The 6-0 Drafters of Pro Tour Kaladesh

Posted in Event Coverage on October 15, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Of the 57 players who achieved a 3-0 limited record on Day 1, only six players managed to duplicate the act. Four-time Grand Prix Champion Martin Jůza, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy, gold-level pro Matthew Nass, newly-inducted Magic Pro Tour Hall of Famer (1) Owen Turtenwald, Donald Smith, and Travis Woo were the only players who went 6-0 in Limited this weekend.

So, what's the secret to having a perfect limited record at the Pro Tour?

"I drafted a bunch," said Donald Smith of Lafeyette, Louisiana. "Where I'm from, everyone plays Limited. I drafted thirty times before the Pro Tour."

Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy had a similar experience. "There's a big community in Toulouse, and everyone wanted to prepare for Grand Prix London, so we drafted a few times a day at Monica's [my wife's] studio. I went 4-2 in London. I should have 6-0'd, but I made some mistakes. After that, I felt like I understood the format."

Kaladesh Limited is very different from last year's Limited formats, Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. In those, it was important to have synergy. In Kaladesh, synergy is not as important. There are small synergies present, but many players felt that in this format, a good curve and combat tricks are more important than a highly synergistic deck.

Raphaël Lévy's 6-0 draft record at this Pro Tour came with the understanding of how important a good curve and combat tricks were in this format.

"Combat tricks are like removal in this format," explained Lévy. "My most important card was Rush of Vitality." Lévy drafted black in both of his drafts this weekend, and both decks contained a copy of Rush. "It doesn't look very good, but it does everything. It kills a guy, saves a guy, gains you life, helps you race. You don't need removal if you have Rush." Lévy was also a strong advocate for Ornamental Courage. "One-mana combat tricks are strong in this format. This one's impossible to play around."

Matthew Nass was another undefeated player who felt that mana curve was more important than synergy. "Good curve and removal is important. My second deck today didn't do anything special. My synergy was Sky Skiff and the 3/2 that pings [Spireside Infiltrator]. I mis-picked when I took Armorcraft Judge over Thriving Grubs. I'd rather have the two-drop for curve than the synergy card."

Owen Turtenwald had a different strategy in mind with his draft decks. "I just go where the rares tell me to." Owen's second deck this weekend was a Blue-Red control deck with lots of energy and some bombs. "I first picked Aethersquall Ancient and second picked Hightide Hermit. After taking the Ancient, I wanted to draft creatures that enter the battlefield with a lot of energy so that I can use the Ancient more reliably. Hermit plus Thriving Turtle means I can bounce every creature every turn."

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship was Owen's other bomb. "I knew I couldn't lose if I drew Skysovereign and I wanted to make sure I could draw it every game, so I played three Cathartic Reunion to increase my chances. It was the most important card in my deck. I also played a Metalspinner's Puzzleknot to help draw into it."

Most of the 6-0 drafters preferred to draft green over any other color. "I prefer green if it's open. It has the biggest creatures and good tricks. I'll pair it with anything, but my favorite is Red-Green," explained Lévy.

Donald Smith felt similarly. "I like anything green or black, but not green and black together. I think blue is weird and I want to avoid it if possible. I also try to avoid Red-White. I like green because you can play anything with it. Splashing is easy. The fixing is so good that you should always actively look for something to splash. My team and I joked that Whirler Virtuoso is actually a green card."

Martin Jůza was another undefeated player who wanted to avoid drafting blue. "I couldn't figure out what the color did," he said. "It has a 2/1 vanilla and a 2/3 prowess but there are no good spells. I think the cards that it wants fit better into all the other decks, so it's harder to draft."

Blue was not a universally hated color, however. Matthew Nass preferred to draft blue over any other color. "I don't like the Wind Drake and Long-Finned Skywhale plan," he said. "You don't want to be doing that in blue. It's so bad. You're looking for a control deck, green-blue ideally. I try to avoid blue-red because I think red is the worst color."

Nass also found success with a 6-0 draft record this weekend, showcasing an understanding of what each color is supposed to be doing in the format

Yesterday, White-Black was the most drafted archetype among the 3-0 drafters. Today, two of the six undefeated players, Martin Jůza, and Travis Woo, drafted White-Black. White-Black is the archetype that can go in the most directions. It can be aggressive or controlling, can go wide with tokens, or just gain tons of value. Martin's deck today was one of the more interesting versions of White-Black among the top decks. "These were sweet," he said, fanning out three copies of Sky Skiff and two copies of Night Market Lookout. Night Market Lookout is not a strong card by itself but in a deck with vehicles it can be quite powerful.

Here's a breakdown of the undefeated players' draft archetypes.

Player Draft 1 Archetype Draft 2 Archetype
Martin Juza G/W/u W/B
Raphael Lévy B/G B/R
Matthew Nass G/W R/G
Donald Smith G/W/u R/G
Owen Turtenwald B/R/u U/R
Travis Woo W/B W/B

Breaking it down even further:

  • Six green decks
  • Six white decks
  • Six black decks
  • Five red decks
  • One blue deck, but three decks splashed blue.
  • All 3-color decks had blue as their splash color.

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