It was a perfect Sunday morning in Texas, and not just because the weather is wonderful, not just because downtown Fort Worth is surprisingly stunning in the spring, but because DOMINARIA DRAFTS WERE FINALLY HERE.
Saturday, 1,043 players have gathered in the Fort Worth Convention Center to take an early trip through Dominaria. After Day 1 and nine rounds with their Sealed decks, five players led the pack with perfect records – Aaron Tobey, Vikram Kudva, Matt Stankey, Jack Dobbin, and Aaron Rubin.
Sunday, two drafts and six more round set the Top 8 – Aaron Rubin, José Daniel Garcia Rosas, Robert Brown, Vikram Kudva, Will Craddock, Matt Stankey, Andrew Elenbogen, and William Hahn moved on to the final Top 8 draft. Sunday's highlights offer a glimpse into the still-developing Dominaria limited environment, some of our favorite plays in the feature match area, and the winner of GP Dallas-Fort Worth!
Drafting with Paul Rietzl
With the exception of GP Beijing, happening a half-day ahead of GP DFW, players have yet to draft Dominaria at the GP level. It's a format players are still exploring, experimenting with pushing synergies, maximizing removal, debating land counts, and, in some cases, even waffling over whether to be on the play or on the draw.
Hall of Famer and UltraPro team member Paul Rietzl went undefeated in his first draft on Sunday, so we took the opportunity to watch his second draft of the day and pick up a few early thoughts about the format.
“I love it because I don't have any color preferences," Rietzl said. “I feel like I can draft any of the two-color combinations and have a playable deck. I'm probably drafting my least favorite color combination and I was happy to move into it."
When it comes to drafting Dominaria, Rietzl feels that the format rewards prioritizing removal more than other recent draft environments.
“I definitely think that you need to lean more towards removal than in previous formats. Especially the last one was very synergy based, so you would oftentimes be looking at creature types, and would need to take that into account for your deck. Here, almost all the decks are functional and almost all the decks are packing legendary bombs, so you need some way to answer them. Obviously there are the great answers like Eviscerate and Icy Manipulator. Lacking that, you need the grindy-er answers, stuff like Divest or bounce spells. You need some way to deal with their ridiculous bombs."
Rietzl's second draft started in red, with a first-pick rare.
“I opened up a Siege-Gang Commander. It's one of the most powerful cards in the set, and it happens to work really well with all the red color pairs. It's probably worst in red-green, but really it's just good everywhere. So that was easy. I then got passed a red removal spell, things were going really well."
After that, however, Rietzl began to face tougher draft decisions and contemplate picks that might push him into an early color pair.
“Black cards were kind of flowing on my right, but I want to try to stay open, and so third pick I ended up taking Firefist Adept over a strong black removal spell. Sometimes you can play that five-mana 3/3 even if you're not red-blue, and if you're in red-blue it's obscenely good. I probably could've moved into black earlier, but then I passed the person on my left too much black, and then I moved into black, and then the blue started flowing."
Though he faced back-to-back-to-back critical decisions, for Rietzl, sticking with his chosen color pair was key to keeping his draft in line.
“My deck didn't trainwreck thankfully, I didn't dabble back in once I went one way. There are strategies I'm going to struggle with because I have a ton of ways to trade off one-for-one and removal spells, and my plan is to use late-game card advantage and my Siege-Gang Commander to win games. If they're kicking Saproling Migrations and then finding ways to augment their go-wide creatures, my one-for-one removal spells are going to look pretty impotent. It's more about certain strategies that beat me than my deck being weak. My deck is objectively very strong."
Two hundred twenty-two players returned to draft on Day 2 of GP Dallas-Fort Worth, and of those, only four manage a perfect draft record.
William Hahn drafted a pair of white-black decks. The first included artifact rares Mishra's Self-Replicator and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog (which he once put a copy of On Serra's Wings on), as well as a legendary theme that touched on Baird, Steward of Argive, Danitha Capashen, and Urza's Ruinous Blast. The second also had a Traxos, though this time Hahn drafted a pair of Voltaic Servants to help untap it. He was also the champion of Yargle this weekend, drafting and playing four copies across his two decks.
Daniel Hall also reach his perfect draft record with a pair of white-black decks. Both were flyer-focused, using Windgrace Acolytes, Serra Angels, Aven Sentries, and On Serra's Wings, accompanied by a suite of removal, to fly over opponents.
Max Sabor's decks veered away from these white-black decks in favor of three- and four-color decks. The first deck, blue, black, and red, had sagas like Time of Ice and The Eldest Reborn, and rare fliers Zahid and Kazarov. The second included every color but white, and again had that pair of rare fliers, along with a pair of Grow from the Ashes and Skittering Surveyors to make sure he got the mana he needed.
José Daniel Garcia Rosas also started with a white-black deck, his with two copies of uncommons Serra Angel and The Eldest Reborn, as well as a Mishra's Self-Replicator. His second was base green-white (though still splashing black), with another two Serra Angel and another Mishra's Self-Replicator.
Panning for Gold (Cards)
One of the defining features of Dominaria, both in play and in flavor, is powerful gold legendary creatures. They can shape Sealed decks and help drive draft strategies, and each card's unique abilities make them a draw for players with strong style preferences.
Marshall Sutcliffe's choice won't surprise those familiar with his enthusiasm for value, though his disregard for Slimefoot, the clear favorite in our preceding Twitter poll, left some people reeling.
(19) Matt Severa's choice wasn't as much about clear-cut value as it was about enabling exciting artifact shenanigans (or maybe more dignified artifact schemes). Last weekend, at the Team Limited GP in Columbus, Severa's semifinals draft revolved around Mishra's Self-Replicator, so perhaps his pick isn't a surprise either.
It was PT Ixalan Top 4 competitor Sam Ihlenfeldt who finally said what has been on so many minds during this whole ordeal, using the most flawless and unquestionable logic possible.
Sam Ihlenfeldt, if PTXLN Top 4 but more recently of making one billion Mishra's Self-Replicators, finally gives the people what they want in choosing a favorite gold card from Dominaria #GPDFW pic.twitter.com/i3twjzVusZ— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) May 6, 2018
For players and fans who weren't able to catch the broadcast live, or for those that want to relive some of the highlights from the feature match area, we've curated a handful of our favorite moments from Day 2.
After the first draft, it was impossible to stop talking about Stephen Pierce's draft deck. With countless legends, a Teferi, and not one but two Urza's Ruinous Blast to top it off, it was incredible to behold. Here, in Round 12, Pierce casts his second copy of Urza's Ruinous Blast to clear the way for a lethal attack, even though he has a single creature in play and his opponent is at nineteen.
Vikram Kudva was facing down a set of powerful creatures in a 6/6 flying demon and Evra, Halcyon Witness in Round 11. He had his opponent down to 7, however, and crafted an attack that just might work, if only he could prevent the lifelink from that pesky Evra.
The round of matches after the first draft were full of Matt Severa finishing off his opponents by dealing the final ten points of damage using a kicked Fight with Fire. In Round 13, with his opponent at 11, Severa navigated a clogged board state that favored him by only the slimmest margin to find his win.
Andrew Elenbogen's second draft deck was a masterpiece – or maybe it was a monstrosity? – of three colors and an abundance of instants and sorceries, many with kicker. He made the most out of them with a copy of The Mirari Conjecture.
The finals of GP Dallas-Fort Worth came down to Robert Brown, an assistant professor of engineering playing in his first ever Grand Prix, and his aggressive, nearly mono-white deck, and Will Craddock and his less aggressive (though still very interested in attacking, especially in the air) white-blue deck. The semi-finals were a quick and brutal set of battles, with Brown and Craddock running over their respective opponents in two games.
Brown's deck, which splashed red for a handful of combat tricks, only had sixteen lands in it. It also had a copy of the mythic History of Benalia, a pair of Call the Cavalry, and three Knight of New Benalia to make the most of the saga's third chapter. Craddock's deck relied on fliers and a pair of D'Avenant Trappers to push through damage, and had a few cards like In Bolas's Clutches to win the late game.
In game one, the race was on. As Brown's cavalry charged again and again, with the help of a Cavalry Pegasus, it looked like Craddock might still take the game thanks to his superior fliers and a pair of D'Avenant Trappers that made blocking nearly impossible. But thanks to a Radiating Lightning to clear some of Craddock's creatures post-combat and a set of fliers of his own, Brown was able to take the game.
The second game went much the same way, with Craddock's fliers trying to push through damage before Brown's larger army crushed him. A well-timed Aven Sentry from Brown was able to block one of Craddock's fliers that were attacking for lethal, and thanks to an Adamant Will, Brown had lethal on the return attack. Brown took the match, 2-0.
Congratulations to Robert Brown, winner of GP Dallas-Fort Worth!