Pro Tour Testing Draft Notes

by Zen Takahashi on 14 March 2018, Wednesday

Draft  Limited  RIX 
Zen Takahashi


Pro Tour Testing Draft Notes

Hello everybody! 

With multiple premier Rivals of Ixalan limited events happening soon, I have decided to spend the next couple of weeks sharing my thoughts on the format. Today, I will be focusing on Rivals of Ixalan draft - and will be going over our team’s testing results and pick order list from the Pro Tour, and my strategies for the format.

Draft Testing Results:
The following were our team’s overall testing results from Competitive Single-Elimination drafts on Magic Online:


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Overall, the Bant Colors were the most successful in our testing, followed by Rakdos. This was the case for both as a main color, and as a support color. Amongst the team, almost everyone agreed that Green and White were the best colors, while Red was the worst, with Blue and Black in between that. This was mainly due to how deep Green and White both were – with White having close to zero unplayable cards, while Green has a high concentration of good commons.

On the other hand, Red only has Bombard as a good common, while its best uncommons, Forerunner of the Empire and Needletooth Raptor, are both archetype-centric. 


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We had three color pairs that had an above 70% win rate, which were Blue/Green, White/Green, and Black/Green, though the most latter had a fairly small sample size. Following that, White/Black and White/Red were also reasonably successful with an above 69% win rate. 

It is worth noting that Blue/Green had an absurdly high win rate at 77.36% - nearly 5% higher than White/Green, which was the second most successful color pair. White/Black was also the most played archetype, having been drafted 38 times between the team, and had a pretty good win rate of 69.41%. 


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Regarding the pace of the format, we found Midrange was where we wanted to be, as we had about a 70% win rate with Midrange decks, while we only won about 67% with Aggro decks and 63% with Control decks. We mostly found that many people seemed to like being aggressive in this format, at least early on, and the Midrange decks did a great job of capitalizing on that.

The Control decks underperformed, as they got run over by the Aggro decks, while the Midrange decks, especially Black/White, had excellent card advantage in the form of Legion Conquistador and Recover, which allowed it to out-grind even the Control decks. 

This also aligned with the color pairs that had been winning the most, as we had Blue/Green as our most successful color pair, but it was also the only aggressive archetype that was successful for us, while the next five most successful color pairs are all predominantly Midrange archetypes. 

Our most successful archetypes were Merfolk, Good Stuff, Dinosaurs, and Vampires. This largely aligned with the win rate of the color pairs as described earlier. We found that Blue/Green was almost always Merfolk, while White/Green was usually Dinosaurs and Black/White was usually Vampires, but both could also easily be a Good Stuff deck, where there was little or close to zero tribal synergies and was based mainly around having good creatures and unconditional removal spells.

It is worth noting that even though Merfolk is tribal based, it is less so than it was in triple Ixalan. You still mostly want to rely on the strength of the Merfolk synergies, but you can now get away with playing more generic creatures.

This is primarily due to your spells becoming much better, as you now have removal in the form of Waterknot and Hunt the Weak, while also having access to a great tempo spell in the form of Crashing Tide. With these spells, you do not have to rely solely on overpowering your opponent via board presence. 

Pick Order List

The following was our team’s consolidated draft pick order list from the limited meeting we had two days before the Pro Tour. Please note that this pick order list only applies to the first few picks of the first pack, as past that, you should be drafting based on your archetype and the signals of the draft. 


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This was our common and uncommon pick order list. 


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This was our rare pick order list, with the cards being categorized based on its equivalent common/uncommon counterpart regarding how high to pick it. 

My Strategies

As I have discussed in my prior articles, I choose to draft the "medium way." This is a technique that involves learning thoroughly two to three archetypes, and then drafting whichever one of them is the most open in your seat. These archetypes would be a combination of the best archetypes in the format and what you are most comfortable with.

While I still do follow this technique to some extent in Rivals of Ixalan, I found that all White and Green color pairs are playable, so I am happy to draft seven different color pairs. Instead of focusing on two or three different archetypes, I instead focus on forcing White and Green and then looking to pair it with whichever color is open. 

As a team, we found that you either want to start your draft with a bomb rare or a solid removal spell. Due to the presence of Evolving Wilds and Traveler’s Amulet, it is not challenging to splash a removal spell, and due to the presence of bomb rares in Rivals of Ixalan, it is essential to have as many removals spells as possible. A lot of the creatures are also relatively interchangeable, while removal is not, which further emphasizes the importance of removal in this format. 

The following are my thoughts on the seven archetypes that I want to draft:

Blue-Green Merfolk

Although Blue-Green Merfolk is the best archetype, it is also very linear and cannot support more than two drafters in a table. This means that if you want to be in this archetype, you have to send a reliable signal. Personally, if I open Hadana's Climb, I am 100% slamming it and just forcing Blue-Green Merfolk regardless of what happens. By opening the flip rare and taking it, you are sending a very strong signal to the whole table, and your neighbors will most likely not interfere with your colors.


Forerunner of the Heralds Merfolk Mistbinder

If I open a Forerunner of the Heralds or Merfolk Mistbinder, I will usually take it and try to force Merfolk from there. Once you have passed either of these, your boat to be in Merfolk has sailed, as whoever you pass it to will take it and just force Merfolk, and they will ultimately cut you in the second pack.

If you do end up taking one of these cards and force Merfolk, it is critical that you thoroughly cut every Merfolk-related card. You cannot let any of them pass, including bad cards like Jade Bearer, as you have to make it crystal clear to players as deep as three to your left that Merfolk is being cut and that they cannot move into it. 

Green-White / Red-Green Dinosaurs

Green-White Dinosaurs is my favorite archetype, as it is made up of the two best colors. The key to this archetype is to play defensively – you have a lot of removal and big win conditions, so it is unnecessary to get in for early chip damage. Instead, focus on blocking and making sure you do not get run over in the early game, as you want to try to maintain a healthy life total as the game transitions into the late game, where your high-quality spells take over. 


Traveler's Amulet Evolving Wilds Forerunner of the Empire

Due to the presence of Traveler's Amulet, Evolving Wilds and green mana fixing spells, it is effortless to splash in this deck.

Usually,Red is the color I like to splash as you get access to a combination of Forerunner of the Empire, Needletooth Raptor, Raging Regisaur, Bombard and Reckless Rage. Black is another color I am happy to splash, as Dinosaurs lacks card advantage, which makes Recover a perfect card for this archetype.

If White is being cut, you may choose to be Red-Green Dinosaurs instead. As discussed before, Red is relatively shallow, so being in Red-Green mostly involves either Green or Red being very open. Red has a lot of great uncommons for this archetype as listed just before, so if you are in an open seat and can get these uncommons, then you can have a very powerful deck. Similar to GW, it is just as easy to splash in GR, so you will usually splash White for Luminous Bonds or Black for Recover

Black-White Vampires / Red-White Midrange / White-Blue Fliers

The key to all three of these archetypes is that you want to be base White, and then move into a second color based on what is open. White has very good resources for playing a Midrange game plan, as it has good removal and creatures that are suitable for both offense and defence, such as Snubhorn Sentry, Legion Conquistador and Sun-Crested Pterodon.

Of the three color pairs, Black-White is the best, due to having access to more unconditional removal in the form of Impale, and Recover being one of the best card advantage spells in the format.

The deck also has a lot of Vampire synergies, which makes Legion Conquistador even better. Forerunner of the Legion is also amazing in this archetype.

As mentioned before, Black-White was our most drafted archetype, and it is largely because all the key cards are common, which makes it fairly easy to assemble the deck. We also like to start our drafts by highly picking removal, and both White and Black have an unconditional removal spell at common. 

Red does not provide too much in terms of creatures or card advantage, but it does have good removal spells in the form of Bombard and Reckless Rage. In Red-White Midrange, you are predominantly Mono White, but splashing for Red to have access to more removal spells.


Spire Winder Sun-Crested Pterodon

White-Blue is slightly different from the other two, as it is based more around flying creatures, and less around Legion Conquistador. Blue provides good fliers in the form of Kitesail Corsair and Spire Winder, which in combination with Exultant Skymarcher and Sun-Crested Pterodon, can resemble a serious amount of damage in the air. You also have Waterknot as another unconditional removal spell, and Sailor of Means does a great job of blocking on the ground while helping you ramp into your bigger flying creatures. The main issue with Blue though, is that like Red, it is fairly shallow.

I hope you enjoyed this article as I shared our team’s draft testing results and pick order list for Rivals of Ixalan draft, as well as my personal strategies for the format. Over the next few weeks, I plan to go over my draft log of all the decks I have drafted in this format, as well as a breakdown and walk through of a sealed pool just before the Sealed RPTQ!

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 

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