There’s something we need to talk about.

(Oh come on, tell me that doesn’t look like Glissa blowing up that construct with a fart!)

Recently, I posted this as a First Pick question from an Arena draft.

(I took the Chillbringer)

Among the responses I got was this “the main problem of this pack, is that if it was in real life the man after you would go azorius too…”

This raises an interesting point that I’d like to address. How important is it to consider what you’re passing to the left when making a First Pick choice?

Not very, honestly. Allow me to explain.

The person to your left is only passing to you one of three packs, so the impact on what you get in that direction is minimal compared to how you’re impacting what they’re getting passed. It’s also not guaranteed that they’re going to go into whatever color(s) you’re assuming they will. In this example, they could have opened a Red or Black bomb – like Rakdos, the Showstopper – as their pick one and not even be looking at Azorius in their subsequent packs.

Furthermore, different people value cards differently. In my example above, the following cards were put forth as first picks – Chillbringer, Archway Angel, Swirling Torrent, Senate Guildmage, and Thought Collapse. Also, people have individual preferences, especially in sets like Ravnica, where people identify personally with different Guilds. You might be passing to someone who just never plays Azorius, even if it’s open. So making assumptions about what the player to your left is going to do is almost pure chance and unfounded speculation.

If you’re a newer player, or new to Drafting, I think there are three major points that take precedence, way before guessing what colors you might be putting the player to your left into.

  1. Understand the format. This includes things like – Knowing which color pairings are supported, knowing which archetypes are considered stronger or weaker, being aware of the “speed” of the format.
  1. Proper card evaluation. Understand the basics of evaluating cards for limited play. I, again, would refer you to the Limited Resources podcast for this. They’ve done an excellent job of codifying such concepts as the Vanilla Test, CABS Theory, and Quadrant Theory.
  1. What cards are you getting passed? What is open to your right? This is going to inform your picks. Learning how to find the “open lane” will get you a major advantage when making card selections. I’d like to stress there that you will NOT know this in the first two or three picks.

The comment that spurred this blog post was referring to IRL drafting, and I think it’s of minimal concern there. In Arena, this becomes even less of a concern, because you’re dealing with ‘bots that have fixed processes for making card selection, and may have pre-programmed “preferences”. Even when we get to the point where we’re drafting against other human players on Arena, it should not be a priority. Additionally, I’m sure PvP drafting will be a “League” style of environment, where you’re highly unlikely to actually play against anyone with whom you drafted.

Let me be clear here, I’m not saying that you should never consider how what you’re passing will affect the decision making of the player to your left. But if you never take that into account when you’re making your first couple of picks, that will be the correct decision way more often than it will be incorrect.

I’m Tweeting @23rdPlayable. I’m also occasionally streaming on Twitch as 23rdPlayable. And, as always, you can find me on Facebook in the MTG Arena Players group, where I’m a mod.

Have fun, play on, and be kind to one another.