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The letter A!s all of the players slowly drizzled in on Sunday morning there was one constant subject of conversation in an array of languages. Table number four had the tournament abuzz. There were seven players with a Pro Tour Top 8 to their credit drafting at the table and a total of ten Top 8 appearances among them.

Poor Hon Ming Au Young, he was the only player sitting down for this draft who had not experienced the glare of the Day Three spotlight. As he looked around the table the local Hong Kong standout saw Anton Jonsson, Jens Thoren, Jin Okamoto, Osamu Fujita, Ben Stark, Albertus Law, and Tsuyoshi Ikeda. Not the table you wanted to find yourself at as you made your run toward the Top 8. Especially since all of the players had taken two losses to this point in the tournament.

Even Ben Stark was somewhat daunted by the task of drafting in this rarified air. "I would trade in one pack to be drafting at Antonino DeRosa's table. I could go 2-1 at that table with only two packs."

Ben was sitting next to Osamu Fujita and as they opened their first packs the Japanese player was feeding the American. Ben's pack was utterly unremarkable and the only real choice he faced was between Thoughtcast and Auriok Transfixer. Ben usually favors Affinity but has found it to be overdrafted of late and weakened by Darksteel. Despite obvious reservations and frustration over such a weak pack, Ben took the Thoughtcast.

Osamu's pack was considerably better. Not only did his pack have the common run that includes Shatter, Bonesplitter, and Somber Hoverguard but there was also Lightning Greaves and a Megatog on his plate. He chose the Tog and offered the common run up for Ben's consumption.

Stark took the full allotment of time going back and forth between Somber Hoverguard and Shatter and ended up taking the removal spell. The pack Osamu was contending with during that time had a Scimitar and a Skyhunter Cub near the front of a pack that also included a Fangren Hunter. He took a Krark-Clan Grunt form the next pack while Ben was taking the Fangren Hunter as a clear sign that he was going to be the green drafter at the table.

The first packs played out with Osamu settling into a red-white equipment deck. He picked up a second Scimitar and various and sundry Myr but nothing terribly exciting for the rest of the pack. Meanwhile Ben was shaping up to green-blue. He received a fairly late Predator's Strike as well as a Seat of the Synod and Frogmite. He was definitely looking green-blue but the Shatter left him open to other possibilities.

As the packs changed direction Ben could only shake his head at his first pickings. The only card he could even consider was a Fangren Hunter. Fujita meanwhile had opened a pack with three mana Myrs and a Viridian Longbow. He took the equipment. Once again the pack that was passed to Stark was far better than the one he opened. He had a choice of Triskelion, Deconstruct, and a Longbow. He took the Trike after some trepidation--Jin Okamoto had taken a Blinding Beam from the pack in case you're curious.

While Ben was taking the Triskelion Osamu happily took a Skyhunter Cub from the pack Ben opened. Ben had all the green he wanted coming to him and took Tel-Jilad Archers, Predator's Strike, Tel-Jilad Chosen, and another Fangren Hunter with his next picks. The pickings were fine for Osamu as well. He took another Longbow and Pearl Shard before he was faced with a choice between Altar's Light, Skyhunter Patrol, and Auriok Bladewarden. He took the Timberwatch and watched sadly as the others drifted off to his right.

Neither player seemed happy with their cards. Ben was green and the consensus among the pros seems to be that green is not the color that you want to be drafting. He had good cards--three Fangren Hunters and a pair of Predator's Strikes but he had almost zero acceleration for his fatties.

Osamu's deck was also solid if not spectacular and the Japanese player seemed to be chastising himself over one of the picks earlier in the draft. When he opened his Darksteel pack the only card he could take was a Test of Faith and he did so without complaint. Ben went three for three in lousy opens and reluctantly took a Tangle Golem.

The Japanese player gladly took a Barbed Lightning with his second pick. Ben was happy with the blue cards that he was being passed and took Spire Golem and Hoverguard Observer. Osamu took a Goblin Archeologist with pick number three but was much happier to see a Razor Golem waiting in the next pack. Ben picked up an array of green cards again and landed multiple Tangle Golems and Tel-Jilad Outriders.

After the draft Ben acknowledged that he was not happy to be green. "I saw that third pick Fangren Hunter and I knew I was supposed to be the green drafter. I started with Thoughtcast and Shatter and thought things were going so well until the third pick. The only pick I regret is Triskelion over Deconstruct. If I could trade this in for Deconstruct I would do it in a minute."

As Ben laid out the deck he found his mana curve was top-heavy. He had only one Talisman for acceleration and could not even play the Thoughtcast or artifact lands because of his Spire and Tangle Golems. He put in a Psychic Membrane to hold the ground early and dig a card deeper into his deck. When asked if he normally played the card Ben laughed, "Not always but in this deck? I would play two more and be happy to have them. My curve is lovely."

Osamu confirmed that he regretted an early pick in the draft. He took a Leonin Scimitar over a Skyhunter Cub with his second pick. He shook his head regretfully. Other than that pick he felt that his deck was mostly limited by the cards he had seen. "I wanted the Auriok Glavemaster but there were none in the draft."

His deck looked decent but was lacking removal. He had only Barbed Lightning and Goblin Archeologist as removal along with two Viridian Longbows. He had taken the Longbows very highly and was glad that he did, "Now if I can draw them early I should be okay."

While Ben had wanted to draft at Antonino's table, DeRosa had also wished they could swap seats. He felt that the less experienced drafters at his table were less predictable and led to everyone playing more than to colors, "I am without a deck!"




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