Dan Musser achieved his first Top 8 at GP Atlanta last year. The young Ohioan went on an amazing run, going 12-0 in the tricky Limited environment of Battle for Zendikar. Now he was in Sydney, having achieved another impressive run on Day of 8-0, finally losing in Round 9 to Seth Manfield.
Musser had been preparing for GP Sydney and the upcoming Pro Tour Sydney with a team of likeminded Magic pros.
"We're team Grumpy Old Men, sponsored by MTG Card Market. That's our official name." said Musser.
"He's the youngest person on the team," joked Joe Lossett, who made Top 8s at GP Los Angeles and GP Columbus this year.
"I am not the youngest person on the team," protested Musser, before getting back on track. "We've been practicing online and in our little satellite locations for about two weeks, then we got here Thursday/Friday, we jammed draft all-day Friday, played a little Constructed, and after today, when we see the Star City Results, we'll probably just play Constructed 14 hours a day.
"This is the last Pro Tour of the Season, so it's all about the Constructed portion of the Pro Tour." said Grump Old Man Shaheen Soorani, who made Top 8 at GP San Paulo with in a team with Brian Braun-Duin and Pascal Maynard, and is widely seen as a breakout star waiting to happen. "Joe and I, and a few others, have been Star City Grinders for a while now. So now that we're back on this scene, we've got to make an impact on the Pro Tour, right?"
Joe Lossett, Shaheen Soorani, and Dan Musser
"My goal this season was to just get Silver (Pro Player Status)." said Musser. "I'm Silver now, so I'm riding on the coat-tails, anything I get past Silver I'm pretty happy with with. Gold is pretty far, which is the next goal. I mean I already get to go to Hawaii, but it would be nice to not have to pay for it. So achieve that here, or next week."
I asked Musser if he was nervous, sitting at the top table.
"That's not bothering me. I think you want to be at the head table, because everyone's going to do the right thing, and no-one's going to trainwreck the draft. The people around me are probably a lot smarter than me, so I know they'll ship me a deck, eventually." he joked. "I got to play in the first pod at the Oath of the Gatewatch Pro Tour. That was my first experience in a covered draft, on a stage, that was kind of fun. This is nothing now, right?"
Pack 1, Pick 1 Musser chose a Noosegraf Mob over Midnight Scavengers and Ingenious Skaab. He cemented his colour choice Pick 2, taking a Rise from the Grave over an Emrakul's Evangel. A third pick Smoldering Werewolf saw Musser branch into red, which he followed up with a Deranged Whelp and Falkenrath Reaver. By the end of the first pack Musser had a grip full of Black and Red creatures plus a Geir Reach Sanctum, but no instants or sorceries to support them.
That quickly changed Pack 2. A first pick Oath of Liliana, second pick Galvanic Bombardment and fourth pick Certain Death started to push Mussers deck into a more controlling build, especially as the low-drops required for an aggressive build started to dry up. Musser's colours also faded away this pack, as he took a Spectral Reserves and Courageous Outrider late in the pack.
The removal kept flowing Pack 3. A Kindly Stranger, Murderous Compulsion (over Triskaidekaphobia), Inner Struggle, Reduce to Ashes and Fiery Temper all made their way into Musser's pool. As the draft finished, the question would be whether Musser had more removal or more creatures in his deck.
"I didn't want to go Red/Black. I drafted it twice or three times and I found it is okay, but I don't really like it. Green/White is my favourite so far. Personally. But I think I was probably in the right colours. I was a little sad in Pack Two when I got shipped the Heron's Grace Champion third. I don't like first-picking Gold cards, but I would of taken it. But I think I was in the right place. "
"I don't feel insanely well positioned or anything. I think the deck is ok but missing some key things. I don't have quite enough creatures or discard outlets. I've a bomb, maybe a bomb and a half. Hopefully that's good. First pick I took the Noosegraf Mob, and I'm hoping I can return him a couple of times. I haven't played with Dusk Feaster, but my deck seems controlly enough to not care about casting a finisher for seven mana."
In Round 10 Musser faced Cho Jeong Woo, who was a member of the Korean team that made Top 8 at the World Magic Cup in 2014, his second time at representing Korea. Cho had drafted an aggressive Green/White aggro deck, with a number of spirit token makers and some sacrifice synergies with Bloodbriar.
Dan Musser vs. Cho Jeong Woo
In Game 1 Musser used Smoldering Werewolf and Noosegraf Mob to good effect, able to stall out the board. Then his Geier Reach Sanitarium went to work, generating both card advantage and mana advantage with his various Madness removal spells. Cho recovered Game 2, building an army of spirits and Bloodbriars, then finishing the game in the air with Borrowed Grace. Game 3 Musser played an early Wailing Ghoul, sending his Noosegraf Mob and Kindly Stranger to the graveyard. He then recruited the Mob back from the Cemetery and used it to slowly but surely eat the brains of Cho.
"He had every card I didn't want to see," Musser said afterwards, "Vessel of Ephemera, Spectral Reserves, Sanctifier of Souls. Noosegraf Mob helped a lot. The first game I drew Smoldering Werewolf and that helped a lot. I think things lined up pretty favourable, and they had to."
Musser went on to go 2-1 in the draft, losing to Scott Lipp in Round 11, and beating Chapman Sim in Round 12, to remain in contention for Top 8 at 10-2.