by Event Coverage StaffDay 1:Undefeated Deck Lists
by Sam FeeleySaturday, 10:58 p.m.:Photo Essay – Day One at Grand Prix Washington
by Rich HagonFeature Match Round 9:Brett Blackman v Brian Kibler
by Rich HagonSaturday, 8:58 p.m.:It's Weird, but Will it Work?
by Bill StarkSaturday, 8:46 p.m.:Friends in Magic Places
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 8:Brad Nelson VS Gabriel Nassif
by Bill StarkSaturday, 8:45 p.m.:Deck Tech - Brilliant Ultimatum with Alex Viksnins
by Rich HagonFeature Match Round 7:Mike Jacob vs Conley Woods
by Sam FeeleySaturday, 6:45 p.m.:Photo Essay: I Went to a Magic Tournament and a Fashion Show Broke Out
by Bill StarkSaturday, 6:35 p.m.:Quick Hits: What is the best deck in Standard?
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 6:Sebastian Thaler VS Wu Tong
by Rich HagonSaturday, 6:05 p.m.:Gone but not Forgotten
by Rich HagonFeature Match Round 5:Osyp Lebedowicz vs Luis Scott-Vargas
by Rich HagonSaturday, 3:50 p.m.:Change of Address
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 4:Patrick Chapin vs. Adam Koska
by Rich HagonSaturday, 12:47 p.m.:Enemies Foreign (but not Domestic)
by Rich HagonFeature Match Round 3:Brock Parker vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
by Rich HagonSaturday, 11:52 a.m.:The Grinders
Saturday, 11:52 a.m. – The Grinders
It takes thirty-two players to start a five Round Grinder. The doors opened yesterday at noon, and the first Grinder was full by roughly 12.03pm. Two, Three, Four, and Five quickly followed. As players fell by the wayside, they simply joined the back of the line once again, all in pursuit of the three Byes for the main event that could make all the difference. Here are the winning players from a gigantic twenty four events:
- Stephen Schwartz
- Jacie Lee
- John Cuvelier
- Seth Manfield
- Yoel Izsak
- Billy Moreno
- Ari Cores
- Evan Gottschalk
- Jeffrey Huld
- Ben Wienburg
- Tyler Mollenkopf
- Brett Blackman
- Noah Bacine
- Justin Gottlieb
- Morgan Chang
- Derek Preston
- Andrew Lukas
- Chad Kastel
- Vincent Thibeault
- Barrett Rotramel
- Andrew Roystan
- Michael Scheffenacker
- Eric Mason
- Sergio Ferry
I imagine many of our North American readers will know plenty of these players, but perhaps they're less well-known overseas. Let me introduce a few of them to you.
John Cuvelier made his Pro Tour debut in the Team event at Charleston in 2006, and played in the opening event of the 2009 season in Kyoto.
Seth ManfieldSeth Manfield has played at four Pro Tours, with a best of 13th at Worlds 2008 in Memphis. He's also a Grand Prix Champion, having won the event at Daytona Beach at the back end of 2007.
Ben WeinbergBen Wienburg has five Pro Tours to his name, and made the Top 8 of the Grand Prix in Philadephia 2008.
Brett BlackmanBrett Blackman also has a Grand Prix Top 8 from San Francisco 2007, an event won by Luis Scott-Vargas.
Chad Kastel has played at three Pro Tours, most recently at Pro Tour Hollywood 2008.
Vincent Thibeault of Taiwan also played at that event, cracking the Top 100 at the event won by Charles Gindy.
Andrew Roystan made his Pro Tour debut at Kuala Lumpur 2008.
Billy MorenoUndoubtedly, though, the biggest name in the list is Billy Moreno. With fifteen Pro Tours behind him, he has a ton of experience, and came right to the brink of winning a Pro Tour. With Extended the Format at Los Angeles in 2005, Billy made it all the way to the Final, before an old school Psychatog deck, piloted by Antoine Ruel of France, took the title.
All twenty four winners now get to spend the morning relaxing, and then the hard work starts at Round four. And with thirty five Pro Tours between them, these Trial winners are going to be no pushovers.
Feature Match Round 3 – Brock Parker vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Feature Match Round 3 Brock Parker v Guillaume Wafo-Tapa by Rich Hagon
Pro Tour Champions don't always have three Byes. Witness this Round three clash between Pro Tour Boston 2003 winner Brock Parker, and 2007 Pro Tour Yokohama Champion Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. The Frenchman is renowned as a Control expert, and comes here with a Blue-White Control deck that also features a Green splash for Awakening Zone . As he himself says, 'I'm not sure it's good, but it is new, and it is mine.' Parker meanwhile can look at a career that includes six Grand Prix Top 8s and a title from Grand Prix Turin 2001. It's been a while though since he graced the top tables, with 2004 his last foray into elimination action.Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
The matchup was clear early, with Wafo-Tapa opening on Seaside Citadel , before being bashed for two by a haste-fuelled Goblin Guide from Parker. Tectonic Edge meant Spreading Seas on Parker's Mountain , but he found another via Arid Mesa . Plated Geopede was next for the American. Rise of the Eldrazi made a first foray into feature match action, as Wall of Omens drew Wafo-Tapa a card. That, by the way, is a sentence we might have to get used to.
Teetering Peaks powered up the Plated Geopede , and Parker piled in, with Wafo-Tapa contemplating a block with his Wall. Burst Lightning finished off the Defender, with Wafo-Tapa down to eleven. Oblivion Ring took out the Plated Geopede , but Goblin Guide and a second Teetering Peaks sent him quickly to just five. He drew two lands for free off the Guide abilities, but was still in trouble, with Parker shifting three cards from hand to hand. Goblin Bushwhacker completed the turn, representing lethal damage on the battlefield next turn.
Gideon Jura arrived for Wafo-Tapa, and went to eight loyalty, forcing all Parker's forces to aim at the Planeswalker. Gideon fell to three loyalty, and Kargan Dragonlord appeared for Parker. Spreading Seas sent Wafo-Tapa deeper into his deck, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor joined Gideon. At five loyalty, Jace allowed Wafo-Tapa to check the top of Parker's library, leaving a Goblin Bushwhacker on top. What the Frenchman really needed, though, was a Wrath effect.
Gideon duly got royally bashed by the US forces, but the Goblin Guide s revealed a backup Planeswalker waiting for Wafo-Tapa. Jace allowed him to Brainstorm , and finally a Day of Judgment came into view. That became a five-for-one, before he ended with Wall of Omens , gaining yet more cards, finishing with a full grip of seven. Parker drew up to three in hand, and still had the chance to burn his way to victory. That wouldn't happen with a Goblin Bushwhacker that couldn't even be kicked, thanks to double Spreading Seas .
Gideon arrived once more, but things quickly changed as Staggershock dealt four damage in the blink of an eye. Tapped out, Wafo-Tapa could only watch as Searing Blaze dealt the final point. A classic matchup, with the tipping point finely balanced right up to the end.
Parker 1 Wafo-Tapa 0.Brock Parker
With double Celestial Purge , and Flashfreeze also in hand, Wafo-Tapa had early defence in Game Two. He was helped by no Goblin Guide start for Parker, who saw his Plated Geopede quickly Exile d. When he laid a Teetering Peaks with no target, you had to think things were going poorly for Parker. Staggershock was followed by Goblin Ruinblaster , which Wafo-Tapa countered, not least because he was starting to miss land-drops. Celestial Purge took out a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker , and the Frenchman was still up at a seriously high life total. What on earth was in Parker's hand?
Gideon Jura went to eight loyalty, and the following turn, with Parker still doing nothing, attacked. Searing Blaze made the scores twelve each, and Staggershock at end of turn put the pressure on Wafo-Tapa, who only had three mana left to fight whatever burn Parker had been stockpiling. Two of those went on Negate for the Staggershock , meaning he wouldn't have to worry about Rebound . Burst Lightning with Kicker would be a big chunk of life, and Parker was obviously looking to end things, despite the Frenchman now having Gideon and Jace on board. He couldn't do it, Gideon would apply the final blow, and we were heading for the decider.
Parker 1 Wafo-Tapa 1.
Now Parker would be on the play for the first time in the match, and with mono-Red, that can be a huge advantage. Goblin Guide got straight to work, but at least it gifted Wafo-Tapa a land as recompense for the blow. With eight cards in hand, he faced the choice of discarding, or using Path to Exile 'early' on the Goblin Guide . He chose to discard Celestial Colonnade , and then used the Path once the Guide had revealed Negate on top of his library. Plated Geopede replaced the Guide, with Wafo-Tapa using Wall of Omens as a shield of sorts. Arid Mesa made that problematic, and the 5/5 First Striker killed Wafo's wall.
Oblivion Ring ended the Geopede threat, and Parker could only lay land number five. Land four for Wafo-Tapa brought Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and he wasted no time in summoning a Soldier to the battlefield. Burst Lightning with kicker dropped Wafo-Tapa to fourteen at end of turn, and Parker untapped with five mana and four cards, looking to do maximum damage. Goblin Guide aimed for Wafo-Tapa, who took the damage, falling to twelve.
A second Soldier joined the fray thanks to Elspeth, and Parker had no end of turn play. Wall of Omens helped the French position, and Elspeth now stood at seven loyalty, which quickly became eight. Staggershock met Negate . Elspeth sent a Soldier to the air, and Parker stood at just six, as Wafo-Tapa continued to find counterMagic when he needed it. Lightning Bolt sent him to nine, and Burst Lightning kicked would be five. Yet another Negate stopped that, and one more attack would do it.
Wafo-Tapa had Sideboarded out his Awakening Zone s, so we would have to wait until later in the day to see them in action.
Brock Parker 1 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 2
Saturday, 12:47 p.m. – Enemies Foreign (but not Domestic)
US Grand Prix have always attracted the occasional foreign forager from far-flung locales, but the schedule for 2010 has given that a significant boost. At Grand Prix Oakland, we saw a host of European and Japanese travellers, stopping off en route for the Pro Tour in San Diego the following week. That pattern has been repeated this weekend, with many of the finest players in the world converging on Washington D.C. to try their luck in Standard, before exploring Block Constructed and Draft at the Pro Tour in San Juan. Here's your handy guide to the interlopers trying to make off with the prize:
Germany – The Rookie of the Year Lino Burgold is just one of a seriously talented German squad here. Denis Sinner might be the least-known of the group, but he made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Berlin in 2008. Jan Ruess was a Pro Tour Finalist that year, losing to Charles Gindy in the last match of Pro Tour Hollywood. Like Burgold, Sebastian Thaler is a former Rookie of the Year, winning that title in 2006. And then we have the two Most Recents. Florian Koch emerged triumphant just a couple of weeks ago at the Grand Prix in Lyon, France, while Simon Gortzen is the reigning Pro Tour Champion from San Diego. Like I say, a strong squad.
Netherlands – They may not have many players here, but are represented by two true stalwarts of the European scene. Robert van Medevoort is a former National Champion, and went on to win the Team event at Worlds in 2006, alongside Hall of Famer Kamiel Cornelissen, and former Individual World Champion Julien Nuijten. As for Bram, he recently achieved his fourth Pro Tour Top 8 at Worlds in Rome, and will play his 600th Pro Tour match in Round one at San Juan. That's an astonishing number.
Belgium – The Belgians have come in numbers, and they all have potential to do well here. Mark Dictus is Level 4 this year, his first as a fully-fledged Pro. Christophe Gregoir is best known for his Top 8 from Pro Tour Honolulu last year. Peter Vieren might be one of the most improved players in world Magic right now, and is definitely one to watch. Most card names like a joker in the pack, and the Belgians have a pair of them in Niels Viaene and Marijn Lybaert. Viaene arrives here after a Pro Tour Top 8 in San Diego, where he played the hugely-entertaining Open the Vaults deck. As for Lybaert, he's a Pro once again in 2010, courtesy of an amazing Worlds ride that ended in the Quarter Finals.
Czech Republic – There seem to be so many great players coming out of the woodwork from here, it's hard to know where to shine the spotlight. Nonetheless, three names to keep an eye on are Lucas Blohon, Adam Koska, and Martin Juza. Blohon is the man Juza has been touting as a potential winner for a couple of years now. He cracked the Top 8 two weeks ago, losing in the Quarter Finals of Grand Prix Lyon. Koska played in two Pro Tours in 2009, and finished 9th at both of them. While unlucky not to reach at least one Top 8, that still represents beating almost everyone. As for Juza, he's Level 8 for a reason, and must be in contention for Player of the Year once again.
France – Wow, there are some serious heavyhitters from France at this event. You probably know a bit about Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel. Ditto Raphael Levy. By the end of the year, you'll be able to add Gabriel Nassif to that Hall of Fame list, with his nine Pro Tour Top 8s, and that memorable win in Kyoto last year. Then you have Pro Tour Yokohama 2007 Champion Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, and another Guillaume, Matignon, who is Level 4 this year. Last year, Yann Massicard won the Grand Prix in Seattle-Tacoma immediately preceding the Pro Tour in Honolulu. Can he do something similar here?
There are some individual players from around Europe that are also worthy of note. Mateusz Kopec represents Poland, and is a Grand Prix winner from Vienna 2008. Dmitry Nikitin will fly the flag for Russia with his three Byes, while Antti Malin of Finland knows all about going deep into tournaments, having won Worlds in Memphis.
Brazil – Rafael Coqueiro has half a dozen Pro Tours to his name, and made the Top 32 of Worlds in Rome. Carlos Romao is a former World Champion, while Level 8 is the status of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. He has five Pro Tour Top 8s to his name in a little over twenty starts, which is astonishing consistency, and he plays at breakneck speed, which always makes for exciting Magic.
And what about the number one nation, Japan? They bring a super-strong lineup. Yuuta Takahashi developed a fearsome reputation with Faeries, winning multiple Grand Prix . Kazuya Mitamura won Pro Tour Honolulu in 2009. And then you have the last three Player of the Year winners. Tomoharu Saito won in 2007, and has fifteen Grand Prix and five Pro Tour Top 8s. Shuhei Nakamura emerged the winner in 2008, and he matches Saito stride for stride, with fifteen Grand Prix and five Pro Tour Top 8s. Then there's the younger man, Yuuya Watanabe, the reigning Player of the Year. His reputation stems from an incredible run of Top 8 performances through the second half of last season, where he was virtually unbeatable.
So there you have it. Over nineteen hundred players, so picking a winner is going to be needle in the haystack territory. Nonetheless, there are thirty players here from around the world that are stopping off on their way to San Juan, and they haven't come just to make up the numbers.
Feature Match: Round 4 – Patrick Chapin VS Adam Koska
Sitting down to the fourth round of competition in Washington D.C., site of the American continents' largest Grand Prix ever, were Czech Republic star Adam Koska and American standout Pat Chapin. Koska, whose home country was increasingly becoming a powerhouse on Tour thanks to his performances as well as those of countryman like Martin Juza, had a bad case of the bridesmaid blues: he had managed to frequently make Top 9 at the Pro Tour, but had yet to crack the Top 8. Chapin, on the other hand, had multiple Top 8s at the highest level on his resume, and enough Pro Points to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.
On the play, Koska's Jund deck failed to produce its most aggressive start: a second-turn Putrid Leech . That meant Chapin's rogue construction, built especially for the Grand Prix, had some breathing room to get going. Sprouting Thrinax from Adam was answered by Wall of Omens from Patrick, a pretty common occurrence in the world of Standard post-Rise of the Eldrazi. Putrid Leech finally made an appearance for Koska, though very late arriving on turn four.
Vengine for Pat Chapin answered the black-green bear, but stayed back on defense rather than swing in thanks to haste. Pat's clever Bant-flavored deck actually sought to abuse the Vengevine 's graveyard ability by playing Kor Skyfisher , which he could play multiple times in a turn by having it bounce itself and thus fulfill Vengevine 's requirement for rebirthing. The board started to get cluttered, as Koska threw a Siege-Gang Commander punch while Chapin parried with Scute Mob and Noble Hierarch , using Oblivion Ring to exile the Siege-Gang proper.
Maelstrom Pulse destroyed the Ring, giving Adam his Commander back and netting him three more Goblins. He then sent his team sideways for the first attack in the match, and when the smoke had cleared Adam had snuck through 3 points of damage and traded his Putrid Leech for his opponent's Vengevine .
The Vengevine was quickly returned to the battlefield as Chapin cast Ranger of Eos , then a Noble Hierarch that had been fetched up by the 3/2. Things were not getting any less cluttered as the two jockeyed for position and the game started to go long. A second copy of Siege-Gang Commander from Adam meant he was up to a whopping nine Goblin tokens, plus the two Commanders themselves. Patrick, meanwhile, was hard at work growing a Scute Mob , a 9/9 after two upkeeps having met the minimum land requirements.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor hit for Patrick who began trying to filter his draws to come up with a means of breaking the stalemate on the table. Lightning Bolt from his opponent dealt with the planeswalker, and the back-and-forth showed no signs of ending. A Kor Skyfisher cast by Chapin tried to attack, picking up +2/+2 from Noble Hierarch s, but Koska was ready with Terminate .
Koska decided to switch gears. With 22 points of damage from Goblin sacrifices available on the table and access to seven mana, he began tossing the hapless red creatures at his opponent's face. The first wave of three sacrifices dropped Chapin to 10. That forced Pat to make a move or die, and he cast a Vengevine , his fourth copy on the table, then moved the four 4/3s, his gigantic Scute Mob , and two Ranger of Eos to the red zone.
Carefully considering his blocks, Koska managed to soak up all but 6 damage from the attack while still sacrificing three Goblins to put Pat on 4. With more Goblins left, Chapin realized he was out of options and decided to concede rather than dragging things out any further.
Adam Koska 1, Patrick Chapin 0
Down a game, Patrick Chapin found himself stumbling to kick off the second as he missed his third land drop. He found it one turn later, however, and used it to cast Sea Gate Oracle . The 1/3 let him filter the top two cards of his deck, placing the best in his hand while the other went to the bottom of his library. Adam Koska wasted no time in developing his board, casting a Sprouting Thrinax which quickly went on the offensive, then following it up with Goblin Ruinblaster kicked. That took out one of his opponent's non-basic lands, and meant Chapin was again stuck on two as he drew and passed.
The 3/3 Thrinax and 2/1 Ruinblaster began beating down, joined by a Lavaclaw Reaches . Koska was even able to keep Pat on the back foot using his spot removal on a Noble Hierarch to keep Chapin manascrewed. Patrick drew a second copy of the 0/1, but Adam had a Lightning Bolt to kill that and the second game proved to be as short as the first one was long with the same outcome: Adam Koska's Jund deck defeated Patrick Chapin's Bant list.
Adam Koska 2, Patrick Chapin 0
Saturday, 3:50 p.m. – Change of Address
I have decided to move house, permanently. Scunthorpe has heretofore been the global Home of Magic, but no longer. I knew when I got the Grand Prix Washington assignment that I was going to be a happy man, but I couldn't have known just how happy. The thing is, I've always been a real culture vulture, so you can imagine how excited I was to be coming to the capital of the world.
Now that I've been here for almost twenty four hours, I know that life as I knew it has gone forever. But pictures speak louder than words, so let's get to it, starting with my new living accommodations, at the Holiday Inn...
There's room in that bed for me, and at least two more people. Ideal. And there's a comfy chair, enabling me to watch...
ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN News. I believe these are the only channels any self-respecting American requires, unless of course I want some cutting edge journalism via Fox News.
Here at my executive desk in my executive chair, designed to make me feel important, I can write my articles, play Magic Online, and cruise the intermaweb courtesy of the FREE high-speed connection. I can also, if the mood takes me, venture into the worlds of real estate by looking up Escrow Services in the thoughtfully-provided Yellow Book.
Here is my new fridge. It will contain all the key food groups required for healthy living cheese, ham, bread, and Diet Coke. Above it is the luxury ice box, and a coffeemaker, just in case any of my lady friends come back to my place for coffee without the air quotes. They may also want to make use of the fabulous bathroom facilities...
Note the special mirror, should any of them feel the urge to shave...
...or to iron my shirts.
Now, as many of you know, I'm married, with two children. Here are the children I will be leaving behind when I move permanently to the Holiday Inn. Elizabeth is eight, and Simon is ten months old. If they are lucky, I will visit them on weekends from nearby Dulles airport. Or, they can have an added incentive to qualify for the Pro Tour, where I can always be found. I do not have a picture of my wife. I have forgotten her already.
Of course, life is about more than just your home, even if it does come with a complimentary cleaner who will make my bed and provide me with clean towels. Location, location, location that's the golden rules for the perfect home. So, let's check out the cultural icons on the doorstep...
The Golden Arches. The Stars and Stripes. Two triple cheeseburgers for $3. God bless America, my home sweet home.
That's all well and good, but what about the neighbors? Let's meet them:
Just look at that beautiful garden. I love nature.
I have never met Wendy. I hope she is nice. She is open until 2am.
I'm getting nothing but green lights so far. Although I will rarely need to use any other transport than the complimentary shuttle to the airport for Grand Prix and Pro Tours, it's good to know that I can rent a car within one hundred yards of my bed, which is just about walkable. Or, if it's raining, the helpful staff will call me a cab. See? 'Cab', not 'taxi'. I'm virtually American already.
What else is nearby? Well, a dentist, a nail salon (essential), a gym (not so essential), and a convenience store. This, in my view, has not been named correctly, since it is more than three yards from my room, making it inconvenient, but still. Most important of all, though, is the Laser Adventures building. Apparently, I can spend cash dollars, and in return I am allowed, and indeed positively encouraged, to shoot people. At home, I would go to jail for this.
I may have missed something.
Now, you may be wondering how I will afford all this. I am expecting annual accommodation expenses in the region of $30,000, which will not include tips, bringing the total to $30,005. Thankfully, the convenience store has $108 million available to me each and every week:
I believe this should be more than enough for my modest needs.
As you can tell from this shot, the sun was beating down. This was very exciting for me, as I have never seen the sun in Europe. My cultural tour of America was coming to a close. In an exhausting eight minutes of non-stop highlights, I had managed to become part of the essential American experience. As I stared across the glorious mix of scrubland and parking lot, I wondered what could possibly top the amazing sights I'd seen so far.
Apparently, this was the site of the famous Gettysburger address.
And, with that, it was time for breakfast, the breakfast of champions:
Washington, capital of the world. Remember, if you want me, just ask for me at the front desk. I'm in Room 233. And now, if you'll excuse me, I feel a Pledge of Allegiance coming on...
Feature Match: Round 5 – Osyp Lebedowicz vs Luis Scott-Vargas
With four Grand Prix Top 8s, and three at the highest level of the Pro Tour, Osyp Lebedowicz is no slouch at the game. His crowning moment came at Pro Tour Venice in 2004, where he claimed the title. As for his opponent, Luis Scott-Vargas is arguably the best player in the world. With an unbelievable 16-0 Swiss record at the last Pro Tour in San Diego, Luis became the most successful Pro in terms of win percentage, topping out at over 70% lifetime.
Teetering Peaks opened for Osyp, largely explained by a Mulligan to six and a pained expression, while Misty Rainforest quickly became just a Forest for Luis, with Noble Hierarch right behind. Goblin Guide and a second Teetering Peaks commenced the beats, with Sunpetal Grove going to Luis' hand for free. Stoneforge Mystic fetched Behemoth Collar, and it was just like San Diego all over again. Osyp added a second Goblin Guide , and another four points went away, leaving Luis at eleven.
Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Cunning Sparkmage , and now both parts of the Sparkmage-Collar combo were in place. With no third land, Osyp was forced to pass the turn, and that surely meant bad news. Knight of the Reliquary was up next for Luis, and still Osyp was forced to pass. The Basilisk Collar landed on Bloodbraid Elf , and Lightning Bolt looked to kill it. That didn't work, thanks to the Knight of the Reliquary seeking out Sejiri Steppe , which in turn granted the Elf Protection from Red for the turn. When Luis looked to Equip the Cunning Sparkmage , Osyp had burn to hand, but it was a pyrrhic victory. LSV was in complete control, with Osyp's deck thoroughly misbehaving.
'Should I bring in my Jitte's against you?' Osyp asked.
'Go right ahead! You heard about the turn one kill in San Diego?'
Osyp shook his head.
'I bet his deck was really good.'
'Yeah, it was probably pretty sweet.'
Lebedowicz 0 Scott-Vargas 1.
This time it was LSV who Mulliganed to six, but Osyp still opened on Teetering Peaks , followed by a Mountain and no play. And still no play on turn three. Lotus Cobra was first onto the battlefield for Luis, with Noble Hierarch following up. Already with Stirring Wildwood and Raging Ravine in play, this was a decent start for Luis, as Osyp continued to lay land and pass. Gideon Jura forced Osyp's no creatures to attack the Planeswalker, prompting a wry smile from the Venice Champ. 'If I draw any creatures, I will gladly do that.'
Stoneforge Mystic fetched Basilisk Collar , Gideon got Equipped, and much pounding ensued. Earthquake for two was the very first play of the game from Osyp, who took a while before deciding the two damage should go direct to Luis. Two 6/6s arrived care of Devastating Summons , and a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker was enough to end Gideon, even though Path to Exile robbed Osyp of one of his 6/6s.
Luis began again with Knight of the Reliquary , Equipping the Collar. With Osyp looking to rebuild his manabase, destroyed by his earlier Devastating Summons , Luis was able to Equip Stirring Wildwood and pound in. And in. He now led by thirty life points to just six. A third time the Stirring Wildwood became a red zone force, and this time the second 6/6 Elemental got in the way. Once again, there was no help for Osyp, with six straight land being more than enough to end the contest.
Osyp Lebedowicz 0 2 Luis Scott-Vargas.
Saturday, 6:05 p.m. – Gone but not Forgotten
Many Magic players are young, with a long life before them. Death comes to Magic players multiple times every tournament, but only in gaming form. Nonetheless, the real thing comes to us all, and youth is no guarantee of avoiding the Big D. Many of you will be aware of Chris Rossiter, the Finalist from Great Britain Nationals 2009, who passed away before he could compete at Worlds in Rome, and thereby fulfil one of his remaining ambitions. I'll return to him shortly, with a tale that should certainly raise a smile.
Meanwhile, meet the Alpha Players. From left to right, they are Zackery, David, Christian, Duy, Del, Derek, and Paul.
As you can see from the photo, they're all in Team garb. What you can't see is the back of their shirts, which feature their friend Andrew White, who sadly died three months ago at the age of just nineteen, the same age as Rossiter. For the last seven or eight years, the group has been gaming, playing a ton of Magic, Dungeons and Dragons, you know, all the good stuff. Eventually they persuaded their friend Rob Duck to open a gaming store, which has now been going for just over a year in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As Duy (in the blue shirt) explained, Andrew was the one who was always keen to broaden their horizons, wanting to take trips to PTQs, National Qualifiers, Grand Prix and so on. It's 100% certain he would have been here this weekend. To honor his memory, the group have been fundraising for various local causes associated with Andrew, and although obviously saddened by his loss, have come here determined to have a fantastic weekend, and share stories of their long-time gaming companion.
As for Rossiter, a story to gladden the heart of any player...
Two weeks ago, a fundraising black tie ball was held. A table for ten featured Rossiter's Mum and Dad, friends of the family, and a group of UK Magic players. At these kind of events, there are all sorts of ways you can raise money. One of them is the 'Heads and Tails' game. Everyone puts money in the pool, and stands up. If you think the host is going to flip heads, you put your hands on your head. If you think tails is on the way, hands go rather lower.
This all takes a while to explain, but within three seconds the Magic players are organizing the table. Five go heads, five go tails. As the game goes on, they ensure there's always half the table going each way. It's organized with military precision. Two of the table reach the final four in the room, with a case of wine (six bottles) at stake. One gets eliminated, but the other reaches the Final. The host builds up the tension. The winner gets a case of wine. The loser goes home with nothing.
You know what happened, right? The Magic player offered a prize split, 'lost' the Final, and they both went away with three bottles each!
Gaming the system. You can be certain that Chris Rossiter, and Andrew White too, would have loved it.
Feature Match: Round 6 – Sebastian Thaler VS Wu Tong
German player Sebastian Thaler knows a thing or two about strong starts. After all, in his first year on the Pro Tour he had the highest total of Pro Points amongst rookies, nabbing himself the Rookie of the Year title. Since then he's even managed to rack up a few Pro Tour Top 8s, but what he didn't have was a title. Wu Tong of China also knew a thing or two about strong starts, like when he won a Pro Tour title at his very first World Championships in Rome, 2009. The title was in the team competition, and his format of choice then was Standard. Lucky for him, that just happened to be the same format the two players were battling in Washington D.C.
Tong started on the play, and benefited from a mulligan out of Thaler. Evolving Wilds as Wu's first land drop hinted at the possibility he was playing the Plated Geopede version of Jund, and when he used it to fetch a Mountain it seemed assured that was his plan. Indeed he cast the landfall creature on his second turn while Sebastian used Spreading Seas in an effort to stunt his opponent's mana development, morphing a Swamp into an Island .
A second Evolving Wilds for the Team China player let Tong bash his opponent to 15, but Thaler plodded along casting a second Spreading Seas . That left Wu with access to GUU, and Sebastian even had a Path to Exile as backup for the Geopede. Before passing the turn, however, he opted to use his final mana to play a Fieldmist Borderpost . Verdant Catacombs let the 1/1 Plated Geopede bash for 5 yet again, and post-combat Tong cast a Putrid Leech .
Wu Tong paused beating down long enough to take out an opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor with his Geopede, but Sebastian reloaded with a second copy of the planeswalker. When that copy was facing down an attack, Sebastian used Path to Exile to protect his card advantage machine, then added another layer of protection with a Gideon Jura . By forcing all of Wu's threats to attack Jura, Sebastian protected his Jace for at least one turn.
The Gideon died to a Maelstrom Pulse while Wu tried to build his army, but a second copy again promised to protect Jace and tie up Wu's attackers. With no choice but to oblige, Tong activated Raging Ravine and attacked Gideon with both the creature-land and Sprouting Thrinax . Thaler cast Path to Exile to deal with the Ravine, then dropped his Jura to five loyalty from the Thrinax. Post-combat Wu had a second Sprouting Thrinax and passed the turn.
Sebastian self-destructed his own Jace by winding it down to zero loyalty in order to Unsummon his opponent's creatures, but re-upped with a second copy. By the time he passed the turn back to his opponent, Thaler had a Gideon on seven counters, a Jace on two, and an opponent with nothing but lands on the table. Wu Tong was in a bad spot, and he knew it. He untapped and cast Siege-Gang Commander , immediately offing a Goblin token in order to blow up his opponent's Jace.
As if to mock the Jund deck, Thaler's planeswalker deck immediately offered up a Mind Spring , letting him zoom right back up to a full grip. While it might take some turns, at 9 life with an active Gideon Jura , it looked like Sebastian Thaler had it locked up. But you should ever count out the Jund deck's ability to burn an opponent out. When Sebastian attempted to cast an Oblivion Ring targeting Siege-Gang Commander , Wu Tong responded by sacrificing all of his available Goblins to send them at Thaler's head. Total damage? Six, leaving Sebastian at just 3 life. All it would take for Tong to score the game 1 win was a Blightning or Lightning Bolt from the top of his deck.
He didn't hit it, but he did have a Bituminous Blast . That meant the possibility of cascading into one of the victory conditions, so Tong cast it targeting a Wall of Omens . He revealed? Putrid Leech . Not as exciting, but a free Leech was nothing to complain about. He then cast Maelstrom Pulse to take out Gideon Jura , and ended his turn by casting Plated Geopede .
The match was dragging on, eating a significant amount of time off the clock. If one of the two players didn't win soon, it looked like they might not make it to the second or third games. Thaler cast Martial Coup , coming up with 12 Soldier tokens and clearing Wu's side of the table, but Tong re-upped with Bloodbraid Elf (whiffing on the burn spell he so desperately wanted and landing a Plated Geopede instead) and Sprouting Thrinax . It was a definite nail biter.
Of course, the entire match could have been ended had Tong not sacrificed his Siege-Gang Commander in response to Oblivion Ring earlier. If he had instead allowed the 2/2 to be exiled, his Maelstrom Pulse later in the game could have targeted the enchantment instead of Gideon Jura and got him his Commander back, complete with three new Goblins. Those would have been more than enough to deal with Thaler's Super Friends deck on 3 life. Instead, Thaler attacked with his 12 Soldier tokens, then cast a second Martial Coup to make sure his opponent's board stayed empty. Tong had one more draw step to hit a burn spell, but when it wasn't there they were on to the second game.
Sebastian Thaler 1, Wu Tong 0
A first-turn Duress from Wu Tong kicked off the second game and revealed a Sebastian Thaler hand of Martial Coup , Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Knight of the White Orchid , Spreading Seas , and three land. Tong opted to bin the Spreading Seas , then spent his second turn casting a second Duress which revealed a drawn Oblivion Ring for his opponent; he decided to force Sebastian to discard the new spell.
Sprouting Thrinax was the first creature to the battlefield, signing up to fight with Tong, while Thaler's third-turn Knight of the White Orchid netted him a bonus land to leapfrog him past his opponent's total of three mana sources. The Thrinax turned sideways to knock Sebastian to 17 and Tong cast Plated Geopede , then played an Evolving Wilds .
The mana acceleration for Sebastian meant he got to cast Baneslayer Angel a turn early, and he did exactly that. The 5/5 was quickly dispatched by a Maelstrom Pulse , and Tong sent his team of creatures to the red zone. Having played a Verdant Catacombs for his turn, Wu's Plated Geopede was particularly imposing. Already a 3/3, he could pump it by cashing in both the Catacombs and the Evolving Wilds from a turn prior to make it as large as 7/7. Sebastian wasn't willing to risk that much damage and used his Knight of the White Orchid to block.
Elspeth hit for Thaler, who used it to make a chump blocking Soldier. Tong cast Goblin Ruinblaster with kicker, and agonized over where to send his team on an attack. He decided it was safer to take out Elspeth rather than force more damage through for fear the planeswalker would take the game over if left alive. Sebastian used a Martial Coup to create four more Soldiers for blocking, and time was called in the round.
With a four minute extension thanks to a deck check, Thaler and Tong had a slight bit of reprieve, but it wasn't going to be possible for Wu Tong to win. Thaler could hold on to a win if he could survive the game they were in, but was going to draw if he lost. The players desperately tried to execute on their game plans, Wu by attacking through his opponent's chump blockers and trying to draw more threats, Sebastian while building his manabase with Borderposts and Chalices and trying to hold on long enough for the draw.
Sebastian Thaler 1, Wu Tong 1
Saturday, 6:45 p.m. – Quick Hits: What is the best deck in Standard?
Saturday, 6:45 p.m. – Photo Essay: I Went to a Magic Tournament and a Fashion Show Broke Out
Anyone who's been to even one Grand Prix in the US knows that the dress code is... well... there is no dress code. Almost anything goes, as long as you keep the important parts covered.
Wear whatever you want, whether you're representing the home team...
or your Magic team.
Don't cop this kind of attitude with a judge for real or your day will not end well.
Competitive Magic takes as much dedication as your day job, so why not dress accordingly?
The judges have transformed from a herd of zebras into a black hole (as head judge Ingrid Lind-Jahn put it), but they still look chic.
Distraction for your opponent or not, the bunny ears are a nice touch.
What happens if someone can't read anymore?
As for me, the only reason I'm doing this is because I went 1-2 drop. Why? The shirt says it all.
And so does the PT-Austin champ's expression.
Feature Match: Round 7 – Mike Jacob vs Conley Woods
At 6-0, both these fine American players are just one win away from day two. Thing is, 7-2 is going to give them a ton of work to do tomorrow, so this is something of a stepping stone to bigger things. Mike Jacob is part of the US National Team that became World Champions on home turf in Memphis. Woods is one of the most innovative deckbuilders in the business, and his career highlight came last year at Pro Tour Honolulu, where he made the Top 8.
'It's 2-0 Conley Woods. You can just write that as the match result.'
Interesting. But which player said it?
Multiple Mulligans started the game off with Jacob at five, and Woods at six. Jacob started with Scute Mob and Cunning Sparkmage , while Woods had turn two Everflowing Chalice . No fourth land for Jacob was a bad sign, but to be expected off that double Mulligan. Wall of Omens drew Woods a card, while Jacob sat with double Sarkhan the Mad , Vengevine , and Bloodbraid Elf . Not great with three mana.
The first Planeswalker of the game was Jace, the Mind Sculptor for Woods, and for all the entertaining banter, Jacob was struggling. Birds of Paradise helped the mana somewhat, and Bloodbraid Elf arrived, Cascading into Knight of the Reliquary . 'It's a good one' said Conley. 'If only he had haste' replied Jacob. 'You're just going to kill my guys aren't you?' Conley was quick to respond, 'That's 100% truth baby.' Day of Judgment backed up the talk.
Woods drew four cards, and Jacob gave it up.
Woods 1 0 Jacob.
Savage Lands opened for Jacob, matched by Glacial Fortress for Woods, who added Wall of Omens as the first battlefield presence. Knight of the Reliquary for Jacob then faced down a second Wall of Omens , before Bloodbraid Elf gave him a free Scute Mob . Wall of Omens number three appeared, but Woods was struggling to find land.
Land number five for Jacob brought the Scute Mob excitement closer, and Sarkhan the Mad turned Bloodbraid Elf into a 5/5 Dragon. At least, that's the way it looked from the cheap seats. Woods badly needed a fourth land, and found it, allowing him to cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who instantly bounced the Dragon. As Conley said, 'You get to put it back in your hand...'
Sejiri Steppe gave Jacob's Scute Mob Protection from White, and that meant Jace was in trouble. A second Knight of the Reliquary joined the team, but only briefly, as Sarkhan demonstrated a little more insanity, and another 5/5 threat was born. Esper Charm forced Jacob to discard his last two cards, but the board was overwhelmingly his. A 5/5 Dragon, a 9/9 Scute Mob piling in...
Woods used Path to Exile on his own Wall of Omens , allowing him to find some more mana, and Day of Judgment followed. Tectonic Edge at end of turn sent Glacial Fortress packing, and Jacob looked to start again. Bloodbraid Elf can be pretty good at that, and Lotus Cobra came along for the ride. That quickly became that's right a 5/5 Dragon, with Jacob adding Wild Nacatl , but Woods had Doom Blade . He also had Gideon Jura , falling to four loyalty to kill the Bloodbraid. Jacob found Noble Hierarch on top of his deck, and Exalted meant his Wild Nacatl could kill the Planeswalker.
Woods went back to work, landing another Gideon, with Jacob setting Pithing Needle to render it unexciting. Ranger of Eos sent Jacob to his deck in search of cheap goodness, and found two Birds of Paradise . Another Ranger of Eos found the last Birds of Paradise for Jacob, so his Verdant Catacombs -triple Birds hand wasn't exactly gas. That meant Day of Judgment was good times for Woods. Esper Charm wasn't bad either, netting him two cards.
Jacob found another Sarkhan the Mad on top of his deck, laid a Birds of Paradise , and the 5/5 Dragon it became met Doom Blade . Woods then did something incredibly unfair, something Control players have been doing forever drawing cards. A lot of cards. Nine cards. Mind Spring is such a beating.
Jacob chose to attempt Sarkhan suicide, which worked, and then he ran out Thought Hemorrhage . Day of Judgment , All is Dust, Path to Exile , three land, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor was the hand for Woods, who fell to five, since Jacob had named the blue Planeswalker. Both Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit entered the red zone for Woods, and now Jacob was at thirteen. Birds of Paradise was allowed, Sarkhan the Mad arrived and did its thing, and Path to Exile did its thing for Woods in reply. That meant he could use his manlands to kill of the mad Planeswalker.
Vengevine attacked for Jacob, but Woods had another Path to Exile on hand, freshly drawn. Two Celestial Colonnade s both piled in, and now things were looking bleak for Jacob, with a distinctly ordinary hand against plenty of manlands. Moments later, he extended the hand.
Hmm. I guess I should have taken the advice from the start of the round. 'It's 2-0 Conley Woods. You can just write that as the match result.'
OK, Mike Jacob, I will.
It's 2-0 Conley Woods.
Saturday, 8:45 p.m. – Deck Tech: Brilliant Ultimatum with Alex Viksnins
Feature Match: Round 8 – Brad Nelson VS Gabriel Nassif
"I know you!" Brad Nelson cheerily exclaimed as he sat down to face off against France's Gabriel Nassif. The Hall of Fame contender gave a big smile before turning to the business at hand: winning to guarantee his spot in Day 2. The winner of the match was on to Sunday, but the loser would have to hope to win the last round to make the cut.
Nelson, an American, is regarded as the new face of professional Magic, having made a clear name for himself as "FFfreak" on Magic Online much as Luis Scott-Vargas did as "fob" before rocketing to professional accolades that include a Pro Tour win. He even had a Pro Tour Finals appearance against none other than Nassif, who finally managed to get over the Finals hump against LSV to notch his first individual Pro Tour title.
After agonizing over his hand, spending a good few minutes on deciding whether to keep it or not, Gabriel opted to send his opener back for six. He had lost the die roll, however, and that meant he would be the first player to draw a card in the match, which helped a little. "This is how it starts…" Nassif grumbled as he had to take a second mulligan to five, but was able to stay there.
It was a blue-white mirror, and Brad Nelson ramped himself to five mana a turn earlier by using a Path to Exile on his own Wall of Omens . That allowed him to run out a Baneslayer Angel one turn early, but Nassif had a Path to Exile of his own to answer the 5/5 immediately. That gave Brad enough to cast Elspeth, Knight-Errant with enough mana left over to counter, and Gabriel tried to fix his mana by casting Spreading Seas on his own Tectonic Edge . The cantripping aura failed to net him a fourth land drop, however, and he had to use Oblivion Ring to take out the planeswalker.
Brad simply cast a second planeswalker, this time in the form of Gideon Jura . Nassif used Wall of Omens to find himself his fourth land, but was definitely outgunned by Brad's better start. Nelson cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and used it to Brainstorm , but rather than play the match out from such a bad position, Nassif simply scooped his cards up.
Brad Nelson 1, Gabriel Nassif 0
The second game started with a mulligan for Brad Nelson while Gabriel Nassif had a second-turn Spreading Seas for his opponents Glacial Fortress . The American fired right back with a Seas of his own on a Celestial Colonnade from Gabe and the two settled in for a long mirror match.
Nassif managed to land a Baneslayer Angel but lost the 5/5 to Path to Exile from Brad. Nelson then tried to cast Elspeth, Knight-Errant but found his planeswalker countered by Negate . When Gabriel tried for Gideon Jura , Brad returned the favor using Negate of his own to counter. Nelson's second Elspeth stuck and promptly hopped a 1/1 Soldier token onto the battlefield.
Not wanting the planeswalker to get out of control, Gabriel cast Oblivion Ring to exile it. His followup Elspeth on the same turn was Negate d by his opponent, and Nassif passed with little action to speak of. Brad was able to start attacking with his Soldier while also resolved a Gideon Jura , threatening to begin putting serious hurt on Gabe.
Martial Coup for six Soldiers was Nassif's answer, but Brad Nelson had Kor Sanctifiers to blow up Oblivion Ring and get his Elspeth back. That allowed him to start generating Soldiers of his own, but after some aggressive attacks from Gabriel with Celestial Colonnade and his Coup tokens, Brad's Gideon Jura found itself binned. Nelson shifted gears to attacking, giving an Angelic Blessing to his Sanctifiers by way of his Elspeth, and turning the 2/3 into a 5/6 flyer.
Sphinx of the Lost Truths for Brad tilted the scales further in his direction, even though his opponent was ready with Path to Exile for it. Gideon Jura returned to the battlefield, again for the American, who had the Gideon, Elspeth, Kor Sanctifiers , and a Soldier token against his opponent's Celestial Colonnade and two Soldier tokens. Those permanents were enough to do it, as Nassif couldn't wear down the Jura fast enough to avoid losing to it with some Elspeth pumps.
Brad Nelson 2, Gabriel Nassif 0
Saturday, 8:46 p.m. – Friends in Magic Places
Brad Stryczek, Bill Gagliardi, EJ Garvine, Kevin Gruber
Magic has always been a social game, and nothing brings that more into focus than a nearly 2,000 person Grand Prix featuring gamers from all over the world. It wouldn’t be a coverage weekend if we didn’t highlight one of those stories, and a good one popped onto the radar early in the day. Brad Stryczek is an Iowa native whose Iowan friends weren’t planning on attending the Grand Prix. What to do?
Brad decided it was time to execute a plan he and a group of friends had been talking about for quite some time. You see, Brad is a gamer. When he’s not playing Magic, which isn’t all that often, he spends his time on his Xbox. It was there he and a group of like-minded individuals carved out a solid friendship over shared FPSs, RTSs, and other games. It just happened those friends lived near Washington D.C., in Pennsylvania. The group agreed to meet Brad in PA, then drive down together for the Grand Prix in Washington D.C. Despite knowing each other for years, it was the first time they would be meeting in person. And there was one problem: Brad was the only one who played Magic.
The crew met up early to do some touristing, but bored one night Bill Gagliardi, Edward “EJ” Garvine, and Kevin Gruber all prodded Brad to teach them how to play. He did so, and with 24 hours they were hooked. After some lucky booster pack pulls (in eight packs, EJ cracked a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a foil Baneslayer Angel ), the group traded out their cards and pooled some resources with Brad to come up with enough decks for all of them to play. Just 72 hours after learning, Bill, EJ, and Kevin were sitting down to their first Magic tournament, Grand Prix-Washington D.C. So how was the event?
“It’s fun, but it’s intimidating.” Said Kevin.
The crew admitted they were hooked, and inquired about an upcoming event in Philadelphia. Will they be there? Even if they’re not, they can still battle with Brad on Xbox, and thanks to Duels of the Planeswalkers, they can continue battling together!
Saturday, 8:58 p.m. – It's Weird, but Will it Work?
Some of you may know this there's a Pro Tour next week. Some of you may know this it features Block Constructed. Some of you may not know this there are a bunch of cards from Rise of the Eldrazi that do some seriously weird things, and Pros are busy trying to make them work for fun and profit.
With just a few days to go, you've got more chance of hitching a ride on the space shuttle with Charlton Heston than getting a Pro to give away their Pro Tour decklist. But that doesn't mean we can't indulge in a little pre-tournament speculation. We took a list of ten of the strangest cards in Rise, and asked a cross-section of the Pros the following question:
'For each of these cards, say whether you think any player will come to San Juan, and try to use them in Block Constructed as a central idea in their deck.'
We weren't setting the bar terribly high, as you can see. We're not looking for cards that are going to make decks that make up 10% of the field. That's a Metagame deck. No, we were looking for the cards that were so niche, they belonged in a nice within a nice, labelled 'rogue/idiot.' Let's see how our ten potential star cards in waiting got on:
It might be expensive (well ok, it's expensive) but it sure does whittle away at an opposing deck, and mill them to death pretty sharpish.
Quite apart from being an amazing history series from the BBC (obviously), who doesn't want extra helpings of combat?
Just think of the possibilities. No, really, think about them. Go ahead, I'll wait.
In Draft decks, this can be awesome. Or lame. Can it make the leap to Block?
There's something undeniably sexy about taking extra turns. Admittedly, you have to have something useful to do with them, otherwise life gets boring.
For the first time, being on the Rebound might be ok.
Spawnsire of Ulamog goes Ultimate You got to ten mana. You clearly like Eldrazi. So why not go the whole hog, get to twenty mana, and then bring all your Eldrazi friends to the party?
Empowering little beaters to be more than the catastrophic zero power they actually are.
When Control players dream of winning the Pro Tour, they dream of winning it at one life. Now they can. Maybe.
Enchantress deck. Aurantress deck. Crenchantment deck. Whatever.
Alright, so that's the runners and riders. If you're playing along at home, which of these do you reckon are genuinely going to see the light of day in San Juan? Remember, all we're looking for is the idea that someone, anyone, one poor mad fool, will play the card, genuinely thinking it's a good deal.
Here's what the Pros made of our gallery of rogues:
You might think nine mana is a lot for a 3/5. Most of our Pros don't. By a comfortable majority, they think that somebody will be taking extra turns, taking extra turns. That was a literary metaphor, by the way.
Perhaps they've not had much relationship success, but bonus Rebound action was low on our Pro list of places they wanted to go. Not a single one believed anyone would be audacious enough to trouble the decklist sheets with this one.
This provoked quite a lot of thought, and several players mentioned the possibility of turning up in Sideboards. But presumably, not in the Sideboard of mono-Red.
This was a close one, but the majority think this won't be played.
Everyone who knew what this seven hundred and sixty four casting cost Black Enchantment did laughed in my face. Those who didn't know found out, and laughed in my face.
Imagine you're six. You have chocolate on your fingers, chocolate on your white shirt, chocolate around your mouth, chocolate in your hair, and you're holding an empty chocolate bar wrapper. Your Mom says, 'Timmy (you can insert your own name here for extra realism) have you been eating chocolate?'
Now imagine the look on your face at that moment. That's the look I saw when I asked the Pros if they thought Training Grounds might get used in San Juan. These people positively reek of Training Grounds .
If I revealed which one player said they thought this might see play, you wouldn't believe me. Perhaps they were confusing it with something good.
None of the shifty looks, but the same result as for Training Grounds . You can certainly expect to see this next week.
Spawnsire of Ulamog as a card, the group believed it might get played. But trying to go Ultimate? As almost everyone said, there are so many better ways of getting there.
The card in the group that was spoken about most positively. This was no 'sure, people will play it, because people are idiots.' This was the ultimate accolade, the 'sure people will play it, because people are idiots, and I might be one of them.' Expect to see spawn tokens actually dealing damage.
So, there's definitely some Weird out there, and some mighty impressive names think at least some of them could Work. Personally, I expect to be commentating on a Lighthouse Chronologist - Baneful Omen deck in the Final. But I have been known to be wrong...
Feature Match: Round 9 – Brett Blackman v Brian Kibler
It's now a couple of hours since these two advanced to day two on 7-0. Now they square off for the perfect record. While Kibler is a Level 7 Pro, and knew his three Byes were secured before he came here, Blackman ventured into the world of the Grand Prix Trial, gaining that precious advantage yesterday evening. Who would start day two with the perfect 9-0?
On the play, Brett started with a drop to six cards, while Brian kept. Fetchland into Forest opened the game, and Noble Hierarch wasn't far behind. Kibler thought about matching the opening creature, but went with Birds of Paradise instead. Turn two, and Blackman added Lotus Cobra . Seaside Citadel and Noble Hierarch was turn two for Kibler, and his Birds could attack with the Exalted bonus.
Now Blackman could put mana to good use, and Baneslayer Angel , a beating turn five, was pretty exciting turn three. Wall of Omens drew Kibler a card, and he had enough mana to cast Oblivion Ring , sending the M10 Mythic packing. Blackman cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and used the Brainstorm ability, leaving him three cards in hand. Vengevine dashed in for Kibler, who aimed it at the Planeswalker, with Blackman either unable or unwilling to defend his Jace.
Blackman cast Eldrazi Conscription on his Lotus Cobra , and Kibler confirmed that it was a gigantic beating, dropping to just four life. Misty Rainforest made that three, but at least he wouldn't be dying to a Lightning Bolt any time soon. Bant Charm sent the Lotus Cobra to the bottom of the Blackman library, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor completed a great turn for Kibler. Now it was all going the way of the Pro Tour Austin Champion, as double Scute Mob joined his extensive team. Dauntless Escort and Birds of Paradise looked to provide some defence, but Kibler was having none of it. Path to Exile , and the bounce activation on Jace gave him the opener.
Blackman 0 1 Kibler.Brian Kibler
Once again on the play, Blackman opened with Noble Hierarch . Kibler had Birds of Paradise , but Blackman was setting the pace, with Knight of the Reliquary on turn two, and a second on turn three. Turn three for Kibler meant Jace, and the Brainstorm ability meant him digging deeper into his library. Knight of the Reliquary offed the Planeswalker, and Blackman added Baneslayer Angel , leaving him just two cards in hand, but with a ton of threats on board.
Kibler cast Noble Hierarch and Scute Mob , but although he had five mana, he only had three land. Blackman made Qasali Pridemage , and when Kibler moved to use Path to Exile on the Baneslayer Angel , Blackman had his Knight of the Reliquary ready to fetch out Sejiri Steppe . Double Exalted meant the Angel causing a fourteen point lifeswing. Ouch.
Blackman 1 1 Kibler.Brett Blackman
Scute Mob began the decider for Kibler, but Blackman was about acceleration with Birds of Paradise , and a followup Lotus Cobra , giving him an explosive start with a second Birds of Paradise . Kibler laid land number three and passed. Blackman attempted Gideon Jura , and Kibler acknowledged that the Planeswalker could be a little annoying. Eventually he cast Deprive , setting him well back behind Blackman on mana, but at least avoiding the white Planeswalker threat.
Blackman had plenty of mana, but apparently nothing to do with it, as Kibler laid a fourth land, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and activated the Brainstorm ability. Sovereigns of Lost Alara allowed Blackman to search out his Eldrazi Conscription , and with Oblivion Ring taking out Kibler's Jace, he needed answers, fast.
Like another Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That bounced one Conscription monster, but Sovereigns of Lost Alara don't just work once. Blackman sent in a creature, and the second Conscription was enough. Kibler would resume in the recently unaccustomed position of going into day two with a loss to his name, while Blackman would advance with the perfect record. Grand Prix Trials a bit good.
Brett Blackman 2 1 Brian Kibler.
Saturday, 10:58 p.m. – Photo Essay – Day One at Grand Prix Washington
Couldn't be with us this weekend in the nation's capital? Wonder ing what you missed? Need more reasons to attend the next Grand Prix in your neck of the woods? Fret not! Here are some sample sights from the largest GP ever in North America.
The pairings have to be in there somewhere.
Who says Magic isn't a spectator sport? Feature matches are always attractive, especially when “The Innovator” Patrick Chapin is involved.
Stalemate or all-out war? You decide.
Can your deck do this on turn two? It can if it's Bant.
Yuuya Watanabe and the rest of the Japanese stars made the trek to DC in search of more Pro Points.
Grand Prixs aren't just about the main event. Here we have an EDH game as part of the Casual Magic Showcase. Yes, two players have Momir Vig as their general. As Serious Fun columnist Adam Styborski told the group, “If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.”
Artist signings are also a big part of the Grand Prix experience. Here, Dan Scott customizes a playmat for a fan.
Whole lotta trading going on.
Wonder Judge Twin Powers Activate! Head judges Ingrid Lind-Jahn and Kevin Desprez preside over 50 other judges and nearly 2,000 players.
Magic is a game for everyone, including Rishi Nijhawan of Lexington, Massachusetts. Rishi has ataxia, a condition that impairs his speech and motor skills. However, on the back of the Eldrazi Conscription Bant deck, he advanced to Day 2 with a 7-2 record.
Friends and fans line the aisles to see whose bubble bursts during the last round of Day 1.
After 12+ hours of Magic, you'd be exhausted too. Get some sleep and we'll see you Sunday morning!