by Randy Buehler
Kai Budde, the current world champ and reigning Player of the Year, was only 4-4 in his first Invitational when he sat down for the last Solomon draft of the weekend. Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz sat down across from him with a 5-3 record, good enough for 4th place and only 1 game out of 1st. He's doing significantly better than last year when he took home the dreaded last place trophy. To be fair to Steve, though, he didn't feel bad about last year for long because he won Pro Tour L.A. just a few weeks later.
Kai had to split the first pack and he put Field Surgeon, Ashes to Ashes, and Necratog on one side with Desert twister, Warthog, Bottle Gnomes, Ivory gargoyle, and Mogg fanatic on the other side. Steve took the five card pile, giving Kai a foothold in black and Steve a toehold in green.
When Steve split the second pack he put Erase, Derelor, Ray of Command, and Sabretooth Wyvern on one side with Carnophage, Plague Bearer, Pendlehaven, and Wildfire Emissary on the other. Her basically split the cards evenly while making sure not to make it too easy for Kai to accumulate all the good black. Kai took the side with the Ray of Command, giving Steve two good black cards and an Emissary to go with his Mogg fanatic.
Kai did another 5/3 split in pack #3. He put Air Elemental, Nightshade Seer, and Armageddon on one side. The other side had Blinking Spirit, Soothsaying, Raging Goblin, Durkwood Boars, and Dominating Licid. Steve once again took the 5 card side, gave Kai another good black card and another good blue card. Steve, however, had total control of green and got a good blue card for himself too.
Steve's split in pack 4 seemed a bit suspect. He put Abbey Gargoyles, Treasure Trove, and Lure on one side with Wind Drake, Pillage, Razertooth Rats, Dark Triumph, and Urza's Blueprints on the other. Kai didn't even hesitate -- he immediately grabbed the 5 card side. That stuck Steve with 3 very mana intensive cards while Kai got a good artifact and 2 black cards to go with his Nightshade Seer. Kai also got the Pillage which might otherwise have been able to blow up his Blueprints. In addition, Steve got Abbey gargoyles, but Kai had almost no red so their protection ability didn't seem very useful.
Kai piled up Annul, Corrupt, and Capsize on one side with Shackles, Voice of Law, Phyrexian Splicer, Puffer Extract, and Gaea's Embrace on the other. basically, he seemed to really want Corrupt and when Steve gave him the Corrupt/Capsize side Kai was in position to try to pull off a 2-color deck. that's usually impossible in Solomon draft. The real question was did Kai give up too much to get his black and blue cards.
Pack 6 was really interesting. Steve was forced to figure out how to divide up Volcanic Wind and Silver Wyvern. He had most of the red and Kai had most of the blue, but they were only halfway through the draft and if Steve put the Wyvern on one side and all the other cards on the other then Kai would clearly stick Steve with the Wyvern and put everything else into his own pile. Steve used the full 60 seconds and went with Pouncing Jaguar, Silver Wyvern, Howl from Beyond, and Scent of Cinder on one side with Invigorate, Volcanic Wind, Remedy, and Dystopia on the other. That seemed like a pretty good split to me. Kai took the full 30 seconds to decide and eventually reasoned that since Steve was both green and white, that made Dystopia a really good card -- almost as good as Silver Wyvern. Thus Kai decided to D-draft the Volcanic Winds and add Dystopia to his pile. He also gave himself the option to splash red if the rest of the draft made that seem tempting.
When he divided up the 7th pack, Kai effectively asked Steve "So which one of us is really the red guy?" Steve answered "me" and took the Arc Mage, Avalanche Riders, Lowland Giant, and Blood Lust. Kai got Coercion, Counterspell, Topple, and Soldevi Sage. That left Kai solidly in black and blue as the draft wound down.
Steve put prodigal Sorcerer, Tranquility, Plated Spider, Devout Witness, and Wall of Roots on one side and Stalking Tiger, Jagged Lightning, and Merfolk Looter on the other in pack 8. Kai surprised me by taking the Jagged Lightning. Perhaps he decided to splash red and he must like the Looter almost as much as Tim.
Kai put Gerrard's Irregulars, Dwarven Soldier, Cho-Manno's Blessing, and Ballista Squad on one side with Lightbringer, Albino Troll, Squee, Goblin Nabob, and Undo on the other. Steve took the first half -- the half with the better white. That decision did make Kai's deck a lot better though. It gave him a Squee to go with his Soldevi Sage and Merfolk Looter. Still, Steve got pretty much all the white.
The last pack was a doozy: It included Drain Life, Temporal Adept, Deepwood Drummer, Hyalopterous Lemure, resistance Fighter, Recurring Nightmare, Winding Wurm, and Squallmonger. Steve ended up with Drain Life, Deepwood Drummer, Recurring nightmare, and Winding Wurm because Kai chose the Adept/Lemure side for his own deck, denying Steve the Squallmonger at the same time.
Kai ended up building a black/blue deck that splashed red for Sabertooth Wyvern, Volcanic Winds, and Squee. Steve built green/white and also decided to splash red (for Avalanche Rider, Wildfire Emissary, and Arc Mage). It was kind of interesting how they divided up the colors. Both players counterdrafted enough to keep their opponent honest but mostly Steve got all the white and green while Kai got most of the black and blue. Their complete decklists are available for viewing on the main Invitational coverage page.
Kai won the match 2-0. he wrecked Steve with ray of Command in the first game and in game 2 Steve had mana problems which were made even worse by Kai's Capsize. They played three more games for fun after the match was over and Kai won two of those as well. Steve said that he may have made a few mistakes and that Kai's deck was better. Kai felt the biggest mistake Steve made was making it so easy for Kai to draft the Urza's Blueprints.
Budde - 2 (now 5-4)
O'Mahoney-Schwartz - 0 (now 5-4)