Posted in NEWS on June 29, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

Sitting in seventh place heading into the first draft pod of Day 2, Ari Lax stood six Pro Points shy of hitting gold this season, with this draft and the next three rounds going a long way toward determining if he could reach that goal today.

One certainly can't accuse Lax of being indecisive, and his picks came fast and furious. While others were still picking up their packs and slowly thumbing through the cards, he would slam one in front of him before flipping through the rest of the pack at breakneck speed. First came an Oreskos Swiftclaw, followed quickly by a Nyx-Fleece Ram and a Scourge of Fleets. A few Akroan Mastiff later and Lax was seemingly all-in on the white-blue defensive plan.

But, while the packs may have flown through Lax's hands, nothing escaped his notice. A late pass of Cast into Darkness and pick up of Aspect of Gorgon may have looked like throwaway choices at the time, but they were data points that Lax dutifully took note of in case it mattered.

Not that it looked like it would as he rounded out the Born of the Gods pack with an Akroan Skyguard, a pair of Divination, a God-Favored General, and an Ephara's Enlightenment, a mix of aggressive and defensive cards but all powerful in their own right. Lax then picked up what he described as a "gift" in Theros:a first-pick Spear of Heliod. The legendary enchantment artifact has the ability to play both offense and defense depending on the deck it's in, and it was the perfect rare to open. As the last round progressed Lax filled out his deck with Dauntless Onslaught and Solider of the Pantheon, staying true to form and making almost every pick immediately.

Lax's draft to this point was reasonable if somewhat predictable, but that changed abruptly midway through the final pack. Even while he was quickly slamming white cards down he took careful note of the cards he passed, and while a seventh-pick Scholar of Athreos in a pack light on other playables didn't mean much, Lax showed no fear in jumping ship when the dangerous Clerics began to wheel.

Suddenly what had been a Scourge of Fleets deck became a Scholar of Athreos deck as they kept coming. Lax ended up with four copies of the card and — taking advantage of the fact that he had kept himself open for a possible switch by sticking mainly to white cards whenever possible — was able to trade the blue cards for several powerful black ones including Baleful Eidolon and Asphyxiate.

"I started the draft by taking an Oreskos Swiftclaw over a Nightmarish End because even though I think Nightmarish End is a better card the pack was light on white, so I thought I could cut it," Lax explained. "It worked out and I was mostly mono-white after pack one, which is good because you can stay open to switching."

As for the late move into black? Lax was as certain as ever.

"After I saw the late Cast into Darkness, it was in the back of my mind," he said. "Once I saw the Scholars I went for it. It's that good. It's a card that goes around late because you have to be in those two colors to play it. Four is probably too many, but they work really well with Spear of Heliod because being a 2/5 is way better than being a 1/4 in this format."

It was a decision that came with some consequences. Lax was forced to cut the Akroan Skyguard he first-picked out of Born of the Gods, but he was satisfied with the way his deck turned out.

"I'd give it a 7 or an 8," he said. "I passed too many Shipwreck Siren to be sure, but I'm pretty happy with this and I think it's good enough."

Ari Lax, White-Black Scholar

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