by Randy Buehler
Longtime teammates and friends Dave Price and Chris Pikula used to share a house in Ithaca when they both attended Cornell. They've since graduated but they still play Magic on the Pro Tour and they're roommates this weekend in Sydney. Dave Price was tied for 2nd as round 9 began while Chris Pikula has fallen into the middle of the pack since the Solomon Draft portion of the event began. Solomon Draft is his nemesis and his record in this format across the last three Invitationals was 0-9. Could the defending Invitational champion really fall to 0-10?
The players had an interesting conversation before rolling to see who would split first. They both knew that Jon Finkel recommends splitting first, but at the same time they are both terrified of splitting first. They each prefer to spend that first minute just reflecting on the cards and trying to figure out what random patterns Mark Rosewater has built into the environment. Price lost the die roll and was forced to split first.
Pikula immediately picked up on the fact that this draft consisted of color hosers and other cards where color matters. Pikula took Zanam Djinn, Light of Day, Exile, and Llanowar Knight. After Price picked up his pile, Pikula commented "I already don't know what you have." After he split the second pile and Price took Karmic Guide, Alloy Golem, and Haunting Apparition Pikula complained "I wanted that pile." Price chimed in on the Pikula bashing by offering to let Pikula split all the piles.
After that they settled down and drafted. The most interesting pack was probably pack #10 when Pikula put King Crab and Rainbow Crow alone on one side of a 6-2 split. Price took the 6 cards and they cemented their colors. Pikula played blue/black/white while Price played green/red with enough color fixers (including Fertile Ground and Skyshroud Elf) to splash 3 black spells and one white spell. Interestingly, both players felt they won the draft. Over the course of deck construction, though, Pikula started thinking about things he might have done incorrectly. He could have gotten Darkest Hour to go with his Light of Day, he had no answer to Volrath's Laboratory, etc.
Price got an early beatdown going early in game 1 with Yavimaya Barbarian, but Pikula's Voice of Reason stopped the beats. Price laid Volrath's Laboratory (naming blue wizards because he wanted to shrink Zanam Djinn if Pikula drew it). Pikula knew he had to play aggressively now if he wanted to outrace a horde of 2/2's so he started attacking with Voice of Reason and also a Rainbow Crow. Pikula Exiled a Halam Djinn and use Phyrexian Boon to remove that pesky Barbarian. It looked like his fliers might go the distance, but Price got to seven mana and played Lotus Guardian. Then, as Dave Price put it, "Tidal Visionary kicked my ass." Pikula turned the flying artifact creature black so he could bounce it and make Price replay it. Then he played Light of Day, turned it black again, and served for the win.
Game 2 was brief. Pikula played turn 1 Tidal Visionary again, but Price had Lightning Dart handy to destroy it. "There goes my deck," complained Pikula. It turned out that he didn't have a third land anyway and Price just bashed him with monsters. There was a lot of color matters interactions in the card pool that had most competitors asking judges for rulings, but not Dave Price. All his deck cared about was playing monsters and attacking.
Game 3 would determine whether Dave Price could continue his climb up the leader board or Chris Pikula could end his ignominious streak of Solomon draft losses. Price came out fast with Nomadic Elf, Yavimaya barbarian, Wildfire Emissary, and then Might Weaver. Pikula used Tsabo's Assassin to stabilize the board while he had 5 points of life left to play with. Price then stopped the bleeding by drawing his Lightning Dart and removing the Assassin. Price had two monsters left at this point, but they were both red and Pikula shut them down by playing Light of Day and repeatedly using Whim of Volrath to change the Light of Day to "red" so neither of Price's creatures could attack.
That's when Price played the bomb he had been saving for the entire game: Kavu Chameleon! The Chameleon got around any Whim/Light of Day shenanigans that Pikula could come up with. Pikula also had Exile in his hand, which only works on non-white creatures so it couldn't deal with the Chameleon either. To add insult to injury, Pikula next drew Dark Hatchling - which can't deal with Kavu Chameleon - and Wash Out, which could bounce it but wasn't really an answer. So Dave Price and the best Kavu Chameleon of all just could not be stopped.