Drafting 6-0 at Pro Tour Dominaria

Posted in Event Coverage on June 2, 2018

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

While the 2017-18 Draft Master title was earned by Elias Watsfeldt at Pro Tour Dominaria, it didn't go to someone that drafted a perfect record. A handful of other players started Day One and Day Two by picking up nine points, battling to a perfect 6-0 record across Dominaria drafts.

Here's how all the pods with Day Two 3-0 drafters shook out:

Day Two Draft 3-0 Color Pairs  
White-Blue 6
Blue-Black 2
Black-Red 2
Red-Green 3
Green-White 3
White-Black 2
Black-Green 5
Green-Blue 1
Blue-Red 4
Red-White 1
Three or more 6

What really happened was less about being prepared and more that most players that made it into Day Two of the Pro Tour are just as prepared as everyone else. Getting to that point takes skill and dedication to mastering formats like Booster Draft.The shifts day over day were striking. Blue-Red was still strong, but more decks in other color pairs were successful comparatively, especially with White-Blue and three-color decks taking the largest shares each.

Corey Burkhart, a perennial Grand Prix contender and one of the 6-0 drafters this weekend, takes that dedication seriously. "I try to do my own set review." he explained. "You can listen to Limited Resources and others that do their own ranking. I make my own spreadsheet and rank them A, B C, D, F. Where do these cards fall in rankings?"

Corey Burkhart of Face to Face Games had success in both days of Pro Tour Dominaria's Booster Draft, going undefeated across all six rounds.

His preliminary analysis has been confirmed by the popular consensus among pros. "I did that and I saw the format was not going to be fast," he said. "So I asked myself 'Why aren't these 2/2s good?' Because there's a lot of 2/2s and 2/3s in the format, cards like Short Sword and Jousting Lance were good. There aren't many ways to destroy equipment like Fiery Intervention and Broken Bond, and they aren't always going to be in the main deck."

  • Fiery Intervention
  • Broken Bond
  • Short Sword
  • Jousting Lance
  • Keldon Warcaller

What does a slower format mean? Burkhart explained. "It looks more like a Core Set Limited where a 2/2 into a combat trick into another 2/2 isn't going to play well. Baloth Gorger as a 4/4 and other late-game creatures look better. Serra Angel looks great in this format, and so does Windgrace Acolyte."

To master any set, Burkhart looks beyond individual cards to see what the overall message is. "What is the set telling me to do? [In Dominaria] the legends are powerful and play out like rares. They're going to be the highlights in each draft over something like a Krosan Druid. Those cards have their certain spots, but you're better drafting Whisper, Blood Liturgists and Danitha Capashen, Paragons and Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive over other creatures."

  • Whisper, Blood Liturgist
  • Danitha Capashen, Paragon
  • Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
  • Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
  • Tatyova, Benthic Druid

In both of Burkhart's drafts he picked up Tatyova, Benthic Druid. While his Blue-Red deck didn't play it, he splashed it in his Black-Green deck. "Black-Green goes longer, and that's the kind of card that wants to be in that deck."

But it's not just about the legendary creatures Burkhart said. There's more to the set. "There's a ton of rares that you look at and go 'What am I supposed to do with this?' This looks powerful but how does this play? You have to build with this card in mind. There's a lot of two-card combinations, like Valduk, Keeper of the Flame with Short Sword or Jousting Lance or Thallid Omnivore and Verdant Force, so maximining your deck with them and breaking up your opponents' two-card combos matters."

Burkhart wasn't the only excellent drafter on both Day One and Day Two. Team Massdrop East's Timothy Wu, one of the most consistent draft performers on the team for two years, approached things differently.

Timothy Wu of Massdrop East tends to specialize in aggressive draft decks, but even despite the pace of Dominaria Limited, he has still boasted an excellent track record in the 40-card format at the Pro Tour.

"Before sets were out online immediately we'd get eight strong players together a week before release and draft." Wu explained. "Now I play a lot more drafts online, but I feel less prepared. I only did like fifteen drafts."

Wu traditionally rallies in a "Draft retreat" with standouts like World Champion Seth Manfield, longtime Pro Tour and Grand Prix competitor Alex Majlaton, and many others. His assessment of the set agreed with popular opinion, but there was more to it for Wu. "Dominaria I dislike because it's a slower format overall and I tend towards aggressive strategies." he explained. "Both decks I drafted this weekend were more aggressive, and I feel I got a little lucky in my matchups. There are decks you can draft that look really good but have bad matchups."

"The Massdrop team keeps statistics on win percentages and colors played. Coming into the Pro Tour my win rate was only 60% in the intermediate skill games. With Magic Online Leagues you can play your deck all three rounds and find out if it's really good, unlike with single elimination drafts where you can run into those bad matchups and not get any good information because you're not playing."

How does Wu make the most of a format where he's looking for certain kinds of decks over others? He looks to read each draft. "Most teams have rankings of cards. I found that if you get familiar with the top cards in colors, then you can get a sense of what's being drafted to your right. If someone passes me a Blessed Light third or fourth pick, then they're probably not in white. You can catch those indicators in the first few cards to get a sense of what the person to your right is or isn't interested in. And in some formats your first pick dictates what color you're in. In this format you're rewarded for being more flexible."

That flexibility speaks to why different—and more colorful—decks were successful Day Two rather than on Day One.

Of course, Wu isn't an expert at every deck. Like most players, he has a preference for certain play styles. Leaning into that gave Wu the opportunity to claim a 6-0 Draft record. "Many of the top teams think Black-Green is the best deck in Dominaria Limited, but I've never had success with it. I just don't do well with it. One of my strengths is knowing what kind of player I am. For example, in the first draft I had the choice between Opt and Run Amok. Clearly I'm a Run Amok player, and in both drafts I had no rares in either deck. That's a testament to what you can do if you draft with purpose and deck in mind."

"It's not only drafting the deck but playing it." Wu said. "Sometimes you have to just 'get in' and hope your opponent doesn't have anything. I took some chances and was rewarded, and that's what my decks dictate I do."

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