Chinese Taipei's Tzu-Ching Kuo has been a fixture of the Asian pro scene for over a decade, and for the last few years has been enjoying the greatest success of his career. He's probably best-known as the man who captained Team Chinese Taipei to their victory at the inaugural World Magic Cup. He represented the APAC region at the 2012 Players' Championship, the event now called the World Championship. Despite a whopping nine Grand Prix Top 8's, he has never claimed the trophy. Twice he's come within a match win, recently at Grand Prix Quebec City last year. At 8-1 he's two good drafts away from getting another shot.
Kuo was happy when he fanned his first pack and saw Eidolon of Countless Battles waiting for him in the rare slot. He moved Oracle's Insight to the front as well, considering the two of them, but couldn't deny the power of the Eidolon. "I think I would take Retraction Helix over it, but that's about it." A second-pick Akroan Skyguard was exactly what he'd hoped he would see, and third pick he quickly settled on Bolt of Keranos over Nyxborn Eidolon and Forlorn Pseudamma.
I asked him if he was concerned to be taking a red card, knowing that he had passed good red to the left. He dismissed that as nonsense. "Bolt is such a strong signal. You can't care too much about what the person you're passing to does. Worry about the person passing to YOU." The next pack confirmed his analysis: He had his choice of another Bolt, Kragma Butcher and the mighty Akroan Conscriptor, which he took. His next picks were curve-filling beaters, and he ended the pack with a tenth-pick Fearsome Temper, a very good sign.
Interestingly, the Oracle's Insight he'd briefly considered in his opening pack managed to come all the way back to him ninth. He could only shake his head in disbelief. I asked him if he was surprised to see it come back. "Very! I don't think anyone at the table was playing blue. There was that late Sudden Storm too. Maybe nobody opened Retraction Helix?"
It was as good a start as he could hope for. "For Theros I'm looking out for strong heroic cards and good tricks to trigger heroic. That's all."
When his Theros pack started off with a Wingsteed Rider and then a Coordinated Assault, Kuo was almost ready to etch his 3-0 performance in stone. The good times didn't last. The overflowing bounty he'd gotten in the first pack had stuck his left-hand neighbor Tatsuro Shoji into Red-White as well. That left Kuo with the scraps in pack two, and it was all he could do to make sure his two-drop slot was solid with such lackluster cards as Bronze Sable and Setessan Battle Priest.
"You have to have twos. If you don't get enough of them, your deck won't work."
Still, it was a rude awakening, and after pack three started with a pair of Lightning Strikes it seemed like the red and white cards evaporated completely. Fourth pick Kuo's only option was a Dragon Mantle while he shipped Sea God's Revenge with a shake of his head. Fifth pick there were no cards for him at all. Luckily they picked up again after that, and when his opening pack came back to him he patted it, hoping for good news. It was there: Purphoros's Emissary.
"It was such a strong pack, I knew I would be getting a card back from it, and I thought there was a good chance it would be the Emissary."
Somehow, Gray Merchant of Asphodel had also made a complete circuit of the table. At this Kuo could only shrug. "Maybe no-one's playing blue OR black?"
Kuo's build was quick, and he was very pleased with his deck, saying that he wouldn't be surprised to 3-0 with it, and would be disappointed with less than 2-1. Here it is.