Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.



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Equipment Makes a Comeback
Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn Draft Strategies

by Jeff Zandi

Equipment cards lost some popularity in the Mirrodin/Mirrodin/Darksteel
draft format, but I believe that equipment makes a big comeback in
Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn draft. The value of equipment was seen very
rapidly when Mirrodin premiered last year. Probably too much so. As the
format matured, even before Darksteel was released, equipment lost some of
its luster. As Darksteel became a part of the Mirrodin draft format, the
idea of playing a deck with four or five equipment cards in it was generally
laughable. Today, in Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn, I believe equipment is
making a big comeback.

When equipment was first introduced, it was generally over-drafted. Players
drafted equipment, overall, too quickly. Once this early trend developed,
you had to either join in and over-value equipment, or else go without it.

In the early days of Mirrodin limited, when players were TOO EXCITED about
equipment, it was for good reason. Wizards had, for almost the first time,
created a reusable way to enhance any creature on your board. Soon, however,
players learned that it was possible to have too much of a good thing. Early
Mirrodin draft decks could easily have as few as ten or eleven creatures in
them. Having ten or eleven creatures in the same deck with four or five
pieces of equipment often resulted in having equipment cards in play with no
creatures to put them on.

Lately, both at the end of the MMD draft format, as well as at the beginning
of the MDF draft format, the common wisdom has been to get away from
equipment in general. While the best equipment was still considered too good
not to play, lesser equipment was no longer valued during the draft. Because
of this current trend, decent equipment is now available later in each pack
of MDF drafts. The biggest difference I have seen is in the Mirrodin pack,
where Leonin Scimitars, Vulshok Battlegear, Fireshrieker, Lightning Greaves
and even Bonesplitter can now be found much later in the pack.

Make no mistake, the basic wisdom that has been developed over the past year
regarding equipment is still correct. Good equipment is ALWAYS worth
drafting, and drafting high. (Skullclamp, Cranial Plating, Loxodon
Warhammer, Mask of Memory, etc.) Equipment should not be so over-valued,
meaning you don't draft every piece that you see and you don't draft
moderate to good equipment (Lightning Greaves, Banshee's Blade,
Fireshrieker) over better cards for your deck, things like really good
creatures or the things that make really good creatures possible (like Myr
and Talisman cards) or the things that make really good creatures go away.
(like Terror, Grab the Reins, Arrest, etc.) Finally, it is still true that
you don't want a board full of equipment without creatures attached to them.

The best way to make use of the undervalued midlevel equipment in the
Mirrodin pack is to pursue the white equipment deck strategy. When Mirrodin
was first drafted, the white equipment deck was one of the hottest decks.
Putting together a couple of Leonin Den-Guard and a couple of Skyhunter Cubs
with four or five pieces of equipment was a great way to dominate. When MMD
caused drafters to lose a pack containing Den-Guards and Cubs and gaining
only Auriok Glaivemaster and Shikari (a rare). Since the third pack of MMD
drafts was so much worse for white equipment drafters, it became less
possible for two different drafters to create good white equipment decks at
the same draft table.

In Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn, the white equipment deck returns to its
place of prominence. In the first pack, you still draft the BEST equipment
very highly, but you draft Leonin Den-Guard and Skyhunter Cub EVEN MORE
highly. This is because you only have one Mirrodin pack in which to find
them. The nice thing is that you will have the opportunity to draft Leonin
Scimitar or Vulshok Battlegear late, helping to round out the equipment for
your deck. In the Darksteel pack, you can now draft Auriok Glaivemaster a
little bit higher than you would normally. You don't have to waste first,
second or third picks on Glaivemaster and still end up with two of them (the
number you are likely to want to play) without much difficulty. Now the best
part, the Fifth Dawn pack is almost as good for your white equipment deck as
Mirrodin. In fact, Fifth Dawn completes the white equipment deck as well or
better than it does any other MDF draft archetype.

In the Fifth Dawn pack, you go after white commons like Loxodon Anchorite,
Skyhunter Prowler (really good with equipment) and Leonin Squire. In your
deck, Leonin Squire could retrieve Conjurer's Bauble, Wayfarer's Bauble,
Chromatic Sphere, Bonesplitter, Leonin Scimitar, Viridian Longbow, Arcbound
Worker or even Leonin Bola. These commons don't have to be high picks,
leaving you able to draft rares and uncommons with your first picks in the
Fifth Dawn pack.

So far, I've found that MDF drafts favor decks with MORE creatures than most
draft decks had in them in recent months. In MDF drafts, I want very badly
to have fourteen or fifteen creatures, significantly more than I would have
settled for at Pro Tour Amsterdam.

What is the best other colors for today's white equipment deck? Your deck
has a lot of white creatures and a lot of equipment, so the thing your deck
needs most is probably removal. Red or black would be decent companion
colors for the white equipment deck. However, because red and black cards
are so popular in MDF drafts, green emerges as a very easy color to draft
with the white equipment deck. If you are open to this strategy, you will be
able to grab Deconstruct early in the Mirrodin pack. Green remains the least
popular color for drafts, so you can easily get a lot of good picks for a
green/white equipment deck. Removal will not be a big part of your deck, but
you can get an ample number of artifact removal cards if you work at it.
Green gets dismissed by many players, but in an artifact block, it's hard to
ignore the fact that green has artifact destruction cards in all three packs
of the draft. In Mirrodin, its Deconstruct, Creeping Mold and Viridian
Shaman not to mention Glissa Sunseeker and Mulder Slug. In Darksteel you
have Oxidize and Viridian Zealot. In Fifth Dawn, you have Ouphe Vandals,
Tel-Jilad Justice (which is AWESOME by the way). Fifth Dawn also favors the
green player with two amazing rares that are reasonably easy to play in
Beacon of Creation and Rude Awakening.

What's wrong with a decklist like this one?

Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn booster draft
Skyhunter Patrol
Leonin Den-Guard
Fangren Hunter x2
Skyhunter Cub
Auriok Glaivemaster x2
Predator's Strike
Taj-Nar Swordsmith
Blinding Beam
Banshee's Blade
Gold Myr
Leonin Scimitar
Vulshok Battlegear
Arcbound Stinger
Razor Golem
Vulshok Morningstar
Sylvok Explorer
Tel-Jilad Justice
Skyhunter Prowler x2
Healer's Headress
Plains x8
Forest x8

Simple to draft, easy to build. Predictable and consistent. Give it a try.
This example is a conservative estimate of the kind of green/white equipment
deck you can expect to be able to draft at an average MDF draft table.

As usual, I'd like to know what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online


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