by Randy Buehler
Our thanks to StarCityGames.com, who provided the cards for the Auction of Champions.
Months and months of speculation finally ended on Saturday morning with the Invitational Auction of Champions. All 17 Constructed decks that have won Pro Tours were available and the bids were done in terms of opening hand size and opening life totals (the rules were that a bid of 6 cards and 20 life beats a bid of 7 cards, 1 life). Most people felt Tommi Hovi's Academy deck from Pro Tour Rome was the best deck in the field, but the real question was how low it would go.
Rumor had it that Alex Shvartsman was going to start the auction by offering up Hovi's deck, but he audibled and nominated Jon Finkel's Tinker deck from the most recent Worlds. Gary Wise sent the bidding down to 6 cards and 20 life, but it was Noah Boeken who wound up with the deck at 6-17.
Dave Price then offered up Jakub Slemr's deck, Rubin bid 7-19, and Yoshikazu Ishii bid 7-18. Ishii then looked on in horror and surprise as every other person in the auction sat down and let him have the deck. The auction was quite visually interesting: each remaining person standing up as a deck was offered and then, in turn, they either sat down or beat the current bid. Once someone made a low bid on a deck, the rest of the players seemed to tumble like dominos. Finkel offered up Tom Chanpheng and the first heated bidding war ensued. Zvi Mowshowitz, Ben Rubin, Darwin Kastle, Chris Pikula and Gerardo Godinez were each willing to take the card at 6 cards. Godinez went down to 6-15 and Pikula thought long and hard about beating him, but declined.
Ryan Fuller announced when Paul McCabe's deck was nominated "I'm getting this deck." Fuller likes to play Necro and he really wanted his fellow Canadian's Pro Tour Dallas deck. It looked like he might get it at 6-17, but Finkel bid 6-16, effectively shocking Fuller by forcing him to go down to 6-15.
Next Gary Wise offered up Mike Long's deck. Long shook his head and sat down quite quickly. Kastle sent the deck down to 6 cards and Zvi Mowshowitz won it with a bid of 6 cards, 19 life.
There was much rumbling as Randy Buehler's deck was nominated. Along with the other two Extended decks, it was thought to be among the most powerful in the format. There were still 7 people standing when Wise bid 6-16. Pikula sent it to 6-15 and Finkel to 6-14 - the lowest bid so far on any deck. Wise bid 6-13 and then everyone else sat down. Interestingly, many observers felt Wise would have been better off beating his own bid and playing the Necro deck at 5-20. I think he'll have trouble with only 13 life to play with and that 6th card isn't worth 7 life.
Next up came another heavyweight - Tommi Hovi. They crawled down to about 6-14 and then actually started to think. The crowd murmured in surprise as only three people remained when Finkel sent the deck down to 5 and 20. Long answered with 5-19, Budde sat down, and then Finkel let him have it! With 4 Wastelands in the sideboard to bring in and help make sure he doesn't get mana-screwed while drawing 5-card opening hands, Long seemed very happy with his purchase.
Trevor Blackwell suggested Alexandre Blumke's 1996 Worlds deck and no one else was willing to make a bid. Thus it was the first deck to go for 7 & 20. Pikula then suggested Bob Maher's deck and took it down to 6-14. Finkel asked him who his remaining opponents were and seemed content to know that Maher's deck would be going up against a few of his competitors for Top 2, so he bowed out. When Rubin also bailed, the "Great One's" deck was sold for 6-14.
Budde nominated Casey McCarrel's Tinker/Wildfire/Academy deck and Alex Shvartsman immediately jumped to a bid of 6-20. Everyone else sat down and Shvartsman, sitting in first place, got a deck he clearly wanted. Dave Price offered up his own deck, declined to go as low as 7-13, and Ben Rubin wound up with it at 7-13. Ironically, Ben Rubin finished 2nd at Pro Tour Los Angeles III, losing to Price's deck in the finals.
Finkel offered up Zak Dolan's deck and got it for 7-15. He didn't seem real happy to have Siren's Call and Ley Druid in his deck yelling "What have I done?" but as I type this up, I just heard that he managed to kill two of Gary Wise's pump knights with Kismet and Siren's Call during round 10. Bob Maher offered up Kai Budde's deck and Budde himself won the bidding at 6-20. Budde is the only person playing his own deck of the five possible and he'll be using it to try to crawl out of last place.
With only three players, left a bidding war was expected over Brian Selden's deck. It seemed like Bob Maher and Darwin Kastle might fight over it since it's their style, but Dave Price walked away with it at 7-14. Bob Maher then took with Mike Loconto's deck at 7-20. Darwin Kastle was the last remaining bidder and he took his time debating between Olle Rade's spider deck and Sigurd Eskeland's Rising Waters deck. After much debate he settled on Rade. Thus Sigurd Eskeland was a no-show for the Invitational twice.