1997 world champion Jakub Slemr is one of only three players who have made the Top 8 at Worlds in two different years. With a 7-2 record and a seat at table 3 for the second draft on Thursday, Slemr was in prime position to beak the tie with Mark Justice and Henry Stern. His table included Zvi Mowshowitz, French national champion Yann Hamon, Dan Clegg, and Euros runner-up Raphael Levy, but Slemr's neighbors were less well known members of the Turkish and Swiss national teams.
It was hard for Slemr to go wrong in his first pack: Power Matrix, Noble Purpose, or Waterfront Bouncer? Slemr "went gold", drafting the rare artifact and then taking careful note of what he was passing to his left. Pick number two was similarly easy: Lunge (over Brawl and Cho-Manno's Blessing). He shook his head after looking through his third pack - all that was left was Thwart, Tidal Kraken, and Cho-Manno's Blessing. He took the Blessing. Pack four gave him a Wild Jhovall (over Steadfast Guard and Counterspell), and then things really got interesting.
Slemr's fifth pack included Alabaster Wall, Rishadan Airship, Dehydration, and Deepwood Drummer. His deck so far is two decent red cards, one white card, and an artifact. On the one hand he can stick to his colors and draft the Alabaster Wall. However, given that he passed a Noble Purpose and he hasn't been passed any white other than a couple Cho-Manno's Blessings, I think he has evidence that white is already being drafted on both sides of him. Sure the Blessing is good, but there are a lot of better white cards in Masques than that and he hasn't been passed any of them. Meanwhile, this pack represents a pretty clear signal that blue is not being drafted on his right. Sure he passed a Bouncer, but to me this pack indicates that he can expect a lot of good blue in Prophecy when he's being fed from the right once again. Slemr took the Alabaster Wall. I think, upon further review, that he should have taken Rishadan Airship.
The next pack had Crackdown, Deepwood Drummer, and Sailmonger. Slemr took the Drummer in case green started flowing to him late. He then took Tiger Claws since it was the best card in a weak pack, but then the green dried up. Slemr added Disenchant to his pile in pack #8 and then Wild Jhovall came back to him from his original pack. That had to be very good news and indicated that he could expect more red in Prophecy where there's a lot of good red commons.
Slemr's Nemesis pack was a good one: Blastoderm, Flowstone Armor, Rathi Intimidator, Rathi Assassin, and Seal of Fire. Slemr had the option to follow up on green, but he really didn't see that much in Masques so his decision to take Flowstone Armor seems hard to question. Rathi Assassin is obviously a bomb, but he didn't see a single playable black card in Masques so he declined to switch now. He then took Laccolith Grunt over Defender en-Vec and Seal of Doom. Next up was Topple over Silkenfist Fighter and Blastoderm, followed by Seal of Fire over Laccolith Grunt and Massacre. Whoever on Slemr's right cut off black in Masques got paid off handsomely in Nemesis. (I looked after the draft and it turned out Raphael Levy got handed 3rd pick Assassin, 6th pick Massacre, 7th pick Seal of Doom, etc.) Slemr took a pair of Lightbringers later in Nemesis and then surprised me by selecting Flowstone Wall over Flowstone Strike. A second Flowstone Wall rounded out his Nemesis.
Going into Prophecy I thought his colored cards weren't very exciting, but his two first pick artifacts certainly were. The trend of good first picks continued when he busted open Troubled Healer. Pack 2 was equally easy: Rhystic Lighting. (The pack did contain Spiketail Drake (the 3/3 flying Mana Leak) and Ribbon Snake, but he turned down blue a long time ago.) Pack three gave him a Fault Riders and then he took Mageta's Boon over Ribbon Snake and Stormwatch Eagle. Just when he was beginning to wonder if anyone would ever pass him any red creatures he got handed Keldon Berserker. After that came a second Mageta's Boon. The blue fliers kept flowing by. Eventually he was forced to draft Stormwatch Eagle, Coastal Hornclaw, and Spiketail Hatchling just because there wasn't anything left in those packs.
All in all I thought Slemr could have drafted a better deck if he'd taken 5th pick Rishadan Airship instead of Alabaster Wall. However, he is an excellent player. I expect his skill and his three first picks (Power Matrix, Flowstone Armor, and Troubled Healer) to carry him to a 2-1 record.