Sadly, I don’t have a video recording, draft cap, or photographic memory of my exact draft picks at the Pro Tour, but it serves as a great example of how to salvage a bad first pack with a little good fortune.

Pack 1, Pick 1: Reflector Mage

This sucked. Reflector Mage is a good card no question, but in my preparation with Team Pantheon, we figured out that blue/white was one of the worst archetypes, and the reward of getting cards like Reflector Mage was simply too low to be worth sacrificing the overall power level of the rest of your cards. I spent the entirety of my 60 seconds agonizing over what to take and hoping for anything else—but there was nothing. I would’ve been happy to take a Saddleback Lagac or a Zada’s Commando. In the end, I took Reflector Mage.

Jwar Isle Avenger

I love this card. I was happy to take it because if I was unfortunate enough to end up blue/­white, at least this is one of the better cards. Going in, I felt that blue/red surge was the best archetype (after black/white Allies, which was clearly better but also in much higher demand and has a higher fail rate when you tried to draft it and couldn’t).

Ondu War Cleric

This card is super strong. It performs even better than it looks, and puts in serious work. Half Grizzly Bear/half Honden of Cleansing Fire, while enabling Allies that have a “when tapped” trigger and being an Ally himself for many other various synergies. This is one of the best commons in the set—worse than Isolation Zone and Oblivion Strike, but not by much.

Allied Reinforcements

This was my 4th pick and I was happy to take a card that was powerful and worked well with a card I had already taken. In my prep, I had this card multiple times with Stoneforge Masterwork and Resolute Blademaster so I had a high opinion of it. Not stellar in blue/white where the Ally theme is less prevalent, but once again, my style of booster drafting is to always defer to the card with the highest overall power.

Sweep Away

This card is underwhelming. It looks like a good card but in practice it’s mediocre to bad. I’d say it’s almost always fine to play one of this card in your deck since it will trade for a card most of the time and it can be great. In general, I’ve found it to be just weak. I try to avoid it when I can, but here I was stuck taking only blue and white cards, and this fit the bill from the cards I saw in this pack.

Spawnbinder Mage

This card is just good. Not amazing, not terrible, just good. I’m happy to play as many as I can get in an Ally deck and it’s a solid role-player. I had a couple Ally cards already and it’s a little on the late side for a card like Spawnbinder Mage to be floating around with nothing else competing for my attention so I snapped it up.

Warden of Geometries

A fine card to take and play if you’re hard up for ways to produce colorless mana, but with the cards I had so far, this was a real stinker.

Umara Entangler

I’m happy to have as many as I can get in blue/red surge, but in any non blue/red deck, it’s playable but on the weak side of power. I was happy to get this card late as it meant blue was probably quite open and that I had identified the correct color to be in.

Remaining picks:

During my thirty-second review, I just kept saying to myself “I’m screwed.” This is the exact thing that I did not want to happen! I went in hoping to avoid blue/white and I’m in the colors I don’t want in exchange for a Reflector Mage and a pile of vanilla filler. None of my cards were remarkable in power, I didn’t have a great mana curve, and I had little-to-no synergy. It wasn’t exactly a train wreck since I managed to stay in 2 colors, but it was one of those drafts where I felt like there wasn’t much I could do and my hope was to open some rares, get good draws, and to scrape a 2-­1 out of the draft.

Pack 2

Chandra, Flamecaller

Hello! During our Limited meeting, Reid Duke spoke up and said that he had Chandra multiple times and it was so powerful that no matter what cards you have in the draft thus far, you take Chandra, drop everything, and play red. I wasn’t dropping much here so I was happy to take it. Chandra is the single best rare in the set.

Reality Hemorrhage

Reality Hemorrhage isn’t that strong of a card but it’s clearly playable and not bad. I’ve found this format to have a higher percentage of long grindy games so I place a high value on cards that can kill rares, which Reality Hemorrhage doesn’t often do, but I knew I wanted to be red and it’s a fine card.

Reality Hemorrhage

Sure, why not? If I plan to play long games and top off with a planeswalker, then shocks are fine.

Jwar Isle Avenger

I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to be red/white or blue/red, but I value Jwar Isle Avenger highly and I knew I wanted to be red/blue going into the draft. If I had seen a similarly powerful white card (let’s say Isolation Zone) I would have taken that, but given how pack 1 went and how little white I had seen this pack, I was happy to take the Sphinx.

Reality Hemorrhage

It was at this time I felt like I had a real deck forming.

Jwar Isle Avenger

I was very happy at this point.

Hedron Crawler

This isn’t the best deck for Hedron Crawler but it’s an awesome card. This is quite late for one of the best commons, but part of the reason it’s one of the best is because it’s a low-cost way of providing colorless mana, which can sometimes be tricky. When I say low cost, I mean low converted mana cost and low deckbuilding cost. There is a seriously high deckbuilding cost associated with putting a Wastes in your deck.

Expedite

This is a much worse card than Slip Through Space, a card our team felt was quite good. For further evidence of this, watch the Day 2 pod 1 recorded draft where William Jensen drafted and played six copies of the card. Expedite is fine with surge but unexciting.

Prophet of Distortion

I don’t love this card but I took it because I had 3 Sphinx, Hedron Crawler, and 2 Warden of Geometries. I wasn’t intending to play it in my deck but I was willing to speculate on it, and in long, slow matchups it can be a game-breaking card.

Comparative Analysis

Not the kind of surge I’m normally interested in, but if you need a playable and have a large number of prowess cards, then it’s passable. To me, the value of surge is in doing things that are above the mana curve in terms of fairness. 2U spent on a 3/3 flying in booster draft is unfair and for that reason, I think the Sphinx is a great card. But spending 2U to draw 2 cards, even at instant speed, is just Divination, which isn’t unfair. It’s decidedly fair and for that reason, Comparative Analysis isn’t a high-pick for me or a card I’m willing to work hard to surge.

Pyromancer’s Assault

I’ve never played this card before but I can recognize that in the right deck it’s a good card. I actually did end up putting this card in my deck to mixed results. One thing I didn’t fully appreciate is that I had 3 Reality Hemorrhage, which meant 2-toughness creatures were not problematic for my deck. Often, my opponent didn’t have anything left for me to kill with this card by the time I was able to use it.

Remaining Pack 2 Picks

I counted during this review period, and with a loose standard for the word “playable” I had about 18 playables. I was ecstatic that in one pack’s time, I turned a blue­/white trash heap with few or no good cards into an amazing blue/red control deck with 3 Reality Hemorrhage, 3 Jwar Isle Avenger, and Chandra, Flamecaller.

Pack 3

Rolling Thunder

Luck.

Stonefury

This card has gone way up in value for me. In pack 1 there are only 2 cards at common that can reliably kill bomb rares so if you intend to play a long game, it’s absolutely necessary to have something that can kill a 5/5 or end the game before a card as big as that can take over. I don’t remember exactly what was in the pack, but I do remember when I saw the Stonefury that I mentally fist pumped and took it without much deliberation.

Clutch of Currents

This card is actually really poor in my deck. It could never be that bad since it’s such a great card, but my final deck had 8 creatures in it and one of those creatures was Hedron Crawler. It’s really hard for me to take advantage of the tempo swing this card usually generates, but having a card that’s out of place or out of theme for my deck is acceptable in my book if the power level is high enough and with Clutch of Currents it undoubtedly is.

Tightening Coils

For the same reasons I felt Stonefury was a great pickup, I was similarly happy with Tightening Coils. Additionally, when I draft a large number of surge cards, I always make it a priority to focus on drafting cards with a low converted mana cost so that I can have good, smooth draws. Tightening Coils made for another slam-dunk pick.

Herald of Kozilek

Turning Reality Hemorrhage from a 2-mana removal spell into a 1-mana one is pretty cool and can certainly come up in a game. Overall, the Herald is much less impressive here than it normally would be since I had so few colorless cards, but a 2/4 for 3 mana is quite nice with the plan I had in mind. If it occasionally generated me a mana, then that’s a big bonus.

Scatter to the Winds

I’ve always loved this card. In this draft, I had the option of taking a Void Shatter and a Spell Shrivel. Both times I declined. My deck didn’t need a counterspell all that badly though I’m usually the type of player that values having at least one counterspell in my blue control decks in draft. I felt like a lot of the time I would be tapping out and I didn’t need that kind of thing, but Scatter to the Winds is so much better I felt I had to take it. The floor is the same as any other counterspell but the ceiling is so much higher, as good as rares like Mystic Snake or Draining Whelk.

Incubator Drone

This is another super solid card that you always play when you’re blue. You can’t fall behind with cards like this in your deck, and for aggro decks it’s a nightmare to play against. It was a colorless spell for my Herald of Kozilek and another way for me to make turn-5 Chandra. Sold.

Horribly Awry

This card plays quite nicely with my 3 Reality Hemorrhage. It allows me to leave up my mana and not get Time Walked when my opponent tries to be savvy and play around a counterspell.

Anticipate

I took this Anticipate over Dampening Pulse and I do not regret my pick. Dampening Pulse has gotten much worse in the new format because there are fewer decks all-in on Benthic Infiltrator and Mist Intruder that simply concede to it. Anticipate works really well with surge and even the Pyromancer’s Assault I ended up with.

Remaining Picks

I was really proud of myself at the end of this draft because not only did I have a great deck, but I ended up with a great deck after a terrible start. I didn’t stick to my guns and try to stay blue­/white hoping I sent great signals. I made the most of a bad situation. Sure, it takes luck to open Chandra and Rolling Thunder, but my card quality outside of those two cards was quite high—and I’m allowed to get lucky on occasion.