The Moment of Truth

Posted in Limited Information on June 14, 2011

By Steve Sadin

There comes a moment in every draft when you choose your own destiny. You make a pick that firmly sets you down the road towards your final deck. You might not realize how critical that pick will end up being when you make it, or you might be making a deliberate decision to send your draft in a specific direction.

Your choice might pay off in spades as you get passed a bunch of bombs and removal spells... or you might end up with a barely playable three-color deck because your didn't read any of the signals that were being sent to you, and you wound up fighting relentlessly to pull together a deck out the scraps that your neighbors passed you.

Every player in every draft has this moment. When you're aware of the fact that you're at a critical junction in a draft, you will be better prepared to make the best decision.

How do you become aware of when you're at a crossroads? By drafting, thinking, and learning from other Magicians, of course.

Thanks to the Pro Tour Nagoya 2011 draft viewer from draft 1, pod 1, we get to see exactly how the first draft played out for some of the top pros in the world. Curious to see what happened? Want to figure out if you would have done anything differently?

Then read on!

    Seat 1: Luis Scott-Vargas

While many players are hesitant to commit to a color early, Luis Scott-Vargas was willing to start his draft off with a Spire Monitor over the functionally colorless Spined Thopter.

Luis followed that pick with a Wing Splicer over Triumph of the Hordes, Gremlin Mine, Thundering Tanadon, and Spined Thopter. With his third pick, Luis took a Parasitic Implant out of a pack that also included Triumph of the Hordes, Suture Priest, and Vault Skirge.

Would a person who is ambivalent about what he or she wants to draft ship a third-pick Triumph of the Hordes (after seeing a Triumph of the Hordes in the previous pack) to the left in favor of a Parasitic Implant? Not a chance! Triumph of the Hordes is an incredibly powerful card in the right deck, and if you're getting a chance to take it third, odds are you're going to get passed the cards you need to make the most of it.

But that was never a part of Luis's game plan.

Before the tournament, Luis explained that he wanted to draft a control deck, and his first three picks are sufficient evidence to prove that he's willing to go to great lengths to make sure that happens.

Luis closed out the pack with some more artifacts and blue cards, but no other black cards. Luis opened and took a Kuldotha Flamefiend (out of a pack that also contained Hellkite Igniter and Burn the Impure) then followed it up with a Burn the Impure and a Blisterstick Shaman to put himself firmly into blue-red.

    Seat 2: Shintarou Ishimura

Shintarou made a huge commitment from the get-go when he started his draft off with a Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer over Exclusion Ritual, Grim Affliction, Spined Thopter, and a number of other solid cards.

From that point on, Shintarou stuck to his guns, taking nothing but artifacts, white cards, red cards and Phyrexian mana cards for the remainder of the draft. Shintarou didn't even bat an eye when he got passed back-to-back Triumph of the Hordes, simply taking a Gremlin Mine and a Vault Skirge and continuing along the path that he set for himself with his first pick.

    Seat 3: Robert Jurkovic

With his first pick, Robert took a Mindculling over Shrine of Loyal Legions, Blinding Souleater, and Gremlin Mine.

Robert then took a Grim Affliction over Exclusion Ritual and Spined Thopter. He followed his Grim Affliction up with a Kiln Walker out of a relatively weak pack and then took a Spined Thopter over Triumph of the Hordes and Thundering Tanadon.

When Robert got passed another Triumph of the Hordes in a pack that offered little other than Pristine Talisman and Suture Priest for non-green options, he decided to bite the bullet and take the game-breaking sorcery fifth pick. Yes, Robert had passed a Triumph of the Horde just two packs ago, but that wasn't enough to dissuade him from taking the best card in the pack.

Through the rest of the pack, Robert wound up taking a Psychic Barrier, a couple of Brutalizer Exarchs, a Leeching Bite, and a Vapor Snare, putting himself pretty solidly into blue-green.

Robert's first pick out of Mirrodin Besieged was a Fangren Marauder, then he followed it up with a second Fangren Marauder. From there on out he took nothing but big blue-green cards and whatever support cards he could get his hands on.

    Seat 4: Kazuki Kimura

Kazuki started his draft off with a Lashwrithe over Shrine of Burning Rage and Thundering Tanadon. With his second pick, Kazuki took a Blinding Souleater over Shrine of Loyal Legions, Porcelain Legionnaire, Gremlin Mine, and Thundering Tanadon. Next came an Exclusion Ritual, another strong white card, over Spined Thopter.

Fourth pick Kazuki took a Death-Head Cobra over Maul Splicer and Lost Leonin. Then with his fifth pick, Kazuki took Forced Worship over Suture Priest, Thundering Tanadon and Triumph of the Hordes, putting himself further along the way towards a controlling white deck.

Kazuki rounded out the pack with a Pristine Talisman, another couple of Death-Hood Cobras, a Maul Splicer, and two extremely late Lost Leonins. At the end of pack 1, Kazuki had a number of good white and green cards, and only a Lashwrithe pushing him toward black.

A Blighted Widow was followed by a Scourge Servant, suggesting that Kazuki was looking to poison his opponents to death. When Kazuki took a Core Prowler over Fangren Marauder and Skinwing, there was no going back. Kazuki was going to win with infect.

From that point on, he jumped around between black, white, and green but ultimately wound up with a base white-black deck that clearly suffered from the fact that he took so long to commit to a strategy (and did not take cards that allowed him to stay flexible along the way).

    Seat 5: Lucas Florent

Lucas got things started with a Razor Swine over Impaler Shrike, Brutalizer Exarch, and Suture Priest. This is a pick that few players would ever consider making, which is exactly what makes it a viable strategy. If multiple people at every table attempted to draft red infect, they would all end up terribly disappointed. But if one person sets out to take all of the red infect cards from pick 1, then that player could end up with a very strong set of cards when the dust settles.

Lucas then took a Shrine of Burning Rage over Thundering Tanadon. With his third pick, he went for a Porcelain Legionnaire over Shrine of Loyal Legions, Gremlin Mine, Thundering Tanadon, and Suture Priest.

With his fourth and fifth picks, Lucas grabbed two more Razor Swines and then sixth pick he took a Triumph of the Hordes over Suture Priest and Thundering Tanadon. Once Lucas had that Triumph of the Hordes in his stack, he decided to pick up a couple more big green creatures to close out the pack.

When he took a Viridian Corrupter and then followed it up with a Rot Wolf to start off his Mirrodin Besieged pack, Lucas was solidly in red-green infect.

    Seat 6: Jeffrey Chan

Jeffrey passed an Enslave! What on earth was he thinking?


Why, he was thinking that it was time to take Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite!

With his second pick, Jeffrey took a Dispatch over Suture Priest, Impaler Shrike, and Alloy Myr. A Remember the Fallen then got drafted in favor of Thundering Tanadon, and with his fourth pick, Jeffrey happily took a Shrine of Loyal Legions. Through the rest of the pack he took nothing but white cards and artifacts.

Jeffrey opened up his second pack and saw a Hellkite Igniter staring back at him. He took it, and spent the rest of the draft taking cards for his white-red beatdown deck.

During this draft, Jeffrey put off selecting a second color until he had a reason to do so. Hellkite Igniter was that reason.

    Seat 7: Fabian Thiele

First pick saw Fabian take Volt Charge over Triumph of the Hordes and Trespassing Souleater. That second-pick Enslave Jeffrey passed him meant that Fabian was going to go out of his way to make sure that he was in black—a fact that he demonstrated when he took a Geth's Verdict fourth pick over a Thundering Tanadon, and his second Blind Zealot fifth pick over Thundering Tanadon and Gremlin Mine.

Fabian finished his New Phyrexia pack by taking a Mortis Dogs, a couple of Flameborn Virons, an eighth-pick Thundering Tanadon, and a couple of Toxic Nims.

Fangren Marauder was Fabian's first pick out of Mirrodin Besieged, suggesting that maybe he would go black-green or red-black-green (remember, Volt Charge was Fabian's only red card at this point). Next up, Fabian took a Burn the Impure over Creeping Corrosion, and then he got a third-pick Hellkite Igniter. Fabian didn't take a single green card after that point.

    Seat 8: Jeremy Neeman

Not wanting to commit to anything before he had to, Jeremy first-picked a Porcelain Legionnaire out of a very deep pack that also included Wing Splicer, Triumph of the Hordes, Suture Priest, Gremlin Mine, and Spined Thopter. Second pick saw Jeremy take a Trespassing Souleater over another Triumph of the Hordes. Jeremy then took a Gremlin Mine, and with his fourth pick in the draft he took his first colored card, an Impaler Shrike. Back-to-back Thundering Tanadons followed, and then Jeremy closed out the pack with a Death-Hood Cobra, a Maul Splicer, a Vapor Snag, and some fatties.

Vedalken Anatomist (over Creeping Corrosion and Burn the Impure) put Jeremy further into blue. A second-pick Plague Myr over Burn the Impure, Hellkite Igniter, and Blightwidow meant that Jeremy was looking to bust out turn-three Thundering Tanadons, and that he had no interest in moving into red even with a Dragon in the pack trying to tempt him.

Jeremy then took a bunch of artifacts, putting himself into a prime position for a metalcraft deck that he never really got the cards for. Instead, Jeremy wound up with an artifact-heavy green-blue deck that could get some extremely explosive draws anytime he happened to have a mana Myr on turn two.

    The Moments of Truth

Seat 1: Luis-Scott Vargas set out to draft a control deck, going so far as to take a Parasitic Implant over a Triumph of the Horde third pick, and wound up with a good blue-red deck for his troubles.

Final record: 2-1

Seat 2: Shintarou Ishimura first-picked a Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer and never looked back. Could Shintarou's deck have been better if he had waited to commit to his colors? In this case, yes. But he clearly thought that it was worth the risk to start his draft with such a powerful card.

Final record: 0-3

Seat 3: Robert Jurokovic started off the draft in blue, and ultimately moved into green when he saw a second Triumph of the Hordes fifth pick. While Robert was correct in identifying that green was being underdrafted, he didn't end up seeing anywhere near enough affordable green cards to take full advantage.

Final record: 1-2

Seat 4: After opening up a Lashwrithe, then taking a couple of white cards followed by a couple of green cards, Kazuki Kimura continued to bounce around between colors and archetypes at a dizzying rate and wound up suffering because of it.

Final record: 1-2

Seat 5: Lucas Florent got things started with a Razor Swine and then continued drafting all the red infect cards he could get his hands on. When he got passed a Triumph of the Hordes sixth, he (unsurprisingly) decided to dip into green. From that point on he was able to stay the course as he opened and got passed a bunch of good green (and red) infect cards.

Final record: 1-2

Seat 6: Jeffrey Chan opened up an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, took a bunch of white cards to go with it, and then selected red as his second color when he opened up a Hellkite Igniter.

As is often the case in New Phyrexia / Mirrodin Besieged / Scars of Mirrodin Limited, Jeffrey was rewarded for keeping his second color open until pack 2.

Final record: 2-1

Seat 7: Fabian Thiele got passed an Enslave second pick and then began to force black as hard as he possibly could. A Burn the Impure followed by a Hellkite Igniter in pack 2 meant that red was going to be Fabian's second color.

Final record: 3-0

Seat 8: Jeremy Neeman remained open for as long as possible, ultimately taking some strong green and blue cards. Jeremy correctly identified that green and blue were open to him, and while his attempts to draft metalcraft didn't pan out, he did end up with a reasonable green-blue deck.

Final record: 2-1

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