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Draft 4: Courtney's Boys vs. 2020

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With just two rounds left in Pro Tour Boston, nobody had yet clinched an invitation to Day 3. The first team through would be the winner of this feature match, between Courtney's Boys and 2020.

David Rood has been putting up good finishes at seemingly every North American Grand Prix this year, most recently with an 11th-place finish in Cleveland where his deck also claimed 2nd place in the hands of Gab Tsang. Rood is primed for a breakout on the game's biggest stage and he team up with long-time on-again, off-again Pro Tour players Steve Wolfman and Elijah Pollock for this event. The three Canadians have been doing their fellow caucus proud all weekend. They never gave me an answer I believed about were their team name comes from, but their most interesting answer was that they rolled two dice to determine it.

Speaking of breaking out on the game's biggest stage, Neil Reeves has been the talk of the money draft circuit for seemingly forever, but "J.T. Money" has just one good result in the Tour's main event. Much was expected of him after he put up a Top 8 in San Diego, but the months since January have been pretty dry. This weekend he seems to be putting everything together and he has yet to drop a single one of his individual matches. It's not that his teammates have been giving him the good decks either, there have been some real toughies amongst those nine wins.

Reeves' teammates are each among the biggest stars in the game: Gary Wise and Bob Maher. Maher and Reeves are pretty close friends who were originally planning to lay this event with another friend, Dave Williams, but (thanks to the DCI suspensions of Maher and Williams) they didn't have the requisite 50 points. Enter high-profile free-agent Gary Wise and all three of them must be delighted with how their collaboration is working out. Their name is a tribute to Bob's wife Courtney, who put up with the boys while they were practicing for this event.

The Boys won the toss and chose to receive. Rood pretty much always drafts blue-white in the middle seat and Pollock drafts green-something on the left so they were quite happy to open up a Looter-Mongrel pack. Wise, like every other seat-A player in the tournament, plays black so he took Childhood Horror. That's when the Boys started to put their draft-plan into action: they had Reeves draft Muscle Burst because they like green in the middle while Bomb Squad was passed down to Maher so he could be red-white. On Team Rochester guru Mike Turian's advice, the Boys don't like to double-draft blue so they came into the event trying to put red-white on the left, but they had been forced to draft blue-white there in each of the previous rounds.

Pack #2 gave 2020 their second Cephalid Looter. Pollock took it to go with his Mongrel and never looked back, drafting blue-green the whole way (and making Maher's Bomb Squad potentially quite powerful). Pack 3 gave the Boys their first tough decision: who should get the Shower of Coals. Red is the color they almost always want to split so both Wise and Maher could use it. Eventually, they all agreed Maher should take it. Throughout the draft, Maher skillfully divided up the red cards between he and Wise based on who's deck they would be better in. This was no small feat since Gary's first inclination was always to draft the best red cards for himself. Wise returned the favor by pointing out packs where they should not D-draft because 2020 couldn't possibly suck down all 4 of the remaining black and red cards so Gary was sure to get something decent 11th.

The most interesting pack of the draft was Pollock's Torment pack, which contained Violent Eruption, Balshan Collaborator, andMutilate. The Canadians got to take three cards, but their colors simply weren't set up to take advantage of any two of these. They wound up having Pollock D-up the Eruption, Rood took the Collaborator, and Wolfman got to put Mutilate into his deck for the black-red mirror match. The Boys were flabbergasted at how badly 2020 flubbed up this pack. Rood was blue-white so the Collaborator was really just a bad Aven Fisher and Skywing Aven would have been a much better pick, especially since none of the Boys were blue-black either so they're making good use of the Skywing whereas the Collaborator wouldn't have helped them much at all. Worse still, Wise was actually more afraid of playing against Violent Eruption than Mutilate, so they felt 2020 didn't even draft or D-up the right cards.

There really wasn't much moving around in colors during the draft. Each team came in with a plan and the packs let them stick to it. The middle seats will pit Rood's blue-white against Reeves' blue-green. The A-seat sports a black-red mirror match and the C seat battle is between Maher's red-white and Pollock's green-blue.

The uneven color distribution in Torment in Judgment seems to be limiting players' options in this draft format. You pretty much have to draft black on the right, since it's so good in Torment, and Judgment demands either green on white on the left. Blue is so good in all three packs that most teams put it in the middle, though many decide to put it in two places. Within those constraints there are still a bunch of decisions to make, though, and it is those decisions that will make the difference between winning and losing this weekend.

In this particular round, I thought Courtney's Boys made the better decisions. Their brash young up-and-comer Neil Reeves agreed, summing up his feelings characteristically boldly, proclaiming "We out-drafted them 2 to 1."

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