by Kim Eikefet
Team Draften und Spielen came to 2000 Team Pro Tour New York with what they considered to be realistic expectations - their goal was to make top 20. "We playtested with probably one of the best teams in the world, the Juggernauts, and we kept losing all the time. They were just better than us," Patrick Mello (24) says. But when Dirk Baberowski overslept, they got a bye against no other team than the Juggernauts, and after the good start of the day, Patrick, Stephan Valkyser (35) and Christian Lührs (24) went all the way to make top 4.
Draften und Spielen was formed back in April when the Team Pro Tour in New York was announced. Stephan Valkyser, who played with Janosch Kühn and Peer Kröger in Washington DC, was afraid that the three of them wouldn't have enough points to get a slot, so instead, he approached Patrick and Christian as they were guaranteed to have enough points. In the end, Stephan would have had enough points with his old team as well, but naturally he didn't regret playing with his two new teammates.
Before Worlds, Gary Wise was in Germany to playtest. "He was always carrying a booster box with drafts sets that he tossed around. 'Stop playing constructed, let's play and draft!' he said, and play and draft is draften und spielen in German. So that's the history of our team name," Stephan explains.
Now, the team has shown both the world and themselves that they can both draft and play. "We proved ourselves in the drafts. Maybe we're not so bad, compared to Kai and Dirk we are, but not compared to the others," Valkyser thinks.
Mello is the least experienced player of the three. He has played in four previous Pro Tour events, and his best results are so far are finishing second in the Worlds team draft and making top 8 in Grand Prix Madrid. Valkyser is the veteran. He has now been to ten Pro Tours, and he also won Grand Prix Antwerpen. Lührs has the best results though. He finished third in 1999 Pro Tour Chicago and he also finished sixth in 1999 Pro Tour New York. "I'm proud to be playing with them," Patrick admits, but the others quickly add that Mello won a lot of tough matches and that he definitely contributed to the team's good result.
The only weakness of the team is that they haven't been able to playtest a lot. Since they live so far apart, the only chances they had to actually play together were Euros and Worlds. "Sometimes we have different opinions, and then there's confusion. But that might be a strength. The draft where we argued the most was one of our best," Mello says.
Draften und Spielen's strategy was pretty easy though. Their first choice was reacting to their opponents if they made early colour commitments. But if that doesn't happen, they don't want to play the waiting game. "Then we go into our own colours, and we have two variants of that," Stephan explains, not revealing more before the final four. Draften und Spielen expects Potato Nation to win though, and Stephan is pessimistic: he expects his own team to come in fourth.
"I'm an amateur. Magic is a hobby, I work full time as a mathematician, and I play Magic every Tuesday evening," he smiles. "This tournament was going to be my last one," Lührs grins. "I was thinking about quitting Magic, and now I'm qualified for the next two Masters Series!" Stephan, the hobby player is also qualified for two Masters Series and might just have to take Magic a bit more seriously. And finally, the top 4 finish might juts have put Mello on the gravy train. Still, the three of them don't know if they will play together again. "That's one year ahead. We can't tell."
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