Should You Draw in Wilds of Eldraine Limited? Feat. Worlds Competitors

Wilds of Eldraine has proven to be one of the most compelling and tricky recent Limited sets. It’s a massive set that includes adventure cards and a bonus sheet of enchantments. One interesting note about the set that players identified early on is that the rares in this set aren’t as difficult to deal with compared to rares of recent sets, like March of the Machine. The set also feels very balanced in terms of power amongst the colors. While certain two-color combinations are much more powerful than others (Golgari being much more powerful than Azorius for example), there is a lot of diversity in the format.

This past weekend at the 100k Limited open in Las Vegas Ben Stark made an interesting observation on social media about his experience in the format:

Choosing to draw is something that seems to have disappeared from Magic almost entirely. It’s very rare you hear your opponent choose to be on the draw. While most players would choose to play almost every time, first let’s ask: when is it right to be on the draw?

In Sealed it makes a lot of sense why you’d want to draw first. Sealed is a format that is very much about maximizing your card power. You lack the synergies that you can put together in a draft, thus your decks rely more on the best cards in your pool. I usually tend to play three-color decks in Sealed, unless my base two-color strategy has enough power.

The first thing I noticed about Ben’s deck is that he has nine “terminate” effects in his pool: Kellan’s Lightblades, Taken by Nightmares, Feed the Cauldron, Glass Casket, Grasp of Fate, The Witch’s Vanity, Virtue of Persistence, and double (!) Gumdrop Poisoner. With a Devouring Sugarmaw and other solid Orzhov commons and uncommons this makes for a very powerful pool. Having access to so much removal, three of those cards also putting threats into play (Virtue, 2x Gumdrop Poisoner) it makes sense why you’d want the extra card. Once you can get to a point in the game where you can remove all of your opponents’ threats and be up on cards with your various ways to two-for-one, you’ll probably take full control of the game (especially with a Virtue in play no less).

One card that I’ve absolutely loved having on the draw in WOE Limited is Hopeless Nightmare. It’s hard to describe the feeling of making your opponent discard a card turn one on the draw, an even more exciting feeling if they’ve mulliganed. I pretty much do a mental fist bump anytime an opponent discards a spell off Nightmare. Nightmare is just so powerful because not only does it trade for a card of your opponent’s, but it’s a perfect tool to help you bargain to a Candy Grapple while also setting up your next few draws. Scry 2 is also just very powerful in Sealed when your games turn into battles of attrition.

Ben had a couple more thoughts to share on choosing to draw:

Let’s dive into this exchange for a second. I really like the point makes here about opponents choosing to play, after losing a game their opponent choose to draw. In the Limited PTQ this past weekend at Vegas I played against a good friend of mine and Worlds’ competitor Matt Saypoff. After losing a grindy game one to The Princess Takes Flight + Stockpiling Celebrant combo, I figured I needed all the card draw to out-grind his powerful deck (did I mention he also had a Gingerbread Hunter?). I chose to draw in game two and ended up winning.

In game three Matt chose to draw, once again killing me with Princess Takes Flight + Stockpiling Celebrant. Although he had the combo I still stuck it out and played a grindy game, albeit behind from the midpoint of the game where he enacted the Princess Combo. I really wished I had been on the draw, but Matt smartly picked up on how our decks played against each other and made the right decision before the start of the game.

Wilds of Eldraine is tricky because the colors are all so deep. While you can argue the rares are at a lower power level compared to a set like March of the Machine, the set has a lot of grindy cards built into the common and uncommon slot. As mentioned above, my games one and two of my match versus Matt felt totally derailed by a common and uncommon!

There are matches where I feel like every card matters, and then there are matches where time is of the essence. One constraint on deckbuilding in this format I’ve discovered is that no matter what kind of deck you’re playing it is vital to have a turn one or turn two play that puts something on the board (ideally you have both!). Whether it be casting a Gingerbrute, a Hopeless Nightmare, or a Witch’s Vanity, you either have to establish proactiveness or meet your opponent one for one if you’re not the beatdown. Casting Bakery Raid from a Hollow Scavenger on turn one ensures that on turn four you can make your Scavenger a 5/4 in combat, or it gives you damage down the road if you combo it with cards like Sweettooth Witch. It even acts as two mana towards a Hamlet Glutton. Your turn one play matters in this format because putting something into play can be vital for your gameplan.

It’s tricky to think about drawing when decks can be so proactive and aggressive, but there are also various controlling blue decks in the format. To help understand our predicament I tagged in two Worlds competitors to provide some insight!

Interviews with Worlds Competitors

I spoke to two of my friends who competed in Worlds to give their honest take on when to play and draw in the format. First up is Matt Saypoff (RC Atlanta champion @trolasceticftw)

R: Do you think it’s ever correct to draw in WOE Limited? What are some examples if so?

Matt: “Yes. Less common in draft but in control mirrors it can be correct. I’ve chosen to draw as the UR player vs UB. Similarly it can be correct as UGx deck vs UR/UB/UW where you expect a long grindy game. Really anytime you are playing against a controlling deck and expect games to push past turn 8+ and don’t need to curve 1,2,3,4 to win. I don’t think it’s correct to draw against an unknown opponent in draft. Sealed you can choose to draw in the dark if you have a lot of removal and expect long grindy games.”

R: Did you have any experiences this past weekend in Vegas that had you thinking about if you should be on the draw in a given game/match?

Matt: “I had never played a WOE sealed before the saturday PTQ and found myself choosing to draw a decent amount, but never against unknown opponents (my deck was not very strong but decent and grindy)…some decks still have extremely aggressive starts.”

R: Do you have any other thoughts on the WOE Limited format you formed after Vegas?

Matt: “Eriette’s Tempting Apple is very good!

Next up – Bradley Schlesinger (RC Dallas Champion @bschles )

R: Do you think it’s ever correct to draw in WOE Limited? What are some examples if so?

Bradley: “No, the advantage of being on the play is always worth more than the extra card. A fair amount of WOE’s adventure creatures are combat tricks/conditional two for ones which are far easier to line up when your opponent is tapped out and you have your mana up. I find it too important to either set the pace of the game (as an aggressive/proactive deck) or give yourself time to establish yourself (as a reactive deck) that I would not choose to be on the draw.

R: Did you have any experiences this past weekend in Vegas that had you thinking about if you should be on the draw in a given game/match?

Bradley: “No, my limited matches reinforced to me the power of being on the play.”

R: Do you have any other thoughts on the WOE Limited format you formed after Vegas?

Bradley: “I have found navigating the draft phase for this format more challenging than any other I have played. I normally gravitate to two-color decks because the fixing/mana is usually pretty bad for Limited, but here it’s plentiful and pretty good. Because of this fixing in pack one especially, it’s rare to receive good signals because players will usually take the best card in each pack deep into pack one before deciding on their colors.”

Bradley and Matt both bring some interesting insights in understanding the WOE format and whether being on the play or draw matters. Overall I’m inclined to believe that being on the play is usually correct. Summing up what I’ve read from both these players, my own experiences, and analyzing the play of the set being on the play is advantageous because of the abundance of two for ones and the benefit of being proactive.

To sum up, being on the play is important because:

  • Adventure creatures benefit you being on the play/proactive
  • Format is aggressive enough where you never want to be on the play in the blind (against decks RW Celebration/RB Rats)

However, there are cases where you want to be on the draw:

  • Mainly in Sealed, when games are going longer and you want the extra value – especially if you have good two for ones/terminate effects
  • In Draft in control mirrors, and as Matt points out against strategies like UB as a similar control deck or against other blue strategies as UGx

While I’m not surprised by the conclusions drawn in this article I think it’s at least worth noting that there are still cases where it’s right to be on the draw in Limited. As Ben pointed out in his conversation with Kai, if you find your opponent choosing to be on the draw – stop yourself and ask why they might be doing it! The extra card might totally matter, especially if you are both playing grindy decks that are trying to out-value each other.

Being on the draw can be definitely punishing against the hyper-aggressive go-wide decks of the format, but I cannot tell you how strong it feels to be on the draw already up a card with a Hopeless Nightmare in your opening hand. Combos such as The Princess Takes Flight + Stockpiling Celebrant, Diminisher Witch + Hatching Plans, and general two-for-one’s like Gingerbread Hunter can definitely be hard to beat, even moreso if you’re facing any of those combos on the play.

While you may not take the draw in any games in your next Limited event, at least keep it in mind – it might be the deciding factor in winning your next Store Championship or RCQ!

As always, thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Bradley and Matt for providing their thoughts as Worlds competitors.


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