Drafters’ Corner: What differentiates a 7-x deck from the rest?

Hi everyone! For today’s article, I’m going to discuss on the various factors that help contribute to a 7-x deck and illustrate the importance of such factors with some examples of 7 win decks that I’ve built in the past. This article will also feature guest decklists from members of TDC (Team Draft Chaff), a small group of elite drafters that sit around and diss cards like Emerald Spear while preaching about the power of Winter’s Grasp and Grenadins.

Factor 1: Luck is essential

First and foremost, I want to address the elephant in the room. I have seen plenty of 7-win decks that have no right to get anything more than 3 wins, and I’ve also seen decks that look so solid crash and burn at 1-3. At the end of the day, getting lucky is an important part of going 7 wins. Crunching the numbers, an amazing deck probably has a 70% winrate (this is already a ridiculously high estimate in my opinion), and that only translates to a 46% chance of going 7 wins. Putting in more reasonable numbers, a 65% winrate only translates to a mere 33% chance of going 7 wins. As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good, but most importantly, its best to be both lucky and good.

Factor 2: Solid Card Quality

Another important hallmark of 7 win decks is the quality of the cards. Again, there is an obvious element of luck, but there is also a significant impact in being able to read what is open and move into the open faction accordingly. By doing so, you often end up with much better options in the later packs and hence, better card quality overall.

Reading signals and moving into the correct lane is something that I’ve talked about extensively here, so I won’t really repeat myself. However, I just want to stress that this is actually a huge contributory factor to helping you improve your draft results.

Featured Deck 1: Elysian (7-2)

7w2l_elysian_5_4.PNG

This is a recent draft of mine, and the draft actually started out looking to be Xenan/Praxis since I managed to pick up a Stonescar Sneak and an Extinguish early pack 1, while the dregs of pack 1 had 3 Unpredictable Outlaws and 1 Into The Furnace. However, early into pack 2, Primal seemed to be very open (with a 3rd pick Adaptive Predator), so I moved into it. I was rewarded with a p3p3 Crystalline Chalice, amongst other stellar Elysian cards.

This deck has extremely high card quality that carried it to 7 wins (ignoring the slightly sketchy Fishing Dinoch and Bellowing Thunderfoot off of 5 dinosaurs). The 3 nocturnal creepers were critical to preventing me from getting run over as well as smoothing out my early draws. Importantly, I think the early nightfall is great in this deck because of the quality of cards in this deck.  Thus, if both players get to play the game, I am more likely to come out ahead.

I feel that this deck could easily have ended up as a decent, but nowhere near as amazing, Xenan or Praxis deck. It was the important reading of open factions that allowed for picking up some amazing cards, and in turn construct this powerful deck.

Factor 3: Good Curve

I think another important aspect of a strong deck is the quality of the curve. Having enough early plays helps to ensure that you don’t get run over, while sufficient late game means that you won’t run out of gas too quickly. Of course, the nature of the curve would vary between decks depending on whether it is an aggro or control oriented deck. However, some core ideas remains the same; You generally want at least 5+ 2 drops to ensure you don’t get run over and you wouldn’t want to run too many high drops to prevent them from clogging up your hand.

Featured Deck 2: Skycrag (7-1)

skycrag_7_1.pngThis deck looks very solid, with a very nice aggressive curve to start with. 7 excellent 1/2 drops allows to deck to often hit the ground running and start pushing damage nice and early. 6 premium aggressive 3 drops helps to continue the aggression. The 4+ drops are much fewer, which is what you expect for an aggressive deck. Moreover,they play a much more utility role in this deck, such as removing blockers or having evasion/pseudo-evasion to help push the final points of damage.

The removal package is excellent as well, with Torch, Mortar and Gun Down being able to remove any tiresome blockers. Moreover, there is a nice synergy here with Iceberg Warchief which turns both Torch and Mortar into powerful burn spells, something players rarely expect in a limited format.

18 power might seem slightly high for aggro decks (I would generally play 17 with this curve), but I think 18 is fine here with 3 good power sinks (Pyroknight and 2 Stormcrashers) and extremely impactful 5 and 6 drops that I would want to play on curve.

All in all, it is not surprising at all that this deck went 7 wins. It has a very powerful curve and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the games were over by turn 4 or 5 with this deck. The topend is also great for pushing the last points of damage, since overwhelm on Towering Stranger prevents them from simply chump blocking your fatty and Skycrag Wyvarch does double duty as a threatening flier and/or a fast speed removal that goes through aegis.

Featured Deck 3: Xenan splash Justice (7-1)

7w1l_xenan_justice_24_3.PNGWhile it’s obvious to see how having a good curve is important for an aggro deck, some might argue that it is less so for a slower deck. However, I think it is just as important for a slower deck, because it is just as important to have some early plays so that you don’t get run over.

In the above deck, there are 2 huge game-winning bombs in the form of Slimespitter Slug and Malediction Reader, and hence, the important bit is about staying alive long enough to get there. Even with 4 2-drops, this deck felt a bit too light, and I would’ve ideally wanted to play a 5th 2 drop. Trail Maker is great for helping to ramp into the game winning bombs, as is running the 19th power and Amaran Archaeologist. Vara’s Choice and Praxis Displacer are also extremely powerful in this deck as it helps to disrupt your opponent’s tempo and sometimes, that extra turn that you buy is enough to help you turn the corner.

This deck definitely looks to be less powerful than the previous few examples, but I think it won a fair few games off of the consistency of it’s curve and the ability to stabilize on most boards and wait to draw into it’s late game bombs.

Factor 4: Consistent Game Plan

Another facet of a good deck is the consistency of its game plan and how each card in the deck supports the game plan. When you build a deck, you should have an idea of what you are trying to do with the deck, and how are you aiming to win. For example, the chalice deck above aims to stabilize and outvalue the opponent by drawing 2 cards a turn. It also has a secondary win condition of getting a giant flying dinosaurs using Skywalk Instructor.

It’s important to know how you want to win, and after that, adjust your card selection and final deck accordingly. For example, if you are playing a very aggressive Rakano list, you might not want to run a Spiritblade Stalker (even though it’s a very powerful card). This is because the Spiritblade Stalker fits much better in slower decks or with fliers where you aim to stall the ground and win through a giant lifesteal flier.

Featured Deck 4: Praxis Splash Primal (7-1)

7w2l_praxis_primal_14_2.PNGThis Praxis deck is an example of a deck with very clear win conditions. It has a huge amount of good units and cheap removal. However, most of the units are defensively slated, which makes it unprofitable to attack into a board stall. This is where the Primal splash comes in big. With Purify and 2 Curators, it is unlikely for the opponent to stick a flier. By giving one of the fat sentinels flying with either Cobalt Acolyte or Skywalk Instructor, they can easily take over the game. Besides relying on these 2 cards, the deck also has a few other ways to push damage. Praxis Displacer and Stonescar Sawed-Off can push for surprise lethal and Ornamental Daggers+Unpredictable Outlaw makes for a better Dustblind (for 1 less power as well!)

Despite having a wonky curve (lack of 2 drops), this is also a deck that I’m not surprised went 7 wins. With the powerful defensive 4-drops, I expect this deck to be able to stem most aggression that pushes through in the first few turns and stall out the board. It can then crack back with it’s powerful air force or by removing some key blockers with Gun Down, Stonescar Sawed-Off or Praxis Displacer.

Featured Deck 5: Combrei Splash Shadow (7-1)

combrei_7_2.png

This deck is another illustration of a deck with a clear and consistent gameplan. The strength of this deck lies in it’s powerful ground units that will often simply clog up the board. With 2 silence effects and a Humbug Swarm, this deck is also unlikely to get run over by flying units. After grinding that opponent’s aggression to a stop, this deck wins with a single unopposed flier or Lethrai Nightblade. The threat will more often than not be backed up by a Shielded Shortbarrel, making it extremely hard for the opponent to interact with it.

The only cards that are slightly out of place in this deck are the two 1-drops. However, Minotaur Oathkeeper is actually really good with this sort of strategy since you are often only attacking with a single unit and it speeds up your clock by a few turns. District Infantry doesn’t help lock up the ground, but getting a T1 District Infantry helps you apply a ton of pressure, and you can sometimes simply overrun opponents that stumble with your powerful ground units. Thus, while not contributing to the stalling gameplan, District Infantry supplements this deck’s alternate game plan of simply rolling over opponents. There aren’t many decks that can handle a T1 Distrcit Infantry, T2 stranger into T3 Auric Record Keeper.

In a sense, this deck can have two gameplans depending on the draws; it can try and roll over opponents aggressively with it’s ground units, or it can stall up the ground and win through a single evasive threat. It’s important to note that most of the cards in the deck supplement both plans well, which is a huge contributory factor to it’s 7 wins.

Factor 5: Making the Best out of Your Current Situation

Sometimes, the RNGesus simply doesn’t smile on us. Despite reading packs perfectly, you might just get some dud packs or have drafters pivot randomly into your factions and cut you off completely. As such, it is often important to be able to access your deck and make alterations as necessary. You will never be able to get the perfect deck, but sometimes, you might be able to give up some equity in one aspect to maximize your chances of winning by pushing your deck in another aspect.

Featured Deck 6: Fortunate Favors the Greedy (7-2)

7w2l_argenport_time_2_1.PNGThis was a deck that I drafted quite a while back. The deck started off as a typical Argenport draft, but it quickly dried out in pack 2. As such, I tried to pivot to Combrei, but I somehow ended up without enough good playables in any 2f+splash. To be fair, I might have missed some signals and maybe should have been some version of Stonescar or Xenan.

In any case, after ending up with a pile of cards in all 4 factions, there were 2 options, either try to play an honest game and run bottom of the barrel cards like Steadfast Deputy in my deck, or go for a greedy double splash. In fact, with 4 double on faction strangers, this splash is way less greedy than it first seems. Double splashing for Purify is pretty sketch, since I needed to get both Time and Fire to play it and both of those were my splashed faction. However, this was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I had 2 Praxis Strangers, making it such that I will often get both influence together.

For this deck, I basically made the tradeoff of consistency in power base for extremely powerful cards in the deck. As long as the power base did not give up, the deck can do some very busted things, with access to two of the best weapons in the format (Steelfang Chakram and Lethrai Falchion), premium removal (Purify, Desert Marshal and Deadly Confrontation) and very powerful units (Triggerman, Auric Record Keeper and Valkyrie Arcanist).

Indeed, this deck rolled over all 7 opponents with ease when it got to play the game, while the 2 losses were due to influence screw. This also ties back to my first point, where you often end up going 7 wins simply because you got lucky enough. However, it’s important to recognize HOW to put yourself into a situation where being lucky would win you the game, and this deck is a perfect illustration of that.

Featured Deck 7: 30 Power Shenanigans (7-0)

unknown

Some of you might have heard whispers of legendary 30-power drafts. Others might even have sworn to have encountered it in the dark alleys. And I’m here to tell you, it is actually a valid deck-building strategy.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, the idea behind running 30 power decks is to heavily abuse the mulligan rule. Since you will always mull into 2/3/4 power hands, running 30 power makes it much more likely for you to draw into your bombs. Now, if the power level of your 15 best cards is significantly better than the power level of your next 15 playables, 30 power is definitely a consideration. I would also like to stress that this is more of a desperation build, rather than something that you should default to.

The deck above is a perfect illustration. It has some of the most powerful cards in the format, and by playing 30 power, it makes it very likely to mull into a hand with multiple bombs. There is a fair bit of luck to go 7-0 with this deck, but as I’ve said before, it’s all about putting yourself into a position to win off of your luck.

Conclusion

Knowing what to look for in a draft deck can often help you make better picks. Often, when you are nearing the end of the drafting phase, you should reflect and think about what your deck needs. I hope that looking at these examples of 7-win decks would help you make better draft decks and hopefully go 7-wins as well. Do you have any interesting draft decks or thoughts to share? As usual, all comments and feedback are welcome on the reddit thread! Also, a huge shoutout to the mem(b)ers of TDC for letting me use their 7 win decklists!

May RNGesus bless your drafts,
Flash2351