Feature: Draft Watch – Chris Lachmann and Jacob van Lunen

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The letter N!ew faces Chris Lachmann and Jacob van Lunen stormed Day 1 with a 6-0 record and an unusual draft strategy: forcing double sliver decks. While talking to various competitors on day one, I alternately heard pros say "Drafting Slivers is weak and terrible" and "Drafting slivers is awesome." With Lachmann and van Lunen's draft plan out of the bag in time for Day 2, would they get spooked by the threat of getting hate-drafted or copied? Would they audible to a backup plan or stick to the tried-and-true? And what key points of innovation have kept them above other Sliver players? I went to the source to find out: The top-seeded draft pod for Day 2.

To Lachmann and van Lunen's right, the other draft teams were Yamamoto/Takahashi, Humpherys/Sadin, and Soh/Soh. The first pack revealed Ancestral Vision, Faceless Devourer, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Fathom Seer, Quilled Sliver, and Strangling Soot. They took Strangling Soot and Urborg Syphon-Mage, whose ability becomes a "drain 4" in two-headed-giant. As they explained afterwards, part of their strategy is to emphasize removal over early Sliver picks, counting on the low-profile Slivers to wheel through the table and come back to them to be scooped up as late drafts. Quilled Sliver was definitely the kind of card they want, but they figured it will still be there when the pack comes back around.

Slivers watched over Chris Lachmann and Jacob van Lunen.

In Pick 2, they took Quilled Sliver and Search for Tomorrow over Spike Feeder, Venser's Sliver, and Dream Stalker, making the same plan of wheeling the Venser's Sliver back to themselves, but taking Quilled Sliver now because they knew they wouldn't play Spike Feeder. Another part of their strategy is to play a lot of non-Sliver spells but near-zero non-Sliver creatures. They're so committed to Sliver synergy in the creature base that they're not going to play 3-power fliers like Crookclaw Transmuter, so they don't bother drafting them, giving them higher slots for mana-fixing and midrange removal then most teams.

Pick 3 was weak with just Snapback and a Zealot il-Vec that wouldn't be played. Pack 4 yielded Venser's Sliver and "Venser's Sliver Jr.: Mistform Ultimus!" They showed their commitment to the sliver plan by taking Venser's Sliver over Lim-Dul the Necromancer, a move which would have many 8-man drafters shrieking and wailing, and may have been a mistake here.

In picks 5 and 6, the Quilled Sliver and Venser's Sliver the duo had hoped to wheel did indeed come back to them. Another competitor watching Lachmann and van Lunen build mentioned how agonizing it feels to spend mid-picks hate-drafting a random common Sliver, underlining why wheeling the common low-profile Slivers works so well.

Pack 2 gave the gift of Disintegrate and Watcher Sliver over Clockwork Hydra, Spiketail Drake, Spinneret Sliver, Shadow Sliver, and Mishra. They were definitely hoping hard to get Spinneret Sliver and Shadow Sliver back on the wheel! The second pick was Vampiric Sliver and Dark Withering over Tromp the Domains, Search for Tomorrow, and Crookclaw Transmuter. Next came Spinneret Sliver and 2HG-empowered Slipstream Eel over Basalt Gargoyle, Keldon Halberdier, and a Venser's Sliver. Even though the team had tons of five-cost slivers, even though Slipstream Eel is better in 2HG, and even though the Venser's might wheel back, the Eel pick looked like a mistake; they are so unlikely to play the Eel with their Sliver focus, and spending a mid-pick to hate the Eel from opponents while passing a Venser's Sliver that they actually want seemed sketchy.

As the pack started to wheel, Shadow Sliver had successfully wheeled back and the team snapped it up, but the Spinneret Sliver was missing, being a pretty efficient card in itself and taken by Sadin/Humpherys for play in their own decks. The Venser's Sliver they had forsaken in favor of Eel also did not make it back around the table, ending up as a "there's nothing playable here" hate draft by Soh/Soh.

As Planar Chaos began, the team took Erratic Mutation and Stonecloaker as "spell effects" over likely-to-wheel Reflex Sliver, Blood Knight, and Dreamscape Artist. It had to be frustrating that they had opened so few bomb rares so far. Next came Poultice Sliver and Mana Tithe, then amazing-in-2HG Mire Boa and Spitting Sliver over Bog Serpent and Reckless Wurm. The fourth pick was Brute Force and another Poultice Sliver. On the wheel, the Reflex Sliver they passed in the first pack indeed came back, a successful wheel allowing Lachmann and van Lunen to have their cake and eat it too.

The second Planar Chaos pack started with the pair picking Big Game Hunter and Synchronous Sliver over 2HG-empowered Essence Warden and Veiling Oddity, with Brute Force, Dawn Charm, Pallid Mycoderm, Primal Plasma and Giant Dustwasp in the same pack. Big Game Hunter is essentially a spell, and makes perfect sense in a Sliver deck. The pack was chock full of common quality, though, and Lachmann and van Lunen may have been better off taking Big Game Hunter and the spell-like Essence Warden. Essence Warden is not just good in 2HG, it's really really good. Taking Essence Warden and Big Game Hunter here would mean trying to wheel Synchronous Sliver back to themselves, hoping that the other teams would content themselves with using their six picks on Veiling Oddity, Brute Force, Pallid Mycoderm, Primal Plasma, Dawn Charm, Giant Dustwasp, and whatever else was in there, without ever prioritizing the hate drafting of Synchronous Sliver over any of those six picks. It would be a risky wheel, but with Essence Warden as the prize, and with the only potential loss being Synchronous Sliver, it may have been worth it.

The next picks from that Planar Chaos pack were Erratic Mutation and Reflex Sliver over Hedge Troll and Brute Force. Then came the third Poultice Sliver and spell-like Rathi Trapper, then a nice fourth-pick Spitting Sliver and Synchronous Sliver over Utopia Vow.

The Future Sight packs opened up with a disaster. Fortunately, it was a Molten Disaster! Doubling its damage in Two-Headed Giant, this is certainly among the best 2HG bombs in Future Sight. After some murmured dissension, they also picked Judge Unworthy over Gathan Raiders and Frenzy Sliver. Next came Ghostfire and Frenzy Sliver over Knight of Sursi, then Homing Sliver and Edge of Autumn over Lymph Sliver. With so many five-cost creatures at this point, they were wise to prioritize mana acceleration over another five-cost Sliver here, despite Lymph Sliver being a pretty decent one. And the Lymph might wheel back. Fourth came Lumithread Field and a random Lost Auramancers, then the fifth pick wheel indeed brought back the Frenzy Sliver from the first pack. But the Lymph Sliver ended up in someone's hate draft allotment and was never seen again.

The sixth and final pack opened with Ghostfire and Pact of Negation over Frenzy Sliver-when they successfully wheeled it from the first pack of the previous pack, they were confident that they could do it again. Next were Gathan Raiders and Slaughter Pact, then a very welcome Mesmeric Sliver and a random Nessian Courser. Venser's Sliver showed up in the fourth pack, followed by the original Frenzy Sliver in the fifth pick wheel.

I talked to Jacob van Lunen and Chris Lachmann as they built their decks. They usually split their colors based on the costs of the creatures to make two good curves. They have often eschewed black this weekend but are definitely playing it this time. Sliver combos include the 3 Frenzy Slivers with Shadow Sliver, or getting one each of their 2 Synchronous Sliver / 2 Quilled Sliver / 2 Spitting Sliver, the combination of which makes the Slivers almost impossible to beat in combat. They lack the power-pumping Sinew, Might, Bonesplitter, or Sedge Slivers, as well as the potent Virulent Sliver, but they were not worried about this, instead concentrating on winning creature combats and using their 3 Frenzy Slivers to punish opponents for not engaging in combat. Disintegrate and Molten Disaster give them some awesome finishers. The Slipstream Eel did not make the deck.

When asked if they were concerned about the opposition getting harder as the weekend went on and cream sifted to the top, van Lunen joked, "Yesterday we faced Jon Finkel and Dave Humpherys… how much worse could it get?" They were happy about how the draft went and anticipated going 2-0.


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