Battle for Zendikar Draft with Zen Takahashi

Posted in GRAND PRIX SYDNEY 2015 on October 11, 2015

By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

When we sat down with Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 competitor Jason Chung to talk Battle for Zendikar limited yesterday, he singled out New Zealand's Zen Takahashi as someone who had a great understanding of BFZ draft.

Takahashi has had a string of excellent finished in this region, finishing in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Sydney in 2013, 9th at GP Brisbane 2013, 11th GP Auckland 2012, and 21st at GP Auckland earlier this year. He even won a Pro Tour Qualifier in 2010 when he was only 13 years old. Takahashi picked up where Chung left off:

Zen Takahashi has a handle on Battle for Zendikar draft.

"Blue and Red are the deepest colours in draft, they have the most playable commons and uncommons, and can support Blue-Red devoid and Blue-Black ingest. I like to avoid Green because ramp isn't great. Black-Green sacrifice is good because it doesn't tend to share many of its cards with other archetypes. Stuff like Bone Splinters, Vampiric Rites, Blisterpod, and anything that makes Eldrazi Scions, really. The best part is that you can build a deck from two boosters worth of cards, so you can move into it if it's open later than usual and still end up with a good deck."

I asked why he didn't consider ramp to be an effective strategy.

"It's a very aggressive format, everything is about attacking. Even the control deck of the format—Blue-Black ingest—it wants to be attacking with Mist Intruders and Benthic Infiltrators to be ingest cards for the processors. If you don't play to a curve, you lose."

I noted that he had spoken about every colour but White:

"White is the worst colour, it's shallow and not very flexible. White/Blue awaken is a good deck, but the cards it wants are all great cards already that other decks could take, so you're always fighting for the cards you want, which is bad. Red-White and Green-White allies are underwhelming. The problem is that the ally cards don't really need other allies to work with, so there's not really a lot of payoff for sticking to the ally theme, and you're probably better off being non-allies and having one or two good allies in your deck.

"White-Black lifegain is pretty clunky. It can be good, but the cards that have lifegain and trigger of lifegain are pretty underpowered on their own. If it's open, you can end up with a good deck, but only if it's open."

I asked about land counts:

"I think it's definitely a 17 land format," Takahashi replied immediately. "The only decks that want 18 land are probably 3 colour decks, but I think people splash too much in this format. It's just asking to lose to someone curving out on you."

As the first draft of Day 2 was concluding, I asked Takahashi how he'd gone today. He responded with a casual shrug and:

"I 3-0'd my first pod without dropping a game."

If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Zen Takahashi – 3-0 Draft 1 Grand Prix Sydney 2015

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I also checked in on Jason Chung, who had gone 2-1 with a Red-Green landfall deck:

"It's all about the 1-drops in this format," he stated, before making cat noises and hissing and sneering at me. I left him purring as he fanned out his trio of Scythe Leopards.

Jason Chung in Cat-Mode.