Top 4 Draft: Illuminati vs. Team CardShark

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Last round my team was eliminated from the contention for the semi-final rounds by Illuminati, which is comprised of -as you undoubtedly already know-Justin Gary (A), Zvi Mowshowitz (B) and Alex Shvartsman (C). As a reward I got to watch them draft against Card Shark, a team made up of CMU member Paul Sottosanti (B) and two California friends of Mike Turian; Jason Huang (A) and Adam Fischer(C). They were playing together as a team for the first time and I would suspect that their sponsor www.card-shark.com more than got their money's worth!

Pack One: Odyssey

The Card Sharks won the randomization event and elected to have Illuminati open their packs first. Zvi showed green with his first pick of Werebear and Alex followed with the oh-so white Resilient Wanderer. Jason seemed content to go with red beatdown in the A seat when he took a Minotaur Explorer. Adam took an Aven Flock and Justin took a Frightcrawler. Interestingly, five out of six players stayed pretty much on course right from their first picks.

Pack Two: Odyssey

Alex gladly added Lieutenant Kirtar to his small but growing pile of white cards, shipping a Wild Mongrel, Firebolt, Hallowed Healer, Liquid Fire and Syncopate. Jason took the Firebolt, and Paul took the Healer. Adam gladly took the Wild Mongrel, Justin took the Dusk Imp, and Zvi wheeled Syncopate and a Krosan Avenger. Justin took the Liquid Fire testing out the R/B waters. Nothing else of interest happened until Alex got an Aven Archer on the second wheel.

Pack Three: Odyssey

Jason stayed pretty much mono-red with his selection of Ember Beast. Paul showed U/W when he picked up Balshan Griffin. Adam pursued his green with a Nantuko Disciple over the Krosan Archer that was picked by Zvi. In between green cards Justin took a Pardic Firecat. Alex took a Pilgrim of Justice and an Embolden on the wheel.

Pack Four: Odyssey

Paul looked to his teammates for silent advice as he agonized over his choice of Shelter or Beloved Chaplin. He eventually settled on Chappy but didn't seem sure. Adam picked an Afflict over Springing Tiger looking to go G/B instead of the usually underwhelming G/W. Justin didn't veer and took a Barbarian Lunatic, and Zvi got the Springing Tiger. Alex seemed pleased with his late Shelter and Jason got a solid-if unspectacular-wheel of Crypt Creeper and Fledgling Imp.

Pack Five: Odyssey

Card Shark stayed away from the common strategy of W/U on the left and it backfired here. I guess if they knew they were going to open Kirtar's Wrath... All Adam could do was draft it and maybe keep his white options open. Justin added a Firebolt to his arsenal. Zvi dipped a toe into black for Afflict and Alex got his second Resilient Wanderer. Jason picked up a Dusk Imp while Paul wheeled an Auramancer and Cephalid Scout.

Pack Six: Odyssey

As the players fanned though their cards in anticipation of their last Odyssey pack, only Adam and Zvi had flinched- both taking an off color Afflict. Adam seemed to want to avoid pairing his green with white and I was pretty sure the black rich Torment packs were on his mind.

Justin looked at a Thermal Blast but went with the monstrous (and expensive) Vampiric Dragon. Zvi chose an Elephant Ambush and Alex took a Kirtar's Desire. Jason took the Thermal Blast that Justin was eyeing. After Paul took a Peek, Adam was rewarded with a Krosan Archer and a Metamorphic Wurm.

Pack One: Torment

Justin opened up a whale of a pack to get Torment underway. Unfortunately for Illuminati they would only get to take one of the cards. After little deliberation Justin chose Violent Eruption over Nantuko Shade, which went to Adam although it could have been a counter draft. Paul took Floating Shield and Jason took a big fat Carrion Wurm. At this point Alex had drafted mostly white cards and maybe one or two blue ones. Here he took a Soul Scourge and was in a good position to switch to W/B. Zvi seemed quite pleased with his Flash of Defiance and Churning Eddy on the wheel.

Pack Two: Torment

As Alex fanned his cards for Justin and Zvi, he looked for their feedback on his intention to switch to W/B. No one seemed to mind and Adam started out with a Strength of Lunacy- a card that could prove very powerful against Alex's predominantly white picks. Paul didn't sway from U/W and took an Aquamoeba while Jason practically fell over himself reaching for the Faceless Butcher. Alex shrugged and could only pick up a Mystic Familiar. He would have liked the Waste Away, but that needed to be in Justin's deck to deal with the Carrion Wurm. Zvi picked up a Turbulent Dreams in between them and Justin smoothed out his mana with a Tainted Peak.

Pack Three: Torment

Last pack's Strength of Lunacy tipped Alex off to Adam's G/B plan and let his teammates in on his hunch. Everyone shrugged as if to say, "What can you do?"

Paul took a Hydromorph Guardian and Jason grabbed a Chainer's Edict. Alex let his black cat out of the bag when he picked Sickening Dreams over Teroh's Faithful. Zvi picked up another Flash of Defiance and Justin got an Organ Grinder. Adam got what I think could be key cards in the matchup- Mind Sludge and a Shade's Form. Justin gladly took a Barbarian Outcast on the way back. Alex ended up with the Faithful after Zvi half-heartedly took a Liquify.

Pack Four: Torment

Everyone seemed settled on what they and their opponent's were playing. Jason seemed REALLY settled as he picked up his second Carrion Wurm. This could be really bad for Justin if he doesn't draw his Waste Away and/or his Liquid Fire. Alex got his second Soul Scourge and Zvi grabbed a Skywing Aven. Justin got another possible answer to the Wurm question in the form of Temporary Insanity. Adam grabbed another Shade's Form (somewhere along the way he picked up a Cabal Coffers and indicated that he isn't afraid to use it) and Paul grabbed a Ghostly Wings.

Pack Five: Torment

Alex picked up what could turn out to be a game breaking Stern Judge and Zvi got a Breakthrough. Justin grabbed a Fiery Temper over Cabal Torturer. Earlier in the day we were discussing that R/B doesn't mind the Torturer so much since it can pretty much kill it 82 different ways and Justin was content to let his opponent grab it. Too bad it didn't make it past Adam. Ghostly Wings for Paul and Jason wheeled Gravegouger and Balthor the Stout.

Pack Six: Torment

Everyone playing black did a quick card count as the last shot at a pack deep in black was put on the table.

Zvi opened up with a Coral Net that just might make the main deck against his U/W opponent. Justin took a Sickening Dreams and Adam picked up an Organ Grinder. Paul picked up a Deep Analysis and Jason picked up a Nantuko Blightcutter. He nodded over at his teammates indicating he would be splashing the Green black hoser. Alex grabbed Strength of Isolation and a Militant Monk on the wheel. All the way around again Alex's opponent picked up an Anurid Scavenger, but it doesn't seem that good against Alex's flying Black creatures.

Pack One: Judgment

Now it was time for the green and white drafters to fan through their cards checking for holes they could fill with Judgment cards.

Zvi grabbed a Phantom Tiger to open things up and Alex took the Shieldmage Advocate. Jason snapped up a Goretusk Firebeast. A Battlewise Aven joined Paul's team and Adam took a Sudden Strength. Justin grabbed a Book Burning and the only other card of interest on the way back around was the Spurnmage Advocate that Zvi had no answer for save bounce.

Pack Two: Judgment

Alex showed blue again with a Wormfang Drake. Jason took a Stitch Together and Paul took the Phantom Nomad. Then, it was an Ironshell Beetle for Adam, and Earsplitting Rats for Justin. Zvi shrugged as he picked up a Harvester Druid and a Mental Note on the wheel. Justin took a Firecat Blitz on the way back.

Pack Three: Judgment

Jason was faced with the unusual situation of having to choose between two good red cards to start out his Judgment pack. He eventually settled on Barbarian Bully over Browbeat-Justin seemed fine either way that worked out. Paul took an Aven Fogbringer and Adam grabbed a Treacherous Werewolf. Zvi ended up with another Mental Note after Justin took the Lava Axe/Ancestral. Alex ended up with a very good white wheel of Guided Strike and Phantom Nomad.

Pack Four: Judgment

After everyone spun the Spirit Cairn around for a quick read Paul took a Vigilant Sentry. Adam nabbed a Phantom Tiger and Justin was beside himself over his unexpected bounty of an Arcane Teachings. Zvi took the Anurid Swarmsnapper, Alex grabbed an Earsplitting Rats and Jason got an unexpectedly good wheel of Lava Dart and Barbarian Bully.

Pack Five: Judgment

Adam took a Treacherous Vampire to kick off the penultimate pack of the draft. Justin, who had been looking at all of his Punisher cards decided to take a Dwarven Driller. Zvi pulled a Scalpelexis and Alex took a Battle Screech. Possibly reeling from the quality of his opponents' last two picks, Jason did not make his pick in time and ended up with a random Mirror Wall. Paul got a Benevolent Bodyguard and a Lost in Thought-he would have preferred a Mirror Wall. Jason took a Sudden Strength on the way back.

Pack Six: Judgment (finally!)

The last pack was a bit of a letdown as Justin took a Bully and Zvi took an Ironshell Beetle. Alex took a Mirror Wall, raising the specter of blue again. Jason took a Giant Warthog much to his teammates' consternation. Lost in Thought and Harvester Druid rounded out the first wave of picks and there wasn't anything worth noting after that.

As the teams sat down to build I asked them what they thought their opponent's were playing and what cards would be key in the match up.

Justin Gary thought his opponent would be R/B/G (he was right). Justin commented on the strife that Cardshark went through over the Warthog and assumed it will make the deck. It is for this reason that Justin considered a main deck Earth Rift. Justin also needed to decide if he would play with the expensive Vampiric Dragon as his win condition, or if he would go with a faster build that exploits all of his Punisher cards.

Justin: "I'm not usually a fan of the whole Punisher thing..."

Zvi: "I'm still not!"

Justin was pretty concerned about the Carrion Wurms and has to hope he finds Liquid Fire or Waste Away pretty quickly in order to deal with them.

Zvi Mowshowitz thought his opponent was playing U/W with no damage prevention or removal. He suddenly remembered that his opponent had a Spurnmage Advocate, but calmed down when he remembered his bounce spells.

I asked the underdog Cardsharks how they liked their chances against the battle tested Illuminati. They were excited to have won an invite to Pro Tour Boston and some cash and were game for a good fight against the Pro Tour New York finalists.

Paul Sattosonti was concerned about Scalpelelxis and Zvi's spiders but the team thought that this was their best matchup. Adam didn't like his chances and was expecting Alex to have a tough W/B deck. Adam had decided to play the Cabal Coffers and the Shade's Forms in addition to his Nantuko Shade. He laughed and could only shrug as he prepared for what he thought to be an awful matchup. Jason Huang thought Justin was R/B and could be splashing green for Serene Sunset or Giant Warthog, but conceded that it was unlikely, and that Justin was probably just R/B. They seemed to think their chances in this match were 50/50. If the other matches play out as they expect, this match may be what decides whether or not the Card Sharks keep swimming toward the finals.






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