What happens when the best Magic players in the world have weeks to practice drafting a format? From 58 draft pods, Pro Tour Dominaria had the answer.
|Day 1 Draft 3-0 Color Pairs|
|3 or More||5|
Well, it's more than that, but there are reasons so many winning decks leaned into those colors. Seth Manfield, Pro Tour Ixalan winner and the 2015 World Champion, came into the Pro Tour liking what red offered, and opened his winning draft with a first pick Shivan Fire and two copies of Jodah, Archmage Eternal.
The answer, apparently, meant playing Mountains and Islands.
"Shivan Fire, I think, is the best common in the set," he said. "I started taking red cards—removal spells—since if you're going to be slower, then you want to prioritize removal. I wasn't sure what my other colors would be and then I picked up a Jodah, Archmage Eternal randomly. I saw another Jodah in Pack 3, but I figured it would come back around and picked something else."
"I got it back. It's not a bomb, but a 4/3 flier that's historic is pretty good in Limited the last time I checked. It ended up working out."
Manfield's three colors of removal and evasion wasn't accidental: His third pick in the first pack was Skittering Surveyor, a card that's critical to playing more powerful decks. "I like getting Skittering Surveyor early," he said. "It makes playing more than two colors doable. You don't have to be green. It's a really high pick in Pack 1. Once you know what your deck is doing, it can go up or down in value."
What does Skittering Surveyor unlock? The power of multicolor cards. "Multicolor cards are higher power cards players can't take because they're in other colors." Manfield said. "Those copies of Jodah were the only rares in my deck."
If Skittering Surveyor unlocking more colors is so valuable, what about the other colorless mana fixing in the set Navigator's Compass? Manfield was less than enthused. "I never want to play with that. I'm only playing it in a weird situation where I'm three or four colors with no other fixing. It's not great, but it's not totally unplayable."
Those watching Hall of Fame player Luis Scott-Vargas draft can get a sense of how Navigator's Compass ranks.
Manfield's deck wasn't just Skittering Surveyor into Jodah, as Ghitu Chronicler plays a big role in the success of any deck with blue and red. "Games can go long, so you want some card advantage. Kicker cards help, and Ghitu Chronicler gets back removal."
Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson agreed, and drafted a 3-0 blue-red deck that proved the point. "I took a first pick Karn's Temporal Sundering over Academy Journeymage," Thompson explained. "Journeymage is always good, but the ceiling on Temporal Sundering is way higher. [Sam] Black having all the legendary creatures made it pretty tough on my Temporal Sundering."
Thompson was keen to be in blue-red coming into the draft as well. "Blue-red we found was the best archetype. It has answers to everything. It can be aggressive when you need it to, but it can play a longer game as well. Shivan Fire is the best common, and Fight with Fire is the best uncommon."
Thompson's deck had both of the power cards, but also played two copies of Warlord's Fury. In previous sets, cheap red sorceries that also drew you a card were filler cards, measures of last resort. In blue-red decks, they serve a much bigger purpose.
"Warlord's Fury lets you make attacks where the opponent can't trade." Thompson said. "It combos well with Ghitu Lavarunner and Adeliz, the Cinder Wind and turns into free damage." And since it's just one red mana, Warlord's Fury also smooths out draws. "Getting to play 16 lands is also nice."
Thompson also had some tips for making the most of blue-red when you're in the seat to draft it. "You can draft it to be aggressive or controlling but stick to your plan. If you're being controlling, you'll want Tolarian Scholar more than Ghitu Lavarunner. You need a deck, not just powerful cards."
Every color pair found a winning way at the Pro Tour, but if you can choose to follow in Manfield's and Thompson's footsteps, then you're on the right track.