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A Controversial Draft Pick at the PT

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Ben Stark is regarded by many to be the best Limited player in the world. If you tuned in late to Pro Tour Magic 2015, you likely didn't see his draft that kicked off the event. In his first pack, he made what has been discussed by many as a controversial pick. What would you take out of this pack?

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If you're familiar with the format, you've probably identified that the best common is Triplicate Spirits and the best uncommon is Cone of Flame. Red is widely considered to be the best color in the set, as well. Although Triplicate Spirits is extremely good, Cone of Flame is a rare class of card that is quite capable of providing a three-for-one. It's also harder to get, being an uncommon and all. So it's the pick, right?

Stark took Triplicate Spirits. With Siege Dragon, Forge Devil, Torch Fiend, and Blastfire Bolt in the pack, he decided the risk of putting his neighbor to the left (who happened to be Sam Black) into red was too high and went with the only playable white card in the pack.

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Did he overthink things, though? He ended up losing to Andrew Cuneo in round one and Aleksa Telarov in round three, managing only a 1-2 record in this draft. Despite Triplicate Spirits being excellent, Cone of Flame is decidedly insane, more powerful in a vacuum, and from the top color in the format.

Of course, results-oriented thinking is not where we want to be. Stark may have had reasons other than what is immediately apparent: knowledge of his neighbors' preferences, a higher win percentage with white decks in testing, or just metagaming against what he felt was the biggest threat. He is a master, after all, so we owe him the benefit of the doubt.

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Still, it's pretty hard to justify passing a Cone of Flame. What do you think? Did Stark make the right pick here? Or did we see the pro make a mistake on camera? What would you have chosen?

11 thoughts on “A Controversial Draft Pick at the PT

  1. I really do not see that pick as controversial at all when drafting with good drafters. In this pack the red was incredibly strong, with every card being playable. If he goes red in this he has a good chance of fighting for it and depending on how the dominoes fall being the poorer red deck. By taking white he has a good chance of cutting since its its the only decent card plus its a powerful card in its own right. Good drafters focus on being in the open colors except in bad formats like Avacyn, his pick gives him the best chance of that.

    1. Fighting with the drafter to your left is not a fight. You control 2/3 of his or her picks. Take the best card and quit worrying about what the person to your left does.

      1. I would agree with that if I am drafting at a typical fnm. I have tried this strat with bad drafters and did horrible. However when I do it with good drafters, it makes for better decks. When drafting with skilled drafters their is a lot more strategy involved in picks. Cutting a color as he did is a common strategy among experienced drafters. Influencing and recognizing probable card selection of those at your table is important.

  2. Without knowledge of the pick he made I analysed the pack and took the same card.

    I’m not a pro but i have a decent winrate online (won 3 of my 5 releasedrafts) so from my point of view this pick certainly is defendable.

    No one will say Cone isn’t an amazing card, but getting 4 1/1 flyers will very often win you the game. And cone will only be able to remove 3 of them :).

  3. ok you can see i have been away for 2 weeks, i took triplicate spirits for the card from VMA… and with that head i won 3 of my 5 release drafts rofl

    But after that, i would still pick it first over Cone because it’s more of a game ending card.

  4. I’m taking the Cone of Flame and taking my chances, fact is Cone of Flame wins games alone, spirits does not. I do understand that you may get into a fight for red after that maybe, but keep in mind for the rest of pack 1 you are getting the packs before the person you just passed to does besides the pack he/she opened so you may be able to cut red off enough that you are not in a fight with them in pack 2.

  5. Both Cone of Flames and Triplicate Spirits are justifiable picks. Red is by far the best color with white being a close 2nd. That part is basically non-negiotable. The trick is, everyone at the PT knows Red is the best so the chances of it being heavily drafted and White being open some what make the pick fine.

    Also, taking the Cone does put you in a place where you will have to fight the rest of the draft, if not from your immediate neighbor, than 1 down once they take the Dragon.

    Spirits also wins games on it own, it is pretty absurd, especially getting one 1st over all and the chance to pick up more later on.

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