Matthew Cory is playing in his second DCI-sanctioned Magic tournament ever this weekend. The Magic Online regular decided to try his hand at paper Magic for the first time at Grand Prix Boston and he wound up finishing second (losing to Brian Kibler in the finals). In addition to pocketing the top amateur prize and the second place overall prize (making him the event's biggest winner) he also qualified for Pro Tour Yokohama. For the last few months he has once again been playing exclusively on Magic Online, but now here is in Japan, and he's taking full advantage of that invitation. Cory got through to day 2 with a 4-2-1 record and sat down to draft Saturday morning with Bob Maher feeding him and Gary Wise sitting two seats to his left.
After taking that first pick Lavamancer's Skill, Maher was eventually forced to abandon it. He took Screeching Buzzard second out of that weak pack and then Severed Legion third over the good white cards. With his fourth pick he thought long and hard about switching into green for a Treespring Lorian that was the best card left in the pack, but wound up going with Commando Raid. When pack #5 came around it still had another Treespring Lorian and an Everglove Courierand a Krosan Tusker. Maher shook his head about the lost Lorian from the previous pack and drafted the Tusker. Cory, of course, got back-to-back Lorians and had yet to draft anything but green cards.
Maher rounded out the first set of packs with a second Screeching Buzzard – indicating that black was definitely underdrafted on his right and was a fine color to be in – and then a Wellwisher (over Battering Craghorn), a Wirewood Pride, and the Ascending Aven from his first pack came back to him. In retrospect, he could have read that Ascending Aven as evidence that there was only one real blue mage at the (7-player) table and thus he didn't really need to abandon his Lavamancer's Skill and his initial red-blue thought. There just weren't very many blue cards opened in the first set of packs.
Legions did hand Cory a first pick Timberwatch Elf and a second pick Skirk Marauder, but after that he started to feel the pinch from the fact that Maher was also drafting green and it turned out that the guy feeding Maher (Allen Sun) was not just green, but green-red.
Legions, however, was torture for Maher. He had switched into green because he believed that it was underdrafted on his right and he was going to get the hook-up in Legions. The most powerful common in the set (Timberwatch Elf) is green so green is exactly the right color to switch into when you see those signs. However, it turns out that the signs were misleading. Maher was right about Sun drafting red, but Sun's other color was green the whole way. He was drafting Snarling Undorak and Wirewood Savage out of packs that also had Treespring Lorians. When he shipped that Tusker that finally moved Maher into green, it was because he had decided to take Erratic Explosion instead. Maher did get a couple of black cards out of Legions (Smokespew Invoker, Skinthinner 4th, a pair of Spectral Slivers 3rd and 7th), but his only good green card was his first pick Caller of the Claw. Meanwhile the real torture was watching a steady stream of amazing blue cards go by. In addition, he got just as many good looks at red as he did at green. After the draft Maher was quite frustrated – he felt his audible was correct because he was sure that Sun was red during the first pack (which he was (and stayed)), but he could have wound up with a great blue-red deck if only he'd stuck by his initial pick.
In the end it was both of Maher's neighbors that got Timberwatch Elves – Cory opened one and Sun got one passed to him – and Maher just got squeezed. His deck is still decent (and black was indeed available), but one has to wonder how good it might have been if he had know that blue and white were actually the colors that no one near him wanted to draft.