- Bram Snepvangers
- Ben Rubin
- Craig Krempels
- Alex Werner
- Chris Benafel
- Jonas Gardelin
- Bill Stead
- Brian Kibler
Despite having a very successful Magic career since he dedicated himself more to the game after finishing with wrestling, Brian Kibler has only had one Pro Tour Top 8. That occurred right here in Chicago back in 2000, where he rode Armadillo Cloaked Riths to Sunday. Today he has another opportunity to revisit the Top 8 stage instead of doing commentary. However, in order to do it, he has to 3-0 a table with plenty of good players.
Snepvangers opened the first pack and took Skirk Commando. Dirge of Dread went to Rubin, Mistform Wall to Krempels, Dive Bomber to Werner, Battering Craghorn to Benafel, Crowd Favorites to Gardelin, Stead took Crown of Ascension to signal blue and Kibler wheeled Daru Cavalier and Circle of Solace. When the second pack came around Snepvangers went stronger into red on Kibler's left, and on his right Bill Stead was doing everything he could to force blue-red. Kibler got a 7th pick Shepard of Rot, showing his intention to go white-black. The other two white drafters were Garnelin at two seats away, and Werner at four seats away. Once the packs went in the other direction, Kibler would be able to clean up in white.
Still, he didn't need to wait that long to get quality picks. In pack three Daunting Defender came 6th, and Secluded Steppe bounced back for a late gift. He also got Screeching Buzzard and Righteous Cause when the fourth pack went around. Pacifism gave Kibler a solid removal spell, and the same pack provided a 13th pick Grassland Crusader. At this point Werner and Gardelin were not only white, but white-black just like Kibler.
As Kibler started to get earlier picks his card quality improved, with a third pick Nantuko Husk, along with a second pick Pacifism that brought Sandskin all the way back for a 15th pick. Gustcloak Skirmisher and Cruel Revival made the deck even better, along with a pair of Catapult Squads. The most interesting point in the draft occurred when Werner opened a pack that wasn't spectacular for him, and first picked Aphetto Dredgings. As the pack came around Kibler provided minimal interference, and Benafel got an insane wheel of Barkhide Mauler and Wirewood Savage. The next pack gave Kibler a key card, as Catapult Master provided a very solid late game strategy. Snepveangers opened a pack with tons of good red cards, including Pinpoint Avalanche, Sparksmith, Goblin Sharpshooter and Lavamancer's Skill. Snepvangers took the Sharpshooter, and the Sparksmith went around to Benafel 5th, which got a few laughs of disbelief from players and spectators.
There seemed to be a great deal of cooperation going on, as Kibler wheeled Profane Prayers and Brightstone Ritual, sending Elvish Warrior to his right. Shears hate drafted it from Benafel, who still got a very late Broodhatch Nantuko. The next few packs gave Kibler his second and third Grassland Crusaders, along with Crown of Suspicion. Werner opened Quicksilver Dragon but did not have a solid pick in white or black, so he hated it away from Stead. The Sparksmith in the same pack went to Benafel, giving him his second. In the following pack Benafel opened his third Sparksmith, which made his deck the clear frontrunner at the table. Kibler had to settle for Doubtless One and Demistify for his sideboard. Gardelin opened the next pack and took Cruel Revival, Slice and Dice went to Shears, and all that was left for Kibler was a solid, yet unspectacular Piety Charm as Mythic Proportions went to Snepvangers. Shears' pack provided him with a Goblin Sharpshooter of his own, making the number of efficient "Tims" at the table very high. Once again, not much was in Kibler's colors and he took a second pick Thrashing Mudspawn. The last pack of the draft was Kibler's to open and he kissed it before opening it up. Unfortunately, it didn't work, and the best available card was Daru Lancer.
Sideboard: How did it go?
Kibler: I think my deck is very good. Basically, going into the draft I knew the table would include myself, Rubin and Benafel. All of us are good friends, and pretty much all my picks were made with all three of our decks in mind. Primarily, I was trying to build my own deck, but I made a lot of picks that I may have done somewhat differently if they were just some random person and not Ben and Chris.
Sideboard: Like what for example?
Kibler: For example, the wheel of Wirewood Savage and Barkhide Mauler that I essentially just gave to Chris. I took cards that were irrelevant that I wouldn't play in my deck. I think I took Elvish Guidance and Brightstone Ritual or something ridiculous. I don't remember exactly what it was. I took completely irrelevant cards just to give him that wheel, and the same thing with the Sparksmith I just sent to him. Like I took a Fallen Cleric that will likely make my deck. If he were someone else, given that the Fallen Cleric probably isn't the power level of card that I would be very excited to have in my deck, I probably would have cut the Sparkmith or at least the Lavamancer's Skill. If I cut the Lavamancer's Skill, then Bill Stead gets Sparksmith and Chris gets nothing, but as it was I just took a card for my own deck and made sure the Sparksmith got through to Chris. Although, Ben did call that "irresponsible"- passing the Sparksmith through and taking Fallen Cleric. He was like "what were you doing?"
Sideboard: And what was your response?
Kibler: Oh, my response was that I was drafting basically me, Ben and Chris against the rest of the table. We didn't have any agreements going in, but we pretty much had the understanding that we were drafting for at least one of us to make Top 8. So, we were drafting to make at least one of our decks 3-0. Benafel's deck is very, very, very good. I haven't seen many better decks in this format. I think my deck is also very good, but it's not on par with triple Sparksmith and the rest of the gas he has.
Sideboard: I'm hoping you have some sort of split with Benafel, because otherwise...
Kibler: We actually didn't have anything pre-arranged, but I don't imagine that I will be disappointed if he happens to 3-0 partly due to my drafting.
Sideboard: You were going to force white from the start, right?
Kibler: Actualy I wasn't. I very often draft white, I probably draft white more than any other color in the format. My last draft I actually drafted black-green. My decks yesterday were white-red and then white-black. I'm a big fan of white. Generally, white ends up being rather underdrafted because often people don't really think the white cards are...I talked about this in my "Ask the Pros" question with Pacifism over Sparksmith, I mean Sparksmith is obviously the better card, but Pacifism is relatively comparable not in terms of power level, but just in terms of it's a very, very, very powerful card that often gets overlooked because it's not as flashy as Sparksmith or Solar Blast. It gives you incredible temporal advantage. I mean, "Eliminate your best creature, attack you." It's hard to knock that.
Sideboard: What ended up happening was that you had two other white drafters at the table, and both of them were white-black like you. When the packs went towards them, they'd cut you off, and when they went the other way there wasn't anything good opened for you.
Kibler: It was pretty frustrating when I had a three person window in my left for white, and I got some good cards out of it like a Catapult Squad and a Pacifism, but it wasn't the depth you'd expect.
Sideboard: There's a debate going around this weekend that Rochester draft isn't very skill intensive and it's a lot like Sealed. People like Zvi are saying players get put in specific seats, and they dictate where the cards go. Do you think there's any merit to that argument? At your table there was a lot of cooperation, and you even got Sandskin fifteenth. I wouldn't expect that to happen.
Kibler: My side of the table was being extremely cooperative. There was some fighting going on, like between Bill Stead and the player on his right (Jonas Gardelin), but in general I think there's an inherent factor of almost unfairness in Rochester draft, just given the factor that one player starts the draft. The positioning is set in such a way that there obviously can be luck events that come up based on that seating. The same can be said of Booster draft in a lot of ways, given that this person will open this, and the same thing happens in different ways. But, I think the ability to position yourself appropriately given colors at the table and such, I think there's enough skill involved in that that I don't think the luck factor of the format is overwhelming. I mean look at table one right now. Table one is absolutely absurd, it's some of the best players in Magic history. I think there's good reason for that. I think Rochester is a very skill intensive format. I think Zvi is just upset that he didn't do well causing him to make irrational statements as usual.
Sideboard: Do you think the fact that you worked together and got the results you did says anything on this subject?
Kibler: We weren't specifically working together. We definitely cooperated very, very well, and actually given our positions at the table it was probably one of the best positions we could have had for that plan. People are generally very hesitant to hate draft next to their neighbors anyway. So the way it was, we could send cards two or three seats away, and people wouldn't pick them simply because they don't want to hate draft against their neighbor because they don't want to be hated back. This way I can send a card through to Ben, or send a card through to Chris that normally wouldn't get there, but because of the way we were spaced out it worked.
I wish I had a Magic Online sort by creature type button here. I have a lot of Soldiers.
Sideboard: What record do you need to make Top 8?
Kibler: I need to 3-0. We may be able to 2-0-1 depending on tiebreakers. With Chris' deck, if he doesn't somehow lose randomly, that could be very difficult. I think I have a pretty good shot. I wish I had more Daru Lancers. My three drop slot is actually really, really slim. I have four creatures I can play on turn three, but I also have two Catapult Squads. I have a lot at four (mana), and I'm definitely going to play eighteen land. I also have double Pacifism, so my early game obviously isn't bad. Ben had a look of absolute disgust when I took Piety Charm over hate drafting Mythic Proportions. Part of my reasoning was I can handle Mythic Proportions with Piety Charm, and also the card isn't that good against me because of double Pacifism and Cruel Revival. And, I really wanted the Piety Charm to be able to deal with Lavamancer's Skill. The Mythic Proportions went to Bram, and his deck looks pretty good too. Although, Bram and Ben were fighting for green next to each other, which was fantastic for Chris because he was the only green drafter on his entire side of the table. I don't know why Bill Stead stuck to blue-red. It seemed like a really poor choice for him to not go into green. I don't think blue is powerful enough to fight for. It wasn't so much that he was fighting for it because the other blue player was on the other side of the table, but he had a pretty clear green window. I guess it wasn't that clear but I obviously wasn't going to take green cards, and the player to his right wasn't going to either. The blue cards just aren't powerful enough to give up the ability to be a green drafter when there's already another blue mage.
Sideboard: Any matchups or cards you're afraid of?
Kibler: I'm afraid of Sparksmith! Given my deck, I have tons of two toughness creatures. Akroma's Vengeance is in one deck, and that could be pretty annoying. I don't have any Aphetto Dredgings which I would have liked to had picked up, but they just happened to be positioned in the wrong packs where I had other cards that I wanted to take.
Sideboard: Anything else?
Kibler: Yeah, Chris has Lightning Rift too. He actually didn't get that many cycling cards, and some of the players around him were hate drafting cycling lands, which I thought was fantastic. From my own selfish perspective I was very happy about that. Clearly I was trying to help Chris out from the beginning, but sometimes "All for me" has to kick in, because I do want to make Top 8.
Where were the Glory Seekers? I want my Glory Seekers!
Sideboard: Are you going to play all three Grassland Crusaders?
Kibler: I'm not sure if I'm going to play all three yet, I will probably end up playing two. I have double Catapult Squad, I have a total of eleven soldiers, three of those are Grassland Crusaders. That makes Catapult Master better. Daru Cavalier with Grassland Crusader is insane. I feel my deck is able to hold the early game well enough between Pacifism, Catapult Squad and just playing Cavaliers. I can establish a Grassland Crusader board and either eventually Catapult Master them out, Catapult Squad them out, or kill them with Grassland Crusadered creatures.
Note: Kibler ended up playing Chris Benafel in the first round of the pod, and got a match loss for forgetting to register a card. They played six games just for fun, and Benafel won all of them.