The 6-0 Drafters of Pro Tour Amonkhet

Posted in Event Coverage on May 13, 2017

By Frank Karsten

Yesterday, 47 players went undefeated in their first draft. Today, six of them went undefeated again for the coveted 6-0 home run in Amonkhet Limited. I tracked down these six talented drafters to learn more about the reasons for their success.

Raymond Perez, Jr.

2013–14 Rookie of the Year Raymond Perez, Jr., currently a Silver pro on team Hotsauce Games, believed in getting as many Limited reps as possible, and he had taken advantage of the early release on Magic Online by doing close to 50 drafts before the Pro Tour. But a 3-0 draft was unusual for him: "On Magic Online, I 3-0'd only three times!"

On both days, Perez drafted green-blue ramp decks with minor splashes and Sandwurm Convergence. But he did not feel that green-blue was the best archetype. "Red-white is still the strongest. But one of my buddies back home, Josh Bauer, drafts green-blue almost every draft, just because it's open, and he told me what makes a successful green-blue deck."

The gist, Perez said, is that you have to draft a good mix of ramp pieces—Naga Vitalist and Gift of Paradise are the best at common—along with payoff cards, either large creatures or enchantments, to ramp into. Perez felt that Gift of Paradise in particular was a standout card for the green-blue archetype. "I got one on a wheel in pack three. It came back and I was like 'perfect!'"

As a final piece of advice, Perez mentioned that staying open and reading the draft is even more important in Amonkhet Draft than usual. "I think that there are a lot of role players that are only good in certain archetypes," he said, indicating that there are fewer all-around good cards than in other formats. As a result, identifying which color combinations or archetypes are open is crucially important.

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, Perez was 9-2.

Josh McClain

Like Perez, Gold-level pro Josh McClain had done a lot of drafts on Magic Online. "I think I did about 35. I did way more than normal because of the early [Magic Online] release. The early release was very significant in why I did so well. Way more reps than I usually do."

His first Draft deck at the Pro Tour was a red-white deck with a solid curve and lots of untap tricks. His second Draft deck was a "really weird green-blue. I don't know what I wanna call it—a bunch of medium creatures with Cartouche of Knowledge and Open into Wonder. I thought it was maybe one of the worst decks I had ever drafted in this format, but everybody at my table had really bad and slow decks."

His most flashy play was hitting Tomoharo Saito for 20 by combining Combat Celebrant and Open into Wonder on a stalled board. "I 20'd Saito out of nowhere. I knew halfway through pack two that my deck was gonna be bad, so I took all the cards that could steal games."

McClain's general insight into the format paralleled Perez's. According to McClain, red-white exert and red-green exert are the best decks, but staying open and being comfortable with all the archetypes is essential. "In this format I have been trying to stay open way more than usual. I'm comfortable with all of the archetypes."

And just like Perez, McClain praised green-blue ramp decks with Gift of Paradise. "Gift in that deck is very good. I had a [Magic Online] draft where I had 3 or 4 Gifts and I was splashing Glorybringer and Angel of Sanctions. My deck was absurd."

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, McClain was 7-3-1.

Eric Froehlich

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Eric Froehlich, a member of team Channel Fireball Ice, didn't do as many drafts as others did in preparation for the Pro Tour, but he still got close to 20 total.

Yesterday, he drafted a black-red deck without any standouts—"didn't open any rares"—but he still felt it was good because he had a lot of first-pick uncommons, including Gravedigger, Bone Picker, Deem Worthy, and 3 Merciless Javelineers. The drawback was that every single card cost four or more. "There just weren't any two-drops or three-drops. But if [my opponent] didn't curve out, then I couldn't lose."

He wasn't thrilled with his second Draft deck, which he described as "clunky-ish" and "low-quality." He started with Scaled Behemoth, Champion of Rhonas, and Hooded Brawler and eventually settled into black-green with Decimator Beetle. But despite a clunky deck with a bloated curve, Froehlich leveraged his playing skill to clinch another undefeated record.

When I asked Froehlich about his general approach to the format, he told me that he preferred to be really aggressive, especially if he doesn't see any bomb rares. "But it was just never there. Everyone else feels the same way, so if you're not seeing one- or two-drops, then you have to work with what you get."

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, Froehlich was 10-1, in prime position to add another Top 8 to his resume.

Marc Tobiasch

The next 6-0 drafter was Germany's Marc Tobiasch, a Silver-level pro on team EUreka who is well-respected on the European Grand Prix circuit.

Yesterday, he drafted a green-white aggressive deck, and today he ended up with a black-green deck featuring three copies of Destined // Lead. "You have to make sure to kill [Fan Bearer] early, but that card is really good. If the board stalls out and you can get to a point where they don't have removal, you can just alpha strike them and win."

His approach, in line with the other 6-0 drafters, was to stay really open. He felt it was a sixteen-land format where you can get to 24 playables by picking up some cyclers. Although both of his drafts were green and he mentioned green-blue ramp as a pretty strong archetype, drafting it never panned out. Instead, he was rewarded for being in green-white and black-green as the correct colors for his seat.

"I think green is stronger than it looks, because if you can trade off early then your bigger creatures can take over. Since the format is really aggressive, black-green is one of the few color combinations that can really defend."

When asked for underrated gems or overrated strategies, he mentioned Cartouche of Ambition as an underrated card. "It is one of the best commons in the format, but I got one sixth pick." He felt that red was overrated. "It seemed to me that everyone was trying to be red—I think there were several teams trying to force it—which is a risky approach if everybody [goes for that.]"

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, Tobiasch was 9-2.

Ken Yukuhiro

Team Musashi's Ken Yukuhiro, a Gold-level pro with two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, preferred to draft with paper cards. He had done about 20 Amonkhet drafts before the Pro Tour, but none of those had been on Magic Online.

On both days, he drafted black-red aggro, which he felt was one of the best color combinations. He was not a fan of green in Amonkhet Limited because it didn't excel at anything: "If you want to be aggro, then red is better; if you want to be control, then blue is better."

When asked what the key behind his success was, he pointed out that he didn't take cards according to a fixed pick order for the entirety of the draft. "Think about what you need for your decks. If you find a card that is good for your archetype, even if is low-rated, then still pick that card."

For his black-red decks in particular, he explained that he didn't value black removal spells as highly and would usually take aggressive creatures over them. He highlighted the synergy between Supernatural Stamina, Doomed Dissenter, and Soulstinger. "These three cards are very important, and they get better in combination."

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, Yukuhiro was 9-2.

Daniel Gräfensteiner

The last 6-0 drafter was Germany's Daniel Gräfensteiner, a Silver-level pro who had won the 2014 Team Grand Prix in Barcelona alongside his brother, Tobias Gräfensteiner, and Christian Seibold.

To prepare for Pro Tour Amonkhet, he spent more time watching other players draft than he spent drafting himself. Moreover, he relied on the advice of his brother, who told him to force red-white every draft, as that was the archetype that his brother had been most successful with.

It worked out for Daniel in the first draft: he got all the good picks and ended up with a very good deck featuring uncommons like Ahn-Crop Crasher and Trial of Solidarity, which he said was "insane" in his deck.

In the second draft, he changed plans when he opened Glyph Keeper—a powerful rare that, despite his preference for red, he chose to take over Magma Spray. It worked out better for him, as the drafter to his right ended up red-white. Gräfensteiner's blue-black deck was probably way better than any red-white deck would have been in that seat, and it earned him another 3-0 draft.

After Round 11, with five Standard rounds to go, Gräfensteiner was 8-3.

Draft Master Standings after Pro Tour Amonkhet

Several of the 6-0 drafters from this Pro Tour found themselves near the top of the 2016–2017 Draft Master standings. The Draft Master title will be awarded to the player with the most Limited match points from Swiss rounds at Pro Tours in the 2016–17 premier play season, and this player will receive an invitation to the 2017 World Championship.

Below you can find the leaderboard of all players who scored at least 37 match points in the Limited portions of the Pro Tours thus far this season. Pro Tour Hour of Devastation will decide who will receive the Draft Master crown, but the race is tight.

Rank Player Nationality Points
1 Travis Woo United States 46
2 Martin Jůza Czech Republic 45
2 Owen Turtenwald United States 45
4 Christian Calcano United States 42
4 Timothy Wu United States 42
4 Makis Matsoukas Greece 42
7 Matthew Nass United States 39
7 Donald Smith United States 39
7 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Brazil 39
7 Shota Yasooka Japan 39
7 Martin Müller Denmark 39
7 Kentaro Yamamoto Japan 39
7 Marc Tobiasch Germany 39
7 Eric Froehlich United States 39
7 Ken Yukuhiro Japan 39
16 Petr Sochůrek Czech Republic 37
16 Martin Dang Denmark 37

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