Drafting for Zendikar!

Good afternoon fellow Magic fans! Hope you have all had an exciting weekend throughout the official launch of Battle for Zendikar! Today I want to talk about one of my favourite formats, and one that this latest set really shines in- Booster Draft (though I will touch on Sealed Deck slightly too)!

Despite not being able to make it to a launch event this weekend, I was able to attend the pre-release at my LGS and have an entire day of Sealed Deck with my best friend. I had great fun, made some awesome decks, some not so awesome decks and a very risky four colour allies deck (which kind of worked through sheer luck!!), but the real highlight for me was a Battle for Zendikar draft I participated in last night.

As I said above, and a sentiment shared by many around the draft table last night, this has been one of the best sets to draft in a long time! This is by no means an indictment of previous sets, but rather an acknowledgement of a beautifully crafted set, especially one that returns to such a universally beloved setting.

I have always felt that drafting is one of the best ways to improve as a Magic player; being given a limited pool of cards to build the best deck you can against others on the same level playing field takes a lot of skill, dedication and thought. Though many, and I was once among them, fall into the trap of treating it similar to Constructed formats. Rare cards count less in limited and often your deck will generally be built from common and uncommon cards, and often cards that would not get a look in in Standard or Modern.

Within two picks, Oran-Rief Hydra and Mist Intruder, I knew what I wanted to accomplish with my deck; I knew flying would be important (always a given in draft) but wanted to also be able to control my opponent’s field and make sure my curve was smooth enough to give me a creature ideally every turn before using the Oran-Rief Hydra to finish up if necessary. So with this in mind here is the deck I managed to draft and then went 2-1 with:


1 mana:Oran-Rief Hydra

2 Salvage Drone
2 Rush of Ice
1 Scythe Leopard

2 mana:

2 Mist Intruder
1 Anticipate
1 Horribly Awry
1 Tightening Coils

3 mana:

2 Spell Shrivel
1 Benthic Infiltrator
1 Lifespring Druid 1 Ruination Guid
1 Halimar Tidecaller

4 mana:

2 Cloud Manta
1 Giant Mantis

5+ mana:

1 Windrider Patrol
1 Wave-Wing ElementalMist Intruder
1 Oran-Rief Hydra
1 Bane of Bala Ged


1 Blighted Cataract
Skyline Cascade
1 Evolving Wilds

5 Forest
9 Island






Of all the cards I drafted, only one was a rare card (Oran-Rief Hydra) and this was based on my decision before the game to draft for the best deck possible as opposed to value, which worked out greatly for me and earned me fourth place in the event!

The best cards in the deck were, perhaps not unsurprisingly, Salvage Drone, Rush of Ice and Cloud Manta. Those three cards won the majority of my games, and Rush of Ice provided me extra value thanks to Halimar Tidecaller bringing them back! Scythe Leopard deserves an honourable mention as it really helped get in some early hits with the landfall trigger. Late game, the Oran-Rief Hydra and Bane of Bala Ged helped to provide my opponent some difficult decisions in terms of blocking and choosing what to exile from their battlefield.

As always in a Limited format, the Flying mechanic shone through. It truly is beautiful in its simplicity and often times you will find your opponent unable to provide an answer to your threats. Ingest, a keyword that I had not really played with previous to this draft, was out of this world! Sure, having the Eldrazi Processors nets you maximum value from the mechanic, but being able to witness you opponent unable to do anything about a FLYING Ingest creature as it mills their Drana (or just all their land) is definitely something that you can’t help but feel very pleased about!

Awaken was a mechanic that really surprised me in the draft. I had previously not thought much of it (given that was in relation to Standard), but I found that more often than not, I was able to cast Rush of Ice for its Awaken cost without it being detrimental to me in the long run. Never once did I find myself wishing that I had cast it for one mana instead, though if I did in the early game then Halimar Tidecaller was there to bring it back!

Having played through several of the draft archetypes now I would definitely say that a Simic aggro/control was one of the stronger out there, though it is probably pipped to the post by Black/White flyers (having access to so much evasion and life gain makes this deck insanely powerful in the format). Drana’s Emissary is so powerful in this format and her life gain trigger allows other cards to gain abilities such as Deathtouch and Flying themselves which can be, and has been, game ending!

One deck that I feel suffers the most, and I have seen a few now (including one of my own), was the four colour allies deck. The synergies between the cards are really good and can win the game, but unless you manage to luck out and grab the ‘Tangolands’, Evolving Wilds and/or Ally Encampment you will have a hard time getting your guys out and that isn’t really the kind of game you want to be playing.

Right that is it from me for now, however there will be more to come soon and until then, keep playing, keep learning and above all enjoy!

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