With Dissension literally debuting for wide release on the day the Pro Tour began, more than a few of Magic's brightest minds clustered together to sort the wheat from the chaff in this new block environment. Here's a look at some of the biggest colonies, what they discovered during their time together, and a glimpse at the success they had here in Prague.
The DutchNuijten's open house was an invitation to draft all day, every day.
We're calling this the Dutch colony because it took place at Julien Nuijten's house in Amsterdam, but the roster for this one includes both Ruels, Geoffrey Siron, Bernardo Da Costa Cabral, and basically every major Dutch pro not named Remie. The majority of them got together on Thursday, a full week before the event, and ran about 4-5 drafts a day.
Talking to Rogier Maaten about what they had learned, he said they discovered that blue decks were generally the best decks very early on, but those decks could come in a variety of flavors. The two-color sets they really wanted to avoid were white-green and white-red because they tended to leave you with the fewest playables and most unsalvageable drafts possible.
Many of this group did not make Day Two, but those that did are generally doing very well (they are all pretty good players too). Siron, Olivier, Frank, and Bernardo Da Costa Cabral are all in good position to notch Top 8 appearances.
The Scandinavian group arrived here in Prague on Monday and are staying at an apartment in Andel that Nicolai Herzog rented. The group included Herzog, Tomi Walamies, Simon Carlsson, Johan Sadeghpour, Anton Jonsson, Tuomo Nieminen, Jeroen Remie, Craig Krempels, John Fiorillo, and well… me. Nicolas Nygaard also showed up later in the week.
I asked Johan what they learned from their experience, and he told me that they felt blue-white and blue-green were the best color combinations early on, so much of the draft is really setting up your Dissension pack. Further boiling it down led to the question: Are you white or are you green? Answering that basic question early in the draft then puts you into position where you have a series of archetypes that you can draft for, and you take the best cards in whichever one of those archetypes that is getting passed to you.
More than half the group listed above made it to Day Two, though like many players, their playskill has had to carry them through some rough drafts where they scrambled with either their mana or their playables.
Seven Japanese players clustered at Masahiko Morita's apartment in Osaka to get up to speed at this tricky new format. Both Fujitas, Kenji Tsumura, Katsuhiro Mori, Ryo Ogura, and Tim Aten favorite Takuya Oosawa all battled together there, developing two strategies that (like almost everyone else) involve drafting green-red-blue, or drafting Dimir cards in pack 1, picking between Orzhov and Izzet in pack 2, and then filling in the appropriate guild in pack 3.
Unfortunately for this story, only Mori and Oosawa made Day Two, and Oosawa alone is still in contention for a high finish, having drafted at table one for the fourth draft of the weekend. I suggested that Kenji might want to invite Rich Hoaen to stay at his house prior to Pro Tour-Kobe later this year, and the Japanese Ben Goodman appeared more than intrigued by the idea.Rich Hoaen was part of the San Diego draft contingent.
The California Crew
Antonino De Rosa's move to San Diego has sparked something of a revival among old-timers stationed in Southern California. Rich Hoaen flew out to San Diego and stayed at good friends Kate and Pat Sullivan's, while attempting to break the draft format with them, Ben Seck, Justin Gary, Ben Rubin, and the aforementioned Italian Stallion.
Of that squad only Hoaen, Rubin, Gary, and De Rosa attended this Pro Tour, but three of them made it to Day two, and all were doing quite well with two drafts left to go. Asked about what sort of plans they had coming into the weekend, Rich had this to say: "I mostly drafted four-color decks in California, Ben kept drafting the double Twinstrike archetype, Justin drafted terrible decks, and Antonino doesn't like bounce lands."
Heads whipped around to blink and stare at Hoaen.
"I think I might have convinced him otherwise before the first round began… I'm still not sure."
As you can see, many of the teams didn't really have a consensus on what they would draft coming in, but they certainly improved their chances by working closely together, figuring out their pick orders, archetype strengths, and just bettering their skills by testing against the cream of the Magic crop. After the results from Hawaii and strong showing from many of the various colony members here in Prague, it looks like social testing groups are here to stay.