PTQ Top 8 draft-cap: Christian Calcanogcb | December 16, 2008 | 12:36 am
Last time I wrote I was confessing to missing top 8 of a sealed ptq with an absolutely insane pool. At that tournament, as often happens for a seat-all-players, I was sitting near Chris Calcano for the sealed build. Before we opened our pools to get started, I had offered him the blind-trades, and he had turned me down, poor fellow.
Well, fate had his back this weekend. Chris opened up a sealed pool which allowed him to play 1 Mountain and all plains and forests for basics, splashing 1 red card, 1 blue card (off 2 obelisks) and still playing 6 rares. Yes, 6. Included in those six were 2 battlegrace angels, a stoic angel, and a sigil of distinction. Unlike myself, Calcano was able to parlay his insane pool into a top 8. I draft-capped him, and here’s approximately what happened. Relevant cards are listed, bold is what he picked, and discussion follows in italics with me (GCB), Matt Ferrando (MF) (who also watched Chris’s draft as it progressed) and Chris Calcano (CC).
1: Arcane Sanctum, Sharding Sphynx, Soul’s Fire, Kathari Screecher
GCB: I guess I can see it as a forceful choice, but at this table I would take the bomb. True, you pass 3 blue cards which is better signaling, but Sharding Sphynx can win games by itself and I like to draft a little more passively.
MF: Sharding Sphinx is definitely my pick, its not easy to deal with and unlike “dragons” it starts to take effect immediately if you have other artifact men in play.
CC: I think Soul’s Fire is one of the top red commons in shards draft, i figured with it being the lone red card in the pack my neighbor would pick up on that and make my draft go smoother. I later discussed the pick with GCB and Matt F and we all came to the conclusion that I was dumb and should’ve taken the Sphinx lol.
2: Branching Bolt, Bull Ceradon, Rockslide Elemental
GCB: I guess jumping on red pays off here. I might have taken the Branching Bolt, which leaves the option of Jund or Naya, but Bull Ceradon is obviously a great card. But now we’re pushing a neighbor towards R/G while looking for Naya ourselves..
MF: My pick is branching bolt, because it’s a great removal spell with the potential to 2-for-1 and it leaves you open to two other color combinations.
CC: I have to admit this was a tough pick for me, the bolt was probably the correct pick for the reasons pointed out but as far as power level goes i put Bull Ceradon higher than Branching Bolt.
3: Cruel Ultimatum, Rhox Charger, Skullmulcher, Thunder-Thrash Viashino
GCB: Sure makes the Sharding Sphynx pick look better… 3rd pick Cruel Ultimatum!! But Rhox Charger is great, easier to cast, and the right pick at this point.
CC: I’m not gonna lie there was a bit of temptation to take the ultimatum (being it was foil lol), but not the time to be rare drafting of course.
MF: Even with the first pick Soul’s Fire, Cruel Ultimatum still seems like a great pick with only 3 packs in, you can still splash for the Bull Cerodon, and it screams I WIN.
4: Incurable Ogre, Gather Speciments, Welkin Guide
GCB: What a disappointing pack.
MF: Welkin Guide can win games.
5: Arcane Sanctum, Wild Nacatl, Elvish Visionary, Sigil Blessing
6: Dragon Fodder, Gift of the Gargantuan, Carrion Thrash
7: Guardian of Akrasa, Yoked Plowbeast
GCB: I was focusing on on-color cards here. I can’t help but think there might be some better stuff at pick 7 in other colors…
8: Jund Panorama, Kederekt Creeper
GCB: Looks like Grixis might have been the place to be…
9-13: Bant Battlemage, Cylian Elf, Yoked Plowbeast
GCB: Nothing interesting going on here
Pick 1: Bone Splinters, Seaside Citadel, Wooly Thoctar, Flameblast Dragon
GCB: Before we celebrate the whole “being in red means you get more bombs” result… we could be in Grixis with 3 bombs right now, including this one!
MF: Whichever one flies and deals lots of damage
Pick 2: Gift of the Gargantua, Agony Warp, Corpse Connoisseur, Sedraxis Specter, Executioner’s Capsule
GCB: Then again, if we were in Grixis this pick would have been agonizing! 4 great cards! I’d probably go Agony Warp– maybe Specter if I’d pickup up a triple-land already. As it is… what a sad pack for Chris.
MF: If Grixis was still an option I’d take Sedraxis Specter, because unless your opponent has the magma spray or
oblivion ring this guy can eat your opponent’s hand and go all the way at the same time.
CC: The tears came down after seeing this pack.
Pick 3: Jungle Weaver, Thorn-Thrash Viashino, Rip-Clan Crasher, Elvish Visionary, Exuberant Firestoke
GCB: It would not have occurred to me to make that pick. I think I’d have gone Visionary, but this end up being better. With a couple excellent 5-power guys already, Chris uses this pick to start drafting an actual deck, not just taking “best card in color” each pick.
MF: Elvish Visionary fills out the curve better, and Firestoke is almost the same as an Obelisk, which can be picked up pretty late.
CC: At this point i considered going aggro by taking rip-clan, however i felt with the dragon and the ceradon in my deck the firestoker was the best way to go.
Pick 4: Rakeclaw Gargantua, Hissing Iguanar, Ranger of Eos
GCB: Fits right in with the plan, though Ranger can be reeeeally good.
MF: My second-least favorite pick by Chris, after pick 1 pack 1. Ranger of Eos is exactly what this deck needs– cards to get him into the late game where his big guys can thrive, with a little card advantage and a medium-sized body at 4 mana. He’s already got a Nacatl and might still pick up a Squire…
CC: Fits better into my deck than the other two cards.
Pick 5: Jund Battlemage, Cavern Thoctar, Necrogenesis
GCB: I think this is a great pick. He’s having no trouble getting 5-power guys, and Jund Battlemage gives him devour-food and early defense to join his dragon fodder and make some devour guys join his 5-power party.
MF: I think you take Necrogenesis here. That card is just too much of a problem to let float around and you might be able to play it. Every trade and removal spell becomes another 1/1.
CC: At this point i knew my deck needed to get to the late game to have a chance so the battlemage complements that strategy.
Pick 6: Dragon Fodder, Elvish Visionary, Where Ancients Tread
GCB: You’d kinda like to take all 3. I think I would have gone Visionary– I love drawing cards.
MF: I would go with Where Ancients Tread here in case the 5-power plan comes together
CC: If i had to do it over I’d probably take the visionary because i know i want to be on defense in the early game and i think that drawing the extra card is a lot more helpful than having an extra chump blocker.
Pick 7: Court Archers, Sacellum Godspeaker
GCB: Court Archers is underwhelming… and if the deck comes together, won’t Sacellum Godspeaker have a rare chance to shine? I think you definitely take Godspeaker here.
MF: Godspeaker is better. If nothing else it’s still a grey ogre to help buy time.
CC: To be honest I dont even recall the godspeaker being in the back, If it was then I’m a moron : (
Pick 8: Jungle Shrine, Elvish Visionary
GCB: This is a gift. It’s worth noting that it would be just as gifty in our theoretical Grixis draft.
MF: Jungle Shrine was mind-blowing at 8th pick.
Pick 9-13: Nothing relevant but an 11th-pick Thorn-Thrash Viashino
Pick 14: Where Ancients Tread
GCB: Talk about gifts! How good is it when your 14th pick is potentially going to be one of the best cards in your deck?
Pick 1: Akrasan Squire, Seaside Citadel, Feral Hydra, Bone Splinters, Sanctum Gargoyle
GCB: Amazing how 1 pack can harken back to so many picks… if we’re Grixis, Bone Splinters is just as good as Feral Hydra is here. Sanctum Gargoyle goes great with that Sphynx we turned down. And how about Ranger of Eos to go with that Feral Hydra and our Wild Nacatl? Oh, what could have been… anyway, it always feels good to take the rare.
MF: What Gabe said.
CC: Easy pick here.
Pick 2: Qasali Ambusher, Infest, Sigil Blessing
GCB: I like Ambusher here, although I respect the pick. Ambusher is just such a great card to show your opponent one game and mess them up for the rest of the match… especially when what we want is to buy time to get our 5-power engine online. And that Infest! Oh to be Grixis!
MF: Ambusher hands down
CC: The two dragon fodders I drafted earlier influenced my pick here, also, i was sure i was going to just be splashing white which made the Ambusher less appealing.
Pick 3: Where Ancients Tread, Bloodpyre Elemental, Scourge Devil
GCB: Tough pick. I love Scourge Devil, and 2x Where Ancients Tread is great, though it will probably table. But at this point, we just need the removal.
MF: Mosstadon helps the monster plan come together.
Pick 4: Excommunicate, Mosstadon, Obelisk of Naya
GCB: All 3 of these fit great in the deck. I think the Obelisk is most needed, but I can see taking the Mosstadon and hoping for a Druid or another Obelisk.
MF: Mosstadon helps the monster plan come together.
CC: The obelisk would’ve been very good here but I think the Mosstodon is just way better in this deck.
Pick 5: Steward of Velaron, Exuberant Firestoke
GCB: What I didn’t notice while watching is that, at this point, Chris really has very little white. He’s looking at it as his splash-color, so Steward is bad. I would have taken it, even though Firestoke fits the deck better and may be the better choice… I just love 2-drops.
MF: The more 2 drop accelerators you get the better, there are plenty of 3 mana accelerators in the format.
CC: I was very happy to get this guy.
Pick 6: Steward of Velaron
GCB: Or I guess you could wait a pack and get both…
Pick 7: Thorn-Thrash Viashino
GCB: This guy is a great fit, at this point, as I think he had 2 dragon fodders by now and I just missed one somewhere..
Pick 8: Excommunicate
Pick 9: Akrasan Squire, Obelisk of Grixis
GCB: That’s tough. We could use an Obelisk but it’s not in our colors, and we need early drops and Devour-food too.
CC: I can’t help but keep thinking i made the wrong pick here. Sure squire is good but i 100% know that im splashing white and with the number of 5 drops and 6 drops in my deck the mana accelater is far better here even if it only adds red.
MF: Akrasan Squire would have went great with that Ranger of Eos.
The rest of the pack yielded a late Ridge Rannet and the hoped-for 11th-pick Where Ancients Tread
The deck ended up looking like a deck, although there were a few big holes. No cheap red removal (the only piece he ever passed was a Branching Bolt– a good sign that he was in the wrong colors) and no Druids or Obelisks, and not a lot of land-based fixing either. The Firestokes could fill in for acceleration but not for fixing. Flameblast Dragon is the only bomb, but I think Where Ancients Tread, in this deck, will be bombish. Which is an excellent deal for an 11th/14th pick.
It turns out there were Jund drafters on each side of Chris, and a Grixis drafter 2 to the right and another 3 to the left. I believe the 2-to-the-left fellow had the best deck at the table, with a removal package that was out of control, but he ended up losing in the quarters to a land flood and a spell snip…
Back to Chris. Quarter-finals against possibly his worst matchup at the table, John Price with a very fast Wub Exalted deck, running such hits as Spell Snip x 2, Jhessian Lookout, Knight of the Skyward Eye with no green mana, and Outrider of Jhess to complement Tidehollow Sculler, Knight of the White Orchid, Sigil Paladin, O-ring, some unsummon effects, and 2x Arcane Sanctum. John described the draft as a “trainwreck” but he put together a pretty functional pile out of it, and just the sort of deck Chris was going to struggle with the most– great early game backed up by 3-mana removal/bounce that doesn’t care about the size of the target.
Game 1: Chris loses the die roll but his opponent mulligans. Chris keeps Forest x2 , Jungle Shrine, 2x Thorn-Thrash Viashino, Firestoke, and Soul’s Fire. John comes out with a Sighted-Caste Sorcerer and an Akrasan Squire but is stuck on 2 land. Chris deploys a turn-3 Jund Battlemage that he has drawn. John finds another land and drops an Esper Battlemage. Chris makes a token and an Exuberant Firestoke on turn 4 and has turn-5 Where Ancient’s Tread, make another token. Chris declines to block the incoming 4/4 battlemage (John has no black mana…) and drops to 8 life. On turn 6 Chris makes a 6/6 Viashino, dealing 5 to John’s face. John bounces it with Resounding Wave and Chris chump-blocks with a token. By now Chris has plenty of land and 5-power guys in hand, plus the Soul’s fire, and John can’t break through or break Where Ancient’s Tread before it goes over the top of his Esper Battlemage for the win.
Game 2: Chris’s turn to mulligan a hand of Forest x2, Plains, Where Ancient’s Tread x2, Ridge Rannet and Thorn-Thrash Viashino. Pretty bad for 3-land 4-spells with a cycler… He Keeps Mountain, Dragon Fodder, Firestoke, Gargantuan, Ridge Rannet, Thorn-Thrash Viashino. Chris proceeds to draw land, but never a green land, and John starts on Akrasan Squire, Sigiled Paladin, Sighted Caste Sorcerer turns 1-3. Chris is on his heals, but he shores up the ground at about 5 life with a 6/6 viashino and draws Flameblast Dragon, but only has 5 mana. John drops a Skeletal Kathari and… Chris can’t draw land soon enough, just more green cards.
Game 3: Chris sides out a Cylian Elf for a Guardian of Akrasa. Matt and I both want him to take out his Gift of the Gargantuan instead, and maybe put in Excommunicate instead of Guardian of Akrasa, which can’t stop much of anything once there are 2 exalted guys around. Chris keeps forest x3, Gift of the G, Feral Hydra, Firestoke, Mostadon. John starts fast again, with Sigiled Paladin, Knight of the White Orchid, and Esper Battlemage. Chris manages to draw some red mana and stick his Feral Hydra at 4/4, but can’t block right away because of Esper Battlemage’s -1/-1 ability. Next turn he gets big enough to stall the board at about 10 life. John just dumps his hand of little guys onto the board while Chris deploys some smaller support for his soon 8/8 Hydra. When John hits 8 land and doesn’t cycle a Resounding Wave, things are looking up. However, Chris is drawing nothing but Forests and Mountains, stranding any white cards in his hand and giving him nothing to help him break through. John’s deck delivers action first with an Oblivion Ring, and Chris is dead after 2 attack phases, having no other 4-toughness men to hold back the first strikers, and lots of 1-toughness men stuck in his hand due to Esper Battlemage.
In the end, I think Chris’s deck turned out fine. If the matchups or draws were a little more favorable, he had a shot at the invite. However, I think in his place I would have certainly ended up in U/B, most likely in Grixis. There were more than a few Blister Beetles floating around. It’s not my favorite archetype, but if the cards are coming it can be great. In this case, Chris had some guys sitting nearby who were, shall we say… prone to end up in G/R. That said, Chris felt comfortable, obviously, with the Naya cards, and decided to draft to his strengths.
Good luck next time Calcano. I’ll be rooting for you!