Here's the scene as the players were drafting for a spot on Sunday: on one side of the table was Danny Mandel, Peter Guevin, and the inimitable Tom Guevin. They were gesturing frenetically during every pack. They were debating hyper-kinetically on every pick. Some of it was just for effect – Tom is one of the few players who will attempt to mislead his opponents by signaling toward cards he doesn't actually want – but most of it was genuine debates. On the other sat the Germans, stoical and almost-bored. When it was their turn to pick they barely even had to point, they just knew what to pick. They are supremely confident, and they deserve to be since they have never lost a Team Rochester match. Ever. 13-0. When Tom Guevin heard this stat he took a deep breath and then dove into his backpack ... "Better take another swig of Gatorade, then." He also handed Nutra-grain bars to his teammates in mock preparation, or maybe it was just to annoy the crowd. Pete Guevin wolfed his down and then they were ready to take on the juggernaut.
Things got interesting right away with Tom opened up Balshan Griffin, Dreamwinder, Psychatog, Kirtar's Desire, Twigwalker, Ember Beast, and Flame Burst. They knew that Budde always goes blue so Tom Guevin actually took the Dreamwinder first. Peter then took the big toothy 'Tog. Baberowski (in the black seat) took Kirtar's Desire, which was particularly interesting since Blume wound up drafting Ember Beast over Flame Burst and thus the Flame Burst got passed over to the opposition. Budde took the Twigwalker, passing on Balshan Griffin. So after Phoenix Foundation was done with the pack, Mandel was staring at some pretty saucy cards: Balshan Griffin and Flame Burst. Of course, he was in the black seat so he probably wouldn't be able to play them both.
In the second pack Pete Guevin, with a Psychatog already in his pile, busted open an Upheaval – holy constructed decks, Batman! The Germans sucked down Dirty Wererat, Puppeteer, and Patrol Hound and then Mandel, not Tom Guevin, took the Elephant Ambush. Tom preferred to take Second Thoughts and Acceptable Losses against Budde. He quite rapidly (and animatedly) gestured to his teammates that he wanted to draft red-white. It must be so exhausting to be Tom Guevin.
Mandel wound up ignoring both the gifts he received in the first pack and drafted black-green. Tom Guevin also wound up ignoring his first pick and he drafted red-white. Peter Guevin did play his first-pick Psychatog, but it was the only black card in his blue-green deck. Thus Attack Time chose blue as the color they would double up on and they doubled up on the ends.
The Germans played their usual alignment: Blue as red-white, Budde was blue-green, and Baberowski was black-red. Kai had his usual share of horrified looks when his opponents made draft choices he disagreed with. His disbelieving "what?" look is a classic, and he trotted it out quite often during this draft while gladly taking 12th pick Circular Logic or making sure Baberowski knew to consider giving up on white and shifting into red for 13th pick Barbarian Outcast (he did).
After the draft when the teams were building their decks I first watched Attack Time. The Guevins spent a lot of energy psyching each other up, chanting "We can do this, we can do this" and pumping their fists. They decided that Pete's deck had so many late-game bombs – like Upheaval and Wonder – that he just had to stay alive early and he should be able to win his match. Thus all they needed was either Tom or Danny to find some way to win. Both seemed to think they were underdogs, but in between bouncing off the walls they studied every possible deck configuration, searching for some way to derail the Kai-train.
When I went to talk to the Germans they were registering their decks in silence. I asked Kai how he thought the draft went and he just flashed me a very confident thumbs-up. Dirk expressed annoyance that Mandel had gotten a Treacherous Vampire out of the very last pack, but he still seemed calm, cool, and collected.
Boston-based Attack Time has the home crowd feeding off their energy and rooting them on loudly, but it's hard to imagine them actually handing the Phoenix Foundation it's first loss ever.