The art of the wheel


Hello again from the Magic Online Draft queues!

I came across a scenario drafting the other night which I found to be interesting and it also happened to tie into a few of the things I discussed in my first article, so I thought I’d share it with you. Ideally getting into my head will help you be a little more critical in your thinking, as it can be really easy, particularly with magic online, to just put the blinders on and jam the most obvious card instead of really assessing the situation.

I’ll do my best to reconstruct things as I’m new to content creation and didn’t grab a screenshot, but moving forward I will definitely do so.  Opening pack-three I am firmly cemented into blue/green Merfolk, and while the first few picks were elementary, I was faced with a very interesting choice pick-four of pack-three, here are the details:

  • I already have  enough good playables to submit a deck that I would be happy with, along with three Jade Bearers that I don’t plan on playing, but otherwise no notable sideboard cards.
  • My deck is aggressive with three one-drops, five two-drops, five three-drops, three four-drops and nothing over four mana, along with two River Herald’s Boons and some bounce spells.
  • I was passed Merfolk Mistbinder pick-six pack-one.
  • I was passed Hadana’s Climb pick-four pack-two.

The pack in question was very deep for Ixalan, with every card being at least sideboard or 23rd card worthy.  Here are the notable green and blue cards, along with my thoughts on each one, what I took and why:






Herald of Secret Streams: The nut perfect!  While this card isn’t great in every Merfolk Deck, with two River Hearld’s Boon, Hadana’s Climb and access to three Jade Bearers, it’s insane in this one.  






One With the Wind: Another card that I like a lot for the archetype and one that I would be happy to have in my deck.  That being said, the value of this card scales a lot depending on two major factors:

  1. How good is your deck?  In this format that’s a question you should be asking yourself frequently.  There are several cards that fall into the category of either: not wanting to play them at all if your deck is high powered, or actively wanting them if it’s on the other end of the spectrum. One With the Wind, Squire’s Devotion and Mark of the Vampire are cards that I am almost always happy to play one of, but sometimes if your draft doesn’t go well your best bet is just to jam as many of this type of card as you can get your hands on and hope for the best.  Swashbuckling, on the other hand, is a card I usually don’t want to play one of, but will if going all in is the only way I think the deck can win
  2. Hexproof count. While One With the Wind is just great in any Merfolk deck, it’s insane on the hexproof tokens Merfolk can generate. In addition, as I’m sure we all remember from the nightmare that was triple Ixalan, sticking it on a Jade Guardian can often equal free wins.






Deeproot Warrior: He’s a great dude and definitely one that I could see taking over the other cards mentioned if we were short on two drops, but since we aren’t we’ll pass him this time






Storm Sculptor: Maybe the card that has gone up in my pick order the most since the transition from Ixalan only draft to the inclusion of Rivals.  I considered this card to be a 23rd card in most decks, but now it’s one that I always want at least one of when I’m in Merfolk or really in any of my aggro base-blue decks.  I think the primary difference is that, aside from living the dream and reloading Ravenous Chupacabra with it, there are common Merfolk one-drops now that I’m happy to play. There’s also Luminous Bonds and Waterknot at common to consider.  If you can mitigate the so-called drawback of returning a creature to your hand with the ETB trigger, this guy can be a total blowout. That being said, when it comes to pick orders it really doesn’t matter how good you think a card is but how the field rates it.  In my experience you can almost always pick one of these up and they often wheel, so there’s no need to take it here.






Crushing Canopy: This is the card I ultimately selected, and I’m confident it was the correct choice.  Before you close your browser and never read one of my articles again, give me a chance to explain my thought process.  If, after reading why I made this pick, you still want to click the X, I won’t hold it against you. We have enough two-drops, we can get a Sculptor later and we have no hexproof along with a very high powered-card pool. As a result, the two cards we want out of this pack are Herald of Secret Streams and Crushing Canopy. A lot of games in this format are decided by fliers or an unanswered Baneslayer (Pretty much anything suited up with Mark of the Vampire or Squire’s Devotion). Because our overall card quality is so high, we want to do everything we can do avoid losing to an otherwise worse deck that just slaps some pants on an evasive creature.  This is a bit of a corner case because it’s incredibly rare to get Merfolk Mistbinder and then Hadana’s climb so late from different directions, but that’s what happened in this draft so we are working with nearly perfect information.

  • We can very confidently deduce that no one else in this draft wants the Herald, largely based on the late Climb and Mistbinder.
  • The pack is deep and this is a league, so it’s pretty unlikely that someone will cut it.
  • That being said, when making this type of decision you still need to do a sort of cost benefit analysis. Maybe someone just rare drafts it, so it’s certainly not guaranteed to come back. The main question you need to ask yourself is “how badly are my chances of winning impacted if I’m wrong and it doesn’t wheel?” In this case, I felt like the rest of my deck was excellent and I would be fine without it, whereas there were potential match-ups where I would desperately want access to the canopy, so that’s what I took.

This is a very specific example, but I wanted to share it with you as it happened to correlate with several of the points I mentioned in my first article.  The depth of playables in this Limited format means you should be taking quality sideboard cards aggressively. I also touched on the importance of staying open for similar reasons.  Due to the depth of playables, you can get away with losing a few picks, and due to the power level disparity between the great cards and the good ones, you can be heavily rewarded by not being glued to your first few picks.

I think it’s virtually impossible for it to have been correct for the five players before me to pass on the Mistbinder. My first five picks were all decent black and white cards but nothing I was glued to, so I took the Mistbinder ready to either ditch my first few picks or stay the course depending on how the packs broke.  I was handsomely rewarded with an excellent Merfolk deck as a result. That being said, it’s important not to be results oriented as I was absolutely slaughtered by an equally excellent B/W Vampires deck in round one. I still felt like I made good choices and the journey to my quick demise was an interesting one, but sometimes you’re the pigeon and, as I unfortunately was in this case, sometimes you’re the statue.  I plan on continuing to produce content relating to the current Limited environment and would really love your feedback on what format you’d like to see moving forward, so please let us know in the comments, thanks for reading!