Drafting Red and White in Eldritch Moon

Written by Jeff Zandi on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Limited

Drafting Red and White in Eldritch Moon

Jeff Zandi

Jeff Zandi is a level 2 judge and an eight-time veteran of the Pro Tour. He has written continuously about Magic for over eighteen years. His team, the Texas Guildmages, have the longest running regular game in history, meeting at his home every Tuesday night since 1996.

Last weekend I reached the top eight of a local sealed deck Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. I’m not asking for a medal or anything, there were only twenty-four of us in the tournament. Still, it was an early opportunity to explore Eldritch Moon limited formats at a competitive level. A few days ago I shared with you the highlights of my sealed deck experience. Today I’m turning to the subject of Eldritch Moon booster draft. After drafting last Saturday at the PPTQ, I drafted twice with my gang, the Texas Guildmages, on the following Tuesday night.

The only problem is, I’ve now drafted Eldritch Moon three times and I’ve gone after the same deck every time. I may or may not be able to shed much light on Eldritch Moon draft in general today but I guarantee I can help you with drafting the red and white cards.

Why did I go for red and white? It’s because I’m a simple man, a weak man, a man who has certain burning enthusiasms. I drafted the white cards because I’m weak and white is incredibly deep in this format. I drafted the red cards because I like the taste of burning. I drafted the same color combination three times in a row because I’m a simple man who can and will fall into a habit pretty easily.

White is the deepest color in Eldritch Moon for limited. Almost every card, and most importantly, every creature, is playable. As for red, I believe the color of fire gets a solid boost in Eldritch Moon. There are plenty of decent playables, including a lot removal spells and combat tricks, among the commons and uncommons. I think it’s pretty easy, and desirable, to go after the red cards. Red is, however, neither as deep or as high in quality as white, so you need to make sure you aren’t the third or fourth person at the table trying to draft a lot of red cards.

Let’s Rip Some Packs and Have a Look

To show you how readily white can be drafted, and how easy it is to jump into red, I’m opening three different Eldritch Moon booster packs completely at random. Of course, it’s entirely possible these packs, if opened first in a draft, would lead a skilled drafter in the direction of a color other than white or red, but I think the illustration will be helpful. The cards are listed in common-uncommon-rare/mythic-flip card-foil order, exactly as the cards came out of the booster. I’ll comment briefly on the cards that could be first picks.

Cracked Pack Number One

Waxing Moon
Borrowed Grace – great combat trick, easily could be a first pick
Woodcutter’s Grit – a better than average Giant Growth
Wailing Ghoul
Grapple with the Past – the “green Anticipate” is solid but not a first pick
Turn Aside
Alchemist’s Greeting – solid removal, clunky at five mana but awesome for madness
Field Creeper
Unsubstantiate – decent bounce effect
Geist of the Archives – must play in blue decks, not a first pick though
Noose Constrictor – not exactly Wild Mongrel but not bad at all
Crypt Breaker – the new fixed Pack Rat is the first pick of this pack in this case
Lone Rider – I was underwhelmed at first, now I’ve learned to respect this in white/red
Grizzled Angler (FOIL)

Okay, make no mistake. The pack one, pick one from this booster has to be Crypt Breaker, it’s basically a bomb and a win condition. However, if it weren’t here the first pick could easily be Borrowed Grace or Alchemist’s Greeting. Also, I got run over recently when I didn’t respect my opponent’s Lone Rider early in a game when I had a cheap removal spell but pointed it at something else. My opponent played Borrowed Grace to hit me for three with Lone Rider and then flipped it into the very difficult to deal with 4/4 It That Rides as One with first strike and trample and lifelink.

Let’s open another pack!

Cracked Pack Number Two

Choking Restraints – this card is first pick worthy
Strange Augmentation
Backwoods Survivalists – not bad for four mana especially with delirium
Weirded Vampire
Primal Druid – decent early play for slower green decks, not a reason to start into green
Ironclad Slayer – decent but not exciting
Turn Aside
Alchemist’s Greeting – first pick worthy, but not exciting
Field Creeper
Mockery of Nature – would usually make the cut in green decks, not a first pick
Chilling Grasp
Somberwald Stag – very good, basically one of green’s scarce removal effects
Providence – kind of a trap card, belongs in a combo deck at best
Conduit of Storms – very playable, almost first pick worthy

Once again, the two best commons were a white one and a red one. And, once again, the white one was better than the red one. White is very attractive in pack one. I would like to say, having come this far with this exercise, green has had some fairly strong possible first picks.

Let’s do one more pack.

Cracked Pack Number Three

Sigardian Priest – I’m not the biggest fan, but it can hold down a wide range of creatures
Cultist’s Staff – good, solid equipment, very playable but not a first pick
Wailing Ghoul
Grapple with the Past – pretty good card to draw at any point in the game
Weirded Vampire
Faithbearer Paladin – a fine creature for all but the fastest builds, big butt and lifelink
Convolute
Falkenrath Reaver
Prying Question
Somberwald Stag – if you get passed this card you can safely jump into green
Abundant Maw – should make the cut in most black decks, possibly first pick worthy
Elder Deep-Fiend – a game breaker for blue, it’s almost good enough for any draft deck
Tangleclaw Werewolf – decent green creature, probably not a first pick
Gisela, the Broken Blade – yeah, this would be the first pick

Gisela broke the pack. You take Gisela and make the day of the player on your left when you ship them the Elder Deep-Fiend. Apart from these rare/mythics, however, the pick would probably have been Somberwald Stag over Faithbearer Paladin.

For my next trick, I’d like to share with you my first three Eldritch Moon booster drafts. I have my pick order for each of these drafts. I wish I could also remember (or record) what was in each pack.

Draft Number One – PPTQ Top Eight – Saturday, July 23, 2016

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to admit a terrible thing that I did in this draft. I rare drafted a little bit. There were a couple of reasons. This PPTQ featured no pack prizes, no prizes whatsoever except for the invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier for the winner. I therefore wanted to extract a little bit of value out of the booster draft if possible. I assure you that I did not pass up a good card for my deck at any point in order to steal a rare.

Pack One – Eldritch Moon

Collective Defiance – a worthy first pick, it kills something and can also go to the face
Deranged Whelp – a decent sign that red is open
Blessed Alliance – solid removal spell for combat
Eternal Scourge – I left it out of the deck but should have played it
Brazen Wolves – red’s best common creature, hands down
Deploy the Gatewatch – not playable, I took it over nothing in red or white
Slayer’s Cleaver – could be playable in an aggressive enough deck, maybe with tokens
Fiend Binder – not fast, but a nice creature that’s troublesome for opponents
Give No Ground – I left it out ultimately, but it’s certainly playable
Dawn Gryff – unexciting but makes the deck most of the time
Ironwright’s Cleansing – for the sideboard
Ironwright’s Cleansing
Whispers of Emrakul – take the uncommon
Cemetery Recruitment

Pack Two – Eldritch Moon

Elder Deep-Fiend – pack wasn’t good for me, I thought about actually playing this
Cryptolith Fragment – playable but not in a fast deck
Bedlam Reveler – could use acceleration, but really you just want more spells
Choking Restraints – fourth pick, very nice
Guardian of Pilgrims – solid bear with an upside
Weaver of Lightning – a little defensive but at least it doesn’t have defender
Lunarch Mantle – better than I thought it was, I left it out but should have played it
Ride Down – eighth pick combat trick that goes perfectly in my deck
Desperate Sentry – decent without delirium, above average with delirium
Summary Dismissal – just taking a rare
Ironclad Slayer – playable, I cut it
Geist of the Lonely Vigil – unless you’re defensive, makes sure you can get delirium
Take Inventory
Coax from the Blind Eternities – free rare! You have to enjoy the little things.

Pack Three – Shadows over Innistrad

Declaration in Stone – easy first pick
Silverstrike – doesn’t always make the cut but I figured I would need it
Descend upon the Sinful – a gigantic card for the third pick
True-Faith Censer – almost always makes it if you have Humans
Wild-Field Scarecrow – helps with delirium (artifact) and finds lands
Puncturing Light – very good in Eldritch Moon draft, even better than before
Nearheath Chaplain – better than average uncommon for white
Spectral Shepherd – no blue mana in this deck, just a 2/2 flyer for three mana
Magnifying Glass – just in case I decide to play a slower deck
Vessel of Ephemera – hello flying tokens, hello delirium
Vessel of Ephemera – couldn’t believe I picked up a second one
Stern Constable – I nearly took this over True-Faith Censer the first time around
Epitaph Golem
Shamble Back

I was very happy with my draft. It’s kind of cliché, but it’s usually a cause for concern when you start to build your deck thinking you knocked the ball out of the park. Still, I was very happy with how the cards came my way. It was awkward the way I felt I was squeezed on red but the white cards really gave me a lot of strong picks much deeper in packs than what should have been possible.

Here’s the deck I built:

Knowing what I know now, a week later, I know I should have played Eternal Scourge. It’s not a bomb or anything, but it’s a solid 3/3 for three with an upside of being hard to get rid of with targeted effects. I cut it because I thought I might be in a situation where my opponent had a creature in play that could repeatedly target the Scourge and get it exiled over and over again. My son reminded me that I could just stop recasting it from exile if that happened. Then, if the offending creature was killed later, I could replay the Scourge from exile again. Just no reason not to include Eternal Scourge. My son also wished that I had run Elder Deep-Fiend. We can all understand why, it’s sick and nasty. If its emerge ability included one blue mana instead of two I think I would have tried it with one Island and the Scarecrow to help me find it.

It’s telling that I drafted so few duplicates in the two Eldritch Moon boosters. Eldritch Moon is a smaller set and there just aren’t that many different red and white commons. As players figure out the format you will see more duplication in the cards drafted from the two Eldritch Moon packs.

I’m crazy about my curve with ten two-drops and eight three-drops. I would have gone down from seventeen to sixteen lands if not for Descend upon the Sinful and Bedlam Reveler. Even though the curve is low, there is a real mix of fast and slow cards in this deck. Wild-Field Scarecrow is a slow, defensive card. Nearheath Chaplain is an attacker, but he’s a slow card. So is Geist of the Lonely Vigil. Among the spells, Ride Down is kind of a slow card because you won’t tend to play it very early in games despite its low casting cost.

In my quarterfinals match I was beaten by a good local player named Kevin Wand. Wand, like myself, was drafting Eldritch Moon for the first time. Like me, he started with a red card. I started with the rare Collective Defiance. He started with the mythic rare Nahiri’s Wrath. He crushed me in game one with it and then put the game away with Convolute when I tried to play Descend upon the Sinful with delirium. Game two was a nice contest but I lost. Both games were generally in favor of whoever played Brazen Wolves first. I believe he, like me, only had one copy.

After the tournament, when I got home, I played some games with my draft deck against my sealed deck. The draft deck won most of the games. A draft deck should be better than a sealed deck, in general, but my sealed deck was pretty good and I frankly wasn’t sure how good my draft deck was after being dismissed by Wand’s messy blue/red deck. I heard he was playing three Convolutes main and Dual Shot main. Wand admitted he was treading water at times in the draft. Again, it was his first. He ended up winning the tournament, defeating my son in the semifinals and an old friend and Texas Guildmage teammate, Mark “Wilma” Dean in the finals.

Draft Number Two – Tuesday Night, July 26, 2016

We team drafted twice that night. This was my pick order in the first draft of the evening:

Pack One – Eldritch Moon

Choking Restraints – Pacifism on the streets, permanent removal in the sheets
Subjugator Angel – a decent signal that the man on my right is not white
Brazen Wolves – pretty good signal that red is open as well
Borrowed Grace – I might play up to three of these if I could get them
Blessed Alliance – this uncommon does all kinds of work thanks to escalate
Guardian of Pilgrims – good solid two-drop
Eternal Scourge – just a good solid 3/3 for three mana
Geist of the Lonely Vigil – a high pick for me regardless of my delirium plan
Otherworldly Outburst – playable
Ironwright’s Cleansing – take one late in the pack just for your sideboard
Borrowed Hostility – eleventh pick, goes straight into the deck
Convolute – in team drafts you should actively defensive draft if there’s nothing for you
Distemper of the Blood – I’m not into this card so far
Stensia Banquet

Pack Two – Eldritch Moon

Galvanic Bombardment – you’d like multiples but good luck, people take them quick
Insatiable Gorgers – slightly under-costed big man
Dawn Gryff
Savage Alliance – you could clear the board of one toughness creatures
Brazen Wolves
Brazen Wolves – you would play five of these if you could get them
Lupine Prototype – I didn’t read this card well enough, it’s terrible
Providence – taking this away from a potential control deck
Bold Impaler
Vildin-Pack Outcast – this is the DC-10 MVP, better in sealed than draft
Spectral Reserves – two Spirit tokens and gain two life
Prophetic Ravings – haven’t played one of these yet, not worth the trouble
Springsage Ritual
Ironwright’s Cleansing

Pack Three – Shadows over Innistrad

Spectral Shepherd – just a 2/2 flyer in my deck
Village Messenger – if I’m really aggressive enough
Silverstrike – if I’m too aggressive this won’t make the cut
Moorland Drifter – just add delirium
Reduce to Ashes – this is the five CC removal spell they complain about, play anyway
Devilthorn Fox – one toughness is a little worse and more widespread now
Bloodmad Vampire
Rush of Adrenaline
Magmatic Chasm – can be a game finisher in an aggressive deck
Inquisitor’s Ox – gets no respect but holds his ground very well
Tormenting Voice – doesn’t get in the deck automatically, better with madness
Alms of the Vein
Harness the Storm
Chaplain’s Blessing

Here’s the deck I put together, more white than red.

Like the draft deck from the PPTQ, this deck’s curve is good enough to go from seventeen to sixteen lands, or at least it would be if not for Vildin-Pack Outcast and Subjugator Angel. The Angel is a good enough reason to play seventeen lands. Without the Angel I think I would have found a way to cut the Outcast and play sixteen lands.

The best thing about this deck is the three copies of Brazen Wolves. I have ten spells and thirteen creatures. I’m definitely trying to knock out defending creatures with a combination of removal and combat tricks. This deck is faster, but probably less powerful, than the red/white deck from the PPTQ.

I won the only two matches I played with this deck without losing any games, first against another fast red/white deck and then against a chunky green/black deck. In the first match Brazen Wolves was the most important card. In the second match the most important card was Magmatic Chasm. Eternal Scourge was good in both matches.

Draft Number Three – Tuesday Night, July 26, 2016

 

We team drafted a second time and I again went red. My pick order shows that I tried hard not to be red/white in pack one. In pack two I opened and passed Impetuous Devils only to be passed one from the player on my left. I took the second Devils and crossed my fingers that the card might be too iffy for the other five drafters. Sure enough, it came back and my deck was pretty much made.

Pack One – Eldritch Moon

Collective Effort – powerful and adaptable, even as a sorcery
Wretched Gryff – one of my favorite blue cards for limited in the set
Nebelgast Herald – it’s like an instant that taps an opponent’s creature and makes a 2/1 flyer
Spontaneous Mutation – I don’t think this is much of a gamble, instant speed blue removal
Vexing Scuttler – couldn’t play it this time, too vexing I guess
Alchemist’s Greeting – really just a defensive pick at the time
Desperate Sentry – another reason you just always go for delirium in Eldritch Moon
Mercurial Geists – what if I splashed some red in my blue/white?
Displace
Cemetery Recruitment
Field Creeper – a small artifact 2/1 that trades early and helps with delirium
Turn Aside – is there one of these in every booster pack?
Springsage Ritual
Prophetic Ravings

Pack Two – Eldritch Moon

Geist of the Archives – I love one in every blue deck, but hate it as a first pick
Impetuous Devils – whoa, I could have had two of these!
Wretched Gryff – this is me trying to deny my true self, trying to stay on blue
Faithbearer Paladin – there’s room for one of these in white draft decks
Blessed Alliance – very good white fifth pick
Galvanic Bombardment – an even better sixth pick red card
Impetuous Devils – yes, it tabled, and there’s a Galvanic Bombardment in this pack also
Blood Mist – underrated enchantment, I think I want one in most red draft decks
Weaver of Lightning – kind of a ridiculous card for red, a 1/4 Human with reach for 2R
Make Mischief – the worst of the Devil token makers, but not unplayable
Borrowed Hostility – the first one you draft makes the deck every time
Convolute – defensive pick at this time
Shreds of Sanity – could make the deck and return another spell to my hand
Bold Impaler – looks better with Blood Mist in play

Pack Three – Shadows over Innistrad

Avacynian Missionaries – next to worthless without equipment, I need to pick up a piece
Fiery Temper – okay, I probably should have been red all along
Pyre Hound – I like this creature a lot in red/white
Topplegeist – incredible fourth pick, delirium is now very important
Angel of Deliverance – costs a lot but can be a real game changer when it hits
Wicker Witch – helps with delirium
Voldaren Duelist – helps you outpace your opponent
Emissary of the Sleepless – solid but not stellar
Bloodmad Vampire – better with Blood Mist
Falkenrath Gorger – solid one-drop
Ember-Eye Wolf – respectable in fast, aggressive decks
Insolent Neonate – I like to play the King of Pop in most of my red draft decks
Vessel of Malignity
Stern Constable – good in the main or from the board against very large creatures

I feel good about this draft considering that I completely changed colors in pack two. Almost the entire deck is built out of the second and third packs. I think it was a solid read to jump into red. That switch happened because of Impetuous Devils, a card that seemed speculative at the time. Speculative in that I hadn’t played it before and because I hadn’t heard anyone else say anything good about it. However, I have played Ball Lightning hundreds of times over the years. It proved to be a great card for the deck, even better because I got two of them. It might be first pick worthy. It’s better than Ball Lightning because it functions as removal against untapped creatures on the other side of the board. Haste also throws off your opponent’s plans.

Another surprisingly good card in the deck is Make Mischief. It doesn’t do much and it costs a bunch. How can that be a good card? The surprise is that the card can be decent, it’s never going to be great. I learned that the more aggressive your deck is, the more often you can use Make Mischief to either kill a one-toughness creature before combat or to finish off a larger creature after it blocks one of yours. The card is terrible if you think of it as a three casting cost sorcery that puts a Devil token in play. The card is better if you think of it as an occasionally useful removal spell that *also* puts a Devil token onto the battlefield. It really could have been a good card if Wizards had made it an instant. Also, it seems like every draft deck needs delirium so you might need another sorcery in your deck.

As far as delirium goes, this deck needs it but has a hard time getting there. I need delirium for Topplegeist to do its thing but this deck takes a long time to put four different card types into the graveyard.

The other highlight of this deck is Blood Mist. I had a good feeling about this card before I ever played it but you never know for sure until there’s money on the line. This draft made me a lot more confident about the card. On the turn you play it it’s like a sorcery that gives one of your creatures double strike. After that, it’s paid for and passive. Every turn you get to give one of your attackers double strike. That’s a no-brainer. The question, it would seem, is whether the ability is strong enough to commit a card for it in your aggressive red deck. The answer is simply and objectively YES. Blood Mist turned one-toughness creatures into dangerous monsters, none more so than Bloodmad Vampire. Normally, the Vampire can be an easy cut if you don’t have a lot of madness synergy or a strong black/red Vampire plan (which doesn’t happen now in Eldritch Moon drafts). The bottom line is Blood Mist makes all of your creatures more dangerous. It’s impressive that you can attack with more creatures than just the one that gets double strike. I could easily imagine a card like this only allowing you to attack with a single creature.

The other thing I learned from this third draft is how good Weaver of Lightning is. It’s the defensive creature in your aggressive red deck. Defensive, but also dangerous. It blocks flyers (for some reason) and has a big butt. It deals damage to one of your opponent’s creatures whenever you play an instant or sorcery. Finally, it’s a 1/4 that can attack in certain situations. It’s largely a defensive creature but it doesn’t have defender so you can attack with it.

In this draft, my team was swept in the first round. I lost to a good player carefully playing a fat green/white deck. Our team rallied after that and swept the second round. I won my third match to help put the draft away in our favor. I was greatly impressed with how this deck played and I was thrilled to see how good Weaver, Blood Mist and Impetuous Devils were.

More Battles

I love to speculate as much as the next guy, but I only become confident about cards when I play with them. You can probably guess what I did next. I jammed these three decks against each other. In order to have four decks in the party I also included my black/white sealed deck that went 3-0-2 at the PPTQ last weekend. I was hoping one of the decks would beat all the rest to give me a consensus winner. That didn’t happen, and it makes sense when you consider how many cards the three red/white decks have in common.

The two decks that went 2-1 were my black/white sealed deck from last weekend’s PPTQ and the draft deck from that same tournament. It’s embarrassing that the black/white sealed deck beat both of the red/white decks from the two team drafts. You can see the entire list for the black/white sealed deck in my article last week, but suffice to say it was a pretty powerful deck. Gisela, the Broken Blade, Voldaren Pariah and Campaign of Vengeance were some of the highlights. The red/white deck from the top eight draft is much more stacked with rares than either of the two team draft decks but lost to one of them anyway. The two team draft decks each went 1-2.

Ride Down was probably the biggest mistake in my draft deck from the top eight of the PPTQ. You need your deck to be so very aggressive before this becomes a good card for you. If you are ever in the defensive mode Ride Down becomes a dead card in your hand. My PPTQ draft deck would be significantly better if I switched out Ride Down for Eternal Scourge.

The Red/White Draft Judgment

I do recommend red/white in Eldritch Moon drafts with the following concerns. The colors are good to draft together and both colors are deep in playables. However, everyone else at the table knows this as well. Red and white are both very popular draft colors so don’t commit too early and then find yourself cut out of one of your main colors later in the draft. The hardest part of the red/white draft strategy is figuring out how aggressive your deck is going to be. At the farthest, most aggressive end of the pool you can make good use of Ride Down and other cards that no one else really wants like Make Mischief. One-drops are good in the super-aggro build but undesirable in more midrange designs. It’s more likely that you won’t want to commit to super-aggro. This draft format leans towards big expensive late game cards. If you go too low with a super-aggressive plan you could run out of bullets before you have your enemy on the ground. The middle way is probably best with red/white. The best red and white draft cards will support an aggressive strategy with plenty of quality plays on turns two and three while allowing (with a seventeen land mana base) room for big cards late in the game. Brazen Wolves should be a very high pick along with Galvanic Bombardment. I highly recommend that you try Blood Mist.

Thanks for reading.

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