Core Set drafting often has a tendency to signpost its themes using multicolour cards, and M21 is no different in that regard. Most of the cards are a strong pull into their combination, and give a good taste of what that archetype is trying to do, but are still decent by themselves – it’s important not to railroad yourself around synergising with them, but to have a powerful well-rounded deck that can exploit their synergies. One aspect I really like about M21 is that none of the themes seem too invasive – some are stronger than others, but the cards that revolve around them often fit in multiple decks and are merely better in one or the other.
At the start of the format and really just in general, I wouldn’t recommend paying much heed to which colour is the best, and certainly I wouldn’t force myself to be in any of them. This is for two reasons: a) I don’t think any of the colours are that far ahead of each other this set (that might change, but I think colours, packages, or archetypes have to be far above the rest for forcing to ever pay better dividends than the strategy I’m about to describe), and more importantly b) I’m a firm believer in staying open and drafting the best cards early on, paying attention to signals, and allowing those cards to shape the later stages of your Draft by evaluating how much you would give up by taking the stronger card, and what you’re willing to sacrifice. I find that this maximises the overall quality of the decks I draft; my success is not based as much on what the draft offers me as what I make of it. At the end of the day, you only end up playing around half the cards you pick, so there’s a lot of room for experimentation and speculation; if you’re going to end up cutting a card anyway, why would you pick it rather than give yourself more options? This method is called drafting the hard way, as coined by hall-of-famer Ben Stark, and I’ve had by far the most long-term success in Draft through learning, tweaking, and applying it over nearly ten years, but I think any drafter can stand to improve a lot by adopting it!
Overall, having drafted in the Early Access event today, I can say that the format feels a bit more aggressive than I gave it credit; many of my ratings were on the basis of it being a bit slower than it actually is, because the formats of late have had a couple of factors in common: they are slow and, for the most part, they are great; you may have your complaints about Constructed, but know that almost every draft format of 2019-20 has been a hit, and they’ve usually been on the slower side, so I suspected Wizards would not mess too much with that strategy here either. However, Red is certainly far more powerful than we’ve seen it in a long time, and has a good claim to being the best colour. That’s not to say the format is blisteringly fast, but I see it as about as fast as Ravnica Allegiance, which is a medium-speed midrangey format. I only did around four drafts so that’s just a first impression but, if that’s the case, I’ll be reducing some of the grades I gave expensive cards and shifting up 2-drops soon! There’s still tons of room for value; you just have to construct your curve with aggression in mind and be a little less greedy than you might be used to.
Our M21 Tier List will be out soon, and I plan to amend my grades regularly, both in the form of regular written updates and on the fly, just as I did for both Theros and Ikoria. I’m a firm believer that tier lists are only as good as they are updated, so I will be diligent; stay tuned! I also plan on providing a strategy and tips guide akin to my Throne of Eldraine one a few weeks into the format, having regular Draft articles, and offering my regular coaching service.
Thanks for reading, and may your cats, dogs, and pigs win you many games over the next few months, rather than merely chewing through your computer cables and knocking over your cards as they usually do! Special thanks to Raszero and JustLola, long-time friends and fellow content creators, for our draft chats, which helped form my grades and made this long and tough process a lot of fun; check out their stuff!