aving a Pro Tour this close to the release date of a new set brings out the conspirator in many pros. They meet in closed-off testing groups, trying to break the draft format or at least figure it out - not so easy with Planar Chaos! Through the chaotic mess of booster wrappings in testing places all over Europe and the world, a number of strategies rise to show their actual worth at the actual Pro Tour.
One of those strategies comes from the south of Germany, where a bunch of pros of Level 3 and higher congregated to brainstorm the format. It carried David Brucker, Andre Müller, Austrian stalwart Helmut Summersberger, and Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler to Day 2 here in Geneva. "Usually, Draft works like this: You open the booster and take the best card, but not this time," explains Andre "TrashT" Müller. This time, it's the removal, stupid! "We don't draft the curve, we pick the removal over everything." Müller took the strategy to the extreme in the first draft of the Pro Tour, when he 3-0'd his pod with the following assortment of cards that - on paper - can only be called a pile:
Andre Müller, 3-0
PT - Geneva Draft #1
Seven creatures! In a draft deck! How can that work? "Games in this format are won by the bombs," says the Level 5 Summersberger. "If you destroy the opponent's bombs, and then have one of your own, you win!" It sounds easy enough, but there's actually more than that. First, you have to actually get the removal, so the deck is fixed in the three colors of red, blue, and usually black. "I've always drafted differently every time, but actually, I always had red and blue as splash colors, combined with every other color during the day." The rookie showed a clear preference for the color that most players shunned during PT Geneva: black.
"Black is really bad in the third booster, but it has so much removal that you always get some." And when you draft this deck, Sebastian added, you never want fewer than six or seven removal spells, maybe more. The willingness to take black happily has certainly served the young German well, taking him to a 3-0 in the fourth draft. Sebastian opened Sudden Death, picked Dark Withering over Spike Feeder and Durkwood Baloth next, and cemented his tarry path with Urborg Syphon-Mage over Temporal Isolation in pick three.
After that, black kept flowing, and Sebastian reaped heavy rewards in the second booster: After a first-pick Rift Bolt and an empty second pack, his next four cards were (in order): Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder, Strangling Soot, Assassinate, and another Strangling Soot!
Planar Chaos rounded out Sebastian's deck with the excellent Dead // Gone as first pick, and brought him Erratic Mutation, Rathi Trapper to go with the Assassinates, two Magus of the Coffers, and two Aquamorph Entities. This was his deck when all was said and done:
Sebastian Thaler, 3-0
PT - Geneva Draft #4
Sebastian had been agonizing during deckbuilding over the last two cards in his deck, constantly flicking the second Assassinate, the second Urborg Syphon-Mage, or Rathi Trapper out of his deck. In the end, the young German included the Syphon-Mage and the Trapper. But when Kenji Tsumura reviewed Sebastian's deck later, he pointed questioningly at the Assassinate, and gestured that the Rookie of the Year should certainly have gone for that one over the Syphon-Mage. Kenji also berated Sebastian for leaving Bog Serpent out of the maindeck, a card that both the Japanese and Andre Müller share a good measure of love for.
Sebastian's deck is not as extreme as Andre's first draft deck, but both decks share the two core components: Three colors and Mystical Teachings. At Pro Tour - Kobe, Andre Müller had laughed at Jan-Moritz Merkel, the eventual winner, for playing three Mystical Teachings in one of his draft decks during the Swiss. But J-Mo assured him that Teachings into Teachings would win every single control mirror, and his winning record proved the point. When Planar Chaos came around, Müller remembered that lesson: "We don't care about randomly losing life points in the first turns." The format is slow enough that a control deck that uses its life total as buffer works surprisingly well.
Finding the needed colors is never hard, with all the mana fixing, high mana counts, and a deck that relies on time to eventually win. Thaler: "Playing two colors in this format is moronic." Of course, not even all Germans think that way. Fellow countryman Jim Herold made the Top 8 with classic two-color curve-drafting.