Everybody's goal when they sit down for the first draft table is to go 4-0, but that does come with a drawback: you have to then sit down at the 4-0 table. There were 3 tables full of 4-0 players for the second draft at PT Chicago and the one I watched had some serious talent. Billy Jensen has long been considered one of the most talented duelists around and he had the 3-seat. He was feeding the original busty Dutch player: Bram Snepvangers. Sitting in the 5-seat was Chris Benafel. Once one of the most feared players on Tour, Benafel is still one of the game all-time leading money winners. He has had a rough year and needs a high finish at this event or he'll fall off the "gravy train." Sitting on the other side on Benafel was media darling Nick Eisel, who is both first and second in Limited on Magic Online.
The hits don't stop there – Gabriel Nassif busted out his famous lucky yellow hat again for this tournament and the hat got him into the 8 seat. Sitting on his right in the 1 seat was Craig Krempals, who is currently in first place in the Rookie of the Year race. Krempals got his points as a member of Team TOGIT at the Team PT and also by placing in the Top 8 of GP Philadelphia. Derek Bruneau and Rick Chong rounded out the table in the 2 and 7 seats respectively.
This draft was a stark contrast to the first one I covered because in this draft, no one fought and no one even switched colors. Everybody chose at least one color in the very first pack and then everyone eventually chose a second color that neither of their neighbors was drafting and then they pretty much just opened up the next 23 packs to see what everybody got. Some pros complain that Rochester draft can degenerate into this and things can get out of their control, but to my eye it looked like there was a lot more than that going on at this table.
Pack one started with Krempals drafting a Shock. Bruneau followed up with Aven Brigadier and then Jensen took an Erratic Explosion. Snepvangers took Wellwisher, Benafel took Essence Fracture, and Eisel took Shepherd of Rot. Riptide Biologist went 7th, to Chong, and then Nassif wheeled a couple of white cards: Secluded Steppe and Foothill Guide.
Pack two had some serious sauce in it: Bruneau busted open a Silent Specter for himself and went on to draft Black-White. Jensen was delighted to get passed a Sparksmith second and then Snepvangers took Cruel Revival third and drafted black-green the whole way. Benafel took Lavamancer's Skill fourth and stuck to his red-blue guns throughout, even though things didn't really work out all that well for him. Eisel took Treespring Lorian and signal that he would like to go black-green. He actually didn't take another green card for a really long time because the black just kept on coming, but in the end no around him was green and that's the color combination that got him his first four wins so he went with it. Chong saw that seats 1, 3, and 5 were red and he was in seat 7 so his Goblin machinist pick made a lot of sense. It also put him in the favored Blue-Red archetype, though that was a bit less exciting with another blue-red mage sitting in seat #5 already. Nassif continued to draft the white cards, taking Daru Lancer 7th and then Krempals played nice by declined to draft Piety Charm on the wheel. Krempals preferred to take an awful red card and an awful green card just so his neighbors would know what his plans were.
Krempals' neighbors (Nassif and Bruneau) both wound up black-white so Krempals got to draft all the red and green cards he wanted. Huey noticed that none of these three was blue and so he went into blue as his second color. That made for three blue-red mages at the table, but Huey had the best position for it (he was in seat 3 with the nearest competition 4 seats away whereas the others were in seats 5 and 7). In the end Huey wound up with three copies of the all important Lavamancer's Skill whereas Benafel and Chong got only one each.
I thought Krempals drafted the best deck at the table. He didn't do anything super-special, but he did communicate his color preferences really effectively during the second and third packs and he was very nice to his neighbors. He got rewarded by being passed packs with decisions for him like "Do you want your third Shock or a Centaur Glade?" He took the Shock and Eisel wound up getting the Glade 5th. When Krempals opened up pack 16 he got to take Kamahl over Wirewood Savage. Krempals' last pack had a Jareth for Bruneau and the second Lavamancer's Skill for Jensen and he had to "settle" for Wirewood Savage. Krempals even got passed a Krosan Tusker fourth in pack 22 and then got to choose between Wirewood Savage and Krosan Tusker in pack 23 (he took the Savage).
That pack 22 Tusker for Krempals was particularly interesting because of the decisions that happened earlier in the pack. Eisel had the third really good deck at the table (in my opinion). He didn't get the bombs that Jensen or Krempals got, but he always seemed to be drafted a quality card no matter how late in the pack he was selecting. He also stuck to his guns by turning his nose up and passing on all Elvish Warriors in favor of stuff like Festering Goblin – he was base black and he just doesn't believe in playing a double colored creature from his splash color. In pack 22, when Eisel got his third first pick, Eisel made a pick that not very many people could have made. His pick there was the kind of pick you can only make if you've drafted a hundred times and your confident that you understand exactly what matters in the format and in your deck. Eisel spent the full time studying his deck, flipping through his mana curve, and figuring out what he needed. Then he drafted Vitality Charm over that Krosan Tusker. Soooooo ... that's game boys.
All in all, everybody drafted well and the packs were deep and many of the players probably have more cards than they need. This should be a fun three rounds to watch ...