Drafting with Rich Hoaen

Posted in Event Coverage on July 31, 2016

By Josh Bennett

Rich Hoaen has enjoyed a long and successful career. He's earned four Grand Prix titles (two in teams, two single). He has a Pro Tour Top 8, as well as 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th place PT finishes. Deferring his invitation to Pro Tour Sydney on account of his upcoming marriage (congratulations!), his goal this weekend was comparatively modest: A single pro point, which would net him Silver Pro Club status and an additional Pro Tour qualification. He had to battle without the benefit of byes on Day 1, but came out of it with an 8-1 record, putting himself in a strong position to succeed. Add to that the fact that the Day 2 field was softer than normal thanks to all the big guns being in Sydney. It would be hard not to feel confident in Hoaen's shoes.

Pack one started off with a bang when Hoaen found Decimator of Provinces waiting for him. He followed it up with Prey Upon over some unexciting staples in other colors. After spending an underwhelming third pick on It of the Horrid Swarm, Hoaen did a double-take. Staring back at him was one of Eldritch Moon's premier uncommons: Faith Unbroken. He didn't waste any time putting it in his pile. Unfortunately the next few packs were bereft of white cards, or indeed of any real winners. He wound up with four (!!) more Swarms and a Certain Death.

“Ideally I wanted to end up Green-Blue because that's where all the enablers are. It was clear that people were just undervaluing Faith Unbroken and that white was cut off. I was only Green for sure. The late Certain Death was a signal, so I would probably wind up Green-Black, splashing white.”

Pack two had plenty of goodies, but the standout card was Clear Shot. Hoaen hesitated briefly when the next pack had both Murder and Kessig Prowler. “Not much of a choice, but at least worth considering because I needed early plays. In the end though Murder is too good to pass up. Then I had to take Primal Druid third. It was nice to get the enabler, but I don't want to be drafting them that early.” He drafted a few filler cards like Swift Spinner, then shored up his early game with a pair of Wailing Ghouls and a Bloodbriar.

Pack three started out dismally. Hoaen could only laugh at the memory of how bad the pack was. “But I did get both of the cards I wanted out of it! I got both Fork in the Road and Fortified Village to make the white splash happen.” Relief came in the next two picks, a Mindwrack Demon and a Duskwatch Recruiter. “Those were big for me, giving me more ways to win the game. Recruiter was just the perfect card for this deck. I'm going to stall out the board and then I can just dig through my deck and find the Decimator.”

There would be no more pleasant surprises. Half of his next six picks would end up in his sideboard. “Taking Wicker Witch fourth is not where you want to be, but I needed a three-drop and it would help with delirium. It's possible I should have taken a Field Creeper at some point when I had a chance. I think I could've gotten one over the fourth It of the Horrid Swarm. I knew I wanted a Macabre Waltz, but there were none in the first few picks so I had to take one sixth to make sure I got it.” With all his self-mill, it gave him yet another way to get access to Decimator of Provinces.

I asked Hoaen how he felt heading into deckbuilding. “Pretty disappointed. It felt like the packs didn't have the cards I wanted. I didn't get many chances to table cards I needed. There were no Vessels of Nascency, which would have been great for me, I only got one Grapple with the Past. Still, I think I did a pretty good job for my seat.”

He used almost all the allotted time with deckbuilding. I asked what made it such a challenge. “I was trying to figure out if I needed to build in some of the more aggressive creatures. I knew I had a strong late game. It felt like I really had to plan out my games during the deckbuilding process. Normally, you just make sure you have a good curve and play your good cards. I have all these clunky cards – the Swarms are basically always five mana because I didn't get any good enablers. I had to think about what my draws were going to be like.”

He ranked the deck somewhere between a 1-2 and a 2-1. Fortune was on his side, and by the end of Round 12 he was at 10-2, guaranteed the pro point he needed and within striking distance of Top 8.

Rich Hoaen Draft 1

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