The Draft Analyst: Kentaro Yamamoto, PT Hour of Devastation, Day 1

The pros’ methods for drafting Hour of Devastation have been revealed! Ryan Saxe analyzes Kentaro Yamamoto’s Day 1 draft, highlighting the tough decisions and might-have-beens!

With the first day of the Pro Tour behind us, some of the Limited secrets are out! Some quick information points that the pros have mentioned are:

  • The colors are fairly balanced.
  • Aggro, ramp, and control are viable. And splashing is easy.
  • This format rewards staying open to a high degree since so much is viable.
  • Deserts are important, and draft them highly.
  • While the colors are balanced, the best decks seem to be blue tempo (usually with red) or a green deck splashing a bunch of powerful cards.

While most teams do agree that everything is viable, they all have their preferences. It seems that a lot of teams really like the multicolor green decks. Let’s see what Kentaro Yamamoto drafted.

Pack 1, Pick 1

Pick options:

These are the best cards in the first pack. It’s a pretty easy Ominous Sphinx, but this pack overall is very good. I wanted to showcase this because of the Oasis Ritualist and Hour of Promise. I haven’t loved Hour of Promise so far, but if you have enough top-end and Deserts, the card does perform. Noting that one of these “five-color green” cards might come back could be important.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The picks so far:

Two good cards to start. Although I have gone down on Puncturing Blow, it’s still a fine removal spell. U/R is, in my opinion, the best archetype, so hopefully we can stay on-color, but I’m not attached. Remember that this format rewards staying open.

Pick options:

I’ll start by saying it’s really between Tenacious Hunter and Desert of the Fervent. Dauntless Aven is not worth going into another color for (and the worst color at that). Blur of Blades, while good, is replaceable, where the Desert doesn’t even take a spell slot.

Now, I’m pretty sure I would take the Desert here over Tenacious Hunter, but it’s an extremely close pick. A four-mana 4/4 with no text is good, and I think the Desert is better than that. Now, a 4/4 with vigilance and deathtouch is definitely better than the Desert, so I see merit in taking the card. The thing is, given the first two picks, I would rather take the Desert, as the -1/-1 counter upside is more relevant in B/G.

Kentaro Yamamoto took: the Tenacious Hunter. It’s possible that both of the green cards in Pack 1 may have helped lean this way, but I’m unsure. It is possible that his team is higher on Tenacious Hunter than I am, and he’s reading this as a signal.

Pack 1, Pick 4

Pick options:

I think the Oasis Ritualist is better than the Desert here if I’m taking a green card because of how irreplaceable the card is.

Eternal of Harsh Truths has been pretty great for me, and given that I really like blue as a color, I view this as a pretty big signal. Had Kentaro taken the Desert last pack, the Eternal is the easy pick. I’m still tempted to take the Eternal here and go either into U/G or U/R, depending on whatever is more open. I think that’s what I would take here, but again, I’ve been very high on the blue decks.

Kentaro Yamamoto took the Oasis Ritualist here. This signals to me that he really likes these multicolor green decks and prioritizes green cards highly. These decks are often almost mono-green and then splash whatever else they need. After this pick, I would expect Yamamoto to consider himself green and just see whatever other colors float to him.

Pack 1, Pick 7

Picks so far:

Pick options:

This is a crucial point in the draft. Traveler’s Amulet is an important card for these green decks, as it’s the only fixer that is consistent and does not take a spell slot. While Beneath the Sands and Manalith are cards that you’ll play, nobody else wants them.

Lethal Sting has not impressed me. The card is solid, but not first-pickable. That being said, I like taking it about fourth to fifth pick, so seventh pick is a pretty big signal that black is open. In general, the G/X deck usually has black or blue as the secondary color.

So while Traveler’s Amulet is very important, I would take the Lethal Sting to speculate on black. And Kentaro Yamamoto also did the same thing.

Pack 2, Pick 1

Picks after Pack 1:

Just as I expected, Yamamoto prioritized green cards and has a splash of a couple of other colors. Anything non-green is on the table, but he has no reason to prioritize any spells of another color. Essentially now we just take the best cards in each pack and fixing, ending up with an extremely powerful deck! Note that blue and red were not open, but black did feel open. That may influence decisions.

Also, remember that the Oasis Ritualist and Hour of Promise were taken from Yamamoto’s first pack.

Pick options:

I have had great experiences with Rhonas’s Last Stand in any deck. Sometimes you just win by casting it on turn 2, and hey, even when you don’t, it’s still a big body that impacts the battlefield. I would be extremely happy taking it here, but that’s not what Kentaro Yamamoto did.

After the Rhonas’s Last Stand, I would take either Desert, and likely the uncommon one. I really prioritize Deserts, and both of those are great for this deck. While I have liked the Hippo, there is plenty of top-end, and we already picked one up in Pack 1.

But Yamamoto took Rampaging Hippo. I don’t like this pick at all, but this may be something I’ve missed. I’ve perfected the blue tempo decks, but there’s a possibility this Hippo is better than I think. I’m willing to believe that some teams came to the conclusion that Rampaging Hippo is very important to the green-based decks. This is a really important data point that I took from this draft, and one you should note as well!

Pack 2, Pick 3

Pick options:

Yamamoto picked up a Rhonas’s Stalwart for curve previously. Now, this pick is pretty important, and I like what he did here. While the obvious pick is Oasis Ritualist, as the card is irreplaceable and helps ramp out into these Rampaging Hippos quite nicely, the pick is Desert’s Hold.

Even though there aren’t white cards in the pool yet, these decks often have multiple any-color sources, and splashable removal is premium. And the life-boost from the Desert’s Hold is often exactly enough to stabilize. With still enough of this pack to get another Ritualist, Manalith, Beneath the Sands, or Traveler’s Amulet, the mana in this deck should be fine. And don’t forget about Naga Vitalist, Gifts of Paradise, and Evolving Wilds in the last pack as well.

Pack 2, Pick 4

Pick options:

I like Rhonas’s Stalwart here for curve reasons. There are already so much top-end and good beaters that early plays that get in damage and scale well into the late-game are premium. But when I saw this pick, I really thought he was going to take the Hippo, given that he took it over Rhonas’s Last Stand.

Yamamoto took the disciplined pick for his curve, and essentially could’ve just had the Rhonas’s Last Stand instead. That pick at the beginning of this pack is the only pick I think was just wrong, but everybody has their reasons!

End of Pack 2

Here is what his deck looks like at the end of Pack 2:

Again, solidly in green, and can be any other color. Pack 3 was fairly smooth sailing, to the point that it isn’t really worth going over here. He opened Archfiend of Ifnir and got passed Hapatra, Vizier of Poison and multiple copies of Decimator Beetle.

There is one thing that I wanted to talk about regarding this draft. Near the end of the draft, Kentaro Yamamoto took an Honored Crop-Captain over Hooded Brawler. This pick was extremely surprising to me. Hate-drafting is relevant for in-pod-play (something us MTGO grinders forget about), but I only hate-draft cards that are amazing against me when I’m passing up on good cards for my deck. If I have seven one-toughness creatures, you bet I’m going to take that Blazing Volley over a medium-or-worse playable. But Hooded Brawler would be one of the better cards in Kentaro Yamamoto’s deck, and hate-drafting a solid two-drop feels odd.

Maybe he thought that it would be hard to beat the aggressive R/W deck if it really gets out of the gates, especially since there were multiple copies of Bloodlust Inciter opened. Or maybe he thought Jacob Wilson was in R/W and the Team Series influenced this pick. Overall, hate-drafting is a relevant aspect of drafting, but I disagree with the execution here.

Final Thoughts and Grade

Overall, I thought that Kentaro Yamamoto did a great job of drafting his seat. While I would have likely started off more of a U/R tempo deck, those colors really dried up and I would’ve ended up moving into green, likely ending up in a Temur midrange deck. It was brilliant to speculate on green with Tenacious Hunter, and discovering black was open from the right really paid off in Pack 3. Other than taking the Rampaging Hippo and hate-drafting the Honored Crop-Captain, I would give Yamamoto an A+ for drafting his seat. So I guess I’ll give him an A.

As far as his deck goes, it was quite good, although the curve could be a little tighter and maybe some more efficient removal. In general, the deck didn’t have any “stinkers” and I would be quite happy if I had drafted this at any premier-level event. It’s not in the highest tier of Draft decks, but it’s very good. I would give it an A-/B+.