With 2021 quickly coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to take a look back on the year. This week I’ll be specifically looking back on the draft experiences of each set that was released for Arena! Taking some time for a retrospective on these sets isn’t just a nostalgia trip either, since each of them will still be in rotation for quick drafts on Arena. Below I’ll rank the five sets based on how fun they are to play and on how good they are for collecting important cards, to keep in mind for when they’re available again.

5. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

Despite being fifth on the list, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms was a very fun and unique set. It would be hard to forget the first Magic set that was based on an entirely different game, especially when every card was a reference to D&D’s world, lore, and mechanics. The main thing going against AFR is that it was this year’s core set, meaning it was fairly simple and didn’t have as many adventurous card designs (somewhat ironically, for a set about adventuring). After drafting it a few times the novelty wore off and it wasn’t as deep of an experience as most other sets. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the colours weren’t very well balanced, with black and red being powerful and blue being quite underpowered. That being said, the novelty of dice rolling and dungeons will be fun again when the set is available to draft again.

In terms of adding cards to your collection, this set doesn’t have much to offer. The cycle of rare creature lands (including Den of the Bugbear) is probably the main appeal to Standard players, as well as a few good rares such as Ranger Class.

4. Midnight Hunt

Although this set was werewolf-themed, the draft experience did not reflect this as werewolves were underpowered and zombies took center stage (as my fellow writer Ben Iverach-Brererton discussed in a recent article). Blue-Black was definitely the best deck in this format, but if zombies and drawing cards is your thing then that’s not necessarily a drawback. Day/Night, Disturb, and Exploit all made their debut in this set, and these mechanics will make it worth returning to it at least a few times.

Midnight Hunt has had more of an impact on Standard than AFR. If you’re looking to play Mono-White in Standard this set is practically a shopping list, and you can potentially draft a number of the deck’s rares — Brutal Cathar, Sungold Sentinel, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and Intrepid Adversary top the list. The set also features an important cycle of dual lands, which is always a draw to drafting a set on Arena.

3. Crimson Vow

Drafting Crimson Vow has been one of my favourite deckbuilding experiences of the year, because most of the archetypes in the format are well-supported and balanced. Every draft I could play something new, whether it was Orzhov-coloured vampires, Dimir Exploit, or even Golgari Toughness Matters. The gameplay of the set has been criticized for being very bomb-heavy, where a single rare often will be played and take over the game. This is probably the main drawback of the format but if you enjoy playing powerful bombs the format can still be very rewarding. You just make sure to draft some good removal for opponents’ unbeatable rare creatures!

If you’re a Standard player, Crimson Vow is a decent opportunity to collect some playables. Aside from completing Midnight Hunt’s cycle of dual lands, the set also has staples such as Hullbreaker Horror, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

2. Strixhaven

Strixhaven may not have been the most balanced set, but it featured some crazy games thanks to all of the powerful spells in the format. The five colour-pair-based set gained a lot by having a Mystical Archive card in every pack, as it’s not every day you get to play cards like Counterspell and Swords to Plowshares in Limited. Unsurprisingly, the blue colleges of Quandrix and Prismari mostly dominated the spell-focused format, while Lorehold and Witherbloom lagged behind. Despite this, the gameplay of Strixhaven was unforgettable, and as a bonus it will be easy to remember how to draft it when it comes back — just focus on a school and take powerful cards.

Strixhaven has had a pretty medium impact on Standard, and its cycle of “Snarl” dual lands has proven to be fairly weak. This doesn’t make it great for collecting, although it does have a few bright spots such as Elite Spellbinder. If you’re looking to collect cards for Historic and Brawl then Strixhaven may be more appealing, as the Mystical Archive cards add a lot of value to the packs (although many of them are now banned).

1. Kaldheim

Kaldheim is one of my favourite formats of all time, and I’m already looking forward to the next chance I get to draft it. If you enjoy playing multi-coloured decks full of nonsense then this is the set for you, although there’s more to it than that. Green-based snow decks that were very splashy were the main pillar of the format, but other options like Red-based Aggro and Green-Black Elves were also very popular.

Kaldheim is memorable for a number of reasons, but one of the most important for draft is its “mythic commons”. Cards like Sarulf’s Packmate, Behold the Multiverse, Demon Bolt, and Feed the Serpent were all extremely powerful for their rarity and they were very important for successful decks in the format. Indeed, many of the foretell cards were powerful, and it was a fun mechanic for gameplay as you would always be guessing what cards your opponent was foretelling. The mechanic made you feel just how the flavour of it suggests, like an ominous event was going to occur and you only had a hint at what it could be.

Kaldheim is also probably the best set of the year for collecting rares and mythics, as it has a lot of relevant constructed cards. In lands alone it has Faceless Haven and a cycle of Pathway lands. It also features numerous Standard staples such as Alrund’s Epiphany, Doomskar, and Old-Growth Troll! No matter what you are looking for, drafting Kaldheim is rewarding.


Overall, it has been a great year to be drafting. We got five new Standard sets, and not one of them was a disappointment. While I’m looking forward to re-drafting some of them more than others, each of them brings something unique. Here’s hoping that next year gets even better!

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