Omniscience draft isn’t magic. You start with 3 cards and the format removes mana cost, which is perhaps the most essential and defining quality that Magic has. Past Omnisicence drafts, especially Dominaria, enabled turn 1 kills, which are perhaps the dumbest thing that can happen in Magic. And one of the funnest things I’ve ever done on Magic Arena. Because veiled within the dumbness of the format is a curious and refreshing awesomeness. A “what if” that bears fruit. For what would pick order be if not for the trivial earthly bounds of mana cost? That’s what we’re here to find out.
If you’re here for some quick hits, skip to the end. This article delves into the process of breaking a format. Hopefully its value lies in identifying investigative patterns that will lead to the unearthing of optimal strategies. If you’re not interested in that then I’ve added all the quick hits to the end.
One of the biggest features defining whether a card is good is how much it costs. In Omniscience draft, aggressively costed creatures compare unfavorably to their clunkier, more expensive counterparts. Fire Elemental at 5 mana is a bad common. At 3 mana it’s an Obstinate Baloth. At 2 mana it compares positively to Tarmogoyf. The level one approach to this format is to build a deck with as high of an average CMC as possible, and then to send your lumbering brutes at your opponent. Let’s look at this approach.
For example’s sake let’s say we have a deck that’s all Fire Elementals. We start with a 3 card hand and we dump 15 power on the board. Or on the draw we drop 4 creatures for 20 power. Now if our opponent has stone nothing we can kill them on turn 2. This will win some games, surely. But what if our opponent drops a Vorinclaw? How do we go from doing big dumb things to doing big dumb broken things? I’m thinking we can do better. I’m thinking we can kill them turn 1 on the play. Not because it’s the strategy with the highest chance of working, but because damn if that’s not just the tightest thing this side of the Green Monster.
Drafting From Commons Up
Draft is all about the commons. In a theoretical draft where everyone around you is rare drafting, you’ll see 3 rares, 9 uncommons, and 30 commons. Assuming that your higher rarity cards are all on color, you’ll play 3 rares, 9 uncommons, 11 commons, then round it out with 17 basic lands. 25.5% of your deck is commons. In Omniscience Draft you’ll need to fit in 28 commons, which is 70% of your deck. Of course, these numbers are subject to wide variation, but the point stands. We’re filling our deck with what would typically be draft chaff. How can we exploit this? What late pick commons are we hoping to draft?
There are 3 commons that can lead to a turn 1 kill on the play. There’s Goblin Smuggler, there’s Sage’s Row Denizen, and there’s Act of Treason on your own creature. All of these would need a ton of card draw to work, so we may as well include Winged Words. You’d need 10 goblin smugglers, which seems undoable. But what about 1 Goblin Smuggler and 4 Growth Cycles? That’s a little more doable. What could enable that? Season of Growth could. Now we’re talking about a cohesive plan. One that still looks like a longshot, but one that is less of a long shot than before. To mill our opponent for 36+ we would need 7 Sage’s Row Denizens. Or we could have 4 Sage’s Row Denizens followed by 3 blue creatures. Faerie Miscreant perhaps? Pattern Marcher would help. But with all of these strategies, we’re going to need a lot more cards than we started with. How do we generate card advantage?
Doing All the Things
The first step I took was to look through Gatherer for every card in m20 that says draw a card. 5 cards jump out. Angelic Gift, Bladebrand, and Befuddle are all commons that draw a card as long as there is a creature in play. Cloudkin Seer cantrips and provides an elemental. And then there’s Winged Words. Everything else is either higher rarity, takes more time and setup, or loots. The hidden card is Anticipate, which doesn’t technically draw a card but is far better than the simpler cantrips. Cantripping in and of itself is not broken in this format because it will draws you into chaff, the inevitable unplayable cards that make it into your deck because you need 40 cards. But there are a large number of late picks in m20 that seem to fit into a cohesive plan.
So how can we make these cantrips broken? Season of Growth. Season seems to be the lynchpin of this format as far as turn 1 kills go. Stringing Season of Growth, creature-targeting cantrips, pump spells, and haste creatures seems to be a good formula for a turn 1 kill.
The best uncommons: Scholar of Ages, Spectral Sailor, Yarok’s Wavecrasher, Thought Distortion, Scampering Scorcher, Season of Growth, Risen Reef, Tomebound Lich, Meteor Golem. There are plenty of others, but these are the standouts. Looting is strong because your deck will have dead cards. Yarok’s Wavecrasher needs to be paired with enter-the-battlefield effect, but there are plenty of those to go around. Thought Distortion goes from unplayable to potentially game winning on the play. But the big card I want to highlight is Scampering Scorcher. I believe that Scampering Scorcher is the number one card that will enable degeneracy in this format. Winged Words, 2x Fire Elemental, Vorstclaw, and Scampering Scorcher make a turn 1 kill. So does Risen Reef, Vorstclaw, Fire Elemental, Scampering Scorcher, Might of the Masses/ whatever pump spells you draw into off Reef triggers.
Bot Pick Orders
The bot pick orders are typically the worst thing about Magic Arena draft. My main gripe isn’t so much that there aren’t yet human drafts , it’s that the bot pick orders aren’t updated weekly. Yesterday I got a 14th pick Renowned Weaponsmith. Seriously. The last 2 cards in the pack were Mr. Heart-Piercing Messiah and a Plains. That’s the kind of thing that might happen in your first draft ever but should never happen again because the meta should adjust.
The best thing about IRL draft is that it’s naturally self-correcting, with the best strategies becoming overdrafted. But instead of the meta adjusting, on Arena you have to adjust your picks to the bots. In Omniscience draft, these busted pick orders are what make the format sing. Omniscience draft is only possible because the bots are drafting cards as if for a normal draft, whereas we’re drafting dumb cards to enable us to do dumb things. That’s the twisted beauty of this format: It’s only possible to draft these decks on Arena. And when you draft one, it’s beautiful.
Conclusions, Overarching Takeaways, and Tips
Elementals seem strong, with Scampering Scorcher and Risen Reef leading the pack.
Season of Growth is OP. You should be able to pick up tons of commons that target creatures.
The turn 1 kills truly start at the uncommon level. The common-based kills seem farfetched, but there are lots of good commons that should fall into late picks.
There is also a turn 1 Corpse Knight deck, but that one seems tougher to assemble than the elemental deck, requiring early Corpse Knight rather than late Scorcher.
Dirsruption: Mind Rot is great on the play but usually bad on the draw, so it’s only decent overall. Negate is needed to combat Mind Rot and Winged Words. Removal is fine for bad decks fighting bad decks, but I believe that it is better to be proactive, focusing on creatures and attacking than on controlling the board.
Pick order tiers will be a bit unconventional. I’ve omitted the rares and mythics. The good rares are still good, with Vilis probably being the best card in the set. Don’t forget you can make mana on your opponent’s turn (also relevant for Spectral Sailor) and don’t be afraid to add in a few extra lands over some trash commons for extra activations.
Common and Uncommon Tier List
Anticipate, Scholar of Ages, Spectral Sailor, Winged Words, Scampering Scorcher, Season of Growth, Risen Reef,
Cards to look for:
Angelic Gift, Befuddle, Bone to Ash, Cloudkin Seer, Negate, Yarok’s Wavecrasher, Bladebrand, Duress, Mind Rot, Thought Distortion (1-3 discard spells max), Keldon Raider, Uncaged Fury, Tomebound Lich, Meteor Golem
After these, look for big dumb creatures, with a heavy premium placed on elementals, and get more cards that target creatures if you’ve found a Season of Growth. The Sage’s Row Denizen deck is also a consideration, but only go for it if you’re seeing lots of them and super late.
Best of luck on breaking the format!