I don't think there's anything I love more in Magic than drafting. To me, it's the most exciting, dynamic thing that Magic has to offer, and I relish every chance I get to draft or watch. I had the pleasure this round of hanging out behind France's Guillaume Wafo-Tapa for his first draft today. Guillaume had been the beneficiary yesterday of two stellar Merfolk decks, and his proclivity for the tribe and for blue in general had served him well thus far this weekend.
As he opened his first pack, he, like every other Magic
player on the face of the Earth, thumbed to the back of the pack to check out his rare. He was rewarded for his curiosity with Purity
, a nice shiny pseudodragon that happens to fit right at home in a good Merfolk deck. His second pack let him decide between Sentinels of Glen Elendra
and the more powerful Smokebraider
. The Elemental powerhouse hit his drafted pile, and I did a little dance. I love
seeing a good Elemental deck come together.
I got even happier when his next pack showed him a second Smokebraider. However, my dreams were soon dashed when he ripped to the back to find a Merrow Harbinger, Stonybrook Angler, and Drowner of Secrets hanging out together. Drowner is first-pick quality, so it appeared that unless something strange was happening, he was getting the signal to move into Merfolk. As I've already stated, I don't think he really minded the switch.
His next pack netted him a few more Merfolk to add to his army, as well as a few decent spells such as Whirlpool Whelm and Familiar's Ruse. What they failed to give him, though, were any white cards at all. It was like his table had decided that with all of the people veering away from white the previous day, they'd try to make up for it in one fell swoop. He did manage to get an incredibly bizarre eighth-pick Dreamspoiler Witches, another card that is easily a first pick and should definitely be gone before a full revolution. Oh well, Guillaume was more than happy to snatch the removal engine into his pile.
After the first pack, he had a fairly solid blue base, as well as a few great cards in white and black. He wasn't really that deep in either Merfolk or Faeries, but he did have Drowner of Secrets and the Dreamspoiler Witches, two cards that really make the archetypes go. His early picks from the next pack would decide where his deck would go. With the impressive lack of white in the first pack, it seemed likely that he would begin to get some white cards from his left. After all, if he hadn't seen any, he knew that the players to his left hadn't seen many either.
Armed with that knowledge, Guillaume chose an Avian Changeling out of a pack that contained some impressive green bodies, including Cloudthresher and the oh-so Imperious Perfect. His next pack had nothing of any real value except a Nameless Inversion, which he was more than happy to snatch up. The next pack was a little odd, though. After doing a double take through the pack, he noticed there were no, and I mean zero, playable blue, white, or black cards. All it had was a Briarhorn, a Cloudcrown Oak, and the Tarfire he ended up taking. That didn't look good. After all, the table had done a good job of cutting off white in the first pack, and he himself had soaked up almost all of the blue. How could they be missing?
And then the sun broke out through the clouds. Turtleshell Changeling, Faerie Trickery, and Weed Strangle decided to all show up in the next pack. Nothing too exciting, but the fact that they existed meant that the last pack had just been an anomaly, which was quite a relief seeing as how heavily invested Guillaume was in blue, at least. The Frenchman settled on the removal spell, giving him his second of the pack, and something that blue decks really tend to lack. This really signified that he was thinking about ducking out of white and abandoning Purity. Considering the distressing lack of white from both directions, this seemed like a more than reasonable decision.
The pack rounded out nicely with a Sentinels of Glen Elendra and Faerie Harbinger. This left Guillaume with a blue deck that appeared ready to dedicate itself to a black splash. However, Morningtide tends to be a bit weaker in black and has definitely boosted the power of white, so that could change. Based on the previous packs, though, it didn't seem likely that he'll get to see the white cards to make the switch.
As predicted, the third pack started and continued with a lack of white. Dewdrop Spy
, Latchkey Faerie
, and Stream of Unconsciousness
made their way into Guillaume's pile. His fourth pick was interesting to me. I had been wondering all weekend how highly Distant Melody
would be valued. I'd been trying to keep tabs on it and had discovered that most players were picking it near the middle of the pack. Guillaume, on the other hand, highly values the card and has been picking it rather high, fourth in this case. Considering that the three times I've managed to catch him playing it he's drawn an average of five cards, I can understand his love. However, this deck didn't seem to have the same army building capabilities as his earlier decks, and with the lack of white, it seemed unlikely that he would get any Stonybrook Schoolmaster
s to help him out.
The final pack rounded down with a few more decent cards. He managed a second copy of Stream of Unconsciousness. Normally, this card is very powerful since a Merfolk deck can just throw its swarm of guys at a single large attacker and live to tell the tale. However, Guillaume's deck was lacking in substantial bodies and the capacity to swarm, so it seemed less effective than most times in this deck. That's not to say that it isn't still quite powerful, though. A second Distant Melody and two copies of Stonybrook Banneret also seemed like they were automatically going to be included in his deck. The only real quirk from the last pack was the eleventh-pick Rivals' Duel he picked up. Rivals' Duel has a lot of potential if played well, and he might consider splashing it and the Tarfire he got earlier to increase his removal count.
After all was said and done, Guillaume ended up with a nearly mono-blue deck, something that doesn't happen very frequently in this format since blue is in such high demand. He had options of splashing black for Nameless Inversion, Weed Strangle, and Dreamspoiler Witches; red for Rivals' Duel and Tarfire; and white for Purity, Avian Changeling, and Graceful Reprieve. After only a little thought, he put the white cards into his sideboard. Purity was a stretch with white being merely a splash, and the other two cards weren't powerful enough to warrant playing the color at the cost of consistency.
Next to bite the dust was red, although Guillaume eventually put the red back into the deck and then stared while trying to figure out exactly what combination of cards gave him his best chance to win. After thinking and shuffling cards around for a good five minutes, he eventually nodded to himself and pulled the red. This left him with a heavy blue deck featuring three removal spells as a black splash.
As we talked about the draft afterwards, he said that he was a little surprised to see the Drowner as his third pick, but wasn't at all displeased. "I wasn't sure, but the Drowner is one of the cards that makes a Merfolk deck, and since I had a Purity, I was more than happy to take it and go blue/white." He was as amazed as I was at the almost distressing lack of white at the table. When I mentioned that and the fact that he ended up with such concentrated blue, his shot me this surprised look and exclaimed, "I know!" All in all he wasn't too incredibly pleased with his deck, but doesn't mind his chances in this pod. "I have a lot of card drawing, but I also have a lot of 1/1 creatures that don't really do anything. I think I should be able to go 2-1. At least I hope I don't go 0-3."
Well, I, for one, am pulling for Guillaume. I had a great time watching him draft and build. He's always very thoughtful and deliberate with his decisions, and never seems to act hastily. Even if his pick is quite apparent, he takes the time to structure the rest of the pack and try to place the rest of the cards. There is always something to think about if you're willing to settle down and not rush through your picks. I look forward to getting another chance to watch him in action this weekend.