Drafting with Chris Pikula

Posted in Event Coverage on October 9, 2016

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Not every draft deck is made of stellar rares. In fact, very few are. Many of them are made instead of solid commons and uncommons, role-players that push through damage, swing the race in our favor, and take care of our opponent's most pressing threats.

Chris Pikula sat down to draft this morning at GP Atlanta with a strong preference for green. It's one of the deeper colors in Kaladesh Limited, with a host of playable, and sometimes even excellent, commons and uncommons. They're the kinds of cards that aren't necessarily flashy, but they make a deck tick.

Pikula's first pack included the rare Dynavolt Tower, the white uncommon Fairgrounds Warden, and the green common Peema Outrider. Pikula debated the pick but eventually chose the Outrider.

“It's a somewhat questionable pick, but it worked out because I got passed no white and a lot of green,” Pikula said.

He followed it up with a second-pick Riparian Tiger, another beefy green creature with the ability to push through damage. Third pick Pikula faced a difficult decision. He had two strong four- and five-drop creatures already in his pile, and he had the choice of either classic green removal spell Hunt the Weak or Kaladesh's mana dork Servant of the Conduit. Pikula deliberated the pick and eventually chose the removal spell.

Then, in the next pack, Pikula got his Servant of the Conduit as well.

“When [Servant of the Conduit] was still there Pack 4 I was like, oh wow,” Pikula said. “This was the best pick of the draft. The luckiest pick.”

The next set of cards included nothing in green, and Pikula dipped into black for a Subtle Strike. He rounded out the rest of the first pack with a handful of green and black cards, including an Appetite for the Unnatural, a Fretwork Colony, and a Hazardous Conditions.

Pack 2 Pikula had his draft discipline tested, as he opened a Snare Thopter, another Peema Outrider, and a Harnessed Lightning, as well as the rare Aetherworks Marvel. He pulled the Harnessed Lightning to the front, then shuffled it away again, ultimately choosing the Snare Thopter to diversify his threats. Then, in the next pack, he saw a Skyship Stalker.

“One hard thing about the draft is that I could have gone into red,” Pikula said. “I could have taken a Harnessed Lightning, and then I got passed the dragon. But I saw no red coming from the right either and it seemed like black was really open, so I decided to stick with black-green.”

Pikula made a critical pick, choosing a Thriving Rats over the rare dragon.

“This was where I committed to black,” Pikula said. “I took Thriving Rats, and if you look at my deck now, I'm so happy to have them. I don't have a lot of two-drops, and I have extra ways to get energy, so this could end up being a 3/4 attacker that I cast on turn 2. I really need the two-drop, so it's very good.

Pikula then continued to fill out his curve with green and black creatures. Late in Pack 2 he faced a decision between two tricks – the green Blossoming Defense or the black Rush of Vitality.

“I really like both these cards, and luckily I got another Rush later,” Pikula said. “I'm not sure which card's better. Having the life gain is so good when you're getting to the board late but you have big things.”

It was on to Pack 3, where Pikula opened another Aetherworks Marvel, as well as an Armorcraft Judge. He chose the Judge, a card that synergized well with his fabricate creatures and with spells like Hunt the Weak and Subtle Strike.

After that, the beginning of pack three looked remarkably like pack one, as he picked a Peema Outrider, followed by another Riparian Tiger.

Pick four offered him little in the way of additions to his deck, but included the rare Saheeli's Artistry.

“I almost counter-drafted, which is weird in an eight-man,” Pikula said. “It's usually wrong. But that card is just so good and it was a really weak pack.”

Pikula ultimately demonstrated the same drafting discipline, selecting a Fabrication Module, which had a chance of making his deck, over the rare that would languish in his sideboard.

Next, Pikula had the choice of either a third Peema Outrider or a second Appetite for the Unnatural.

“I really like Appetite for the Unnatural, and I already had a lot of four drops,” Pikula said. “But I just feel like the power level is a little too high on the Outrider. But it easy to run into decks where you're happy to run three Appetite for the Unnaturals.”

He chose the third Outrider, and finished out the pack with a Make Obsolete and a Rush of Vitality to make up for the missed one in pack two.

“I think my deck's good,” Pikula said. “It's very similar to my Sealed deck yesterday, where I don't have a lot of great removal spells, but I have really high creature quality. I don't have bomb creatures, but as far as common and uncommon creatures go I have a pretty high quality.”

Of course, at the end of drafting Pikula still had a handful of critical decisions to make as he built his deck.

“I decided to play eighteen land, that was probably my biggest decision,” Pikula said. “I feel like I'm going to have a hard time winning if I don't curve into my four-drops, so I don't want to miss land drops. I also decided to play Live Fast because playing 18 lands makes it a little better, and to play an extra five-drop.”

Overall, Pikula was satisfied with his draft, though he realized that cards like Make Obsolete and Hazardous Conditions, both of which made the final cut, would improve his odds some match-ups and detract from them in others.

“A lot of my results could be determined by if Make Obsolete is good against my opponent. Then I'm probably going to win that match. If I needed Dark Banishing instead, then I'm going to be in trouble.”

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