Discussing The Top 8 Decks
efore any of the competitors could square off in the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Amsterdam they first had to compete in the Rochester Draft arena. Things got off to a rousing start when Nicolai Herzog opened-top seed Kamiel Cornilissen nominated him for the 'honor'-and he was greeted by a Molder Slug. He naturally took the card. Most everyone agrees that it is one of the most powerful cards in this artifact themed format.
The next pack to be opened presented Anton Jonsson with a Platinum Angel and the bombs continued to rain down on the Top 8 for the remainder of the packs. Anton was singing in the rain as he was the most obvious beneficiary with Megatog and Pentavus also finding their way into his pile of cards.
There were two Crystal Shards, two Viridian Shaman-although there was no deck with one of each- Empyrial Plate, Mask of Memory, and a horde of Spikeshot Goblins. After the draft we spoke to each of the competitors to get their thoughts on the draft, their decks, and their chances.
Nicolai was pleased with his draft and was cautiously optimistic. "I think it is pretty good and that I will win-at least in the quarter-finals. It is funny I was thinking that I would open Molder Slug and when I actually did it felt very surreal."
Nicolai, who has yet to win a Pro Tour despite two previous Sunday appearances, was set to face off against Farid Mareghni who was trying to win his second Pro Tour in his second Top 8 appearance. "Farid has two Viridian Shamans which makes deck building more challenging-I have to try and minimize my artifacts for less powerful creatures." His opponent was probably thinking the same thing about Herzog's Molder Slug. After they were done drafting Farid mouthed, "Zo lucky".
As for what he was concerned with in Farid's deck besides the Shamans he mentioned Arrest and Soul Nova. Regarding the latter he explained, "I can play around it but it gives him a way to deal with Molder Slug if I am stupid enough."
Herzog prepared for this tournament by playing constantly on Magic Online and was surprised by the more aggressive draft strategies here this weekend. "Getting Myrs and Talismans was much harder than I expected. I was getting them as late as tenth and twelfth online.
While Mike Turian was the sentimental favorite to win this event the oddsmakers in the room were putting Anton on hoisting the trophy-and that was before he drafted Megatog and Pentavus. Anton was not as quick to make that claim, "Yeah I have one or two bombs… My deck seems okay but my opponent has a really good deck-at least against me anyway."
Anton was set to scuffle with first time Pro Tour competitor Aeo Paquette. Aeo was playing black-red and had a few bombs of his own including Grab the Reins. "the late game favors him with card drawing-Promise of Power and Serum Tank-although my bombs might just carry me. But he does have Shatter for my Pentavus and Bolt for my Platinum Angel. I could just try and Override him though."
Anton was not pleased to be drafting blue and had hoped to go black but a tentative dip into that color by Nicolai scared him off. "I don't want to lay blame but when Nicolai wheeled the Slith Bloodletter I felt I had to go into blue. Basically I had to fight for cards. I could have gone white but all of my early picks seemed to cost seven, which you don't want in white."
"It was bad for me to be in red because Nicolai obviously ended up being red," he paused to lay a Spikeshot and Megatog on the table. "It is funny because I was rewarded for doing the wrong thing with these-it was a rough draft."
Olivier was prepared to beat Mike Turian. "His deck seems better than mine-his removal is double Bolt, Shrapnel Blast, two Arrest and a Spikeshot. But I am playing a bunch of three toughness guys so he will need to go two for one with his Bolts. I have Razor Barrier in my deck just for his Arrests."
Olivier was not done hating Turian's deck yet, "He also has Blinding Beam and that is why I decided to play Roar of the Kha-it is also good for me with Vulshok Gauntlets. I think Mike's deck has a better chance of winning the Pro Tour-if he can beat me. I think I drafted so the match-up favors me. But my deck is not so good. In a regular draft pod I would be happy to go 2-1 with this one."
Kamiel was trying to assess his chances against Osamu Fujita's affinity blue-black deck. "I think overall my deck is better but he has some big cards-Skeleton Shard, Crystal Shard, and Mask of Memory. I have one for one removal for all of those so if I can draw it I should be fine."
Kamiel was dissatisfied with his color choice for the draft and claimed to be uncomfortable with the low count of Forests in his deck. "I wanted to go green but Olivier was green to my right. I did not do too much practice for this event although Rochester is my favorite format. I drafted green in all five drafts I did previously this weekend and I am comfortable with it."
Farid did not have much to offer regarding his deck. When asked about the quality of his deck he merely replied, "It is okay."
When asked if he liked his match-up: "No".
When asked for more specific concerns: "Molder Slug, Solemn Simulacrum Icy, red Spellbomb-all of it."
What would have improved his match-up: "Maybe if I had Molder Slug."
He did add as an afterthought, "If Olivier had not gone white my deck would have been better."
This was Aeo's first Pro Tour and he was not confident that his weekend was going to continue into the semi-finals. Despite having some extremely powerful spells he did feel that his creatures stacked up well against Anton Jonsson's monstrosity. "My deck ended up average at best. I needed more creatures-better creatures. All my guys are really weak-Elf replica, three Nim Lashers, and the worst is Bottle Gnomes. If I had some better creatures than those guys I would be in good shape with my powerful spells."
"His cards are like ten times better than mine. I have Bolt and Shattter for Platinum Angel and Pentavus. If I get to pull that off it could be a huge game swing."
Aeo ended up leaving one of his first picks-a Consume Spirit-in the board because he needed to beef up the Lashers with three off color artifact lands to bring his total to five. He did not feel he could equal the intense mana requirements of the new drain life. While he would have liked the draft top have gone better he felt he drafted well and whatever happened he would be look back on his first Pro Tour quite happily.
Mike did not want to keep hearing talk about his eminent retirement from Magic. That retirement will be enforced by DCI rule when he moves in with fiancée Rachel later this year. Rachel is becoming a programmer for Magic Online and as her immediate family he will not be able to compete in sanctioned events any longer. "I have a couple of more events left before then."
When asked how many Top 8's he might have left Mike did not miss a beat and stated with complete confidence, "Two."
As for the Top 8 at hand Mike was very happy with his deck. "It is very good. I have Spikeshot and multiple Bolts and Arrests plus a Shrapnel Blast. The creatures are a little weak but that should not be a problem."
When asked about living up to the expectations placed on him as the sentimental favorite to win, Mike was cautious, "I have to get through the first round. I was focused on Olivier-I know what colors the others are playing but I don't know how my deck matches up. If I beat Olivier I will get to see the other decklists and then I'll let you know."
As for the match-up with Olivier, "His big card is Plated Slagwurm. He is green-white and I can't imagine that he has anyway to deal with my Spikeshot Goblin. He does have good equipment and if he comes out of the gate with a Bonesplittered Den-Guard it could be a problem. Of course, I have Arrests, Shatter, Bolts, and Shrapnel Blast so I should be okay."
Osamu would have liked more Myr Enforcers to round out his blue-black affinity deck, "Three more!" he joked. He thought his deck was good but perhaps not the best example of the archetype. That was more a function of the cards that were opened than anything else and if nothing else Fujita was pleased with the level of cooperation he established with the players around him. His deck really wanted to be red but with a red player on either side of him that would have quickly turned into a blood bath. He turned to black early on and never looked back. He was criticized by observers for taking a Rustspore Ram over Terror in the waning packs, but his blue-black deck had no other way to cope with artifacts-even if all it can handle is equipment.