It's that time of year we've all been waiting for: the 2005 Fantasy Coaster Design Firm season is just around the corner. After an offseason of breathless anticipation, fantasy owners are readying their cheat sheets and projections for the coming year. With most drafts happening over the next two weeks, ARN&R is here to provide helpful strategy that will enable you to dominate your league. Today, we present our first in a series of looks at five major design firms and let you know when (or if) you should draft them.
Whether you use head-to-head, roto, or a point system, Intamin is a fantasy force for its owner in any league, and will be the first firm taken in numerous drafts. With its popular launched rides, including the record-setting Kingda Ka, steel hypers, and a smaller, but highly regarded, line of woodies, Intamin is a rare five-cat stud. There are only two concerns with drafting this company: first, injuries are always a concern. Secondly, be sure whether or not your league features categories that penalize design firms for excessive downtime, lawsuits, or chunks of rides flying off and hitting people at a hundred miles per hour. Should this be the case, Intamin still warrants a high first round pick due to its monster production in the power and speed cats, but downgrade it somewhat due to its weakness in those non-standard maintenance categories.
Bolliger & Mabillard
Because of its lack of a wood coaster division, B&M can't help owners at all in one major category. However, the company has consistently put up superior numbers in all other major cats for the better part of the past decade, and shows no signs of slowing down yet. B&M is certain to fly off the board in the top five on draft day, and will go as high as the very first pick in some leagues due to its remarkable ability to stay off the DL, unlike other top firms such as Intamin. In leagues that reward secondary stats like smoothness of inversions, and in those that divide steel looping coasters into smaller scoring units such as Floorless, Inverted, and Sit-Down, B&M's numbers are absolutely filthy; if you count stats in this fashion, do anything you can, short of killing other owners, to obtain this firm.
Great Coasters International, Inc.
GCII is the perfect example of how a design firm's value can fluctuate based on the type of fantasy league you belong to. In standard H2H leagues and standard points leagues, GCII is being drafted, on average, in the early tenth round, but has been going as high as the late first round in roto leagues. The important thing to know about GCII is that, without a steel division or even true out and back wood rides on its docket, it functions as a classic one-cat stud. Be aware that the fact that GCII builds only one general type of coaster, and constructs a relatively low number of rides yearly, means that the firm probably won't provide enough overall points in those H2H or points matchups. However, in roto leagues, the fact that GCII will almost automatically win you the Wood Twister cat single-handedly, while providing excellent secondary numbers in categories like crossovers, rolling stock, and WHIP, makes it well worth a second round pick, so long as you grabbed a multi-category stud in the first round.
The Gravity Group
The Gravity Group is one of our top sleeper picks this season. Drafted, on average, in the 21st round of standard roto leagues, it's obvious this company has flown under the radar of most owners, hopefully including everyone else in your league. Known thus far for consulting work and structures for refurbishment projects, this firm doesn't have a lot of gaudy stats to attract fantasy newbies. But keep in mind that Coasters America rated this company the top prospect for this year even before it got its major league call-up to construct Hades. Once that ride hits Wisconsin this summer, your fellow owners will be offering you free hand jobs to pry the Group loose for their team (assuming you were smart enough to grab this breakout candidate first, that is). We're projecting borderline top-fifteen stats from this firm, which will make it a mega-bargain even if you jump ahead of its current average draft position and grab it in the mid-teen rounds. It goes without saying that this squad is a tip-top keeper option, as well.
This is the ultimate in high-risk, high-reward draft picks. Although Premier burst onto the scene in 1996 as a one of the highest-rated prospects ever, with major power potential and the always-desired high pockets, its career has been somewhat of a disappointment. Lately, the firm seems as if it may be shaking loose from its decade-long doldrums: the opening of the two Mummy attractions last season made Premier a moderate sleeper for owners who had remained patient enough to hold on to it, while this season will see the debut of the two massively themed Italian Job rides. There are two schools of thought on Premier. One is that the success of the Mummy rides was a fluke, and the company will quickly return to its disappointing career totals; the other sees the Mummy rides as a rebirth of Premier, and that the lucky owner of the firm this year will reap massive multi-category rewards. We'd like to see this happen, but we're projecting a sharp nose-dive from last season. We advise drafting this firm with great caution, but if Premier is still around after the 25th round, it's a risk worth taking.