Draft 2: Sam Lau
1998 Singapore National Champion reaffirmed his place in Asian tournament scene by winning Grand Prix Singapore last December. However, he still has to prove himself on foreign soil. Lau was seeded seventh in this draft pod - a reasonable seat, though not as good as seats three through six according to experts.
With two players to his right picking Obsidian Acolyte and Wash Out in the first pack, Lau saw his way clear to ease into black-red by picking a Shivan Emissary. The player in Seat #8 wheeled Recoil and Rogue Kavu, leaving Lau with Firescreamer as his only viable pick - pretty reasonable for tenth pick. Lau picked up a Hooded Kavu in the second pack, but did not get a useful second pick in his colors this time around. He picked up a Sunscape Apprentice as the best card remaining in the pack and also a pick that would not upset his immediate neighbors to the right.
Picks seemed to be rolling along nicely over the next few packs. Lau picked up another Shivan Zombie, then a Smoldering Tar. In the fifth pack, he strayed from the path by entering a third color and picking a Probe over a third Shivan Zombie. While Probe is a more powerful card, Shivan Zombie is nothing to sneeze at, and no black-red deck can claim that three is too many. On the other hand, dedicating to the third round in the first set of packs can be dangerous when drafting with Apocalypse. It seems that keeping your options opened as long as possible is the strategy that works out best.
In the following pack Lau was once again faced with an interesting choice. The cards available in his colors were Callous Giant, Ancient Kavu, and Plague Spitter. Lau chose to draft Plague Spitter. It is difficult to tell whether he made the best decision. I and the other Sideboard reporters think so, but a case could be made for either of the other two cards. Strangely enough - the most powerful of the three cards is probably the worst pick. It is too difficult to splash a double-red card, and better options may be available at six mana.
Lau finally got to open a pack - and it was a major disappointment. The only viable black-red card was a Zap. After some deliberation, Lau chose to draft Faerie Squadron. It is certainly more powerful, but Lau would make his mana weaker once again, by dedicating heavily to all three of his colors. Lau was a bit unlucky in the draft. There were no cards opened that make black and red so good - there were virtually no direct damage spells, zero Exotic Curses and only a single Agonizing Demise.
In Planeshift, the player to Lau's right somehow decided that he was a red mage all of a sudden. He picked a Thunderscape Battlemage, surprising Lau and most other players at the draft table. Lau grabbed Waterspout Elemental, dedicating very heavily to blue at this point. His second pack offered a choice between Nightscape Battlemage, Caldera Kavu and Crosis' Charm. Deep into all three colors, Lau drafted arguably the best card - the Charm. His next pack was the "wheel" - where he is to draft 8th and 9th cards in a row. That pack was extremely kind to Lau, letting him pick up Nightscape Familiar and Phyrexian Bloodstock, still passing Slay.
The rest of Planeshift yielded a few solid cards for Lau's deck. He picked up a Cavern Harpy, Thunderscape Battlemage, and Slingshot Goblin. He did not get his hands on any Terminates or Magma Bursts though. Several were opened in the draft, but none passed. The player to his right, who switched into red at the beginning of the pack, had hurt Lau tremendously, picking up a pair of Magma Bursts along the way.
The first half of Apocalypse was pretty average. Lau picked up a Kavu Glider, Dodecapod, Tundra Kavu and an Urborg Uprising. Throughout these packs, Lau hardly had to think very much about his picks. Things got significantly better toward the end of the draft. He drafted a third-pick Illuminate and was passed another Illuminate - with a pick like that he could hardly be upset over his left-hand neighbor counterdrafting Prophetic Bolt. Lau rounded up the draft with Living Airship and another Kavu Glider.
Lau felt that he drafted a 1-2 deck, though he is hardly to blame. The right cards weren't opened at the right place, else his deck could have been much better. As is, it seems Lau is almost as likely to go 2-1 as 1-2.