DraftRex Qualifier (Winner = WUB Artifacts)

Drafting these decks seemed to follow a similar pattern: take the best cards early on, which will put you into a couple core colors pretty quickly, but stay open to that pair's allies for as long as possible. Eventually, one of the two allies will become the clear choice, and you've got your shard. Mechanical themes on the cards seemed secondary; even the artifacts theme in WUB seemed to just come with the territory of Esper. Deck construction seemed to come down to setting aside off-color cards and streamlining your curve moreso than configuring a strategy or crafting synergies. Actual play was straightforward. UBR Aggro offered no contest against WUB Artifacts, due largely to bringing in far too many Islands and drawing nearly all of them at the expense of Swamp and Mountains. Its second match, versus a GWU Midrange Mishmash, was much better, due largely to GWU drawing absolutely no Islands. Mana didn't seem to be an issue in the third match between these first three decks (WUB vs. GWU), but it still didn't feel like much of a match, as WUB was still at 18 when it won. It was able to get threats out early to which GWU had very few answers, and its synergies around Artifacts and its suite of flyers proved too much to handle. The experience improved when I shifted gear to embrace the multicolor nature of the format in the fourth draft. I realized I'd been letting lots of manafixing pass me by, selecting it only once I had a better sense of the colors I was in. I'd actually designed the set to include duplicates of some manafixing to make sure there's enough, given the sheer quantity of multicolor cards. In this final draft, I grabbed manafixing as much as possible early on alongside the occasional bomb. I subsequently started picked up cards with cycling and anything else that would benefit from being able to access every color of mana, ending up with a ridiculous 5-color monstrosity. In action, the deck was of course slow as molasses. Fortunately the GWU Midrange deck was also pretty slow and once again had hardly any answers. 5C was so slow that it actually took some early damage, but after a long buildup, it finally hit its stride, take out the biggest threats and getting out some of its game-changing bombs. GWU tried to press its early advantage, but ended up helping its opponent clear the board a little and ultimately had to settle for its third loss. The second game (vs. UBR Aggro) was a classic. While both decks stumbled out of the gate, they eventually got on plan, with UBR getting 5C down to 4 life before running into trouble. 7 mana was the magic number for the 5C deck, and it finally hit it and was able to throw down Cruel Ultimatum, which completely turned the game around. Within a few turns, it had come back from the brink to win the game. 5C finally ran into trouble in its final game, as it couldn't get any black mana in play and stalled out on five lands. Its 4 and 5 CMC cards all required black mana, so it just couldn't do anything. Meanwhile its opponent (WUB Artifacts) was hitting its flyer subtheme in full force, for which 5C had no answers anyway. WUB made pretty quick work of 5C to finish the 3-0.

Full Cube (270 Cards)

Absorb VisAgony WarpAkrasan SquireAlgae GharialAlgae GharialAngelic BenedictionAngelsongArcane SanctumArmillary SphereArsenal ThresherAsha's FavorAven SquireAven TrailblazerBanefireBanewasp AfflictionBant BattlemageBant PanoramaBant PanoramaBant SojournersBant SurebladeBattlegrace AngelBehemoth SledgeBituminous BlastBlightningBlister BeetleBlitz HellionBlood TyrantBloodpyre ElementalBloodthorn TaunterBone SplintersBrackwater ElementalBrainbiteBranching BoltBreath of MalfegorBrilliant UltimatumBroodmate DragonCaldera HellionCall to HeelCancelCanyon MinotaurCaptured SunlightCathartic AdeptCelestial PurgeCerodon YearlingClarion UltimatumCloudheath DrakeColossal MightComa VeilCorpse ConnoisseurCourier's CapsuleCourt ArchersCourt HomunculusCruel UltimatumCrumbling NecropolisCrystallizationCumber StoneDark TemperDeathbringer ThoctarDeathgreeterDeft DuelistDemonspine WhipDeny RealityDispeller's CapsuleDouble NegativeDragon FodderDragonsoul KnightDregscape ZombieDruid of the AnimaElvish VisionaryEmber WeaverEnigma SphinxEnlisted WurmEsper BattlemageEsper CormorantsEsper PanoramaEsper PanoramaEsper SojournersEsper StormbladeEsperzoaEthercaste KnightEtherium AbominationEtherium AstrolabeEtherium SculptorExcommunicateExecutioner's CapsuleExotic OrchardExploding BordersExtractor DemonExuberant FirestokerFaerie MechanistFieldmist BorderpostFiery FallFiligree SagesFire-Field OgreFirewild BorderpostFleshbag MarauderFrontline SageGift of the GargantuanGlaze FiendGleam of ResistanceGloryscale ViashinoGluttonous SlimeGoblin AssaultGoblin DeathraidersGoblin OutlanderGrixis BattlemageGrixis GrimbladeGrixis IllusionistGrixis PanoramaGrixis PanoramaGrixis SlavedriverGrixis SojournersGrizzled LeotauGuardians of AkrasaGustrider ExuberantGwafa Hazid, ProfiteerHell's ThunderHissing IguanarIncurable OgreInfectious HorrorInfestInkwell LeviathanJund BattlemageJund HackbladeJund PanoramaJund PanoramaJund SojournersJungle ShrineJungle WeaverKaleidostoneKathari BomberKathari RemnantKathari ScreecherKederekt CreeperKiss of the AmeshaKnight of the Skyward EyeLapse of CertaintyLightning TalonsLorescale CoatlMagma SprayMana CylixManaplasmManiacal RageMask of RiddlesMatca RiotersMight of AlaraMighty EmergenceMind FuneralMistvein BorderpostMosstodonMycoid ShepherdNacatl OutlanderNacatl SavageNaya BattlemageNaya HushbladeNaya PanoramaNaya PanoramaNaya SojournersNecrogenesisObelisk of BantObelisk of BantObelisk of EsperObelisk of EsperObelisk of GrixisObelisk of GrixisObelisk of JundObelisk of JundObelisk of NayaObelisk of NayaOffering to AshaOnyx GobletOoze GardenOutrider of JhessPale RecluseParasitic StrixPestilent KathariPutrid LeechRealm RazerReborn HopeResounding RoarResounding ScreamResounding SilenceResounding ThunderResounding WaveRhox BruteRhox ChargerRhox War MonkRidge RannetRip-Clan CrasherRockslide ElementalRotting RatsRupture SpireSacellum GodspeakerSalvage SlasherSalvage TitanSanctum GargoyleSanctum PlowbeastSangrite BacklashSavage LandsScarland ThrinaxScavenger DrakeScepter of DominanceScepter of InsightScourge DevilSeaside CitadelSedraxis AlchemistSewn-Eye DrakeShambling RemainsShard ConvergenceSharding SphinxShield of the RighteousSighted-Caste SorcererSigil BlessingSigil of the Empty ThroneSigil of the Nayan GodsSigiled PaladinSinge-Mind OgreSkullmulcherSkyward Eye ProphetsSoul ManipulationSoul's FireSoul's MightSpell SnipSphinx SummonerSpore BurstSprouting ThrinaxSteward of ValeronStoic AngelStun SniperSunseed NurturerSwerveSylvan BountyTalon TrooperTar FiendTerminateThorn-Thrash ViashinoThunder-Thrash ElderTidehollow StrixTitanic UltimatumTower GargoyleTrace of AbundanceTraumatic VisionsTukatongue ThallidUnsummonValeron OutlanderValiant GuardValley RannetVectis DominatorVedalken OutlanderVeinfire BorderpostVengeful RebirthViolent OutburstViolent UltimatumViscera DraggerVithian RenegadesVithian StingerVolcanic FalloutWall of DenialWelkin GuideWild LeotauWildfield BorderpostWindwright MageWinged CoatlWoolly ThoctarWorldly CounselWretched BanquetYoke of the DamnedYoked PlowbeastZealous PersecutionZombie Outlander

Design Notes

I can't say I'm all that impressed with this set so far. Interesting sets seem to create wrinkles and challenges in the process of putting these sets together. I expect one thing, but a preponderance of cards indicate something else was going on in the set, forcing me to reconsider. Archetype support becomes an intricate weave, balancing weaknesses in one color with strengths in another. Surprising subthemes crop up, and I try to figure out how to develop them further. The opposite happens in less interesting sets. Patterns become less complex rather than more. Potential themes collapse on themselves. Opportunities for inter-color synergy dissipate as I explore the set more. Such has been my experience putting together this set based on the Alara block: 1. Each shard has a specific mechanic devoted to it (e.g., Exalted in Bant). In more interesting sets, the support for these mechanics would be spread/interlaced between the three colors, but here it's concentrated in the central color of the shard (e.g., Exalted in White), with just a little support from the allied colors. That means Exalted decks are always going to be Wx. Their flavor might vary a little depending on whether it leans into Blue splashing Green or vice versa, but basically it's a White deck. 2. The same can be said for the other themes of the set. As always, there was a WU Skies deck, but since there are twice as many fliers in White as there are in Blue, it's almost required that this deck be White. 3. The multicolor section is turning out to be considerably less interesting than I thought it would be. As with Invasion, most of the support is for allied colors. I guess this isn't surprising since this set is about shards, but what is surprising is how many more cards there are for allied *pairs* than there are for the shards themselves. It shows that the wisdom of veteran players seems to be right on here: you generally want to be in a two-color deck, splashing the third color rather than going all in on it. 4. There are *tons* of cycles in this set. Normally, I'm okay with breaking cycles up, but when it's a multicolor set, doing so risks imbalance among the colors. I've included quite a few of these cycles, but it just makes the set feel even more like a callback to Invasion. 5. There seems to be way too many multicolor cards given the amount of manafixing. Multicolor cards are almost as numerous as monocolor cards, vastly outstripping the number of lands and manarocks available. Yet again, it's clear that two-color decks splashing a third color are going to be strong here, because you just can't get enough fixing to really support more than that--assuming other drafters are prioritizing the fixing as highly as they should. I am including two copies of all the panoramas and obelisks, so hopefully things are a little looser in this version of Alara. In the end, I'm not sure what Alara brings to the table that other sets haven't done before or done better. Balance between all the colors is better in Ravnica, where "two colors splashing a third" is a thing, but you can do that for *any* color pair, not just allies. Khans of Tarkir seems to have taken inspiration from Alara, flipping the focus from shards to wedges, and doing a much better job at it. It had a similar "two colors supported by a third" structure to the wedges, but the manafixing was better, the themes were more interlocked, and the whole set seems to be more flexible. Khans of Tarkir can probably be viewed as Alara done right. In actual implementation, the closest comparable set seems to be Invasion, which also emphasized allied color pairs, had poor manafixing, and seemed to prioritize a lot of cycles. The manafixing here is certainly better than Invasion's, and the themes within each color do seem a bit cleaner. But I'm not expecting this to feel leaps and bounds better. Instead of there being basically one deck (Grixis Control), Alara seems to have a few, but none of them feel fully supported or all that interesting.