Are you a red mage? A control player? Do you like seeking out midgame advantages and then running your opponents over with Siege Rhinos? Choices are important in Magic and familiarizing yourself with different kinds of decks is an important facet of your game.

The same is true of draft, only the choices start much earlier than deck construction. Cube is almost entirely about personal preference and building to a plan, while preference in standard sets like BFZ will be a useful tool when cards are close on power level. Card and color preference function as a tool which is generally misunderstood as something that just happens while you draft, but can be very useful to keep you on track or can function to derail your deck if you aren’t aware of your tendencies.

Drafting Archetypes

The Vintage Cube is gone for now, but it’s been buckets of fun. I’ve seen some crazy interactions, but I’ve also seen all sorts of decks succeed. Storm, reanimator, mana ramp, mono-red, and WB aggro disruption are just a few of the archetypes and they’re all very capable of taking down the draft.

In a format as nuanced and powerful as Cube it’s very important to know what makes these various archetypes succeed.

I drafted almost exclusively storm early on when the queues were first released because I found it very challenging to pull off and rewarding when I won with it. I have to say I lost quite a bit, but in doing so I found out which cards worked best and which ones I needed to prioritize. I had a storm deck I thought was great because it had a ton of card selection including almost every good 1-mana cantrip in the Cube, but just didn’t have enough rituals to combine with my draw 7s to form an effective deck. In another draft I had a very powerful storm deck centered around Brain Freeze but ran into two different decks running Emrakul, Kozilek, or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre which clearly made winning more difficult. My backup plan of Palinchron + Sneak Attack into an infinitely large Villainous Wealth managed to get the job done, but I was lucky I had a backup plan in my deck and now knew to prioritize a plan B when plan A is Brain Freeze.

Understanding the best versions of decks, and how to build around weaknesses will make sure you prioritize the right cards during the draft.

Drafting Preference

Preference builds familiarity, understanding, and a default to fall back on when drafting, but it also creates incentive. In a perfect world we would play optimally with any combination of cards put in front of us. However, the lack of experience combined with personal preferences toward certain types of strategies will simply make us more proficient at strategies we prefer.

When I sat down to draft storm I got excited. I wanted so badly to win with this cool deck that I tried extra hard to find crazy lines when behind to win from losing board states. Maybe this applies to you when burning your opponent. You might be better at analyzing whether to kill creatures or fire off burn spells at your opponent, but having fun while doing it will definitely help you in the long run because you are more invested.

I’m not saying playing decks you like less means you will lose, but playing decks you prefer when everything is equal will lead to more fun, and that might be that special quality that lets you win the whole tournament. The key is in trying to capture that feeling with every deck, but, of course, that’s easier said than done.

In BFZ draft, preference helps you settle into an archetype at the right time. You might 1st pick a Drana’s Emissary over a Benthic Infiltrator because the Emissary is more powerful and you prefer WB to blue decks, or you just prefer starting with a more powerful card in a vacuum every time.

Alternatively you might select the Infiltrator because, while it’s less powerful, it isn’t so by a wide margin, it is only one color, and perhaps you find that you win more often with blue decks. The interesting part here is that both decisions can be correct given these reasons. I think I’ll take the Infiltrator in this spot, because I really prefer drafting devoid decks and I think splashing is difficult to do. Because I prefer blue, if I take the Emissary I’m less likely to play it anyway, because I’m unwilling to then 2nd pick a Kalastria Healer over a Clutch of Currents because of my perceived power difference of the two cards. Consequently, I end up in WB less often than other drafters because I pick Healers much lower than most players, and you can see how preference can easily guide my decision.

Yet, I understand how good WB can be and why another drafter might be willing to go for the higher risk, higher reward play. As you can see though, this is an interesting situation because of the closeness in power. Don’t get in the habit of picking cards simply because that’s your preference. Preference is a great deciding factor in your decision, but clearly you should never take Benthic Infiltrator over Rolling Thunder because you prefer blue to red in BFZ draft. This is when preference leads to forcing, and can easily become a leak in your game. It’s actually one of the easiest traps to fall into as a player and should be something you’re actively thinking about while drafting.

Preference in Limited is something we often pay little attention to but it’s actually an important one. As an ending point I’ll do a quick summary of the pros and cons discussed today.

Pros

  • It forms a good understanding for decks you draft more often.
  • It gives you a default direction when you’re unsure which card to take in a close decision.
  • It can lead to more fun since you’re drafting something you personally enjoy more, which can create more incentive and in turn more wins.
  • It allows you to be flexible and can help you avoid following pick orders. You’re more likely to settle into your preferred archetype when it’s open because you’ll see the path of cards you need to pick whenever your lane is open.

Cons

  • It creates complacency within a format because you already feel you know what you want to draft, thus preventing you from exploring more archetypes.
  • It can lead to forcing rather than act as a tool when taken to the extreme.
  • It can form leaks in your game when you aren’t actively thinking about it. Understand that personal preference will inform your decisions at each stage of the draft and can derail you if you aren’t careful. Pay attention to when you might need to go in another direction.