Pro Tour Ixalan 6-0 Drafters

Posted in Event Coverage on November 4, 2017

By Marc Calderaro

Yesterday we looked at the 3-0 drafters and their strategies from the first day of Pro Tour Ixalan Limited. Now, well into Saturday, there's plenty more where that came from. Firstly, the archetypes you should be looking toward (and which you should avoid like a seasick pirate on St. Pirate's Day). Second, which of those 57 3-0 drafters were able to go the full undefeated, taking an early lead for 2017–18 Pro Tour Draft Master!

If you looked at the chart from the previous article, there were a few distinct archetypes that stood above the rest. Well, combined with the new info, we've got better data. And, cats and kittens, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Color Pair Day One 3-0 Day Two 3-0 Combined Percentage


13 6 19 20.4%


13 5 18 19.4%


10 8 18 19.4%


8 5 13 14.0%


2 6 8 8.6%


4 2 6 6.5%


3 2 5 5.4%


2 2 4 4.3%


1 0 1 1.1%


1 0 1 1.1%


From this, we begin to see distinct archetype tiers. Though players have talked constantly about Merfolk (green-blue) and Vampires (white-black) as the "dream" decks to play, little hay has been made about Blue-Black Pirates, which seems to be right up there in terms of win percentage. And importantly, look how much better Pirates perform in that color combination than in either black-red or blue-red. The Pirates are in all three colors, but if you find yourself in red, maybe look to white as your complement instead.

If that's the first-tier archetypes, then tier two is where red-white, like cheese, stands alone. But its closer neighbors downward are the other Naya Dinosaur compatriots—both green-white and red-green. Unlike the three colors of Pirates, when it comes to winning a draft, the three colors of Dinosaurs are less punishing in their differentiations.

The saddest stat for a Rakdos Shred-Freak such as myself, is that black-red is right there scraping the barrel bottom with black-green and white-blue. It looks like 3-0 is not an expected result if you're a Spiked Jester. But there is hope for us: Because this is just the 3-0 metagame, it doesn't factor in overall wins of 2-1s, 1-2s, and 0-3s. So it's possible that our friends can consistently 2-1. There's time for a Rakdos's Return!

Just as a caveat before we move on, some people might wonder about the one white-blue 3-0. What was it? What did it look like? Well you might want to ask Paul Rietzl. He said that it was one of the worst Draft decks he's ever had. He splashed green (off one Forest, an Unknown Shores, and some Treasure) for two Savage Stomps and a Snapping Sailback. He seemed as confounded as anyone about how he managed the perfect record. What we're saying here is: kids, don't try it at home.

So who navigated these water traps most effectively? Out of the 57 3-0s from Day One, six managed to convert to a solid 6-0 finish: No. 7–ranked Owen Turtenwald, Bryan Hohns, Guillaume Matignon, Elias Watsfeldt, Yao Zile, and "Mr. 76%" Yuki Matsumoto. Most of these six are still in Top 8 contention, thanks to the leg up the Draft rounds provide at the Pro Tour.

Pro Tour Ixalan 6-0 drafters, from left: Owen Turtenwald, Yao Zile, Elias Watsfeldt, Byran Hohns, Guillaume Matignon, and Yuki Matsumoto

First up, Yuki Matsumoto. I referred to him by Pro Tour Host Rich Hagon's "Mr. 76%" nickname because as of right now, Matsumoto has an absurdly high win rate in Limited at Grand Prix and Pro Tours. At the moment, he's batting 76% in Draft, which dips down to a still-crazy 74% in Limited overall. These numbers are buttressed by his two Grand Prix wins in Chiba and Kyoto, and a third Top 8 in Shizuoka. But strong Pro Tour performances—like a 6-0 this weekend—certainly don't hurt.

Every Pro Magic player around would look at that number and scoff—and rightly so. In any given format, the goal is 66%, with only the people on real tears or the best of all time reach something like 70% or maybe 71%. So, what gives?

Well at the moment, Matsumoto's total numbers are still low. He's done about 25 drafts at Pro Tours and Grand Prix. And though that's higher than anyone else with a similar percentage to his own, we don't start really ranking until much more than that. After he's notched about double his current number of drafts, then we can get a good picture of a natural win rate. That high score will almost certainly lower by then.

In the next few seasons, that ratio is likely to settle down closer to 66%. Whether his successful first few years are anywhere near sustainable is yet to be seen. But for now, we get to witness an up-and-comer on the rise, shooting threes like it ain't no thing at all.

Next up was Elias Watsfeldt, who could be found between rounds sitting quietly off in a corner. At the time he was 10-3, quite in Top 8 contention.

"I don't like competition," the Gothenburg native said. An absurd statement, but he explained, "The last two Pro Tours I was 10-2, and then I went 1-3 and 0-4...between rounds, I'm just thinking about 'Well, what happens if I lose,' and 'Then what happens if I lose again.'" As this was now his third 10-2 start in a row, he's working on getting over this feeling outside of the matches themselves. But he's not concerned as far as the battles are concerned, as he added, "Oh, it never affects me in the game; I don't bring it there." Part of that is clear from his 6-0 performance in Draft.

"I like it," he said. "Whenever there's a swingy format, every decision matters...for example, 'Should I take Dive Down here? Is that even a good card?'" It's pretty clear that Watsfeldt would take the Dive Down, as both his decks were Green-Blue Merfolk. He said it's very important to constantly attack in an archetype like that. "The tricks are fight, bounce, and counterspells—all things that are good when you're attacking." When I pointed that obviously he would take the Dive Down, he smirked and shrugged.

"I like the slightly cheaper cards, generally speaking... but there is potential for the slower decks," he insisted, though not currently practicing what he preaches. "4 toughness is the only thing you need. Sailor of Means and Grazing Whiptail, just pick up a few of those. Did you see that Brad Nelson feature match earlier? He went 2/1, 2/1, and [his opponent] went 1/4, 1/4, and that was it!"

Though I appreciate his hopefulness for the slower decks, until Watsfeldt stops drafting Merfolk back-to-back, I'll remain skeptical.

The other 6-0 player who drafted double Merfolk was 2010 Player of the Year runner-up Guillaume Matignon. And like Watsfeldt, Matignon really enjoys drafting Ixalan. "It's hard to find the right archetype for your seat." He went on to say that this set drafts differently than most sets.

"You have to change all your classic evaluations," Matignon said. As an example, he said, "In a regular set, a multicolor card is worse than a single-color card, right?...But if you want to have a good deck, you have to be a good archetype." And in Ixalan, a "good archetype" is a good tribe. In Matignon's estimation, that's Merfolk, Vampires, and to a lesser extent, Pirates. "So a multicolor Merfolk and a monocolored Vampire are the same," he said, holding out his arms as a balancing scale.

On players yesterday preaching flexibility, Matignon demurred. "I don't like the term 'flexibility.' I want to pick the strongest cards. You have to be willing to sacrifice, say, pick three and pick five to find the right deck."

Matignon seemed quite happy to be back playing on the Pro Tour. "But I don't want to play too much!...I just love Pro Tours." With a record like that, I can see why.

Matignon and Watsfeldt were the only two 6-0s to repeat archetypes from the first pod to the second. Yao Zile, member of MTGSheep, the first competitive Chinese team, went red-white into green-blue; and No. 7–ranked Pro Tour Hall of Famer Owen Turtenwald went white-black, red-white.

In fact, let's just take a look at all the 6-0 drafter archetypes.

6-0 Drafter Draft Archetypes
Bryan Hohns Blue-Black, Red-White
Guillaume Matignon Green-Blue, Green-Blue
Yuki Matsumoto Blue-Black, White-Green
Owen Turtenwald White-Black, Red-White
Elias Watsfeldt Green-Blue, Green-Blue
Yao Zile Red-White, Green-Blue

To circle back to the first chart, only one deck archetype listed here is outside the top four finishing archetypes—and it was the fifth. So when it comes to drafting Ixalan at your local game store, if you're looking to clean sweep, that ranking at the top of the article doesn't seem like a bad guide.

Happy sun-crowned hunting!

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