The Revolution's Secret Weapon

Posted in Event Coverage on February 6, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

At last year's Modern Pro Tour, Patrick Dickmann introduced himself to the world with his exciting new take on Splinter Twin. Dickmann's mastery of the Modern format makes him a favorite coming into Pro Tour Fate Reforged where he'll have a chance to make his mark known on the new Modern.

Dickmann, a German native, continued to put up impressive numbers throughout last season, eventually earning enough Pro Points to obtain Platinum status.

Dickmann's team, Revolution, expected great things from Dickmann for the Modern portion of the tournament, but they didn't expect him to dominate the new draft format. At seemingly all of their team's drafts, Dickmann managed to go undefeated with a strange new strategy that none of them, including Dickmann, had seen before. Fate Reforged/Khans of Tarkir Booster Draft is still relatively new, so I decided to sit down with Dickmann to discuss his take on the new Limited format.

I started by asking Dickmann what commons he would be happy to first pick out of Fate Reforged.

He smiled. "That's not really how this format works. It's not about how powerful a card is by itself so much as it is about how well a card works in the deck you're drafting. Whisperer of the Wilds may be the best common, but I generally want to avoid green unless I'm being passed rares and strong uncommons. Harsh Sustenance is probably my favorite common, but it's still unlikely that I'll be first picking it. In Fate Reforged, the uncommons and rares are powerful enough that they will likely be dictating what players take with their first pick."

Patrick Dickmann surprised his team with some unique draft strategies. Armed with a lot of Limited experience and a specialization for Modern, the Pro Tour Born of the Gods Top 8 competitor was poised to impress this weekend.

Most of the players I've had a chance to discuss the new Limited format with have strongly favored green strategies. I asked Dickmann why he was avoiding that color. "I avoid green because it's simply trying to play creatures while hoping they're good enough to win the game. With the other colors, I can assemble strong synergies and make a deck with a clear plan."

He then told me about some of these synergies and plans that he has managed to put together in this last week's drafts.

"Collateral Damage and Sultai Emissary work well together. If you see a bunch of Collateral Damage going around the table early, then you can pick up Sultai Emissary earlier than you might have otherwise to assemble the combo. I drafted a very good Black-Red sacrifice deck. Hold on," Dickmann stopped to catch his breath. He was visibly excited and the pace at which he was speaking was steadily speeding up, "I like taking Refocus and Pressure Point higher than most people. In one draft I had a few copies of Refocus and I opened and first picked Monastery Swiftspear. In the first match I played against Valentin [Mackl] he blocked my Monastery Swiftspear with a 2/2 on the second turn when I had Refocus. Then, two turns later, he attacked me with a morph and I used a second copy of Refocus to kill his attacker. The cantrips [Pressure Point and Refocus] are very good with the prowess cards.”

“The most interesting deck I've drafted was an enchantment deck; I saw two copies of Sage's Reverie early and figured they would both come back,” he continued. “I took a bunch of good white and blue cards and grabbed the two copies of Sage's Reverie very late. Then, in the next packs, I picked up two copies of Singing Bell Strike and was lucky enough to get passed End Hostilities."

I was impressed. I'm not used to hearing about Limited decks with this much focus. What Uncommons was Dickmann looking for?

"Elite Scaleguard is the best. The card is insane. It's better than most of the rares and mythics."

How did Dickmann feel about Temur Sabertooth?

"I do not love Temur Sabertooth,” he said. “It's pretty good, but it often presents the opponent with opportunities to gain a tempo advantage. Again, I prefer to stay away from green cards in this format."

A lot of players seem to want an enemy color combination in Fate Reforged so they can move into an appropriate third color in the second and third packs. What type of overarching draft strategy was Dickmann looking to bring to the table?

"I avoid green, especially early,” he explained. “I try to stay based in one color for as long as I possibly can in the first pack. The power level of individual cards tends to change a lot depending on what deck they're drafted in. For example, Valley Dasher is bad in most decks, but, if you're willing to be aggressive enough, it becomes quite strong. The fixing is good enough in this format that I like to just snap up any strong rares or mythics that make it to my hands. I could end up with a few lands and gain a big advantage. If I don't, then at least it [the rare or mythic] isn't in my opponent's deck."

Dickmann considers himself a Modern and Draft specialist. This weekend's Pro Tour was tailor-made to suit his talents. Few would be surprised to see the young German go deep this weekend. Will Dickmann return to the elimination rounds of a Modern Pro Tour?

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