Drafting with Matt Costa

Posted in Event Coverage on January 31, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

The Pantheon is one of the most prestigious pro teams in Magic: The Gathering. The game's top players including Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, William Jensen and seventh-ranked Reid Duke highlight the roster and only the world's best are accepted on the team. The team strives for greatness, and they have a strict rule about attending Grand Prix events the weekend before the Pro Tour. The Pro Tour takes priority over everything else so the team meets in a secluded playtesting area in lieu of any GP that is taking place.

There is one exception to this rule for this weekend however. The Pantheon member Matt Costa is not qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. He is only three Pro Points away from Silver in the Pro Player's Club which will secure his invite to the event next weekend, so he made the trip to Vancouver from Boston, Massachusetts hunting for those last few points. Matt doesn't have a ticket to Atlanta yet but has high hopes for a strong record today so he can book a last minute flight to join his team.

Matt is currently sitting on 7-2 to start the day and finds himself in a very tough pod for Draft One which includes Magic Hall of Famers (3) Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (4) Eric Froehlich. Matt is looking for a minimum record of 5-1 to lock up Silver.

“This was my first draft in this format and I was a little overwhelmed,” says Matt. “I kinda wanted to go green-black. The black looked deeper than the other cards, but I moved into red. I think it worked out. The only pick I really missed was a Grasp of Darkness in Pack 2.” Matt ended up with a R/G/u deck with plenty of creatures and bombs. He's splashing blue for a Coastal Discovery and a Wandering Fumarole.

Matt likes green in this format because it can go in many directions. Green has an aggro deck and a ramp deck with bombs at the top end, but what makes it so promising is the hope for strong converge cards in Pack 3. “When you're green, you can always keep converge in mind. There's so much mana fixing like Unknown Shores and Holdout Settlement, so the splashes are free.” Matt only received one converge card in his Battle for Zendikar pack, an Infuse with the Elements. It wasn't exactly what he was looking for but he was really happy about his blue splash.

“My deck feels pretty good, and a little weird. I didn't plan on drafting a deck like this. It's all creatures,” explained Matt about his R/G/u creature deck. “I took only creatures and no removal, no tricks. I valued Scion Summoner really highly so I could ramp into any potential bombs. I took Netcaster Spider pretty highly too.” Matt's deck wasn't very aggressive the way that typical R/G draft decks usually are.

“I was lucky to get bombs in Pack 3. I got passed an Omnath, Locus of Rage and an Akoum Hellkite. Omnath is insane. Hellkite isn't removal, but at least it can pick off small utility creatures. My hardest pick was Akoum Hellkite over Touch of the Void. I was really close to taking Touch because my deck had no removal. There was also an Unnatural Aggression in the pack and I knew it would table, and that's what locked me in on Hellkite.”

Matt ended up with two Unnatural Aggressions as his only removal spells. “Unnatural Aggression got a lot better. In the old format, the creatures were either really big or really small, so Unnatural Aggression was in an awkward spot. Now, the creatures are more traditional sizes. It serves an important role. Also people don't take them and they wheel.”

Colorless mana is another prominent theme in the green deck. Stalking Drone is one of green's top commons but is only good if you have colorless sources. Matt had Holdout Settlement, Unknown Shores, and a pair of Hedron Crawlers. so having access to colorless mana is “practically free,” according to Matt. Hedron Crawler also doubles as mana ramp which is really important in Matt's bomb-heavy deck.

Matt looked pretty happy with his deck and when asked what his best cards were, he pointed to Omnath, Locus of Rage and Island. “This is my sample hand,” he joked as he held up the cards.

Matt went 2-1 with his draft deck. While a 3-0 would have been ideal, his 2-1 put him at a 9-3 record and still in the running for his Pro Tour invite. Matt needs a 3-0 in Draft 2 and feels he can get there after playing these three rounds and learning the format a bit more. “The deck was good, pilot was bad,” he joked. “I'll do better in the next draft.”

Matt Costa - Grand Prix Vancouver Draft 1

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