Chaos Draft Tips

Kyle Massa
February 12, 2018
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You know when you open your fridge and find leftovers from five different meals? And you know someone needs to eat them, so you combine them all into one plate? That's kind of what Chaos Draft is like. It's taking unlikely components and combining them into a delicious mess.

Chaos Draft is a format in which players draft from completely random sets. Have Rivals of Ixalan packs from last weekend and Dragon's Maze packs from years ago? Draft them! It's a timely topic because last week, Wizards of the Coast hinted at Chaos Draft likely coming to Magic Online. Cue the fanfare!

If you've heard of this format but never tried it, now's a great time to get started. Here are a few observations to whet your appetite.

A Good Synergy is Hard to Find

In recent draft expansionsthe best decks are often synergistic. This means that individual cards get better when they're paired with complimentary cards. Good synergy is like chips and guacamole; delicious individually, even better when served together.

But remember our introductory metaphor? Chaos Draft means combining anything in the fridge, like chips and strawberries. They're both still supreme snacks, but they don't really go together. (Geez, I'm making myself hungry. Also, why are there chips in your fridge?)

Imagine you open your Rivals of Ixalan pack and pull Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. That's a powerhouse in Rivals-Rivals-Ixalan, but not that great in Chaos Draft. Why? Because other sets likely won't contain the critical mass of merfolk needed to make Kumena functional.

Surprising Cross-Format Synergies Still Exist

Okay, I wasn't being totally honest with that last point. There's still synergy in Chaos Draft—it's just not as obvious, especially when pairing cards from different sets.

In a recent Chaos Draft, I drafted Aviary Mechanic from Kaladesh and Mortuary Mire from Battle for Zendikar. See where this is going?

This two-card mini combo was totally sweet. I laid down the Mire, returned a creature from my graveyard to the top of my deck, then replayed it and traded it off. I then cast Aviary Mechanic, returned the Mire to my hand, played the Mire again, retrieved the same creature from my graveyard, cast it again on the following turn. Now that's value. Speaking of which...

Diverse Answers Gain Value

Since there are so many cards you might see, you need to be ready for anything.

Let's say you've drafted a Root Out from Shadows Over Innistrad. This was a pretty mediocre card in Shadows Limited. In Chaos draft, it gains a lot of value because you could be playing against anything. What if there's a pack of Theros at the table? This could become a three mana removal spell for your opponent's pesky Boon Satyr. Or, if there's a pack of Kaladesh, this could be that perfect answer to Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.

Does this make Root Out the new Doom Blade? Not really. It's just important to keep in mind that a card's value is largely based on context. When the context surrounding a card is completely random, you might be surprised by its newfound power.

Combat Tricks Get Trickier

Drafting in a controlled environment means there are a limited number of tricks. In a Rivals of Ixalan Draft, if your opponent passes the turn with one black mana open, the only card they can cast is Skulduggery. It is known.

In Chaos Draft, those rules pretty much go out the window (or up the boom, as it were). If your opponent passes with a swamp untapped, the possibilities skyrocket. Depending on what packs you opened, your opponent might have Boon of Erebos, Borrowed Malevolence, Supernatural Stamina, or some other weird trick you've never heard of.

This unpredictability is part of the fun and challenge of the format. You'll generally want to stay conservative in your gameplay and not take big risks, because you just don't know what might happen.

Experience with Previous Sets is Rewarded

Despite the unpredictability of the format, you'll still have an advantage if you've been drafting for a long time. 

For example, let's say you open a pack of Khans of Tarkir and get Zurgo Helmsmasher. Probably the coolest orc since Gothmog, but it's three colors. Can you reliably cast it?

Here's where knowledge of previous sets helps inform your decisions. Say there's a pack of Gatecrash at the table. If you played the set before, you know two of its featured guilds are Boros (red-white) and Orzhov (white-black). Since those guilds cover Zurgo's casting cost, you could guess that you'll pick up the mana fixing you need. And if you see sets known for their mana fixing at the table, such as Modern Masters 2015 or Hour of Devastation, that might make you more likely to take Big Z.

That's a big-picture example, but this point applies on an individual, card-by-card basis as well. Take Midnight Oil, for instance. Very weird card. It doesn't seem all that good upon first inspection, until you actually play it. Turns out it's actually quite powerful!

If you sit down at a Chaos Draft and already know Midnight Oil is good, you've got a leg up on everyone else. Heck, you could even take the more obviously powerful removal spell from the pack and see if the Oil wheels.

In Conclusion

Chaos Draft is probably the most unpredictable formats you'll ever play. It won't be on Magic Online for a while, so try it with your friends. Embrace the chaos!

Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living in upstate New York with his fiancée and their two cats. When he's not writing, you'll find him down at the East Greenbush FlipSide store jamming booster drafts. For more of Kyle's work, visit www.kyleamassa.com or follow him on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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