Turbo Draft Guide (Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths)
Welcome! Omniscience Draft returns to MTG Arena in a new form this weekend; it looks like they’re making some attempt at making the format a bit more balanced and less variance-based, while introducing some extra layers of complexity and skill. Spells cost 5 less rather than being free this time and you don’t get a free 5 mana each turn to pump into abilities. That might not sound that significant but don’t be fooled – this format is actually leagues apart from Omniscience Draft; it’s an entirely new and crazy thing we haven’t seen before.
For the first time in a long time, I actually feel excited to dive into one of these weird mana-cheating draft modes, and I’m hoping you will after you have a read too! Games are really fast, which is definitely upside.
Check out the mana base section to gain a massive advantage over the competition: constructing land bases is completely different here from regular Draft or any other format!
- Duration: June 26 2021 at 8:00 AM – June 29 at 8:00 AM
- Format: Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Turbo Draft
- Entry Fee: 750 Gems or 5000 Gold
- Ends After: 7 wins or 3 losses (whichever comes first)
- Match Structure: Single matches (BO1)
|0||50 Gems||1 Pack |
20% chance of bonus pack
|1||100 Gems||1 Pack |
22% chance of bonus pack
|2||200 Gems||1 Pack |
24% chance of bonus pack
|3||300 Gems||1 Pack |
26 chance of bonus pack
|4||450 Gems||1 Pack |
30% chance of bonus pack
|5||650 Gems||1 Pack |
35% chance of bonus pack
|6||850 Gems||1 Pack |
40% chance of bonus pack
|7||950 Gems||2 Packs|
What is Turbo Draft?
In Turbo Draft, draft with bots and keep the cards you draft, but with a twist: Your spells all cost 5 less! Unlike Omniscience Draft, you start with seven cards in hand.
For this event, each player starts the game with this emblem:
The standard rules apply for the drafting process, where you get to choose one card at a time from rotating packs, and build a 40-card deck with the chosen cards.
I still recommend you read the mana bases section thoroughly!
- The format is completely different from Omniscience Draft.
- Most cards in your hand will have their colourless mana cost removed completely. This does work with Mutate and with X spells – so a card like Cavern Whisperer, which would ordinarily cost 4B now costs B, whether you cast or mutate it.
- Activated abilities cost the same amount of mana, so Almighty Brushwagg is sadly unplayable.
- The default is 13 lands, or 15 if you don’t have much mana fixing and/or have a lot of expensive/double colour cards. Remove one land for each Crystal or Farfinder you play.
- The default is two colours. Don’t play three unless you have a lot of Crystals or other fixing; playing one is fine if you’re seeing enough cards, but shouldn’t be at all necessary.
- I expect the format to be quite attritiony, since your cards will be trading with each other a lot, so having cards in hand and playing for value is really important. This is why you want to play as few lands a you can while having good mana, so you’re drawing as much action as possible.
- You don’t want to mulligan very much.
- Single-colour cost cards are the key – that means cards that cost 5B rather than 4BB or 4BG. You want most of your deck to be these.
- Double-colour cost and multicolour cards are the same as 7 drops, since they both cost 2 mana to play on turn 2. You don’t want too many, and only if they’re good.
- The sweet spot for your picks is the 5-6 mana range, rather than as expensive as you can get.
- You need to play more cards than in Draft, since you’ll want about 28 playables, but not that many more – it’s still fine to speculate on things, you just can’t afford to do so quite as much. Many of your remaining 17 picks will be devoted to cards like Crystals which replace lands.
- Crystals are busted, and every deck will want loads of them. You can replace lands directly with them, but they do a lot more than that…
- The gainlands are terrible, only play them if you’re desperate for fixing. Even Triomes aren’t that great, but they’re probably worth begrudgingly playing if you don’t have a lot of Crystals.
- The bots will probably undervalue Crystals, so you can try to wheel them from the first few picks in your packs. Just keep in mind that they are powerful enough to be easy first picks so don’t get too greedy!
- Card draw is still great, but not as important as in Omniscience Draft. Boon of the Wish-Giver is a bomb.
- Cards like Sleeper Dart are very good, since they cost 0 mana and replace themselves. They do make your mulligans a bit harder, but it’s well worth it.
- Ultimatums and other cards that are really hard to cast are mostly unplayable.
- Memory Leak is great, since it’s just Thoughtseize and you can do things like take their Crystals and mana screw them.
- Most 1 and 2 drops just put you a card down. Consider carefully how well they line up into a format full of big creatures.
- Conditional counterspells like Convolute are nuts here – they just counter anything for one mana.
With all that in mind, your priorities when picking cards should be night and day compared to an ordinary draft. You can find my Ikoria Tier List here, but obviously it’s not intended for this format, so you should mostly use it just to tiebreak picks after you’ve adjusted for all the stuff I’ve already mentioned.
Lands and Mana Bases
Games in this format will often come down to which player has the more Crystals.
If that sounds like an insane thing to say, then read on!
The amount of mana you have this format doesn’t matter nearly as much as what kinds of mana you have.
While you will want to have lands in your deck to meet the coloured requirements for casting your spells, the number varies greatly based on how hard those spells are to cast and how expensive they are. Most spells will only cost 1-2 mana, so you don’t need as many lands as an ordinary Draft deck – around 13 should be enough, unless you have a lot of 6 or 7 drops, don’t have mana fixers like crystals, or have very stringent colour requirements, in which case you’re looking at more like 15-16. Every deck wants to have some of the busted fixers (Crystals and Farfinder), and the default number of lands is more like 15 without them – I’ll explain that later.
You still want a good number of lands, because multiple spelling is one of the easiest ways to get a colossal advantage early on, but you still don’t want to draw more than say 3 a game, and your deck should be able to function on 2. The more important consideration is whether you have enough mana to cast your spells, and unless you have a bunch of Crystals or ways to mana fix, you want to be quite strictly 2-colour, even 1-colour if you can make it work. However, every deck should have lots of Crystals, since they’re busted, as I’ll explain soon.
You want to play as few lands as you can. Games will be quite attritiony and many will come down to whichever player floods out the most. Mana rocks that tap for more than one colour not only replace lands, but are much better and should be high picks – you can play any number per turn, they’re free and better fixing so you can play more colours, and they can even replace two lands if they tap for all your colours. As a result, you want to play two colours at most and prioritise cards which only have one coloured mana symbol, unless you have good fixing.
If you have a lot of colourless cards or cards with only one coloured mana symbol that cost 5 or less, you can go even lower than 12. Ikoria isn’t a format with a whole lot of good artifacts, so I expect 12 to be right more often than not, but it’s also fine to play 10-11 if you have almost all single colour cards. You shouldn’t play too many colours, unless you have the fixing – more colours will force you to play more lands unless you have Crystals for fixing.
Why are Crystals so broken?
Mox Ruby, one of the most powerful and expensive cards in all of Magic, is much worse than a Crystal in five or six different ways this format!
Crystals are an unbelievable way to break the symmetry, costing 0 mana, fixing multiple colours, and replacing at least one land in your deck, sometimes even two. They’re like moxen that tap for multiple colours, and since you don’t need a whole lot of mana in this format, you can often cut multiple lands instead of just one by incorporating them. They’ll always be better than lands as long as they’re in at least one of your colours, since you can play them alongside lands in a single turn and they lead to some ridiculously explosive starts as a result. They allow you to incorporate more colours into your deck without playing more lands, which has the potential to increase your deck quality dramatically. You can even cycle them when you don’t need them, although activated abilities aren’t reduced, so this will cost you the full 2 mana.
While Crystals are first-pick quality, I’m not sure what the bots will do. In regular Ikoria draft, Crystals tended to wheel all the time and I suspect they will here too, so in the first few picks you can try to wheel a Crystal, but I wouldn’t be too gung ho about it – they’re so good that you really can’t afford not to wheel them.
You want as many Crystals as you can get, as long as you also have enough playables – the average deck will want about 28 playables, but you actually want more like 29-30 with Crystals, so that’s 15-16 picks in which you can pick Crystals, Farfinders, other stuff that doesn’t win you the game but sets you up for that. It might be a difficult balance to strike in some drafts, but it will work more often than not. I wasn’t joking when I said that I think many games in the format will come down to who draws more Crystals. You also want to have lands to replace, but even if you don’t and you end up having to play more lands, it’s fine because Crystals have cycling – start off by replacing one land per Crystal, but don’t be afraid to play a land or two more if you really have a lot of Crystals, since you’ll have enough mana to cycle them anyway. Farfinder is good, but not nearly as good as Crystals – he fixes you, replaces a land, gives you a creature to Mutate onto, and there’s a Vigilance matters theme in Ikoria which he’ll buff for free.
Let’s compare to taplands; they’re absolutely terrible this format and I think more like a desperate inclusion if your deck needs fixing that badly.
I suspect a lot of the best turn 1s will go something like Crystal Crystal Crystal 4 drop 6 drop, and it doesn’t really matter what those are because your opponent will need a bunch of Crystals themselves to have a hope of beating that!
Ultimatums and other cards that are incredibly hard to cast are mostly unplayable
Each Ultimatum require you to have the full 7 mana to cast them, you get no benefit from the emblem, and even worse you’ll have to play a ton of lands to accommodate that extreme mana cost – remember that your opponents will be dropping their hand turns 1 and 2, most games are not even going to reach 7 mana and you’re at a significant disadvantage if you draw that many lands. The only decks I can see being capable of playing them have to be mostly Crystals rather than lands, and I suspect at that point it’ll be hard to have enough playables, but the Crystals are so busted that it might just work.
As many of your deck’s payoffs should only cost one coloured mana symbol as possible
As I said before, Ikoria doesn’t have many artifact payoffs – Crystals are great, but they enable you to win the game rather than doing so themselves. Cards like the ones above, with only one coloured mana symbol, are the sort you want most of your deck to be comprised of. Meanwhile multicolour cards like Trumpeting Gnarr and double-costed cards like Honey Mammoth (which costs 4GG) are worse this format, and you want to have them more sparingly – they cost 2 mana rather than 1, so you won’t be able to double spell with them on turn 2, and it’s harder to reach double colour costs when you’re only playing 112-13 mana sources. You absolutely need to play more if you have lots of double-colour cards, but again Crystals fix a lot of this.
These are the cards you’re looking for:
The sweet spots are at 5 and 6 mana this format, so a card like Blitz Leech is also really good. Basically, in the draft process, just look for anything that costs 5 or 6 and only has one coloured mana symbol, and get as many as you can. When that isn’t an option, start looking at the double colour cards. If there are actual double-colour bombs like Boon of the Wish-Giver, you can take those over single colour cards, but they need to be that good – a card like Honey Mammoth you should only be picking late, unless you have a lot of green Crystals.
Adaptive Shimmerer is decent in this format, unlike in Ikoria Draft, because it costs 0 so you can drop it alongside your turn 1 play, and mutating onto it is still great. The Flash will come in handy too – if your opponent has sorcery speed removal, it won’t be able to hit the Shimmerer some of the time. It’s not actually busted because Blitz Leech will be a defining card this format, and it straight up destroys the Shimmerer, and the busted Crystal decks are dropping their hand on turn 1 anyway so they don’t need 0-cost cards as much.
Why 13 lands/crystals?
Well, check out some of my maths:
If you’d like to learn how to use a hypergeometric calculator, check out my handy article.
It explains their use in a clear and easy to understand manner; they are a fantastic tool in any experienced Magic player’s kit, and will greatly improve your deckbuilding and mulligan decisions for next to no work. The last line of the calculation I present above is the chance to draw 3 lands by turn 3 on the draw in a Draft deck with 13 lands – 71.4. That’s low for a normal draft deck, but actually too high in a format where your deck should be able to function off 2 a lot of the time. The chance on the play is 62.4% (just reduce the sample size by 1, since you’re drawing one less card – I explain all this in the article) so overall, you’re around 67% to draw three lands by turn three. I think that’s quite reasonable, since you need two lands for double-colour or multicolour cards, but decks that have a lot of cards with single colour costs can afford to play even fewer lands – it isn’t that important to have three lands on turn 3 if all your spells cost 1 and you’ve dropped most of your hand by then anyway.
I don’t expect games of this format to last very long – turns 5 or 6 will be late game because whoever has gotten an early advantage will either snowball that into a victory or flood out and die. Removal will slow the game down, but the cards you play should all be pretty good at killing/snowballing out of control quickly. Cards that draw multiple cards are incredibly important this format, because it will allow you to catch up if you start to fall behind or draw too many lands, and it will push your early advantage – Boon of the Wish-Giver may be double colour, but the card is absolutely nuts and one of the best things to stretch your mana base a bit for.
However, we haven’t yet talked about the more important part – is 12 lands enough to fix your mana well? Will you have enough sources to draw them consistently?
Let’s assume you play a 2-colour deck with around the same number of cards in each – that means you should play 7 of one type and 6 of the other. Let’s do the calculation for 6, since I expect some people to splash (which is a terrible idea without good fixing, much worse than in regular draft). This gives us 76.4% to have a source of either colour by turn 1 of the draft on the draw and 71.1% on the play, so around 74% overall. It is imperative to have your sources on turn 1 – you will often just lose games where you don’t, because your opponents will usually be dropping multiple creatures turn 1. Mana efficiency is king here.
If you don’t have a few Crystals or other mana fixers, 15 lands is the default rather than 13
This is why I said Crystals can replace as many as two lands – they provide so many sources that the 13 land maxim has to incorporate them for you to have enough. As you can see, the chance to draw a land in the opener above is far too low with 6 sources – 74% means you’re going to lose 26% of your games to mana screw! Even if we up that to 7, it’s only 80% and at 8, it’s around 84, all of this averaged over play/draw. I think that having too many lands is going to lose you a lot of games anyway, so I’m willing to take the sacrifice on my mana base in only having 15, but really just draft the good fixers highly!
I’m assuming only the really interested will have made it this far, so if you’d like to learn more about mana base construction in Limited then check out one of my earliest articles for this site, which thoroughly covered the topic!
Flood and Screw
Omniscience Draft removed lands completely, so there was no flood and screw. Well I’m sorry to say, they’re back, and I think they’ll be the primary decider of games in this format. You’re required to play a low land count to avoid flood, but it’s incredibly important to have enough to cast your spells and prevent your opponents from gaining an early advantage. Read the mana base section for more info, but don’t skimp on lands too much!
Having the good fixers, which I’ve already mentioned myriad times, is the key to avoiding these losses.
Thanks for reading!