The Canadian nationals began early this Friday morning. The previous day's meatgrinders added another 16 players to the pool of people competing for the national championship. Both the tournament manager Jeff Donais and the head judge Mike Donais came into Toronto yesterday, and so the Canadian nationals '99 began.
There are a number of early favorites to make the prestigious top 8 this year. These include returning team members Terry Tsang, Nick Chen, and last years champion Peter Radonjic. One team member Ryan Kirk, was unavailable to attend this year. Other picks include previous years' team members such as Edward Ito, Gab Tsang, Gary Krakower, and Shawn Davies. Also showing their faces were pro-tour regulars like Ryan Fuller, Jeff Fung, Gary Wise, and Matt Vienneau.
Along with the favorites, there are a few dark horses that some players are predicting to make a good showing at this tournament. The most popular choice by the players was the always-colorful Mark Zajdner, if he remembers to come to all the days this year. Other picks included one-time junior competitor Steve Wolfman, and other local favorites like Jurgen Han, and Javed Mirza.
Three of the better-known players were almost disqualified from Nationals. Wise, Radonjic, and Fung all showed up minutes before the draft was about to begin without them. Gary claims that his alarm didn't wake him, but the smart money is on there having been a sustained stop at the restaurant Midway on the way to nationals. Gary, who isn't wearing shoes due to his haste this morning, is hoping to become Canada's first barefoot champion.
The first day of the Canadian Nationals is comprised of two rochester drafts, with three rounds of swiss to follow each one. Some of the "name" players were a bit concerned about what they saw as a fairly random draft format. As the ever popular Gary Wise put it, "rochester draft isn't about opening good cards, it's about politics". Unfortunately, politics don't always come naturally to all Canadians. Players like Gary Krakower, and Ryan Fuller are fearful of random and hate drafting on the parts of the less experienced players. "I'm prepared for some creative drafting" said Krakower, while all Fuller had to say was that he feared sitting next to three-color drafters.
Some of the competitors had problems preparing for this format due to a lack of players in their area. The Maritime champion Trevor Otterson was only able to do one practice draft because there was simply no one to practice against. When compared to the dozens of drafts that most of the Toronto regulars did, it seems to make the playing field skewed in the favour of the competitors who live in the more populated areas.
One of the most interesting tables for the first draft had Gab Tsang seated next to Ryan Fuller as the #8 and 1 seeds. The table looked like this:
The first packs picks were:
These picks deserve some analysis. Ryan declares that he wants to be the blue mage with his pick over the usually better Sanctum Custodian. Mal perhaps believing Ryan would try to go Blue / White picks the symbiosis to try and avoid conflicting colors with Ryan. Dennis and David make the proper picks, and were followed by Wayne who practically shouts "I'm playing Red"!! by taking Fire Ants over much better cards. After Cory grabs the armour, Gab tells Ryan that he better not use that drake for anything other than cycling by taking two solid blue cards.
Mal starts by grabbing the best card in the pack instead of sticking with his colors. Dennis sticks with his color while David takes the Fort instead of cutting of black. This backfires when Wayne takes the Skirge which bodes to cause trouble for the two of them. Javed ignores Waynes previous Fire ants pick by taking the falter. Cory takes another green card, and Gab and Ryan just get some red creatures.
This round Dennis keeps up his solid drafting with another white card. David follows with the broken Vile Requiem to go in his black deck. Wayne grabs the heat ray, and Javed follows by taking a Winding Wurm and declaring that he doesn't care what colors the people next to him are playing. The rest of the players stick to their previous colors.
Lacking any black cards, David begins by drafting the very underrated Endoskeleton. Wayne takes "Disco Stu" and Javed continues his descent into green. Then Cory noticing nobody is playing whit within spitting distance on his right decides to go with the pacifism. Gab takes the Pet and the rest of the round ends unspectacularly.
Most of the players at this point have chosen their colours. Of course some players are making some interesting picks but that is to be expected in the first round of drafting.
Here is a more in-depth look at Gab's and Ryan's drafts:
|1.||Veiled Serpent||Pendrell Drake|
|2.||Heat Ray||Seasoned Marshall|
|5.||Imaginary Pet||Skittering Skirge|
|6.||Pendrell Flux||Unworthy Dead|
|7.||Viashino Outrider||Goblin Raider|
|10.||Remote Isle||ROP Black|
|14.||Destructive Urge||Serra Zealot|
|15.||Remote Isle||Venemous Fangs|
After the first round of packs, Gab has a few solid picks but for the most part just a pile of unspectacular blue and red cards. Ryan on the other hand has a couple of amazing black picks but both are much better in heavy black decks and he doesn't have very many good black cards.
|1.||Viashino Bay||Opal Champion|
|3.||Ghitu Slinger||Phyrexian Reclamation|
|4.||Viashino Bay||Giant Cockaroach|
|7.||Jhoira's Toolbox||Yavimaya Granger|
|8.||Snap||Fog of Nats|
|10.||Lava Axe||Iron Will|
|13.||About Face||Hope and Glory|
|14.||Frantic Search||Blessed Reversal|
Gab was very disapointed after the Legacy pack. Despite being in a position to get almost all the red cards and a good portion of the blue, the packs contain nearly no cards of these colours and he ends up with very little. Ryan on the other hand solidified himself in white and this pack was remeniscant of Visions packs of old as Ryan ended with nearly 12 playable cards from this pack.
|1.||Field Surgeon||Slinking Skirge|
|2.||Field Surgeon||Skittering Horror|
|4.||Sigil of Sleep||Festering Wound|
|5.||Sigil of Sleep||Disease Carrier|
|6.||Aura Thief||Chime of Night|
|7.||Brass Secretary||Phyrexian Monitor|
|8.||Rescue||Chime of Night|
|10.||Gobling Mason||Caplashan Knight|
|11.||Mental Discipline||Scent of Jasmine|
|13.||Wild Colos||Thran Dynamo|
|15.||Fend Off||Sowing Salt|
Gab ends the draft by killing two Field Surgeons from Fuller. Ryan also makes some interesting picks when he passes two Slinking Skirges for the fourth and fifth picks listed above. Ryan does get the amazing Eradicate though and will have some interesting tricks with Chimes of Night.
The other six decks highlights are:
Mal: Symbiosis, 2 Gangs of Elk, Western Paladin, Defense of the Heart, and Foddor Cannon. Dennis: Vigilant Drake, Treachery, Mother of Ruins, Sanctum custodian, and 2 Thornwinds David: Order of Yawgmoth, Vile Requiem, Beast of Burden Wayne: Expunge, Bone Shredder, Cinder Seer, Nightshade Seer, Phyrexian Reclamation Javed: 2 Symbiosis, Cinder Seer, Landslide, Ghitu Slinger Cory: Master Healer, Field Surgeon, Sanctum Custodian, 2 Simian Grunts, Gank of Elk
The favourites to go 3-0 in this draft are, Wayne with his deck of extremely broken cards, and Dennis who probably has the best deck at the table with his very solid white blue deck. Dennis got himself in an excellent position with nobody drafting either white or blue anywhere near him.
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