Without a doubt the question I heard the most between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning was "How did the kid do?" "The kid" is Cole Swannack, who won the New Zealand national championship at the ripe old age of 12. He's since turned 13 and he did quite well on day 1, thank you very much. Swannack put up 5 wins against just one loss and even took down Gary Wise in a feature match. Thursday morning Swannack sat down to draft at table 3 with Zvi Mowshowitz on his left and Cormac Smythe on his right. Smythe is a member of the team competition leading Irish national team, a team Swannack's New Zealanders are just 8 points behind (in 7th).
I talked to Zvi about his draft strategy before they began and, as always, Zvi knew exactly what he wanted to do: "Blue is broken and most of the pros are worried about it being overdrafted, so I think there'll be plenty of it to draft." Zvi elaborated that he liked to draft it with either white or black. "The little kid that could is on my left ... he probably doesn't like blue since he's a little kid and he played an aggro deck yesterday so I'll definitely be forcing blue. That's "the rule" for this format."
Swannack's first pack was awful. He wound up drafting Liquid Fire (over Embolden and Crypt Creeper, which really were the next best cards). Zvi first picked Repel over Kirtar's Desire and then followed up with that Embolden. Things started to get interesting in Swannack's next pack: Elephant Ambush, Second Thoughts, and Divine Sacrament stared back at him. He took the Ambush and set Zvi up with the white cards.
I talked to a number of players about their draft strategy for this format and they all agreed that white was good, but it was more or less out of your hands whether you got it or not. If you ever get passed a third pack with Mystic Zealot still in it then you're golden – switch into white and reap the rewards for the rest of Odyssey and all of Judgment. That's pretty much what happened to Zvi in this draft. He got his choice of Second Thoughts or Divine Sacrament third (he took the Second Thoughts, which surprised me, but that's not the real point here) and then he got passed a Zealot fifth. For the rest of the draft he was cruising on autopilot. The blue he was planning to force didn't really come, but that didn't matter since he was busy sucking down good white cards. In Judgment he got hooked up to the tune of Commander Eesha and then got passed Glory third. He did wind up blue, mostly of the strength of a Hydromorph Gull that he took second in Torment.
Swannack's draft was a bit more complicated, but he seemed to draft quite intelligently. He drafted Twigwalker (over Krosan Avenger) and Krosan Avenger (over Nantuko Mentor) while he noted that there were still reasonable red cards left in the packs too. He soon started sucking up the red cards and when he got passed 7th pick Dwarven Strike Force his colors were set. In Torment Swannack opened up Fiery Temper and then got passed Violent Eruption followed by an additional Fiery Temper. A 5th pick Sonic Seizure rounded out a fine set of removal spells and now it was time to turn his attention to his creature set.
The Achilles Heel of Swannack's deck is that he was never able to get any good 2-drops. It wasn't his fault, there simply weren't ever any for him to draft. He took a couple of Liberated Dwarves just to make sure he could do something early (especially if he needed a guy to put his Elephant Guide onto) and that was the best he could do. All in all he seemed to draft intelligently (even counterdrafting a Mirror Wall from Zvi when there was nothing in the pack he could use) and he was definitely in the right colors for his seat.
I think we're going to be hearing the question "How'd the kid do?" for quite some time to come ...
Worlds 2002 (Booster Draft): Green/Red
Worlds 2002 (Booster Draft): White/Blue