Essential Magic Articles


Everything You Need to Know About Drafting the Core Set

by Jeff Fullmer

I. Introduction

This article is about a format that a lot of people ignore and others think is boring.  Hopefully with this article I can show how drafting the core set (right now 10th Edition) can be quite interesting.  Additionally, I will give some advice on how to draft this set.

A lot of people say that drafting the core set is boring because all of the cards have been seen before and the cards are weaker.  While it is true that most of the cards in the core set have been in other sets, no draft is ever the same, and each can present unique challenges.  Second, some of the cards may be weaker than multi-colored cards in other sets, but the core set has some powerhouse too.  The core set has some of the best format breaking rares for draft: Loxodon Warhammer, Wrath of God, and Siege-gang Commander, just to name a few.  All of these cards are incredibly exciting to draft and to play.  Additionally, with Incinerate, Terror, Splitting Earths, Shock, etc. the core set actually has better removal than almost any set.  And it is full of decent commons like Civic Wayfinder, Craw Wurm, and Aven Windreader.  They are cards that are not too flashy but get the job done quite efficiently for commons.

Personally, I prefer a set that is full of usable commons in every color to one where there are so many bombs at uncommon and rare that drafting comes down simply to who can pick the most bombs.  Drafting the core set is about incremental advantage, picking cards only slightly better than the other options, and coming up with a deck that exploits these very minute advantages.  It is more challenging because most of the cards are on an even level and gaining even a small advantage is difficult.  Drafting the core set requires more skill because all of the cards are so even; this makes the format more fun and less random.

I hope that these arguments showed you why drafting the core set can be interesting, but I want the main focus of my article to be on the strategy involved when drafting the core set.

I don’t think its logical to think of colors in terms of which one is “better” because the colors are very evenly matched, it is much more fitting to discuss what’s your preference.  I will admit that in limited (though not always in constructed standard) my strong preference is Green/Black, especially in the core set.  I think it is the two color combination with the most powerful creatures.   The two colors have two of my favorite common creatures: Civic Wayfinder and Phyrexian Rager.  They have enough early drops to outrace slower opponents and their dominance in the creature department continues into the 5th and 6th turns with Spined Wurm, Craw Wurm, and Mass of Ghouls.  Additionally, black has the best removal in the set, as it generally will in most sets.  The color combination is capable of a fair amount of “pseudo-reach” in Consume Spirit, Soul Feast, Essence Drain, and Highway Robber to finish off the opponent in ways that only red and black can.  Although it does not have any “draw” spells it does slowly amass card advantage through cards like Afflict, Civic Wayfinder, Phyrexian Rager, Gravedigger, Ravenous Rats, Kavu Climber, Recover, etc.  These are cards that impact the board and provide the ever sought after “two for one”.

That being said, rather than getting into a lengthy discussion about the varying colors, and which one is best, I think it will be more helpful to showcase the cards that you should try to pick when you see them.

Limited is based on commons and uncommons.  Granted, if you pick a bomb rare and actually draw it, it will usually the game for you outright.  But you are very luck if you can pick just one bomb rare per pack, and even if you can pull that off, you will only have 3 bomb rares in a deck of 40 cards, which means only roughly one out of every thirteen cards in your deck will be a bomb, and you will still need some back up.  At any rate, if you see a bomb in color you will pick it and thus analysis is not really required. Thus, I will list what I believe to be the top 15 creatures at common in the core set and the top 10 non-creature cards at common as well, along with brief explanations of why I ranked each of them as I did.  I will then list the top 10 creatures at uncommon and the top 7 non-creatures at uncommon.  (I will not be listing artifacts as those can be played at any color.)

  These lists will give you a much better picture of what you should pick and it will be a much more fair depiction of the relative strengths of each color.  As I compile this chart I know there will be some disagreement over the power of the cards: after all, how can you compare two cards that do something totally different?  In response I have two comments: 1. There are tons of cards that do similar things and are obviously different in power levels, making it very easy to keep a card off the list or to put in one the list 2. Some of these rankings are arbitrary.  The difference between 5th and 10th on this list, for example, probably isn’t that big of a difference.  More important is making note of the cards kept off this list because these cards are clearly less powerful than those on the list.  I think we can all agree that the cards on the list are cards we should seek to draft, even if we would disagree a bit on where on the list they should fit

Last edited 6/15/2009 1:14:36 PM Page 1 of 6  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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