Competitive Casual: How to win more at Magic: the Gathering Chaos Draft
Chaos draft, also known as Grab Bag draft, is a casual draft format often found as a side event at Grands Prix (GP). Start with twenty-four boosters from different sets, and give each player three. Then proceed as you would for a normal booster draft.
It’s a lot of fun because you never know which set you’re going to see next, and you end up cobbling something together where the Elves of Lorwyn battle alongside the Homarids of Fallen Empires and the Aetherborn of Kaladesh. And if you do well in your GP side events, you can win a lot of prize tickets while you’re having fun. That’s where I come in.
I’m here to help you win more Chaos Drafts
Here are my top 5 tips:
- Avoid in-set synergies.
- Pick cards with a strong base power level.
- Downgrade your expectations of playable.
- Draft according to CABS and Quadrant theory.
- Look for ‘evergreen’ archetypes.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at that list:
1. Avoid in-set synergies
Most cards are designed for limited play with the other cards in the set. And each set has its own mechanics and synergies. Hour of Devastation has a lot of cards which can be described as ‘deserts matter’. Sand Stranger, for example, is one of the best uncommons in the set, but only because of the abundance of deserts in the format.
In a chaos draft, that pack of Hour of Devastation might not have a desert in it at all. And if it doesn’t, you can kiss your chances of dealing 3 with your Sand Strangler goodbye, because there isn’t another pack of Hour of Devastation in the entire draft.
The same is true for any other card which relies on synergy with the other cards in its set or block to get a payoff. You probably aren’t going to get that payoff, because you’re only going to see one more card at most from that set.
So if you should avoid in-set synergies, that leads us nicely to number two:
2. Pick cards with a high base power level
What do I mean by a high base power level? I mean a card that will just do its job no matter what. I wrote about base power level before, so take a read of this article to find out more about what I mean.
Cards like this will always work for you in Chaos Draft, because they don’t rely on synergy or anything else for them to be effective. A 3 mana 3/3 like Harrier Naga will do just fine in any green deck in Chaos Draft, so don’t feel bad about picking it.
It almost goes without saying that good removal spells should be picked very highly, since they will always do the job too.
3. Downgrade your expectations of playability
On that note, cards which are just ‘fine’ in most limited formats can be all-stars in Chaos Draft, because the average card quality is often fairly low. Older sets had fewer playable cards for limited, and creatures tended to be smaller and weaker, so cards that would never make your deck in a ‘normal’ draft will often find their way into your pile for a Chaos Draft.
Don’t be scared to run creatures with drawbacks. These days, creatures with big drawbacks are rare, and you might not think to pick them because they look terrible. But a card like Lesser Gargadon just offers an actual good rate on a creature, which is somewhat rare in Chaos Draft.
4. Draft according to “CABS” and Quadrant Theory
CABS is a principle adopted by the guys at Limited Resources, and stands for ‘Cards that Affect the Board State’. It’s a way of drafting that focuses on fundamentally solid decks which are made up of… drum roll please… cards that affect the board state!
What this boils down to, is the concept that limited boils down to creature combat. This is especially true for Chaos Draft, where, as I’ve previously stated, it’s difficult to get synergistic decks to come together. So pick creatures, removal and combat tricks, and you can’t go too wrong.
And while I’ve criticised Quadrant Theory’s relevance in recent sets, it’s an excellent template to use when evaluating cards on the fly for Chaos Draft. Cards good in multiple situations will form the backbone of any deck which is light on synergy.
5. Look for evergreen archetypes
Many readers may have heard of Evergreen Keywords. Keywords such as trample, flying and scry, that are printed in almost every set.
There are also draft archetypes that show up regularly. Perhaps not in every set, but colour-pair archetypes are often the same or similar in strategy from set to set and from format to format. For most colour pairs, it’s possible to think of strategies that have existed for almost as long as limited does. Some examples include:
Blue/White Fliers – Wind Drake and friends can always be found at common.
Red/White Aggro – The two most aggressive colours in magic will always attack and burn things.
Blue/Black Control – Kill things with removal, and get some card advantage.
Green/White Go-wide – the two colours focused most heavily on creatures have often been about flooding the board.
Green/Red Beatdown – Use big creatures and burn to get aggressive.
That should help you win more at Chaos Draft
Above all, don’t be overwhelmed by all the old or unfamiliar cards. Just stick to drafting fundamentals and you’ll have a good time. And failing that, just open some ridiculous bomb, and crush your opponents with that.
Thanks for reading,