206 players have returned to compete in Day Two of Grand Prix Sacramento. While these players survived the cut after nine rounds of Theros Sealed, today's competitors now face two Theros Booster Drafts and must emerge from six rounds with a solid record for a chance to make the Top 8.
With Theros Booster Draft now a well-explored format, which strategies will players unleash? How will the players and their color-combination preferences influences their decisions, along with the decisions of their neighbor drafters today? Follow along all day to find out, as we bring you live coverage from the tournament floor!
Sunday, 11:35 a.m. – Drafting with Reid Duke "Mmm Bacon"
by Jacob Van Lunen
Reid Duke is currently ranked third in the Top 25 Pro Rankings. Duke, a platinum pro, recently finished 2nd at the 2013 World Championship. Known for his unique drafting style and methodical gameplay, Duke is the perfect subject for a Draft recap.
No. 3 Ranked Player Reid Duke in his first draft of the day.
Duke's first pack was pretty weak. There were a number of playable, albeit mediocre, creatures, but Duke pulled a strange card to the front of the pack. Curse of the Swine may not seem like a great card to most people, but picking the card up early gave Duke a chance to evaluate creatures differently. Favoring three and four toughness creatures for the remainder of the draft could massively increase the power of the rare instant.
Pack 1 Pick 1: Curse of the Swine
The next pack wasn't quite as shallow as the first. Triton Fortune Hunter was clearly the best Blue card and there didn't seem to be enough strength in any of the non-blue cards for Duke to consider them.
Pack 1 Pick 2: Triton Fortune Hunter
The third pack featured cards like Centaur Battlemaster and Observant Alseid. There was a distinct lack of strength in the Blue cards of the pack. Duke pulled a Temple of Deceit to the front of the pack. The scryland would give Duke more splashing capability, consistency, and allow him to hold off on moving into a second color for the time being.
Pack 1 Pick 3: Temple of Deceit
The next few picks were fairly straightforward. Fate Foretold out of a weak pack combos nicely with Duke's Triton Fortune Hunter and Voyaging Satyr was taken over a Baleful Eidolon.
Pack 1 Pick 4: Fate Foretold
Pack 1 Pick 5: Voyaging Satyr
Duke hadn't found a lot of fat to go with his first pick Curse of the Swine, but the next pack featured a second copy of the rare. It was clear the rest of the table had a different valuation of the card and Duke was happy to take the second copy in an effort to build his deck around the spell.
Pack 1 Pick 6: Curse of the Swine
The remainder of the pack was easy, Duke picked up a few more Heroic enablers in Warrior's Lesson, and a second copy of Fate Foretold. Disciple of Phenax gave Duke the option of moving in on Black if it seemed open in the coming packs.
Pack 1 Pick 7: Disciple of Phenax
Pack 1 Pick 8: Fade into Antiquity
Pack 1 Pick 9: Warriors' Lesson
Pack 1 Pick 10: Fate Foretold
Pack 1 Pick 11: Breaching Hippocamp
Pack 1 Pick 12: Nylea's Presence
Pack 1 Pick 13: Benthic Giant
The first pick of the second pack offered up a difficult decision for duke. Nimbus Naiad is one of the better commons in Theros Limited, but Wavecrash Triton is particularly strong with Duke's heroic enablers and has enough toughness to block the bacon. Duke eventually settled on the Wavecrash Triton.
Pack 2 Pick 1: Wavecrash Triton
Boon Satyr was easily the best card in the next pack and Duke was happy to take the rare and move in on Green.
Pack 2 Pick 2: Boon Satyr
Staunch-Hearted Warrior and Ordeal of Thassa put Duke in a weird spot. Short on creatures, Duke would be happy to pick up the Staunch-Hearted Warrior to combo with his pair of Fate Foretold. Still, Ordeal of Thassa is a tremendously powerful card that has the potential to win the game by itself. Duke settled on taking the Ordeal of Thassa with hopes of picking up some early drops or toughness in the coming picks.
Pack 2 Pick 3: Ordeal of Thassa
The next pack was dry for Duke's interest. Vulpine Goliath seemed like the best maindeckable card for his deck, but, in a perfect world, this card wouldn't make the final cut. Dark Betrayal is a powerful sideboard option and Duke already had a Blue/Black Temple and Nylea's Presence. Duke decided to take the strong sideboard option over the fluffy puppy.
Pack 2 Pick 4: Dark Betrayal
The next pick was an easy one. Nemesis of Mortals was easily the best card in the pack and it worked well with Duke's pair of Curse of the Swine.
Pack 2 Pick 5: Nemesis of Mortals
The next few packs didn't offer many options, but Duke was able to pick up some nice sideboard cards and set himself up for splashability in the third pack with another copy of Nylea's Presence and a Traveler's Amulet. Artisan's Sorrow tabled out of a shallow Green pack and Duke was signaled that Green was likely open.
Pack 2 Pick 6: Shredding Winds
Pack 2 Pick 7: Nylea's Presence
Pack 2 Pick 8: Artisan's Sorrow
Pack 2 Pick 9: Fate Foretold
Pack 2 Pick 10: Traveler's Amulet
Pack 2 Pick 13: Mnemonic Wall
The third pack threw a curveball at Duke. Vaporkin was the best on-color card, but Whip of Erebos gave Duke a late-game bomb that would be difficult for aggressive decks to race and impossible for controlling decks to out-attrition. The multiple copies of Nylea's Presence, a Traveler's Amulet, and a Temple of Deceit meant that casting the bomb rare wouldn't be out of the question for Duke's deck.
Pack 3 Pick 1: Whip of Erebos
The next few picks gave Duke the fat he was looking for. Nylea's Disciple gave Duke some life padding and 3/3 to combo with his pair of Curse of the Swine. Nemesis of Mortals was taken over a second copy of Voyaging Satyr because Duke needed the large body. Baleful Eidolon was taken out of an otherwise lackluster pack.
Pack 3 Pick 2: Nylea's Disciple
Pack 3 Pick 3: Nemesis of Mortals
Pack 3 Pick 4: Baleful Eidolon
The next pack had Nessian Asp and Horizon Chimera. Normally, Horizon Chimera would be the pick for a deck that could cast the top-tier uncommon, but Duke's deck featured two copies of Curse of the Swine and the two-toughness on Horizon Chimera meant that it couldn't brickwall a pig-herding opponent.
Pack 3 Pick 5: Nessian Asp
Duke was able to pick up a few more sideboard cards, but the rest of the pack was very dry. Some fixing came back, and it seemed that duke would be solidly in three colors. Commune with the God's came particularly late as it normally does, and Duke was happy to take the card because of its synergy with his Whip of Erebos.
Duke's put together his deck and it seemed quite strong in the abstract. He was playing a lot of powerful cards and card draw with his pair of Curse of the Swine, but his deck lacked early defense or pressure. Luckily, Whip of Erebos and Nylea's Disciple can do a lot in the catching up department, especially in a deck like this one. This is a great example of salvaging a draft when the packs are weak and the signals are strange.
Reid Duke Draft 1 of Grand Prix Sacramento
Sunday, 12:23 p.m. – Drafting with Luis-Scott Vargas
by Mike Rosenberg
Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas managed to evade coverage duties for the weekend. The reason? He is playing in Day Two of Grand Prix Sacramento with an 8-1 record. His record landed him in the eighth seed for the start of the day, bringing him into Pod 1 with a slew of undefeated opponents.
The players sat down and got underway with their drafts. Scott-Vargas was faced with very little choice in the matter when he opened his first pack, choosing to take the powerful Celestial Archon over Nimbus Naiad and Sentry of the Underworld. He followed this up with a Keepsake Gorgon in the next pack, taking it over the Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It was an unfortunate signal to send but nonetheless the correct pick if you just want the most powerful card in the pack, and the Keepsake Gorgon was arguably one of the best non-rare cards you could get.
However, the pack quickly crumbled into some awkward decisions. While Scott-Vargas was happy to pick up an Akroan Horse, a card he feels is very valuable in slower control decks, the signals began to mix shortly after that. He took Chained to the Rocks, the most powerful card in the pack after that, but then black quickly dried up and he opted for a fifth pick Vaporkin, keeping blue as a viable option to audible into. Battlewise Hoplite enforced this decision, but Ephara's Warden and then Calvary Pegasus were not ideal follow-ups for him.
When Sentry of the Underworld came back around, Scott-Vargas knew that black and white were going to be his colored, and he took that, following it up with some underwhelming but unsurprising picks to round out a mixed first pack.
Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas
The second pack featured a strong first pick from Scott-Vargas, who took Spear of Heliod. He followed with Read the Bones, then Baleful Eidolon. Traveler's Amulet ended up being his fourth pick, giving him an option to splash Chained to the Rocks if he'd like to. The very late Lightning Strike that Scott-Vargas picked up immediately after taking the Amulet solidified a chance to splash. Scholar of Athreos and multiple Mogis's Marauder followed, giving Scott-Vargas a much more solid series of picks to finish off his second pack. A very late Battlewise Hoplite caushed Scott-Vargas to slump a bit in his seat, but nonetheless he stood by his chosen archetype.
The third pack started off strong once again for Scott-Vargas, who found a Keepsake Gorgon staring at him in the first pick, which he happily took over Nighthowler as well as Sentry of the Underworld. Lagonna-Band Elder was not quit the follow-up he was looking for, but he took it nonetheless, and the Hall of Famer followed with a third pick Burnished Hart. Disciple of Phenax came next, then Lightning Strike, solidifying Scott-Vargas's splash. The rest of the third pack rounded out his draft with a couple of reasonable but underwhelming cards, though it did give him a chance to add a Sip of Hemlock and Scholar of Athreos to his playable set of cards.
After the draft, Scott-Vargas immediately got to work, registering cards on the sheet like clockwork, and giving himself as much time as possible to build. Within only a few minutes, Scott-Vargas has his deck nearly complete, with few playable options sitting in the sideboard as he ultimately chose to leave the Dauntless Onslaught in the sideboard.
"Pack One was kind of messy," he said in regards to his draft. He ended up jumping from one direction to another, with the packs not helping him in a decision to go into either a blue-white heroic strategy or a black-white control plan. That being said, his second pack made that decision easy, as the only real options presented to him were the makings of control. "I ended up in a pretty decent Black-White control deck," he followed, noting his powerful selection of uncommon and rare cards at his disposal.
To see what Luis Scott-Vargas settled on for his final deck, check out his list below.
Luis Scott Vargas Theros Booster Draft – Grand Prix Sacramento 2013
Round 11 Feature Match – Pat Cox vs. Brian Kibler
by Mike Rosenberg
Neither Hall of Famer Brian Kibler nor Pat Cox were enthusiastic about their chances of winning any matches with their decks from the first Theros Booster Draft of the day.
Pat Cox fell into a trap in the first pack of his draft, taking Daxos of Meletis and being unable to get out of those colors. "By the end of Pack One I thought I should be green," Cox said. "But then, in Pack Two I opened Celestial Archon, and trapped myself again."
Kibler's draft did not go well either, as he was forced to cobble together a playable blue-white deck out of the cards available to him. "Pack One was relatively weak overall," Kibler noted.
Cox led with Omenspeaker, leaving one card on top. It was joined by Opaline Unicorn after an attack for one on the next turn. Pheres-Band Centaurs came on the fourth turn, a little early thanks to the Unicorn. Kibler's response was his first play of the game: Coastline Chimera.
The Centaurs got an upgrade thanks to a bestowed Leafcrown Dryad, dropping Kibler to 14. Kibler passed with five mana up on the next turn, signaling a slew of potential tricks. Cox, wary of losing his Centaurs to a Divine Verdict, sent only his Omenspeaker and Opaline Unicorn, cracking in for a point when Kibler blocked one of them. Traveler's Amulet to find a Plains was his only follow-up after that, and Kibler aimed a Voyage's End at the Centaurs. Anvilwrought Raptor entered the battlefield for Kibler on the next turn, giving him a reasonable blocker against Cox's now very small creatures.
Cox sent in the team anyway, and when Kibler went for a block on Leafcrown Dryad with Anvilwrought Raptor, Cox had Triton Tactics to keep his team around. Battlewise Valor from Kibler was aimed at his Anvilwrought Raptor, keeping it around. The Pheres-Band Centaurs came down post combat, and was bestowed with Nylea's Emissary before an attack on the next turn, trumping Kibler's freshly cast Leonin Snarecaster. This prompted Divine Verdict from Kibler, once again leaving Cox with only smaller creatures.
Aqueous Form came down on the Snarecaster after that, as Kibler began his not-so-fast ten turn clock. As Cox received his beatdowns, two damage at a time, he couldn't help but say it. "Our decks are so bad," he muttered, inciting a laugh from Kibler who agreed.
A bestowed Nimbus Naiad on Anvilwrought Raptor earned a Griptide from Cox. Attacks from Cox's creatures on the next turn left his Nylea's Emissary dead, Kibler's Nimbus Naiad destroyed, and a post-combat Setessan Griffin from Cox post-combat looked to secure the game for him.
Kibler, who drew his Anvilwrought Raptor yet again, was helpless to the onslaught of Cox's army, ultimately succumbing to the likes of Omenspeaker beatings et all.
"Play or draw?" Cox asked. "I think I'll go second," Kibler said. "I've no idea if that's right," Cox said. "Me neither," Kibler responded.
Hall of Famer Brian Kibler
Cox had a much better creature early in the second game, with Daxos of Meletis coming down following his second-turn Omenspeaker. Soldier of the Pantheon on the third turn to block Daxos earned a slump in the seat from Cox, who attacked in with Daxos and Omenspeaker on the fourth turn. When the Soldier blocked Daxos, Divine Verdict took the one-mana creature out. Unfortunately for Cox, when you and your opponent's decks are full of small creatures, Daxos becomes a lot easier to block, as Kibler proved with the 2/1 Anvilwrought Raptor.
An attack with four open mana caused Kibler to halt on blocking with his freshly played Anvilwrought Raptor. Cox got in for 4 damage, and Daxos exiled and netted Cox a free Chosen by Heliod, which he promptly cast on his Daxos. No plays from Kibler halted Daxos's attacks, Cox wary of losing his legendary creature. He instead attacked for 1 with Omenspeaker and cast Coastline Chimera. It was joined by Pheras-Band Centaurs after attacks on the next turn. Kibler, who was stuck on four lands for too long, ultimately had to play out his Nimbus Naiad in the face of the 3/7.
Eventually, Kibler got to enough mana to cast Benthic Giant, but by that point, Cox's board had five creatures. Attacks left Cox trading off cards with Kibler, but the Hall of Famer's life was sitting at 7, and he was down against a massive board. While Kibler was able to suit up his Benthic Giant with nimbus Naiad to give him a blocker in the air, it was not enough, and the Hall of Famer offered the handshake a few turns later.
Cox 2 – Kibler 0
Sunday, 1:58 p.m. – Building a Dream Team
by Jacob Van Lunen
With Pro Tour Born of the Gods just a few weeks away, players lucky enough to be qualified are surrounding themselves with other masters of the game in hopes of finding all the angles. The biggest teams in Magic are constantly changing in an effort to leave no stone unturned. Let's sit down with some of the better-known teams and talk Valencia!
An Exciting Prospect
Conley Woods has been a member of team Channel Fireball for years. Always brewing, Woods has recently felt like a detriment to the streamlined testing process of the team. Woods wanted to find a home where his knack for strange creations would be embraced. Recently, Woods reached out to the team formerly known as "Luxurious Hair." This team of young masters is sure to benefit from Woods's testing experience with Channel Fireball and will likely be more open to the wacky side of Conley Woods.
The team's lineup features a lot of heavy hitters including Ari Lax, Craig Wescoe, Harry Corvese, Seth Manfield, Chris Fennel, Joe Demestrio, Stephen Mann, Andrew Shrout, and Matt McCullough. There's a lot of talent here, and the whole team has been Skyping weekly, talking about Modern and speculating on Born of the Gods' preview cards. We can expect great things from this quickly maturing group.
Face to Face Games
Team Face to Face Games has established itself as a major player in competitive Magic. Going forward, the team has plans to expand and streamline its testing process. Team Face to Face began as a Canadian team, but the squad has grown and evolved over the last few years. The new lineup for Team Face to Face for Pro Tour Born of the Gods is Jon Stern, Alexander Hayne, Lucas Siow, Glenn McIelwain, Ben Moir, Steve Wolfman, Josh Mcclain, Dave Shiels, Samuel Pardee, Alex Majlaton, Brian Braun-Duin, and Todd Anderson.
This team is set up nicely for a Modern Pro Tour: Majlaton is widely considered the most studied Affinity player and deck builder. Mcclain and Pardee are known for their Birthing Pod prowess. Dave Shiels knows his way around Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets like few others.
Stern wanted to set up his teammates with local testing partners to expedite the testing process. Stern and Hayne will be testing together in Montreal. Siow, Moir, and Wolfman are in Toronto. Braun-Duin and Anderson are in Roanoke, Virginia. The team will meet in Valencia the Saturday before the Pro Tour to begin testing the new Limited format and hammer out the remainder of their Modern plans.
Team Channel Fireball
Team Channel Fireball will return in its previous incarnation, minus Conley Woods. This super team includes Luis Scott-Vargas, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, Josh Utter-Leyton, David Ochoa, Ben Stark, Eric Froehlich, Martin Juza, Shuhei Nakamura, Brian Kibler, Matt Nass, and Shahar Shenhar. Team Channel Fireball changed the landscape of professional Magic by trailblazing a new and exciting testing process. Modern has typically been a strong format for this team and we can expect strong finishes from a lot of these players.
The New Channel Fireball
A new super team has aligned under the Channel Fireball flag. Sam Black, Matt Costa, William Jensen, Gabriel Nassif, Matt Sperling, Kai Budde, Reid Duke, Tom Martell, Brad Nelson, Owen Turtenwald, Patrick Chapin, Jon Finkel, Zvi Mowshowitz, Paul Rietzl, and Gaudenis Vidugiris have shed their previous sponsor in favor of Channel Fireball. This has been the most successful team in recent Pro Tours and there's no reason to believe they're slowing down. The deckbuilding talent here is unmatched and it's hard to contend with the gameplay talent of a deck that includes both Kai Budde and Jon Finkel.
New teams will emerge and these teams may change in the coming weeks leading up to Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Keep your finger on the pulse of Magic coverage for up-to-date team roster info!
Quick Questions #3 – What's the most interesting way you've accrued card advantage this weekend?
by Jacob Van Lunen
Yesterday, we took a look at card advantage (the overarching strategy that involves trading cards for more cards) in Theros Limited. The expensive nature of removal in the format makes it relatively difficult to accrue an economic advantage.
Today, I caught up with some big names and asked them, "What's the most interesting way you've accrued card advantage this weekend?"
No. 13 Ranked Player Tom Martell: "I had Hundred-Handed One in play with seven mana up. My opponent suicided eight points of power into the red zone to deal with the bomb. I used the Monstrous ability to block all of them. My opponent tried to Hero's Downfall my Hundred-Handed One in response to Monstrous. I used Gods Willing to give my creature protection from Black, countering my opponent's removal spell and killing his entire board. Is that card advantage?"
Sunday, 4:24 p.m. – Drafting with Alexander Hayne
by Mike Rosenberg
No. 18 Ranked Player Alexander Hayne has recently showed off his Limited prowess with a team victory at Grand Prix Kyoto with teammates Rich Hoaen and Mike Hron. Now, he finds himself in need of a 3-0 record in this Booster Draft in order to add another Grand Prix Top 8 to his record.
Hayne led off the first pack with Lightning Strike, which he took over Horizon Chimera, Fanatic of Mogis, and Ordeal of Nylea. After that, he picked up Pharika's Cure, keeping himself open to archeypes. Nimbus Naiad followed, giving him some leeway on what to take, shipping Horizon Chimera, Wavecrash Triton, and Observant Alseid. Then, when he found a pack with Flamespeaker Adept and Stoneshock Giant, Hayne found himself taking the three mana creature and not looking back.
Following the Adept was a very late Ordeal of Purphoros, and then Coordinated Assault. With three solid red uncommon cards in a row, Hayne continued to stay on the blue-red plan with Crackling Triton, Satyr Rambler, and Aqueous Form. Steam Augery came shortly after, as well as a very late Rage of Purphoros.
No. 18 Ranked Player Alexander Hayne
In the second pack, the plan started out fine, where Hayne took Thassa's Emissary over Griptide and Magma Jet, shipping Anax and Cynede along with it. Temple of Triumph gave him a scry land to go with his Flamespeaker Adept, but then things quickly started drying up. While Hayne got a fourth pick Ordeal of Thassa, the selection Hayne had for his cards was lackluster. Minotaur Skullcleaver gave him a three mana attacker, but when Spellheart Chimera came around around, Hayne was forced to prioritize instants and sorcery cards knowing he would not be able to rely heavily on Aqueous Forms for a win.
However, the second pack could not compare whatsoever to when Hayne opened his third pack and saw virtually nothing staring back at him. Allow me to list which cards he could have taken that were in his colors:
-That's it. Really.
Ouch. "At least I took Thoughtseize," Hayne said after the draft, trying to make the best of a rough situation to be in when playing for the Top 8. And, for whatever it is worth, Hayne did get that Annul when it came back around.
While Hayne was able to follow with some two mana creatures to go with his Ordeals, such as a Vaporkin and Arena Athlete, the third pack left him with few options. His early Pharika's Cure began to look very awkward too when he had to pass not only a sixth pick, but a seventh pick Keepsake Gorgon as well, cards he was no longer able to acquire thanks to his color combination.
After the draft, Hayne spent the majority of the deck-building time trying to figure out the best way to build his 40 cards. I got a chance to catch up with him to discuss the draft, as well as his general preferences. He noted the black cards that came around during that draft.
"I had Pharika's Cure, and then there were a lot of black cards, not good ones, but they were still coming late," he said. Hayne mentioned wanting to stay away from red-black, as both colors tend to be heavy on double-color requirements, and typically specialize in different stages of the game. Red lends itself heavily to an early game, while black's best cards all work towards a late game. And in this draft, the black cards that typically go with a base red deck weren't coming.
Another issue that came from this draft was from Hayne's left neighbor, Aaron Lewis, who was dabbling in aggressive red picks that Hayne was shipping in the first pack due to the high density of powerful options Hayne was seeing. While Lewis did not end up playing red, due to his positioning as the only player taking black cards rewarding him in the third pack with a number of options
"I generally like to stay open," Hayne said, when he was asked about whether he had any preferences or strategies he was looking to force . I prefer blue, especially the bounce spells, but I think everyone likes blue. If I could do it over again, I'd just avoid blue in general," he said. "I think it's gotten to the point where it is just over-drafted."
Take a look at what Hayne rounded out the day with below:
Alexander Hayne Theros Booster Draft – Grand Prix Sacramento 2014