The past few months of speculation leading up to Worlds were focused primarily on the German team, and the Dutch team. Felix Schneiders and Mark Ziegner are two very capable players, and being lead by the best player in history doesn't hurt much either. If things work out the way many predicted, Kai Budde many find himself in a very familiar situation- playing on stage in front of cameras on Sunday. The only difference is that this time, national pride will be on the line in addition to the glory of personal achievement. So far this plan is right on track, with Germany on top of the standings as the day begins.
Argentina is only a point behind in second place, which certainly has to be a bit of a surprise. Make no mistake about it- Latin American Magic has arrived. With a boost from National Champion Diego Ostrovich's first seed Top 8 finish in the individual rounds, Argentina is looking to make a run for the finals as well. If all goes according to plan, Ostravich will pull double duty on Sunday, playing in the individual Top 8, and the Team Finals. With potential for that much money and prestige, this very well may be Ostrovich's week. However, that is just wishful thinking at the moment, as Argentina needs to get through a powerhouse German team led by The Juggernaut.
Gabriel Michelena in the "B" seat for Argentina opened the first pack of the draft, and took Krosan Avenger, followed by Gabriel Caligaris drafting Shelter. Mark Ziegner gladly took Ghastly Demise, since he was in the "A" seat, which generally drafts black to maximize Torment picks. Kai had to be happy with his first pick, which was Resilient Wanderer, while Felix Schneiders got Barbarian Lunatic. The logic behind the Argentinean team's decision is reasonable, because they wanted to save black for Ostrovich, who was in the "A" seat. However, by passing Wanderer and the Demise, they helped the Germans set up their own draft perfectly.
Caligaris opened the next pack and added to his Shelter with Embolden. Ziegner went straight into green taking Gorilla Titan, which is very good in green/black due to black's ability to drain away the graveyard. Budde drafted Ashen Firebeast (which was likely a counterdraft), while Schneiders stayed on target with Flame Burst. Ziegner opened the next pack, and it was a good one. His deck continued to get powerful cards, as he gladly picked up Beast Attack. Budde took Tiger, which was either a counterdraft, or an unlikely lean towards white/green. Schneiders took his first non-red card in Nantuko Disciple. Ostrovich took Afflict to cement himself in the typical red/black combination for his "A" seat, while Caligaris got another Embolden.
Budde opened the next pack, and drafted Hallowed Healer over Divine Sacrament. The pack then came to Schneiders, and Budde signaled for his teammate to take Firebolt. Schneiders responded by showing that he wanted Gorilla Titan instead, which seemed to be okay with Kai. This was an odd choice, since Firebolt is one of the best commons available in Odyssey, and most players would certainly take it over the Titan. Argentina reaped the benefits of these odd picks, as Ostrovich got the Firebolt, and Caligaris took the Sacrament. In the following pack Michelena leaned into blue to supplement his green with Psionic Gift, and Caligaris got another great white card in Nomad Decoy. A late Aven Flock found its way to Budde.
Ostrovich now opened his Odyssey booster, and took a first pick Last Rites. Michelena drafted Cephalid Looter, and Caligaris got a second Shelter. This left Schneiders with a great wheel of Krosan Archer and Nantuko Disciple. At this point in the draft, Schneiders was solid in red/green, Budde was white without a specific second color, and Ziegner was black/green. Ostrovich was locked into black/red, Michelena was essentially committed to blue/green, and Caligaris was white without a real second color.
It was now time for Torment, and the first pack was very kind to the Germans. Schneiders got Pardic Arsonist, Budde went solid into blue with Skywing Aven, and Ziegner gladly took another 4/4 trample creature in Arrogant Wurm. The next pack contained Possessed Centaur and Fiery Temper as potential picks for Schneiders. Budde signaled that he was scared to give the Argentineans the Centaur because it could be very good against Schneiders, but Felix responded by fanning his deck and showing his deck wasn't heavy in green creatures. This was good enough to convince Kai, and Schneiders took the Temper. Budde stayed on target with Compulsion, and Ziegner was very happy to add Faceless Butcher to his already impressive deck.
Budde then opened his pack, and took Major Teroh, which wouldn't be incredible against Michelena's green/blue deck, but it was still a solid 2/3 flier for four mana. Ziegner wanted to take Organ Grinder, possibly to combo with his Gorilla Titan, but Budde told him to draft Mesmeric Fiend instead. Caligaris got Strength of Isolation, Michelena took Acorn Harvest, and Ostrovich got both Sonic Seizure and the Organ Grinder. At this point, Caligaris was still really only one color- white. It seemed that he wanted to draft blue, but there wasn't enough of the color to go around.
Cornering yourself into a narrow set of options has potential to be horribly detrimental, and the next pack showed why. Ziegner took a second Butcher, and Caligaris took a second pick Teroh's Vanguard as he shook his head. He didn't want to commit to another color or leave the idea of drafting blue just yet, so he took a sub par card while Schneiders got Temporary Insanity and Budde took Waste Away. The next pack was a bit more kind, giving Caligaris the board dominating Hypochondria. Torment ended on a better note for Argentina, as Ostrovich picked up Mutilate. Still, when that same pack came around the table, Schneiders got Basking Rootwalla, Budde got Circular Logic to go with his Compulsion, and Ziegner got a second Mesmeric Fiend.
The first Judgment pack brought some very odd choices by the Argentineans. Michelena took Swelter, which was either a counterdraft or a third color splash. Caligaris, who still had no clear second color, took Vigilant Sentry, giving Masked Gorgon to Ziegner. The Gorgon is an absolute monster against a black/red deck such as Ostrovich's, and it may have been a huge error to let Ziegner get it. An alternative plan would have been to let Michelena counterdraft the Gorgon, while Caligaris took the Swelter and hoped to get a few more good late red cards for the white/red archetype such as Barbarian Bully and Ember Shot.
Caligaris opened the next pack, and Budde let out a laugh. It contained Genesis, but a ton of other great cards. The Genesis went to Caligaris, Budde drafted Shieldmage Advocate, and Schneiders took Arcane Teachings. There wasn't much left in the pack for the Argentineans, and when the pack came around Budde took Benevolent Bodyguard over Guided Strike and Prismatic Strands, which were both counterdrafted by his teammates. The next pack was great for the Germans, giving Budde Battle Screech and Schneiders Fledgling Dragon. Caligaris got the lion's share of white, taking Shieldmage Advocate and Battlewise Aven.
Budde opened the next pack, and made an interesting decision. Rather than giving Schneiders his second Arcane Teachings, he took it for himself as a splash in his blue/white deck, which is a common strategy. Schneiders was content to take Barbarian Bully instead. The next pack contained another Arcane Teachings, but once again Schneiders passed it by, this time in favor of Elephant Guide. The third Teachings in a row was opened by Ostrovich who gladly took it, while Caligaris simply got Suntail Hawk and Nantuko Monastery. It is interesting to note that Caligaris is splashing black in his deck so he can get Genesis with Buried Alive.
Sideboard: How do you guys feel it went?
Budde: I think it went pretty well for us. I don't think I could have lost except for the Elephant Guides I opened, and both of them (his teammates) should be winning their matchups. (Schneiders) is playing against blue/white, and his opponent doesn't really have anything. If (Schneiders) plays Krosan Archer, (Caligaris) can't win I think.
Ziegner: My opponent is playing a black/red deck. I don't know what creatures he has...
Budde: (laughs) Just Frightcrawlers and Pardic Lancers...
Ziegner: Frightcrawlers aren't very good against black decks. I don't think he has enough creatures.
Sideboard: I noticed that you guys opened Barbarian Bully and Arcane Teachings...obviously (Budde) you're splashing for it? Did Felix need another creature in the three slot?
Budde: I needed a powerful card, because my deck...there was no blue at the table. There were two blue drafters, and both of us have mediocre decks. (Schneiders) needed the three drop really badly.
Schneiders: It made the decision really easy, because I needed a three drop.
Budde: The Teachings is just really good in my deck because my opponent doesn't have much that can deal with it. There might be Dematerialize...
Schneiders: I think at that point I had an Elephant Guide and a Teachings already, and I needed a three casting cost drop. Otherwise I start playing creatures on turn four and that's too late.
Sideboard: Why take Hallowed Healer over Divine Sacrament?
Budde: I don't like Divine Sacrament all that much. Usually I end up with not enough white creatures, but in this case Divine Sacrament would have been insane. Hallowed Healer is also insane against green/blue. He has one way to deal with it, and otherwise he just dies.
Benevolent Bodyguard over Prismatic Strands and Guided Strike? Do you think it's just a better card?
Budde: I think it's just a better card.
Sideboard: You might have also been looking for Wormfang Drake but I don't think there were any...
Budde: There weren't any Wormfang Drakes at the table. There weren't really any blue cards. I think I got the only good blue cards at the table. (Michelena) has a Looter, and I think that's it. There was a Skywing Aven and a Compulsion, and the rest is Churning Eddy and stuff.
Sideboard: In one of the first packs you opened Firebolt and Gorilla Titan. Kai wanted Felix to take the Firebolt, but Felix wanted the Titan.
Schneiders: It would have been a better decision actually. I didn't know that I would get so many four casting cost creatures, so I don't really need the Titan anymore. It's still okay, but Firebolt would have been better I think.
Sideboard: What was your reasoning behind taking the Titan over Firebolt in the first place?
Schneiders: I don't know. I just thought 4/4 trample against blue/white is good.
Budde: We would have liked Felix to go green/blue. We didn't want to draft a green/red deck, but there were no blue cards at the table.
Sideboard: So usually you put him in the green/blue slot? That's the plan?
Budde: Usually I should be green/blue. I expect my opponent to be blue/white and he started off green, so when my opponent goes green I want to draft white. I want to put white on the left ("C" seat) because he gets the Judgment stuff. I don't want a white mirror match. Felix has all the tools to beat a white/blue deck.
Sideboard: Usually people put a black/red deck in the "A" seat. Is there a reason you went with green, or is that just how it worked out?
Budde: I don't want red at this seat. It's just a bad choice, because then in Judgment you don't get much stuff. The black cards are really nice with the cheap green Judgment creatures.
Sideboard: So that was the plan from the start.