Kaladesh Limited: Draft Camp, GP London & Draft Archetypes – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser
Since winning the WMCQ and a PPTQ two weeks later, I have barely played Magic in the last few months, but I’ve played so much Kaladesh limited recently that I’m seeing complex attack steps in my sleep. I promised myself last year that I would attend both the GPs in the UK this year and test for them substantially, so I was pleased to hear that Matt Light had big plans for GP London, too. This article is mostly going to be about how I think the format ought to be approached for draft, but I thought I might discuss testing a bit, and how the tournament went for me, too.
The ins and outs of how “Draft Camp” came to be are long winded, so I’ll not bother going into that more than to say who was involved…
Me, Neil Rigby, Tom Harle, Matt Light, David Inglis, Usama Sajjad, Richard Hagon, Richard Coates, Max Ogden, Archie Owen, Mattia Rizzi, Ross Jenkins and Michael Heubeck, with consults from Dave Grant, Levi Shandolar Heinz and Bradley Barclay.
(If you are interested in a piece about “Draft Camp” then please let me know below and I’ll put post together about it for you.)
Clearly, this became a bigger deal than the more modest preparation I had planned, but the opportunity was too good to miss. I played two prereleases, then spent a few hours doing Magic stuff on the Monday, all day sealed with Neil on the Tuesday, all day sealed with David on Wednesday, sealed all day with Bradley Thursday and Friday, then took the weekend off. Virtually every waking moment from Monday until the GP was spent drafting during the following week.
After each draft, we laid out our decks in the seats where we drafted them, then discussed how the drafts went. This was something of a double edged sword, as while it was genuinely helpful to get the information, the discussions were often long and repetitive. In retrospect, I think it might have been better to use some sort of semi-structured interview technique for this, rather than the more free form method we used; if you’re unsure what to say, there is a tendency to say everything, in case it’s useful, which often includes loads of stuff everyone knows. I think we all did this to varying degrees, and the discussions were really time consuming for this reason. It might also be good to have someone who was sitting out of the draft in question preform the facilitator’s role (e.g. moving the discussion on etc). The promise in the method is readily apparent, but I think we would benefit from practicing it to get maximum value out of it.
Grand Prix London 2016
I opened a really lukewarm sealed deck which I was 5-2 with, but ultimately lost to Fumigate into a good uncommon into a Verdurous Gearhulk, then stalled land in round 8, and drawing two creatures both of which were killed immediately, then a big flood in round 9.
That’s just how it goes to some extent, though. I played pretty well to get to 5-2, because as I said my deck wasn’t very good at all, and those last two losses were to things I had virtually no control over. Being able to play limited with a full knowledge of the cards in the format, especially this early doors when half of your opponents are reading your cards, is a massive advantage, and having played so extensively really paid off in that respect. It’s a little disappointing that I didn’t open better cards, or that my luck ran out a bit at the end; ideally neither of these things would have happened and I would have ended up on 7-2 instead of 5-4 at the end of day one! With all that said, my technical game was already at a serious high point going into Kaladesh, and this period has done nothing but sharpen that. I’m feeling great about cards right now.
Ultimately our performances were middling, with the exception of Neil Rigby, who finished 4th. “Who is he?”, you ask; Didn’t he quit in order to do coverage? Nah, he still plays, and last weekend was evidence that he is still one of the best players in the UK, just in case anyone forgot!
This is a classic “Skies” deck, with some nice tricks like Aether Tradewinds and Acrobatic Maneuver, which work well with the various come into play effects (particularly Fabricate) in this combination. It’s also a reasonable home for Gearseeker Serpent and Cogworker’s Puzzleknot. This deck is mostly about playing some reasonable defensive creatures and attacking with fliers until the other player dies, though.
This deck has access to three different uncommon 2cc creatures which give bonuses to vehicles, as well as two 1cc combat tricks which are good with vehicles, so you probably don’t need me to tell you that this is one of the best decks for cards like Renegade Freighter. This deck wants to curve out, sweep aside enemy creatures with removal and pump spells, then finish them off with the cheaper vehicles. Salivating Gremlins is pretty good with Cogworker’s Puzzleknot, and those are good with Inspired Charge, if you’re looking for something to push through the last points of damage with.
This combination is pretty interesting because it’s got two really distinct builds. You can either set it up to be an aggressive deck about fabricate and Inspired Charge, or a more controlling deck playing all the high quality cards this deck has access to. The former really wants the uncommon Fabricate creatures which make two Servos, as these have a clear synergy with Inspired Charge, but it also wants the black “artifacts matter” guys to varying degrees, whilst the more controlling builds are much more about card quality and attrition than synergy.
This is can be an energy deck, but it is still definitely in the market for the better Fabricate spells as they’re efficient creatures, which will help with the general plan of applying pressure steadily throughout the game. Riparian Tiger and Eddytrail Hawk are quite a beating. There are also various uncommons which work well with fabricate in green too, and if you can get access to Fairgrounds Trumpeter or Armourcraft Judge, the fabricate guys might be better than certain energy creatures, although the majority of energy creatures put counters on for energy in this combination anyway, so will have synergy with both cards. This combination really benefits from a high volume of playable cards in each colour for this combination, while other combinations suffer from certain cards not fitting especially well.
This is the curviest energy deck, so to speak. Thriving Grubs, into Thriving Rhinos, into Spontaneous Artists, into Riparian Tiger will see off all but the best of draws. Good creatures, removal spells, easy synergies on cards you’d play anyway …what’s not to like?
This one, I’m not so sure about. Green is really pretty deep, and has Fabricate creatures which are naturally strong pairings with the black creatures which want an artifact in play, thus saving you from having to play a ropey vehicle or other support card. Black also has decent removal, and ways to get things back. The deck looks to be aiming to grind people out to some extent, and might do well at this, although without practice I would be concerned that my deck might end up somewhat confused in this combination without further practice.
At the moment, the key with this deck seems to be that blue tends to be under drafted, so there is potential for getting good energy cards to support your excellent green cards. It’s also a good seal to draft weird decks with Consulate Surveillance splashed off Attune with Ather and Wild Wanderer. I never got a chance to play a deck like this, but it was a source of debate over the week. Once again, I found myself occupying a middle road on this strategy, considering it a valid option, but never actually making a serious attempt to draft it. I’m becoming increasingly moderate in my old age.
This is one of the decks we really struggled to make work. The big problem, as far as I can see, is that black lacks the defensive 2 casting cost creatures this deck wants, and while blue has some in the Thriving Turtle and Aether Theorist, these cards end up a bit over taxed. The best thing we managed with the blue decks really was to cast Gearseeker Serpents on turn 5 a bit, and given that the black creatures also get bonuses for having artifacts in play, this deck might well be the best home for them.
This is the combination I’d least want to draft, as the cards don’t seem to have much of a relationship to each other at all. There is no fabricate in blue or red, which is problematic on its own, but it also makes Gearseeker Serpent a pretty bad fit, and that’s one of the better things blue can be doing. Maybe they key to this deck involves uncommon artifacts and some sort of master plan, but I’m not really seeing it.
The most aggressive deck in the format, this deck often wants to play 14 or 15 land. Inventor’s Goggles, Sky Skiff and Night Market Lookout are prominent cards within this strategy, which is about getting the damage in early, and a lot about the aggressive “artifacts matter” black creatures. Obviously, this deck is going to end up with quite a bit of removal, but it also wants to be playing no cards with a greater converted mana cost than 4 because it wants a low land count, and to play short games in which the cards mentioned above will remain relevant for a higher percentage of the time. I’m a bit squeamish about playing so few land, so would like to look into ways to build this with a slightly higher curve, although I think it must remain an aggressive strategy to continue being effective.
Of these decks, I’m keenest on Red-Green, Black-White (either build) and Green-White.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully this article will help you as you’re battling it out on Magic Online in these early days. All the best!