The Big Three: M14 Draft Archetypes

Today, we’re going to look at three of the main archetypes that are available in Magic 2014 draft as well as the key commons/uncommons that you need to keep an eye out for. There are a lot of archetypes to draft, as you can probably guess, and I was initially going to discuss the most powerful archetypes. I’ve decided, however, to do the best blue deck and then list the niche archetypes that can become really powerful when everyone’s fighting for blue. First of all, let me just make it blatantly clear that Opportunity is the best non-rare card in the set. If you take something that’s not a ridiculous bomb rare over it, there’s a 99.99% chance that you were wrong. Also, if you’re ever looking at a deck with two copies of Opportunity, it’s usually correct to take an Elixir of Immortality, as you’ll chew through your deck pretty quickly. Let’s get crackin’!

Blue/Black Control

As the format grows, more and more people are realizing that blue is the best color in the format, so the blue cards can often be much less prevelant. The uncommons we’re looking for are: OpportunityDoom Blade, Air Servant, Sengir Vampire, Water Servant, Corrupt, Warden of Evos Isle and Blightcaster. Blightcaster‘s value will ebb and flow based on how many Claustrophobias and Sensory Deprivations you’ve acquired and if you’re playing Mark of the Vampire. You’ll often play it even with only one or two enchantments because a 2/3 for four with potential upside is fine in this deck.

The commons you’re looking for are also pretty straight forward: Claustrophobia, Messenger Drake, Nephalia Seakite, Divination, Quag Sickness, Liturgy of Blood, Archaeomancer, Essence Scatter, Deathgaze Cockatrice, Accursed Spirit, Time Ebb, Scroll Thief, Mind Rot, Seacoast Drake, Cancel, Sensory Deprivation, Mark of the Vampire and Disperse. This is a generalized pick order going into the packs, as the draft progresses, you will need to learn how to shift them around from that point. Some people value Scroll Thief a lot higher than I do, but from watching their drafts, I’m pretty comfortable with where I have the card. It’s definitely better in this deck than most of the others, but I still wouldn’t pick it over a lot of the other cards. While Disperse isn’t too high on my list, it’s cute to pair it up with Archaeomancer and build infinite blocks against the green decks. Although that’s mana intensive, you’re going to play the Archaeomancers anyway 99% of the time, so it’s good to be aware that you have this option.

What didn’t make the cut? Well, just because a card isn’t on the list of things you’re actively searching for, doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Altar’s Reap is sometimes my 23rd card, and it’s not terrible with Archaeomancer, as the 1/2 body is basically free to dump. Negate and Duress are not terrible to main deck, but I tend to keep them in the sideboard. Child of Night is reasonable filler, and I’ve played a Coral Merfolk when blue was thin; however, I’m never excited about either. Corpse Hauler is a great card. It’s not something you’re specifically looking for, but you’re never unhappy to have one. Festering Newt feels more like a trap to me in this deck, unless you’ve got Bogbrew Witch. I was liking Trained Condor a lot until the point where the general population caught up with how good blue is… Now, you really want your creatures to either have reasonable power/toughness and evasion or very powerful abilities to make the deck, so its ability to provide flying really isn’t that exciting. On top of that, it trades or gets eaten by everything, so it’s probably best to avoid them these days. Finally, Wring Flesh is a good card, and I like to have one in my deck, but it’s not something you’d pick over the real cards or play 2 of…

That’s it for Blue/Black Control. This is, in my opinion, the most powerful thing you can be doing. It gives you removal, solid creatures, permission and even hand manipulation. Many a draft is won by this strategy, as the two colors provide you with the best cards available, so there’s not a whole lot of mystery as to why this archetype is dominating the format and highly desired by many drafters. Now, let’s take a look at what else we can do without blue.

Red/Green Beatdown

Red/Green Beatdown is a really strong deck that you’ll often find open more often than it should be because so many people are trying to move into blue. The deck has a lot of power and can put an absurd amount of pressure on the opponent very quickly, and it has a lot of very solid late game options. The combat tricks and removal available to the deck also make it a force to be reckoned with. The creatures are also a lot bigger than what most of your opponents’, which is always a nice advantage to walk into a match with… I’m going to go into a little more detail with the cards we want for this deck, so that someone going into a draft cold can understand a little bit better how to evaluate the value of the cards as the draft progresses.

There aren’t a ton of uncommons for this deck, but the ones available are quite powerful! Briarpack Alpha is a fantastic combat trick that people will typically play around whether they’ve seen it or not. Enlarge is an excellent finisher, but it’s important to remember that this is not a lure effect. The creature only has to be blocked by one creature of your opponent’s choice, and the rest of their guys can block whatever they want. Flames of the Firebrand is a sweet removal spell that can often find a way to pull off two-for-ones. Kalonian Tusker is a very valuable card for the deck, and it is very important to getting off to a quick, aggressive start. Woodborn Behemoth is a particularly sweet closer for the deck, which many opponents will have problems dealing with…

As far as the commons go, let’s look at the general pick order. Advocate of the Beast, in particular, fluctuates highly based on the number of beast you’re looking at. You’re never unhappy to have them, but you definitely want more as the beast count climbs. Chandra’s Outrage, Rumbling Baloth, Deadly Recluse, Rootwalla, Marauding Maulhorn, Advocate of the Beast, Shock, Hunt the Weak, Elvish Mystic, Giant Spider, Academy Raiders, Sporemound, Pitchburn Devils, Giant Growth and Plummet are the bread and butter of the deck. In my opinion, this format is slow, and I will often just take a solid creature over Elvish Mystic, as I hate drawing it in the late game. You do lose out on some explosive starts, but I’d rather just be doing powerful things all the time, which is also why I dislike Burning-Tree Emissary in standard.

For fillers, Ranger’s Guile is a great card to have as a singleton and is good to board in  against removal heavy decks. Regathan Firecat is a reasonable body, although it doesn’t always trade well and dies to everything. Trollhide and Thunder Strike are reasonable, although with all of the playable common bounce spells in the format, I’m not a huge fan of maindecking the auras if I have other options. Groundshaker Sliver can also be a reasonable finisher, although it DOES cost approximately 1100 mana.

All in all, the deck offers you one of the most powerful starts in the format, Kalonian Tusker->Advocate of the Beast->Rumbling Baloth/Marauding Maulhorn, which is very tough to beat. You’re also avoiding blue, so it’s a lot more likely that you’ll get some extremely sweet early picks in packs one and two from the people trying to fight over blue. Anyway, the deck is a little weak to fliers, but the pressure you can apply can counteract that pretty well, and access to Plummet and Windstorm can really push the races over the top.

Black/Red Sacrifice

This deck utilizes an aspect of the game that has been highly undervalued by players not named Sam Black for quite a long time: Sacrificing your creatures to do mediocre things! Okay, maybe not so mediocre. The key cards for this deck are Act of Treason, Barrage of Expendables and Gnawing Zombie. There are other sac outlets to play, but they’re not as good as the ones with lasting effects. Tenacious Dead and Trading Post can also do a lot of work for you.

Let’s look at our uncommons: Doom Blade, Barrage of Expendables, Gnawing Zombie, Flames of the FirebrandBubbling Cauldron, Sengir Vampire, Volcanic Geyser, Molten Birth, Tenacious Dead, Corrupt, Dragon Egg, Vampire Warlord. The order here isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close to how I’d be evaluating the packs if I was going in on this deck. Getting the sacrifice outlets is the key. One or two of the main two is key for the deck to function. After that, it’s all about Act of Treason.

To that end, let’s look at Act of Treason… I mean the commons. Now, for this deck, there are obviously a lot of good black commons that we’d take, but I’m going to just go with the cards we’re looking for: Act of Treason, Chandra’s Outrage, Blood Bairn, Altar’s Reap (Exactly One), Pitchburn Devils, Academy Raider, Festering Newt (low priority w/o Bubbling Cauldron, quite high if you have Bogbrew Witch). These are the cards that really tie the whole deck together. It leans heavily on its uncommons, but without these cards to fill the gaps, you will never get there.

When drafting this deck, you really want AT LEAST two copies of Act of Treason with two of the uncommon sac outlets, some Molten Births and/or a Tenacious Dead. I’ve drafted this deck quite a bit recently, and it’s really strong against a lot of the other archetypes, especially the other niche decks that try to get cute. Having access to Duress and/or Mind Rot also gives the deck a lot of game against the better blue decks. All in all, it’s a tough path to navigate to land your deck right in the sweet spot, but the payoff is pretty huge.

Now, these are obviously not the only three archetypes in M14 Draft; however, they are the ones I’ve had the most success with. The other decks I was considering including were the UW Lifegain Deck, BG Hexproof, and The Trap (AKA: Naya Slivers). If anyone has any interest on reading about more archetypes and key cards for these extremely niche decks… Let me know. Otherwise, we’ll start looking ahead at Standard next time.