Full Force drafting is a series dedicated to forcing archetypes in draft formats. Join me every Thursday as we learn the ins and outs of limited Magic.
A constant theme with Full Force is five colour decks. They’re often wacky and fun, and just as often they’re pretty awful. This week, we are lucky enough to have a flashback format on Magic Online that ranks as one of the best draft formats ever, in no small part because of how easy it is to put together a five colour deck. If you ever get a chance to play Khans (which I highly recommend) and need a quick primer, I hope this helps.
Much like in Cube, five colour decks in Khans of Tarkir are mostly viable because of an abundance of non-basic lands. There are of course the rare fetchlands, but more important even than those are the uncommon “tri”-lands (Opulent Palace) and the common dual tap lands (Jungle Hollow). Even better, the common tap lands give you a life when they come into play. It seems insignificant, but over the course of a longer game it’s not unreasonable to gain five or more life.
To compliment this strategy, Khans was the set that brought back Morph. The effect of this for our deck is two-fold. It makes the mana easier – you can play creatures you don’t have colour for yet as morphs – and it has the effect of slowing the format quite a bit, giving you time to set up your mana and get your big guns online.
As you can expect, since the morphs make your mana easier, you should pick up a fair number if possible. Not only that, but there is a great cycle of common morphs to reward you for being greedy, one in each “clan” (Abzan Guide, Efreet Weaponmaster, Snowhorn Rider, Abomination of Gudul, and Ponyback Brigade). The only one I steer clear of in this strategy is Ponyback Brigade. The card is still good, but it doesn’t have the synergy it normally enjoys from a Mardu (RWB) wedge deck with Trumpet Blasts and other spells to help your tokens swarm your opponent and take over the game.
Probably the biggest question then, is when to take lands and when to take powerful spells. The tough answer to that is that I can’t really give you a blow-by-blow guide. There’s too many variables to take into account. How many lands/fixing do you already have? What colours do they cover? Is the powerful spell in the colours you already have fixing for? How many playable spells do you have? What pack is it? Practice helps you answer all of these on the fly, but I can give you some advice as well.
Pick lands early. Yes, it’s basic, but it’s very key. Pick lands early. Pick them over good cards, maybe even over some great cards.
Here’s why: If you pick lands early it gives you maneuverability. Imagine this. You get an early pack with the tri-land Opulent Palace, but it also has a Siege Rhino that’s not in your colour. Siege Rhino is a great card, so you take the Siege Rhino. A few picks later, you haven’t been able to find any lands for fixing, so you’re stuck taking a bad fixing card Scout the Borders and you have to pass Abzan Guide. If you had picked the Opulent Palace, you could have picked the Abzan Guide and over the two picks you’d actually end up with a higher card quality. If Rhino is an 8/10 and Scout is a 2/10 in your deck, your card quality is really just 5/10 across those two picks. Opulent Palace and Guide are lower than Rhino, but they’re both 6 or 7s, so your card quality is much better overall and that’s if you’re lucky and you don’t have to pass something much better than an Abzan Guide. Nothing feels worse than picking up a piece of fixing in pack three over an absurd bomb like Duneblast. This kind of thinking goes across a lot more than just five colour decks as well. It applies to “normal” decks all the time when thinking about picking expensive finishers over cheap early interaction. Taking necessary cards early and trying to get payoff late is a strategy that will improve your overall draft performance a lot.
Next week we’re moving into new territory because of popular request. For the first time Full Force will not be Magic, but the Free-to-Play online card game Eternal designed by LSV!