“Pass 13 cards to your left. Pick up.”
As you flick through the cards in your hand you consider what your Pack 3 pick 3 will be, for your WB deck.
What do you pick?
I remember when I first started playing Magic competitively and I was shown “Who’s the Beatdown?” The importance of understanding role recognition and assignment is crucial to becoming a better player, because it links to one of the fundamental rules of how to win at Magic – Have a Plan. In fact, having a plan is an underlying concept of most Magic articles that teach us how to improve. This is true for sideboarding with Jund or knowing how to Thoughtseize, because to know what to do, first you must know why you are doing it.
Without purpose, we’re just making game actions at random
The lesson of having a plan is often easier to understand in constructed formats, where matchups and play patterns are repeated; don’t overcommit against a deck containing Wrath, ensure you hit your land drops in control mirrors, mulligan aggressively to a hate card if you can’t beat combo. Sometimes the plans can be more specific. For example, a red aggressive deck will want to get a source of pressure on the board then hold up Abrade against a God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck, forcing them to commit and be blown out or play conservatively and risk losing to the clock and burn spells. Even when the plan is more specific, it will be repeated each time the red player faces a Gift deck allowing the plan to be learned, practiced and refined.
Having a plan is easier to learn in constructed, but is just as vital to use in limited. Just as we do in constructed, we must determine our role and plan accordingly. If we have a RB midrange deck with a decent curve and removal, we cannot afford to keep a slower, removal heavy hand against a controlling UB opponent. Our plan is to keep the game short and win quickly.
However, with the same deck we then play against an aggressive RW deck with lots of 2 drops and the ability to create tokens. The range of hands we can keep changes, with an eye to keeping creatures that block and some of the removal we mulliganed against the UB deck. In my time attending Limited events, I often hear statements like “you can’t win off 5 cards in limited”. Rarely will I hear “a 5 with a plan will beat a 7 without one”. Which of these hands would you prefer against RW?
The 5 has a workable plan against aggro
In constructed, we’re limited to 15 cards for our sideboard, but in limited we get to use as many as we’re not playing. Of course, the difference is that for constructed we’ve specifically chosen the 15 to pinpoint weaknesses in the various matchups we expect to face, whereas in limited we only have any specific cards we picked up (e.g. Plummet) and the dregs of some packs. However, that doesn’t make the dregs any less important. Cards like Root Snare (Fog) are often found lounging at the back of a player’s deck box never to be touched, when they should be considerations for sideboarding. Sleep and Inspired Charge are strong, game-ending cards in M19 limited, but Root Snare can drastically reduce their potency – our plan is to try to “negate” their lethal attack with a Root Snare and either swing back for lethal or be in a stabilised position with our opponent’s haymaker rendered ineffective.
A plan for a limited deck doesn’t begin with opening hands or sideboarding though – it begins with the draft itself. Picks should not be considered in a vacuum, they need to consider the rest of your picks and what you intend to try to pick in future. How do you envisage your deck looking when the draft is complete?
When asked what the pick is, Axion teammate and Limited Mastermind, Niels Molle will often reply “what’s your plan?”
The review period between packs should be used to consider your plan, visualise your curve and determine what is needed to further your plan. Sometimes this can be as simple as “I have a nice curve, but I need some removal or tricks to win combat.” Occasionally it’s more complicated “I have some tempo-based blue cards, and no defined second colour. My red has high power creatures but my black has some mediocre men but a Murder. I need to see what the pack offers as to whether I’m lead to UR tempo, UB control or maybe RB midrange.” Notably, this last option is one people don’t consider – abandoning 2-3 of your first four picks can be tough, but if the draft leads you that way, sometimes it’s the best plan.
But all this talk of planning leads us back to our original question – “what’s the pick?” (see, even the article had a plan!). The pick in question is actually from my first draft of Day 2 at GP Turin. In the interest of understanding the plan, here is (approximately) how our deck looked during the review period between packs 2 and 3.
The spores ended up in the sideboard
Now we see we aren’t just a BW deck, but a BW inspired charge deck, with some token generation and (too) many powerful 4 drops. In fact, we have so many high power 4 drops, we really don’t want anymore. Our first 2 picks of pack 3 were an additional Skymarch Bloodletter (over a Hieromancer’s cage) and Vampire Neonate.
“Pass 13 cards to your left. Pick up.”
My game plan is to curve out and flood the board if possible, winning by going wide with inspired charge and having reach in Neonate/bloodletter/stags. I don’t need removal; I need creatures to combo with Inspired Charge. They need to be cheaper, because I already have 4 drops.
What’s the pick?
About Kayure Patel:
Kayure began playing Magic competitively in M13. After minor success on the English circuit, his breakthrough year was the 2015/16 season, when he was a member of the English World Magic Cup team, the winner of GP Bologna with Blue-White Eldrazi and attained Silver Pro status. One of the founding members of Team Axion, Kayure has a keen desire to help English Magic thrive and will always take time to speak to any player. Though his best results have come in Modern, Kayure’s love for the game means he is happy playing any format.