Semifinal Draft: Illuminati vs. Phoque Foundation

Posted in Event Coverage on June 1, 2003

By Ted Knutson

This matchup came as a bit of a surprise for both teams, as Phoque Foundation, comprised of a visiting Frenchman and two unknown Canadians from Montreal, entered the Top 4 as the number one seed. Illuminati on the other hand, have a storied career top Pro Tour finishes as a team, but they came back from the seemingly dead and were the only team on 27 points to slide into the elimination rounds.

Phoque Foundation
Seat A: Jean Charles Salvin
Seat B: Pasquale Rugiero
Seat C: Jairo Liquidano

Seat A: Justin Gary
Seat B: Zvi Mowshowitz
Seat C: Alex Shvartsman

Phoque Foundation kicked off the draft with Pasquale choosing to first-pick a Smother, while Jairo chose little Wizard-bomb Callous Oppressor for his deck. On the Illuminati side of the table, Justin Gary settled into Green with a Wirewood Elf, while Zvi grabbed a Glory Seeker, and Alex got a Screeching Buzzard.

Pack 2 started with Jairo picking a Shock. Then Justin Gary picked a Dirge of Dread, the beginning of a lot of waffling by the Illuminati over which color should make up Justin's Green-X deck. Zvi chose a Pearlspear Courier over the Daunting Defender that was still in the pack, signaling that he either thought the Soldier plan was stronger than the Cleric plan or that he simply wasn't willing to fight for Clerics with what would probably turn into a B-W deck on Rugiero's end, but he also made certain that Rugiero wouldn't get the Defender by signaling for Alex to hate it instead.

Pack 3 promptly made Zvi look like a genius as Justin got a Primal Boost for his deck, while Zvi was left with the mighty Gustcloak Savior. Alex continued his Black plan by grabbing a Cruel Revival, leaving Jean Charles with a Krosan Tusker, Pasquale with a Shepard of Rot, and Jairo took a wheel of Erratic Explosion and Sage Aven. The next pack saw Zvi immediately hate away a Lavamancer's Skill, while Alex picked up another removal spell in Swat. Meanwhile, the Phoques continued with their plan, as Jean Charles seemed to finally settle into Green as one of his colors by picking a Barkhide Mauler while Pasquale picked up a Doubtless One, and Jairo hated away a Treespring Lorian from Justin, who in turn wheeled away a Dive Bomber and a Gravel Slinger.

The next pack saw Alex inexplicably choose a Grassland Crusader for his deck over a Spitting Gourna, giving Salvin a second-pick Shock, while Pasquale put a Haunted Cadaver on his pile, and Jairo drafted a Goblin Machinist. Alex's strange pick turned out well for Justin though, as he got a late Spitting Gourna (perhaps the Russian was hating away a Cleric from Rugiero's deck after all) and a Charging Slateback on the way back around. The Onslaught packs ended with Salvin plucking a first pick Words of War (thankyouverymuch), Rugiero grabbing another Shepard of Rot, and Liquidano getting an Ascending Aven while Illuminati snatched a Skirk Commando and Erratic Explosion for Justin's deck.

The first Legions pack was laid out on the table and things continued to form up for Salvin, as he grabbed a Skirk Marauder, while Alex put an Embalmed Brawler in his pile, Zvi put a Deftblade Elite in his, and Justin grabbed a tentative Skirk Outrider for his own. However, the pack wasn't completely out of goodies for the Phoque as they grabbed a Keeneye Aven for Jairo's deck and Pasquale picked up an Infernal Caretaker for himself.

Alex opened a Needleshot Gourna for himself that would be necessary in order to stop Jairo's U-R deck, while Zvi got a potentially huge Daru Stinger for his Soldier deck, and Justin obtained a Skirk Marauder of his own. In a similar pick to Alex's, Jairo plucked a Wall of Deceit for his own deck that would be vital to slowing down Alex's ground beatings, and Pasquale was left with a welcome Sootfeather Flock. Zvi's pack wasn't much better as far as openings go, as he was forced to hate away a Bane of the Living from Phoque Foundation, as Justin wanted the Krosan Vorine laying right above it on the table, and passing a bomb like that to the other team would be sheer folly. Pasquale grabbed a potential beatstick in Vile Deacon for his deck, leaving Jean Charles with a Goblin Clearcutter, and Alex with a wheel of a second Needleshot and Berserk Murlodont.

Halfway through the draft and it looks like Illuminati's decks are slightly better than Phoque Foundation's, mostly because Zvi has been completely uncontested in grabbing soldiers for his deck while still being able to use picks hating away potentially important cards like Lavamancer's Skill and Bane of the Living from the Phoque. Alex seemed to have settled into G-B, with Justin in G-R. On the other side of the table, Jean Charles was setting up a G-R mirror match for Justin, Pasquale was undeterred from his B-W Cleric plan, and Jairo was now firmly ensconced in U-R, even though his original plan before the packs were opened was for him to go U/W.

Pack 10 showed Legions true power, with Timberwatch Elf rearing his head for the first time and immediately ending up in Gary's deck. Liquidano got another solid card of his own in Marauder #2, while Rugiero picked up a Skinthinner, Salvin grabbed a Crested Craghorn, Shvartsman got another Berserk Murlodont, and Zvi cheerily placed a Cloudreach Cavalry on top of his pile.

The final two Legions packs saw two Enormous Baloths end up in Justin Gary's deck along with a Wirewood Hivemaster, while Rugiero grabbed a Deftblade Elite and Whipgrass Entangler, Alex grabbed a Phage, Liquidano picked up another Flamewave Invoker and a Mistform Seaswift, and Zvi ended up with a Seaswift of his own as well as a Wingbeat Warrior.

Scourge opened with a shrug from the Phoque, as Pasquale put a Clutch of Undeath on top of his pile, Jairo picked a Warped Researched, and Justin Gary reaped the benefits of position as he snatched an Ancient Ooze from the table and placed it in the center of his stack of cards with his trademark feral, and yet stile quite charming, grin.

The hits continued to come for Illuminati, as Jairo opened a Torrent of Fire for himself, but left a Wirewood Symbiote for Justin, an Aven Liberator for Zvi, and a Twisted Abomination for a very pleased Alex Shvartsman, but the best was yet to come...

Pack 15 saw Justin open a Forgotten Ancient, which he windmill slammed to the top of his pile, while Zvi got the final piece of his soldier puzzle in Daru Warchief, and Alex was left with a measly Clutch of Undeath for his B-G deck. The Phoque could only shake their heads at the unfairness of it all.

The last three packs of Scourge showed that the best of the packs had climaxed a little early, with Zvi picking up a Dragonstalker, Shoreline Ranger, and Thunderbird Elemental and Alex getting a Putrid Raptor and Lingering Death. Phoque Foundation did reasonably well for themselves though, Rugiero got an Edgewalker, a Lingering Death, and a Dragonstalker of his own, while Liquidano got a Shoreline Ranger of his own to go along with Frozen Solid, and Salvin's deck was left bringing up the rear with a couple of Goblin Brigands and a Woodcloaker.

After the draft I talked briefly with Phoque Foundation (who communicate entirely in French when speaking to one another) about their draft and they felt they had been badly out-opened. Jairo was originally supposed to be in U-W, but ended up with a solid deck in U-R instead. Pasquale's deck was also solid, but would have to content with Zvi's soldier monstrosity, but they were disappointed with Jean Charles's deck, as they felt none of the breaks really came his way.

Illuminati again proved to be an interesting team to watch draft, as they are one of the few teams on the day to draft reactively. Sometimes this causes them to seem a bit unorganized, but it's turned out well for them every time thus far. They seemed to feel fine about their decks, though Alex was worried about how high his mana curve was running. Zvi was more than happy with the 13-14 soldiers he ran, stating that his chances of getting a ridiculously large Daru Stinger were pretty good, while Justin's deck was pure gas. Overall they felt things turned out pretty well, considering that both their A and C seats wandered in and out of a couple of colors through the Onslaught packs, but were able to obtain solid picks later in the draft and come together into strong, if not exceptional decks.

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