Preparing For The Event: My Plans For Pro Tour: Chicago

For most Limited tournaments in the past, the preparation has been just that: Limited. But Chicago is different from many of the major Limited tournaments I’ve participated in during my Magic career, because I have a very solid and defined plan. And I’m going to allow you guys to take a look at the terms of my complete and actual plan for Pro Tour: Chicago. We can argue about White another day – if it still sucks after Legions.

For most Limited tournaments in the past, the preparation has been just that: Limited.

Now don’t get me wrong; we’ve always done our fair share of drafts, and debating about the cards and all of that jazz. I’ve always felt I had a pretty good understanding for the format. But for Pro Tour: Chicago, all of these things are more set in stone.

I had Ferrett hold off posting this article until after the actual Pro Tour had begun for many obvious reasons. Most of these are all about the fact that the format is indeed Rochester draft, where if people know your plan they can easily screw you. By this, I mean if someone is feeding me in a draft, and they know there are certain colors or archetypes that I dislike or refuse to draft, it would certainly be in their best interest to put me in these archetypes. This would not only piss me off, but it would help their deck greatly by forcing cards on me that I really don’t have a taste for.

I’m sure you understand where I’m going here.

Regardless, Chicago is different from many of the major Limited tournaments I’ve participated in during my Magic career, because I have a very solid and defined plan. For every other tournament, there has been a good overall understanding of the cards and the ways to put them together in the most synergistic fashion, but after that you were pretty much just winging it. Basically letting the drafts flow and finding your niche from there.

Looking back on this, I believe it was a huge mistake on my part.

I have a very strong feeling in my gut that during some drafts at the last two Grand Prix that I made Top 8 in, I basically threw away the draft by not having an outlined plan. This may seem trivial, but in every draft that I look back on and get this feeling, there is indeed a repetitive occurrence: Plains.

Every time I have allowed myself to get forced into a White deck (this doesn’t happen all that often), I have lost simply because of the many problems that come with having Plains in your deck. Radical or not, the color has proven to be nothing more than a bad idea and waste of time nearly every draft I’ve ventured into it. I find this neither coincidental nor without explanation. The explanation is, in fact, very clear: White sucks!

Obviously there are plenty of you that disagree with me here, and I’m actually very happy about that. Somebody’s gotta draft the white cards right? I’m just glad it’s you and not me, because heaven forbid I see a draft with eight copies of me as players.

Anyway, the point here is to allow you guys on the inside in terms of my complete and actual plan for Pro Tour: Chicago, of which I feel very sure and confident about. We can argue about White another day – if it still sucks after Legions.

My plan is very simple, and follows a very direct set of rules:

Draft White Only In The Direst Of Circumstances.

Time and again I’ve found my dislike for this color, as I stated above. There is, in fact, only one card in the set which will give me an obligation to draft white in the early packs: Exalted Angel.

To properly illustrate just how serious I am about this, I have taken Sparksmith, Shock, and Solar Blast over many”bomb” white rares like Jareth, Leonine Titan, Akroma’s Vengeance, Glarecaster, Gustcloak Savior, Aven Brigadier, and I’m sure there are others. To be honest, I’m actually happy to pass a Jareth if there is one of the top three red commons in the pack for me to take over it. This gets the guy on my left in white and secures at least a few decent picks out of pack two.

The real issue here is not the power of cards like Jareth et al, but the fact that they have White mana symbols in their casting cost. All of the cards listed above are fine cards – and I will take them if my deck is either horrible, or they are the only good card in sight.

Exalted Angel is a different case, as it is completely ridiculous, and definitely worth the agony of picking white cards for the rest of the draft.

So what exactly is wrong with White anyway? All of the commons look solid don’t they? Well yes – the cards themselves all look like fine candidates for playable early picks, but something happens when you put a bunch of these cards together in an actual deck that makes them do next to zero. It’s very abstract and hard to explain… But basically the color has a very low overall power level and nothing exciting enough to draw anyone with this type of thought process into it.

Most of the cards you want for your white deck are creatures, with the only notable exceptions being Piety Charm and Pacifism. Be real here, people: Pacifism is never going to be actual”removal” no matter how hard it tries. It’s definitely better in this format than in formats with gating creatures or lots of bounce, but it still doesn’t cut the mustard.

I’ve read two different statements about White in general recently that intrigued me: The first was about how people aren’t appreciating Pacifism, because they still have horrid memories of bounce and especially gating creatures ruining the day for their creature enchantments. This is partially true, but also not the entire reason. Pacifism is also inept at dealing with all of the utility monsters that exist in Onslaught – creatures like Wellwisher, Sparksmith, and Lavamancer’s Skilled guys.

I feel like a broken record repeating that statement so many times, but I guess I have to do so until people start to understand.

The second was that White is bad because it lacks a marquee common. This statement I very much agree with, as all of the other colors have one or more commons that will drive you into them. Of course, Red is the biggest offender here with four or more. This and the facts above are the best explanation I can give for why I dislike the color White and find it to be awful in all of my experience. I’m sure there’s much more to it than that, but it’s very hard to get it down on paper and much easier to just call a gut feeling.

Know The Archetypes You’re Looking For And Willing To Draft.

For me, this is the most ironed out part of the plan. For months, my number one deck has remained the same, giving me only outstanding results, and no visible reasons to look for a new top deck. The second and third decks I’m looking for have also been in their slots, although they have flipped as of recently in order to make my plan more fluent and adaptive.


My love for this deck is well documented through my articles – and I have hinted at this overall plan without directly coming out and saying it in all of those. If you don’t know why this is the best deck in the format, you’ve got some reading to do, son.

During a draft I look for any and every opportunity to jump into this deck, at times taking something like Sea’s Claim over a playable white or black card just for signaling purposes. Most of the time I am successful at forcing it, but then again, there are times when it is completely out of the question due to the picks of the person feeding me. At that point, we audible into…


This spot was most recently occupied by the Black/Green deck, which switched places due to some realizations on my part.

Most importantly, taking red cards early allows the door to be opened for you to either be this deck or Blue/Red, both of which I’ve found a great like for. This alone gives the strategy the most fluidity and ability to adapt. If the blue cards come, then so be it.


This deck has also been a favorite for quite some time, due to having the most synergy a deck can have without being blue red. The combination of Nantuko Husk and Symbiotic Elf is very potent, and all of the other cards mesh well together.

I’ve already written more detailed information about these archetypes in an article for The Sideboard a couple weeks ago, so feel free to check that out if you’re not getting the whole picture here.

After these come the more obscure archetypes that I will draft, such as Monoblack with a splash or some three-color deck that splashes either skill or wizards with morph to put the skills on. Obviously there are others, but the big three and these are the initial. These are my goal color combinations, and it takes quite a bit for me to stray from them, as I expressed earlier.

Have Thoroughly Ironed-Out Pick Orders, And Know When To Take What.

This is important from archetype to archetype, as you can understand, and me and Ken Krouner have been doing a serious of articles on this particular topic. More to come on these, though it is indeed an important component of doing everything correctly.

The main plan here is of course to avoid white, and draft one of the three decktypes I listed above. I feel very strongly about the accuracy of this plan, and prepare to use it almost religiously at the Pro Tour. Wish me luck!

Nick Eisel

Team CMU

[email protected]

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