hu Komuro is a Pro Tour Champion (Nagoya '05), and his teammate for San Diego, Akira Asahara, is no slouch either, with a Worlds Top 8 that same year. They found themselves sitting at arguably the toughest table in the San Diego Convention Center for the first draft of the Pro Tour, with multiple Pro Tour Championships and Grand Prix Top 8s spread across all four teams. On top of that, every single player at the table made the trip from Japan.
While it may be a bummer to travel halfway around the world only to find yourselves guaranteed to face countrymen during your first two rounds of play, the Pro Tour offers precious little time for reflection, and the judge's cadence quickly put the draft in motion. Komuro, the dominant head for the draft, opened the first booster. Initially the pack seemed weak with Thallid Shell-Dweller, Orcish Cannonade, Durkwood Tracker, and Premature Burial as the first cards pulled to the front for "consideration." That is until they got to the very back.
Asahara quickly motioned at a Volcanic Awakening and Spectral Force as the two cards he wanted, but Komuro wasn't immediately convinced. Awakening, one of the linchpins for the argument that storm is too broken a mechanic for Two-Headed Giant, seemed to be the sticking point. Could the Japanese be so far ahead of the curve they disagree with the conventional wisdom on storm?
Apparently not. As the judge informed players they had only five seconds to make their picks, Komuro conceded the point and took the Awakening with the Force. The next pack was a weak one and the two considered Assassinate, Thallid Germinator, Watcher Sliver, and Yavimaya Dryad. Slivers, another mechanic some say is too strong for 2HG, apparently didn't present a strong enough signal for the two to pursue that strategy just yet, and they opted for the Germinator and Dryad, moving to solidify a green base for at least one deck.
Up next they considered Spinneret Sliver, Phantom Wurm, Trespasser il-Vec, Flowstone Channeler, and Wormwood Dryad before settling on Channeler and Trespasser, perhaps signaling some type of red-black madness archetype. Pack 4 offered the weakest selections so far yielding Slipstream Serpent and Eron the Relentless with only a Psychotic Episode to tempt them otherwise. They tabled a Coal Stoker and Durkwood Tracker from the pack they had originally opened, then rounded out their picks with "remainder," though they did at one point choose Ironclaw Buzzardiers over Burning Blade Askari, indicating that a marginal creature with evasion in 2HG is better than what would be an otherwise solid creature in regular Time Spiral draft.
On review the two appear to be putting a solid red-green list together but haven't really fleshed out into a second archetype.
The second Time Spiral pack yields solid picks from the early slots including Rift Bolt, Mystical Teachings, and Riftwing Cloudskate, but just as in the first pack things got good when they got to the back: Stronghold Overseer and Serrated Arrows. Both Asahara and Komuro seemed pleased to take the 'rares' for their first picks. Their second chance offered up Dauthi Slayer, Basalt Gargoyle, Wipe Away, Assassinate, Temporal Eddy, and Basal Sliver, though the Sliver appeared to be a bit of a reach, possibly for use in expediting the appearance of their brand new Overseer. They went to time on the pick before nabbing the Gargoyle and Assassinate.
Their next picks centered around Viscid Lemures and Viscerid Deepwalker, which they quickly chose over mediocre choices like Molder, Nether Traitor, and Ophidian Eye without much thinking. That was followed up with Keldon Halberdier and Gorgon Recluse, though the Recluse came over an Amrou Scout that Komuro was definitely very interested in. Ultimately he concurred with the opinion of his teammate, but he certainly wasn't pleased about shipping the 2/1. Their tabled pack included Tolarian Sentinel and Coal Stoker, which they took over Weatherseed Totem, then rounded out their decks with Temporal Eddy and Phantom Wurm on pick six before quickly taking the last few chaff cards from Time Spiral.
While reviewing their decks, they quickly separated into red-green and blue-black lists. Unsure of where to put Serrated Arrows, Shu points out how well the Arrows and Tolarian Sentinel play together, and they put the Homelands classic into their UB deck.
With Time Spiral out of the way, the table turned their attentions to Planar Chaos, and for the first time Shu and Akira found themselves without bomb rares in the pack. Instead, they looked at a relatively weak pack, flipping Citanul Woodreaders, Utopia Vow, and StingScourger to the front. On a second review, however, they pushed Pallid Mycoderm to the forefront, seriously considering the Saproling generator as a first pick in addition to Citanul Woodreaders. After briefly looking to Utopia Vow, they eventually decide to stick with the 'Derm and the Woodreaders.
Welcome to 2HG, folks, the format where Pallid Mycoderm is a first pick!
Their second pick was equally challenging as they quickly focused on Muck Drubb, Erratic Mutation, and Piracy Charm. Asahara was very interested in the Muck Drubb, but Shu very clearly wanted the Piracy Charm. They argued quietly in Japanese over which card was better and why, but as the judge called out five seconds remaining, decided the flexibility offered from the Charm was the play and took it with the Mutation.
Up next they nabbed a Treacherous Urge and Essence Warden, with their only other consideration being Whitemane Lion. They got the Lion for their next choice, however, as well as a Frenetic Sliver which was a bit surprising to see them take. They had already passed some other Alivers, so in a weak pack (the only other choice they really looked at was Brain Gorgers) they could be cutting one to save some hassle during their play, or opening the possibility of splashing some slivers into the blue-black deck.
They reinforced that idea on the return of the pack they had opened, selecting a Cautery Sliver as well as a Vampiric Link. With the pack low on cards, however, Asahara briefly pointed at Extirpate as a possible rare draft, but Komuro nixed the idea. They rounded out the first Planar Chaos pack with the usual late picks before moving into the review in which they consider diluting the green-red deck with a white splash for the inclusion of Whitemane Lion and the first-picked Pallid Mycoderm. The blue-black deck picked up two Vampiric Links, an Erratic Mutation, Piracy Charm, and Treacherous Urge.
The second Planar Chaos pack yielded Gaea's Anthem as the rare but was actually packed with possibilities. The two players considered Brute Force (which Asahara immediately motioned towards the front of the pack), Ana Battlemage, Benalish Commander, Melancholy, and Seal of Primordium. The only immediate selection was the Anthem, which would play well with a potential Saproling theme in a green-red-white build. After that they went back and forth between the Battlemage and Brute Force. Asahara championed the red instant, but Komuro was interested in the 2/2. Discussion ensued, and ultimately they decided to go with the Battlemage, though Asahara gave a last longing look at the Brute Force as they shipped it.
Pick 2 gave them the choice of Intet, the Dreamer, Prodigal Pyromancer, and Erratic Mutation, which they quickly placed face down as a for-sure pick. The choice then was down to the dragon or Tom. Already having opened the possibility of splashing blue into the green-red deck with Ana Battlemage, they eventually determined that the dragon was a worthy selection and placed it face down with the removal spell. The next pick showed Stonecloaker, Sunlance, Whitemane Lion, Midnight Charm, and Pallid Mycoderm, but this time they didn't even give the 2/4 a second glance. Instead, they focused on Sunlance and Midnight Charm, which they eventually decided to stick with.
A second Midnight Charm joined it next in addition to a somewhat late Veiling Oddity. The Oddity, which had received a lot of criticism for being "too good" during the 2HG qualifying season, seems to have lost some credibility amongst pros as they've come to realize it's not exceptionally challenging to play around. Perhaps the fact the card can backfire, providing opponents with an unblockable army for a turn, has helped to change how people feel about the card.
Komuro and Asahara tabled their Benalish Commander but opted for more Slivers over it, taking a Poultice and Darkheart instead. They then grabbed a Battering Sliver and Uktabi Drake, and even get one final Battering Sliver before the pack was through. It seems unlikely, with their Slivers spread all over the color scale, that they will utilize the tribal element as a focal point for building, but it's not out of the question that they'll splash a few relevant ones into their decks if the opportunity arises.
During review they placed the Sunlance and Battering Slivers in their "chaff" pile before re-centering the red-green deck around a possible blue splash instead of white. Not much attention was paid to the blue-black deck, which had picked up Erratic Mutation and two Midnight Charms.
Moving into Future Sight, it felt that Komuro and Asahara had solid decks shaping up, though they weren't so blessed as to feel they didn't need to add cards from the last two packs. Besides, Future Sight has added a strong set of new 2HG commons and the two Japanese players certainly didn't want to miss a shot at Sprout Swarms, and Logic Knots.
Their very first glimpse into the Future offered up those two marquee commons as well as Augur of Skulls, Arc Blade, and Ichor Slick. Sprout Swarm was immediately placed face-down and it looked like the sticking point between the pair was going to be what card 2 would be. Asahara clearly favored Ichor Slick, going so far as to shove the Arc Blade to the back of the pick. Shu, the player likely playing the blue-black deck, gave pause, indicating he preferred the Logic Knot. The pick was shaping up to be another down-to-the-wire decision, but Asahara acquiesced and Shu happily plucked the Knot from the pack and placed it on their pile.
The second pick gave them a look at Zoetic Caverns, Llanowar Empath, Whip-Spine Drake, and Nessian Courser. Asahara liked Empath over the Nessian Courser, but Shu wasn't convinced. Komuro also wanted the Whip-Spine for his deck, and they agreed that would be a certain pick. The Empath/Courser debate again came down to Asahara's willingness to trust Shu's Judgment, and they opted for the 3/3.
Up next they had to decide between Edge of Autumn, Lumithread Field, Grinning Ignus, Even the Odds, and Llanowar Empath. Akira indicated a fondness for the Edge to help fix the colors for his deck (they had no fixers so far), and Shu pointed at the Ignus as potentially comboing well with their Volcanic Awakening. Eventually they decided the card advantage of the Empath was the better play, and the two green cards joined their pile. Pick 4 featured a relatively weak pack as they added Thornweald Archer and Sarcomite Myr to their pile, then tabled a Heartwood Storyteller and Frenzy Sliver from the pack they had opened. Rift Elemental and Putrid Cyclops came next and they closed out the first Future Sight pack with a contingent of marginally playable cards.
They didn't feel they had much to review, though Asahara pointed out the Battlemage and Intet splashes in conjunction with Edge of Autumn.
For the final pack the two players opened some of the same commons they had the first pack, opting to select Sprout Swarm and Logic Knot as their choices for the second time. They looked at Augur of Skulls, Gathan Raiders, Bound in Silence, and Lucent Liminid, but their rare was the clunker Darksteel Garrison, and doubling up on Swarm and Knot certainly seemed like a solid move.
The pain of a poor rare open was lessened when they looked at their next pick and saw an Akroma's Memorial staring back at them. They flipped through the remaining cards to see Nessian Courser and Infiltrator il-Vec. They looked back and forth between the two creatures, Courser fitting into Akira's deck, Infiltrator in Shu's, but decided to take a second look through the rest of the cards. Upon doing so, they saw a gem they missed: Imperiosaur. Komuro quickly pointed out the synergy between the 5/5 and the Memorial, and they opted to take the uncommon to complement their rare.
Pick 3 yielded a Gathan Raiders and Deepcavern Imp, pick 4 was very weak with just a Horizon Canopy and Augur il-Vec, and on the table they managed to, unsurprisingly, get their Darksteel Garrsion. What was surprising, however, was that they actually took the fortification along with another Deepcavern Imp.
Could Garrison actually be a hidden gem in 2HG? Perhaps Akira Asahara and Shu Komuro think so (or are doing a poor job of rare-drafting, leaving Extirpates in and taking the bulk rares…). They finish the pack up with two Cutthroat il-Dals and a New Benalia before returning to their seats to build.
The two players quickly separated the bulk of their cards into three piles: the base-green deck Asahara would play, the blue-black Komuro would play, and the chaff which neither would play. Komuro immediately indicated the two Deepcavern Imps they had picked up during the Future Sight packs were marginal inclusions set for the chopping block. He also indicated Cautery Sliver, Poultice Sliver, Sunlance, Augur il-Vec, Whitemane Lion, and Pallid Mycoderm were possible splash inclusions in Asahara's list as well in addition to the Intet and Ana Battlemage.
Setting aside what they would splash for the moment, the two players considered the inclusion of the dubs Coal Stokers. Komuro liked the combo with Volcanic Awakening, but Asahara pointed out he only had two cards with which to use the three red when he didn't have the storm card: Basalt Gargoyle and Flowstone Channeler. They also had to re-read Heartwood Storyteller, but Ashara pointed out it was a bombo with double Sprout Swarm.
As they continued to discuss and build, there were a few surprises. Shu started with the Horizon Canopy in his pile to help pay the morph on Whip-Spine Drake, but eventually moved it to Asahara's deck as it looked more and more as though he would be playing white cards. Komuro also had the Gathan Raiders despite not being the red mage. However, he was the madness mage as he had a Gorgon Recluse to lessen the pain of discarding a card. At one point the players were deciding whether they would include Wistful Thinking and Darksteel Garrison as well as a maindeck Patrician's Scorn to shore up any problem enchantments lurking around.
The real shocks were what the two finally came up with:
Ultimately the two players decided to cut red entirely, moving the Whip-Spine Drake into Asahara's deck so he could more easily play it as a morph. Additionally, New Benalia made the cut over the Horizon Canopy for the green-white-blue deck, and Shu wound up running the Wistful Thinking (though not the Garrison).
How will those decisions play out for the two? Keep checking the coverage to see!