. It is fine to have one spell of a splash color stranded in hand for the early turns of the game, but when multiple spells get stranded it can be fatal. There are always exceptions, but in general, in order to draft five-color you have to spend too many early picks on mana-fixing, which dilutes the power-level of your deck—the opposite of the reason to play many colors.

Open Clan

Each clan has internal synergy. When one wedge is flowing, there’s no need to branch out into more colors, just focus on drafting the best Abzan/Jeskai/Mardu/Temur/Sultai deck. However, not all clans are created equal. That order is from greatest to least inherent synergy. Abzan creatures have a lot of toughness which extends the game, and the outlast mechanic gains advantage in the late game. Because a long game is expected, Azban decks are often solidly three colors. Bitter Revelation is the only common way to gain card advantage in Abzan, so it is particularly important. Here is an example (3-0):

On a side note, how would you have built this deck? I think the last few card choices are quite interesting. I ended up changing my deck by 1-2 cards in sideboarding each match, but they were different swaps each time.

Jeskai also has a cohesive game plan—prowess creatures plus tempo spells. However, because Jeskai is usually aggressive, it is usually better to draft as a two-color pair, splashing the third.

The best reason to be Mardu is Ponyback Brigade. Goblins rushing to battle, trumpets blasting is a sure path to victory. Like Jeskai, Mardu is aggressive, so black/white Warriors splashing Ponyback and red uncommons is the norm.

Temur is mostly just a collection of good cards, so while synergy is not as important, having access to all the Snowhorn Riders is. That said, reliably turning on Savage Punch is a big game.

Sultai has delve synergy, but delve is a funny mechanic. You only want a few delve cards, and if you have too many enablers, you run the risk of decking. Because Sultai usually wants to go long, I often end up splashing a fourth color when I draft Sultai, so in a way it belongs in the previous section. This is an example of a deck that capitalized on five tri-color Sultai cards (3-0):


The third way to gain advantage is speed. There are a few effective two-color strategies in KTK Limited. These archetypes favor consistency and early game dominance over powerful three-color cards. While others may have to spend early picks on mana-fixing, two-color decks have the advantage of being able to take the best aggressive card out of every pack. The downside is that some packs will be completely blank, so your colors must be open.

Perhaps the best two-color archetype is black/white Warriors. Huey wrote a nice article about the deck here. Another powerful archetype is All-In Red. All-In Red applies aggressive creatures like Valley Dasher and Bloodfire Expert in combination with removal like Bring Low, Arrow Storm, and Act of Treason to kill faster than any other deck in the format. Green is the natural complement to this strategy. Savage Punch is a huge game with Bloodfire Expert and Alpine Grizzly, and pump spells like Awaken the Bear and Dragonscale Boon fit perfectly. GR Savage Punch is by far the most fun archetype to draft for me.

Here is an example of SavagePunch.dec (2-1):

And a bit less punchy version (3-0):

It is also possible to pair red with blue (3-0):

Or even black (3-0):

Also worth mentioning is blue/green Icefeather Aven. Although Icefeather Aven is not necessary for the deck to function, it perfectly sums up the deck’s plan. Play early, evasive creatures, bounce everything, attack. Delve can be a nice tempo play in this archetype. Treasure Cruise prevents you from petering out, and Hooting Mandrills means (monkey) business.

In summary, when drafting KTK, I believe it is important to have a repertoire of archetypes, and guide one’s draft toward one of them. Hopefully this article helped illuminate some of these archetypes for you.

See you on stream Thursday 8 p.m.!

Nathan Holiday


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