Sam Black - Draft 1

Posted in Event Coverage on December 1, 2013

By Josh Bennett

It seems like everywhere you go, people in the know are saying "Sam Black, so hot right now... Sam Black."

The awed whispers have it right. Never mind that he's the Number 7 Ranked Player. In Black's last four major events, he's made Top 8 all four times. It's an incredible run, and Black shows no signs of slowing down. He came into Day 2 with a comfortable 8-1 record, and sat down to his first draft of the day.

The draft kicked off without fireworks. Black's first two packs were lukewarm affairs, and he took Vaporkin followed by Griptide. The third had no blue cards at all, and nothing amazing in the other colors. He settled on Lagonna-Band Elder, passing along Sip of Hemlock, Kragma Warlord and Flamespeaker Adept. Things got a little brighter with a fourth-pick Voyage's End, but then came another dud pack, and Black took Dragon Mantle over Steam Augury. The signals were anything but clear. He wound up getting a late Voyaging Satyr and an Ordeal of Nylea, tabling Fade Into Antiquity and Opaline Unicorn before pack's end.

Black's situation was less than ideal. He had a few good blue cards, and a smattering of cards in green and red. He was certainly not in black. Still, when he opened Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Griptide he didn't take too long to decide on the Planeswalker. He followed it up with a string of powerful green cards - Boon Satyr, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea's Emissary, Nessian Asp. There wasn't much blue to speak of, save for a Horizon Scholar late in the pack.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Heading into the final pack he was solidly blue-green, with Unicorn and Traveler's Amulet to splash his Ashiok. Again, the packs seemed to be low in quality cards. Still he picked up a few goodies, including Horizon Chimera, a pair of Omenspeakers and a Nessian Courser.

That was how it looked from the outside. I sat down with Black to get his commentary on how it had gone and some of the key decisions.

Pick 3: Faced with no blue cards, Black was underwhelmed by his options. None of these cards would give him direction, he said. He took the Elder mostly because blue-white would be the best place to end up. He said it was possible he should have taken Sip of Hemlock, knowing that Gerard Fabiano two seats to his right often drafts aggressive decks, but not necessarily.

Pick 5: Dragon Mantle over Steam Augury. "At this point, knowing I'm going to be playing blue, the one card I'm thinking of is Wavecrash Triton." Mantle does a lot of work in blue-red.

Pick 6: "The late Voyaging Satyr is a strong signal, and to get Ordeal of Nylea next [the second he'd seen, he took Voyage's End over the first] reinforced that. It's the worst Ordeal, but it's still an Ordeal."

End of Pack 1: Black wound up playing the Fade Into Antiquity he got late, but wasn't thrilled about doing so. Being sorcery speed is a very real cost. Black was mentally settled in Blue-Green, and was conscious of his shortness of good playables.

Leafcrown Dryad

Pack 2 Pick 1: "Griptide vs Ashiok was a VERY difficult pick. After pack 1 I knew I was short on cards, so it's risky to turn down a card that will definitely make my maindeck. On the other hand, I didn't have any high-impact cards. Ashiok would give me that." Having the Unicorn already, and with green offering Nylea's Presence, splashing Ashiok wouldn't take too much work.

Pack 2 Pick 3: Leafcrown Dryad over Triton Tactics. "Triton Tactics is very good in blue-green, but Dryad gave me a two-drop that can trigger heroic. Again, I'm still looking for Wavecrash Triton. I never saw one all draft."

Pack 2 evauation: "I had about fifteen playables with a couple possibles, so I was a little under where I'd like to be. What that meant was that I couldn't prioritize taking sideboard cards that are very powerful in their matchup, things like Gainsay, Hunt the Hunter, Shredding Winds and Benthic Giant."

Overall, Black was satisfied with his draft. "I feel I was definitely in the right colors, and I think my deck is very good." I asked him if he thought 3-0 was a possibility, and he said "Oh, definitely."

Well he was right. He dropped Gerard Fabiano, GP Calgary finalist Stephane Gerard, and Kai Burnett to sweep his pod, setting himself up for a run at Top 8.

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