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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Oct 15 2014 12:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  This week we'll be looking over the drafts from the Pro Tour and talking about how the pros think Khans of Tarkir should be drafted.  Following that, I have some drafts I did before the Pro Tour to analyze and see what I was doing then and how it matches up to what we learned from the PT.

KTK Draft Theory

Going into this draft environment, I asked a question: Are we drafting 2 colors, or are we drafting 3 colors?  Looking back on this, I realize I was taking a very limited focus on how I approached that question.  I was only concerned about colors and how to draft those colors and I dismissed the speed of the decks and what each deck will look like.  In particular, I was only focused on how to draft a specific clan.  I thought that the format would revolve around the 5 3 color pairings and only viewed my question through that lens.

I believe a better question would have been: Are we drafting a deck that goes under the 3 color decks, or a deck that goes over the 3 color decks?  If we assume that 3 color decks will be the norm (2 colors with a splash and/or full 3 colors) then that sets the baseline of what is to be expected in the draft format.  How we get to those 3 color decks is an important question, but only one that needs to be asked once we figure out what we want to do in the first place.

So, why would we draft something different than the standard 3 color deck?  There are two reasons: power and/or consistency.  In the 2 color decks you can sacrifice some late game power to gain consistency and a bit more robust early game.  If your curve starts on 2 consistently while your opponent starts on 3 and probably plays another 3 on turn 4, you're forcing your opponent to trade his/her late game morphs early on for your less powerful creatures in an effort to stay alive.  Not to mention that because they'll be playing more nonbasics than normal, there's a chance they can be off curve on turn 3 with a tapped land and open the possibility to get run over by a bunch of 2/2s for 2.  You're not favored in the long game as they have access to more powerful threats than you, but you can negate that by taking advantage of the lack of an early game from your opponent to get an edge there.

If you decide to draft a 4 or 5 color deck, you do lose some consistency as your manabase is going to be more stretched than normal, but you make up for that by having a more powerful late game than usual.  Like the 2 color deck, you want to take advantage of the lack of an early game, but instead of pressing your advantage there, you want to use it as a cushion to let yourself get to the late game where you're more than likely going to be favored.  You have about the same midgame as a 3 color deck although you're probably a bit slower to unmorph morphs due to your manabase and the fact that you have to play more nonbasics than the other decks.  


So now that we know what we're asking and wanting to find out about KTK draft, let's watch the first draft from the PT to see what Reid Duke thinks is best in KTK draft.

I think something to take away from this draft is that even though Reid started on a good 2 color card in Sorin, he was only taking black and white cards for the majority of the draft even though there were good Mardu/Abzan cards floating around.  You can see him trying to be flexible and not committing to a third color early in pack 1 by taking Blossoming Sands over a Mardu Roughrider.  The Roughrider is the more powerful card and pulls you more into a 3 color deck, so taking the Blossoming Sands is a low risk/high ceiling pick that can still leave you with a 2 color deck.  Objectively, Ankle Shanker is more powerful than Chief of the Scale, but again, it's a 3 color card vs a 2 color card and consistency vs power wins out here during Pack 2 Pick 1.  Late in Pack 2 there's a pick between Jungle Hollow and Abzan Guide and I think the pick should be the Abzan Guide and not the land.  While black has be open, white hasn't been as much and you need some power in this deck for the early/late game.  You can play it as a 3 drop and unmorph it at a good rate for a very solid creature.  The land does open up a more flexible splash for Abzan in pack 3, but I'd be more concerned about being able to curve out at this point in the draft.  In the end, I think he drafted a mostly black deck splashing for white and green, which is fine, but it was certainly interesting not to see him branch out into a 3rd color at any point in the draft.  What I conclude for this is that even if you're not an aggressive 2 color deck (although I do believe he was trying to draft one), consistency is more important than raw power and you need to be able to have good plays along the curve.

Let's look at another draft from the Pro Tour, this time featuring the current Player of the Year in Jeremy Dezani:

That first pack for Jeremy Dezani was pretty good.  There wasn't a good gold card to first pick so he had to settle for a mono color card and while I might have taken the Woolly Loxodon over the Mistfire Weaver, the Weaver can be slightly better and evasion is pretty good in this format.  After that an Icefeather Aven makes it so he can be base UG and that is made clear by taking a 3rd pick Opulent Palace, allowing himself to remain open to Temur and Sultai.  He stayed relatively open to both even after taking the first Bear's Companion but after wheeling the second one, there's no way he wasn't going to be Temur, especially after getting Savage Knuckleblade Pick 1 Pack 2.  

From this point, it's obvious that Dezani will draft Temur and go with it.  What I like about this draft is like Reid, he remained relatively open in pack 1 by having the choice of being a UG or UB base deck, but once he saw the Temur cards flowing, he dived into that clan and drafted it for the rest of the draft.  That isn't to say that Reid was wrong for drafting how he did, but it shows a different way of approaching the format.  Reid was relatively zoned in on a BW deck and didn't stray too far from it at all while Dezani was open for a little bit but once he saw the open clan he dived in and drafted more powerful cards.

So we have 2 pros wanting to start out with a base 2 color deck and be open to being 3 colors or being 2 colors with a splash, but what about the opposite end of the spectrum?  If you click here, you can see Joel Calafell explain his drafting philosophy, which was to draft 4/5 color and he went   6-0 with it.  6-0!  That tells you that the archetype is solid in KTK draft and you can build decks that play all the good cards and win in the late game.  You do have to build them correctly and emphasize early defense, but once you do that you can do just about anything you want.  Ari Lax also played 5 colors in the Pro Tour, so that gives added strength to the idea that you can draft 5 colors seriously and do well in the format.  

From watching the Pro Tour coverage, it seems like overwhelming majority of players settled for 2/3 color decks with some 5 color decks popping up.  I think this is a format where you can do just about anything you want as long as the cards are there for you and you keep in mind that there are aggro decks in the format.  With all that said, let's take a look at 3 drafts I did and see where I was before the PT and how I should change my approach now.



For those that care about results, the first draft was a 1-0 drop (I had real life issues come up and couldn't complete the draft), the second draft was a 3-0 and the third was a 1-2.  I do think my first deck could have gone 3-0, but I wasn't surprised that my third deck didn't do as well.  Drafting allied colors leaves you with no gold cards so you have to make do with the best mono colored cards you can find and you're losing a bit of power when you do that.  If you're going to draft two colors you want to be sure it's an enemy pair so you have the option of jumping into one of two clans.   I believe in my first 2 drafts I did my best to stay open as Reid/Dezani did and once I found the open clan, I dove in as opposed to staying in the 2 color route and got a good Abzan/Jeskai deck for the drafts and felt the decks were solid and had powerful plays while having a good mana curve.  The 3rd draft was a bit of a train wreck.  We managed to put together a deck, but I don't think it was powerful enough to do what a 2 color deck wants to do.  Trying to force 3 colors from the beginning was a bad idea and I should have gone either BW or GB after taking Abzan Charm to try and remain flexible rather than trying to draft all 3 colors at the same time.  To answer the question I asked in the beginning: we can do both.  We can go over and/or under the 3 color decks, you just have to keep in mind that 2 color decks exist and will try and win the game quickly so you have to know that as you draft.

I hope you enjoyed this article!  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please leave them in the comments section below.  Next week will be a KTK 8-4 + Sealed event.

Thanks for reading/watching!