by Randy Buehler
Pro Tour L.A. III champion Dave Price has taken some bitter shots at PT Paris champion Mike Long over the years, both in print and in person, and their match at the Invitational is always interesting. This year they matched up in Solomon draft during round 7 while Price was sporting a 5-1 record, tied for 2nd place with Jon Finkel (behind Alex Shvartsman). The players seemed a little friendlier than in years past and as soon as the first pack was opened, they forgot about all the history and context surrounding them and focused all their energies on figuring out what the hell they should be drafting!
This round's card pool consisted of 80 gold cards, 5 dual lands, and the 5 Invasion Cameos. Neither player seemed confident as the draft progressed and it was extremely hard for each player to settle on colors. Price split the first pack and he put Spontaneous Combustion on one side with just two other cards - Leering Gargoyle and Purgatory. Long decided to take quantity over quality - a perfectly reasonable Solomon strategy, especially early, drafting Wax/Wane, Segmented Wurm, Urborg Volcano, Aura Mutation, and Wings of Hope. Long split the next pack 4-4 and Price followed up his Spontaneous Combustion by drafting the pile with Samite Archer. Long spent the rest f the draft trying to prevent Price from ever settling on colors. Long tried to draft a 3-color beatdown deck that could punish Price for his many colors and many expensive (but powerful) spells.
The most entertaining moment came in Pack #7, which contained a Cadaverous Bloom. Price threatened to put Long's trademark card from his Paris deck on one side of a 7-1 split. Long then picked the card up and hid it on his chair! That's exactly where the judge found one in a controversial match at 1998 U.S. Nationals.
Long's plan started to come apart when a couple black/blue bombs showed up in packs and 12. Previously, Long had essentially conceded u/b to Price while he drafted either g/r/b or g/r/w beats. Price got Spinal Embrace from pack #7 (while Long got Fires of Yavimaya and Shivan Oasis). Price later got a Stalking Assassin as well. It looked like Price might actually manage to piece a 3-color deck together when he put Spite/Malice and Urborg Drake on one side with Armadillo Cloak and Assault Battery on the other, but Long would have none of that. He went for defense and disruption, drafting the black/blue cards for his sideboard.
After the draft Long said he deliberately forced red/green because he knew as soon as he saw Aura Mutation in the very first pack that either Stormbind or Meteor Storm had to be coming. Long also felt he would have a big advantage because he drafted 3 of the dual lands and 4 of the Cameos. Price seemed happy with the base of his deck - a tight collection of 15 white/blue/black cards. However, he clearly had to add at leas a 4th color just to fill out his deck and he would still wind up with good cards in his sideboard.
Long wound up playing a 4-color deck using every color except blue. Price tried to limit himself to 4 colors (everything but red), but he just couldn't bring himself to leave Energy Bolt and Fire Covenant in his sideboard. Price dove in and decided to play all 5 colors. With one fewer color and twice as many mana-fixers, Long would seem to have the advantage. Price's card quality is higher, but Long should be both more consistent and more aggressive.
This just in - Five minutes before construction ended, Price cut green from his deck and trimmed it down to four colors.