Quarterfinal Draft: Illuminati vs. Courtney's Boys

Posted in Event Coverage on March 21, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

It's time for Courtney's Boys to put their money where their mouths are. During Illuminati's last draft Bob Maher and Neil Reeves were loudly critical of Illuminati's card valuation and hoped to find themselves in the same bracket as Zvi and company. Of course, with Justin Gary (Seat A), Zvi Mowshowitz (Seat B), and Alex Shvarstman (Seat C) there is no shortage of confidence on Illuminati's side of the table.

This will be Gary Wise's (Seat A) last tournament as a member of Courtney's Boys. Neil Reeves (Seat B) and Bob Maher Jr. (Seat C) have made it publicly known that they will be playing with their friend Dave Williams for the next Pro Tour.

Illuminati elected to open first as they did during the previous draft. Each player's first picks ended up making their final deck and they all stayed on course—with the possible exception of Bob—throughout the draft. Zvi took Prowling Pangolin and Alex took a Primal Boost. Gary took Dirge of Dread, Neil went with a Battering Craghorn, and Bob took the Goblin Machinist. Justin wheeled a Forgotten Cave and a Dara Cavalier.

Alex took a Snarling Undorak before letting Courtney's Boys pillage the pack for Nantuko Husk, Lavamancer's Skills, and Inspirit. Illuminati found a Gravel Slinger and a Treespring Lorian waiting for them when the pack finally came around top them.

The remainder of the first set of packs followed suit, with a number of standout cards A Callous Oppressor was key in what was shaping up to be an impressive U/R deck for Neil. Alex ended up with three Elvish Warriors and a Silvos, Rogue Elemental into Bob's still unsettled colors although W/R was looking likely—he picked up a Skirk Commando and a Whipcorder. Justin was also shaping up t o be W/R with Shared Triumph and a small handful of soldiers along with a Sparksmith. Gary was almost mono-black with multiple Festering Goblins, Nantuko Husk and a Buzzard. Zvi's deck was the least impressive with some Wretched Anurids and big green fat like Symbiotic Wurm.

The next set of packs started off in the other direction with Justin taking an Inspirit. Bob took Renewed Faith and Neil hated a Spitting Gourna while Gary took cover of Darkness. Wirewood Elf—a key component of green beast decks found its way to Alex's pile and Soulless one found a welcome master in Zvi.

Once again, Illuminati did not seem to fight for red and were content to let Justin be the only red drafter. It seemed likely that Alex would dip into red as an excellent compliment to he aggressive G/R deck but raised eyebrows when he showed a preference for blue when he took Sage Aven after Dive Bomber, Barkhide Mauler (another hate by Neil) and Venomspout Brackus were signed to play for Courtney's Boys. He did take a Riptide Replicator on the way back. He could have taken the Replicator first and not broadcast his interest in blue cards...

Neil found himself in possession of two Lavamancer's Skills when the Onslaught portion of the draft came to a close. Zvi ended up with two Soulless Ones as well as a fair number of zombies including Severed Legion, Frightshroud Courier, and a Wretched Anurid. Gary was G/B with some fatties and Wirewood Savage. For finishers he had two Dirge of Dread and a Cover of Darkness but that was about it for spells—and there weren't going to be many in the next set of packs. Justin's deck was going to be all about the spells on the other hand. The second set of packs yielded Insurrection and Starstorm along with a solid collection of soldiers. Bob was shaping up to be w/R but his deck was somewhat lacking in the bomb department. In addition to his Silvos, Alex had the Replicator and a slate of Ancestry. He chose an unlikely pairing of blue to go with his aggressive triple Elvish Warrior deck.

The third pack saw Alex stick to his blue guns, kicking off the first two packs with Primoc Escapee and a Keeneye Aven. Neil had some very strong packs, picking up two Mistform Seaswifts, Skirk Marauder, Primoc Escapee and a Chromeshell Crab. If he had any complaint at all it was when his teammates allowed a Nantuko Vigilante make its way to Zvi's deck—bad news for his Lavamancer's Skills. Zvi also managed to squirrel away a Skinthinner and a couple of Embalmed Brawlers. Bob's deck improved considerably with a couple of Daru Stingers, Skirk Marauder. When he hated a Bane of the Living he improved his teammates decks as well. Justin rounded out his R/W deck with white Knight and Stoic Champion. The former should be very good against Gary's black deck. Gary picked up a handful of green Invokers and a Phage to play with his double Dirge and Cover of Darkness.

After the draft Gary did not like his team's chances. When asked who would win he replied bluntly, "Not us. I think Justin will be back on his heels though. If he doesn't draw Starstorm I should win." He laid out the double Dirge and Cover of Darkness and added, "These cards trump Insurrection."

Neil was also pessimistic about his team's chances. "It's not good. I mean it's not bad either," he drawled. "It was better for me before he go that Vigilante. The Brawlers can be tough on U/R—I thought he was going to let them slip away but he took them just in time."

Bob completed the trifecta of pessimism. "Beyond the Silvos...it's still not good. He has fliers I can't deal with...I don't have enough soldiers...its not good."

Illuminati was—as is to be expected—much more confident with the match-ups. Justin was very confident about his deck, "I think it's very good—almost entirely because of the rares. He has no removal that I can recall—aside from the Festering Goblins. I think he can clog up the ground but Starstorm and Insurrection should have a thing or two to say about that. I definitely would like to win one game where he casts Phage with an Insurrection!"

Zvi thought about his match-up and was pretty pleased; "Ummm...I think he doesn't have too many answers to zombies that come into play living large. I saw Neil's face when they didn't cut the Vigilante off. Upon further reflection Zvi remembered the Callous Oppressor, "That could be a problem for me. I mean I took the only Swat I saw and the only Skinthinner but there wasn't nay other removal for me."

I was waiting for Alex to finish building before getting his impressions. He and Zvi were arguing over the inclusion of a 19th land. Alex was worried about mana flood and felt his curve would give him more than enough to do during the early turns. Zvi was undeterred, "I want the 19th land. If you get flooded into Replicator...I don't care! If you get flooded into Slate of Ancestry...I don't care! If you get flooded into Silvos...let me tell you...I don't care!"

Alex was cool when talking about his chances but warmed considerably as he talked it through, "I am probably the slight favorite. Actually...unless Bob gets a large Stinger into play on turn four he can't win. 3/3 is not going to do it either. He has only two fliers and no way to punch through without the Stingers."

Now both teams had talked a little smack. It was time to play some cards and determine who could back it up.

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