As the number two seed in this event (Mike Pustilnik, winner of the last Masters, is number one), Kai Budde has "earned" the right to sit on Peter Szigeti's left. Szigeti, known more for his mouth than his skills, managed to run the table in sealed and booster draft earlier in the day in the "grinder" event, and gets a minimum of $2000 for his efforts.
Szigeti and Shuldiner stick out from this table as the players with the least notable finishes. The other six all have ample accomplishments, from National Championships to PT wins and everything in between (not just Kai... the rest of them, too).
The Masters series has been unkind to Kai historically; aside from his Team win with Phoenix Foundation, he hasn't won nearly as many matches as he's lost. Then again, he has little to prove, and surely doesn't need the money. But that doesn't mean he won't be trying.
Green looked to be the color of choice for both PTR and Kai from the start. Szigeti took the monstrous Ravenous Baloth from his first pack and was looking for Beasts right away. Kai went the Elf route, selecting Elvish Warrior over Spitting Gourna first. Kai took a Treespring Lorian from PTR's pack, and then a second Warrior third. Szigeti also stuck to green, following up the Baloth with Elven Riders and his own Elvish Warrior. Both drafters took a pass on Pacifism, as white/green is not a great color combination.
With their fourth picks, Kai and Szigeti went in different directions. Kai took Choking Tethers with a shake of his head, and Szigeti took Gluttonous Zombie. The Zombie was taken over Skirk Commando with the hopes that Kai would go into red. Szigeti explained later that he shipped Kai the Pacifism in hopes that he would be white, and if Kai was white/red and Szigeti green/black, things would work out well. But the green cards led Kai astray.
Kai did take the Commando and abandoned blue and picked up some more Goblins over the course of the first set of boosters. Szigeti got a gift Tribal Unity 7th and was sticking to green/black.
The odd thing was that Nitter, to Szigeti's right, was drafting blue/green, meaning Kai was third in a line of green drafters. It was really difficult to discern that, however, based on the quality of the picks. The odd thing was that Nitter, to Szigeti's right, was drafting blue/green, meaning Kai was third in a line of green drafters. It was really difficult to discern that, however, based on the depth of the green in the first few packs.
The second set of packs worked out well for Kai: he took Shock first, then Wirewood Savage, and later a Primal Boost and a 6th-pick Snarling Uncork. Szigeti took Cruel Revival first, but had to take only black cards after that—Screeching Buzzard, Death Pulse, Festering Goblin—because Kai was taking all the green.
At one point Kai took a Tranquil Thicket over a Wooded Foothills even though the fetchland was in his colors. He later explained that you will always have enough playable cards in this format, so all you need to do is make sure you don't get mana screwed or mana flooded. To do so you should draft plenty of cycling lands so that you can afford to play 18 lands. Kai even said that he played 19 lands, five of which cycled, in a 40-card deck at a recent Grand Prix.
I heard several PT players joking last night that it's possible to gauge people's ability to draft by how many cycling lands they end up with—the more the better. (When asked how many cycling lands they would play in this format, Dave Humpherys answered 18, and Gary Wise said, "Why stop there? 20." Kai did go against this belief when he took a Heedless One over another Thicket with his 28th pick, claiming that if he could have gotten more Elves in pack three, the Avatar would have been good in his deck. As it was, he didn't even play it. He did end up with three Tranquil Thickets, but a fourth would have been nice.
Szigeti was passed a Graxiplon 15th in pack 2, which meant that blue was, not surprisingly, underdrafted.
Kai's first pack of the third set was a real dud. It contained Prowling Pangolin, Aven Soulgazer, and Silent Specter, but the best red or green card was Vitality Charm. He took the Charm. I asked him later about just taking the Specter and playing it as an off-color morph guy, to which he replied, "I never thought about taking the Specter. It isn't very good against my deck, so I just passed it."
Szigeti was back in the driver's seat in pack three, and took Severed Legion, Snarling Undorak, and Swat. When the fourth pack had nothing good, he stole a Pinpoint Avalanche from Kai as a pure hate draft. "I'm pretty sure I stuck it to Kai there," said Szigeti. Kai did manage to get his own Avalanche, and a Solar Blast, so all was not lost for the German.
Late gifts included a Severed Legion for Szigeti (8th), and a pair of Charging Slatebacks (6th and 7th) and a Searing Flesh (10th) for Kai.
When all was said and done, Kai seemed to end up with the best green deck of the three for some reason. He has good synergy and a nice curve. Szigeti's deck is pretty good, but is probably one removal card short.
But the truth is that, because there were so many green drafters in a row, neither of them will go 2-0. Similar shenanigans were going on across the table, where Dougherty, Shuldiner, and Wise were all drafting black/white next to each other. That means, almost by default, that Mello and Malherbaud will be the two players from this table to go 2-0.
Masters Top 32 Draft, Pod A
Top 32 Masters Draft, Pod A