Friday, November 9, 2007

TPF Walkthrough

Like most of you know, half of nationals are played with Booster Draft –an uber fun format for every occasion- this is the reason why a deep knowledge of standard is necessary but not enough. In addition, the effort you put in the limited part of nationals should be greater than the constructed part, because first one requires a lot more skills than the last one.

Remembering, my first Booster Draft was back in fourth round of 2004 Mexican nationals. That day we played Mirrodin block. I had never drafted in real life before (only netdraft), I knew more or less of what it consisted, but I had no idea about the ranking of cards, and much less about strategies and archetypes, my record –totally expected- was a disaster. In retrospective, testing would have been a crucial factor to reach a better outcome, but that wouldn’t have been enough, the other complement I needed to make a better performance was some sort of guide, like the one I present, to fill the rest of holes.

Notes and explanations
1. All the statements, affirmations, conclusions and the order of picks are in my opinion, therefore, its possible that I am wrong, and not in one, but in many points.

2. The charts presented next only include commons. The reason is simple: Its more useful to have in mind the cards that we are most likely going to open, than to have infinite picks in the head where half of them are going to be useless and where the information gets atrophied.

3. The order of the rank varies according to the strategy we are following, for example, if we have plenty of rebels, the rebel-searchers are worth more, if we are playing black, but not red, cards like Henchfiend of Ukor are not even in the list, etc. The own criteria is the main judge to do these distinctions. Keeping in mind these factors helps a lot:

-Signals: This is the most important element to take into account. It consists of assimilating what’s going on in the Draft: what colors are underrated, what combinations are we passing, and the most important: determine our colors on time. For example, if we see that after our third pick the number of good green cards we are getting is overwhelming, without a doubt we should pick green - without concerning a lot about our first three picks-, keeping in mind our cost of opportunity (the colors we are passing as second better option). Why is always thus? Because that same player that is giving you green cards in the first booster is the one that is going to feed you on the third one, therefore, to reach quality and quantity in our draft, we have to pick the colors that the guys in our sides aren’t taking. Also, in the second booster we should know what colors are we going to get, according to what we passed in the first one, for example, if for taking the green cards we passed a lot of blue, we should take another non-blue color, because we are not going to get any in the second pack, for sure. This is one of the reasons why “forcing combinations” is little effective. If we love U/W, an we take this cards for whim, even if there are better in the pack, and the guy in our right (the one that passes us cards in TS & FS) is in those colors too, our deck is going to end sub optimal, because we are not going to end with enough good cards in first and third pack, although yes in second. Basically if we force colors, we risk to build a deck with only Planar Chaos, and fillers from Time Spiral and Future Sight.

-Synergy with other cards: The second element to take into account before picking a card over other one is to check which one makes a better team with the ones we already have. For example, cards with Madness (Dark Withering) with cards that make us discard (Urborg Syphon-Mage), cards with comes into play abilities (Stingscourger) with cards that makes us return them to our hand (Tolarian Sentinel).

-Curve of mana: This is one of the modules more tough to take to practice, mainly because it requires a lot of experience and an active memory. It consist of having a deck where we take total advantage of our mana sources. Something like turn 1 Shade of Trokair suspended, turn 2 Benalish Calvary, turn 3 a Morph, turn 4 Malach of the Dawn, turn 5 Castle Raptors. How to obtain this? Either being a lucksack or when in the middle of the draft we take cards that fits better in the drops we are missing. For example, if we already have a lot of cards with cost 3, we are going to give a little of more value to cards that cost 2 to complement our curve. Its important to note that this is effective when the cards have a similar value, I would never pass a great card only because of curve purposes.

-Archetypes: Finally, we have to ask us: What are we drafting?, and the answer is going to be the game plan that we have to carry out in the draft: how are we supposed to win the games and what situations can we explode, how to overcome our weakness against other decks and focus in cards that benefits our combination. My favorite archetypes are W/U, W/R, U/R, B/R, R/G & G/U.

Ranking of cards & Picks in order of hierarchy

(Don’t forget to consult cards you don’t know in the Gatherer of Wizards)

Time Spiral

Temporal Isolation
Castle Raptors
Amrou Scout
Amrou Seekers
Momentary Blink
Errant Doomsayers
Benalish Cavalry
Zealot il-Vec
Flickering Spirit
Prismatic Lens
Terramorphic Expanse
Watcher Sliver
D'Avenant Healer

Errant Ephemeron
Looter il-Kor
Fathom Seer
Spiketail Drakeling
Crookclaw Transmuter
Viscerid Deepwalker
Coral Trickster
Slipstream Serpent
Temporal Eddy
Dream Stalker
Prismatic Lens
Tolarian Sentinel
Terramorphic Expanse

Strangling Soot
Tendrils of Corruption
Dark Withering
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Trespasser il-Vec
Deathspore Thallid
Corpulent Corpse
Gorgon Recluse
Prismatic Lens
Mana Skimmer
Terramorphic Expanse
Pit Keeper

Lightning Axe
Rift Bolt
Orcish Cannonade
Keldon Halberdier
Flowstone Channeler
Goblin Skycutter
Bonesplitter Sliver
Coal Stoker
Bogardan Rager
Mogg War Marshal
Empty the Warrens

Durkwood Baloth
Penumbra Spider
Gemhide Sliver
Nantuko Shaman
Search for Tomorrow
Herd Gnarr
Strength in Numbers
Scarwood Treefolk
Thallid Germinator
Prismatic Lens
Spinneret Sliver
Ashcoat Bear
Terramorphic Expanse
Wormwood Dryad

Planar Chaos

Shade of Trokair
Whitemane Lion
Saltfield Recluse
Sinew Sliver
Pallid Mycoderm
Poultice Sliver
Aven Riftwatcher

Shaper Parasite
Erratic Mutation
Dreamscape Artist
Primal Plasma
Synchronous Sliver

Rathi Trapper
Cradle to Grave
Midnight Charm
Spitting Sliver

Prodigal Pyromancer
Brute Force
Skirk Shaman
Needlepeak Spider

Giant Dustwasp
Mire Boa
Evolution Charm
Citanul Woodreaders
Utopia Vow
Uktabi Drake

Future Sight

Judge Unworthy
Gathan Raiders
Knight of Sursi
Blade of Sixth Pride
Lucent Lumenid
Marshalling Cry
Lymph Sliver
Lumithread Field

Infiltrator Il-Kor
Aven Augur
Gathan Raiders
Whip Spine Drake
Leaden Fists
Venser's Diffusion
Sarcomite Myr
Blind Phantasm

Ichor Slick
Gathan Raiders
Death Rattle
Deepcavern Imp
Augur of Skulls
Grave Scrabbler
Mass of Ghouls

Riddle of Lightning
Gathan Raiders
Fatal Attraction
Flowstone Embrace
Fomori Nomad
Henchfield of Ukor
Grinning Ignus
Embermage Augur

Sprout Swarm
Sporoloth Ancient
Kavu Primarch
Nessian Courier
Llanowar Empath
Edge of Autumn
Thornwield Archer
Wrap in Vigor

Being honest, the charts per se doesn’t really add useful information, except what cards to pick in a certain color, but not what colors have the best quality nor what combinations are the best ones, this depends on the experience and judgment of the people that is drafting, that is, obviously, totally personal. As for me, after a considerable amount of drafts, I have reach to some personal conjectures (in no way absolute truths) about TPF that I will share with you.

*Gathan Raiders is colorless.- You could expect this one after the FS table, it enters in any combination and it’s a great card, potentially a trick, a madness enabler and if the game becomes longer it becomes a pretty good fatty.

*Black sucks.- Is the most weak color, specially after Future Sight. I almost never draft it unless I am the only black player in the pod (you know that for the huge amount of black cards of good quality you get passed) and only with red –a lot of removal plus slivers- or white –rebels-. Being the only black player in the table, black has a lot of potential, don’t underrate it.

*White can be either very good or plain awful.- If you draft the right cards and get an average curve, white is near to insane, but if you miss one the important must have cards or loss a drop in early turns, things will go bad for you for sure. I try white with blue most of the time, to complement flyers and evasion with creatures that stall the board on the ground. The other color that does well with white is red, instead of flyers you pick early beaters and loads of removal.

*Red is the universal color.- In the personnel, I like to commingle it with Blue and Green, but it has synergy with any other color. Never forget that is going to probably be the most drafted color in the pod, for this same reason.

*Green is the most consistent color.- It has the best creatures, the most number of playables (along with white) in Time Spiral, the best commons in Future Sight, the only pump spells and one of the best common cards in limited: Sprout Swarm.

*To play blue is to bet for Tempo.- Blue offers of a lot of good stuff like bouncers, evasion and card advantage, but removal is not one of them (there are some exceptions in Planar Chaos). That’s the reason why, if we mix it with another color that doesn’t have removal (Green or White), we have to: first; pick the little removal, then, focus on a consistent base of creatures, and finally, complement them with all sort of pump spells, tricks and tempo advantage cards.

*The best archetype is U/W.- Or at least, is my favorite one (and the one from Kenji Tsumura too). Some guys with flyers and shadow along with guys that stall the board and even Rebels is almost invincible.

These are some of the advisement I can give you for TPF Draft, don’t forget to come to channel #TPF, where I learned many of these things, hopefully you might be able to join the group and test with us. Until next time.