For a year Shahar Shenhar has been known simply as The Champ. He's worn the title well, being a fixture in the Top 25 Rankings. The World Championship looms on the horizon, offering him a chance to repeat the performance that solidified his place among the game's elite. For now, however, his focus is on the task at hand. He sat at 8-1 after the first Day with strong position to make a run at the Top 8.
The draft started easily enough. His first pick was Mardu Heart-Piercer head and shoulders over the rest of the pack. His next was not so clear-cut. He fanned a pack that featured Opulent Palace, Frontier Bivouac, Wooly Loxodon, Riverwheel Aerialists, Snowhorn Rider and Kill Shot.
"At this point I have a red card I want to play at all costs. I love the Loxodon, but taking a green card means I'd have to be Temur. I'd rather take a blue card and stay open, and the Aerialists is very good."
He followed it up with a War-Name Aspirant and then a Frontier Bivouac. Bear's Companion showed up fifth, so it looked like it would be Temur after all. He got some green early drops and knew his spot was secure when Snowhorn Rider tabled.
"I felt really good after pack one. Early on I'd been hoping to stay blue-red and only splash green. I don't like playing decks with the colors evenly split up. By the end of the pack it looked like I was mostly red-green."
"Obviously the Hydra is insane. Double green means it'll force my manabase a bit, but it's so powerful. I didn't have to give up much to get the two lands, just solid cards like Glacial Stalker and Set Adrift. I always want to get my lands in pack two, because I don't want to be in the situation of having to pass a bomb in pack three just to get my mana sorted out."
As the pack continued it seemed the picks were a little thin. Shenhar filled out his curve as best he could. Trap Essence made the circuit back to him eleventh.
"It was tough because there were lands in every pack, but never the ones I wanted. Trap Essence is by no means a great card, but the way my deck worked out I'm a little short on removal, and it can be a powerful effect. If I can two-drop, pass with three mana open and catch someone with it, the game's over pretty quickly."
"Yeah, wow. This is what I was talking about, I didn't have to give up any of those premium cards because I needed lands. I wouldn't have minded more lands, but even the Swiftwater Falls fifth I passed because there was a Tuskguard Captain with it."
I asked Shenhar how the build went.
"Pretty straightforward. The one big decision was about the lands. I had ten green sources, but I wasn't sure how I'd split the islands and mountains. I could've gone eight blue sources, five red sources, which seems better for only having five real red cards, but I went to seven and six because I really want to hit Mardu Heart-Piercer on turn four as often as possible. The one pick I wish I had back was the War-Name Aspirant. There was a Force Away in that pack that I wish I had instead of the Aspirant who's in my sideboard. It's not that I should've taken the Force, but just the way my deck worked out, the Aspirant isn't great. Even early Highland Game might just be better for this deck. Still trades with the same things that the 3/2 would, and the life could be very relevant."