Hi all, some of you probably know this already but last week I played at Pro Tour Barcelona :D!
My preparation for the event involved a lot of talking and testing with fellow Leeds Magic players Rob Catton and Mick Edwards in advance, along with testing draft with the very excellent and helpful players at Travelling Man Leeds.
In Barcelona itself we tested for a few days before meeting up with the other Brits and some Norwegians plus a Swiss at the venue for another draft. Our findings all seemed to be pretty similar about the format and plenty of other writers seem to have summed it up fairly neatly.
- There aren’t that many playables but a lot of cards are good in the right sort of deck. For example the 2U cost 1/4 soulbond(2U: untap this creature) guy is very poor in Blue-Green and Blue-Red but pretty decent in Blue-White and okay in Blue-Black.
- You want to commit to colours early rather than staying open. You still shouldn’t be married to your first pick just because you get passed one good card in the same colour and then nothing in that colour (my left-hand neighbours would frequently do this ¬_¬)
- Try to play Green, or Blue, but preferably Green-Blue. The power level of these two colours is much higher than that of the others. All the aggressive Soulbond guys are high picks and [card]Wingcrafter[/card] will surprise you.
- Avoid Black like the Plague, Unless you open all the nuts Uncommons. The commons really are all pretty mediocre and while you can draft the [card]Butcher Ghoul[/card]s to make your other mediocre cards not terrible the power of black is truly found in the uncommons like [card]Homicidal Seclusion[/card] and some of the rares like [card]Dark Impostor[/card] and [card]Demonic Rising[/card].
- Red needs its combinations. A lot of the red cards are fairly meh unless you meet a couple of conditions. If you manage to pair [card]Hanweir Lancer[/card] and [card]Riot Ringleader[/card] then you’ll struggle to lose any combat. The other one I love is [card]Goldnight Commander[/card] and [card]Thatcher Revolt[/card] – a pretty revolting combination which deals 17 damage all by its lonesome.
- The two-drops are important. And they’re all eminently playable. The worst is probably even the 1W 2/1 Vigilance guy which would be pretty decent in most formats but in this one is a [card]Goblin Piker[/card] in a format which is not based on [card]Goblin Piker[/card]s. However, if you have any ways of continuing their relevance as the game progresses then the two drops will do a lot of work for you. One important reason to draft two drops, however, is not getting hit by [card]Falkenrath Exterminator[/card] which is a heck of a game changer on turn 2.
- White is all about the Angels. [card]Seraph of Dawn[/card] is the key common but at uncommon are [card]Goldnight Redeemer[/card] and [card]Emancipation Angel[/card]. [card]Voice of the Provinces[/card] is pretty marginal and doesn’t always make my decks as my high end is often packed with much better cards. [card]Angelic Wall[/card] is pretty important in the White-Blue and the White-Black decks but not so much in White-Green and is bad in White-Red.
- Creatures are high picks. If in doubt between a creature and a slightly better spell then probably take the creature. A lot of the spells are fairly interchangeable combat tricks and there aren’t enough playable creatures in the set. In our practice drafts it was fairly common to get passed 7 cards and there be no creatures in there. You can ignore this rule if no-one else in the draft knows it ;)
My draft in the Pro Tour itself resulted in the following:
2 [card]Alchemist’s Apprentice[/card]
1 [card]Haunted Guardian[/card]
1 [card]Scrapskin Drake[/card]
1 [card]Galvanic Alchemist[/card]
1 [card]Holy Justiciar[/card]
1 [card]Elgaud Shieldmate[/card]
1 [card]Restoration Angel[/card]
1 [card]Goldnight Redeemer[/card]
1 [card]Crippling Chill[/card]
1 [card]Vessel of Endless Rest[/card]
2 [card]Into the Void[/card]
2 [card]Amass the Components[/card]
1 [card]Entreat the Angels[/card]
My two favourite decks to draft are very much the Blue-Green tempo decks and the Red-White aggro/combo decks. Firstly the Red-White deck. It really revolves around the following innocuous-looking card:
In most draft formats this would be utter garbage of the worst kind, but there are so many cards which work well with it in this format that you can really build your deck to the point where you’re hoping to open one of these bad boys in pack 3.
To start with – Kruin Striker. The Striker is a decent 2 drop in any red deck as it can beat past the x/3’s and x/4’s which can often halt your offences. With the Revolt it suddenly becomes a 5/1 Trample at the very least. I wouldn’t start casting the Revolt on turn 3 into an empty board just because you made a Striker on turn 2 unless your deck is seriously full of burn because you do untap for turn 4 with only a 2/1 in play again, but later on it will add up to push through damage on one big turn.
Not quite in Red-White but in the lesser-used Red-Blue Humans strategy, there’s the 6-mana combo of the Revolt plus Mass Appeal. You’re drawing at least 3 there but in all likelihood more like 5-6 cards on one insane turn that will bring a smile even to your opponent’s face. There’s also obviously ways to help increase and push through the damage on turn 6 with other red commons such as [card]Riot Ringleader[/card] and [card]Fervent Cathar[/card].
The real dream, however, is this beauty – [card]Goldnight Commander[/card]. The Commander should be taken pretty highly in White-Red and White-Green anyway (but it’s pretty meh in White-Blue and White-Black is just the worst). Just as a thought exercise, calculate how much damage you deal in one turn on an otherwise-empty board when you untap with this and cast [card]Thatcher Revolt[/card].
That’s right, 17 damage. Milk Money for everyone! When you have this combo in your deck you will be praying to draw a copy of each because it’s basically impossible to live through that turn.
Soooooo, onto Blue-Green Tempo. This is a deck full of first-pick commons but those colours are full of them if this is your style. One of the biggest is [card]Trusted Forcemage[/card]:
I started off thinking that this was a good card in green and ended up first picking it over any other common in the set. There’s definitely uncommons and rares which are way better but you’d be happy taking this guy to begin with. Some of the best ways to generate tempo and card advantage in the deck are with the good Blue Soulbond cards:
And indeed if you can craft a draw where you have these guys in tandem you’ll easily be winging your way to a quick victory – look ou opponent! [card]Mist Raven[/card] is also pretty excellent in this deck to help stop your opponent from double-blocking your big green monsters, and [card]Gryff Vanguard[/card] is fine if a little expensive in the deck.
Basically for this deck you want every aggressive Soulbond creature, the Green 2-power 2-drops, [card]Borderland Ranger[/card], [card]Mist Raven[/card] and a few [card]Joint Assault[/card] and [card]Into the Void[/card].
My favourite story from the PT involving this style of deck was in an 8-man Team draft with some Americans. My opponent had mulled but I’d had to go down to 4 cards in search of any number of lands. The hand I kept was [card]Abundant Growth[/card], [card]Wingcrafter[/card], [card]Vanishment[/card], [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card]. I immediately drew an [card]Island[/card] and was fortunate enough to draw a [card]Forest[/card] soon after. I reached 5 mana and paired the [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] with the [card]Wingcrafter[/card] to make for quite an offence. I was then left with the following situation:
I found two ways to win on my turn, picked one of them and it worked out – can you find them and is there anything I’ve missed? I can assure you that the contents of my deck will be entirely what you’d expect anyway from a draft deck (i.e. a healthy mixture of lands, creatures, and spells) but you should be able to win with what you have and a little bit of luck.
For those that ask if you do need to win on this turn, I probably didn’t but the game was certainly getting out of control as my opponent had just made a couple of (attacking) creatures and the [card]Defang[/card] in one single turn.
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.