No, this is about one 12 year, a Theros draft, and his march to have his first 5-0 night. Sounds promising? Well read on...
From Humble Beginnings
Jacob rarely turns in better than a 2-3 performance. He's hit a wall in his drafting. Improving his skills is something he and I talk about occasionally. Most often, we spend some time reviewing some of the latest strategies handed down by the great Limited Resources podcast. For those that don't listen to Marshall and Brian, I'm sorry. Actually, I'm not. It's your loss and you can live your life the way you want. I won't judge you. I'll just hope that you're in my pod when we get to draft.
This night was no different from any other. Angels didn't drop out of the sky to ordain him. A gypsy woman didn't stop and glare meaningfully at us. Weird, alien looking green men didn't circle our house in a freakish space ship. Rather, Jacob and I piled into my truck and started our path to the store as we do any other Friday night. On the way, I was determined to repeat some of the wisdom I had picked up that week listening to Limited Resources. We talked a bit about what colors are strong and what some key cards are in the format. I was trying to keep things both simple for Jacob and also educational - pointing him in a direction that I thought played to his strengths.
I know that BREAD was also a topic of conversation that evening (and how do I know? - because almost every conversation about drafting includes it). BREAD (Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, Duds) is the lifeblood of picking cards in any draft or designing a sealed pool deck for play. We haven't gone much deeper than BREAD and color philosophies in a given block. When talking about BREAD, I try and focus on reminding him that using it correctly gives him a fighting chance. Even with my pep talk and new wisdom to share about colors in this draft, I was worried about how he'd approach his draft that evening.
The reason is Jacob had reached that point where for him, he felt there was little left to discover in Theros draft. I could tell by talking with him that he was almost as confident as he becomes when looking at a draft format. I could also tell that he had reached that dangerous point many of us reach - that he was in danger of becoming bored with it. When one becomes bored of a thing (a game format, surfing big waves, or whatever your thrill is), it is easy to lose respect of that thing. And that is when it reaches up and bites you in the backside.
Prepwork Makes it Easy
When we were both first learning to draft, I was watching other people as much as I was trying to figure out what two color combos were most dangerous. Before you all going off half cocked and screaming at me in the comments section, let me clarify. I wasn't cheating. I was most definitely respectful of other players as they made selections. Rather, I was watching for tricks and steps that would make it easier for Jacob and I to focus more on drafting and less on mana, tokens, and other garbage.
So when Jacob arrived that night, he was as ready as I could make him. Sure, he has to take care of his stuff, but we both have the following (thanks to Bank of Dad, where all gamers get their start):
- 1 Fat Pack box
- 150 sleeves of the same make and color
- About 100 lands (twenty of each color), sleeved in 2/3rds of the sleeves
- Tokens (some of mine are sleeved to accommodate my OCD)
- A method to count life
Why is this great? Our setup allows us the maximum amount of time needed to decide how to build our decks. Neither of us goes to time. We always have a nice, comfortable margin left over after we've completed making our picks. This is most beneficial when our draft goes sideways halfway into our picks. It gives us the maximum time left on the clock to figure out how to build an optimum deck.
After you here about his draft though...you'll realize that he needed all of five minutes. And three of those were spent looking at his cool loot.
The Draft to End All Drafts
Let's get it out of the way. Pack 1, pick 1 was the Foil Anax and Cymede. Spare the melodrama about him picking a dual color card first in a draft format that isn't based on a two color system. Anytime you can grab an Anax and Cymede as your first pick, it's rarely the wrong thing to do.
He went red from there, picking up some choice cards.
Pack 2, pick 1 was the Stormbreath Dragon. At this point, he knew that he was Red and likely white. But when people are passing you Skullcleavers and Lightening Strikes, you practically can't go any other way.
Pack 3, pick 1 was the Spear. Pick 2? The Titan.
You just can't make this stuff up. And yes, he ended up with a playset of Skullcleavers and Lightning Strikes. For those interested, his complete draft list will be at the end of the article. I'm just sorry I couldn't tell you specifically what order he received all of these picks. To say he was happy following the draft was an understatement. Was it 'perfect'? Probably not. But it was as close as most of us will get.
No one needs to know how he beat one opponent after another that night. No one needs to hear the step-by-step dismantling he handed out to player after player. And for certain no one needs to hear about how one of his victims played me in a match-up towards the end, destroyed me in two, then looked at me and said, "Consider that payback for Jacob beating me earlier tonight." (Yes this did happen folks. Truth is stranger than fiction).
What you need to hear is that Jacob reached the big table. Game 5, the last one of the night, he and one other player were undefeated. The other player was twice Jacob's age, weight, and and probably three to four times the experience looked him right in the eye when they first sat down and offered a draw. He knew that Jacob had a bonkers deck and quite frankly didn't really want to play against it.
At first, Jacob was a little bit confused. Understandably so, given this was the first time he'd ever been offered a draw. His opponent explained, fairly, that a draw meant that neither would win, but then neither would lose. Given the position of the rest of the field, they'd both end up on top for the night. No mention was made of splitting prizes. My kid is no dolt though and got it right away - and he also understood that at most he was probably throwing away two packs.
Jacob only thought about it for a moment but said, "No, I want to play." Running through his mind were two things - his deck was fabulous and he wanted to be 5-0, not 4-0-1. I could see it.
Game one, his opponent came out of the gates fast running a more white/red deck (Jacob's deck was more red than white). Jacob had difficulty finding a mountain, and it was all over. Game 2? Same story in reverse. Jacob manhandled his opponent. Before he started game 3, I looked at him and said I was proud of him so far, and no matter what he was coming home with a decent amount of prizes.
Game 3? It was longer than both of the first games put together. But in the end, Jacob lost due to an inability to put together the right mana base. Variance happens.
I know a truth though about that night.
Jacob didn't lose. Sure, technically he lost the last match. But that night he was special. He was on fire. He saw that it was possible to do amazingly well, and he handled it in a mature manner. The best part for him wasn't the draft. It wasn't finding a way to 2-0 nearly all of his opponents. It was from where I sat, his standing up and stating, "No, I'm want to play."
That my friends, is a victory.
Jacob's TOTALLY BRUTAL R/W Theros Draft
1 Akroan Crusader
1 Akroan Hoplite
1 Anax and Cymede (Foil)
2 Arena Athelete
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Cavalry Pegasus
1 Favored Hoplite
1 Deathbellow Raider
4 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Titan of Eternal Fire
1 Traveling Philosopher
4 Lightning Strike
1 Rage of Purphoros
1 Spark Jolt
1 Spear of Heliod
1 Breaching Hippocamp
1 Crackling Triton
1 Decorated Griffin
2 Ephara's Warden
1 Evangel of Heliod
2 Fleshmad Steed
2 Lagonna-Band Elder
2 Last Breath
1 Psychic Intrusion
1 Rescue from the Underworld
1 Thassa's Bounty
1 Traveling Philosopher