Every draft format has strategies unique to it. In Avacyn Restored, blue/green beatdown decks were tough to beat. M14 Monoblue can be incredibly powerful. Modern Masters was built around tribal (Thallids, Giants, Faeries) and mechanic (Domain, Arcane, Storm) themes, enabling multiple powerful archetypes. But every format, regardless of the cards and their power levels, can be approached from one basic strategy.
The earliest reference I can find on the internet to the BREAD strategy comes from an article by Evan Erwin in 2006, and he clearly indicated this was not a new idea. Melissa DeTora, who famously became the first female player to Top 8 a Pro Tour event, also wrote about the BREAD strategy, in 2012. But they used two different meanings for BREAD. For the purposes of this article, I will use the following terms, identical to the ones I used previously; Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro and Dud.
Bombs are cards that can win you the game all by themselves. They are threats so powerful that, if your opponent does not have a way to deal with it, you will win in a handful of turns or less. One of the best examples of a Bomb in M13 and M14 is Jace, Memory Adept. His ability to mill ten cards a turn will make short work of a 40 card deck. Couple that with any other mill effects, and slamming him to the table could just immediately win the game.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa, from Dragon’s Maze, is an excellent example of a creature Bomb. A 4/4 lifelinker is already good. Giving him pro-white and black is icing on the cake. But his “ultimate”, pumping himself up to a 10/10 flier if you reach the life total thresholds (30 for you, 10 for your opponent), is game-ending on the next hit. If you play him, you instantly turn a game where you are even or slightly behind completely around. Spells can also be Bombs. In Avacyn Restored Limited, if you could Miracle a Bonfire of the Damned or Entreat the Angels, you usually won on the spot.
Removal is just what it sounds like. Limited is dominated by creature combat. So spells to get rid of creatures are incredibly valuable. You can’t win with that mythic vampire if I kill it first. Unconditional removal, like Murder from M13, is best. Spells that do 3 or 4 damage, like Flames of the Firebrand from the core sets or Mizzium Mortars from Return to Ravnica, are better than spells like Shock (only 2 damage) or Feebleness (what set?).
Not all Removal destroys the target. Dentention Sphere exiles its victims. So does Banisher Priest (and since it’s also a creature, it is particularly valuable). Other Removal taps your opponent’s creatures down (like Artful Dodge or Frost Breath), or renders them incapable of dealing damage (Claustrophobia or Pacifism). The best removal permanently removes the offending target, and should be drafted accordingly. You also need to pay attention to your colors. Although Oblivion Ring, a core set staple for many years until M14, could be destroyed, releasing the occupant back to the battlefield, in practice that rarely happened. And since white is often short on removal, if you were in white you were happy to see an O-Ring.
Evasion is a complicated subject. Typically, a creature is said to be evasive if it is hard or impossible to block, either from Flying, Unblockable or Intimidate. But there are other types of evasion. For example, Wandering Wolf, from Avacyn Resotred, could not be blocked by creatures with power less than it’s own. If you had a way to pump it, say with Revenge of the Hunted, you had an essentially unblockable monster attacker.
Most evasive creatures are the simple types; fliers, unblockable and intimidate creatures. But evasion is not just a creature-thing. Zephyr Charge, from M14, gives a target creature flying for 1U until the end of the turn. In the right deck, this effect can be very powerful (especially in mono-blue M14 Limited, which is a very strong archetype). Not every deck wants to spend mana on an effect like this, so don’t just reflexively draft enchantment buffs like this and expect to dominate the table. Synergy matters. Evasion can also come from a creature like Master of Diversion, who taps a defending creature every time he swings.
Aggro cards are the meat-and-potatoes of your draft deck. These are the commons and uncommons that round out your deck, and in the end do a great deal of the heavy-lifting. A card falls into the Aggro category if it is good enough to help you win the game. This step is where card evaluation really comes into play, particularly late in packs and drafts. Do you want Child of Night or Dark Favor for your black-heavy M14 deck? Is the 1/3 creature for 3 better or worse than the 2/4 for 4? Is it worth the hit to your consistency to take another creature in your splash color, or should you play it safe? These types of decisions are highly situational, and deserve an article of their own.
Duds are the cards that are always, or nearly, unplayble in draft. In other formats, these cards may be all-stars, but in their Limited environment, stay away. One of the best examples of this is Omniscience, from M13. In the right Constructed deck, Omniscience wins you the game the turn it hits the battlefield. Go look up some of Travis Woo’s Omni decks and you’ll see what I mean. But in Limited? Why would you ever want to play ten mana enchantment? If the game even goes long enough for you to cast it, what can possibly be left in your deck that you couldn’t cast already?
Most Duds are simply bad, often regardless of the format. In M14 Limited, Artificer’s Hex is a Dud. There isn’t a lot of Equipment in the set, so a card that enchants equipment to kill a creature simply isn’t worth one of your precious spell slots the majority of the time. Are there circumstances where you’d use it? Of course. But the point isn’t that you can figure out a way to make it work; it’s that the situation where you actually would is so rare that you’ll almost never want it. It’s also a Dud in Constructed formats. Unless we see a large number of equipable Artifacts in the next block (and given what we’ve seen in Theros so far, I wouldn’t be surprised), AND some of them are Constructed-worthy, Artificer’s Hex isn’t a card you are likely to see at a tournament or FNM.
As I stated at the beginning, there is more than one way to define BREAD. The first two letters are almost always the same. I’ve seen “E “defined as Efficient, meaning cards that are a good value for their cost. For example, Kalonian Tusker from M14 is a highly efficient card, being a 3/3 for only GG. “A” can also stand for Advantage, meaning spells that give you card advantage over your opponent. A card like Opportunity, from M14, leaps immediately to mind, allowing you to draw four cards in exchange for one. But other cards could be defined as Advantage as well. For example, Brave the Elements, also from M14, grants all of your white creatures protection from a chosen color until the end of the turn. If you cast it at the right time in combat, you can completely blow your opponent off the board. This of course assumes you are playing a heavy-white deck. Finally, “D” can also stand for Defense. I’m not referring to cards like Angelic Wall or a high toughness creature. In some situations, you may want to draft Defensively to prevent a card from being played against you. Maybe our deck is UW, but that Chandra’s Outrage you just got passed might be better off in your unused pile than the red player at your table. Players call this “hate drafting”, and it’s a practice I usually try to avoid. There is almost always something in a pack (particularly in the middle rounds) that can help your deck. But if you get passed a card that completely hoses you, you might want to take it. Back in Avacyn Restored Limited, if you were playing a deck of fliers, hating out Bower Passage (which made your fliers unable to block) might be a good move.
BREAD is not the final rule of drafting. It’s a guideline to use and fall back on if you don’t know what to take. It’s particularly useful at the beginning of a format, when everyone is in the dark together. Hey! We’ve got a new Limited format coming up soon, don’t we? How timely! That’s all for this week, guys. Good luck at the Theros Pre-Release!