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Staying In My Lane: MH3 Booster Draft

MH3 Draft: Staying in my Lane

As of yesterday (from the time of writing), Modern Horizons 3 Booster draft was available on both of Magic's digital clients. Unlike my usual approach where I draft mostly MTGO, I've moved over to Arena for faster, cleaner games.

MTGO is generally my platform of choice, but with higher pack prices, I decided to take my business to Arena for the time being. Regardless, I've learned a lot about the format already and came up with my primary rulestay in your lane. I said this last week, and it remains true. The days of drafting conservatively and trying to lean on play skill in close games is in the distant horizon.

There are a few notably powerful archetypes in the format, and I normally stick to those. I mostly don't like aggro, but best-of-one gameplay is going to make it better as lower-curve-beatdown decks spend tons of mana in the first five turns of the game almost never missing a beat. It's no different in this format.

I said last week that you want to follow the synergies of your color combination and avoid drafting good-stuff decks. I still believe that to be true.

My pick for top decks in the format currently, and it's still too early to know for sure, are RG Devoid and UR Energy. It took playing against Writhing Chrysalis once to know that it's one of the best commons that's been printed in a set - maybe ever. If it's not blasting away at your life total, it's holding down the format threatening to block anything from menace to flying. While I'm still high on Galvanic Discharge, Chrysalis is the best common in the set by leaps and bounds.

A frequent question I see is how to balance spells that can be played as lands into spell count. While there's no easy heuristic for this, generally I'm getting about two spells that can be played as lands per draft and playing about 16 lands. They're normally worth about half a land, but the more you have then the less lands I'm willing to cut. You don't want to go lower than around 15 actual lands in your deck because you don't want a painful mana base or a mana base consisting of lands that come into play tapped.

My drafts tend to go as follows. I take the best card out of the pack until about pick three or four. After that point, I'm paying close attention to sign postcards and willing to completely abandon my first few picks depending on whether huge bombs are present or not. If not, I have no problem taking a UR Energy card even if my first three picks were black and green cards. I want to be in the open lane and having as linear a deck as possible is paramount to success. You need your cards to work together in this format. There are some rares that can carry you, but mostly you're relying on your cards working well together, which you can say for any format, but this one especially. Your energy deck wants very few spells not producing energy, and your BG Modify/Adapt deck wants very few, if any, creatures that don't benefit from being modified.

Because of how this set functions, I tend to take gold cards aggressively. If I have two or three red cards to start the draft that benefit from energy, and I'm faced with a choice of a Cyclops Superconductor and a Fanged Flames, I'm taking the gold card. I don't want to open the door for the table to get into my archetype. I want to prohibit them from moving into my lane altogether. Staying flexible is just not a luxury we're afforded in this set.

Cheap removal is important. There are so many powerful creatures that hit the table on the early turns that you need it to make sure you're not just dead on the spot to the plethora of rare creatures that can snowball, on top of needing to break up a lot of creature synergies. It's also important to not end up too reactive. The devoid archetype will punish you if you're sitting there with a hand full of removal and no way to close the game out while they set up for massive turn after massive turn.

Let's take a peek at some of my decks I drafted on day one.

This was an easy trophy with a powerful UR Energy deck. The deck leaned heavily on Invert Polarity to close games. Luckily, I got two of them. Phyrexian Ironworks is the type of card you only want in your very synergistic energy decks. It barely crossed the line for me in this deck, but I need a way to close the door in longer grindier games, and it did a fantastic job doing just that. This deck had some close calls and tight games against various Eldrazi decks, but it ended up getting the job done. Normally, I would never cut Arena of Glory since it's mostly "free" to play, but in this deck I didn't want to fetch mountains early or play two red sources in the early turns with multiple Invert Polarity in my deck.

This is what a nearly ideal energy deck looks like.

Next up, UG Devoid.

This deck is one of the worst decks I've drafted thus far. It lacks interaction and powerful top-end payoffs. It's a bunch of slightly big creatures and, because it's easy, splashing Horrid Shadowspinners. I ran out of playables spending so many extra picks on colorless lands.

I have not been impressed with this archetype, as it feels mostly helpless when it falls behind, and it basically always does unless your opponent's deck is too reactive. Depth Defiler did a lot of work filling the big hole where I needed more interaction, but I still only managed a 5-3 record or so with this deck.

Horrific Assault felt important in this archetype as a way to catch up on tempo in the midgame. I will be moving Horrific Assault way up in my pick order specifically for this deck and RG Devoid where it's an all-star.

I tend to end up in this deck when I open some big Eldrazi rare in a weak pack and get passed a signpost uncommon like Path of Annihilation.

Next up, the outlier.

Despite titling this article around the notion to stay in your lane and follow your color pairs synergies, I had some soft synergies in this deck and did not end up BR Affinity. In fact, I ended up Rakdos Sacrifice with a small energy package.

This deck had a high power level but no synergies outside of my Infernal Captor Package, which only came up in one of my eight games. I managed to go 7-1 breaking my own rule, but this deck leaned a lot on my rares, Sorin of House Markov and Shilgengar, Sire of Famine. Outside of that, this is an example of a deck that was too reactive and a mess. Glimpse the Impossible and Amped Raptor were my card advantage, but both cards played poorly with all my top end. This deck had some play. I stole multiple games with Infernal Captor against what I'd normally think is a bad match-up for this deck in Devoid. Generally, the Devoid decks can grind better than a typical RB deck, so I had to change roles in that match-up and push as much damage as I could early and close with the Captor stealing a six- or seven-drop to close the game out.

I think the 7-1 record of this deck was an overperformance, and I had some lucky pairings against decks trying to modify in response to my instant-speed removal.

Last up is a deck I'm currently 2-0 with, and it's played out nicely so far. It's lean and synergistic. This is a draft where I first picked Cursed Wombat in a bad pack and never looked back. I went blinders-on to take a black or green card every pick. I like that this deck is low to the ground but also won't get outsized given my amount of adapt and wombats.

Nesting Grounds has surprised me a lot. You should be actively tracking and trying to pick this card up with a later pick in this archetype, as it gives you the ability to constantly trigger your wombats and Basking Broodscales. Gift of the Viper is the exact type of card I'd normally advise you to stay far away from, and I'm only willing to try it because of the wombat package. The same is true for Fowl Strike.

This deck needed a rare or two to take it over the top, but any deck where you get three signpost gold cards of your archetype is going to be solid. I expect to get a trophy with this one despite having to round out my last few slots with filler cards.

Overall, I'm currently enjoying this format, but I don't think it will last long. The format feels linear and without much room for experimentation. I probably won't draft it 100 times like I would with a set like OTJ that was deeper. This is a 20- or 30-draft format for me, but who knows, it's still early, and I may get some inspiration while drafting or watching others.

I'd evaluate this set as an average drafting experience. I recommend playing on Arena over MTGO since the 20-ticket price to enter the draft on MTGO is too high relative to the low prices of the cards you get from completing the draft.

Regardless, I'll keep enjoying this format. I'll likely break my advice and play a bit on MTGO to get a feel of a true Bo3 format as I expect it to slow down. I want to get an idea of what the format will be like for the upcoming Pro Tour. I'm eager to study the drafts from the best of the best and challenge myself to learn from them and find any mistakes they're making to hone my skills.

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