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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Fifth Dawn Booster Draft Strategies
Messing Up Your Mana Base With Sunburst

by Jeff Zandi

Fifth Dawn, Magic: the Gathering's latest expansion, does more than simply
wrap up the artifact block begun last fall with Mirrodin. Thanks to the new
Sunburst mechanic, booster draft players are having to think about colored
mana in their decks in a whole new way. Before Fifth Dawn,
Mirrodin/Darksteel drafters barely concerned themselves with colored mana.
Often, half your deck was made of artifact cards that cared not at all with
what color mana you used to cast them. In Mirrodin/Darksteel, your deck
often looks like this: sixteen land, between ten and fifteen artifacts, and
between nine and fourteen colored cards with the colored cards split between
two colors (possibly a few cards of a third splash color). With Fifth Dawn
comes Sunburst, and with Sunburst comes the need to create as many different
colors of mana as possible.

Fifth Dawn introduces fifteen artifacts with Sunburst. Artifacts with
Sunburst are almost "colored" artifacts, because they come into play with a
number of charge counters equal to the number of different colors of mana
you used to play them. It would be wrong to say that Fifth Dawn completely
invents the idea of "colored" artifacts. Artifacts like the various Golem
cards from Mirrodin and Darksteel certainly will play just fine in your deck
no matter what color mana you use to cast them, but they each have abilities
that can only be played with certain colors of mana. Pewter Golem is
powerful 4/2 regenerating creature if you have black mana to activate his
regeneration ability. Without black mana available to you, Pewter Golem is
probably a little overcosted for his usefulness. To a certain extent, Pewter
Golem and cards like him are "colored" artifacts. Sunburst takes the idea of
colored artifacts to much more of an extreme. Go ahead, play a Sunburst card
using only one color of mana. You won't be a happy camper. Doing so makes
Baton of Courage a three casting cost artifact that lets you give one
creature +1/+1 ONCE. Play Baton with three different colors of mana and you
get a very powerful card that can provide a needed +1/+1 burst of power
THREE DIFFERENT TIMES. I'm dying to see someone accidentally play a Sunburst
card with all colorless mana. Skyreach Manta, played with all colorless
mana, still costs five mana to cast, but comes into play as a 0/0 flying
creature and dies immediately (the card dies before you can do ANYTHING
about it).

In order to make the most of Sunburst cards in your Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth
Dawn draft decks, without completely wrecking your mana base, you have to
change your idea of how to assemble the land resources for your deck. But
don't worry, the change is very similar to one you learned to make when
Mirrodin first arrived. When you first started booster drafting Mirrodin, it
was amazing how liberated you felt. You could easily draft your first pack,
and sometimes most of your second pack before feeling like you absolutely
had to dedicate yourself to a color. Even in the more recent weeks before
Fifth Dawn, it had become incredibly easy to stay in a single color for a
long time in the draft, picking up artifacts that were good with your color,
and remain open to a true bomb in a second or splashable third color later
in the draft.

One question that started creeping into the collective consciousness of
Mirrodin booster drafters right away was "how do I take optimal advantage of
artifact affinity?" The answer was brilliant, but not necessarily intuitive
(at least it wasn't intuitive to me). To make the most of artifact affinity,
you needed to think of colorless artifacts as, in a very real sense, a
separate color. Sometimes people would see a deck full of black cards and
say "Wow, mono black!" when in reality, the deck was a black artifact
affinity deck constructed very much like a two color draft deck. A standard
black artifact affinity deck would have cards that needed a high commitment
to black mana, like Slith Bloodletter, Barter in Blood and, very often,
multiple copies of Consume Spirit. In a two colored deck using sixteen land,
the mana might very well include nine or ten Swamps and six or seven land of
the second color. Similarly, to produce an optimally successful black
artifact affinity deck, you might include nine or ten Swamps and add six or
seven off-color artifact lands. If these lands produce colors of mana that
you don't need in the deck, that doesn't matter. What matters is that you
have added six more artifact lands to your deck making your affinity cards
that much better.

Applying this concept to Sunburst is similar in many ways. Let's take a
popular example, a blue/black deck that would like to make the most of three
really good Sunburst cards, like, say, a
Skyreach Manta, an Etched Oracle and a Sawtooth Thresher (VERY underrated
card that Neil Reeves has been kicking ALL of our butts with for the past
three weeks!) The Oracle and the Thresher desperately need four different
colors to be used in their casting in order to be good at all. Skyreach
Manta and Sawtooth Thresher become extremely powerful when cast with five
different colors. The best way to achieve this that I have found is to treat
Sunburst as a third color in this deck. If I were running sixteen land in
this deck I would run seven land of the deck's primary color, six land
supporting the deck's secondary color, and one land each supporting the
other three colors of mana. Land is not the entire story to making Sunburst
good, in fact, it's the last thing that you should be thinking about while
you draft MD5. The first thing you should do is draft three or four Myr or
Talisman cards, if possible. Off color Myr and Talisman cards are better for
your deck than on color ones. To make the most of your Sunburst cards, draft
some quality mana enabler cards like Chromatic Sphere in Mirrodin or
Wayfarer's Bauble in Fifth Dawn.

In my opinion, this strategy will allow you to make the most of even a few
powerful Sunburst cards in your deck without messing up your mana base.
Dedicating only three land slots to additional colors for Sunburst keeps the
largest part of your mana base in good enough shape to run double mana
intensity spells in at least your primary color and even possibly in your
secondary color. It is not necessary, in my opinion, to draft a four or five
color deck in order to make good use of Sunburst.

As always, I'd love to hear what YOU think!

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

Copyright 2001

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