I opened pretty well at the Pro Tour last weekend. My first draft deck contained Crux of Fate, Ojutai, Soul of Winter, Necromaster Dragon, and a poorly-positioned (but powerful!) Risen Executioner.

Drafting to the immediate left of Craig Wescoe seemed like a stroke of luck. I started on a pair of black removal spells, noting that Craig had taken a rare. The draft was a roller-coaster of useless packs and late rares, resulting in a deck with all of the above bombs, some removal, and a lot of mediocrity. In my matches, the mediocrity was more reliable than the bombs, and I started my Pro Tour 1-2. It turns out Craig had opened Dragonlord Kolaghan and stuck to Rakdos along with the player to his right. If I had identified black being overdrafted sooner, I’d have had a tremendous Simic deck.

After squeaking into day two, I was determined to draft more flexibly. The table fed me one of the least desirable combinations in the format: Azorius. I stuck with it, though, and was rewarded by opening packs featuring basically no playable blue or white rares or uncommons. I saw zero Pacifisms. However, my deck ended up with a powerful collection of commons, culminating in a Fate Reforged pack that gave me two Sandsteppe Outcasts, two Aven Surveyor, two Soul Summons to fill out my curve, and a Channel Harm that came around tenth or eleventh.

I lost every die roll with the deck, and went 3-0. I never cast Channel Harm. I did cast Arashin Foremost, but my deck was pretty light on warriors.

The picture that most people have of a “3-0” deck is usually a solid deck with a plan and bombs. The emphasis is usually on that last bit: bombs. In my experience, however, the prioritization of bombs is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a competitive draft. The first priority should always be a deck with solid cards and a plan: sticking to a color combination because you opened a bomb is always worse than identifying the available colors and drafting what is open.

Now, if someone could go back in time about ten days and remind me of this, that’d be great…

Gabe Carleton-Barnes has been playing Magic for over 20 years, mostly as a PTQ grinder and intermittently as a Pro Tour competitor. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, where he is an Open Source web developer by day, Gabe lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for three years. While there, he failed to make a documentary about competitive Magic but succeeded in deepening his obsession with the game. Gabe is now a ringleader and community-builder for the competitive Magic scene in Portland, wielding old-timey slang and tired cliches to motivate kids half his age to drive with him to tournaments.

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