In the opening draft of Pro Tour Nice, I decided to cover Dirk Baberowki. He finished well at Pro Tour San Diego earlier this year, as one of the only players in the field actively drafting Blue/Red. He won the Pro Tour Osaka Masters series with his teammates Kai Budde and Marco Blume as part of team Phoenix Foundation by drafting Blue/Green with multiple Nantuko Disciples. Dirk is known for placing different valuations on many cards when compared to most other players.
His draft began very strongly, with a first pick Aboshan followed up by a second pick Persuasion. By the end of the first pack, Dirk had a solid stack of Blue and White cards, but had only drafted two playable creatures. The second pack petered off in quality quickly, and Torment didn't aid his deck much. We sat down after his draft to discuss his picks.
Dirk (getting up from the draft table, to a judge): Am I allowed to go to the bathroom quickly?
Judge (pauses, hesitantly)
Ben: I was covering his draft, so I can vouch for his deck.
Judge: Ok then, that's fine.
Dirk (hands me deck box): Could you hold this for me?
Ben: Sure, and I can get your deck registration sheet. What table were you at?
Dirk: Table 9.
Ben: Ok, meet me at the feature match table once you're back.
(I go and get his deck registration sheet, and sit down to wait for Dirk. Toby Wachter is sitting to my right, interviewing Ben Rubin. Mark Rosewater sits down across from me, seconds before Dirk shows back up)
Mark: Oh, excuse me. (gets up)
Dirk: (sitting down) Oh my god, pack two. I don't think I did anything wrong except Psychatog (pack two/pick two—he picked his 2nd Repel over it). This deck looked like an easy 3-0 deck in the first pack, and now I'm not as sure, but it'll probably go 2-1.
B: Or 3-1 since there's four rounds in the first draft.
D: 3-1 then. My deck is solid all around. (lays out cards by casting cost, separating creatures and spells). I have ten men. (points to Persuasion). And one of theirs.
B: The draft started out amazingly for you, I don't think you could complain about your first few picks.
D: After I took Aboshan, I opened my next pack. First I saw Treetop Sentinel and was happy. Then I saw Cephalid Looter and was going to pick that. THEN I saw the Persuasion, and was like "Oh my god". Why couldn't they all have been in different packs?
B: Yeah, it was a tough choice between Looter and Persuasion. Do you think you made the right decision?
D: Persuasion is the better card, but Looter might have been the better pick. But why pass a card pick two that can take Aboshan? I didn't want that to happen.
B: Another interesting pick was taking Scrivener over Psionic Gift (Pack Two/Pick Three). A lot of players think Psionic Gift is the most important card to make W/U decks work.
D: The gift would have been nice, but look how many Cloudchasers I drafted! I still have enchantments, but I don't want to end up killing them. Plus, I already had these cards (pulls aside two Repels, Second Thoughts, Aether Burst and Peek), and I only had two creatures (pulls aside Aboshan and Angelic Wall) so I had no men to enchant (with the Gift).
B: I knew that you had a penchant for Red/Blue in San Diego, and then Green/Blue with small janky creatures backed by the (Nantuko) Disciple in Osaka. What are your thoughts about White/Blue in this format?
D: It's my favorite deck! I wanted to have a way to kill (Cabal) Torturer, but I'll have to steal it instead. I usually like White/Blue with smaller men, and Ghostly Wings. Also, I wish I had gotten a Firebolt, so I could have splashed red. I took the Thermal Blast (Pack One/Pick Ten) for that reason, but it never worked out. I almost took Springing Tiger (Pack Two/Pick Four), but took Embolden instead. Every time there was a good splash card, there was still a good white or blue card in the pack.
B: It also seemed like the colors were coming along at odd times. You'd see a good extra black card, and then a red card and a green card, but they'd never come in any sort of order.
B: So how much did Torment change your strategy for drafting in this block?
D: It didn't change it a lot. Actually, Torment changed a bit of the strategy, but I've always drafted blue, for the past five years. The only time I didn't draft blue, I won the Pro Tour, so maybe I should rethink that strategy (laughs). A couple of decks were eliminated, like the Red/Green Rites of Initation deck. There aren't enough good two drops for that deck anymore.
B: I've heard that before, since losing a third pack for Wild Mongrel and Mad Dog hurts without good replacements in Torment.
D: Plus, I like drafting janky decks, taking stuff that no one else takes. I love Ghostly Wings, and I can usually get them late.
B: So you have a different valuation on cards than most other people?
D: Yes...no. I just know there's some cards I'll get for free. Take Mystic Visionary for example. A lot of people will play him, but not many people draft him early. Since I know I can usually get him late, I like to draft cards that will make him good, like Ghostly Wings.
B: A 3/2 flyer that you can save from creature kill isn't bad on turn three.
D: But this time I got Aboshan and Persuasion, so I have all these powerful cards. My deck isn't as janky as I would like it to be. As bad as things were going, I was surprised to get Strength of Isolation so late (Third Pack/Pick Nine). I thought someone else would have taken it.
B: It just seemed like there weren't many white cards in Torment period, and that no one was drafting it.
D: Yeah. I wanted just one (Teroh's) Faithful, just one! But there wasn't a single one to be found. I wish I had gotten one more...what is it called, Coral Net?
B: Yeah, Coral Net. You do have an unusually strong sideboard though, with a lot of options.
D: I do have that.
B: So if you could add any one common to your deck, in your colors, which would it be?
D: Either a Looter or a Gift. This deck really could use a Gift, but I'd probably take the Looter over it anyway since it's a better card.
B: Why did you decide to play your white sac land (Abandoned Outpost) and not your blue one (Seafloor Debris)?
D: I didn't want to sacrifice the blue land because of Aboshan, since I need 3 mana for him. The White one I can sacrifice to get my 3rd blue, but why sac the blue land?
(Dirk then finishes registering his deck, but then makes a last minute change, pulling out Liquify and adding in Aura Graft)
D: You know, I really like this card (holding up Aura Graft). I took it over something good...
B: (The card was Patron Wizard as Pack One/Pick Six). That was the one pick the whole draft you really hesitated on.
D: But I think it's strong, because I might be able to pull off a cool stunt with it, like with my enchantment (points to Strength of Isolation).
B: Well Dirk, before I head off, would you like to add comments for the people at home?
D: Nope, not really.
B: Well then, good luck! (I shake his hand)
D: Thank you.
DIRK'S DRAFT (Dirk's Picks are in bold, other cards of note in each pack are listed)
15: Nomad Stadium
10: Sphere of Duty
12: Mad Dog
14: Sacred Rites
15: Cabal Inquisitor
10: Pay No Heed
11: Restless Dreams
12: Coral Net
13: Boneyard Slasher
14: Cephalid Snitch