by Mark Wraith
This match between the second and third teams after the Swiss saw Car Acrobatic Team from Pittsburgh taking on the Californians, Rolled-Up Aces.
Both teams have very different drafting styles - Rolled-Up Aces adopt a counterdrafting strategy, with Shawn Keller commenting that "we just try to draft against their decks, trying to play White against Red, Black against White, and Red versus Black. We don't have specific colors for specific seats, and we always go first if we can." This is so that the other team is forced to make more early picks.
Car Acrobatic Team certainly had a different outlook. Unlike most of the teams in this Pro Tour, they assign specific colors to given seats, preferring to play Blue on the left, White on the right, and Green in the middle. They split up the Green and Red according to where they will best oppose the opponent's strategies, and this is the only reacting that they do. Like Rolled-Up Aces, they always choose to draft first.
Of course, one of the problems with reactive drafting is that the packs need to break right, and this didn't happen for the Aces. Both teams settled into their final colors very early in the draft, with only Andrew Johnson and Shawn Keller still undecided on their second color. The Californians were unable to draft the correct colors to correspond with their strategy in the end. Car Acrobatic Team started off nervously, receiving a warning for drafting out of turn, and then Andrew Johnson accidentally picked the wrong car due to a loss of concentration.
As the teams started on Nemesis, no really powerful cards had been opened, although the strength of the packs was high. Both Andrew Johnson and Shawn started to pick black cards, finally fixing their second colors. Thomas Keller does not realize that Andrew Johnson's second color is black, because of a few red cards that he picked earlier on. This means that he drafts an Oraxid over a Lightbringer, despite the fact that Andrew ends up playing only one red card - a Rupture. The highlights of Nemesis were an Ascendant Evincar for Johnson, and a Flowstone Overseer for Andrew Cuneo.
The Rolled-Up Aces seemed to be better organized in the draft, although the way the packs split didn't favor them. Prophecy gives the teams no broken cards, but plenty of good quality spells.
Daniel Clegg built a Red/Blue deck, with a little removal in the form of two Seals of Fire, and a Rhystic Lightning. He also has Kyren Negotiations, although his creature base is not as strong as it might be. He's playing against Andrew Cuneo's deck, also Red/Blue, his highlights being Flowstone Overseer, and some removal - Lunge and Thunderclap, as well as Arc Mage
Shawn Keller had a Green/Black deck, which was lacking in quality cards, although a Bog Smuggler, Marsh Boa, and a Lumbering Satyr are good in the match against Aaron Forsythe's deck of the same colors. This deck has lots of creatures, although like Shawn's it had few removal spells. When constructing this deck, Aaron wasn't sure whether to play the Noxious Field as he couldn't remember how many one-toughness creatures were in Shawn's deck. He decided to play with it, which was a good choice, as Shawn actually has two Agent of Shauku, a Deepwood Drummer, and a Marsh Boa.
In the final match-up, Thomas Keller's Blue/White deck took on Andrew Johnson's White/Black deck. Both decks were slow, with plenty of ways of stalling the game. Thomas had no rebel chain to speak of, but he did draft a Belbe's Armor and a Ballista Squad. Andrew Johnson has the only three color deck of the match, playing just on red card.
Andrew Cuneo should beat Daniel Clegg fairly easily. Both of them are playing the same colors, and Andrew has much more powerful cards, especially his creatures. With a Flowstone Overseer and a Spiketail Drake, and an Arc Mage, he will overpower Dan Clegg 2-0
The Forsythe - Shawn Keller match should be closer. Again they are both playing the same colors. On balance it would seem like Shawn has the better creatures, but Aaron has some good ones himself, particularly a Deepwood Legate. Aaron also has the better tricks, things like Noxious Field, Treetop Bracers and Massacre are very strong in this match. Forsythe 2, Keller 1.
One thing that you could safely predict about the Johnson - Keller match is that it will be the last to finish. Both players have plenty of ways of stalling the game, but with many more flyers than Andrew, I'll predict that Thomas Keller will win 2-1. Andrew does have an Ascendant Evincar, but as most of his creatures are White, it's not going to be as strong here as it usually would be.
Car Acrobatic Team should defeat Rolled-Up Aces 2-1.