Drafting Downwind with Sam Pardee

Posted in PRO TOUR FATE REFORGED on February 6, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Unlike how many Magic players would feel, some players are glad to sit down at the drafting table next to Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and Pro Tour Berlin 2008 Champion Luis Scott-Vargas. This includes Grand Prix Portland champion and Modern "master" Sam Pardee. Though it is intimidating to play against arguably one of the game's best, Pardee and Scott-Vargas are both part of the same ChannelFireball testing family. So the two had tested for the Pro Tour together. being downwind from an off-the-charts Limited testing partner is the bee knees. Especially when you're known for your Constructed finishes, and rarely attend Limited Grand Prix events. Even if that means you have a decent chance of being paired against a Hall of Fame–inducted Pro Tour champ.

Pardee said, "I remember in Valencia [at Pro Tour Born of the Gods] Jacob Wilson, Jon Stern, and I were right in a row at a table, and we all went at least 2-1." The deck he's drafted here could land him with similar results. Almost immediately after building began, Sam was already opening the basic land packs at his table. "The deck basically built itself. There were only a few choices to make." Pardee ended with a Black-Green deck that splashed for both White and Blue.

Though four colors might sound ambitious (and a basic land split of 5-5-1-1 just looks sketchy), he had six double-on-color duals, and some very bomb-y reasons to be a bit greedy. And really, Pardee had planned it that way from the start.

During draft itself, his first pick was the mighty Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Pardee was quite content to open up such a giant rare, even if it is two allied colors (which is more limiting for the enemy-color-oriented Khans of Tarkir packs). "He's so powerful, and I just have to play one of his colors," he said.

This also gave his draft direction. He had to find which color, Blue or Black, was more open, and make sure he was getting the good stuff. High on the priority list after that was grabbing some lands.

Because there are only so many cards for Pardee in the first pack, he speculated on lands early, which could perhaps pay off big later. As early as picks five and six, after solidifying the open color as Black, he took two "off-color" duals in Swiftwater Cliffs and Tranquil Cove. He was passing some pretty solid red cards, like Flamerush Rider, to better execute this plan, but he knew staying the course had the highest chance of allowing him to play both his two-color rare and whatever rares he opened in future packs.

After the lands, he took a Typhoid Rats and started looking for what color, if any, would wheel. Rather any red cards coming back, he saw a Whisperer of the Wilds, then a Frontier Mastodon, then a Hunt the Weak, respectively, ninth, tenth, and eleventh pick.

"The late Whisperer clued me in that Luis was not green." So Pardee lapped all the cards up and was solidly Black-Green going into the second pack. "I really like drafting Black-Green when you have bomb-y rares. They give you the time to draw what you need to play them." This includes both your correct lands and the big card itself. After the first pack Silumgar had already found himself a place.

Peering at Scott-Vargas's draft, he was indeed base white, but had been taking all the blue cards coming his way, then some Red to top it off at the end. The two were drafting in sync.

In the second pack, Silumgar found a friend. Pardee opened a Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Because he had positioned himself with the speculated Tranquil Cove, and the solid two-color base, taking the white-black mythic rare was a snap.

Filled with late-game bombs, Pardee was confident going down a black-green base, splashing the colors needed to cast Silumgar, the Drifting Death and Sorin, Solemn Visitor.

Sam had two big ways to win the game, and he knew his colors. It was simple from there: fill out the curve, and get the lands. After that pick he went, in order, Windswept Heath, Death Frenzy, Kill Shot, Flooded Strand, Sultai Scavenger, Kill Shot. Well, mission accomplished. As Scott-Vargas had been taking all the blue, the other colors were easy pickings for Pardee.

The hardest decision he made during that run was a Windswept Heath over a Dismal Backwater. "Usually the gain-land cycle is better than the fetchlands in draft, but I knew the Heath would fuel my delve, and at the time I thought white would become a main color."

His third pack gave him early defense in Archers' Parapet and Disowned Ancestor, some mid-game pals like Bellowing Saddlebrute and Abomination of Gudul, and, of course, the last of his lands. A wheeled Hooting Mandrills, then a Dismal Backwater gave Pardee the thumbs-up that he had drafted acceptably color wise.

He sleeved up his four-color double-splash and was ready to battle. "I really like Green-Black splash whatever," Pardee said. It's easy to play the additional bomb-laden colors. He continued, "Plus, I've got the Archers' Parapet and things like Death Frenzy to buy me the time I need."

Though this draft seemingly went well, the Modern specialist was a bit wary of Limited as a whole. "This [format] has been tough for me this time. After [Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir] I didn't really draft much." Though he practiced Limited with his team, because of the banning of Birthing Pod, signaling the death of his pet deck, he had to focus on getting a Modern deck together. "The round split is still 10-6," he said, pointing out that there are way more Modern rounds than draft. But he was still feeling all right about the first three rounds.

"It definitely helped that Luis was passing to me," he said. Because they tested on the same team, Pardee continued, "we both have the same grand idea about evaluating cards." From that, Pardee could pick up on subtler signals than anyone not on the ChannelFireball crew could.

Though Pardee is not as storied in Limited, he's no slouch. And between working with a great team, and getting to scoop up the cards a master leaves behind, Sam Pardee knows how to profit. That is, if he can avoid getting paired against Luis in the first round.

What? The pairings are up? How's it look? Oh, oops. Well, let's hope Sam Pardee knows what he's doing.

Sam Pardee, Draft 1 – Pro Tour Fate Reforged

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