Drafting With… Paul Rietzl

Posted in Event Coverage on October 11, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

“This is my first time drafting this. Can I have extra time to read the cards?”

Sorry, fourth-ranked player in the world and hall of famer Paul Rietzl, that's not quite how it works here on Day 2 of Grand Prix Madison.

Hall of famer Paul Rietzl's first Battle for Zendikar draft would come in the opening round of Day 2 here at Grand Prix Madison.

Grand Prix Madison has been our first foray into the Battle for Zendikar, and it's safe to say there's been a few surprises along the way. From wild four or five-color decks to the fastest Ingest decks, we've seen a ton of diversity across the format already, even if Rietzl hasn't had a chance to experience much of it yet.

“Don't worry, I was reading a few articles about this last night, so I think I'm good to go.”

Rietzl is one of the most outspokenly honest players on the circuit, and heading into the first draft of Battle for Zendikar's premier event, there was no better player to follow along for the draft.

The first pack began with a Canopy Vista staring at Rietzl from the rare slot. While a great utility card, it's not a clear first-pick, and with no easy choice to begin his first Battle for Zendikar draft, Rietzl delved deeper into the pack to find a direction. He found it in Kozilek's Sentinel, a flexible two-drop that only looked better when he followed it up with a Complete Disregard. A stream of black cards followed, with Bone Splinters, Demon's Grasp, Grave Birthing and Silent Skimmer going next as Rietzl did his best to cut off the color from flowing to his left as he settled into a black-red deck.

It was a decision that paid off in the second pack, as Rietzl opted for Barrage Tyrant over Grip of Desolation — a pick he agonized over both during and after the draft (16th-ranked Shahar Shenhar later confirmed he would have done the same) — followed by Stonefury, Vile Aggregate and a fourth-pick Nettle Drone. Just like that, Rietzl was firmly established in two colors, if not an archetype.

That changed when he was passed Molten Nursery midway through the second pack. Picking up the unique enchantment, Rietzl had a plan, one that he stuck to devoutly in the third pack. A pair of Forerunner of Slaughter came early in Pack 3, and a second Molten Nursery rewarded Rietzl for his dedication to his colorless overlords. With such a focused game plan, he was able to take advantage of late-pick Processor Assaults and Grave Birthings to etch out a deck that was all-in on the colorless plan.

Black-Red “Molten Nursery” — Paul Rietzl

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“Is this good?” Rietzl asked as he registered a deck that played a full 21 colorless cards out of 23. “This is the first time I haven't played 18 lands in this set, and I have no idea if this deck is any good. I guess we'll find out.”

Only time and games will answer Rietzl's question and tell us if the Molten Nursery deck proves to be one of the stronger archetypes in the format, but Rietzl's Round 10 match against the world's No. 1 player in Eric Froehlich was any indication, it will remain a viable strategy.

With one Nursery in play, Rietzl was facing down a flying army from Froehlich with just a lonely Barrage Tyrant on his side. As he untapped for his turn at 2 life and only five mana to work with, things looked dire for Rietzl. That is, until he began the turn with Complete Disregard, taking out one creature and pinging another with Molten Nursery. With one of Froehlich's cards now in exile, Rietzl unlocked the Processor Assault in his hand to take down the Windrider Patrol and use the Molten Nursery trigger to finish off Froehlich's last creature. In the blink of an eye and the flash of the Nursery, Rietzl turned a losing game into one he easily finished off a turn later.

Battling with a deck containing two Molten Nursery and 19 other colorless cards, Rietzl's draft deck was a study in focus.

With just one draft down and the Pro Tour on tap next weekend, Molten Nursery won't be the only card to see its stock rise since the set's release. The only question is, what will we learn next about Battle for Zendikar?

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