So I've been trying to grind out 15 qualifier points to play in the Magic Online Championship Series in the middle of June. I'm behind the curve, with only 7 QPs and less than two weeks to go, which is a bit depressing. Yesterday I played 3 events and went 2-1, 2-1, 1-1, which isn't horrible, but doesn't get you there.
I'm really struggling in the 8-4's, and I don't know if it's a learning experience or it's just killing my confidence. I'm noticing some particular patterns:
1) The competition is noticeably more difficult. I almost never run into people playing horrible cards or making clear mistakes.
2) Drafting fixing is a lot more difficult. I think the more skilled players are prioritizing gates much more highly. I've also run into more 5-color goodstuff decks, so this is either becoming a more popular archetype, or it was from the beginning and I just never got on board. Here's a video of Travis Woo drafting/playing this archetype (albeit in Swiss).
3) Pack 3s are going awful for me in general. Here's a recent article by Melissa DeTora where she's advocating focusing on picking/cutting a GTC guild in the first pack to insure good passes pack 2, and sort of picking up the stragglers in RTR, where are there is a higher ratio of good mono-color cards. That certainly sounds sensible, but it doesn't seem to be panning out very well.
The last couple of drafts I've tried to draft as aggressive a deck I can, picking very fast cards like Spike Jester and Viashino Firstblade in pack 1. This seemed like a reasonable plan, since I'm cutting two GTC guilds (Orzhov and Boros), so I should get a pretty solid stream of one or the other, allowing me to move in heavily. Then, depending on my concentration in pack 2, pick up solid mono-color cards (e.g. Gore House Chainwalker, Splatter Thug, Undead Reveler) and possibly Rakdos in the first half of pack 3, though I should only really need 3-4 more playables at that point.
Well, it just hasn't worked out very well. I get a sparse sampling of on-color cards in pack 3. Fixing is nearly non-existent so the last draft I ended up with zero gates and a near even mix of colors, which is awful for an aggressive deck. The best two drops are often two colors, and without fixing, you're much less likely to play them on turn two. I have also not been opening on-color bombs in draft. You don't necessarily need them, but they sure make life easier.
So I've been able to blitz past my opponents in early rounds with this strategy, but when I run into a solid midrange or 5-color control deck, I get them to 6-8 life, then they stabilize, and I can't finish them. I've had games where I'm just drawing to an Explosive Impact or Cinder Elemental because my attacks are completely shut down.
To adapt, I probably need to draft less high-variance aggressive decks to ones with a more balanced middle to late game and higher power. I should probably prioritize fixing higher than I do. As an exercise, I should probably attempt to draft a 4-5 color deck. I never seem to do well with multicolor decks. It seems to me that because you have to dedicate so many slots to non-land fixing, your average card quality needs to be a lot higher to make up for it. That means that you need to draft a lot of very high-end, expensive cards. If that doesn't happen, it seems as if you're just screwed.
Anyway, I'm still tearing it up in live play with my general approach, but getting mauled in 8-4's. Maybe that means I'm learning. Or maybe I'm just sucking. If I don't get 4-5 QPs this week, I'm not going to make it to the MOCS qualifier, so we'll see.