Sunday, September 14, 2014

Conspiracy Drafts: Powering through

I love high-powered draft formats.  Cube, of course, is the highest-power of all draft formats and it's hard for me to get enough of cube.  All too often, in more powered-down draft formats it feels as though one is just skimming through pack after pack where the decision making process is too easy, as there are only a few cards which stand out and the only decision, really, is which colors to go into.  When you get to pick 5, however, and there are multiple cards in each color that you're in, the decision of what to take becomes more interesting.

Does the power-level of a format make a significant difference in terms of how skill-testing it may be?  I'm not so sure.  If every card to choose from is powerful, it is certainly easier for a less-skilled drafter to assemble a deck capable of powerful things.  To create a poor deck there is an exercise in self-defeat: inattention to mana curve, playing too many colors for too little benefit, things of that sort.  I suspect that good drafters and good players are about as advantaged in a high-level format as they are in a less-powered one.

So not too long ago I wanted to take a break from conventional local game store drafting and get an in-person fix of something a little bit more high-powered.  When I heard the call ring out for a local Conspiracy draft, I was in, and in big.  One of the hallmarks of a powerful draft environment is the ability to bend and break magic in an advantageous way, and I knew that conspiracy would offer that.  After all, how often do we get draft environments with sweet commons like these?

Alright, alright.  If you're familiar with bad cards from the past, you'll know that I've tweaked these cards a little.  The first two have gained the birds of paradise ability; the third has gained additional power and toughness.  All of this is made possible with conspiracies, a mechanic in the set which affects the draft itself as much as it affects the gameplay.  At my most recent conspiracy draft, conspiracies went much later than I would hope.  Certainly, I was very judicious in passing my own conspiracies, letting only a couple by.  

Fundamentally, conspiracies reward drafting multiple cards of the same name.  The birds of paradise conspiracy is not great if you only have one target for it, but if there are junky one and two drops that nobody wants, you can get birds of paradise as much as you like.  Conspiracies are an investment; if you don't see any early on in the draft, drafting creatures with the same name is an investment for any potential conspiracies you might open or get passed later on.  I had gotten an early muzzio's preparation in this draft, and had been focusing hard on trying to get it to work, with two shoreline rangers and three zombie goliaths, so when I got a second one late in the draft, it became easily the most powerful card in the pack.  Ultimately, living the 6/5 for five mana dream was not for me, though.  Black was cut pretty hard, and in the game that followed the ability for shoreline ranger to block in the air became key.

Enter the Dack...

For most of pack one, I was blue black, with such control powerhouses as reckless spite and fact or fiction.  However, I noticed some oddly late red picks at the tail end, and made a mental note.  When I was lucky enough to open Dack Fayden in pack two, I made the decision to go all-in into blue red, possibly splashing black if the mana worked out.  Brimstone volley is less good, far less good, in a four-player (or more) game, but it's still useful, and the inclusion of a singleton reito lantern proved key in allowing me to not only deck myself with Dack, but to draw infinite brimstone volleys in the end game.  In my second conspiracy draft, I emerged victorious!

Certainly, my play was tight, and the weird diplomacy of a multiplayer game helped, but I'll remember this draft most of all for demonstrating the power of switching colors.  I could have obstinately stuck to blue-black, splashing red for Just Dack, but my deck would have emerged far less powerful.  Oddly powerful last picks sometimes may be more than just an abberation: sometimes, they can provide clues to help us navigate the draft more skillfully.

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