Sunday, December 20, 2009

Team Draft

I had never team drafted before today. To be honest, I have a feeling most people have never team drafted. In fact, several of the drafters I drafted with had never even drafted before.

So we can already see that this is going to end in possible disaster.

But let me explain how team drafting is different from regular drafting. This is what went down.

We did a normal draft. Three packs per person. ZZZ. Eight man. Left-right-left. You know the drill.

Afterwards, we randomized teams, split into two groups of four. The next part was kind of hectic and disorganized, but basically each person from Team A played against someone from Team B. And then, we rotated and played with different pairings, always pairing Team A people against Team B people.

We played three rounds each (or, almost, because we were kind of running out of time, and they were closing the shop). We played enough to find out which Team would win.

After the three rounds, the Team with the winning record would spread all the rares from the draft on a table and draft the rares (starting with the player with the best record and so forth). The losing team basically received nothing. Although they could keep their uncommons and commons, I suppose, and no one would care.

The reason to Team Draft over regular draft is that by being on the winning team, the pool of rares is shared amongst a much smaller group of people. On top of that, you don't worry about paying out prize packs, and the draft tends to have a cheaper entry fee than one with prize packs.

Also, Team members can help each other build decks and maybe even make gameplay decisions (I wasn't 100% clear on the etiquette). I suspect that the more casual the draft is, the more the Team can function as a single entity. But since teams are randomized after the draft, there's no incentive to use underhanded means to help or hurt others while drafting.

However, I entered the Team Draft without having drafted with ANY of the other players before. And once we got started, we quickly realized that we had a lot of newbies in our pod. You probably NEVER want to get caught in this scenario because if everyone isn't at a similar draft/play level, teams will simply not be balanced. And it ends up being messy and not very fun.

If the level of the players aren't VERY disparate, it could end up working. But when it's a combination of really good drafters and really poor drafters, well, the team with the better drafters tends to win.

So there was one deck that ended up with 5 Welkin Terns and 3 Journey to Nowheres; another deck with 3 Plated Geopedes and presumably other very good cards considering it beat the 5 Tern/3JtN deck; and another deck that looked like Boros Bushwhacker (although this, drafted by a 16-year-old that had never drafted before. So good for him.)

On the other side of things, one of the drafters opened all his packs at once, thinking it was like Sealed. It was very disorienting at the beginning of the draft, as we were about to start, and suddenly, people were like, "So what do I do exactly?" But we got it all sorted out eventually, and hopefully not too many rules were broken. Anyone more stringent watching would have cringed as people mixed piles, passed cards in the wrong direction, started taking more than one card per pack, or exclaimed loudly about taking a foil Lotus Cobra. To have everyone else explain that rares were not for keeps. He took it anyway for kicks. (Good enough reason. Not many get to draft mythic rares and see what they're like in Limited. I would've taken it for that reason alone.)

Guess who actually ended up with the foil Lotus Cobra?

That's right, fuckerrrrs.

I somehow ended up 3-0 with my mediocre BU deck. Well, what I thought was mediocre considering how loudly and pointedly some people were bragging about their amazing draft decks. I was honestly a little intimidated, figuring my deck was OK but not super.

I guess 3 Plated Geopedes or 5 Welkin Terns is something to brag about generally.

I got decent cards, but my deck could've been really mean to me. I had a very flat curve and a dearth of 3-drops. The thing is, almost every creature I had carried some form of evasion. Whether it was flying, unblockable, intimidate, islandwalk, or deathtouch. Even my Blazing Torch helped me walk through a Malakir Bloodwitch. So it wasn't that unjustified.

There is also something else about drafting with noobs that automatically sways the draft in the favor of more seasoned players... the open secret in ZZZ draft is that black and red together make the most aggressive and one of the most powerful color combinations. Heavy black or heavy red are also incredibly strong if you can manage to get most cards of one color.

Usually, in a table with a bunch of pros, fighting for black and red become rather difficult. Especially black. Which turns pros to other strategies like RW, a blue splash, or even mono green.

But when you're new to Zendikar draft, you don't KNOW that black and red are really good. You tend to treat all colors equally. In fact, as I was starting, I really liked white because the Kors seemed to generate the most card and tempo advantage.

But in an inexperienced table, you force black. Or you force red. And you can probably cut those colors pretty hard. And you end up with a ridiculous deck because you knew how to be greedy while the others were sitting satisfied with their green decks. (Green can be good but tends to be a bit slower.)

I took an early Torch Slinger, thinking I would try to go BR, after a first pick Disfigure. That didn't end up working, and I immediately switched to blue. But I continued to cut black, taking pretty mediocre Mindless Nulls over better picks. I didn't end up playing any Nulls, but I did receive some nice gifts to replace them later. So there you go.

I recommend not drafting in weak pods, though. It sucks. You don't learn anything. And there's no real brag in drafting a sick deck when you aren't drafting amongst peers. Unfortunately, we were all pretty surprised that so many of the people at the table had NEVER drafted before. It just ended up being that way. Couldn't really be avoided, I guess.

Hopefully they all learned valuable lessons. I know I learned a lesson to never team draft with Unknowns again. It ended up involving a little more "politics" than ... I dunno, pure skill. I'm just glad it went as smoothly as it could possibly go, given the circumstances.

On the other hand, Team Drafting with friends who are all at a similar level seems really fun. And I would be willing to jump into it at the soonest opportunity.