MTG Ixalan Draft Night

I used to be so good about blogging. Rather than bemoan things that get in the way, how about I just get back on track?

Last month, we held another draft night (our second of the year, for those that are counting). Our draft covered Ixalan & Rivals of Ixalan based upon a community vote. It was the first draft where we had done more than just crack a box and open it, because we had two packs from each set to play with. It was also one of the first drafts where we expanded to include more than 8 players.

Changes to Scoring

Scoring worked a little differently because of the number of players. We had initially slotted it to 8 players, per usual, but then opened it up to a previous player who had attended draft nights before. That meant we had to invite a 10th player (to make things even), and eventually expanded the scope to include an 11th and 12th player as well.

Things were further complicated when one person cancelled last minute (actually, beyond the last minute–as we actually held things for an hour based upon a phone call). We won’t get too much into the issue, but it did complicate the scoring. Actually, it didn’t factor too much into it, other than forcing someone to have a bye each round. When you’re playing a limited number of games–especially when starting late–that cuts into things a little too much. We’ll take that into consideration when assigning players next time.

Since we had an unusual number of players to start (12), we already knew we were going to have issues with brackets. Instead, we wound up making up a spreadsheet to compare overall scores and pit the players with the best records against each other each round. To make this work, each round was required to play the full three games. Each win was worth 3 points, each tie was worth 1. To expedite things, we also created a rule wherein if you hadn’t already started your third game by the time everyone else had finished theirs, you had to choose to tie or have one person forfeit.

Since it’s a semi-casual event, we also get more value out of playing a variety of players, so we had to tweak the pairings up for every round beyond the first to ensure that the same people weren’t playing each other again, and that nobody was stuck with two byes. The spreadsheet had no way to account for this, but I might see if I can work that into a future iteration.

Overall, this process worked, and probably better than a classic double-elimination tournament. I think if/when we do this again, we might tweak this to have people just play whomever they want and only play 1 or 2 games each time. That way they get more variety and games will happen at their own pace (the current format required that everyone be done with their match so we could figure out overall standings before setting up the next match).

Changes to Drafting

We had one guy set to show up late, so we started the draft without him. We debated the right way to go about it, and had the guys to his left/right draft for him. They weren’t sharing information, so it was possible (likely even) they were both drafting different colors/styles, but at least he’d have good cards to make a deck with.

He wound up cancelling before we opened the second pack, so we just left the rest unopened, so we didn’t get to see the end result. That might have been interesting. I know that I would’ve been drafting Sailor of Means and good cards for him because it’s an interesting strategy that I’m just too scared to try to implement.

The only tweak to this format was that we drafted two sets: Ixalan & Rivals of Ixalan. I know that’s a fairly normal thing for people to do in a draft format, but we’ve never done that. We’re typically at 8 people and splitting up a box is an easy way to handle that. Buying a second box, or paying MSRP on packs to split up into several sets increases the price and complexity of setup, so we just don’t do it. I’ll send out a survey to the participants though and we can see what they thought of the format.


With more than the normal amount of participants, and the fact that I got a good deal on the cards ($165 for both boxes shipped), we had a extra cash and were able to splurge a little bit on the food. Hamburgers or Pizza are always a possibility, but I like the idea of making things special. Each player chipped in $20, making a total of $220 collected (if I include myself). That left $55 for food (well, originally, it was supposed to be $75).

I picked up fixings for Gyros and Shawarma (sorry, no pictures). In retrospect, I definitely busted the bank on this one. The Gyro meat was $35, plus pitas, chicken, cucumber, tomato, tahini, hummus, salad, etc. I’m probably into it for close to $90, so that’s $35 over budget ($55 if you include my own buy-in). On the plus side, I got to keep 27 packs of cards, so that’s $2 a pack–and there are always some people that leave their cards behind, so it’s not a huge loss for me. I guess I might want to charge a little more next time if I go fancy.

My Drafting Experience

I had done some pre-drafting online and come to a few conclusions:

  1. My opinion of the color combinations varried wildly over time. Initially I loved dinosaurs, then merfolk, then pirates, etc.
  2. I seemed to like the removal in white the best (there’s so much of it) followed by red & black

I had read some guides online that said that removal wasn’t as good in this format and that speed was king. That slanted my view and tilted me towards running red/black pirates deck. That’s what I initially started drafting too.

Pack 1, pick 1, I went with the pirates cutlass. Ruin raider was the rare, and I felt he was good enough to pick, but in my online drafts, I just never could get a cutlass. I didn’t have any illusions that he’d be there when it circled back around, but it turns out that he made it at least halfway around the table. That seems odd for such a solid pick.

My second pick was, what I’d consider to be about the best card in the draft (certainly the best card I’d drafted): Fiery Cannonade. I used it as a three for one in so many games that it was crippling. I don’t think we had another one in the draft (at least not one that I was aware of), putting me firmly into pirates. Two out of my next three picks were Territorial Hammerskulls, which made me question, but I could play Red/white pirates, right?

By the 9th pick, I had gotten another pirate’s cutlass somehow (making me rethink passing the Ruin Raider, but if it was funamentally good enough for p1p1, then it should be a slam dunk at p1p9, right?

My second pack had an off-color planeswalker as my rare: Huatli, Radiant Champion, but I had to take it because I never get them–even though I had no intent to play green. I was then passed a Ripjaw Raptor, which I somehow managed to let pass by me because there were good red/black cards in the pack. It really got disgusting though, as I eventually passed Tishana, Voice of Thunder, as well. Once the Jadelight Ranger came to me, I had to take it, regretting letting all that good green slip by.

By the third pack, I was firmly in three colors: red/black/white, but I didn’t have much in the way of creatures. In all of my online drafts, I had been snapping up Goblin Trailblazers like candy, and they made for a great two-drop, but our draft was almost completely devoid of them (I know of only one other that someone else drafted but didn’t play). My deck was surely going to be short on 2 drops though, so I spent the third pack looking for a fix there, and the final pack looking for something resembling color fixing (as it was starting to look like I was going to have to play three colors).

My Deck:

In total I drafted the following deck:

  • Artifacts
    • 1x Treasure Map
    • 2x Pirate’s Cutlass
    • 1x Captain’s Hook
  • Creatures:
    • 1x Gleaming Barrier
    • 2x Martyr of Dusk
    • 1x Swaggering Corsair
    • 2x Exultant Skymarcher
    • 1x Inspiring Cleric
    • 3x Territorial Hammerskull
    • 1x Dire Fleet Neckbreaker
  • Instants & Sorceries:
    • 1x Mutiny
    • 1x Bombard
    • 1x Fiery Cannonade
  • Enchantments:
    • 2x Baffling End
    • 3x Pious Interdiction
  • Planeswalkers:
    • 1x Huatli, Radiant Champion
  • Lands:
    • 1x Evolving Wilds
    • 1x Sunpetal Grove (foil!)
    • 1x Foul Orchard
    • 4x Mountains
    • 1x Swamp
    • 1x Forest
    • 7x Plains

Yes, I played 4 colors. Really, it was a red/white shell with a splash for black and green (both parts of a multi-color card). I had plenty of good black to play, but it all seemed to have two black mana and wasn’t viable as a splash. The other cards I’d drafted but didn’t play included:

  • Black:
    • 1x March of the Drowned
    • 1x Grasping Soundrel
    • 1x Walk the Plank
    • 1x Voracious Vampire
    • 1x Fathom Fleet Boarder
    • 1x Vanquish the Weak
    • 1x Dusk Charger
    • 1x Mark of the Vampire
    • 1x Ravenous Chupacabra
    • 2x Contract Killing
  • Red:
    • 1x Nest Robber
    • 1x Sun-Collared Raptor
    • 1x Rummaging Goblin (side-boarded in against a control matchup)
    • 1x Headstrong brute (actually he was in my deck at one point–I think I wound up sideboarding him out against control at some point and forgot to put back in)
    • 1x Frenzied Raptor
  • White:
    • 2x Legion Conquistador
    • 2x Legion’s Judgement (eventually sideboarded these in against dinosaurs)
    • 1x Sun Sentinel
    • 1x Paladin of the Bloodstained
  • Blue:
    • 1x Riverwise Augur
    • 1x Depths of Desire
    • 1x Cancel (foil!)
  • Other:
    • 1x Jadelight Ranger
    • 1x Azor’s Gateway
    • 1x Legion Lieutenant

It wasn’t the speed aggro deck that I had hoped to build and instead was total control: focusing on removal. Lucky for me, that seemed to work out though…

My Play Experience:

We only played three rounds officially, but I also wound up playing against Icky who was excited to test his deck out against the first place finisher. I wound playing Aaron 2-1. He had a R/W/G dinosaur shell that got mana screwed in the two games I won, and I had enough control to put him down. In the other game, he pulled out the crazy mythic dinosaur and beat me senseless. Good times.

For my second game, I faced Sean’s merfolk deck, who damn near spanked me on game two, but I somehow pulled out after establishing board control with one life before I put out a flyer and plinked him to death. I won this one 3-0.

My third game was against Travis, the other control deck in the format (though his was white/blue). The first game was a fairly long and boring mirror match: one of us would put out a creature and wait until that threat was answered. Rinse and repeat. I just had more answers in my deck than he did, so it worked out well. He wound up sideboarding in some bounce to deal with my enchantments, and I sideboarded in some creatures (like the rummaging goblin) to deal with dead draws. I eeked this one out 2-1 as well.

And, as I said before, I wound up playing Icky as well. I don’t remember if I went 2-1 or 3-0 against him, but he did have a fast deck. I just happened to have the right control cards to shut him down, and two-for one him once he started to enchant things.

The final came out to the following rankings:

  1. Rob 21.9223141
  2. Travis 18.50258787
  3. Icky 18.10802618
  4. Sam 16.67852614
  5. Aaron N. 16.60556727
  6. Jesse K. 15.32806019
  7. Sean 12.82728513
  8. Brandon 9.480420864
  9. Aaron M. 6.912276784
  10. Derek 6.731017257
  11. Joseph 6.14594295
  12. Mitch 0.447850326

The remainders are due to a seeding we established earlier (that helped set up the initial pairings and also served as a tie breaker).

Final Thoughts:

I’ll refrain from saying too much until I hear back from the rest of the crew, but I enjoyed the night. More players worked out alright, and it felt good to beat the ringer (Travis showed up in his old pro tour shirt, which was good for a laugh).

I’m looking forward to the next draft–whatever that may be…

2 comments on “MTG Ixalan Draft Night

  1. I’ve thought about doing something exactly like this, so it was a bit inspiring! I haven’t done too much Ixalan drafting but the tribes seem like they are the obvious archetypes. Are you going to do a Dominaria draft?

    • You know, I figured that the tribes would be dominating, but that really wasn’t the case. I mean, my deck was a “pirate” deck I suppose, but I only had like two pirates in it. Likewise, black/white decks seemed viable during pre-drafts, but not when I was trying to force vampires. They did much better when I was just drafting good cards (ie. black removal and white flyers are always solid–but I also drafted a fair number of pirates).

      In short, the tribes weren’t as strong or dominating as I expected. Only two players to my knowledge drafted strong tribal decks in our entire draft.

      As for what comes up next, we do drafts based upon a voting structure. Those that attend get a say in various draft formats. It looks like Unstable is likely the next one, but I’m not sure Dominaria was even offered as an option.

      Drafts we have queued up include Un-set, Two-Headed Giant (aka. Battlebond), Fallen Empires, Chaos Draft, secret old set (to be named the day of the draft), whatever the new set is. That might be about it.

      I think we all were definitely playing in the old Dominaria days though, so it seems like a viable format with some nostalgia for us.

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