Drafting 3-0 at Pro Tour Aether Revolt

Posted in Event Coverage on February 3, 2017

By Tobi Henke

After the first three rounds, 54 players stood atop the standings with their undefeated records still intact. They had aced the day's Booster Draft portion, drafting eminently unbeatable decks in the brand new Aether Revolt/Kaladesh format. So naturally, we were interested in their decks, their strategies, their preferred color combinations, and synergies.

The most represented color among the 3-0 decks was green, with a full 26 of the 54 decks using it as a main color, followed by, in order, white, red, blue, and black.

Green-White Revolt was also the most popular 3-0 archetype, followed by Blue-Red Improvise. Anything paired with green did well, whereas white-black, blue-black, and least of all black-red brought the fewest players to an undefeated record. However, all ten two-color pairs had at least three entries here.

Another topic which had come up at the previous weekend's Limited Grand Prix events in San Jose and Prague was the correct number of lands. With improvise allowing players to cheat on mana and with Implements providing low-cost cycling, some players claimed that one might be able to go even lower on lands than in triple Kaladesh Booster Draft. Several pro players even showed off their successful fifteen- or fourteen-land decks. Well, all but four of the 3-0 drafters at this Pro Tour went with either sixteen or seventeen lands, with an average of 16.4 lands per deck.

I discussed some of these topics with four prominent 3-0 drafters, starting with the most prestigious of them all. Jon Finkel started 3-0 into this Pro Tour with a green-blue deck.

"I began with a first pick Maverick Thopterist out of a rather weak pack. I think red is the best color in the format," said the Pro Tour Hall of Fame member. "Green has the deepest commons, but the green decks often don't work as well as they look. Still, I took Aetherwind Basker second because it's literally insane. I mean, the pack also had Ajani and Vengeful Rebel…"

Finkel pointed out that there weren't a lot of mana sinks in the format, but there were a lot of cantrips, so he felt that fifteen to sixteen lands was more often correct than not. "That's quite the change to most Limited formats, where seventeen is the default and eighteen the most likely deviation."

He also mentioned that green, with its solid higher casting cost creatures like Lifecraft Cavalry, not to mention his Aetherwind Basker, could use a little more mana. Indeed, his deck ended up with seventeen lands, but he didn't want people to draw the wrong conclusions.

Jon Finkel's Green-Blue 3-0 Draft Deck

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Fellow Pro Tour Hall of Famer and fellow 3-0 drafter Ben Stark wanted to echo that statement. "I'm very sure if you'd get a program to run infinite simulations to figure out the correct number of lands for the average deck in this format, the answer would be very, very close to sixteen," he said. "Not sixteen and a half or sixteen and a bit, but sixteen. Now granted, Renegade Map is basically a land, and Attune with Aether is too. If you have three Implements, you lower your land count by one. If you have a Map or an Attune, you also lower your land count by one."

When Stark heard about the average number of lands in the actual 3-0 decks, he warned against results-oriented thinking. "Sometimes people play too many lands and win in spite of it."

When asked about his own successful Booster Draft, Stark chuckled. "I probably had an easier path to 3-0 than Jon. My deck was all rares and uncommons. I don't know if there ever was a deck in recent memory that was favored to go 3-0, but ..."

Ben Stark's Black-Green 3-0 Draft Deck

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Another person I absolutely needed to talk to was Jérémy Dezani, who had won the last premier level tournament in Dublin, Pro Tour Theros, in 2013. In fact, I already spoke with the 2013–14 Player of the Year on Thursday, when he told me he was looking forward to the Booster Draft portion. "I like the format," he said. "I had the best win rate of my teammates at the Grand Prix [in Prague the previous weekend] and I made Top 16. I feel pretty confident about Draft."

He still felt just as confident, possibly more so, after going 3-0 in the tournament's first draft. "I had a white-blue deck," he explained. "I don't usually like white in this format, but blue's my favorite color. The best card in my deck was Sram, Senior Edificer because there are so many auras that are removal. I had four of them. I went 2-0 three times, and it wasn't particularly close."

Jérémy Dezani's White-Blue 3-0 Draft Deck

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The final name on my list was Martin Jůza. The long-time pro player was the only one left who had not lost a single Booster Draft match at the Pro Tour this season. Between his undefeated runs here and at Pro Tour Kaladesh last year, Jůza was now 9-0 in Limited and the current favorite for the title of the 2016–17 Draft Master.

"And there's a funny story behind it," said Jůza. "The first Pro Tour, we had the standard Cabin Crew testing sessions, draft camp, you know. There, I never 3-0'd a draft. I never 0-3'd either, but never 3-0'd. That's across something like 25 to 30 drafts. Then I went 6-0 at the Pro Tour. It was the same this time around. Again, 25 or more drafts, and not a single 3-0. Then comes the Pro Tour, and I go 3-0. Math checks out."

As a possible explanation, Jůza offered the following. "I don't mind losing in testing. I like to lose as part of the learning process. I'll accept five 0-3s in a row if I then know what not to do at the Pro Tour."

His 3-0 deck this time had been blue and black, not exactly one of Jůza's favorite color combinations. "I got passed two copies of Tezzeret's Touch, seventh and tenth I think, so I figured, okay, if no one else is willing to do it, I'll be blue-black. Then, from Kaladesh, I really needed a Gearseeker Serpent, and I got three. I opened one of them, and there also was a Prophetic Prism in the pack that I wanted. I wanted the Serpent more and took it, but then I got the Prism back. At that point, I knew this was going to be a good day. My final deck even had two of what we call Sol Rings in Servo Schematic and Cogworker's Puzzleknot."

Martin Jůza's Blue-Black 3-0 Draft Deck

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