Posted in NEWS on June 29, 2014

By Hunter R. Slaton

Seated in pod 8 on Day 2 of Grand Prix Washington D.C., David Ochoa looked for all the world like a rail-thin boxer before a fight: coiled, tensed and ready to draft. So when the judge told players to open up their stamped pack "A"—aka Journey Into Nyx —Ochoa smartly riffled through the cards, snapped up the "mythic uncommon"Hour of Need and never looked back.

Or, not quite: Despite a second-pick Battlefield Thaumaturge and third-pick Riptide Chimera (over Bladetusk Boar), Ochoa was faced with tough decisions throughout the rest of the first pack.

In Pack 1, Pick 4, he took the full amount of time to select Satyr Grovedancer over Sigiled Skink, Font of Fortunes, Flurry of Horns —and Gnarled Scarhide.

"Pick four, when Gnarled Scarhide came around, that was the best card in the pack, but I had been passing some black, and I was pretty sure that Yuuya [Watanabe], to my right, was also in black, so I passed on that," Ochoa said.

But, sure enough, in the next (relatively weak) pack there was another Gnarled Scarhide, which Ochoa took over Eagle of the Watch. "So I had to reconsider that Yuuya was not in black,"he added.

After a sixth-pick Reprisal —"One of the best uncommons in the set,"he noted —red began flowing, with Ochoa picking up a Sigiled Skink, Satyr Hoplite, Riddle of Lightning (over a late Swarmborn Giant), and an easy Pensive Minotaur. During the review period between packs one and two, it looked like Ochoa was hedging his bets, color-wise, but perhaps leaning towards the unpopular blue-red archetype, with four cards from each of those colors in his pile.

"[Blue-red] has gotten a little bit better ...with positioning, since red's so much better in Born of the Gods,"Ochoa said. And in fact he opened up a very strong pack for blue-red, with Bolt of Keranos, Sudden Storm, Akroan Conscriptor, and Kragma's Butcher all being fine options; the rare was Hunter's Prowess. Ochoa took the Ray of Command shaman before being passed one of the many Born of the Gods rewards for committed red drafters: a relatively weak pack containing Fall of the Hammer and Chorus of the Tides. Ochoa took the cheap removal spell, hoping for more. "That's what's going to happen when you end up cutting off red,"he said.

The blue-red train rolled on for Ochoa in the second pack, as in the next pick he declined to take the Chromanticore Challenge, instead selecting Nyxborn Triton over Ornitharch and Triton's younger, plate-smashing cousin, Nyxborn Rollicker. Crypsis (over Thunder Brute) and Nyxborn Rollicker (over Divination) came next, followed by a sixth-pick Bolt of Keranos and a very late Searing Blood and Satyr Nyx-Smith, after which the pack petered out in expected fashion.

Ochoa's third pack, Theros, kicked off in less-than-exciting fashion, as he made his opening choice between Portent of Betrayal, Akroan Horse, Crackling Triton, Minotaur Skullcleaver, Sealock Monster, Mnemonic Wall, and Wavecrash Triton, the latter of which he took. An even weaker pack followed, with Ochoa taking Triton Fortune Hunter over Dragon Mantle and Two-Headed Cerberus, both of which ended up wheeling.

Things looked up from there though, which granted Ochoa an Ordeal of Purphoros (over Fanatic of Mogis and Prescient Chimera), followed by an interesting pick which saw Ochoa take a lowly Bronze Sable over Titan's Strength and Dissolve, as well as a shockingly late Hero's Downfall. (Safe to say that Watanabe was definitely not in black; in fact, it seemed as though almost no one in the draft was, as a 12th-pick Sip of Hemlock, which Ochoa hate-drafted, proved.)

"I didn't want to play Dissolve, there was just Titan's Strength. But I had enough tricks at that point that I didn't feel like I needed it, so I took the two-drop,"he said.

Rounding out the pack were a Satyr Rambler, Borderland Minotaur (over Breaching Hippocamp and Tymaret, the Murder King), Traveler's Amulet over Spellheart Chimera (a card which Ochoa seemed to pause to read before passing on it), and a few late-pack rewards for being in U/R, in the form of Fate Foretold, Minotaur Skullcleaver, Dragon Mantle, Rage of Purphoros, the aforementioned Sip of Hemlock, a Lost in the Labyrinth (over a last-pick Flamecast Wheel, a card which was once described by a player who knew it was terrible but liked to play it anyway as "a conversation-starter"), and a Stymied Hopes.

It was time to build, as the pods were atomized and players were sent to their assigned seats to register and construct their decks. Again Ochoa displayed discipline and meticulousness; As the players around him launched straight into the dessert of deck-building, leaving the broccoli of deck-registration for last, Ochoa took time to give his draft pile the old sealed-pool treatment, sorted by set, color, and alphabetically before registering each card. Later, after he settled on his build, he performed the same function again. "Lately I've gotten a few deck-reg errors, so I just need to double-check anything,"he said.

During the build portion, Ochoa laid out the core of his deck fairly quickly, organizing his cards with creatures on top and spells on bottom —including a pair of Nyxborn Rollickers and a Nyxborn Triton, which perhaps revealed his estimation of those creatures.

He had a lot of playables, and quickly sent a pair of Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to the cutting-room floor, along with Crypsis, Rage of Purphoros and Fate Foretold. In order to mark which cards would trigger his Akroan Conscriptor, Ochoa tapped each of these at a 45-degree angle. Meanwhile, his third pick of the draft, Riptide Chimera, was staring at eviction. Yet in the end, the 3/4 Chimera ended up making the cut as Ochoa's 23rd card; Fate Foretold or Crypsis had also been under consideration. Explaining his rationale, Ochoa said, "I think I'd rather start off with a creature and then sideboard appropriately."

David Ochoa, Blue-Red Aggro

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"I think it's decent,"Ochoa said of the deck. Also surprisingly decent, according to the self-described gourmand: the barbecue in Chantilly, Virginia, where Grand Prix D.C. is being held. "[Willards BBQ] is literally adjacent to the site, and the barbecue is fine,"he said. "I eat a lot of barbecue. I wouldn't able to write a style guide for the difference between what goes into all the sauces, but I appreciate it, perhaps a little more than most people."Does that mean Ochoa might one day hang up his ChannelFireball bowling shirt and tie on an apron? "No,"he quipped. "I would need to work on smoking a few hundred thousand pounds of meat before I did that."