The addition of Eventide to the Shadowmoor drafting format has certainly had a dramatic impact on how players build their decks. Earlier in the day a number of pros offered up their opinions on what they hoped to draft for the final four rounds of Day 1 play and the verdict seemed unanimous: monocolor strategies, preferably white ones, were in. Of course, when everyone wants to draft the same things it gets a little tricky so the coverage reporters headed to the field to gain some perspective on how the format played out.
Field reporter Marc Calderaro took in a table featuring former U.S. Nationals Top 8er Tim Aten and Pro Tour-San Diego champion Chris Lachmann. Here's what he had to say on the draft:
Drafting veterans, Chris Lachmann and Tim Aten knew exactly what they were looking for coming into this draft. Lachmann was to Aten's left and they were easily able to navigate each other's picks and both crafted solid decks.
Aten, passing to Lachmann, picked up black early-a first-pick Kulrath Knight into River's Grasp. Staying mainly with the darkness throughout pack one, Aten picked up some stray blue and red cards that fell his way, waiting to see what Lachmann would hand him in pack two. Lachmann, after taking a first-pick Silkbind Faerie, wasted little time deciphering that Aten was staying away from white, and he gobbled it up whole with a Safehold Elite leading the gobbling festivities (not to be confused with a Goblin Festival).
Left to right, Tim Aten, Chris Lachmann, Gadiel Szleifer
With blue as a possible splash for both of the combatants, pack two was more interesting, offering Lachmann a third-pick Mistmeadow Witch
over a Safehold Elite
he was hoping would table (it didn't). However, other than that slight blue departure, Lachmann stuck to his white guns, nabbing a Prison Term
and Turn to Mist
, with an interesting pick of Niveous Wisps
over a Safehold Duo
that would have fit perfectly in his mostly absent four-drop slot. Aten couldn't have been happier with Lachmann's color choice. This allowed him to pick up some great blue grabbing three Briarberry Cohort
s, a Faerie Swarm
, a Cemetery Puca
, and two Consign to Dream
With Aten content to pass Lachmann all the white (and green) in the final pack, the Jersey boy cleaned up. He picked up a Recumbent Bliss, Gwyllion Hedge-Mage, two Nightsky Mimics and some green to fill up that vacant four-spot - two Wickerbough Elders and an Aerie Ouphes. Lachmann claimed he felt that card was overrated, something he might regret should he get paired against Aten's army of fliers.
At the same table, Erik Thoren was standing behind Pro Tour-Philadelphia 2005 champion Gadiel Szleifer, who had Lachmann feeding him from the right.
Going into the draft Gadiel was quick to point out that he hadn't seen a card from Eventide. In both of his drafts and sealed deck from Grand Prix-Indianapolis, Gadiel showed a tendency to favor white. With no previous knowledge going in from one of the sets, it would be interesting to see if he would fall back on white just because of the prior experience with the cards. When I asked Gadiel about pre-conceived notions he simply responded with, "No, not at all. I don't even remember what colors I played at. I only planned on not going green because that was the one thing I was told for this-Don't go green."
His first pack included Midnight Banshee
, Ballynock Cohort
, and Wasp Lancer
. Interestingly enough, Gadiel chose to go with the hybrid-uncommon flyer over the more powerful Midnight Banshee
. This should be a clear signal to his left that he is not going into black and the lancer is going into a blue/X deck. However, this makes the hybrid less appealing by not going into the black half of the casting cost.
When asked about the choice after the draft, Gadiel admitted "Just not knowing how good he is (Midnight Banshee), to be honest. I just felt like I couldn't go wrong with a 3/2 flyer."
The pack served up another bomb for Gadiel in the form of Ghastlord of Fugue. Due to just taking a blue and black hybrid previous and the immense power of the card, it was a no-decision for Gadiel. He continued to round out his deck with Wingrattle Scarecrow, two Scars and two Wanderbrine Rootcutters.
For pack two, the only two cards that Gadiel seemed to be interested in were Cemetery Puca and Scuttlemutt. He seemed at odds for the full time with this re-reading the Puca several times to make sure he wasn't missing anything. After going the full length, he chose Scuttlemutt. His next pack was extremely thin, however Briarberry Cohort was the last card he saw which was quickly scooped up. The rest of the pack seemed to round out with Scar No. 3, Wingrattle Scarecrow No. 2, Gloomlance, and Consign to Dream numbers two and three. Throughout the entire pack, the picks seemed very thin for Gadiel except for the one card he was taking, therefore limiting his decisions.
Eventide was the pack that Gadiel was obviously going to take more time than usual due to reading every card. When opening his pack he filtered three cards to the front of the pack: Nucklavee, Wistful Selkie, and the black-white hybrid Unmake. After reading Unmake and Nucklavee he eventually went with the 4/4 Nucklavee due to the three Consign to Dreams. His next decision was the hybrid Bloodied Ghost versus Desecrator Hag. With the most powerful cards in Gadiel's deck being all three power or greater, he decided to go with the Hag for this pick. Pick three had another Nucklavee for him with no real resistance from any of the other cards. The rest of the picks rounded with Gadiel taking more quick creatures for his deck to fill the two-drop slot in the curve.
"I regret taking the Nucklavee
over the Unmake
in pack 3," Gadiel said after the draft. "I didn't know the cards well and kinda rushed to a decision-if I could do it again I would definitely take the Unmake
However, looking at Gadiel's final list he ended with six non-hybrid black spells. The Unmake has the potential to hurt him if he didn't get the swamps, but regardless of what set, spot removal is tough to get and that is what he acknowledged.
When asked about predicting his record Gadiel simply said, "I don't want to make any predictions. I know I have a better chance against the red and green decks because of three scars and the two Wilderness Hypnotists in my deck but we will see."
Also reporting from the floor was Blake Rasmussen. He kept tabs on Pro Tour-Honolulu champion Mark Herberholz and Grand Prix champion Gerard Fabiano. His report:
Mark Herberholz found himself sitting at table 2, right next to fellow Pro Tour regular and Grand Prix-Philadelphia winner Gerard Fabiano. After a first-pick Burn Trail from an otherwise shallow pack, Herberholz was flooded with blue cards as Biting Tether, River Kelpie, Somnomancer, Consign to Dream, Curse of Chains, and Turn to Mists all jumped in his pile, interspersed only by a Scuzzback Marauders. With Fabiano to his right forcing red, the path to blue was wide open.
Pack two was even kinder, as he cracked and was passed copies of Silkbind Faerie for his first two picks. Unfortunately, the blue dried up slightly afterwards - now that Fabiano wasn't feeding him - and he was forced to pick a succession of red/green hybrids and a Wicker Warcrawler. A late Presence of Gond to go with his hybrids (not to mention the Silkbind Faeries) meant both blue-green and blue-red decks were a possibility, setting him up nicely for Eventide.
Diving into the third pack, Herberholz found his blue stride again as Fabiano passed him the goods for a second time. A Puncture Blast solidified Heezy's red splash, and Banishing Knack made his Silkbind Faeries potentially even more devastating than they already were. Two Shorecrasher Mimics, Wistful Selkie, Glen Elendra Archmage, and a Merrow Levitator rounded out his final pack.
Deckbuilding went quickly as he favored the removal of Burn Trail and Puncture Blast over the potential tokens from Presence of Gond. In the end, he splashed for the two burn spells plus a Scuzzback Marauder, pleased with his deck's curve, creatures, and tricks.
Gerard Fabiano did just about the smartest thing anyone can do when drafting: He listened to Jon Finkel.
Gerard Fabiano, left, and Mark Herberholz
"I asked Finkel the other day and he told me to draft red," said Fabiano. "He said he had been drafting blue and having trouble. So I passed the blue control magic for a red 2/1."
The Hall of Famer contacted the coverage staff on Saturday with a distinct clarification on Fabiano's memory.
"I never condoned or suggested a universe where taking Tattermunge over Biting Tether is anywhere close to not being completely idiotic," Finkel retorted.
That Biting Tether landed neatly in neighbor Mark Herberholz's pile while Fabiano was pleased to start forcing red early by snatching up a Tattermunge Witch with his first pick. He continued to pluck red cards as they came, taking Horde of Boggarts, Bloodmark Mentor, Intimidator Initiate, and Tattermunge Duo. When the red was shallow he opted to take green cards like Wildslayer Elves and Nurturer Initiates to possibly supplement his Tattermunge Witch.
Demigod of Revenge was the quick first pick for the second Shadowmoor pack, cementing Fabiano firmly in heavy red with the bomby flyer. Rosheen Meanderer, another Initiate, and two Giantbaitings followed. Giantbaiting can be especially sexy when paired with the two Intimidator Initiates Fabiano would have access to. More red came in pack three as Flame Jab, Mindwrack Liege and a host of cheap red creatures filled out Fabiano's curve.
"I wish I had more removal, but my curve is good and I got lucky to open Demigod and some good stuff," said Fabiano, whose deck was good enough that he finished building in only a few minutes.
Meanwhile on table 5 three more stars of the game sat down to do battle. Michael Jacobs, a member of the 2008 U.S. National team, sat across from the other Pro Tour-San Diego champion in Jacob Van Lunen and Starcitygames.com columnist and Grand Prix finalist Zac Hill. All three players appeared to focus on a mono-colored strategy. Hill quickly went red after opening a Burn Trail and getting a Power of Fire second pick. The color would stay strong for him throughout the three drafts and he would add a Jaws of Stone, Grief Tyrant, and Flame Jab to his pile. Of the three names, he was the one most indebted to a second color relying on green to provide fat in the form of two Crabapple Cohorts and a pair of Wickerbough Elders as well. To shore up a weak point in his curve at the two-slot, Hill went so far as to draft Rustrazor Butchers as early as fifth. With Power of Fire he can afford to do that, knowing he could eventually use the 1/2's wither to wear his opponent's blockers down.
Jake Van Lunen on the other hand could be seen shaking his head during his portion of the draft. He seemed very disappointed after his first pack with a deck that looked all over the place and included two Manamorphose
, Ballynock Cohort
, and even some mid-level blue cards. His goal, however, was to try to go mono-color and stay flexible through the third pack so the train wasn't necessarily derailed. He got things on track in the second pack picking up some Burn Trail
s and additional Giantbaiting
s and making it appear he could assemble a monored deck, perhaps splashing for some additional powerful cards. Eventide
changed that giving him an early Ashling, the Extinguisher
. By the time he moved to deckbuilding he was looking at an almost entirely red deck "splashing" Ashling. That meant he'd have to play a few weak cards, however, in the form of a Traitor's Roar
and two copies of Poison the Well
. When he realized that he began reconsidering and looked for a way to fit in Fists of the Demigod
and a Smoldering Butcher
Finally there was Michael Jacobs. Like Van Lunen he could be seen shaking his head disappointedly during the draft, but it was all a ruse as he gushed about his deck upon sitting down to register. "I got 12th, 13th, and 14th pick Clout of the Dominus!" He exclaimed, adding "I'm straight blue-red!" The Michigan resident wasn't kidding having drafted a mostly monoblue deck during the first two packs and adding a Murkfiend Liege, Mindwrack Liege, Nucklavee, and many Noggles in the final pack. That was on top of the fact he had already drafted a Godhead of Awe and Flow of Ideas. The only question that remained seem to be whether or not he would splash enough red to squeeze a Burn Trail in.
Which players will see their hard drafting work come back to reward them? Stay tuned to the U.S. Nationals coverage on Magicthegathering.com all weekend to find out!