Team Rochester is a daunting format. Widely regarded as the most skill-intensive format available, it has earned that reputation. In one way, you're at the mercy of the cards you open, but there's a wealth of strategy about how to distribute your colors to maximize your picks. The ability to work around your opponent's strategy adds an interesting dynamic.
Today, the hardworking robot scientists at Sideboard.com have taken the first draft's decklists and examined each draft seat to see what color combinations are being drafted there. What follows is those numbers, crunched, and accompanied by commentary on the plan behind drafting that color combination. After each seat has been so scrutinized, the drafts of three real-life teams will be examined to see a "Team Draft Strategy" in action.
The 'A' Seat
Few teams deviated from the traditional move to keep red and black together in this seat. There's plenty of brutal red in Planeshift, not to mention Terminate and Lava Zombie, and anchoring red-black in this seat maximizes your chances to scoop the gold. The inclusion of blue gives additional access tempo cards like Recoil and Jilt, as well as Apocalypse fare like Quicksilver Dagger and Minotaur Illusionist.
However, that was the old school. The new school takes that logic together with the fact that the opposing 'A' Seat is likely to employ that strategy. The result is trading in blue for white. Not only do you get the chance at ludicrous Apocalypse goodies like Goblin Legionnaire and Dega Disciple, but if your opponent signals red-black early enough, you can invest an Invasion pick in an Acolyte to escort your opponent to their loss.
Those who chose to move into green instead usually had a persuasive reason to do so, like Shivan Wurm, or Spiritmonger, but occasionally for something less flashy, like Consume Strength or Ebony Treefolk. They focused on building a strong red-black deck, and only deviated because it was convenient. For the same reason, two decks ended up as pure red-black. The cards weren't there to convince them otherwise.
The last three decks are the truly ingenious ones. They take the "'A' Seat is red-black" wisdom one step further, turning their 'A' Seat into an anti-deck. This way you can pack your deck with Acolytes, Hobble, Hunting Drakes, Amphibious Kavus, and generally everything that makes red-black miserable. The cost is one less chance at Planeshift's brutality, but that seems a small price to pay for a match win. It will be interesting to see if this theory holds water.
The 'B' Seat
"Five-Color Green": 13
Other Blue-White: 4
This shows a significant change in strategy. Usually, the two blue-white mages will be sitting in the middle, working to gain aerial advantage over their opponent. This usually means dipping into black for Cavern Harpy and the amazing Probe, and many chose that path.
Others, however, shifted their base-green decks into this seat. Zvi Mowshowitz took this role for himself. When asked how he planned to beat the expected control decks, his answer was simple: "Fat, fat and more fat. Oh, and don't let them have Dead Ringers or Flagbearers.". The decks expect to stop the ground game and win in the air, so all you need is better monsters you can just run into their Prison Barricades.
The other deviations from blue-white-black depended largely on Apocalypse. It's easy to veer into red for the ridiculous Raka Sanctuary, or green for Jungle Barrier. Occasionally, the blue-black goodness is so plentiful that it forces white into the splash role.
The 'C' Seat
"Five-Color Green": 10
The last seat has the dubious honor of being the cutoff seat. It's a team's last chance to hate bombs away from their opponents. As a result, it is also usually a base-green deck that takes fixers highly. This turns the "squandered" picks back into useful ones. The numbers stand overwhelmingly in favor of this strategy.
Others compensate for putting their green deck in the middle by moving blue to the end. They still work overtime protecting their team from getaway bombs, but instead of gobbling fixers to make them all work, they start from a control base and work out their third color from their stolen munitions.
The final group attack their expected opponents the way they least expect it: Pure unadulterated beatdown. While the other deck works their mana to get access to their cards, the beatdown deck pours out creatures and wins just as the opponent's strategy starts to prosper. It also benefits from expected awkward mana draws on the other side of the table.
Three Particular Examples
Dynasty, composed of Ben Rubin, Brian Hacker and Gab Tsang, used their 'A' Seat to hate expected red-black. Rubin went immediately for white-blue-green, scoring Galina's Knight, Llanowar Knight and Hobble, as well as a fair aerial beatdown. The idea is stop the red-black deck cold on the ground, draw out their removal and then win in the air. With the white mostly gone, the 'B' seat compensated by going blue-black, touching red for Razorfin Hunter and Quicksilver Dagger, powerful tools against blue-white. Hacker played the role of clean-up, scoring Ghitu Fire, Charging Troll, Anavolver and Spiritmonger to go in his base-green deck.
Last year's finalists, Car Acrobatic Team, used a less revolutionary strategy. They snuck white into Aaron Forsythe's 'A' Seat red-black deck, giving him Crimson Acolyte and Hobble to get a leg up in the mirror. In the middle, Andrew Cuneo started Green, but didn't get carried away. His conservative expeditions into white and black were just for the essentials: Armadillo Cloak, Exotic Curse, two Ancient Spiders, Pernicious Deed and Vindicate. What remained was a deck set up to hold off blue-white air force while smashing fatties into its ground defense. On the end Andrew Johnson made a solid blue-black deck instead of worrying about what cards slipped by.
Righteous Babe kept red in their 'A' seat, wanting the maximum number of Magma Bursts. The pilot, Mike Flores, teamed it up with white for an advantage over red-black, but still had the ability to go beatdown thanks to two Rogue Kavus and two Squee's Embraces. A pair of Rushing Rivers became frightening finishers. In the middle, Brian Kowal went the full five colors, all over the map thanks to Apocalypse pulling him in so many directions at once. Anticipating this, he spent five of his Invasion picks on mana fixers. That meant all the good black and black had nowhere to go but to John Shuler, so he was readily hooked up.
Hopefully, this snapshot has given insight into the different ways colors can be split across a team, and the different results they give.