Pod 1 Draft Analysis

Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2015

By Matthew Vienneau

The Seating:

  1. Olivier Ruel
  2. Scott Johns
  3. Brian Kibler
  4. Tsuyoshi Fujita
  5. Chris Pikula
  6. Chris Benafel
  7. Kai Budde
  8. Tom Van de Logt

As the players gathered around the table it was apparent that some competitors were more confident and prepared than others. Chris Pikula had been working on an alternate strategy for days based on the assumption that with so many expensive bombs, decks would be slower and vulnerable to cards such as Cultural Exchange and Braids, Cabal Minion. Meanwhile Chris Benafel was struggling to read the cards for many picks and seemed to be picking up Odyssey cards for the first time. Meanwhile Brian Kibler took some very surprising picks early, leading observers to feel that maybe he was sacrificing a bit too much for a fast red-green beatdown deck, but Kibler used as an excuse that he had only drafted Odyssey once and wasn't on top of the format quite yet.

Tom Van de Logt, in first place, got to choose his position first and he immediately said "8th" indicating that he, at least, had gone over that decision in his head. Kai immediately followed with "7th"and this trend continued as each player counted down to Antoine Ruel and the first pick. Some players were a lot less confident than others in this and were obviously assuming that Tom and Kai knew what they were doing so they followed along.

There were certain cards that everyone assumed would go in the first eight picks, and universally Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor was pretty much thought of as a first pick. No one was surprised when Olivier picked it first. Kamahl, Pit Fighter was also regarded as a top pick, if a little vulnerable to kill. But it was pointed out by many that with only one of each common, kill may not be as easy to get as it normally is in a standard draft. Scott Johns obviously believed this latter theory as he picked it second.

Kibler looked as if he was keen on going red right from the beginning as he scooped up Shower of Coals, another choice that surprised no one. But the 4th pick was a bit of a shocker, at least to some of the observers, as Tsuyoshi Fujita indicated a strong desire to go green by taking Beast Attack. While it definitely a solid card, it is generally accepted that Overrun is the best card in green as it gives green mages the breakthrough they so desperately need to finish opponents off when they don't have direct damage.

Chris Pikula went against conventional wisdom by choosing Stalking Bloodsucker in black over Cabal Patriarch. The Patriarch was felt to be an extremely early pick as it totally dominates the board, while the Bloodsucker hadn't really entered into the top 8 conversations. As the Bloodsucker is only 4/4 for six versus 5/5 for six with the Patriarch, and the Patriarch has a much more dominating ability, it was definitely a surprise. Chris Benafel followed by taking the Persuasion, indicating that maybe he had thought this draft through more than he indicated. Instead of picking what he felt was the best creature, why not take a spell that will allow him to steal whatever his opponent felt was the best creature? Chris's later picks continued to show a canny grasp of the format as he successfully figured out who at the draft table he hadn't played, and realizing that three of them were playing a variant of red-green, chose the Aven Smokeweaver and Treetop Sentinel early.

Kai Budde indicating that he knew very well how powerful the Patriarch was by grabbing it seventh. Most players try and avoid black and Kai took advantage of this by picking the Patriarch early, but then spending the majority of his early picks fighting for white cards as everyone was leaving black alone. This changed when he suddenly stepped back in for Mind Slicer and Shadowmage Infiltrator. Chris Pikula, who until that point had been the only black-blue mage, went off on this pick as he realized that his own greed had just cost him an excellent card. Kai splashed the Infiltrator as his only blue card.

Tom Van de Logt finally had his first chance to pick a card, and would immediately follow it up with a second. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to read the picks of the first seven players and take the under-drafted color. At this point, there were two black picks, two blue picks, a green pick and two red picks. White seemed an obvious choice, especially with Kirtar's Wrath and possibly Iridescent Angel or Wayward Angel still available. But Tom chose instead to take advantage of Fujita's mis-pick and take the Overrun, followed by Call of the Herd. This gave Kai the Wayward Angel, to signal black-white, and Chris Benafel the Iridescent Angel to signal blue-white. Chris Pikula continued to follow his plan with Cultural Exchange as Fujita indicated a strong preference for non-rare beatdown cards by taking Wild Mongrel. Kibler obviously wanted strongly to be a green-red mage with his next pick of Elephant Ambush, but one has to question taking a 3/3 vanilla creature so early, even if it is an instant and can be cast again for eight mana. For eight mana, most people would probably rather have the Vampiric Dragon that went 179th or the Ashen Firebeast that went 143rd.

Scott Johns was no doubt mentally rubbing his hands in glee as he picked up a 15th pick Kirtar's Wrath leaving Olivier looking for two picks to accompany his first pick Cephalid Emporor. With most of the bomb-level broken cards taken, Olivier went with the always-solid Thought Devourer, and indicated that he had a preference for a second color in green by taking Roar of the Wurm. This meant he was the fourth person into green at the table before there was a third person in either black or red. With eight drafters taking two colors each, it seems that there should be three players drafting four of the colors, and four players drafting the fifth. And as Dave Price said later, no one wants to be in that fifth color! But Olivier obviously didn't agree with that sort of advice as he dived right in.

This led to an interesting draft where green cards were disappearing extremely rapidly while the black mages could pick and choose from their secondary color, as there was no competition in the color of darkness. This allowed some great cards to go really late such as Mortivore at 117th.

In the end, the players ended up drafting the colors listed below. As theory predicted, four players drafted green and all the other colors were shared among only three players. It will be interesting to see whether green is so powerful that it can be split an extra way and still dominate the table.

Olivier Ruel - UG
Scott Johns - RW
Brian Kibler - GR
Tsuyoshi Fujita - GR
Chris Pikula - BU
Chris Benafel - UW
Kai Budde - BWu
Tom Van de Logt - BG

I think Chris Benafel will do well in this draft, despite his seeming lack of knowledge regarding some of the cards. Kibler and Fujita seemed to be drafting with a different strategy than I'm used to, but perhaps their strategy of sacrificing powerful cards for fast ones will pay off as their opponent's struggle to get enough mana. Chris Pikula had some solid ideas going in but there were several theatrical moments where he was out-drafted and I think the bite to his confidence may catch up to him as he was already claiming that this was the "Solomon Draft of 2001" (Chris is a lifetime 0-10 in Invitational Solomon Draft matches). Kai always looks confident and seemed very satisfied with his picks, and Scott Johns seemed to look like things were going the way he expected.

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