Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success! The Pro Tour is this weekend and I can't to see how the drafts shake out as the pros help provide insight into Aether Revolt Limited. I don't want to delve too much into Aether Revolt this week given the fact that the Pro Tour is coming up soon. Instead, this week I'd like to talk a bit about the new single game draft league that made its debut with Aether Revolt. It's a new offering for Magic Online players and while the fact that innovation is happening is nice, I have my doubts that this is the right way to go for a league. It's trying to borrow from other successful games that have the same approach: you draft a deck and you play only a single game against an opponent. While there are obvious pluses to this, I think Magic Online missed the mark on this one.
Single-Game Draft League
In theory I like the idea of a single game draft league, but I realize that I only like it because of previous experience with other games.I've been playing Eternal Card Game for a while now and they have their drafts set up as only a single game, and you earn prizes based on each win you achieve. However, that game is free to play and if I don't want to spend any money, I can spend time to accrue enough currency to draft ad nauseum.On Magic Online this isn't the case at all.You have to pay to play, and on top of that you might not always get something worth value from these drafts.In Eternal I get to pay my entry fee and even if I bomb out completely I get 3 treasure chests and the cards I keep.If I happen to win matches, then my rewards get better and better.
With Magic Online I have to put up the best possible result in order for me to earn enough play points to play the draft league again. Since Play Points aren't tradable and only have value if you're able to use them, I feel that anything short of a 6-3 result will make you feel like you won nothing at all. In other games if you don't win a prize that lets you do something again, you can at least grind into enough currency to do that. If I "win" 10 play points in a single game draft league, have I won anything? I can't turn those points into cards nor can I spend just 10 on anything. I have to earn more to use them and I can't just buy the rest I need to do an event. Even if you win games you can still lose if you open nothing of worth and are short Play Points for another event.
The single biggest thing I don't like about a single game draft league is that Magic is built and designed in such a way that a 3 game set is optimal in playing matches of Magic. The mana system, how you build your deck, and the very existence of sideboard cards means that you're going to be playing more than one game in order to play a match. There's a lot of variance in Magic and that very variance is what makes the game great. Sometimes you draw exceptionally well and sometimes you don't. Mana screw and flood happen and how you play the game while in those situations can be quite compelling. You lose a lot of the luster in that if you only play a single game. What happens if you get mana screwed or flooded? Do you just lose to variance and have no ability to come back in spite of that?
I've played games in this league and it feels like mulligans are much more punishing and you almost auto-lose if you get hit by mana flood or screw. It starts to feel less like a game of skill and more so a game of luck. Now, there are still games where you both have to play well and not make mistakes, but I feel that's exception and not the rule. The upside to this is that you spend less time playing a match, which can be useful and beneficial to someone who doesn't have a lot of time to dedicate to playing three game sets of Magic.
Lastly, this makes drafting sideboard cards and/or situational cards a lot more difficult now. Let's say you draft a Demolish and you're a deck that wants to be aggressive and not spend 4 mana to destroy a Vehicle. If your opponent plays something like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship you have a lot of incentive to put that Demolish in your maindeck. What now though? Do you not play your narrow sideboard card that would be brought in a lot and just lose to a good artifact, or do you play it and risk being a little slower? A better example is my thought process during Theros-only Limited. I would often draft Shredding Winds in my green decks and place it in my sideboard to bring in against Wingsteed Rider.dek. It's a very narrow removal spell that I only wanted against Wingsteed Rider Heroic decks. If that draft was a single game draft, do I play Shredding Winds in my maindeck or no? If I do, how often is it going to hurt me against a deck without fliers?
I feel like this single-game draft league was implemented in a way that doesn't fully realize why other games can do it and be successful. Magic is not like other digital card games out there. The way it's designed, played, and showcased is extremely different when compared to other games. I like the idea of a single-game draft league, but I don't feel it works for Magic the way it's currently set up. What do you think? What are your thoughts on the new draft league?
Aether Revolt Draft #1
For this week I'm going to try something different. I'm going to present two drafts with just the draft portion (sort of) and then the next week follow up with the games. I don't believe that this will be something I implement going forward, but it's something I wanted to try out.
Opening (Tezzeret, the Schemer) in pack 1 pick 1 was a nice way to start the draft, especially since I like to take the gold cards highly and try to make that color combination work. Tezzeret is a bit flexible in that you can splash him in any U/X and B/X deck, but he really wants to be in blue. I took him first and decided that I would try to be in blue and/or black if at all possible and work from there. Blue seemed to flow and I snapped up blue cards quickly, but black was less open than I'd like. It's not so much that it wasn't open, it's more so that the packs were weak so it made sense to me to avoid the black cards is possible and solidify my position in blue. At the very least I can still present a strong deck even if the deck is heavily slanted towards blue.
Pack 2 Pick 1 presents a challenge in Exquisite Archangel and Reverse Engineer. On the one hand I can continue down the path of heavy blue and pick up the card draw spell, but Exquisite Archangel gives me a strong push towards a second color and is a win condition. All things being equal I think I should take Reverse Engineer since it's a payoff for my plan, but given that I haven't played with Exquisite Archangel led me to pick that card. My next two picks of Airdrop Aeronauts and Spire Patrol make my first pick seem great and now I'm in a spot where my Thopter Arrest becomes much better and I can focus on a U/W Skies deck. Reverse Engineer manages to table giving me the obvious signal that blue is open and I'm quite content where I end up after pack 2.
Pack 3 is just me picking cards that are better than the ones in my deck and making sure whether or not I can support a splash for Tezzeret. At this point I'm not sure how heavy on artifacts I'm going to be and when you couple that with the fact that I have no fixing, it makes sense to not play Tezzeret at all. It wouldn't make for a good splash when I'm trying to beat down in the air. I like the creature quality and general power/toughness ratio once I get past 4 mana. A lot of creatures are small in Aether Revolt and I manage to avoid having to play too many of those. What do you think? What would you have drafted?
Aether Revolt Draft #2 (Single-Game League)
When I said I sort of wouldn't post the gameplay videos, this is why I said "sort of". I was able to get a couple games in quick and since it's already on YouTube, might as well post them here as well.
I did this queue for "science", and if it wasn't for that I wouldn't have touched it at all. It didn't seem like the kind of game experience I wanted, but I figured it'd be better to try it out than not. As for the draft itself, my only major complaint was that it took too long to actually start. I spent 15 minutes waiting in the queue for the draft to fire, and that's not something I want to happen for an experience that is supposed to be fast.
I'm not sure about this draft. Starting with Gifted Aetherborn is a great way to start a draft, but it didn't quite go the way I wanted to from that point. I agree with every pick I made after that, even not taking a Spire Patrol fourth pick even though I like taking the gold cards highly. Going from G/B to U/W means I lose my first three picks and I would be committing to two colors in a situation where I'm more likely to force it than not. I could likely still take it and explore a combination of B/u/w or G/u/w if I wanted to be open while taking the Spire Patrol. That's likely the best way to look at it, especially since Druid of the Cowl can be picked up in pack 2 should I need it. Regardless, I don't take the Spire Patrol and move on with my middling G/B deck.
Pack 2 was pretty bad for me if I just wanted to be G/B, but I decide that given the nature of the queue it's better to go for broke and make the most powerful deck I can given how mediocre mine looks. Going into white with Dawnfeather Eagle was a step in that direction. Normally I wouldn't try that and find something else, but you have to take chances when there's only 1 game to play. I go full on three colors when I see Angel of Invention as my first pick in pack 3. Angel is very good and while she's a little brittle, there's a lot of text on her and she can turn the game in your favor if she sticks around. Going white also gives me access to Skyswirl Harrier, which is a card that I like very much in Kaladesh, and it only gets better with Aether Revolt. 3/4 Flying is hard to deal with!
I'm not happy with the way the draft turned out, but it is what it is. I have little removal so if my opponent plays a bomb I have to beat it the hard way unfortunately. You can see some of the games here and I'll follow up with the rest of them next week. How do you think the draft went? What do you think I should have done differently?
Aether Revolt Sealed League #1
This pool is a little easy, but there are things to consider. The main this is whether or not I should play Ajani in GW, Dovin in UW, or splash the one left out. It's a lot harder to sell the Dovin Baan splash since he doesn't do a whole lot once he's in play. He doesn't win you the game, so you can't rely on him for that. Ajani Unyielding can win you the game and is completely defensible as a splash or in just GW. If I remove the Planeswalkers from the equation and look solely on the merits of G/W and U/W, I think I end up picking U/W since the green doesn't really add much overall. I'm likely playing more high impact blue cards than I am green, not to mention Saheeli's Artistry is a really good card. What do you think? What is the best build of the pool?
Next week I'll be back to finish my drafts and I'll begin to play matches with my sealed deck. I'll also give an overview of what I learned from watching the Pro Tour matches and what cards are better/worse than I had rated in the set review. As always you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here to find all my videos up early along with extra content.
If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.