Last weekend I had the privilege of playing in my first ever modern day World Championship. I was certainly a bit nervous leading up the event, but once the day came to finally play I was excited and ready to compete against the best players in the World.
Today I’ll be sharing with you how I prepared for the event, why I chose the deck that I played, as well as my approach to Ixalan draft going into this event.
Once the field was set, I was excited to be joining my Mint Card teammates Kelvin Chew, Lee Shi Tian, and Javier Dominguez. We’ve worked together for the Pro Tours over the last year so I knew I’d have a great group of guys to prepare with.
We then added Marcio Carvalho who is a good friend of Javier’s. This was the first time for me working with him, but me being primarily a Limited player, I was looking forward to working with one of the best Limited players in the game.
Since all 5 of us come from different countries spread across the globe, the majority of our testing was done on Magic Online. As soon as Ixalan was made available to draft, we started drafting as much as we could due to how close to release the event was. We compiled all of our information on Facebook, sharing our 3-0 decks as well as our thoughts on the format.
When the set was fully spoiled, it was obvious which archetypes were out there as the set is primarily based on tribes. This is when I got the idea to start experimenting with the non-tribal cards as I knew that they would not be highly sought after. Cards like 《Blight Keeper》, 《Skittering Heartstopper》, and 《Fire Shrine Keeper》 often tabled.
I knew that these common 1 drops combined with the 3 Auras (《One With the Wind》, 《Swashbuckling》, and 《Mark of the Vampire》) as well as cheap tricks (《Skulduggery》, 《Sure Strike》, and 《Dive Down》) meant that I could draft a deck in one of the Grixis combinations (UB, UR, BR) with a very low curve and aggressive draws capable of punishing any deck not suited to handle this level of aggression.
When drafting this strategy, I tend to prioritize cards in the following order: 《One With the Wind》 (best common in the format in my opinion), premium creatures (《Siren Stormtamer》, 《Skymarch Bloodletter》, 《Wanted Scoundrels》, 《Kitesail Freebooter》, 《Seekers' Squire》), 《Pirate's Cutlass》 (the honorable 4th Aura), 《Skulduggery》 (the best combat trick in the set), the 1 drops (《Blight Keeper》, 《Skittering Heartstopper》, 《Fire Shrine Keeper》, 《Rigging Runner》), the other auras (《Swashbuckling》 and 《Mark of the Vampire》), the non-Skymarch Bloodletter 3 drops you’re looking to play (《Watertrap Weaver》, 《Headstrong Brute》, and 《Deadeye Tormentor》), the 2 drops (just about any 2 drop in any of the Grixis colors with 《Fathom Fleet Firebrand》 being one of the better ones), and finally the protection spells (《Dive Down》, 《Spell Pierce》, and 《Duress》).
I’d also like to mention that 《Cobbled Wings》 is an excellent addition in this strategy and goes up in value if you’re BR as you’re less likely to have many creatures with flying. I feel like the ideal curve is somewhere around 5-6 one drops, 6-7 two drops, 3-4 three drops, 0-2 four drops (Ideally 《Fathom Fleet Cutthroat》 since he enables you to have good attacks in situations where you shouldn’t as well as add a creature to the board), and 0-1 five drops.
I’d also advise to never go below 16 lands as when the games go late you’re going to want to get to 8 mana to finish your opponents off with either 《Blight Keeper》 ability, or a 1 of 《Unfriendly Fire》/《Dark Nourishment》. As you may have noticed, I didn’t include spot removal in my list of cards I prioritize.
While I’m certainly happy to have a 《Walk the Plank》 or a 《Contract Killing》 (which conveniently helps you reach 8 mana for 《Blight Keeper》), I feel it’s much more important to ensure that you have a strong curve as well as the cards to boost your cheap creatures.
The point is to always continue attacking so while removal sounds great, if your creatures remain 1 and 2 power creatures without evasion, their next creature will most likely be able to brick your team.
As you may have seen at Worlds, I was able to 3-0 my first draft pod with this draft strategy. A BR hyper aggressive deck featuring 4 copies of 《Swashbuckling》! I was fortunate that in the first draft everything went according to plan and I was able to get all the cards I wanted late. However going into the 2nd draft on Day 2, the question certainly was will I get the cards again now that everyone is aware of this strategy?
While I figured maybe I wont get as many 《Swashbuckling》, I was ok with that because I actually prefer to be UB the most. 《One With the Wind》 is the most powerful common in the set I feel, and having multiple ways to protect the creature you enchant is why I lean much more towards UB. I was seated at the featured pod for Day 2 and all my picks were recorded on camera.
I open my 1st pack and the cards of note are 《Shapers of Nature》 and 《Firecannon Blast》. However to coverage’s surprise, I opted to take 《Depths of Desire》. The reason I made this pick is because I don’t want to be UG because I don’t want to be in Merfolk. Just about all the Merfolk creatures are cards that anyone drafting U and/or G would be happy to put in their deck regardless if they’re in Merfolk or not; therefore I try to avoid it if possible.
The reason why I passed the 《Blast》 is because as I said earlier, I don’t really value the removal too highly especially this one because it’s double red to cast. I try to have my main color be black and splash red or blue so I felt that the 《Depths》 was the best pick for what I was trying to do.
I was passed a 《Skymarch Bloodletter》 and 《Mark of the Vampire》 2nd pick with not much else in the other colors so it was an easy pick for me. While 《Mark》 is certainly important, 《Skymarch Bloodletter》 is easily the best 3 drop in this strategy as it has flying and drains the opponent for 1 which both go a long way in an aggressive deck.
My 4th pick was easily the most difficult of the draft for me, I had to choose between 《Siren Stormtamer》, 《Skulduggery》, 《Watertrap Weaver》, 《River Sneak》, and 《Queen's Bay Soldier》! It’s one of those packs where you think to yourself, can I just take this whole pack and end my pack 1 here? But I ultimately decided on 《Siren Stormtamer》 for a few reasons.
It’s the best 1 drop in this strategy as it’s the only blue one, has flying, protects your suited up creatures later in the game, and carries a 《Pirate's Cutlass》 or Aura very well. As painful as it was to have to pass so many cards I wanted, I felt good as that was a strong signal to me that both blue and black would be open and that I might even table one of those cards!
Unfortunately for me though, none of them came back, and I was forced to take a 《Duress》 instead. In the end my deck didn’t turn out like I was hoping for but it was still decent.
The problem for me in the draft was that there was only 1 《One With the Wind》 opened in the whole draft (which was the one that I first picked pack 2), and there was only 1 《Mark of the Vampire》 opened which I had to pass pack 1 and it never came back. While I lacked in the aura department, I was able to make due with 《Dowsing Dagger》 and 《Pirate's Cutlass》.
I went 1-2 overall but all 3 matches were very close so I was happy with how everything went. As excited as I was to 4-2 draft at Worlds, there was also Standard to played. I ultimately decided to sleeve up Ramunap Red!
The majority of our Standard testing was done in person a few days prior to the event. We had tried some ideas online prior to meeting up, but it was clear that the two big players of the format were 《Hazoret the Fervent》, and 《The Scarab God》.
However testing for Worlds is unlike any other tournament. It’s much more about what we expected the other players to bring to the table and what gave us the best chance to win against them. With such little information being out there, we expected the majority of the field to consist of Temur/Sultai/4Color Energy, some Ramunap Red, and a few Control decks/possible unknown decks.
I felt that if other players were thinking the same, then the best choice would be to play Ramunap Red in the hopes that most players would mostly focus on fighting the Energy decks but at the same time we wanted to be prepared for the mirror.
We mostly got the metagame right, and were able to place both Kelvin Chew and Javier Dominguez into the top 4! I could not have been more excited for their excellent finishes and I was very happy to have been a part of this event.
I personally ended up 7-7 which was good for 11th place, 4 pro points, and $5,000. This was without a doubt the best tournament I’ve ever played in. I had some incredible games all weekend long and the whole event was amazing from beginning to end.
I want to thank Kelvin, Lee, Javier, Marcio, and all my Mint Card teammates who also helped us prepare for this event from home even though they weren’t qualified.
They were a tremendous help with the limited amount of time we had to test and their support throughout the event, as well as that from all my friends, was truly amazing. Up next is the last weekend of Nationals tournaments and I’ll be competing for a chance to join Reid Duke on the USA team.
I’ve yet to decide what to play in Standard for this event, but I think I’m leaning towards UB Control similar to what Kelvin played. But could also see myself running back Ramunap Red once more so we’ll see. I do know what I want to be drafting though so we’ll see!
I hope you all enjoyed this article and that you get to swash some buckles!
Thanks for reading!
Share in Twitter
Share in Facebook
At the Grand Prix level, he has two wins, at GP Minneapolis 2012 and GP Atlantic City 2015, in seven total top eight finishes. He has also three additional top 16 finishes, and at the Pro Tour: Ammonket he has won the top eight awards.
He is one of the top players who travels the world and continues to fight.