Draft 2: The Top Table

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This is table one. The finest players in the world. These 8, above all others, have not only survived, but thrived in the rigours of GPLA to put themselves in position for top 8 glory. Names like Zvi Mowshowitz, Bob Maher, Brian Hegstad…these men have fought and won the Pro Tour wars, but on this day, one unknown man, Robert Bayardo, would control their fates.

Reactions are mixed when you ask pros if they’d like to sit behind experienced or inexperienced drafters. On the one hand, the inexperienced Rochesterer will pass superior cards while potentially hate drafting a little too much. On the other, the experienced drafter, while a greater threat for defeat, will stick to their colors and stay as friendly as possible. As it happened, the two amateurs at the table were seated side by side:

Seat 1 - Allan Sun
Seat 2 - Robert Bayardo
Seat 3 - Zvi Mowshowitz
Seat 4 - Bob Maher
Seat 5 - Antonio De Rosa
Seat 6 - Brian Hegstad
Seat 7 - Phil Freneau
Seat 8 - Nick Eisel

Of note before the draft began was the seating arrangement, notably in seats six and seven, where Freneau and Hegstad are not only teammates, but roommates. One had to expect extreme co-operation from the two of them.

Pack one started off innocently enough. Sun, in seat one, took the rare bomb in Hystrodon, passing the next pick to Bayardo, at which point any semblance of order ceased to be a part of the draft. Bayardo, a 20-year old factory worker from just outside LA, was faced with a choice of Dive Bomber, Skirk Commando and Ascending Aven, so when he was ordered to draft, those around him had to be a little surprised at his choice of Battering Craghorn, a far inferior card to the like-colored Skirk.

Mowshowitz had been prepared, for any of the above three picks, figuring he’d take the Skirk if the inexperienced Bayardo took the Bomber and vice versa, but when Robert took the Craghorn, Zvi froze for a second, taking the Skirk Commando that best complimented his red-green ‘rule’. The result was the drafting of a mediocre deck by Mowshowitz, and the decimation of Maher behind him.

Zvi’s logic was that as Bayardo obviously had no understanding of card values, Zvi would still be able to get the cards he wanted, and he was therefore willing to fight for his preferred colors. If Zvi had instead taken Dive Bomber behind respective green and red players, he’d be in a great position to draft white-black, leaving Maher the Commando with which he could draft red-blue or red-green, potentially leaving the two a combined 5-1. They’ll be lucky to 3-3 this draft.

With Zvi taking the Commando, Bob took the Aven, hoping to corner the blue market. De Rosa was left the Dive Bomber, with Hegstad getting Skittish Valesk and Freneau a late Dirge of Dread. Eisel grabbed Mistform Wall in the 8th seat, and then grabbed Threaten, signaling his intention to go red-blue.

Now it was Bayardo’s turn to open, and he didn’t disappoint, opening a Shock to compliment his red pick from the first pack, so of course he took Treespring Lorian, disregarding every rule of draft in existence. Mowshowitz, pleased with himself for recognizing his neighbor’s inadequacies, nabbed the Shock, leaving Future Sight to solidify Maher as THE blue drafter at the table. De Rosa grabbed Screeching Buzzard over Gravel Slinger, which went two picks later to Freneau after Hegstad had taken Lavamancer's Skill. Eisel grabbed Apheto Dredging and Sun Disciple of Malice.

Pack three saw Zvi make the Pacifism pick that put him outside Bayardo’s green, leaving Maher with a less than optimal Imagecrafter and De Rosa Glory Seeker. Aside from white, this pack’s card were not winners, as Hegstad’s fourth pick Symbiotic Elf showed before Freneau picked up Astral Slide. Eisel took Essence Fracture and Sun Anurid Murkdiver before Bayardo picked Misform Mask, putting looks of extreme confusion and extreme frustration on the faces of Mowshowitz and Maher respectively.

Pack four continued Maher’s woes as the Houston top 8 finisher was forced to pick Cabal Executioner with his first pick, finally signaling his second color. He shipped Antonio Skittish Valesk, leaving Spitting Gourna third for Hegstad, whose deck appeared to be coming together nicely. Freneau picked up Barren Moor, leaving Eisel Charging Slateback before Sun grabbed Krosan Colossus and Bayardo, who thus far was entrenched in red and green with a little blue, picked Fallen Cleric.

De Rosa’s pack contained Solar Slast for the big Italian, leaving Wirewood Savage for Hegstad and Pacifism for Freneau. The draftig on this side of the table was co-operative as expected, and it was paying dividends as both hegstad and Freneau’s decks were coming together nicely. Eisel was forced to settle for Lonely Sandbar while Sun got a late Primal Boost, with bayardo getting his favored Spurred Wolverine and Mowshowitz a very late Weathered Wayfarer that Freneau could have taken to compliment the Astral Slide. Maher grabbed Shepherd of Rot and Slipstream Eel on the wheel.

Hegstad’s next pack saw him open one of the draft’s best cards, Slice & Dice, fitting in nicely with his deck. Freneau grabbed another Pacifism and Eisel Goblin Machinist, leaving Sun Snarling Undorak, with Bayardo picking Goblin Sledder much to Zvi’s chagrin. Mowshowitz grabbed Grassland Crusader as his alternate, leaving Maher Mistform Stalker.

Pack seven saw Freneau make a concerted effort at being the Cleric mage, picking Profane Prayers over Glory Seeker. Eisel picked Solar Blast, leaving Sun Boneknitter before Bayardo picked up Nosy Goblin and Zvi the aforementioned Glory Seeker. Maher grabbed Lonely Sandbar and De Rosa Daru Healer before Hegstad got a very late Elvish Warrior.

The final pack of the first set saw Eisel pick Pinpoint Avalanche, Sun the first of three Swats and Robert Goblin Taskmaster leading up to Zvi’s gift of a pick in Improvised Armor. Maher grabbed Frightshroud Courier and De Rosa Battlfield Medic, leaving Hegstad a VERY late Barkhide Mauler, especially considering the power level of the pack.

At the end of pack one, the decks looked like so:

Sun - A very solid black-green lacking in synergy
Bayardo - red, green and a bunch of other non-descript cards.
Zvi - white-red
Maher - black-blue
De Rosa - white-red
Hegstad - a very strong red-green deck
Freneau - white-black clerics
Eisel - blue-red

A fen notes on the last sixteen packs:

Pack 9 - Eisel opens Sparksmith
Pack 10 - Zvi gets a very late Wellwisher. This combined with a second next pack would signal his switch from red to green
Pack 11 - Antonio gets Whipcorder
Pack 13 - Bob first picks Screaming Seahawk over Meddle
Pack 14 - Zvi Gets Venomous Brackus, clinching him in green.
Pack 15 - Bayardo raredrafts Oversold Cemetary, leaving Nantuko Husk for Sun and Lightning Rift for Eisel
Pack 16 - Sun opens Gigapede
Pack 17 - Mowshowitz gets 3rd pick Jareth, Hegstad 6th pick Wirewood Savage
Pack 18 - Bayardo picks Thunder of Hooves over Sparksmith, which goes to De Rosa. Maher gets Future Sight #2
Pack 19 - Bayardo takes Elvish Pioneer over Thunder of Hooves, Maher picks Riptide Biologist over potential splash card Lavamancer's Skill
Pack 23 - Freneau’s Cleric deck opens Rotlung Reanimator but he takes Prowling Pangolin. Eisel hates the Reanimator, leaving Swat for Sun and eventually, nothing from this black heavy pack for Maher.

Look for a strong showing from Hegstad and Eisel. After that, it’s a crapshoot.

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