Saturday, 5:30 p.m. - Drafting with Jonathan Melamed

Posted in Event Coverage on September 16, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

With three rounds of Standard done, 19 players still had perfect records. That meant two full tables of undefeated players getting ready to draft. I can't tell you for sure whether this story is apocryphal or not, but it has the ring of truth...

At Pro Tour Philadelphia, Paul Rietzl, Champion of Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010, was walking to his draft table. On his way, he passed table one, all of whom were on a very healthy 5-0. As he went by, he allegedly said with a grin,

'I imagine you're all feeling pretty pleased with yourselves. Just remember, one of you is about to go 0-3'.

Like I say, true or not, that does sound like Paul...

In any case, those words are certainly true. With three rounds done, the future National Champion still has twelve rounds of Magic to play before tomorrow night, so no resting on laurels after a nice start.

Jonathan Melamed

Jonathan Melamed certainly knows what it takes to do well at the top tables. He made the top 16 of Grand Prix Tampa a couple of years back, and was also well in the hunt for the top 8 of Pro Tour Austin 2009, ultimately falling one space back in the top 16. To his left sat his friend and well-known Magic Online player Reinaldo da Silva, but in Melamed's mind at least the top table wasn't littered with unbeatable stars of the game.

The first pick was simple. There were a bunch of ordinary cards, and a not-at-all ordinary Djinn of Wishes. As we saw at Pro Tour Philadelphia in the Draft Tech video with Sebastian Thaler, sometimes your first pick doesn't make the deck, and that's especially true when there's a double color commitment, as there is with the Djinn of Wishes. After one Rare, Melamed got passed a second, this time the 5/7 Arachnus Spinner. That instantly caused him to prioritize Arachnus Web, as you might expect.

Pick three was Gideon's Lawkeeper, taken over a Llanowar Elves which would ultimately be the only copy of the Elves Melamed would see all draft. Stave Off followed, which he later said he valued very highly, and then the first Arachnus Web to compliment his rare Spider. Griffin Sentinel, Peregrine Griffin, and Griffin Rider completed the goodness from pack one, although it was interesting to see how the back end of the back fell out.

The Test

It looked as if most players at the table were picking cards they knew they weren't going to play with, weren't going to sideboard, and weren't going to see played against them. That wasn't the case for Melamed, who had Autumn's Veil pick ten (which sometimes gets sided in), Deathmark at eleven (obviously really good against him), Celestial Purge at twelve (a fine sideboard card if ever there was one against Bloodthirst Guy) and a final pick Plummet!

With that first pick Djinn of Wishes now comprehensively abandoned, Melamed went to work building a nice green-white deck. After Arbalest Elite got things going in pack two, he was delighted to be passed Day of Judgment from Reinaldo, who was comfortably in red-black at this point. Both colors flowed consistently through the second pack, with a second Gideon's Lawkeeper at six probably the highlight. The deck was shaping up fine without being anything extraordinary. It could do with a few more flyers, and probably lowering the curve a little.

Table One

Dungrove Elder was another nice Rare to open the third pack, and probably Melamed's main disappointment was having to take Arachnus Web over a second Assault Griffin. To be fair, that was a brutal pack, since he'd begun by shuffling the Griffin to the front, then seen the Web and moved that to be his pick, and then seen Garruk's Horde. That's a big, big creature, but Melamed was mindful of his curve, and the power of his Arachnus Spinner.

A late Runeclaw Bear and a nice Pacifism helped his curve, and he professed himself satisfied after the draft. His concern was that Reinaldo to his left was almost certainly a very, very good Black-Red deck (he wasn't wrong - triple Shock and a Fireball were just the start for Reinaldo) and it looked entirely possible that they would be on a collision course for round six, when one of them would walk away with a perfect record at the halfway mark.

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