Team Draft 1: USA vs. Finland

Posted in Event Coverage on August 9, 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, 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.

Rob Dougherty was walking around the site this morning without his usual YMG tee, opting instead for a Hawaiian –style button down shirt. It is extremely likely that he ran out of the ubiquitous dragon emblazoned shirts. In addition to his usual squad of players, the US Nationals team was decked out in Your Move Games gear for this tournament. While Joshua Wagener is the captain of the team in name; Justin Gary is their spiritual leader. He trundled the whole gang up to Boston for the weeks leading up to Worlds for round the clock playtesting. They had access to all of the Your Move Games deck lists and –more importantly for this event—had the opportunity to practice Team Rochester against the best teams the Northeast had to trot out against them.

Justin laughed, "YMG is America's choice!"

Gabe Walls agreed with a high pitched, "Sorry, CMU/TOGIT!"

The American team was trying to catch up in the standings to the front running Finnish team and this would be their best chance to close ground. Before the draft started, Arho Toikka had not yet shown up. Gabe Walls was excited, "Only two out of three players? We have a shot!"

Gabe was largely kidding. The teams were fairly balanced. Tomi Walamies and Justin Gary have had comparable careers with an edge going to Justin. They were both paired up against the unknown player on the opposing team. Tomi's counterpart in captaining the team was Joshua Wagener. Justin was facing off against Arho Toikka.

The most exciting match was the undercard to tomorrow's Top 8 match between Tuomo Nieminen and Gabe Walls. In less than 24 hours they would square off again in a highly debated match-up of Wake vs. Slide.

After a little banter—mostly initiated from the American side of the table—the draft was underway.

Gabe Walls: "Your country has like, what? Nokia?"

Tomi: "Yes, that is a good one."

Justin: "Have you guys ever heard of McDonalds."

Tomi had no retort for Justin but rest assured he would quietly get his digs in later on in the match.

Onslaught Pack One

Joshua Wagener Spitting Gourna Skirk Commando
Gabe Walls Blistering Firecat Daru Cavalier
Arho Toikka Treespring Lorian Shade's Breath
Tomi Walamies Gustcloak Harrier Barren Moor
Tuomo Nieminen Crowd Favorites Aphetto Dredging
Justin Gary Erratic Explosion Commando Raid

There was some concern from Josh about passing the Gustcloak Harrier but Gabe waved the popular flier off and insisted on the Firecat. Having Joshua kick things off with green in the B-seat was somewhat unorthodox but that did not stop Tomi from putting a Harrier in front of it with his pick.

Onslaught Pack Two

Gabe Walls Pacifism
Arho Toikka Primal Boost  
Tomi Walamies Prowling Pangolin Haunted Cadaver
Tuomo Nieminen Lavamancer's Skills Goblin Piledriver
Justin Gary Riptide Biologist Mistform Wall
Joshua Wagener Swat Naturalize

Tomi was in no way committed to white based on one card but he put his thumb squarely in the black pie to mark it as his with the Pangolin and a zombie on the way back. Josh was shaping up as green-black, while everyone else was still in flux. Tuomo's Skills were a pretty good indication that he wanted to go blue-red.

Onslaught Pack Three

Arho Toikka Explosive Vegetation Words of Wisdom
Tomi Walamies Ascending Aven Ghosthelm Courier
Tuomo Nieminen Skirk Commando Lay Waste
Justin Gary Festering Goblin Elvish Courier
Joshua Wagener Elvish Warrior Birchlore Rangers
Gabe Walls Battlefield Medic Demystify

Arho was settling into firmly into green-X with a Veggies and Tomi shifted toward black-blue. If Joshua invested many of his picks into Gournas the Finn would have to get through with another form of evasion besides flying and white offers little in that regard.

Onslaught Pack Four

Tomi Walamies Cover of Darkness Mistform Mutant
Tuomo Nieminen Embermage Goblin Gustcloak Runner
Justin Gary Screeching Buzzard Goblin Taskmaster
Joshua Wagener Wirewood Herald Piety Charm
Gabe Walls Dive Bomber Crown of Fury
Arho Toikka Krosan Groundshaker Treespring Lorian

Tomi found the evasion that would get past Gournas. The only problem was that Joshua—who had already picked up a Swat—had not settled into his second color and could easily go black.

Joshua's teammates strenuously indicated that they wanted him to take the Krosan Groundshaker but he wanted the Wirewood Herald. Justin seemed frustrated by his opponent having the trample machine instead of his teammate.

Onslaught Pack Five

Tuomo Nieminen Gustcloak Harrier Charging Slateback
Justin Gary Choking Tethers Goblin Machinist
Joshua Wagener Mythic Proportions Barren Moor
Gabe Walls Inspirit Renewed Faith
Arho Toikka Wave of Indifference Wirewood Pride
Tomi Walamies Cabal Executioner Haunted Cadaver

Tuomo's eyes bugged as Tomi insisted that he select Gustcloak Harrier over defensively drafting the Mythic Proportions. Tomi was the person that would have to cope with the +8/+8 enchantment so Tuomo acceded to his captain's wishes. Gabe seemed skeptical that the Gustcloak was even the best white card in the pack and happily thumped the Inspirit into his pile.

Onslaught Pack Six

Justin Gary Lavamancer's Skills Sea's Claim
Joshua Wagener Snarling Undurak Haunted Cadaver
Gabe Walls Swat Foothill Guide
Arho Toikka Wellwisher Commando Raid
Tomi Walamies Mistform Dreamer Mistform Wall
Tuomo Nieminen Doubtless One Flooded Strand

Justin spanked his pack before he opened it. This was USA's last chance to open any Onslaught lovin' and needed some card for his so-so blue-red collection of cards. Justin and Josh were rewarded with solid cards but they crossed their fingers at Gabe indicating a counter draft. They couldn't get on the same page as to Swat vs. Wellwisher but they finally arrived on the cycler and Justin's opponent got the stall generating elf.

After the first set of packs the decks were starting to take shape. Tomi had the deepest deck at the table; a blue-black number with plenty of flying but no removal. He did have Cabal Executioner and a pair of Haunted Cadavers to help him exploit the Cover of Darkness-if Josh didn't go black as well. Josh was largely green with a few black cards but he could go with the flow in the next pack and take what came his way.

Gabe Walls and Arho Toikka were building up their red-white arsenals for a bizarre mirror match but both of their colors could easily change in the coming packs—nothing was so amazing that they had to dig in their heels.

Justin Gary could go in any direction. He had some blue-red cards and he had some black cards. Any permutation of the three colors was a possibility. His opponent was green and large with a pair of Lorians and a Groundshaker. He would probably want to pick up some Skinthinners in the next pack to cope. Blue-red is not the best deck to put up against green fat.

Legions Pack One

Justin Gary Skinthinner Shifting Sliver
Tuomo Nieminen Sunstrike Legionnaire Daru Sanctifier
Tomi Walamies Daru Stinger Goblin Grappler
Arho Toikka Stonewood Invoker Hundroog
Gabe Walls Stoic Champion Crested Craghorn
Joshua Wagener Embalmed Brawler Skirk Drill Sergeant

As soon as Justin picked the Shifting Sliver, Tomi acted as though he made a mistake. Remember, he was looking for non-flying evasion and with his mistform creatures the sliver would have been a nice fit for his deck.

The Skinthinner meant that Justin was making the move to black—how would that effect the b-seat which needed black to counter Tomi's fear effects?

Legions Pack Two

Tuomo Nieminen Daru Stinger Goblin Grappler
Tomi Walamies Keeneye Aven Hundroog
Arho Toikka Branchsnap Lorian Skirk Outrider
Gabe Walls Lowland Tracker Akroma's Devoted
Joshua Wagener Embalmed Brawler Totem Speaker
Justin Gary Skirk Alarmist Infernal Caretaker

Legions Pack Three

Tomi Walamies Wall of Deceit Gempalm Sorcerer
Arho Toikka Needleshot Gourna Defiant Elf
Gabe Walls Deftblade Elite Wall of Hope
Joshua Wagener Lowland Tracker Dreamborn Muse
Justin Gary Flamewave Invoker Vile Deacon
Tuomo Nieminen Gempalm Incinerator Crypt Sliver

Legions Pack Four

Arho Toikka Kilnmouth Dragon Mistform Wakecaster
Gabe Walls Deftblade Elite Macetail Hystrodon
Joshua Wagener Keeneye Aven Devoted Caretaker
Justin Gary Skirk Marauder Skirk Outrider
Tuomo Nieminen Skirk Drill Sergeant Nantuko Vigilante
Tomi Walamies Embalmed Brawler Glintwing Invoker

It took some convincing to get Josh to pick the Keeneye. It was a counterdraft that could become another color option. When his mates indicated that it would lap to Tomi he was convinced. It was starting to look like Justin was bailing on blue in favor of black-red.

Legions Pack Five

Gabe Walls Goblin Dynamo Ward Sliver
Joshua Wagener Keeneye Aven Hundroog
Justin Gary Riptide Mangler Merchant of Secrets
Tuomo Nieminen Daru Stinger Lowland Tracker
Tomi Walamies Embalmed Brawler Infernal Caretaker
Arho Toikka Skirk Outrider Goblin Grappler

A counter draft signal indicated that Justin had abandoned blue even though he took the Mangler. Josh was getting into the green-blue plan and gladly took his second Keeneye. Tuomo was impressed with his second Stinger but it was clear from Walls face that he didn't think highly of the amplify soldier.

Legions Pack Six

Joshua Wagener Brontetherium Hundroog
Justin Gary Deftblade Elite Bloodstoke Howler
Tuomo Nieminen Wingbeat Warrior Beacon of Destiny
Tomi Walamies Keeneye Aven Shaleskin Plower
Arho Toikka Ridgetop Raptor Berserk Murlodant
Gabe Walls Lowland Tracker Crypt Sliver

Josh's teammates wanted him to counter draft the Deftblade but he refused, staunchly defending his choice of Brontetherium. Justin shrugged and jumped on that grenade himself since there wasn't anything he wanted as badly as Josh wanted the beast.

At the end of the second set of packs, Tuomo had two Daru Stingers and about seven soldiers all told for his red-white deck. Arho had an army of monsters and the Wave of Indifference to get them through for the killing blow. Tomi was still blue-black and was still shy removal but looked solid.

Scourge Pack One

Joshua Wagener Rush of Knowledge Long-term Plans
Gabe Walls Zealous Inquisitor Goblin Warstrike
Arho Toikka Titanic Bulvox Sprouting Vines
Tomi Walamies Undead Warchief Mercurial Kite
Tuomo Nieminen Scattershot Upwelling
Justin Gary Lingering Death Frontline Strategist

Team USA debated intensely—although silently—over Josh's pick. His teammates felt he should have taken the Warchief—he had zombies to actually take advantage of it—rather than let Tomi abuse it. Gabe could not take it—he was light on actual cards and needed the Zealous Inquisitor.

Scourge Pack Two

Gabe Walls Daru Warchief Sprouting Vines
Arho Toikka Rush of Knowledge Primitive Etchings
Tomi Walamies Lingering Death Daru Spiritualist
Tuomo Nieminen Aven Liberator Bonethorn Valesk
Justin Gary Scattershot Temporal Fissure
Joshua Wagener Titanic Bulvox Thundercloud Elemental

Gabe was not soldier-heavy but the ones he had all featured provoke—a pair each of Deftblades and Lowland Trackers. He laughed—he couldn't let Tuomo have it.

Scourge Pack Three

Arho Toikka Elvish Aberration Accelerated Mutation
Tomi Walamies Rush of Knowledge Temporal Fissure
Tuomo Nieminen Dragon Scales Wipe Clean
Justin Gary Spark Spray Trap Runner
Joshua Wagener Death's-Head Buzzard Cabal Interrogator
Gabe Walls Aven Liberator Zealous Inquisitor

Finland could not decide between Dragon Scales and Aven Liberator for Tuomo's pick. Scales is clearly the better card but with two Stingers he needed ever soldier he could lay hands on. Plus, he did not want the Scales to go to Gabe with four provokers. Arho offered to counter the Scales but in the end Tuomo took the powerful enchantment.

Scourge Pack Four

Tomi Walamies Lingering Death Pyrostatic Pillar
Tuomo Nieminen Aven Liberator Misguided Rage
Justin Gary Torrent of Fire Scornful Egotist
Joshua Wagener Ambush Commander Death's Head Buzzard
Gabe Walls Wipe Clean Goblin Warchief
Arho Toikka Riptide Survivor Dispersal Shield

When Tuomo failed to "D up" the Ambush Commander one of the spectators shouted out a sarcastic, "Yay, Finland." Tuomo thought about taking the Goblin Warchief but not the ridiculous elf.

Scourge Pack Five

Tuomo Nieminen Aven Farseer Hindering Touch
Justin Gary Dragon Shadow Rock Jockey
Joshua Wagener Vengeful Dead Stifle
Gabe Walls Riptide Survivor Ark of Blight
Arho Toikka Fierce Empath Krosan Drover
Tomi Walamies Raven Guild Initiate Coast Watcher

Josh was decisive this pack and insisted on the Dead and his teammates had no objections. Tomi picked up a key card in the match as well in Coast Watcher.

Scourge Pack Six

Justin Gary Zombie Cutthroat Rock Jockey
Joshua Wagener Rush of Knowledge Temporal Fissure
Gabe Walls Eternal Dragon Guided Light
Arho Toikka Accelerated Mutation Reaping the Graves
Tomi Walamies Unspeakable Symbol Hindering Touch
Tuomo Nieminen Dragonstalker Noble Templar

USA was thrilled with their last pack. Tomi was very excited as well. He locked onto the Unspeakable Symbol immediately and knew it would be his. Tuomo ended with a solid soldier wheel and an 'answer' to Eternal Dragon.

After the draft both teams felt they had gotten the better of the other. Most observers felt that Finland had vastly superior decks but Team USA was confident. Gabe Walls dismissed the notion that he should be intimidated by a pair of Daru Stingers, "What does he have eight or nine soldiers? They're not good. That's what playtesting told us."

He went on to explain that the only thing that was set about their draft was his colors. He would be some combination of America's colors in each draft and the other two players would react to what their opponents were drafting, "Strictly reactive. This format is not like the last ones where match-ups are important. It's all about the cards themselves. You have to react to your opponent's cards."

Gabe felt that the two teams had opened pretty evenly but that USA had come out on top because, "They passed us their rares." He was referring to Ambush Commander and Mythic Proportions.

Gabe's deck looked solid although it came up a card or two short and he was debating between Daru Cavalier and Foothill Guide for his 22nd card. Justin and Josh were playing three colors. Josh was forced to play with nineteen lands due to Ambush Commander and Mythic Proportions requiring a lot of green. Justin was shaking his head. He was very unhappy with the deck and was janking it up to try and eke out an unlikely victory.

The leader in the jank department was Skirk Alarmist. Apparently he had some success with it in a draft last night and was thinking about running it today. He was just about to relegate it to the board when he noticed it was a wizard for his Skills. His other wizard? Scornful Egotist.

Tomi Walamies felt that the two countries were evenly matched. If there was slight edge he was going to give it to his own team, of course. He was very upset about a handful of picks. He should not have let Josh get any Naturalizes after he got the Cover of Darkness and he was still sore about the Shifting Sliver.

Tuomo was pleased with his deck but Arho was running three colors—splashing for Rush of Knowledge—and his deck seemed a little top heavy.

Arho Toikka, A Seat

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Tomi Walamies, B Seat

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Tuomo Nieminen, C Seat

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Gabe Walls, A Seat

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Josh Wagener, B Seat

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Justin Gary, C Seat

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