by Randy Buehler
Some people were surprised to when Mike Long went 4-0 at his first draft table, but I for one was not. Mike Long wouldn't show up at a Pro Tour if he weren't prepared. Some players show up just to have hang out and have fun, but Long just isn't like that. He's highly competitive, highly talented, and he would never dream of pleasing the enemy players that want to see him fail. So when Mike Long did actually show up in Long Beach, I knew he must have done a lot of drafting at his store and he must understand the environment.
Mike turned on his notorious charisma in an attempt to entertain the table during a long delay while some problems were worked out on other tables, but a judge eventually asked him to quiet down. He spent the rest of the delay rolling his eyes at how long it was taking. Mike's 4-0 with blue-white put him on Table 2 with Kurt Burgner feeding him from the right. His first pack had three good white cards (Thermal Glider, Muzzle, and Cho-Manno's Blessing) and a Lunge. He seemed tempted by the idea of cutting off red since the obvious Glider pick would send confusing signals, but decided the Glider was just too good to pass up. (Burgner, meanwhile, busted a Crooked Scales on his right.) What was left in Burgner's pack after the rare was gone were Drake Hatchling, Rishadan Airship, and Spidersilk Armor. Once again Long was forced to decide between cutting off a color and drafting a card of a color he'd prefer to draft. He went with the Drake Hatchling. At the same time Kurt was drafting Ramosian Lieutenant.
There was yet another Spidersilk Armor in pack #3, along with a 2nd drake hatchling. Long seemed annoyed that so many SpidersilkArmors were going to be in his opponents' decks, but that didn't stop him from drafting a 3rd flier. Pack four had drake hatchling #3, Spidersilk Armor #3, and not a drop of playable white. By pack 5 Mike's deck was drafting itself since Kurt was sending him clear "go blue" signals. Dehydration was the obvious best card. Meanwhile Kurt himself was dipping into green and collecting efficient white and green weenies. Over the rest of the pack Long took 3 more reasonable blue cards, a Tiger Claws, and a Flaming Sword. He went into pack 2 with 7 solidly playable blue cards and no real second color (although the Glider was certainly better than his other non-blue cards).
Mike took the full time to decide on his first pick of pack #2. His choices included Muzzle, Cateran Enforcer, Cho-Manno's Blessing, and Disenchant. Should he solidify white as his 2nd color even though he's very unlikely to get any in pack #3 or should he take the best black non-rare in the set even though it's double colored and he has no black cards? He went with the Enforcer, perhaps because it would be amazing against him if he didn't draft it himself. Pack #2 was also tough -- he could follow up on his black dalliance with an Undertaker or Molting harpy, or he could take Alabaster Wall. He took the Wall.
Pick #3 was easy -- Crenellated Wall was easily the best card left -- but it didn't help him decide his colors. He seemed to be seriously considering Thunderclap as his next pick, but went with the Blockade Runner instead. Gush and Counterspell followed and then he took Lightning Hounds over the overrated War Tax and Venomous Dragonfly. Next into his pile was a Thwart that he didn't hesitate over -- he wasn't expecting a quality card this late. His next pick -- Misstep -- is more typical of the back half of a Mercadian Masques booster. I was surprised that he counterdrafted Specter's Wail over Kyren Glider, but other than that his last few picks were uneventful.
Kurt had a bad second pack and dabbled in black in addition to sucking down green and white cards. Mike opened yet another Spidersilk Armor in his last pack and was visibly upset. He took Counterspell and passed the Armor and a Hunted Wumpus down the line. Pick 2 was yet another flier -- Rishadan Brigand. He then took Afterlife over a 2nd Outrigger and Ramosian Rally over darting Merfolk. He mentally noted the existence of a Blaster mage in that pack as well. Pick 5 was a bit odd: Blockade Runner, Tidal Kraken, or Indentured Djinn? The answer is Tidal Kraken, for Long anyway. In pack 6 he D-Drafted a Hired Giant rather than draft a Rishadan Cutpurse that he probably wouldn't play. Mike's mental count of good cards must have been pretty high because he D-Drafted Giant caterpillar next. Rishadan Footpad and Gush came next, followed by a Wall of Distortion that he didn't want to have to face. Finally he pumped his fist when darting Merfolk came back to him at pick #11.
All in all Long seemed to draft a solid blue/white deck with an above average number of fliers, but he's facing down at least 5 Spidersilk Armors with only one Disenchant and a couple counterspells to fight them with.