A table full of Magic's stars sat down late Friday night—after many of them had played seven rounds of Extended in the Pro Tour—to booster draft Onslaught. Whichever of them manages to go 3-0 will walk away with $25,000.
Eric Froehlich (USA)
Anton Jonsson (Sweden)
Jens Thoren (Sweden)
Gary Wise (Canada)
Jelger Wiegersma (Netherlands)
Raphael Levy (France)
Alex Shvartsman (USA)
Eivind Nitter (Norway)
Froehlich was the beneficiary of a good rare in his first pack: Hystrodon. From there he went green and never looked back. Jonsson, on the other hand, chose Barkhide Mauler first from a mediocre set of options. He followed it up with a Nantuko Husk, looking black/green.
Froehlich knew from earlier discussions with Jonsson that the Husk was his favorite card in the set. It is a superb creature in black/green, especially because of its synergy with Symbiotic Elf. So Froehlich knew he could get Jonsson to go black with the Husk, and he'd be keeping green to himself. So it was a natural assumption that Jonsson would drift into black/white from there.
Jonsson took a Treespring Lorian third, but thereafter got the hint and got out of green. Daru Lancer, Inspirit, and Convalescent Care were signals that white was underdrafted, so that's what he took.
Froehlich was straight green with only a Battering Craghorn for red, but it was evident that he had his sights on that as his second color. But when he opened his first pack going the other way, he chose Tribal Unity over Pinpoint Avalanche. ("It's a better turn-5 spell," he said later, "I could either kill their creature with the Avalanche, or I could attack into it and kill it and do extra damage with Tribal Unity.")
After that, everyone settled into his colors and the draft went really smoothly. That's what happens when you get eight professionals together; they can all read signals, don't counter-draft, and let things ride.
There were a couple interesting picks. Froehlich took a Symbiotic Elf over a Tranquil Thicket late in pack two. The Elf didn't end up in his deck; it normally doesn't go in green/red since it is just a four-mana 2/2. But Eric was afraid of a green/black drafter, specifically Jelger, getting it and wrecking him with it. Plus, he could have played it in a pinch.
Jonsson took a Boneknitter over a Gustcloak Harrier around pick 35. He later said he wasn't sure it was right, but all he had to that point was three-drops. The Boneknitter is a Cleric, so it has decent synergy with many of his other cards.
Jonsson also took a Barren Moor over a second Profane Prayers at the very end of the draft, even though he basically has a Cleric deck. That goes to show how much the Pros love cycling lands, plus Jonsson said that cards that rely on creatures being in play, like the Prayers and Unified Strike, are simply not very good.
After the draft, the clear winners looked to be Thoren, Wise, and Shvartsman. Thoren had the amazing luck of having all the rares in his packs be both red and amazing; he first-picked Starstorm, Menacing Ogre, and Butcher Orgg. He was also passed a Tephraderm that Froehlich took Slice and Dice over.
Wise was the only blue drafted at the table, which is much easier to accomplish in booster draft than in Rochester. There was just the right amount of blue cards in the card pool—enough to make his deck great, but not so many that someone got suspicious that it was underdrafted and switched into it. Wise ended up with two Mistform Shriekers, Blatant Thievery, two Meddles, and a Clone, among other goodies.
Shvartsman was passed Silvos, Rogue Elemental and Gigapede near the end of the draft, and he has a monopoly on the common red removal spells.
Eric Froehlich G/R
Anton Jonsson W/B
Jens Thoren R/B
Gary Wise U/W
Jelger Wiegersma R/G
Raphael Levy B/W
Alex Shvartsman G/R
Eivind Nitter B/R
There were five red mages, and most of them have great card quality. Red is the consensus best color in the format, but it was probably disproportionately over represented here. The two best red decks—Thoren and Shvartsman—will meet in the Semifinals, and I expect the winner of that match to face Wise in the finals.