Posted in NEWS on June 29, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

As difficult as Sealed Deck can be, prevailing opinion says Draft is even more challenging. Choosing the right cards can make or break a deck. While the first cards chosen in a draft are often across the colors – It's too early to say what deck you have three cards in! – they're also often the best opportunities to grand the most powerful cards available.

You can't count on opponents misunderstanding the potential of cards at a Grand Prix Day 2 draft.

For example, take a look at this pack:

Oreskos Swiftclaw, Ravenous Leucrocota, Bassara Tower Archer, Cloaked Siren, War-Wing Siren, Feast of Dreams, Aspect of Gorgon, Lightning Diadem, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, Flamespeaker's Will, Dictate of Karametra, Golden Hind, Gold-Forged Sentinel, Desperate Stand

When I laid these cards out in front of Player of the Year and 4th-ranked Jost Utter-Leyton, it didn't even take him a second to set aside Golden Hind.

4th-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton put Golden Hind hands above the rest.

"It's the best common in the set by a lot." Utter-Leyton explained. "Ramping in this format is better than normal due to so many mana sinks," meaning the ability to spend more mana throughout the game. Strive and monstrosity are two key mechanics that benefit from more mana.

"Small guys get outclassed. It's better to play something bigger early." he continued. "It's also a two mana 2/1. Aggressive decks play two mana 2/1's without abilities, and it has a great ability."

Is that all there is to the pack? 1st-ranked Reid Duke, fresh off his Top 8 appearance at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, seemed to agree. He immediately set aside Golden Hind for the similar reasons Utter-Leyton explained.

We're pretty sure 1st-ranked Reid Duke could draft with his eyes closed. (Well, maybe not.)

"The fact it's an early play that lets you come out faster than opponents is really good. Green's power is in its bigger creatures, and if you can multiply that effect bringing them out sooner it's exactly what you want to do.

So what if Golden Hind wasn't around? Duke pulled six more cards out and lined them up.

Reid Duke's pick order for cards not named Golden Hind: Feast of Dreams, War-Wing Siren, Oreskos Swiftclaw, Cloaked Siren, Bassara Tower Archer, Ravenous Leucrocota.

"If [Golden Hind] wasn't in here I'd take Feast of Dreams." Duke said, lining his picks up in order. "The rest are all strong filler cards a deck." Pick orders – predetermined rankings of cards across colors used as a general guide to crafting strong decks – become almost like a science for pros as Draft formats get explored. With Golden Hind dominating the picks in this pack, let's take a look at another.

Bloodcrazed Hoplite, Magma Spray, Pharika's Cure, Oppressive Rays, Deicide, Rollick of Abandon, Gold-Forged Sentinel, Pheres-Band Thunderhoof, Pin to the Earth, Fleetfeather Cockatrice, Font of Fertility, Eagle of the Watch, Aerial Formation, Gluttonous Cyclops

We quizzed one of the many Pro Points seekers of the weekend, Ari Lax, on what he's pull from the pack.

Ari Lax values absolute power foremost for his pick.

"Fleetfeather Cockatrice." He said after a moment. "It's the best color combination and can be splashed in any green deck. I think it's borderline unbeatable." What constitutes borderline unbeatable? It's all the obvious reasons: "It's a huge flying, flash, deathtouch creature." Lax said.

It is worth locking in on two colors like that immediately? Canadian standout and 16th-ranked Alexander Hayne didn't think so.

Hayne wanted to stay open in the first few picks of the first pack.

Magma Spray was his pick. "I like read," he explained, "because other people don't. Fleetfeather Cockatrice commits me to two colors, but I'd rather stay flexible in just one." The ability to shift into an open color – or out of a crowed one – is a nuanced skill that difficult to explain. Every draft plays out differently, and the most skilled all share only one attribute: Experience.

You can count on every player vying for Top 8 on Day 2 to have that.