Full Force drafting is a series dedicated to forcing archetypes in draft formats. Recently, I was asked on stream why anyone would want that, because it would be a waste of money to draft in an inferior way. I thought this was an interesting point and I agree, to the extent that forcing an archetype against signals is a bad idea for winning… In that particular draft. The hope I have for the series is that it is not only about winning single drafts, but about learning a format; Learning how to win drafts in that format.
It’s very easy to look at your favourite players, watch their drafts, and decide on one who you like and agree with most of the time and decide that is the correct way to draft a format. Most of the time, we don’t realize we develop these internal biases. You may even be right, but you can learn so much more by looking outside your comfort zone. A friend of mine once told me that he couldn’t stand to watch Conley Woods’ draft videos because he disagreed with him so often. This is dangerous thinking, for your growth as a player. I loved watching Conley Woods draft *because* his drafts were so far removed from what I would do. I didn’t always agree with him, but with an open mind, I learned from watching someone who drafted totally counter to my style and saw where I was wrong and where I felt I was correct. If you always draft “correctly” you’re deluding yourself, you’ve closed your mind and you’re no longer learning and improving.
To that end, I believe I’ve learned a lot this week.
When I first looked over the Eternal Masters format and decided on what might make the main archetypes for draft I had thought that the Elf deck was going to be mostly green. I saw a deck with a solid foundation of Llanowar Elves, ramping into larger creatures, or Harmonize. I thought the elf deck would only have a little bit of black and possibly a splash colour from Civic Wayfinder. After forcing some additional drafts I ended up with a deck that was very different than I expected, with a slightly different focus than I imagined.
The elf deck I first saw is definitely in existence and may still be the superior deck. However, it is entirely possible, and maybe even preferred to be much heavier on the black. Gravedigger was a card I always looked at as decent in an elf deck, but didn’t imagine as a lynch pin, but when combined with the underrated Plague Witch and the threat of Lys Alanna Scarblade, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. Adding in a Victimize or an Animate Dead and you can have a solid “rock”-style deck, with enter the battlefield abilities from Civic Wayfinder, Shaman of the Pack, and Lys Alanna Huntmaster combining for repeated value with the recursion cards. This deck isn’t generally as aggressive as a deck with 4 Elvish Vanguard but it has a lot of inevitability.
The weakness I’ve found of the elf decks are the relatively low toughness of the creatures and their importance. If your Timberwatch Elf dies, you might end up with a board of vanilla 2/2s and 1/1s. Cards like Nausea, Flame Jab, Firebolt, Prodigal Sorcerer, Burning Vengeance, and Honden of Infinite Rage are stellar at disrupting your plans and you need ways to play around them, or deal with them. I definitely recommend having one or two Nature’s Claim or Seal of Cleansing as sideboard, and a Relic of Progenitus can help with Jab, Vengeance, and Firebolt. The fragile nature of elves also makes cards like Gravedigger or Victimize better than they seem, since buying back key elves becomes more enticing in hard matches. Shaman of the Pack also performs quite well as a way to punch through damage even if it gets answered quickly and it is particularly brutal with Wirewood Symbiote, Gravedigger, and Lys Alanna Huntmaster.
I hope you enjoyed today’s series on the elfabet in Eternal Masters, stop by next Thursday for another Eternal Masters Full Force!