by Steve SadinSunday, 6:14 p.m.Round 15 Wrap-Up
by Steve SadinSunday, 5:22 p.m.Round 14 Wrap-Up
by Blake RasmussenSunday, 4:15 p.m.Round 13 Wrap-Up
by Steve SadinSunday, 3:53 p.m.Quick Hits: What's the most overrated common in Dark Ascension?
by Blake RasmussenSunday, 1:58 p.m.Quick Hits: Which player would you least like to face?
by Steve SadinSunday, 1:57 p.m.Round 12 Wrap-up
by Blake RasmussenSunday, 1:13 p.m.Drafting UW Tempo with Ben Stark
by Blake RasmussenSunday, 12:50 p.m.Round 11 Wrap-up
by Steve SadinSunday, 12:49 p.m.Reading the draft with Owen Turtenwald
by Steve SadinSunday, 11:45 a.m.Round 10 Wrap-up
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Sunday, 11:45 a.m. - Round 10 Wrap-up
Reid Duke 9-0 vs. Brandon Kasay 9-0
Reid Duke continued winning on draft day, this time dispatching Brandon Kasay.
In the first game, Reid Duke was able to put pressure on Brandon early by transforming his Hanweir Watchkeep. A few hits from Bane of Hanweir later, and Brandon was forced to make an unprofitable attack in the hopes of setting up his Morkrut Banshee. Reid was ready with a backbreaking Bone to Ash, and they were on to game two.
Tristan Sommer 9-0 vs. Daniel Cecchetti 9-0
David Sharfman 8-1 vs. Matt Oldaker 8-1
David Sharfman got off to an early lead in the first game, but just as he was on the verge of finishing off Oldaker – he drew into a gigantic pocket of lands. This gave Oldaker the time he needed to take over the game by generating a ton of card advantage with Tower Geist, Grasp of Phantoms, Morkrut Banshee, and Liliana of the Veil.
The second game followed a similar path, with Sharfman pulling ahead early, before running out of steam and succumbing to Oldaker's card advantage.
Rob Dougherty 8-1 vs. Bryan Alcorn 8-1
After getting quickly overran by Bryan Alcorn in the first game, Rob Dougherty got off to an early lead in game two, and used a Grasp of Phantoms to seal the deal before Bryan could do anything of note.
Lukas Jaklovsky 8-1 vs. Joel Keralis 8-1
Lukas Jaklovsky lost a drawn out first game, but quickly even the score thanks to an aggressive draw backed by Nightbird's Clutchers.
Game three was an even bigger blowout than the second, as Joel Keralis only cast two spells (one of which was a Cellar Door which failed to produce any creatures) before dying.
Sunday, 12:49 p.m. - Reading the draft with Owen Turtenwald
Reigning Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald snuck into Day Two with a 7-2 record, but he's already put himself back into the thick of things by winning his first two matches with an incredibly powerful Black-White deck.
"I first picked a Niblis of the Mist out of a bad pack, then a took Skirsdag Flayer second, another Skirsdag Flayer third, a Tragic Slip fourth, and a Ravenous Demon fifth – so I had three cards that were really good with Humans, and I figured I would just jam white through the rest of the draft."
Because the player to Owen's right had began the draft by taking a couple of Double-Faced cards, Owen felt confident that he was going to be in a good position to draft Black-White.
"I like drafting Black-White, and my deck is incredible. It's honestly one of the best decks that I've ever had in this format. Thing just broke out perfectly for me this draft. I saw that the guy to my right took Hinterland Hermits second, and third pick – so I figured it was pretty unlikely that he would go Red-White, and I knew from the cards that he was passing me that he wasn't in black."
But even with the advance knowledge that he was in a good spot, Owen couldn't have anticipated just how good his deck would turn out.
"I have a lot of removal, and infinite synergy. Niblis of the Mist (Owen's first overall pick), and Falkenrath Torturer are my only 'bad cards', everything else is a card that I would handpick to put into the deck."
But even the unimpressive Falkenrath Torturer can do a lot of good things in Owen's Deck.
"Falkenrath Torturer was my last card. I had two Village Cannibals, and an Unruly Mob – so I figured that I might be able to go crazy with it Arcbound Ravager/Disciple of the Vault style. I have some other random stuff that has synergy with it, like Doomed Traveler, and Fiend Hunter – and the next best card in my sideboard was a Jar of Eyeballs, so I figured why not."
So make sure to pay attention to what Double-Faced cards your neighbors are taking – because if you can successfully stay out of the colors that your neighbors are drafting, you give yourself a chance to get passed an amazing deck.
Sunday, 12:50 p.m. - Round 11 Wrap-up
Ahem, sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll get to that soon enough. Round 11 featured a ton of interesting action across a number of matches, even ones that had no Zombie Apocalypses at all. True story.
But why wait? Let's get right to the match that featured a certain six-mana black sorcery.
Sam Black and Shaheen Soorani are pretty familiar with each other, having notably battled few years ago at U.S. Nationals. While Soorani was often known for his controlling builds, while one of Black's first major claims to fame was winning a car with an aggressive red deck, the tables were certainly turned today. Soorani had drafted an aggressive red green deck while Black was playing a blue black controlling zombies deck (wait for it, we're getting there).
The pair split the first two games, with Black's large creatures holding off Soorani's smaller ones in one game and a Kessig Wolf Run helping Soorani take the other.
But in game three (almost there), Soorani flooded the board early and looked to have an advantage until Skaabs of the Armored and Relentless variety slowed things down. Both players added cards to the battlefield (and in Black's case, also the graveyard) while jockeying to find an opening. Black found one when he cast, yes...
The sorcery took out three of Soorani's creatures and brought back two zombies. As usual after a Zombie Apocalypse, the zombies won. Black was churning along at 9-2 while Soorani fell to 8-3.
This was a rematch on the weekend for David Sharfman and Korey McDuffie, who had met in Round 7 when both were 6-0. McDuffie won then, but Sharfman would have his revenge this round.
Mana flood and mana screw made the first two games relatively uninteresting, but the third game more than made up for it.
"A rare interactive game," Sharfman said staring at a fairly clogged board.
He broke it open, though, with a Reaper of the Abyss against McDuffie's Darkthicket Wolf and Lumberknot. McDuffie was nearly able to put together the 13 points of damage he needed with a Wild Hunger and Brimstone Volley, but made a crucial misplay by not playing a Silver-Inlaid Dagger the turn before he attempted to attack for the win. He ended up just two points short, dropping to 8-3 while Sharfman moved on to 9-2.
Caleb Durward, sitting pretty high with just one loss, quickly took games two and three with his aggressive WG deck against Matt Oldaker. The game one speed bump came in the form of a slower draw on Durward's part and a Butcher's Cleaver-wielding Invisible Stalker from Oldaker. Durward is now 10-1 while Oldaker dropped to 9-2, though still in contention.
In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it match up of players at 8-2, Ben Stark's quick blue white tempo deck quickly overran Josh Ravitz with a flurry of fliers, tap spells and Silent Departures in two straight.
Sunday, 1:13 p.m. - Drafting UW Tempo with Ben Stark
Ben Stark is well-known as a limited master, a pro's pro sought out by even the best in the world for advice when formats shift to 40 cards.
He showed why in Round 10 today when he deftly maneuvered his blue-white fliers/tempo deck to what looked like an impossible win with what he called a "very traditional" version of the archetype. It took two Feeling of Dread and the Fateful Hour bonus of a Gavony Ironwright, but Stark managed to fight through two Moan of the Unhallowed and a Diregraf Captain while behind in life 13-3.
So how did he do it?
As with any good draft, the story starts in pack one pick one. Stark was faced with the option of Stormbound Geist, Scorned Villager and Geralf's Mindcrusher. Though he said the blue cards were more powerful, he was tempted by the werewolf.
"I like taking flip cards if possible, but Geist is better enough that I took it," Stark said.
He got his chance to publically signal his intentions with a Loyal Cathar second pick and from there took a number of other white cards, ending the pack with just a Bone to Ash and the Stormbound Geist for blue cards.
At this point, Stark said he knew he would be either white blue or white green. He said white red was virtually unplayable as an archetype and that, since black's best commons are all in Dark Ascension, he knew he wouldn't be picking up any black cards in packs two or three.
While he was happy with both archetypes, he had also seen his neighbor take an early Wolfbitten Captive, meaning green was unlikely to flow his direction.
In pack two he first picked a Snapcaster Mage, which he called "not a good first pick," but was rewarded with a Mindshrieker soon thereafter, solidifying him in white blue. He even opened another Mindshrieker in pack three. From there he picked up an assortment of excellent cards like Bonds of Faith, Priest of Avacyn and various fliers to fill up his deck.
The key card in his first round, Feeling of Dread, presents an interesting dilemma for blue white drafters, Stark said.
On one hand, it's an excellent card, one he rates behind Bonds of Faith and Avacynian Priest but ahead of such stock commons as Chapel Geist. On the other hand, if you're the only UW drafter, you can often table them or pick them up late. Stark was fortunate enough, or had a good enough read on the table, to end up with two Feeling of Dread without having to reach for them with early picks.
Stark did say he felt a little light on creatures with only 15 when he says you want to have 16 or 17 in an aggressive format like this. And while his curve was quite low – Bone to Ash at four mana was the absolute top of his curve – Stark still thought he needed to play 17 lands since one was an Evolving Wild and a number of his cards required either double blue or double white mana to cast.
He said he also had ways to use his mana with Mindshrieker, but that if the Mindshriekers were a different two drop and he maybe didn't have Loyal Cathar he would consider 16 lands, but as it was 17 was safer.
The worst two cards in his deck, Stark said, were Bone to Ash and Saving Grasp. Bone to Ash was more of a curve topper than anything, and Saving Grasp was mostly in the deck thanks to its combos with Fiend Hunter and Snapcaster Mage, though even then Stark said it was his last card in.
While we're discussing his last few slots, Luis Scott-Vargas came over and, looking through Stark's sideboard, started nudging a Divination and a Think Twice onto Stark's pile. Stark was having none of it.
"Luis makes a good point that these cards are terrible," he said, clearly using this opportunity to make fun of Scott-Vargas while still shedding light on the format. The format is so fast, you don't play your card draw."
Two rounds into the draft, the strategy was paying off as he was quickly 2-0 going into the final round of the first pod.
Sunday, 1:57 p.m. - Round 12 Wrap-up
Reid Duke continued tearing through the tournament this round, defeating Daniel Cecchetti in two quick games with his Blue-Red Burning Vengeance deck. With a 12-0 record, Reid is now a win, or a couple of intentional draws, away from making the Top 8.
But not far behind Reid is Shuuhei Nakamura, who after defeating Tristan Sommer now finds himself with an 11-1 record, and a very good chance to secure his 18th career Grand Prix Top 8.
After getting out-muscled by Charles League in game one, Caleb Durward sideboarded in a Feed the Pack, and a bunch of high-toughness creatures like Grave Bramble. This plan worked for Caleb, as he was able to stall out the third game long enough to take the match with an army of wolf tokens.
After splitting the first two games, Will Craddock opened on a Delver of Secrets and immediately transformed it into an Insectile Aberration by revealing Ranger's Guile. By the time Owen was able to deal with the Insectile Abberation, it was too late as Will had other evasion creatures to finish off the job that his insect had started.
Pro Tour Yokohama 2003 Top 8 competitor Ben Seck was able to knock Sam Black to 3 life, with a Blazing Torch in his hand, in game one – but he couldn't sneak through that last point of damage before dying to Sam's overwhelming forces.
Ben bounced back from this nicely, taking the second game in the matter of minutes with a Lingering Souls, before winning a very close third game with a board-sweeping Blasphemous Act, and an army of fliers.
Sunday, 1:58 p.m. - Quick Hits - Which player would you least like to face?
The format is Dark Ascension Innistrad limited. You’re playing in the last round with the Top 8 on the line. Which player would you least like to face?
Sunday, 3:53 p.m. - Quick Hits - What's the most overrated common in
Sunday, 4:15 p.m. - Round 13 Wrap-up
This is it. The final draft of the Swiss rounds has taken place. The decks in the players' hands would be the final tool they used to try and lock up the Top 8 everyone sought.
At this point, it was looking like a third loss would knock a player out of contention, though stranger things have happened. Especially when a player makes it this far without a single loss as one Mr. Reid Duke has done through 12 rounds.
Apparently nothing can stop Reid Duke. This round's victim was Bryan Alcorn, previously sitting pretty at 11-1. Alcorn took the second game of the match off Duke thanks to a Mondronen Shaman that flipped early on. But Duke fought back late into game three when a Moldgraf Monstrosity gave him the power he needed to push through to 14-0.
Brian Eason had some mana issues this round, both flooding and screw, that allowed Kyle Babin to get far enough ahead to move to 12-1 on the weekend, a hair's breadth from the Top 8.
David Gleicher has been doing quite a lot of winning lately, including this weekend. At 10-1-1 after 12 rounds, Gleicher found himself paired in a black white near mirror against Sean Keeton, who had the exact same record. Gleicher easily took game one thanks to Mentor of the Meek and was able to scrape through a grinding game two to jump to 11-1-1. At 10-2-1, Keeton isn't out of it, but likely needs to win out.
A regular feature on the StarCity Games Open Series Top 8 stage, Todd Anderson was looking to mirror his success on that circuit this weekend in Tennessee. He and his opponent Peter Maginnis were both sporting green white deck with splashes – black for Anderson's Lingering Souls and red for Maginnis' removal. In game two it was Lingering Souls that kept Anderson in the hunt for the Top 8. In the third game, Anderson got stuck on three mana early, but when Maginnis couldn't put enough early pressure on him to punish his poor draw, Anderson eventually found the land he needed to take the match and move to 11-2, needing at least one more win for the Top 8. At 10-2-1, Maginnis wasn't out either.
The match between Daniel Cecchetti and Gerard Fabiano, on the other hand, was all or nothing with both players at 10-2. The winner still had a shot at the Top 8, the loser was likely out. The players split the first two games as Fabiano's Cackling Counterpart makes multiple Pitchburn Devils and Cecchetti's double Mindshriekers put Fabiano on the back foot.
The third game was a long, drawn out affair. Fabiano fell behind early but a few timely plays and a Heretic's Punishment brought him right back in it. As his life fell to two, Fabiano made a play that would result in a win if it worked but likely lead to a loss if Cecchetti had removal. Ignoring Heretic's Punishment, Fabiano tapped his mana low to play Undead Alchemist and attacked with his other two creatures. The plan was to use the Alchemist to block Morkrut Banshee and fling it at Highborn Ghoul to stay alive.
However, Cecchetti had the Wrack with Madness to remove the roadblock and stay alive at 11-2. Fabiano, at 10-3, looked out of the running for the Top 8.
Sunday, 5:22 p.m. - Round 14 Wrap-up
After losing game one quickly, Will Craddock had a fairly strong draw to start the second game, but without any removal spells – he soon fell victim to Ben Stark's Falkenrath Marauder backed up by two Silent Departures.
Ben Stark (as well as the rest of the players who ended Round 14 with a 12-2 record) now needs one more match win, or an intentional draw and some very good tiebreakers, to Top 8.
After winning a drawn out first game, Shuuhei Nakamura was able to put himself a mere match away from the Top 8 by using a Soul Seizer to steal Bryan Alcorn's Tovolar's Magehunter.
After winning game one, Robbie Cordell pulled ahead early in game two, but he had no answer for Jonathan Hickerson's Daybreak Ranger, or his Heretic's Punishment, and soon found himself shuffling up for a deciding third game.
In the final game of their match, Cordell had a Farbog Boneflinger to deal with Hickerson's Daybreak Ranger. And while Hickerson was able to stall the game out for a while with his Kessig Recluse, an unanswered Angel of Light Alabaster was enough for Cordell to take the match.
Lissa Jensen got off to a blazingly fast start with her Green-White deck, and took game one before Eric Bauman was able to play anything of note.
In Game two, Bauman was the one who got off to a fast start – but Jensen was able to hold on long enough to take over the game with Gavony Township.
Sunday, 6:14 p.m. - Round 15 Wrap-up
This round 15 was something to behold. When the standings went up only two players could completely safely draw in to the Top 8 – Reid Duke and Kyle Babin on 40 and 39 points respectively. Two more, Todd Anderson and Daniel Cecchetti, chose to unsafely draw up to 37 points.
However, because Caleb Durward, who already had 37 points coming into the round, was paired against Sean Keeton at 34 points, everyone else with 34 points or more had to play and cross their fingers.
The list of players in contention was long. Beyond the people above, Jason Shu, Lissa Jensen, David Gleicher, Shuuhei Nakamura, Ben Stark and Robbie Cordell all had 36 points while Josh Utter-Leyton, Tom Manuel and Peter Maginnis all had 34 points or more.
It was win and in for some and win and pray for others. Either way, it was all on the line.
Lissa Jensen has been beating down with a packet of Rickey Martin tokens all weekend long, and they served her well in Round 15 against Jason Shu. Her multiple spirit tokens combined with her deck's mob mentality – at one point her board was two Unruly Mob, one holding a Sharpened Pitchfork – were enough to win 2-0 and move to 39 points.
Ben Stark was on quite the tear through today, going undefeated to move from 7-2 on Day 1 to the cusp of a Top 8 berth. Unfortunately, Cordell's Chapel Geists were too much for Stark's blue red deck to handle. Stark actually had the superior air force in game one and was able to keep the Geists at bay long enough to swing for the win, but in games two and three his fliers didn't show up, while a Demonmail Haurberk made Cordell's fliers huge.
After convincingly winning game one, Josh Utter-Leyton found himself down to just three life against Tom Manuel's aggressive red green deck. A Gather the Townsfolk for a whopping five tokens, however, turned the tides. Utter-Leyton was able to then stall long enough to get a Skirsdag Flayer going and wheedle Manuel's board to nothing. From there, winning was academic.
Despite drawing the previous round in anticipation of drawing into the Top 8, an unfortunate pairing meant Durward needed to play. Still, he took care of business and made his second Grand Prix Top 8 in as many weeks.
Finally, Shuuhei Nakamura was also paired down at 36 points against David Gleicher. After knotting it up at 1-1, Nakamura was able to take down the third game quickly in order to advance to the Top 8.