Sunday, 4:13 p.m. – Drafting Born of the Gods/Theros with Marcelino Freeman

Posted in Event Coverage on February 15, 2014

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

"This isn't the kind of deck that's going to play expensive bombs," he said as he began to lay out his deck. "The only reason I even ended up with this Ember Swallower is because there wasn't anything else in the pack for me. What you want to do is try to end up with a bunch of inexpensive creatures, fifteen lands, and then overpower an opponent."

Watching Marcelino Freeman draft was very intriguing, as his early picks were completely contrary to many of the things I had been learning about this format. It seemed like he was actively taking worse cards to adhere to his strategy, snagging cards like Nyxborn Rollicker and Impetuous Sunchaser over other, far more powerful cards. Yet by the end of the first pack, I couldn't argue with what he had begun to put together. It all started with his first pick of the draft, where he selected a Bolt of Keranos over Fall of the Hammer.

"One of the things I noticed that made me pick the Bolt over Fall of the Hammer was the green cards in the pack" he explained. "Fall of the Hammer is very good, but if I'm drafting it, I want to be green to take advantage of the larger power on the creatures. In a deck like red/white, for example, many of my creatures are 1/1s or 2/1s, so it is much less powerful. If I take it, I'm likely going to be fighting for green with the people I am passing to, so I would rather take the Bolt, where I can go red/blue or red/white. Fall of the Hammer is still good in those colors, but not as good as in red/green. It was a risk I was willing to take."

It was a risk that appeared to ultimately pay off, as he was passed a clear signal that the archetype he was hoping to speculate into with his Bolt pick was wide open.

"This very aggressive red/white archetype is not one that many people like to draft," Freeman began. "Most of the people in the draft aren't going to be fighting over the one- and two-drops that you really want in your deck, so you can just take them. In the last pod, one of the decks that I saw a player end up with was monored, and he used it to win his pod. Early on, there weren't any really good white cards coming around, so I tried to keep myself close to monored, which is a really fast deck that many people here don't know how to play around. When the Loyal Pegasus came around like fifth pick, I realized that no one was drafting white weenie, so I was able to move into white and build an aggressive red/white deck. This deck doesn't have the strongest cards in it, but it's so aggressive that it can really punish poor draws and mana bases. It gives you free wins, which is very hard to do in draft."

It wasn't just wins that Freeman was hoping to pick up for free. Not only does he believe that this archetype takes advantage of a weakness in the format, it also takes advantage of other drafters' opinions of many of the cards in it.

"You also get a lot of free cards during the draft," he laughed, "because not many people are going to want the cards you want. You can get cards like Loyal Pegasus and Nyxborn Shieldmate, which a deck like green/white isn't going to really want, so you get these cards really late. You could definitely find yourself fighting for cards against a green/white curve deck, but most of the time, people drafting green want to draft the big monsters, so you don't have to worry about them taking your small creatures."

And small creatures is where it is at for Freeman. While many people would be reveling at having an Ember Swallower in their red deck, he almost wished it wasn't.

"The only thing that I would have liked is to have a few more inexpensive creatures so that I could keep my curve below four mana," he said, pointing to the trio of creatures in his four-drop slot. "With three four-drops, I am probably going to have to play sixteen lands when I really want to be playing fifteen. Loyal Pegasus is a very important card to this deck, and Impetuous Sunchaser is, too. And he's a bad card; no one else wants him. If you manage to get a couple of each of them, you can play the Pegasus and follow it up with the Sunchaser and deal an incredible amount of damage before they can even get started. It's almost as good as Monored in Standard, where you're dealing four or five damage on turn two. If you can do that in Limited, it's very hard to lose, especially if it's with fliers."

Occasionally, though, the fact that your creatures are so small can come back to bite you. Once the 3/3s start coming out, your 2/1s begin to look a lot less appealing. Fortunately, Freeman has another card that his deck is positioned far better to use than most of the field.

"Portent of Betrayal is really important to this deck," he explained, "because you often find yourself needing to find a way to finish the game. You spend your early turns playing everything you can, pump your creatures, and use Portent to finish them off. This format is a little slower, and most decks don't really have much to do on turn two. This lets you get them to like 11 before they get a real threat on the table, and you can just use Portent to steal it, drop them to like 2, and then it's almost impossible for them to win."

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