Joel Larsson, the 2nd place finisher at Pro Tour Gatecrash, is at the forefront of a bevy of Swedish players making pushing for the highest level at Pro Tours. Along with Olle Rade and Denniz Rachid, he'll be flying out to Atlanta later in the week to prepare mentally and physically for one of the biggest events of the year.
In the meantime, Joel is in the enviable position of being at 8-1 going into day two of a Grand Prix. Sat at pod 3, he would be drafting twice on Sunday, in order to potentially earn the right to draft a third time in the top eight.
With Journey into Nyx still a fairly new set, Joel has not yet drafted with the set a great deal, but that doesn't mean to say he's not done preparation. Something of a theorizer, Larsson had supplemented his modest draft numbers with a substantial amount of team talk about the format, and how the new set had adjusted existing strategies/pick orders.
One colour that has been highlighted by a number of top players as being in a state of flux following the infusion of new cards is black. Where black had been a comparatively controlling colour in the first few sets of the block, some powerful attacking options in the latest set meant that a more aggressive black draft deck was far more achievable.
Settling down for the first pack, Larsson was immediately offered an opportunity to try move into black, with the powerful removal spell Silence the Believers. When given the option of staying in black or drifting into blue the very next pick, he was swayed by superior power, and took War-Wing Siren over Feast of Dreams. For pick three there was a real decision, between Hubris, a top quality bounce spell in blue, and Gnarled Scarhide, the 2/1 minotaur for one, that can reasonably bestow on your own creatures or your opponents, on those occasions where 'granting' the inability to block is the right call. Joel thought up until the last second before electing to take the minotaur.
Another shot at Hubris would come in the very next pack, being selected over Brain Maggot. Following this, fairly firmly set in his colours, Larsson had quite a clean pack from there. Disciple of Deceit joined the pile along with a Cast into Darkness that was snapped up fast by Larsson. He went into pack two clear on his colours, and hoping for an open that would support them well.
Born of the Gods didn't offer Larsson a blue or black rare to beef his deck up with, but he was certainly not unhappy to snap down an Aerie Worshippers, beginning a small inspired theme which would continue later in the pack with Sphinx's Disciple and a pair of copies of Siren of the Silent Song. There was certainly a point in pack two where Larsson would surely have been happy to grab a Springleaf Drum, but without one the instrument of his opponents' demise would have to be more direct - simply attacking.
Theros offered an interesting choice at the start of the pack. Gray Merchant of Asphodel has traditionally been one of the reasons to be drafting black during Theros block, and Larsson had the good fortune to open one. The rare was Bow of Nylea - no help there. As it was though, Larsson was drawn to an uncommon. Erebos's Emissary was the pick. Larsson had quite a few flyers, but few of them had much meat on their bones. With the Emissary, Larsson would be able to construct his own 'dragon', a bestowed upon monster of sizeable proportions. Shipwreck Singer and a pair of copies of Returned Phalanx came right on time, shoring up some concerns about early plays from what wasn't quite the all-out aggro draft deck that he might first have been intending. A seventh pick Griptide rounded things out nicely. Larsson had a plan. He'd be attacking in the air, removing creatures, and allowing a number of options with inspired (including the new Disciple of Deceit) to get him ahead on cards, keeping him in action, and hopefully finishing off opponents.
Joel seemed fairly happy with his deck overall. All he had to do now was win with it!