Drafting with Ponies: Or Derpy Plays the CCG

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Welcome back to the .Horse. We have been pretty radio silent lately (with the exception of the super helpful articles written by Airquotes). This is because a lot has been coming down the pipeline and we have been helping push the cats through their tubes. So why am I, Vinyl_Scratch checking in when I should be painting or vinyl scratching (Ya I hang out in Davis Square. So what?). Well the answer is draft packs. Draft packs for days.

Our group here in Boston has been drafting since the dark days of Premier. Let me tell you something, those days were grim. However, since Absolute Discord, when our group was signed on for playtesting, we have been taking a little bit of extra time to test for the drafting environment. I am happy to say that with the release of Marks in Time, drafting is finally up to snuff and has become a pleasure to play (Don’t get me wrong, we played it before and enjoyed it, but those decks were grim). Drafting in the current block format feels good, and the decks you can make are super fun. However, drafting ponies is still super hard! Especially for the beginner or player who is not familiar with draft. So Vinyl is here to teach you some stuff and junk.

What is draft and why is it good?

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Just call me Trixy cause I’m bad at Magic.

Let me be straight with you. I draft Magic The Gathering, and I am super bad at it. I am much better at drafting ponies. My bad magic drafting skills have forced me to reach out to the interwebs to get better though. And it has taught me things.

Drafting is a relatively simple process in practice. In Ponies, you get 4 packs. You open one pack, take a card and pass it to your LEFT. Then you get the pack your partner passed you and take another card. You keep these cards face down in front of you and continue the process until you get your last pick (which isn’t really a pick because it’s just one card passed from your neighbor). Then you open your second pack and repeat the process, this time going to the right. You continue this activity, alternating left and right between pack until there are no more cards to pass, and you have a large stack of cards in front of you.

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Why is this fun? Because it allows for you to control what cards you are keeping from packs. This lets you create a more refined deck than a sealed tournament with fewer packs. It also lets  you immediately play with the cards you get! This is why I draft magic, because I like to play, but can’t afford to get into legacy, modern or standard. I just get some packs and immediately get to play. This process is especially great for the new player, or the player wishing to collect a newly released set.

There is only one problem. Drafting cards to make a competitive deck can be really hard. Especially when ponies requires you to have an adequate amount of fixing in your deck. In this article I hope to illuminate a few of the finer points of pony drafting so that fledgling drafters might not get lost in the sea of cards and choices that draft produces.

 

First of all, know your manes.

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poke-manz mastah.

In drafting, you make a 30 card draw deck and 5 card problem deck. Available to you will be the block manes. This means, in the current format, you can play any of the Mane Six ambassadors from Equestrian Odysseys. Also available to you should be the three CMC manes from the draft packs. These are cards that can be proxied, provided or brought from home. So, to draft ponies, it is important to know what your mane options are. Knowing about the manes you have available will let you better asses the cards you are looking at and weather you can play them in a deck, and how they will work with your mane. If you draft cards with a high color requirement to play, it might be important to be able to flip your mane quickly and easily. If you draft cards with a 1 color requirement in your mane’s color, then maybe it’s not so important to flip your mane.

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Blue: Here we have Rainbow and Scootaloo, fan favorites for sure.

Blue is quite powerful in draft right now. Scootaloo is a surprisingly versatile and easy to flip mane. Rainbow is also quite versatile, but requires at the very least, a problem face off set up to flip her. The trade-off is that she will contribute a higher number to problem face offs once flipped.

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Orange: Good old Applejack and Applebloom.

Orange is another powerful color in draft right now. Applejack in particular can gain an exponentially greater advantage if she wins a few face offs. However, she, like Rainbow requires at least a problem face off to flip, so it might be a little more costly and challenging to flip her. Applebloom on the other hand will flip pretty easily but does not have the same looming threat that Applejack does.

White: Rarity and Sweetie Belle.

White is an interesting color in draft. It is not especially powerful outside of the rarity mane. However, the rarity mane is exceptionally good in draft. She is very easy to flip, allowing you to quickly get into white fixing, and she can win you the game with her easy point gain. Many flip her very quickly, but I always find that saving her for the end can cause your opponent to hand you the game. I know I have given Niko at least one game because I forgot about the fabulous mare.

Sweetie Belle on the other hand, is not going to get you much mileage in draft. Play her if you love accessories or just like the flavor. Poor Sweetie, she just isn’t up for sealed ponies.

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Pink: Pinkie and Pinkie and Pinkie and Pinkie.

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Pink certainly has its virtues in draft. It’s one of my favorite colors to draft. However, using a pink mane in draft can be challenging and often inefficient. Do it if you need to, but don’t count on flipping her. Have lots of 1 req pink friends? Go for it. Pinkie’s your gal. Otherwise you might grab one of the other manes.

 

Purple: Twilight time!

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Purple is an incredibly challenging color in draft right now. With a disparity of trouble makers and few high magic packs, it’s hard to pull off. Throw in the challenge of needing meticulous to flip Twi, and you need to know you want to go purple mane before you start opening packs. At the very least, you need to figure it out before the second pack.

Yellow: Fluttershy….

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Poor yellow. It gets very little love. A yellow mane is not going to do much for you. On the upside, if you are drafting yellow, you are probably the only one. Calming definitely got some help with the new confront rules but it’s still not great. I don’t really have much to say about yellow. We have been trying really hard to help it out.

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Now, sometimes you might pull a UR mane in draft. The current block format means you could pull: Starlight Glimmer (purple), Luna (blue), Discord (purple). The only one I’d really recommend for draft is Starlight. Sadly, you cannot know if you are going to get one of these, so you can’t pre plan your draft strategy around them.

 

Pre planning!

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First of all, know what you’re drafting. For this article I am assuming we are using a draft pack because after using them, I think it creates the best draft environment. These consist of 2 packs of Marks in Time, 1 pack of EO and 1 pack of High Magic.

When I draft magic I always go in with a plan. Some don’t, but I’m not good enough to do that. I figure out what kind of deck I want to build and then go with it. This can carry over into ponies too, assuming you have a good idea of what manes there are, and have a decent idea of the cards. For instance, a good idea when going to a pony draft is saying, “My plan is to draft Blue and Orange because they are powerful in this environment and I like Rainbow Dash.” That’s a great idea, Vinyl! However, the it’s likely that the power combo colors are going to be drafted by other players too. So maybe have a backup? You know, unless you plan on drafting yellow.

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Know how the key word strategies work for each color. Are you yellow drafting? That means you need to grab cards that play well with calming. Pink? Time to be eccentric and grab those friends and some high req problems like Awkward Cuteceañera. Purple? Poor purple… you really need meticulous. But this means that grab cards that reward you for meticulous or grab you lots of AT.

So when you start drafting with your idea in your head what do you need to look for? Fixers for your off color, and powerful uncommons/commons. Some good examples of cards like this for a blue and orange deck are: Brotherly Love, Rainbow Connection and dilemmas. That means, that even if there is a rare in an off color you take the uncommon. It can be really detrimental to a deck to just collect all the rares that come to you, unless of course you care more about those than winning. URs are a different story, if you want it, take it. Don’t automatically stick it in your deck though. It might not synergize with your other cards.

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Let’s talk about fixers real quick too. These cards are a commodity to the experienced player in draft. It is extremely important to take fixers for your deck. If you don’t have these, you may not be able to play any cards! This means, cards like the mane 6 Cutie Mark cycle, Kevin and the 4-power Smooze: wobbling blob are extremely valuable in draft. Taking cards like these early are going to let you be flexible in what you take later.

Drafting problems

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One of the reasons Ponies present such a problem for a draft environment is the inclusion of problems in the packs. Even if you manage to draft zero problems, you will have a problem deck of 5 cards because you can include as many Locked Out or Totally Losts as you want. This means that there is less incentive to draft a problem than another card. The other problem with drafting problems is that you are never guaranteed to see that card during the game.

However, there are some really good problems out there. The new starting problems in Marks in Time are great and really help the draft environment. Awkward Cuteceañera is a great problem and so is Save the Day. In fact, those cards might turn the tide for you. So, my advice is this; if you are solidly into a color or two, and see a great problem grab it. If you think your deck kind of sucks, and you see one of the starting problems grab it. Or, if it’s the pack is almost done and there is nothing you like, grab it. Your priorities in draft should be your draw deck though. Grab a problem only if you think you really need it or you know it will help you.

 

Expect anything

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While you are drafting remember all the things you would prepare for in constructed; troublemakers, removal, and combat tricks. Prepare for these while trying to play to your chosen colors strength. There is a lot to think about in draft but, in the end it’s just like trying to build sealed, expect everything. Worried about TMs? Grab a Pipsqueak! Don’t like combat tricks? Grab The Vote.

Another unexpected twist in draft can be not seeing the cards you need for your color. Figure this out early on so you can fall onto your back up plan (or make one up on the spot!) Don’t be afraid if your deck ends up being three or four colors. It happens. These decks can even do pretty well. In the end, fixing is what will pull you through the draft. Being able to play cards is important.

 

What if I didn’t read any of that?

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Welp, good luck. My advice on this matter is sort your cards into colors, figure out which one has the most fixing, make it your off color. Then figure out which pile has the most 1 req friends and make it your Mane color. Then, fill in the gaps.

Drafting Etiquette

Every play blackjack in a Casino? People get wicked pissed if you hit when you should pass, or pass when you should hit. So don’t be that pony! Know your etiquette.

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-Take the wrapper from your first pack and place all cards you draft face down on this wrapper so as to avoid confusion when passing packs. Passing the cards you have already drafted to your neighbor is a bummer for you, and everyone else.

-No table talk. Do not announce you got a super rare or a “shiny”. It’s ok to make jokes and have fun, but announcing things like that can make those who do not pull one feel bad, or cue people to your strategy. It’s ok to say a pack is really good, or bad, but don’t be specific.

-Do not put more than one pack in your neighbor’s que. This can create confusion. Just be patient. Your other neighbor should be doing the same thing. Drafting is hard, let them take their time.

-Do not create multiple piles of cards sorted into colors in front of you. You can do this later.

-Do not pass packs face up to your neighbor

-Make sure that everyone has gotten their last pick before opening the next pack.

-Remember Left, Right, Left, Right. I forget this all the time because I am a terrible person.

Anyway, Happy drafting!! Marks in Time is the most adorable set to date. Don’t let those fillies fool you, they are plotting…

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