Posted in GRAND PRIX ORLANDO 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 5, 2014

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

It's Sunday morning, and time to start diving into the new Khans of Tarkir draft format. There can be few better places to start than with Matt Costa. Already with an outstanding career resume that includes five Grand Prix Top 8s, a title at Grand Prix Baltimore 2012, and a Pro Tour Top 8 at the last Pro Tour held in Honolulu (Dark Ascension 2012), Costa is held in such high regard by his peers that he found himself as a regular on the stellar Pantheon playtest team of Pros.

This morning, though, he's concentrating on navigating his way through three packs of Khans, and converting an 8-1 overnight record into a sixth GP Top 8. Let's see how he got on:

Pack 1

Pick 1 – A clear cut Mardu Charm over Abzan Ascendancy. He spent a long time looking at Raiders' Spoils.

Costa: I was just lamenting that I wouldn't get the Raiders' Spoils back, and then I did. I was completely shocked when it came back. It's a really good card, and I was worried that if I passed it I might have to fight someone to my left. And then it came back!

Pick 2 – Feat of Resistance is good, but Murderous Cut is better.

Pick 3 – He took a look at Smite the Monstrous, a card that had also garnered some attention in pick 1, but Abzan Battle Priest was a quick pick.

Pick 4 – Not a lot on offer in a weak pack across the board. He took Jeskai Student over Witness of the Ages.

The next four picks were all solid, but definitely not spectacular – Disowned Ancestor, Defiant Strike, Salt Road Patrol, and War Behemoth, before Raiders' Spoils tabled, and he was quick to take it. The last few cards fell away, with no useful bonus pickups down the stretch. So, at the first break, he was white and black, with just that first pick Mardu Charm pointing him towards red.

Pack 2

Pick 1 – So far, so ordinary, but it's the second pack where the decisions came thick and fast. Highspire Mantis, Mardu Charm, and Nomad Outpost were all in the opening selection, and an eyebrow-raising Sagu Mauler – that card is good. The choice between Charm and Outpost was lengthy, with his second Mardu Charm winning the mental tussle.

Costa: It was early enough that I could prioritize mana later, and if I only have one red card in my deck then Outpost is less important.

Pick 2 – Scoured Barrens was available, but not at the expense of Mardu Hordechief.

Costa: Mardu Hordechief is really good, but not so essential that it was an automatic pick. The white black land is so many miles worse than any land containing red, so I didn't feel I really needed it.

Pick 3 – For the third pack running, it was Man versus Land. Would he take Feat of Resistance, or Nomad Outpost, something he'd already passed up in pick 1?

Costa: This was for sure the toughest pick of the draft. Feat is one of the best white commons, and a card I would be ecstatic to have in my draft. That said, I was pretty sure I was going to play my Mardu Charms, so I wanted to hedge early, and take the land.

Pick 4 – Mardu Warshrieker or Mardu Hateblade?

Costa: Warshrieker is just the better card.

Pick 5 – A straightforward Debilitating Injury.

Then things went south. From a pack full of nothing, Dismal Backwater went halfway towards a hypothetical backdoor splash into blue somewhere down the road. Swarm of Bloodflies followed, and then a sideboard Erase. Apart from a War Behemoth, the only other vaguely notable moment was getting a second Dismal Backwater, just in cases. (This brings your weekend of Love Actually quotes to a close.) All in all, it hadn't been a great second pack. However, he still only had two red cards, the pair of Mardu Charms. Where would pack three take him?

Pack 3

Pick 1 – Mardu Charm! Yes, one in every pack. He spent the remaining 44.5 seconds of his 45 arranging the rest of the pack in likely pick order to see what might table.

Pick 2 – A strong pack, featuring Throttle, Ponyback Brigade, Mardu Roughrider, and Mardu Warshrieker led to the Mardu Roughrider joining the team.

Pick 3 – Take Up Arms looked briefly interesting, until he saw Dead Drop.

Pick 4 – The first easy 'take the land' pick, getting him Bloodfell Caves.

Pick 5 – Earlier in the draft, Costa had chosen Mardu Warshrieker over Mardu Hateblade. Now he reversed that choice.

Costa: This was straightforwardly about curve. I wanted a one drop over another four drop, and white is easier for me than red.

Pick 6 – With Throttle and Mardu Ascendancy in the pack, he struggled with the conflict, since there was also Nomad Outpost. Discipline won, and he took the Outpost.

Costa: I think of the Nomad Outpost as unlocking the power of Mardu Charm. The Charm might be a six out of ten in a deck that has trouble casting it. It's probably a nine out of ten if it's reliable. So, taking the Outpost I get to turn three of the spells in my deck from a six into a nine, rather than just taking one extra good card for my deck.

You might expect that the rest of the pack would be largely unexciting, but this was by far the best of the three. Jeskai Student, Mardu Skullhunter, Unyielding Krumar, Throttle, and even Hordeling Outburst were possible additions. So how did he feel the draft went overall?

Costa: It's exactly where I want to be in draft. It's probably a 7.5 or an 8 out of 10. I'm very happy with it.

Matt Costa - Mardu

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