The 3-0 Drafters at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar – Day One

Posted in Event Coverage on October 16, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

There is a familiar rhythm at the Pro Tour. Players arrive Friday morning with cups full of coffee and dreams full of Top 8 glory. Announcements are made, seating assignments are posted and players sit down with seven other competitors. The excitement of the tournament is infectious throughout the room, and all players are on the same hopeful page.

Then comes the first draft of Battle for Zendikar. And that page is ripped to shreds.

Opinions on the draft format are as numerous as the Jaces found in Standard. Whether it's a preferred color, a favorite archetype or the set's best common, there's plenty of divergent takes on Magic's newest set. And while all can agree that the set is skill-testing and enjoyable, there's little consensus on exactly how to enjoy the battle.

Luckily, there's a great equalizer. Success speaks louder than words, and we have both from those who emerged undefeated from Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar's opening draft.

"There is a lot to the draft portion, and there is a ton to learn," said hall of famer Patrick Chapin shortly after he dispatched Ken Yukuhiro to move to 3-0 on the day. "This format really rewards experimenting with new colors and new strategies. You could draft fifteen times and still not have played every archetype."

That's exactly what Chapin did in the weeks leading up to the Pro Tour along with the rest of Team Ultra PRO, and he put those lessons to work in the first draft. Despite having one of the best cards in the entire set in Rolling Thunder, the Hall of Famer wasn't afraid to jump ship from red when it became apparent the color wasn't open. Instead, he ended up with a white-blue deck featuring two of what he called one of the best cards in the archetype—Fortified Rampart.

"It's just a phenomenal card in this format, and I think most people wouldn't think that right away," he explained. "There are a lot of cards like that in this set, cards that are a lot better than you would think. It all really depends on what archetype you are. You can be in the same colors as someone next to you and not want any of the same cards, because they're either very good or very bad in your specific archetype, so finding cards that cross over are really important early in draft. Kalastria Healer, for instance, is really, really good, and one of the reasons is that it can fit into an Allies deck or a white-black lifegain deck."

Chapin had some predictions for the draft decks that would rise to the top by the end of the tournament: Decks playing two of the three Grixis colors (blue, black and red) would find consistent success thanks to the strength of the ingest/process mechanics that exist on the many powerful devoid cards in those colors, and that green would have a difficult time succeeding.

Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin knows what he does and doesn't like in Battle for Zendikar. He must have liked what he had in the first draft of the tournament, as he finished the draft rounds undefeated.

"I don't mind green if you're the only person playing it, but in general I think a lot of the green cards are over-drafted compared to their strength," Chapin said. "The color requires some really good uncommons like Tajuru Warcaller or rares to be good."

With three rounds of Battle for Zendikar draft down, the question is this: Did the results bear out Chapin's theory?

Of the 46 decks that went 3-0 in the first draft, here's how their primary colors (defined as at least four basics of a land type, not including other sources like Evolving Wilds) broke down

Color # of Decks
Black 24 Decks (52%)
Blue 23 Decks (50%)
Red 17 Decks (37%)
Green 17 Decks (37%)
White 16 Decks (35%)


As many top players have suggested, blue and black clearly led the way thanks to a combination of efficient removal, evasive creatures and—maybe most importantly—flexibility. Cards like Complete Disregard or Clutch of Currents fit into multiple archetypes, and will make the cut no matter what strategy you eventually settle on in the colors.

Gregory Orange 's Blue-Black

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While things were certainly slanted toward the Eldrazi side of things, the Zendikari were able to find some success as well. The most successful green decks took advantage of allies to go wide and sneak around opponents' defenses or landfall triggers to simply overwhelm those defenses, as evidenced by Pro Tour Magic Origins champion and 17th-ranked Joel Larsson's 3-0 run with a red-green build based around landfall.

Joel Larsson 's Red-Green

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That's where things stand after the first draft of the tournament. Day Two will kick off with another, and we'll have a fuller picture then as to what exactly is winning the battle for Zendikar.

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