Reigning World Champion Shahar Shenhar is looking to kickstart a year that feels like a sophomore jinx. Despite middling finishes at both Pro Tours, Shenhar hasn't lost his killer instinct, and his spirit remains high. I sat in on his first draft of the day, where his 7-2 record meant he needed a 3-0 to have a shot at Top 8.
Things started off auspiciously. His first pack served up Akroan Skyguard, the set's marquee common. Then came Glimpse the Sun God, one of the best uncommons for aggressive heroic decks, and then a Nyxborn Shieldmate, an ideal turn-three play in a deck full of two-drops. Fourth pick he dipped into a second color for Asphyxiate in a pack whose only other notable card was Archetype of Imagination. "I don't like Archetype at all. Asphyxiate is a good signal that black is open, and I don't mind playing aggressive black-white. In Triple-Theros draft black-white was usually a control deck, but Born of the Gods gives you a lot of strong early plays."
The white cards seemed to dry up and Shenhar took Odunos River Trawler fifth followed by Fearsome Temper over Weight of the Underworld. "I'm not committed to black-white at this point. I know I'm white. Temper is great in red-white. Weight of the Underworld is not good, and if I do wind up playing black I'll have chances at other inefficient removals like Lash of the Whip." A seventh pick Elite Skirmisher was a good sign that white was the place to be, and the pack wrapped up with some filler cards.
"At the end of pack 1 I'm still open. I have a core of very good white cards, with a late Elite Skirmisher as a signal that white will be open pack three. I could still end up white-green, white-red or white-black."
Pack two didn't start off the way Shenhar had hoped. His opening pack had Gods Willing in white, a fine pick but nothing to get excited about, and three great blue cards: Ordeal of Thassa, Thassa's Emissary and Griptide. "I can't take a blue card there. Blue's the one color I know isn't open." Next up was a pack with Boon of Erebos, Thoughtseize, Spearpoint Oread and Divine Verdict. "Again, I'd rather take a fine white card I'm sure I'll play than something in another color. Thoughtseize is hardly a bomb, just a solid card."
Third pick he considered five cards: Sentry of the Underworld, Ill-Tempered Cyclops, Chosen by Heliod, Scholar of Athreos, and Titan's Strength. "Here I took Chosen by Heliod. My thinking is, if I take Scholar and wind up white-red, that'll be bad. If I take Chosen I can see what comes around." It paid off, as both Scholar and Sentry made the lap. Shahar took the Sentry.
It hadn't started well, but pack two coughed up a series of winners. Dauntless Onslaught, followed by Wingsteed Rider, and then Favored Hoplite. Shenhar also got late Lagonna-Band Elder and Setessan Battle Priest. This was good, as he was long on spells and short on creatures. "I knew going into pack that I had to prioritize creatures, even with those late pickups."
Pack 3 should have been a windfall for Shenhar after the setup in the first pack. First up was a pack with no good white cards besides the legendary Anax and Cymede. I asked Shenhar of this was a tough pick.
"Even at this point, I don't have to play black. I have a few black cards, but my white is good enough that I can afford to switch, especially for a card as powerful as Anax and Cymede." Next he took Arena Athlete over Leonin Snarecaster, the only white creature in the pack. It was more a calculated risk than a full commitment to red. "This was pretty straightforward. If I take the Snarecaster, there's absolutely no way the Athlete comes back. This way I get a shot at two creatures. The risk is worth it even if I abandon red. But I probably won't"
That was the end of the real decisions. The remaining packs were dismal, and Shenhar could only shake his head as he collected underwhelming curve-fillers like Satyr Rambler and Anvilwrought Raptor. Still, he was optimistic.
"Obviously pack three was the worst. I'm playing a few suboptimal cards, but I've got fifteen creatures and my spells are great. It sucks having to play Griffin Dreamfinder but even that can get an early Fearsome Temper if I get blown out."
It wasn't the deck he'd hoped for, but he figured that 3-0 was still a real possibility.