(Metagame Archive) Draft 1 Coverage: Josh Wiitanen

By Olav Rokne

Las Vegas native Josh Wiitanen, hot off his success at $10K San Francisco, came through Day 1 of Pro Circuit Atlanta with a 7–3 record. He is looking to build on that and add another Top 8 performance to his list of achievements.

“Chances are good—I need eight wins; seven-and-two might do it if I get lucky on the tie-breaks.”

Wiitanen is seated in the fifth place on table four.

“That’s the fan club,” he says, gesturing at me reporting and taking notes. Wiitanen knows the field—he can easily rattle off the names of every player at his table, can tell you their team affiliations, and can work out the strengths and weaknesses of each. He’s facing Roy St. Clair, Jonathan Brown, William Postlethwait, Di Shi, Pat Coyle, Loren Nolen, and Quang Nguyen.

“I like this table—I don’t have anyone from the top teams. They don’t know about the strategy I’m going to try and push.”

First pack, first card he sees is Psycho-Pirate—a Secret Society 8-drop that he picks over Gorilla City and All Too Easy.

“This guy is the nuts,” he says later. “I think it would have been greedy to pass him up and see if he would come around the table for the ninth pick.”

Wiitanen’s team—which includes such luminaries as Adam Prosak, Dave Spears, Doug Tice, and Nick Little—has worked out that since there are only four decent attack pumps in the set, a stall strategy is possibly the best.

“Everyone thinks this format ends on turn 7, so we’re aiming to win on 8,” he says. “I would have passed it for Sinister Citadel, or a Glass Jaw, or a good attack pump, or a Balance of Power—but Psycho-Pirate is the best 8-drop in the set.”

As his second card, Wiitanen is passed a Gorilla Grodd. It’s a card that would be a first pick for many players, and one that in many ways has defined this Draft format up until now. He takes it over the only Lex Luthor, Nefarious Philanthropist he’ll see all draft.

“If someone drafts the Injustice Gang deck, that could be a tough match for me,” he says. He proceeds to take an Aquaman, Arthur Curry over Booster Gold, Quadromobile, Criminal Mastermind, and Captain Boomerang, “Digger”.

“The low-drops are just there for defense. I’m not planning to do a lot of attacking early on, just conservative attacks,” he says.

He targets Crystal Frost ◊ Killer Frost, Cold-Hearted Killer as his next card, for her high DEF value and her ally ability, choosing her over the popular Slaughter Swamp.

“Crystal Frost’s DEF is awesome; they need a pump to get through her,” he says, noting that that’s one fewer of the scarce cards that he’ll have to face on turn 7.

By this time it’s clear that no one else at the table is going for the same strategy. He’s seen three 8-drops passed to him. As his sixth card, he chooses a second copy of Aquaman, Arthur Curry over an Amazo and a Copperhead.

“The set has only four decent attack pumps, so the point of this deck is to make your opponent’s attacks harder,” he says. “Drafting a deck like this is tricky, but they should never have the double offensive pump to get through your defensive pump.”

The last cards in the pack include Funky Flashman, Membership Drive, Plastic Man, Identity Crisis, and Amazo—who gets passed to him as a last pick. He’s doing well for rares so far.

“Amazo is just about the best thing I could get as a last pick—if I have it, then it means that one fewer opponent has an 8-drop,” he says. He’s feeling good about the draft so far.

His second pack offers him a Divided We Fall and an Air Strike in an otherwise unimpressive pack—he opts for the Air Strike, because if nothing else, it’s one fewer pump for his defensive deck to face later.

But he gets passed an über-pack—Gorilla City, The Joker, Headline Stealer, All Too Easy—and Wiitanen passes them all over for Hector Hammond, Mind Over Matter. The third pick yields him a Faith, which he takes over Disband the League and Tomorrow Woman. It’s a choice that he says comes down to defense value.

“For the 2-drop, all I’m looking for is something that will survive and won’t let through too much breakthrough,” he says.

His next pack makes him choose between Hector Hammond and Poison Ivy—but Wiitanen prefers brains to beauty and goes with the super-futuristic mind.

“My preferred 4-drop is John Stewart, Emerald Architect,” he says. “But I haven’t seen any yet.”

He’s in luck with the next pack—but he passes it up for an Ultra-Humanite. He seems tempted by Superman, Avatar of Peace, but decides that no one wants to mess with the monkey. The rest of the second pack yields him Red Tornado, Elongated Man, Guy Gardner, Egomaniac, and the Divided We Fall, which makes it back around. He later decides to cut the Divided We Fall—but maintains it’s a solid card.

“It’s better than they give it credit for. It’s good for a double stun,” he says. “But I don’t want to attack directly. I just want to make conservative attacks and survive.”

By the final pack, Wiitanen has plugged in his iPod—he’s bobbing his head to the beat, which is a little disconcerting. He opens a pack with Gorilla City, Scarecrow, Psycho Psychologist—and picks up another Killer Frost over anything else. The second pick yields him a much-needed Wall of Will, which he takes over a Field of Honor. He later notes that he needs the Field of Honor and hopes that it will come back around. There’s another copy of All Too Easy—if anyone is playing Injustice Gang, they’re going to have a field day.

“Field of Honor is really good if you can get it out for turn 7,” he says. “With Guy Gardner in play and Hal Jordan in front, they’re not going to be able to stun anyone on their first attack—they can’t play attack-pump, and almost no one can get through that formation.” As a third pick, Wiitanen scores himself another Hector Hammond—he’s got a lot of options for powering up this game. The rest of the pack is unimpressive—a Faith and an Ocean Master are all that might hold interest. As a fourth pick, he gets a Reform the League, which he takes mainly to keep it out of the hands of any JLA players.

“I thought that someone would be playing JLA—and that’s about the best card for them,” he says. “It shouldn’t have made it that far on the table. I don’t know if they’ve been doing enough draft preparation.”

It’s his eighth card that really raises eyebrows though—a Sinister Citadel, which Wiitanen calls the first card to draft in the set. The ability to sack characters before Grodd can take them, combined with the ability to move counters around—it’s a card that has everything. Wiitanen is perplexed that everyone at the table had passed it up before it got to him.

“That’s the zeroth pick,” he exclaims. “I’ve windmill-picked this card so many times—to me it counts as a defensive pump.”

Two cards later he’s rewarded for waiting—the Field of Honor is his. The last card in the pack? Another 8-cost character, Starro the Conqueror.

“This is simply the best deck I’ve ever drafted,” Wiitanen beams. “If ever there was a 3–0 deck, this is it.”

He’s got a monopoly on 8-cost characters, with Amazo, Starro, Psycho-Pirate, and Dr. Fate in his hand—and if he can make it to that turn, he’ll be golden. But he did pass up four copies of All Too Easy along the way.

“I’ll be going for evens,” he says. “And hoping that no one drafted Injustice Gang.”

Josh Wiitanen’s First Draft

Characters
1 Psycho-Pirate, Roger Hayden
1 Ultra-Humanite, Evolutionary Antecedent
1 Guy Gardner, Egomaniac
1 Gorilla Grodd
1 Hal Jordan, Hard-Traveling Hero
1 Kanjar Ro
2 Crystal Frost ◊ Killer Frost
1 Poison Ivy, Kiss of Death
2 Hector Hammond, Mind Over Matter
1 Despero
1 Funky Flashman
1 Captain Boomerang, “Digger”
2 Red Tornado
3 Aquaman, Arthur Curry
1 Plastic Man, Eel O’Brian
1 Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny

Plot Twists
1 Funky’s Big Rat Code
1 Air Strike
1 Reform the League
1 Wall of Will

Locations
2 Slaughter Swamp
1 Sinister Citadel
1 Satellite HQ
1 Field of Honor

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