The old-timers took a real beating on Friday with Jon Finkel, Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz, Scott Johns, and Matt Vienneau all falling off the gravy train. However, the game moves on and there's a whole host of up and coming stars clamoring for the spotlight. One of those rising stars is Eric Froehlich. He's put up a 6-1 day 1 record at each of the last three Pro Tours – an impressively consistent performance that could give him his second Top 8 and his fifth big money finish of the past year and a half. He sat down at table 2 for the first draft of day 2 with L.A. player Gary Talim (making his Pro Tour debut) feeding him and Gabriel Nassif (aka "yellow hat") sitting on his left.
Froehlich debated between Aven Windreader and Afflict in his first pack and settled on the Windreader. That worked out pretty well for him because Talim had the legendary Looter versus Mongrel decision and went with Mongrel, shipping Froehlich a second-pick Cephalid Looter. Despite having an easy second pick, Froehlich didn't pick right away, instead taking the time to study the pack and figure out what the players on his left would probably take (Mystic Zealot, Patriarch's Desire, and Morbid Hunger) and what he could expect to get back. Pack 3 brought more good news as he got to take Repel over Syncopate and know that the blue would continue to flow in from his right.
Pack four was pretty interesting – it had Cabal Pit, Gravedigger, and Psionic Gift. I took this pack as evidence that black wasn't being drafted very heavily on his right, which is the direction that would be passing to him in Torment, but Froehlich took the Psionic Gift, preferring to keep his options open as long as possible. The next pack still had both Dusk Imp and Whispering Shade and now it was time for Froehlich to go into black, with the Imp followed immediately by a Crypt Creeper and a Last Rites.
The bad news for Froehlich was that Gabriel Nassif (on his left) had opened a Cephalid Looter and then started drafting the black that Froehlich was passing him. Froehlich opened another Looter in his second Odyssey pack, but after that he spent four packs slumping his shoulders in disappointment as Nassif failed to pass him a single good blue or black card. Innocent Blood was the best blue or black card in pack #3 so he grabbed an Aven Flock. Dematerialize was his best option in pack 4 so he went with Aven Cloudchaser just in case. He took Crypt Creeper fifth and then "just in case" happened as he was passed Hallowed Healers in pack 6 and in pack 7. A Gallantry rounded out his second pack and he went into Torment with the makings of a decent blue-white deck, but he didn't have enough cards and the one color he knew he would get passed in Torment was black.
His first Torment pack was pretty weak, with Hydromorph Guardian as the best blue or white card. He took Sickening Dreams, trusting in his position. The next pack had Nantuko Shade, Cabal Torturer, Waste Away, and Deep Analysis. He took the rare Shade. Skywing Aven was an easy third pick, as was Cabal Torturer fourth. After drafting a Mesmeric Fiend and a Cephalid Sage, Froehlich couldn't resist the allure of a 7th pick Pardic Collaborator (the 3rd one he had seen). After all, the pack didn't having any useful cards in his other three colors (Ichorid and Shade's Form were the highlights) and if no one else was red-black then maybe he would get another one. Three packs later that's exactly what happened.
I talked to Eric as he was walking toward the deck-building area and he shook his head in disappointment. "Not good ..." I asked him if he was planning to splash the white or the red and he said "I may have to play both! I just don't understand this game ... I went 3-0 with my last deck even though it was terrible. I could go 0-4 or I could go 4-0." He shrugged and eventually built blue-black plus the two Collaborators. His card quality is outstanding, but all he could do was complain about coming up a few cards short. (He wound up with his last few cards being an 18th land, a Liquify, and two Words of Wisdoms.)
With two Looters and a bunch of other good cards, I expect him to do just fine. His lamentations sound like the complaints of someone who is on top of his game, but didn't have everything come together perfectly. He did a lot of things right in that draft, including some really subtle things (like taking that Psionic Gift plus a late Skycloud Egg in case he wound up blue-white and especially the last minute red splash for Pardic Collaborators). There are lots of players on Tour who can win when things go right, but the true talents are the guys who can put up good finishes and take home decent chunks of prize money event after event after event. The really good Magic players can win even when things don't go just the way they want them to go. Eric Froehlich appears to be one of those guys.