Draftnica: A Guide to Drafting Ravnica Block for Those Who Have Never Really Thought About It
I thought I would take a break from analyzing unguilded cards to talk a little bit about drafting the Ravnica block, a.k.a. "Ravnica-Guildpact-Dissension", a.k.a. "RGD". As many of you may know, Dissension came out on Magic Online two weeks ago, providing the opportunity for us many MTGO players to get our hands on drafting the full block for the first time. Of course, I jumped right in on some drafts, using my winnings from the Dissension release events, but I never really took the time to think about viable draft strategies.
You see, Ravnica is a really weird block to draft. The guild model creates a lot of strange color situations that must be accounted for in advance. In triple Ravnica, you generally drafted one of the four guilds, or perhaps a combination of two that shared a color, such as Selesnya/Boros or Golgari/Dimir. But across the entire block, you canít expect to see the same color combinations arising in every pack, so it is necessary to plan in advance.
Most blocks support a system of drafting two colors, with perhaps a third splashed in. If you try to pull crap like that in Ravnica, however, youíre going to end up missing out on some of the best cards in the set. If you focus on just Boros or just Golgari to start out, youíre stuck with just those two colors, which will never resurface in any other sets. Therefore, all of the great two-color cards from Guildpact and Dissension will remain off limits.
The best way to draft the block is by taking three colors. So Iím here to help you decide which three colors to draft and the options available to you throughout the draft.
Three-Color Drafting: One Guild per Pack
The most popular approach to Ravnica drafting (from what Iíve read) seems to be focusing on one guild in each pack to complete a three-color deck. Although this seems fairly straightforward, there are, in fact, some caveats to watch out for. In fact, only five out of ten three-color combinations work with this strategy and only three of the four guilds in the first pack will help you out.
BRG: Golgari --> Gruul --> Rakdos
WUR: Boros --> Izzet --> Azorius
WBR: Boros --> Orzhov --> Rakdos
WUB: Dimir --> Orzhov --> Azorius
UBR: Dimir --> Izzet --> Rakdos
If you start with Golgari, youíre locked into your colors: green, black and red. You have to skip from Golgari to Gruul and finish with Rakdos, but on the plus side, most people who know this will be focusing on Boros and Dimir since theyíre the more versatile starting guilds. In Guildpact, youíll have Gruul all to yourself, but in Dissension, youíll be fighting with everyone for the best Rakdos cards.
Starting with Boros or Dimir provide a bit of leeway when the Guildpact pack gets opened. In both cases, youíll have time to decide whether the Orzhov or Izzet is the better guild to pursue. The Dissension guild will be set as either Rakdos or Azorius, depending on which direction you take in Guildpact.
Going after one guild per pack is the best way to get a consistent three-color deck. The biggest problem is that it locks you into your colors early, usually by the third pick of the second pack, at the latest. Another problem is that it leads to the most fought-over guilds, by others who are aware of this strategy. Boros and Dimir will always be the best guilds to pick up in the first pack, Izzet and Orzhov in the second pack and Azorius and Rakdos in pack three. So the quality of cards may thin out, if five or six drafters all partake in this strategy. Luckily, there are other options.
Three-Color Drafting: Two, One, Zero
The next choice of the three color draft is to draft two different guilds in one of the packs, leaving another pack open for only mono-colored cards. This strategy covers all of the five remaining three-color combinations and breaks down like so:
WRG: Selesnya & Boros --> Gruul --> Open
WBG: Selesnya & Golgari --> Orzhov --> Open
UBG: Dimir & Golgari --> Open --> Simic
WUG: Selesnya --> Open --> Azorius & Simic
URG: Open --> Gruul & Izzet --> Simic
Using this strategy, one pack will always double up the guilds in that set, while another is ďOpenĒ meaning that you should really only be taking mono-colored cards that fit your colors. As you can see, the Ravnica pack has the most options for combined guilds and when just looking at the first pack, it can be easy to focus on two guilds right away. When this happens, itís important to remember that this will disrupt the remaining draft, since the colors will be locked in from the start and one later pack wonít have any options for viable guilds.
In fact, starting off with two guilds in Ravnica is usually the worst option for drafting across the block. The reason for this is that Ravnica: City of Guilds has 306 cards in the set, which is almost twice as many as the later sets, despite only supporting one extra guild Ė a 33% increase. Therefore, Ravnica has the highest percentage of mono-colored cards in its pack and its guilds are spread more thinly. For this reason, it is best to draft URG, since that uses two guilds from Guildpact, which has the highest percentage of guild support (due to having 15 less cards overall than Dissension) and no guilds from Ravnica, which has the lowest percentage of guild support.
Of course, the greatest downfall of the doubling up strategy is that youíll be forced to pass on some quality two-color cards in one of the packs, in favor of the mono-colored cards youíll need to keep a consistent mana base. But if youíre not the type who likes passing on cards for color-based reasons, there is a possible third option for drafting.
Four-Color Drafting: Two Guilds per Pack
Sticking with three colors allows a more solid and stable mana base, but that doesnít make it the end-all be-all of RGD drafting. Another plausible strategy is what I call Nephilim-drafting, or focusing on all but one color throughout the entire draft. The most consistent neph-draft strategy spreads the guilds out evenly, allowing you to pick up cards from two guild in each pack.
No Black: Boros & Selesnya --> Gruul & Izzet --> Simic & Azorius
No White: Golgari & Dimir --> Gruul & Izzet --> Simic & Rakdos
No Green: Boros & Dimir --> Izzet & Orzhov --> Rakdos & Azorius
Pursuing four colors from the onset of the draft provides more options as the draft goes on. You wonít have to pass on a Wrecking Ball in Dissension just because you havenít drafted any red up to that point. It will also give you more versatility for deck construction and sideboarding options. Of course, the added versatility comes with a lack of focus. If you end the draft deciding to maindeck all four colors, youíll have quite a bit of work to do in order to keep your mana base reasonable. Even by focusing on two colors with two ďsplashedĒ colors, youíll still need a good amount and variety of mana-fixers.
The four-color option will also get kind of crazy depending on which color you chose to forgo. Black is the most intuitive, since throughout the draft each guild pair shares a color. Boros and Selesnya are both white; Gruul and Izzet are both red; Simic and Azorius are both blue. White is also highly intuitive, as the Golgari and Dimir share black and the Gruul and Izzet share red. So by the time you get to Simic and Rakdos, which share nothing, youíre colors are already set. But green is a really tricky color to avoid in a four-color deck. Not only does green have the best color-fixing options, but in each pack, no guilds share a color. Boros and Dimir have nothing in common; Izzet and Orzhov have nothing in common; Rakdos and Azorius have nothing in common. The biggest advantage to trying this method is that itís a good bet no one else is going to be doing it.
Four-Color Drafting: Three, Two, One
The alternative to keeping two guilds in each pack is to choose to avoid one of the two colors that will cause an imbalance in the guild ratios.
No Blue: Boros, Selesnya & Golgari --> Gruul & Orzhov --> Rakdos
No Red: Selesnya, Golgari & Dimir --> Orzhov --> Azorius & Simic
Personally, I think this is the worst possible strategy to embrace. Not only are you stretching yourself thin and requiring a significant amount of mana-fixing, but youíre also trying to get three guilds out of the first fifteen cards, in a set that already has the lowest support percentage for its guilds. Unless you pick up three absolute bombs in your first three picks, there is no reason to choose this path of drafting. I only mention it because I want to cover all my bases.
Ravnica Draft Wrap
Now you might assume that I am an experienced drafter and Iíve tried all these different choices and that I can recommend the best option to help you win. Youíll have assumed wrong. Iím a terrible drafter and I had never really thought of any of this before blowing all my winnings through drafting. Had I thought of this earlier, I might have done a bit better, but you never know. Iím a sucker for the gold expansion symbols.
The purpose of this piece is simply to enlighten those who had never really stopped and thought at all about how the dynamics of the guild models affect your average RGD draft. Depending on what cards you open and what gets passed to you, things will vary greatly and Iím sure that itís possible to win and lose with any of the above methods. However, it also helps to be aware of them so that you donít end up trying to pull together a five-color monstrosity once the third pack rolls around and your colors are all screwed up.
So enjoy your drafting and donít forget to keep an eye on your guilds.