As four tables of eight sat down to draft they did so with the knowledge that they had to 3-0 in order to win one of four spots in tonight's Master Series—a spot that is worth at the very least $2,000.
Lately it seems that every major tournament prominently mentions the TOGIT/CMU connection. The spiritual leader of each half—Osyp Lebedowicz and Mike Turian—were sitting one seat apart. In between them sits TOGIT rising star Craig Krempals. Recently at Grand Prix Philly I watched Craig, Jon Sonne, and Patrick Sullivan cooperate to dominate a Rochester Draft table. I couldn't help wondering if they would they be similarly cooperative with $2,000 on the line.
Last night in the bar area, Bob Maher, Neil Reeves, and several members of the Sideboard staff were discussing the need to go 3-0 at the draft table in order to win. Not 2-1, not 2-0-1 but THREE wins and ZERO losses. Bob presented a hypothetical situation. You open your first pack and you have to choose between Sparksmith and Insurrection—which one would you take? Bob insisted that in a must-win-every-game situation there was no doubt that Insurrection was the correct choice. While Neil agreed with him others were more skeptical. In the end it was decided that it was unlikely that you would actually face that choice in that exact situation...
I intended to cover Osyp's draft but he took so much time agonizing over his first pick that I did not find out whether he took the Insurrection or the Sparksmith until deck construction. I found myself covering Mike Turian and Craig Krempals choices more closely instead.
Mike had his own decision to make during pack one as he kept flicking Infest and Solar Blast to the top of his pack. In the end he settled on the Solar Blast for reasons he would explain later. Meanwhile, Craig also took a red card and took a Sparksmith with his first pick. Osyp was downstream of both of them I did not know if he took a Sparksmith or the "I win" card.
Turian looked to go Green/Red and took a second pick Snaring Undorak over a nameless one that he briefly considered. Craig of course took the Infest
that Turian had shipped him. By the third pack Turian was already looking at a generous helping of Blue and White cards. He ended up testing the blue waters with a Riptide Entrancer
over Gustcloak Harrier
and other decent White commons. He had clearly decided to keep shipping the Black to Craig and Osyp and Craig happily snagged a Nameless One
and moved toward White with the Gustcloak Harrier
that Turian sent his way in the next pack.
Turian didn't hesitate when he found a fifth pick Doom Cannon waiting for him and continued sending Black cards down the pipe with Cabal Archon and Frightshroud Courier. The former ended up in Craig's stack of cards. In the next pack Mike was visibly surprised to find a Lavamancer's Skills looking for a home in his U/W deck.
By the end of the first pack Turian had a solid collection of U/W cards with a red splash to make up for the archetype's shortcoming—removal. Craig was black with a strong possibility of white as his second color. Red remained in the running although he had only a Sparksmith in that color.
There were no exciting black or white cards in Craig's second pack. He took a Solar Blast over Erratic Explosion and Lavamancer's Skills perhaps hoping to shift into red. Meanwhile, Turian took a Read the Runes over Daunting Defender in his first pack. Craig veered back toward white as his second color with a Battlefield Medic and Turian showed no fear about drafting three colors when he took the Erratic Explosion over his second Lavamancer's Skills shipping a Ravenous Baloth down to the line.
Craig struggled with a choice of Haunted Cadaver or Catapult Squad for his third pick while Turian definitively took a third pick Imagecrafter-a card he values highly. After a quick mental soldier count, Craig opted for the zombie.
Turian picked up Gravel Slinger, Mistform Dreamer, and another Riptide Entrancer (over another Lavamancer's Skills) and seemed pleased with his options and his choices as the draft progressed. Craig's picks were a little thinner and he began to toy with blue cards like Riptide Biologist and Imagecrafter but to be fair there weren't any better choices in the colors he had already staked out.
As the players put the thirtieth card on their stacks Craig was still looking to be B/W with a solid collection of Zombies and Clerics. He had double Profane Prayers and an Infest as his removal spells and he still had the option of splashing red for his Solar Blast and Sparksmith. Turian had a plan and was seeing it through. He remained U/W with some aggressive fliers, double Riptide Entrancer and a small handful of red removal.
Turian opened pack three and had to choose between Skirk Commando, Mistform Dreamer, and Gustcloak Sentinel. He chose the aggressive blue man after little deliberation. Craig had a harder time choosing between Gustcloak Savior, Nantuko Husk, and a handful of other good black spells. Turian took a second pick Daru Lancer while Craig ignored all the cards that Turian had considered in the previous pack for the game breaking Cover of Darkness.
The third pick offered little more than a Sandskin to Turian while Craig had the enviable task of choosing between a Cruel Revival and a Death Pulse—he took the Cruel Revival. It seemed like Turian was thinking about the rare drafting a Wooded Foothills but instead chose a Seaside Haven for his Bird/Mistform deck. Craig solidified his undead army with the frustrating Boneknitter.
Mike finished his third pack with his second Erratic Explosion
, another Screaming Seahawk
and a Riptide Biologist
as the only cards of note. Craig had a strong finish choosing multiple Severed Legion
s, a Shepherd of Rot
, and Feeding Frenzy
Before I went to discuss the draft with Craig and Turian I had to find out the answer to the burning question; Insurrection or Sparksmith? After much deliberation and nearly exceeding the allotted time limit for his pick, Osyp chose the board domination goblin over the "I win" card for his removal deep B/R monstrosity. After a quick peek a the deck lists I found out the Insurrection only made it one seat to Osyp's left and proudly resides as the centerpiece of Allan Shuldiner's W/R deck
"I tried to send strong signals but I messed up in the beginning," said Craig referring to his first pick Sparksmith sitting in his sideboard. "But it ended up going really well for me," Craig ended up with a solid selection of creatures including three Severed Legion. He backed it up with a powerful suite of removal spells including Cruel Revival, two Profane Prayers, Feeding Frenzy, and the board sweeping Infest.
I asked Turian how he thought the draft went, "I took Solar Blast over Infest first—mostly because I like red more than black. It was pretty obvious to me that the guy in front of me was playing red so that didn't work out as well as I hoped. But it's pretty good because it sets up a black wall. I'm pretty sure that Craig and Osyp were both black. I shipped soooo much black."
Turian ended up playing three colors and nineteen lands—three of them are Lonely Sandbars—but he feels very confident in his deck. I asked him if he thought it had enough gas to win him $2,000 and he replied, "I think it can win me $25,000!"