The dawn of a new limited format is an exciting time. Figuring out how all the new cards fit together, learning each color's strengths and shortcomings, finding out which strategies fit your personal playstyle, it can be a lot to take in. My favorite thing about it is that because everyone is working with a small amount of data, different players can wind up with different ideas about what works best. I sat down with four former Grand Prix Champions to see if they had any early preferences about which decks they'd be drafting.
Brian Liu, winner of Grand Prix Richmond 2014, said that he'd been having a lot of success drafting base-black decks, including a few mono-black builds. I asked him how he was able to get enough playables, and how to know when to go for it. “Mono-Black is all about card advantage. Black has a bunch of commons that can provide card advantage: Cemetery Recruitment, Succumb to Temptation, Midnight Scavengers, Macabre Waltz and Merciless Resolve. None of those are high picks, so you can spend all your spend all your early picks as you normally would, preferring black over other colors, without sacrificing the option to move into a second color because you're worried about running short of playables. You can easily shift into black-red, black-green delirium, or like this deck where my white cards are two Ironclad Slayers and a Choking Restraints.”
For Joseph Sclauzero, who hoisted the trophy at Grand Prix Manila in 2014, Blue-Red Spells is the deck he wants to wind up in. “You obviously get access to a lot of synergies, with cards like Thermo-Alchemist and Mercurial Geists. Red gives you your removal and blue fills in the gaps with card draw. The thing is that red is so strong, it has a lot of first-pick quality cards. So if your opening pack only has something like Alchemist's Greeting in it for red, you might want to stay away. Also, because you're going to want to spend your early picks on red cards anyways you don't have to commit, you can pivot into something like black-red vampires or white-red aggro.”
For Gerard Fabiano, the 2014 GP Montreal Champion, Emerge is the place you want to be. “It's a very powerful mechanic. Usually you want to be Blue-Green, but you can make it work with any of the Sultai colors, even all three. Between the Exultant Cultist and Enlightened Maniac, you have access to two very powerful enablers, both of which are still fine when you don't have your emerge creatures. The thing about this format is that games go long, and when that happens, they're decided by either card advantage or powerful plays. The emerge cards offer both of those.”
Lastly I talked to David Williams, Master Chef contestant and three-time Team Grand Prix Champion. He offered a different take on the format. “I'll take whatever's open. That's the beauty of this format: You can play whatever you want, you aren't forced into these preset archetypes based on the colors you're drafting. I was saying to Ben Stark – it's just like old-school drafts. Good picks and a good curve, you can make anything work. The other day I won a draft with red-black – not vampires. It was Red-Black Control Madness.”