This past weekend was GP Nashville. I’ve never had much success at team tournaments despite how fun they are, and given how hard it was to get a flight from CA to Tennessee, I decided a few months ago to skip the event. My previous teammates (Josh Utter-Leyton and David Ochoa) found new teams for themselves and everything was good.
That changed the week or two before the PT when I realized I really wanted to go. Oh well, I didn’t have a team and that weekend would be Halloween, which is one of my girlfriend’s favorite holidays. I’ll just earn some domestic points and stay home. Until the morning of the PT, when both Shahar and PV mentioned to me that they need a third and that I should go. So much for earning points at home…
I am sure PV will get an account of the full tournament; I will put my thoughts into an additional article later this week or early next. Today I wanted to write up my thoughts from the Top 4 draft, which was covered here.
The draft was really interesting and coming out of it, I had no idea if I had just embarrassed myself or drafted well. Let’s dive in.
I was being fed by Gaudenis and feeding Matt Severa in the draft, meaning I would be playing against Sam. I knew Severa had a very strong preference for Mardu token strategies, so I was looking to pass/cut him if I could. That means I wanted to pass a few good Mardu cards for him, so he would lock into Mardu, and then I would move into it myself ahead of him. Since I’m feeding him in packs 1 and 3, I would get the best Mardu cards in both of those packs and his deck would end up bad.
P1p1: I open a pack with Ghostfire Blade, Death Frenzy, Temur Charm, Ponyback Brigade, Wind-Scarred Crag, Jungle Hollow, Jeskai Student, and Summit Prowler. Ghostfire Blade is the obvious pick here. I spent some time trying to see how the rest of the table would shake out—I expected Severa to my left to second-pick the Ponyback Brigade given his bias towards tokens.
P1p2: Pine Walker, Woolly Loxodon, Icefeather Aven, Timely Hordemate, Mystic of the Hidden Way, Highland Game, Sidisi’s Pet, Rush of Battle, Dismal Backwater. The Icefeather Aven is the most powerful card but there is an argument to just take Pine Walker so I can go Abzan. I expect Severa to take Timely Hordemate here, and I’m going to look to move in behind him in the next 1-2 picks if I can.
P1p3: Mardu Charm, Mardu Warshrieker, Deflecting Palm, Wind-Scarred Crag, Treasure Cruise, Abomination of Gudul, Sage-Eye Harrier, Longshot Squad. Abomination and Treasure Cruise go best with the Icewing Aven, but this is my chance to cut Severa. I can take either Mardu card and then move in ahead of him and hopefully wreck his draft. I decide to take the Hordechief as it is more flexible and ties him down to full Mardu if he takes the Charm over the land.
P1p4: Smite the Monstrous, Awaken the Bear, War Behemoth, Monastery Swiftspear, Archers’ Parapet, Kin-Tree Warden, Whirlwind Adept. I was hoping for another pack or two with better Mardu cards so I could really move in. This pack is very weak for a 4th pick but I get to take the best card in the Smite.
P1p5: Abomination of Gudul, Jungle Hollow, Salt Road Patrol, Canyon Lurkers, Dazzling Ramparts. This pack is pretty awful; I don’t want to go into Sultai and give up on my pass/cut plan, so I decide to take the marginal morph over the marginal outlast creature.
P1p6: Rush of Battle, Leaping Master, Ainok Tracker, Archers’ Parapet, Wetland Sambar. Very little here again. These packs have been weak in all of the colors. I pick up the on-color 2 drop to try and stick to R/W/b with a Temur fallback. Nothing feels very open at this point given how weak the packs have been.
P1p7: Jungle Hollow, Ainok Tracker, Jeskai Student, Weave Fate, Whirlwind Adept. Here I make a mistake. I couldn’t remember what the 6th card that is missing was that was taken over the land (Summit Prowler), so I don’t realize that there is an extra red drafter at the table. I should definitely have taken Jeskai Student here over the Tracker as Severa is much more likely to be B/W than R/W, so I want to make sure I hit him with this pick.
P1p8: Salt Road Patrol, Rush of Battle, Mystic of the Hidden Way, Dismal Backwater, Valley Dasher. Here I am not sure what to do. Mystic is the best card by a lot and it is the first real signal I’ve seen about what I should be doing. I tanked for a long time about taking Rush of Battle. I haven’t really passed Severa much after the Ponyback Brigade that would combo with the Rush but I was very confident he was Mardu. I decided to hedge for my own deck vs. hating from him and took the Mystic. I’m not sure if that is right. More importantly, I missed the fact that Highland Game was taken here (meaning 3 green cards were drafted), so I also missed out on a very important table color signal. I was mentally a little out of shape since the PT and wasn’t able to remember the full packs while also figuring out how to execute a team draft strategy. This would come back to hurt me in packs 2 and 3.
P1p9: Deflecting Palm, Sage-Eye Harrier, Sidisi’s Pet, Scaldkin. This is an easy Harrier. It is a card Severa would actively want and I still want to be Mardu or Jeskai so I can keep cutting him in pack 3.
P1p10: Kin-Tree Warden is the only possible playable here given that I have a Ghostfire Blade, so I take it.
P1p11: Nothing to see here.
P1p12: This is actually interesting—I have to decide which card to hate. There is actually a chance I could play Blinding Spray, so I wanted to take it but Retribution of the Ancients is a card I know Sam likes and there is a good chance that Severa could wind up being a B/W outlast deck. I’ve passed several Salt Road Patrols he could easily have already. I don’t want to give him a powerful, narrow card that could help him.
P1p13: Weave Fate over nothing.
P1p14: Bloodfire Mentor.
At the end of pack 1, my deck is pretty bad but I wasn’t actually too upset. The packs were very weak and there was no clear direction to go. I couldn’t imagine that Severa was doing better than I was but I was concerned about the 2 Rush of Battles I shipped him. I had no clue what Gau was drafting because the packs were so weak that they completely hid the signals. This was frustrating—I like to get a clear understanding of what is happening at the table.
P2p1: End Hostilities, War-Name Aspirant, Sandsteppe Citadel, Wind-Scarred Crag, Abzan Battle Priest, Throttle, Alpine Grizzly, Snowhorn Rider. This was not the pack I wanted to open. I have no idea if this End Hostilities is going to hit Gau or not given how pack 1 went. White seemed kind of open but he could easily be Abzan given how the pack played out. Passing a wrath when I can both warn my team about it and it only gets played once is not actually that bad. If there were a card that I especially wanted, I would definitely have taken it but nothing really fit what I was doing or seemed powerful enough to risk shipping Gau a wrath. It was hard to see how my all-morph, no-spell deck could turn into a control deck, but maybe…
P2p2: Temur Charger, Sultai Flayer, Jeskai Windscout, Burn Away, Bloodfell Caves, Smoke Teller, Scout the Borders. Another underwhelming pack. Given my heavy focus on (bad) red cards, I take the Burn Away. I could see an argument for Sultai Flayer here as it actually might lead to a deck that wants to play wrath. At this point I was hoping to morph (heh) into a control Jeskai deck.
P2p3: Wind-Scarred Crag, Summit Prowler, Mardu Roughrider, Jeskai Student, Sagu Archer, Swarm of Bloodflies, Glacial Stalker, Abzan Guide. I don’t like this pick. At the time on the fly, I couldn’t see how I could get my deck into a position where it would want to play wrath so I thought I would likely end up Temur. I was also pretty worried about not getting enough playables, so I just biased towards taking a red card I knew I could run. I think the right pick is to just take the W/R land – there is no need to stretch for a marginal red card. If I had remembered that pack where the Highland Game was taken in pack one, meaning there were 3 green drafters, I would have been set on Jeskai at this point and taken the land.
P2p4: Efreet Weaponmaster, Treasure Cruise, Hooting Mandrills, Temur Charger, Rugged Highlands, Swarm of Bloodflies, Salt Road Patrol. Again, if I had remembered that Highland Game pick in pack 1, I would take Weaponmaster here I think. However, with my mindset at the time, I was already thinking of myself as Temur so I took the Charger.
P2p5: Longshot Squad, Sage-Eye Harrier, Sultai Scavenger, Bring Low, Dragonscale Boon, Tranquil Cove. In a deck with a million morphs, I really like Dragonscale Boon. You can just jam your morph into theirs on t4 and if they trade, which they often do, you really get them. Given the texture of my deck, Boon seems like the right pick.
P2p7: Abzan Battle Priest, Snowhorn Rider, Crippling Chill, Blossoming Sands. Someone likely took a white dual land over the Priest, which was surprising to me. I felt pretty priced in on the Rider given my recent picks. I am only splashing blue so I really didn’t want to take Chill.
P2p10: Efreet Weaponmaster. I guess no one is Jeskai, either…
P2p11: A quick note on team drafting—never, ever pass a dual land with 4 cards in the pack unless you are taking something actively good. This was insane value for me and sort of bails me out.
At the end of pack 2, things are not looking great. I have a really mediocre Temur deck with almost no good cards in it and not much of a plan. I still didn’t feel like I had passed anything outstanding but I was now officially unhappy with how the draft was going. Had I noticed that pack where 3 cards were taken in pack 1, I could have taken the plunge in Jeskai and avoided the mess.
P3p1: Duneblast, Ruthless Ripper, Hordeling Outburst, Ponyback Brigade, Blossoming Sands, Snowhorn Rider, Krumar Bond-Kin, Hooting Mandrills, Crippling Chill, Summit Prowler. Sigh. Another awful pack for me. I’m in no way set up to use Hordeling Outburst, and it is the only good R/G card in the pack. My deck is not a good Hooting Mandrills deck as I can’t really fill my ‘yard unless my opponent trades guys with me and Snowhorn Rider I can likely table here. I am certain that Severa isn’t Abzan given the extremely late Abzan Guide I got in pack 2, but I think he is very likely B/W and could probably splash Duneblast. Given that it is one of the 3-5 best cards in the set, I don’t want to drop that in his lap. I decide to take it and see what happens.
P3p2: Chief of the Scale, Feat of Resistance, Opulent Palace, Dismal Backwater, Polluted Delta, Smite the Monstrous. There is nothing I can do about passing Feat + Chief, so I just take the tri-land to keep my options open. Maybe I can find a way to play this Duneblast…
P3p3: Scoured Barrens, Woolly Loxodon, Highland Game, Sultai Scavenger, Unyielding Krumar, Kill Shot. I take King of the Morphs (Woolly Loxodon) here to hedge—I could take the W/B land and really commit to making the wraths work, but I thought I could still end up with a fine Temur deck.
P3p4: Abzan Falconer, Mardu Hordechief, Scoured Barrens, Highland Game, Smite the Monstrous, War Behemoth, Sultai Scavenger. I have no idea if this pick is right. I decide that I can’t really hate the Falconer because there is also a Hordechief, which is arguably a better card in the token deck I think Severa is drafting. I stick to my Temur guns one pick too long and take the Game when I should just take either the land or the Falconer with the intention of playing it. It is hard to be too critical of this pick though as I was juggling a ton of information on the fly—it was really hard to know how many cards I had for a control deck if I just jammed the wrath in, or how close I was to being able to realistically splash Duneblast.
P3p5: Tranquil Cove, Dragon’s Eye Savants, Archers’ Parapet, Trap Essence, Rush of Battle, Unyielding Krumar. I thought for a while on hating the Rush of Battle, but at this point I know Severa already got 2 in pack 1 and I passed almost no Warriors during the draft, so I didn’t think he could fully take advantage of getting a 3rd. I finally decide to pull the trigger on the land here and try to just jam my good cards in my deck. I already have a bunch of random morphs, so the 0/6 isn’t that important to me. I would rather just maximize my overall power level.
P3p6: Dig Through Time, Woolly Loxodon, Jeskai Windscout, Disowned Ancestor. I waffled a lot here on Dig Through Time vs. Loxodon. Whereas the previous pick I snagged the dual land for free to keep my options open on a 4-5 color control deck, now I have to give up a card I like a lot in the Loxodon. I ultimately decide that Dig in a deck with multiple wraths is just too good so I take it and commit to the control deck. I was nervous about my mana, but I knew that in both packs 1 and 2 the ally color lands went very late, and both of the next packs could have a land for me.
P3p12: Whirlwind Adept. Potentially playable but all of my spells are removal or wraths, so it will be hard to trigger prowess.
That was a really interesting draft to rewatch. I am actually really happy with how I drafted. I was worried given the final product being a bit of a mess that I would disagree with a lot of picks, but I think it was just a really low-power draft and an especially difficult seat. While I ended up losing to Sam, I think my matchup was fine to good. Game 1 I would have won if I drew a 5th land in my 19-land deck and then in game 2 I would have had a great shot if I could have drawn a spell over the last 4 turns of the game.
Thanks for following along with my thought process during this draft. Let me know what you think in the comments and I’ll have more from GP Nashville in my next article.