Drafting with Robert Lombardi

Posted in Event Coverage on July 31, 2016

By Josh Bennett

“So… you want to know about the train wreck?”

That was how the Champion of Grand Prix Toronto 2016 greeted me when he saw me approaching, pen and notebook in hand. I had seen the draft in action, and it had not gone smoothly. He was in Pod 1 with an 11-1 record. A 2-1 draft would put him in the Top 8.

It started out on the right foot: Voldaren Pariah in an otherwise empty pack. “It's a great card with a powerful effect, can go in any deck, but I like it most in Black-Blue and Black-White, you always have extras to sacrifice in those decks.” Sadly there were no easy choices in pack two, instead Lombardi saw a wealthy of red cards. “Galvanic Blast is obviously good, and I like Spreading Flames a lot in the right deck, but Smoldering Werewolf was too powerful to pass up.” He followed those up with Insatiable Gorgers and a Thermo Alchemist, passing some quality white cards. “I really don't like red-white. Your deck winds up relying on a lot of aggressive 3/2s, and you can just get shut down by decks that play a lot of 2/4's. I felt like I couldn't risk that I might 1-2 just because I got bad matchups.”

Next up was Curious Homunculus in an otherwise blank pack. “It was just bad card after bad card in those packs. There had been another Homunculus in my opening pack, so I figured I'd take this and if the other one came back it would be a good sign that Blue-Red spells was open. Luckily, it did. I picked up a couple of Stitcher's Grafts which I think are great in the right deck, so if the spells deck wasn't there, I could still put something together.” He also passed on Laboratory Brute, which surprised me. “I don't like playing Hill Giants in this format. Everything has three power.”

Pack two again offered him early false hope. “I took Thermo-Alchemist over Mercurial Geists and Alchemist's Greeting. I think the Geists is better, but after tabling the Homunculus I thought it was worth trying to get it back. And it's not like Thermo-Alchemist isn't a good card.” He was forced to take Convolute second, never a good sign, and then Insatiable Gorgers and a pair of Spontaneous Mutations. At this point, Turn Aside was his only other spell. I asked if he was worried about taking enchantments when he was looking to get a critical mass of instants and sorceries. “I think it's a good card. If I came up short on spells it wouldn't be great, but it would still be playable. It worked out, though.” He also hadn't had to give much up to take them. I asked if he'd considered a move here, abandoning blue in favor of green. “I definitely thought about it. I was confident there'd be red passed to me in the last pack. I didn't want to end up short and have to play some three color mish-mash. Also the Homunculus having made it back to me made me a little more confident.”

Towards the end of the pack he got some much needed good news. He took Drag Under and then his first Take Inventory seventh pick. The two he'd seen in his first two packs made the circuit of the table and went directly into his pile, shoring up his deck nicely. “With three, they're not great, but they're not bad either, and I needed cards.”

So he was getting more spells, what was he looking for out of pack three? “Finishers. I needed ways to win the game. That's why I'm playing cards like Gatstaf Arsonists and Silburlind Snapper.” He started with Mad Prophet, then had to take an early Deny Existence. “This is how bad it is: I'm playing counterspells for removal. After three picks I didn't think I'd see any real removal so I needed something. Getting Fiery Temper fourth was so lucky.” And then came Rise from the Tides, just what the doctor ordered. Still, his deck was long on filler cards and short on all-stars.

“I wasn't too happy with this draft, but I don't know where else I could've ended up. It feels like a 1-2 deck, so I'm not sure I'm going to make Top 8. Hopefully the other decks are as bad as mine.”

He shouldn't have sold himself short. It went down to the wire, but a win in Round 15 meant Lombardi was in the fight for another trophy.

Robert Lombardi, Draft 2

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