With the pre release and the release behind me, I have done one sealed and one normal draft for the set. I took first place in the draft (out of 12 people) and second place at the sealed event (out of 13 people). I figured I would write down a few things I noticed from the set and a recap of how I draft this set compared to others.
Two things I want to mention first: I am a new player, I started with Alara Reborn last year; and I play in a small Magic Community (in North Dakota) where there are a few good players and a pool of mediocre players. That being said, it is a lot easier to draft here than online or at bigger events with more qualified players.
M11 was the first set that I felt comfortable drafting right away, due to drafting M10 about a million times on-line; while I was trying to learn how the game works. I am going to focus my review on my booster draft, and only refer to the sealed draft. Twelve players showed up to our draft, which is a good number for our store. We split into two draft pods and played 4 rounds against our own pod. We rare pool draft, meaning we play $10 for our packs and then pool all rares from all packs and 1st places picks the first rare etc etc until all the cards are taken. Each player gets 3 rares at the end of the night and keeps all their commons and uncommons. I love rare pool drafts because its inexpensive and rewards good draft players, plus if you lose all your games you still get 3 rares out of the deal and only spent 10 bucks. Also, in a rare pool draft you do not feel like you need to take money rares, you can pass them knowing they wont help your deck.
Even before I picked up my pack I was trying to remember all the good common LSV recommended to pick in his set reviews. His reviews are essential reading for me prior to a draft. However, only blue, black and green were reviewed prior to the draft so I only had inside information on those colors.
First pack I opened contained a Fauna Shaman, which I wanted in my collection. However, in my meta game every loves green! When I drafted sealed with a majority of the same players, green was played in 90% of the decks. I knew I wanted to play blue if possible, but the best card in the pack was Grave Digger. I am very familiar with Grave Digger from M10 and he is always a valuable card. The player next to me pulled a foil Day of Judgment, and in a rare pool draft foil rares can be drafted and kept. He made his money from the draft, even though I think he ended up at the bottom of the rank for the draft.
Pick two, I took a lightning bolt. Pick three, a doom blade. I was pretty happy with the first three picks. I did see some good white (pacifism and excommunicate) and a few blue flyers I wanted to see again. For the record I almost always draft blue, which is under drafted at our tables although, i learned later, the guy to my right was taking blue. Luckily for me he was taking all the blue cards I did not want and I had free reign over the LSV recommended Cloud Elementals. I ended up with three. Although, only took one in pack one and was not sure if I would play blue.
The rest of pack one I took some black and blue flyers. Red was dry as a draft can be with 6 players. I never took another red card other than my pick two lightning bolt, even though I was ready the entire time to splash red. I incorrectly pegged the player to the left, who revealed the foil day of judgment, to be playing white and using his Day; instead he opted to draft green blue. I'm not sure why he did this, since there were ample white cards coming around. At the end of pack 1 I snagged two Liliana's Specters and was surely playing black. I did also draft a late Blinding Mage and considered playing white.
I took a first pick Mind Control which I will never regret. It forced me into blue, which was fine as I wanted to play blue anyways. My misread on my player to the left with the Day of Judgment was obvious as good white cards came my way; this included the passing of limited bomb Vengeful Archon. I also passed on it for another Grave Digger pick two and became more sure of black/blue with a possible red splash. Two whispersilk cloaks went around in this pack, as did a War Priest of Thune. I took a pick 4 augury owl, who was great for me. I also got more Liliana's Specters. I ended with 4, but only played three in my deck. I picked up more card draw, and saw that I had a very aggressive curve with almost all flying creatures. I needed removal, and I was set.
I debated in pack three on what to take, and ended with a Corrupt which saved my butt many times. I forget what I was debating about, but the corrupt was essential in my deck as I did not see any more removal. I had another gravedigger pick 5 and felt my deck was pretty solid at this point. A ton of three drop flyers, card draw, and a few spots of removal. Card draw acts like removal, since it gets removal. I love scry by the way, its my first time using the mechanic. And the one forsee I had in my deck was brilliant. Drawing two cards and planning out your next two cards is so sweet; especially since I only had 1 doom blade, mind control, 1 quag sickness and 1 corrupt.
In the end 4 out of 6 players played red, which is why red was so dry. 3 of them as their main color. Three players also played green and I was happy to steer clear of those colors. Black was myself and one other. Only me and my two neighbors played blue, and only one player was playing white. He took FOUR pacifisms (FOUR!) and second overall in the 12 person draft. The white/red was the only threat of beating me in my 4 matches (more on that battle below...).
1 doom blade
1 sign in blood
1 black night
1 reassembling skeleton
1 augury owl
2 liliana's specter
3 cloud elementals
1 quag sickness
1 barony vampire
1 howling banshee
2 azure drake
1 air servant
1 nightwing servant
1 mind control
Notice my zero rares. There are very few rares worth playing in M11 in my opinion. Rise of Eldrazi is different. Planeswalkers and Titans are playable in M11. I think the format will prove to be way too fast for most bombs in the set to be realistically playable. I'll be happy to pass the rares and play the aggro cards all day long. I only drafted two rares, I drafted the white Serra Ascendant, and Overwhelming Stampede. I hate drafted the stampede since it would wreck my removal light deck.
1 lilianna's specter
2 harbor serpent
My sideboard had a few discard spells which I didn't maindeck because I already had two specters knocking a card out of their hand and 3 gravediggers to repeat the process if I wanted them to discard. I still sided in mind rot and the third specter in a few games. Deathmark was in almost every game 2. The only reason I did not maindeck the harbor serpent is because my deck was agro flyers. I did not want to be holding serpent when I could be bashing with flyers. A few times I did have the mana to play the serpent, but usually the reason I had that much mana was that my opponent had removal for my early fliers. Without early fliers they hold removal for the serpent on turn 7 and I am probably dead by then. I did draft phantom beast, nether horror and two rotting legions but they seemed ground fodder when my plan was to attack in the air turn three and beyond.
I do admit that there is no way I should have been able to draft so many Cloud Elementals, Gravediggers and Azure Drakes. I never expect to draft this deck online or anything. Normally I would be playing a few of those cards and forced to main deck some of those ground beaters. However, I will take as many Azure Drake and Cloud Elemntals as possible in my drafts, only picking removal above them. It was hard to decipher how good Liliana's Specter was. I kept taking them really late (even second to last pick) since no one was strong black except me I was able to take prime blue cards and let heavy black cards fall in my lap. The double black cost for Specter did slow me down a few games, but overall the card advantage it gave me (especially paired with my draw effects from foresee, Augury owl, and Gravedigger) meant I was in good shape late in each game.
Game one I faced a green/blue deck. The guy who drafted to my left and first picked the foil day of judgment. My flyers dominated game 1. His green never presented a problem, I even double blocked two Yavimaya Worms in this match, (with my fliers) and had plenty of fliers to refill my side of the table before he could recover. I was slightly worried when he mana leaked ( i card i never saw) my gravedigger, but I signed in blood back into the driver seat. My opponent did misplay his Awakener Druids tokens by not realizing his 4/5 lands had haste. I sided in a deathmark for a nightwing shade, that shade underperformed in game 1. Game 2 was amusing as he equipped one (of three) of his Wall of Vines with Primal Cocoon , which was excellent tech against my fliers. The amusing part was when he let my fliers go over him until the 0/3 became a 3/6 and I had him down to 11 life. By this time, I stopped attacking until I drew removal and kept trading my fliers to hold of his ground game. Eventually, I drew my doom blade and killed his 5/8 wall and won in two turns. It was a big mistake not to stop my fliers with his 2/5 wall because it would have kept him at a higher life total, and forced me to keep tapping my fliers to do minimal damage while his big creatures would get through. I also saw him in a latter game let his wall get a 13/16 and then promptly lost that game too. The lesson here kids, +1/+1 is nice and all, but primal cocoon does nothing if the creature doesn't attack or block.
I win 2-0
This time I faced the other green/blue deck, who was drafting to my right. I saw during match one that he had a Stormtide Leviathan . I was not too worried about the Leviathan because I was aggro and planned to kill him long before it hit the battlefield. Even so, I planned to save my mind control for him just in case. Game 1 I had a good hand and played a turn 2 Augury Owl and turn 3 Liliana's Specter, he was so disappointed about discarding a card that I put another Specter in my deck for game two. I traded a my specter for a merfolk spy. Turn 4 I played a gravedigger to get back the specter but just like match one, it got mana leaked. It did not matter as I play flier after flier and won with 17 life.
Deathmark, Liliana's Specter in and the Nightshade and Black Night out.
Game two was fast. I had a bunch of fliers by turn four. He slammed a side-boarded Giant Spider. Turn five I contemplated what to do, and realized Mind Controlling the Giant Spider did not give him many outs. My fliers picked away at him as he filled his board with big creatures. He never had a chance and feigned an alpha strike (if he had two pump spells), but I blocked with his own Giant Spider and he didn't even have any pump spells anyways. Fliers win.
I win (2-0)
Match Record 2-0 (4-0)
Our pod was way faster than the other pod. We were consistently done faster then them, and had a chance to talk about our decks. I found out quickly that the other good deck was the white/red deck with 4 pacifisms and fliers. I was worried about this deck. This is the deck I had to face in match 3, he was 4-1 and I was 4-0. Game one was brutal as he turn 3 pacified cloud elemental, turn 4 lightning bolted cloud elemental, and turn 5 pacified cloud elemental. He told me afterward it was all top decks. Needless to say when armored ascension his the table I was dead. He also dropped Ancient Hellkite just for good measure.
I sided in Duress. Mind Rot. Liliana's Specter for my Barony Vampire, Black Night and Howling Banshee.
The next game started exactly the same. He pacified all my threats and this time even Combusted some of my fliers. He side-boarded two of them, and they were devastating. However, my removal was there this time and we came to a standstill. Him at 20, me at 10 life. He even mighty leap (lept) a guy into my flier to trade with my bigger flier. It seemed to be his game when he played Serra Angel, but I stole him on my next turn. Even when he pacified it, my card advantage kept me ahead the rest of the game.
Game three was looking grim again. His 2/1 Stormfront Pegasus and Goblin Piker were hitting me while my fliers were pacified. He played a turn five Armored Ascension on the Piker, making it a real threat. My next turn I mind controlled him and won the game with my fliers. Every game Mind Control hit, the tide turned in my favor... BIG TIME. I was losing each game until it hit the table. He was also playing the Sorcerer's Strongbox and drew three cards in games 2 and 3. But both times it was not enough to combat my gravedigger plus card draw.
I win 2-1
Match record 3-0 (6-1)
In match 4 I played a red/black deck that was doing decently. I caught this player cheating (drawing extra cards off the top of his deck) twice, and I can only assume this is how he won his previous games. I have not played this person often before, and I noticed huge card advantages in game 1 and began watching each draw step. I caught two ('mistakes') when he was drawing his card. I called him on it and he apologized for the 'mistake' and we kept playing. Moving on...
Game one we both mulliganed to six, this was my first bad draw of the tourney. I kept a hand with corrupt, mind control and only one island. I have no early drops and assumed I would draw some. I didn't and his turn 5 Chandra Nalaar and a Lava Axe destroyed my deck. I did recover and managed to kill Chandra and stabilize at 4 life. But when he summoned and attached a whispersilk cloak on some little guy I realized I was very dead. It was here I noticed he had 7 cards after I had duressed him and spectered him, and he had mulled to six with me. I was suspicious but conceded.
I brought in a mind rot hoping to force him to discard some of his burn. I took out a cloud elemental because the only block fliers was going to be a problem. Although I was concerned about his two Chandra Spitfire's.
Game two he had another fast start. I killed his spitfire with a quag sickness mid-game. He used rise from the grave to get it back, I then Corrupted it. I looked to be ahead, until I caught him drawing too many cards. He still had a ton of cards in hand somehow. He also struck with a lava axe again, putting me down to 4. I played foresee and hit a doom blade and a duress, i also buried unhelpful lands. I missed with my duress. I almost spent my doom blade hastely on my own turn with two mana open. I opted to save it, since I would kill him next turn if he did not kill me. He played a whispersilk cloak but upon attaching it to his 4 toughness guy, I doom bladed him and then won the game.
Game three was much easier. Turn one duress pulled out a Chandra's Outrage and also saw that he had no mountains in hand. I was able to Owl myself, and then Liliana Specter another instant from his hand. By this time he had a mountain and Chandra's Spitfire was on the board. I decided to Mind Control it on turn 5 and the rest was history. I did catch him again drawing extra cards during these last few turns. I was not happy, but he played it off as an accident, go figure.
Fliers win 2-1
Match record 4-0 (8-2)
Rare Pool Draft
The other pool produced a Primeval Titan. We had two Fauna Shaman's, Chandra, Lilianna, Day of Judgment, Frost Titan and a bunch of duel lands. I was announced the first place and I took the money rare, Primeval Titan, and I am listing it on ebay. This means I will be profiting from the event. I also selected a Liliana Vess and a Destructive Force third pick which I want to try in a G/R land kill deck. I did get to trade for a Fauna Shaman and two Mass Polymorph afterwards.
Overall, as usual, I think fliers (evasion) are hard to beat. It seems the best cards in M11 are the same as M10: lightning bolt, doom blade, pacifism, mind control. You need to be fast enough, or be able to hold off creatures until you drop a bomb. Mass fliers won 4 of the top 5 spots in our draft. I had the most fliers and I had the best record. All the fancy artifacts seemed semi useful, but just not as good as playing another 2/3 flier for three mana. Again, I do think my deck was better than it should be since the pod was 6 players, and 6 players who weren't taking the best cards. I could talk for hours about signals in draft, or understanding your meta-game in a small setting but its all information you can read on-line told by much better Magic players.
This Saturday I draft M11 again.