I’ve talked a lot about Commander recently, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit and get back to my other love – Drafting. This week, I’ll take you through a War of the Spark Arena Draft, as Ranked Draft has returned to the most recent set until June 20th. This walkthrough will look to give you some in-depth analysis of my picks, why I picked them, and why I passed over certain cards. We’ll then analyse the deck I ended up with and the strengths and weaknesses of it. Even if you’re a Commander die-hard, I’d still advocate playing Limited. Check out my article about how drafting can make you a better Commander player if you’re in doubt!
Draft Walkthrough: Pack 1
Pack 1 is actually pretty strong. Spark Harvest is probably the best black common, and Bloom Hulk is probably the best Green common. Tamiyo’s Epiphany is good, but a little overrated, and Ugin’s Conjurant is just solid. Domri, Anarch of Bolas is a great rare to open and lends a lot to the right deck. Domri is my pick here – but I’m willing to be flexible.
Pick 2 is fairly underwhelming, except for Toll of the Invasion. This card still seems a little underrated, and I am happy to take it here. Bolt Bend is a little clunky, and although Thunder Drake and Dovin are perfectly playable, I’d rather take Toll – if we’re at all outside of Red & Green with Domri, we’re probably going to end up in the G/B deck, and I’d rather be playing Toll of the Invasion and splashing Domri than splashing Blue.
Pick 3 is interesting – Wanderer’s Strike and Merfolk Skydiver are both strong cards, but Evolution Sage is insane. Even if the Sage wasn’t as strong, I’d still hesitate to step into Blue for the Skydiver, as I’m still wanting to play Domri if I can – similarly, white seems quite far out. Although Pyrohelix and Burning Prophet are signs Red may be open, I’m leaning toward Black here as I think Domri isn’t what we want to be doing in the U/R spellslinger variant. New Horizons being in the pack along with Kraul Stinger is a good sign I can stay on course.
Pick 4 is telling us that the bot to our right is shipping us Blue and White. I’m not interested, as the cards we’re seeing aren’t hugely exciting, and although I am always willing to be flexible in War draft, I don’t want to be that flexible. Vivien’s Grizzly and Arlinn’s Wolf are both replacement level (though the wolf less so), so I take Shriekdiver here to try to lock into Green/Black, with a slight red splash for Domri.
Pyrohelixes for days! Pick 5 tells me we may have had a shot at U/R, but I honestly don’t think our build would have been anything to write home about. We could take Tithebearer Giant here, but I’m more excited by the fixing – we can splash for Domri by picking up the Guild Globe. Nice.
In hindsight, I could have taken Tithebearer Giant here, but 6 drops in the format are very replaceable. I hedge and take the Turret Ogre, as if the packs split differently we may have to go more into G/R in pack 2. I’m not quite ready to take Gateway Plaza, though it would be a fine pick. Price of Betrayal is actually fairly okay, but I’m not really one for maindecking it in a best of 1 format – it’s a dead draw more often than not.
Pick 7 is a pretty easy New Horizons. I’m fairly cemented into wanting to play the Green Black deck now, splashing for Domri, and there’s nothing else very exciting here for us. The Grizzly just never feels great, and you can pick them up super late. Dreadmalkin is a card I like, but I think we’ll be a little slow to take advantage of it, so I’m willing to pass it up for fixing at this stage.
Based on this pack, white is super open. White is a colour I’m not particularly high on in War draft, so I’m not too sad I’m missing out. I take the Gateway Plaza here, happy that it can contribute to the fixing plan.
This pack has nothing for us. Though Arboreal Grazer feels good, it just isn’t. There’s maybe one deck that wants it (the Huatli deck), but even then, I’m not sold. I grab a second Turret Ogre for Plan B.
If this was real life, I would take the Return to Nature for the sideboard. As we’re playing Best of 1, and Prismite is just not what I want to be doing, I take Return to Nature anyways. Prismite is really not a good rate, and unless you’re short on 2 drops in the RB sacrifice deck (which you really shouldn’t be, if that deck’s open), you should almost never be taking it in my opinion.
Sweet, Kraul Stinger wheeled. It’s a great 3 drop, and with Domri, it allows us to straight up remove a creature using the -2 Fight ability on our plucky Planeswalker.
At the end of Pack 1, I’m feeling pretty okay. We have the start of a great G/B deck, with the ability to splash for basically whatever we open due to our Guild Globe, New Horizons, and Gateway Plaza. This is a really great place to be in WAR draft, as the format is decided by Bombs. I’d be happy to pick up some counter synergies, or more great Planeswalkers for our Evolution Sage, and I’d really love a strong creature or two to power out with Domri.
Draft Walkthrough: Pack 2
Wow, we got rewarded in Pack 2. Storrev, Devkarin Lich is a really good rate for 4 mana. Had this pack not had Kaya, Bane of the Dead in, I’d be snapping up the Rare. As it stands, though, Kaya is easily a first pickable card, and something I’m really happy to pick up. We stayed open to playing Black, and now I’m all in. It’s worth noting, too, that Storrev can be tricky to cast, and unless he is coming down on Turn 4, he can be blanked by your opponent’s creatures and is actually less good than you’d think. Outside of those two picks, I’m not hugely excited by the rest of the pack.
Wow. What an interesting Pick 2! We have a possible second Domri or second Evolution Sage. We also have a quality 2 drop in Pollenbright Druid, or we have Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty. The latter is what we’re taking here – so far, we don’t have any removal outside of Kaya, and I want to shore up taking Black cards. If we weren’t taking the removal, I’d be taking Evolution Sage over Domri, as the payoff with Sage is just so high and we’re already splashing for Domri, so a second is less good.
The rest of the pack is fairly straightforward – the cards we’re taking don’t have much competition from other cards in the pack. We take a Spark Harvest, a Herald of the Dreadhorde, and a couple of Thundering Ceratok.
Draft Walkthrough: What’s the pick?
The hardest pick for me this draft was Pack 3, Pick 5. We’re given the choice between a Spark Harvest, a Toll of the Invasion, and a Pollenbright Druid. In a vacuum, the Black cards are arguably stronger. I’d probably forgive you for suggesting Spark Harvest here, but looking at our curve, we don’t really have the creatures needed to enable it early – on that note, we could do with more 2 drops in general. Pollenbright Druid is the pick.
The Final Deck
Our final deck looks pretty decent. I got the feeling that although there was enough Green & Black to support us drafting it, we did get a little lucky in what we opened early on in packs 2 and 3, and that, had the packs fallen differently, we might have been pushing it by forcing the deck somewhat. White was clearly open, and honestly if we’d taken the second Evolution Sage, we could have comfortably ended up in the G/W Proliferate deck.
Our curve looks pretty good – we’re a little light on Fours, but with Domri & New Horizons, we might be skipping straight to Five some of the time anyway. We have some good interaction early game, with some quality 2 drops, card draw, and removal. I really like playing Toll of the Invasion, and so I’m happy we got to make the G/B dream come true. Kaya is a fantastic card to plan our game around, and should allow us to clear up the board enough to get our creatures through. Evolution Sage might give us some extra Walker activations, and we can always grab both it and Kaya back with Aid the Fallen.
If there’s one thing the deck is lacking, I’d say it was a powerful evasive creature – I’d have been happy to splash for one, really, especially if there was something solid to take in White, but G/B isn’t known for evasiveness in War draft, so I’m not too bummed out.
Closing Tips for War Ranked
There are plenty of great draft resources out there, but if I had to sum up the great advice I’ve found from places like Limited Resources, I’d say prioritise cards that affect the board state. If you’re durdling about doing too much of nothing (looking at you, Tamiyo’s Epiphany), you’ll probably just die. You want to be playing something that can either kill opposing Walkers on turn 2 or protect your own.
As far as staying flexible – do so, but don’t prioritise being flexible over drafting the correct cards for your seat. Prismite is never where you want to be, so just don’t do it. One of the strongest decks in the format, the U/R spells build, doesn’t need to splash to be good (and arguably is more consistent if you don’t), so stick to what your deck wants to be doing if the cards in the pack support that.
Remember, though, that War of the Spark is a ‘Prince’ format – it’s often decided by Bombs. Sometimes, you’ll be doing everything you can, and playing to your outs, and you’ll still be punished by a Bomb rare. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad player – don’t get too down on it. It happens to the best of us. Noxious brought up Ben Stark’s great quote again this week, and it’s super relevant:
My favorite quote of all time pertaining to Magic is probably from @BenS_MTG: "Magic is a skill-intensive game, not a skill-rewarding game."
I might be paraphrasing, and correct me if I am, but it's the most elegant way to look at MtG variance.
— Noxious (@coL_noxious) June 7, 2019
It’s an outlook we’re all guilty of forgetting – I’m the first to get salty when I flood out with a strong deck. Make sure you’re doing your daily quests to rack up those coins, and just get back in there!
That’s been it for this week – I hope you found this draft walkthrough insightful. How are you finding War of the Spark draft? Do you agree with my picks? Let me know on Twitter @TheKristenEmily. Until next week, take care, and good luck drafting.