Throne of Eldraine Draft Tips
Throne of Eldraine is now available as the Ranked Draft format in Arena, and is the featured Draft set for all FNMs. You’ll be drafting this set for the next three months, so let’s take a look at how this Limited format works. I’m going to assume that you know the basics of what the set is about - Food, Knights, etc. - so I’ll start by digging a bit deeper into Eldraine’s themes and mechanics. Then I’ll talk about a few observations I’ve made based on my experiences drafting Eldraine, and finish by listing my favorite archetypes of the set.
Set Mechanics and Themes
The strangest mechanic in this set also creates a weird tension in games. For many decks, it’s “just” a way to gain life for two mana - but that one ability is enough to turn straightforward races into complex life calculations and to create hard decisions regarding how to use one’s mana. I’ve witnessed this sequence many times:
- Player A: <taps all their creatures> Swing out for lethal?
- Player B: <cracks a Food token> Actually, I’m at 1.
- Player A: Oh… uh oh.
- Player B: My turn. <taps all their creatures> Swing for lethal?
Food also extends games, forcing even aggro decks to have some sort of adventurous card advantage to beat their opponent into submission. And in a deck with dedicated Food synergies, the decision on how to use Food becomes even more difficult: should you save your Food to kill a creature with a Bog Naughty, hope to buy enough turns to defeat an opponent with Tempting Witch, or simply gain life so that you can survive an aggro rush?
The best Adventures are those that combine an effect you already want with a creature that isn’t embarrassing to play. In other words, it’s not hard to say that Bonecrusher Giant and Murderous Rider are great cards. It’s more interesting to look at Adventures that have effects that would normally be cut from a Draft deck.
Mind Rot does not usually make the cut in a Draft deck, but add a mana to its cost and tack on the option to cast a late-game creature, and suddenly you have a pretty good deal. The aggressive Adventure cards are similar: Rimrock Knight, Faerie Guidemother, Ardenvale Tactician, and Silverflame Squire all allow an aggro deck to play with combat tricks without giving up bodies.
What does this mean? Expect to play with - and against - these previously marginal effects with some frequency.
Adamant cards can be measured along a large scale. There are those that are worth casting without Adamant:
And then there are those that are not:
Keep this scale in mind while drafting. The former is easily splashable; the latter will affect your land choices and force some serious considerations as to the color balance of your deck.
Knights are the featured tribe in Eldraine, but drafting Knights isn’t as simple as drafting Elementals in M20. In that set, you could simply pick good Elemental creatures and have them magically synergize with each other into an aggressive mid-range deck.
In Eldraine you have to draft Knights a little more strategically. Red/White Knights should prioritize Adventures that combine a combat trick with a creature. Black/White Knights should prioritize removal and the recursive, grindy Black cards that allow the deck to win a long game. In both cases, it’s important to understand how you’ll be winning the game and to pick up supplemental non-Knight cards that support your deck’s strategy
Non-Humans are really more of an anti-tribe; you’ll pick non-Human cards without thinking, and only realize you have a supported sub-theme when a synergy accidentally triggers. Keeper of Fables may be the best non-Human synergy card, but Rosethorn Halberd and Mistford River Turtle are also reasonable role-players in a deck with a lot of non-Humans.
There are less creatures with Flying and Reach in Eldraine compared to a set such as M20. That means that an opinionated drafter can scoop up the majority of the flyers in the draft and build an aggressive 16-land deck that wins in the skies. White and Blue have the most flyers, but I prefer the Red/White archetype which combines Red’s aggressiveness with these White cards:
Eldraine is not as tough as other sets. M20 had Vorstclaw, a common Green creature with 7 toughness. Playable Eldraine commons - apologies to Roving Keep - top out at 5 toughness (with the occasional 6 when Ardenvale Paladin is cast with Adamant). What does this mean? It’s harder for slow decks to throw up big beasts that completely flummox attackers.
On the other hand, players that like to go on the offense may find life much easier with cards like Garenbrig Carver and Giant’s Skewer: spells that allow you to trade up without inflicting a 2-for-1 on yourself.
Non-Combat Win Conditions
I have won and lost a surprising number of games outside of combat. The biggest culprits here are the mill decks. These decks play cards that no other strategies draft highly - cards such as Merfolk Secretkeeper and So Tiny - and turn these unassuming cards into an engine for victory and something close to hard removal.
Interestingly, I’ve drafted Blue/Black control mill decks whose curves were so low that it felt correct to only play 16 lands.
Another way to (kind of) win outside of combat is with Revenge of Ravens:
Okay, maybe Revenge of Ravens doesn’t directly win the game. However, it often creates a board state where a player realizes that combat is no longer an option, as they simply don’t have enough high-power creatures and life to mount a feasible offense before their life total drops to 0.
One last card that can provide victory in a stalled-out board is Tempting Witch:
I’ve loved having one or two of these creatures in my Black/Green decks, especially if the deck excels at generating Food. In those decks, Tempting Witch becomes yet another must-kill creature, often stretching an opponent’s removal suite past the breaking point.
There’s a dearth of color fixing in Eldraine that makes it extremely hazardous to try and splash a third color in your Draft deck. That being said, cards such as Garruk, Cursed Huntsman and Lochmere Serpent are so powerful that splashing a single color may be worth it. In that situation, I’d prioritize the following:
- Rosethorn Acolyte or Beanstalk Giant (if Green)
- Golden Egg or Spinning Wheel
- Any sort of draw effect
- Any sort of scry effect
- Defensive creatures
Note that Blue remains the best at drawing cards, but Red and Black also have good card draw spells at Common.
An Early Two-Color Archetype Ranking
- Black/Green Food
Black/Green is the Food archetype, but I love this color combination because it contains the two most essential qualities of a good Limited deck: good creatures and good interaction. It really is as simple as that, and Food is a great bonus for this sort of “good stuff” deck, as the lifegain allows you to buy time to draw your, well, good stuff.
- Blue/Black Mill
Blue/Black combines elements of control and mill to create a pile of frustration that has left many of my opponents speechless. One upside for this archetype is that some of its key cards will be worthless for other archetypes. As a result, if you’re the only Blue/Black drafter at the table, you can score an amazingly synergistic deck. But if there are other Blue/Black drafters, well, things may go quite poorly.
Note that a Blue/Black deck can easily skew towards one of two extremes - hard control or turbo mill - and still be successful.
- White/Red Fliers
The best flying commons are in White, and I’ve had great success pairing White fliers with Red’s aggressive combat tricks. Those combat tricks are vital in turning a slow clock into a fast one - an objective that’s even more important in Eldraine, due to the abundance of Food. An aggro deck that lets the game run too long runs the risk of allowing its opponent to regain all their lost life.
- White/Blue Fliers
White/Blue is the traditional color pair for fliers, so it’s not a bad choice for dominating the skies. Your deck will be less aggressive than a White/Red deck, but you’ll gain some additional Blue tempo effects. I personally prefer to try and win faster, but White/Blue may fit your own playstyle better!
- Green/White Adventure
I haven’t drafted this archetype yet, but I’ve played against it and the archetype felt reasonably effective. Adventures are inherent card advantage, and the Green and White Adventures feature a lot of combat tricks, making it difficult for an opponent to comfortably participate in combat. In order to supercharge this strategy, you’ll want uncommons such as Edgewall Innkeeper and Lucky Clover.
- Green/Blue… something
Green/Blue plays similarly to Green/Black, except you replace Black’s removal and recursion with Blue’s tempo and evasion. Both color pairs rely on Green’s excellent creatures, and bouncing or freezing your opponent’s creatures is an effective way of ensuring that your creatures will do damage. But I prefer Black’s permanent removal suite.
Note that this is the color pair where I feel most comfortable splashing a third color, due to Green’s color fixing and Blue’s card draw.
- Black/White Knights
Black/White is the grindy creature color pair, featuring small value creatures and recursion. This strategy is effective in many Limited formats; however in Eldraine, it feels liable to be run over by aggressive fliers, or to be dominated by bigger Green creatures.
- Red/Blue Draw Two
Red/Blue features a subset of cards that provide an added benefit when drawing your second card in a turn. These effects are generally strong - free fairies, free rats, and even free lightning bolts - but they’re stapled to uncommons and rares that you may not see during a draft. The good news is that if you do find those cards early in the draft, card draw effects are plentiful in Red and Blue, and you will end up with a very powerful deck.
- Red/Black Knights
Red/Black is another aggressive color pair. But instead of fliers, you gain access to a truly staggering amount of removal. However, your creatures are weak and lack evasion. In addition, your removal suite may not line up well against your opponent’s threats.
- Green/Red Beaters
Sometimes it’s enough to drop big bulky creatures and swing. That’s basically all Green/Red does, and it’s enough as long as your opponent doesn’t have removal or effective blockers. Sadly, Eldraine has plenty of both.
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