By Randy Buehler
Onlooker Brian Hacker described table #32 of the first draft of the European Championships as "Germans of the past, present, and future." The reigning World Champion and Player of the Year - Kai Budde - sat down with John Ormerod on his left and Stephan Valkyser next on the left. All three of them are teammates on the European Alliance. Also drafting at the table were Berlin players Daniel Brickwell and Peer Kroger. They are teammates on Team Istari, sponsored by the German TCG magazine Kartefakt. While waiting for the draft to begin, the other three players at the table (from Spain, Iceland, and Turkey) looked terrified. Even the five Pro Tour regulars were a little scared - Valkyser commented that he has a 12- match winning streak in DCI Sanctioned Limited matches right now and "it's ending right here!"
The good news for Budde was that his first pack practically drafted itself - he took Primeval Shambler over Indentured Djinn, Blockade Runner, and Invigorate. The bad news was that John Ormerod, drafting on his left, first-picked a Snuff Out. Kai shook his head when he got his next pack. He wanted to cut off the supply of black cards to Ormerod and set himself up for Nemesis. However, his second pack contained Sever Soul, Vendetta, and Cateran Persuader (along with Panacea). He took the (single-black) Vendetta and passed Sever Soul down. Since Ormerod had first picked a Snuff Out, this was all the encouragement he needed to take black for the rest of the draft. There wasn't anything Budde could do about this, the packs just didn't cooperate with him.
Budde's third pick came down to Shock Troops, Tiger Claws, or Brawl. Budde went with Shock Troops. Next up was Lightning Hounds or Rishadan Airship. The Airship is a better card, but since Budde already had a Shock Troops, he elected to draft the Lightning Hounds. Pack #5 was very similar - Wild Jhovall or Drake Hatchling? Budde stuck to his guns and went with the Jhovall. By this point he must have known that Ormerod was drafting blue (and indeed he was).
The rest of Masques was fairly weak. Budde drafted Alabaster Wall (over Cave Sense) 6th and then took Deepwood Drummer, Battle Rampart, and Wall of Distortion. Each pack seemed to have a number of weak but playable red cards (like Kyren Glider and Tremor) so Budde had to feel good about his prospects for Prophecy. One of the reasons Kai was so quick to decide on red for his second color is that he got a read that the guys on his right weren't drafting much of it and they would therefore pass it to him in Prophecy. Prophecy red is amazing so even though Kai's current deck wasn't great, it did hold the promise of much more.
Budde took Laccolith Warrior over Seal of Fire (and Wandering Eye) to start out Nemesis. He then got passed Rupture (along with Blastoderm, Defiant Falcon, and Cloudskate). Ormerod's second pack was ridiculous. Even after Valkyser took a card out of it, it still had Oracle's Attendants, Defender en-Vec, Rathi Fiend, Seal of Doom, Rathi Intimidator, and Spineless Thug. Ormerod took the Seal of Doom and Budde selected the Fiend. Next up Budde got a Seal of Doom of his own (Ormerod had taken a Massacre). So even though Budde was unable to cut off black it's so deep in Nemesis that he wound up with some solid black cards anyway. After pack four, though, his card quality went don. He drafted, in order, Flowstone Strike, Flowstone Strike, Rackling, Spiteful Bully, Downhill Charge, Mogg Toady, and then Flame Rift. Going into Prophecy he had an OK black/red deck with solid removal but only 6 decent creatures, all of which cost 4-mana or more. He also had the promise of good red in Prophecy so his draft wasn't doomed. Ormerod, on his left, had a nice black/blue mana-curve beatdown deck. That's what happens when you're willing to first pick Spineless Thug!
Budde seemed delighted when his Prophecy pack contained Scoria Cat. He was even happier to get passed a 2nd one. (Ormerod took first pick Withdraw and then surprised me with a 2nd pick Stormwatch Eagle over Ribbon Snake - I guess he was worried about his colored mana situation.) Budde's third pick was Rhystic Lightning (over Squirrel Wrangler, by the way) and he then took Steal Strength (over Silt Crawler). I'm not sure who wound up with all the good green that was available late, but if it was Valkyser then perhaps his streak isn't going to end. Budde got a Fen Stalker 5th and then took Devastate 6th. The deep red that he might have been expecting never really showed up (all he got was a Panic Attack), but he didn't mind since he kept getting passed black - including 8th pick Agent of Shauku and 9th pick Bog Glider.
A the end of the draft Budde had a decent black/red deck. His mana curve stayed top-heavy and he's not exactly overloaded on removal, but he can win with this deck.
Valkyser seemed very unhappy when the draft ended. He was red/blue for the first two packs. He was fed two early Blockade Runners by Ormerod before Ormerod switched into blue for that late Airship plus Hatchling. Valkyser was eventually forced to switch to green, in Prophecy, but he didn't switch until one pack after he passed that Squirrel Wrangler.