Pro Tour-Los Angeles 1999 First Draft Pod: Featuring Matt Place and Ben Rubin

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In this installment of Rochester draft analysis, we take a look at the drafts of Pro Tour Germany Winner Matt Place and 1998 Worlds Runner-up Ben Rubin. During the draft, Place sat to the right of Rubin, choosing first during the first and third packs. Below are the picks they decided to choose (showing in parentheses the order of which they picked for each pack). The first player shown at the top was the first to choose between the two during each pack.

Pod Order of Drafting

1. Michael Lucarello
2. Eoin Brosnan
3. Ped Bunsongsikul
4. Carlos Grinbaum
5. Casey McCarrel
6. Bryan Hubble
7. Matt Place
8. Ben Rubin

1st Round of Eight Packs
(Place 7th in order passing to Rubin 8th)
Players are choosing cards in clockwise order.

1st Pack 
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Hidden Spider (7th Pick)       Breach (8th Pick)
Pendrell Flux (10th Pick)      Elvish Lyrist (9th Pick)

With both players choosing late in the pod, the picks they receive at the beginning quite possibly could be different from those they'll be taking later on. This is in part because players drafting ahead of them haven't normally become set in their own colors, a fact that forces those around them to be wary of committing to colors.

The first pack was opened by Michael Lucarello and contained a very weak assortment of cards, though it did contain a Zephid's Embrace (which Lucarello took first). By the time Matt was to choose his 7th pick card, there wasn't much left to be happy about. Place's pick of a Hidden Spider was questionable over that of the Elvish Lyrist, but sometimes, the early picks come down to personal taste, or an effort to feel out those players around them. Rubin, noticing a gift when he saw it, took the Lyrist, as well as the Breach, which probably wasn't going to be played once his colors had solidified.

2nd Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Priest of Titania (6th Pick)   Phyrexian Colossus (7th Pick)
Goblin Raider (11th Pick)      Victimize (10th Pick)

In the second pick, Matt again picked a Green creature (Priest of Titania), while Rubin went for the non-committal Phyrexian Colossus (an amazing wall creature or game ender).

3rd Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Treetop Ranger (5th Pick)      Duress (6th Pick)
Dark Ritual (12th Pick)        Lull (11th Pick)

At this point, it became apparent that Lucarello (to Rubin's left) and Bryan Hubble (to Place's right) were going after Blue in a strong way. This allowed Matt to get a Treetop Rangers 5th pick and Ben to get Duress 6th. It was obvious that Place was going Green and Rubin made his Black preference known. The major foreseeable problem that Place had was that Casey McCarrel, second to his right, was snagging several Green creatures, though quality Green was still making it's way through. This early in the draft, it becomes a fight to see who might blink first and jump to another color, though in most cases, players keep what investment they have in a color and fight their way through others' attempts to draft it if they can.

4th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Argothian Swine (4th Pick)     Phyrexian Ghoul (5th Pick)
Slippery Karst (13th Pick)     Blood Vassal (12th Pick)

With Bryan Hubble committing to Red, it appeared that the three players (Hubble-Red, Place-Green, Rubin-Black) had their main color schemes picked out. Michael Lucarello, to Rubin's left, had also chosen his own main color, staying away from those being drafted by Matt and Ben. When a competitor stays away from the colors those around him are drafting (in an effort to concentrate on his own colors), draft harmony has come into being. This is the best situation for players, as they end up drafting stronger cards in their colors and passing other colors to those around them in an effort to keep the neighbors happy.

Going with his Green, Matt received a quality creature (Argothian Swine) 4th pick, while Ben stayed with his Black, getting two creatures, including the strong

5th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Defender of Law (3rd Pick)     Looming Shade (4th Pick)
Greener Pastures (14th Pick)   Fortitude (13th Pick)

Being draft friendly towards Ben, Matt stayed away from the Black, selecting a Defender of Law (as White had been poorly drafted by those around him up until this point and could become a second color choice). This allowed Rubin to pick up a Looming Shade, giving him a definite claim on Black.

6th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Pestilence (2nd Pick)          Symbiosis (3rd Pick)
Fertile Ground (15th Pick)     Mana Leach (14th Pick)

In what looked to be a major score for Ben Rubin, Bryan Hubble's 1st pick pack had a Pestilence, Sanguine Guard, and other strong Black cards in it. In keeping with his commitment to Blue, Hubble stayed in color. As long as Matt stayed in form and took a Green card, Ben would be set with a 3rd pick Pestilence. However, Place jumped colors and grabbed the Pestilence, much to the chagrin of Rubin. In another odd twist, Rubin took a Symbiosis, though there were other Black cards at his disposal in keeping with the color he had up until this point. In what amounted to a play on strategy, Rubin said, "If I had let the Symbiosis go by, the people to my left would have started to draft Green (there being no strong cards in their color in the pack). I knew I wanted to go green at some point, but by letting the card go, I wouldn't get Green when the packs changed direction." This key pack was to set the tone throughout the rest of the draft, as both players began a war in an effort to control Black/Green.

7th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Blanchwood Armor (1st Pick)    Befoul (2nd Pick)
                               Yawgmoth's Edict (15th Pick)

In what Place would describe as, "Totally a mistake. I don't draft much anymore," Matt took a Blanchwood Armor over Befoul when his 1st pick pack was opened before him. Rubin capitalized on the mistake and took the Befoul immediately after the signal to draft was given.

8th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Hidden Ancients (8th Pick)     Dragon Blood (1st Pick)
Unnerve (9th Pick)

With no real viable Black selections in his pack, Rubin took a Dragon Blood, giving him a mid to late game-breaking card.

2nd Round of Eight Packs
(Rubin 1st in order passing to Place)
Packs are being passed counter-clockwise.

4th Pack
Rubin's Choices                Place's Choices
Lull (6th Pick)                Duress (7th Pick)
Gaea's Bounty (11th Pick)      Polluted Mire (10th Pick)

Only wanting one Duress in his deck (which he had already drafted), Rubin chose the Lull because, in his words, "Lull wrecks Symbiosis."

On the other side of the table, two players were throwing off the rhythm of those around them by color fighting (drafting the best card in the pack as opposed to making their own deck strong). This was to haunt them during deck construction, as their drafts contained too many colors, keeping them from making a strong two color deck.

5th Pack
Rubin's Choices                Place's Choices
Cave Tiger (5th Pick)          Argothian Swine (6th Pick)
Fiery Mantle (12th Pick)       Retaliation (11th Pick)

6th Pack
Rubin's Choices                Place's Choices
Pestilence (4th Pick)          Symbiosis (5th Pick)
Fire Ants (13th Pick)          Fertile Ground (12th Pick)

Thanks to the first three players sticking to their colors (of which none were playing Black), Rubin received an early birthday present with a 4th turn Pestilence.

7th Pack
Rubin's Choices                Place's Choices
Symbiosis (3rd Pick)           Bog Raider (4th Pick)
ROP: White (14th Pick)         Power Sink (13th Pick)

Place was beginning to fight a battle on both fronts, as both Rubin and Casey McCarrel (second to Matt's right), were going Black/Green. The war was costing Place, as several quality cards in his main color Green weren't making their way through the McCarrel/Rubin obstructions. Still, he was managing to get some nice.

8th Pack
Rubin's Choices                Place's Choices
Ravenous Skirge (2nd Pick)     Acridian (3rd Pick)
Copper Gnomes (15th Pick)      Bereavement (14th Pick)

3rd Round of Eight Packs
(Place 7th in order passing to Rubin 8th)
Players are choosing cards in clockwise order.

1st Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Elvish Lyrist (7th Pick)       Breach (8th Pick)
Retaliation (10th Pick)        Shower of Sparks (9th Pick)

A very weak draft for Rubin. Nothing worthwhile made it's way through McCarrel and Place.

2nd Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Sanguine Guard (6th Pick)      Acridian (7th Pick)
Hidden Spider (11th Pick)      Phyrexian Guard (10th Pick)

3rd Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Veiled Serpent (5th Pick)      Unworthy Dead (6th Pick)
Yawgmoth's Edict (12th Pick)   Blood Vassal (11th Pick)

In a surprise pick, Place took a Veiled Serpent over an Unworthy Dead. When asked about it after the draft, Matt commented, "I didn't mind if somebody else played them (Unworthy Dead) as they were borderline creatures. I don't think I'd be playing it, so I took a card that I didn't want to see (an opponent play)."

4th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Persecute (4th Pick)           Crazed Skirge (5th Pick)
Unnerve (13th Pick)            Gorilla Warrior (12th Pick)

5th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Hidden Ancients (3rd Pick)     Hidden Predator (4th Pick)
Reclusive Wright (14th Pick)   Blood Vassal (13th Pick)

6th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Befoul (2nd Pick)              Vampiric Embrace (3rd Pick)
Reflexes (15th Pick)           Headlong Rush (14th Pick)

Wanting more creature removal, Place took a Befoul over Vampiric Embrace (the 8th Embrace to make an appearance during the draft).

7th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Expunge (1st Pick)             Blanchwood Treefolk (2nd Pick)
                               Reflexes (15th Pick)

8th Pack
Place's Choices                Rubin's Choices
Lull (8th Pick)                Corrupt (1st Pick)
Parasitic Bond (9th Pick)

Summary

Though Place and Rubin stayed out of each other's colors early on, Matt's 6th pick Pestilence selection changed the course of the draft for both players. The pick looked as though it would hurt Rubin the most, but the second group of packs being passed from his left proved kind to Ben, giving him the cards that Matt had been snapping up to his right. Also, through his timely drafting of Green, Rubin prevented those to his left from drafting the color. This proved invaluable, as those to his left continually passed him large quantities of quality Green/Black.

In the end, Place, squeezed from both sides (McCarrel and Rubin), never had the chance to jump into a color other than those he was playing (Green/Black). Place never won a match, and ended up dropping from the tournament after round 4, ranked last out of 337 players. Rubin did little better, with his only win in the first four rounds coming at Place's expense.