A working model to evaluate cards effectively in limited

Welcome to the first installment of Limited 201, a new draft and sealed strategy series by Pro Tour competitor Austin Bach! Today he covers how we should update our modern-day thinking of card evaluation and why B.R.E.A.D. is no longer a useful strategy!

Before you even sit down at the table to draft, you should be thinking about what role each card plays in the format. Aside from how inherently powerful a card is, you should be considering exactly what role you want a card to fill in your deck. Do I want this as an early blocker? Do I want this to transition smoothly into the late game? Do I need this to push through extra damage?

This is a crucial element of both drafting and deck building, and so much of it depends on what you already have in your pool and what you think your deck needs. It’s an important skill to be able to remember what weaknesses you’re trying to shore up and/or what strengths your deck has and wants more access to. To do this, you need to be able to sort cards into different categories and know which subsections you need to dip into to make your deck better. Pick order lists only get you so far…you need to know not just which card is the best in the pack, but which is the best for your deck.

The other important thing to note is that most cards fall under multiple categories at once. These are the cards you should keep your eye on…if a card is both a strong developer and a potential finisher (i.e. Archer’s Parapet), or both a stabilizer and a finisher (Ojutai’s Summons), you should keep your eye on it. It could give you the edge at the beginning of a new format when people are still figuring out what strategies are good.

The Model

Considerations Description
Power These are the cards you recognize as potential 1st-3rd picks in a draft for their raw power and/or efficiency
Synergy As opposed to the first category, these are cards that are only good in a particular deck.
Development These are cards that typically fall off late into the game but provide important tempo in the initial stages of the game to allow players to dictate the pace of the game
Stabilizers These are cards that flip the game around
Destabilizers As the title suggests, this is the counterpoint to stabilizers that seek to push the snowball the rest of the way down the hill.
Card advantage Card draw is the most obvious example of card advantage, but there are other ways to gain an advantage in drawn-out games.
Finishers Finishers can come in all shapes and sizes, and the ideal finishers are the ones that can double as stabilizers or destabilizers in the midgame.
Scaling Effects As a way to bridge the gap between aggressive and defensive roles, R&D often includes cards and/or mechanics that can be used both early and late to good effect.

How can we make use of all of these distinct categories? There is no convenient acronym to be gleaned from P-S-D-S-D-C-F-S! While you might not need to sort every single card into compartments and keep it as a rigid guide, you do want to think about which categories a card
could  fall under and move forward from there. 

This was a dense topic to cover in so few words, but I hope you picked up a few tips to carry into your next draft. No one gets better at limited overnight, but by picking up tiny bits of information over time, you will see steady progress. Next time in this limited series I will talk about signals in draft and how to read and react to the cards that are passed to you.

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