by Steve SadinRound 14: Feature MatchBen Stark vs. Michael Jacob
by Josh BennettSunday, 5:50 p.m.: Quick QuestionsWhat to play in Indy?
by Josh BennettSunday, 5:40 p.m.:Drafting with Jon Finkel
by Josh BennettSunday, 4:30 p.m.: Quick QuestionsFavorite first Dark Ascension pick?
by Josh BennettRound 13: Feature MatchSameer Merchant vs. Dillon Winter
by Steve SadinSunday, 3:20 p.m.: Deck TechBlue-Green Mill Yourself with Sam Black
by Josh BennettSunday, 1:35 p.m.: Quick QuestionsDraft Changes since Dark Ascension?
by Josh BennettRound 11: Feature Match
by Steve SadinRound 10: Feature MatchTuan Nguyen vs. Ashton Chapman
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Round 10: Feature Match - Tuan Nguyen vs. Ashton Chapman
Tuan Nguyen has played in a few Grand Prix before, but this is the first time that he's made it to Day Two. And Nguyen didn't just scrape into the second day of play, he ended Day One with a perfect 9-0 record.
Even though Nguyen is playing in his first Grand Prix Day Two today, he still has significantly more high level tournament experience than his opponent this round -- Ashton Chapman, a judge who is playing in his first ever Grand Prix, and his first competitive event in three years!
After laying out their opening hands, Nguyen wished his opponent "Good luck."
"You as well. I'm just happy to be here!" said Chapman with a smile.
Unfortunately for Chapman, that Fiend Hunter was the only card he drew that could deal with opposing creatures – and he soon found himself getting pummeled by a Stitched Drake , equipped with an Avacyn's Collar .
Tuan Nguyen 1 – Ashton Chapman 0
Both players kept their opening hands in Game Two, but Nguyen found himself stuck on two lands for several turns.
Tuan Nguyen 1 – Ashton Chapman 1
Chapman missed his second land drop, but he was still able to keep a smile on his face: "Oops! I thought I saw two lands when I kept my hand – I should have looked closer."
Nguyen had some mana troubles of his own, but they were nothing compared to Chapman's –and Nguyen was eventually able to fly to a 10-0 record with a Drogskol Captain , and an army of spirits backed up by Feeling of Dread .
Tuan Nguyen 2 – Ashton Chapman 1
Round 11: Feature Match - Owen Turtenwald vs. Craig Wesco
Undefeated Craig Wescoe sat down to play Channel Fireball 's Owen Turtenwald at 9-1. The two probably had the best decks in the top pod. Turtenwald had a mean blue-black control machine topped by Bloodline Keeper , while Wescoe's green-white beatdown deck sported a whopping FIVE Travel Preparations .
Wescoe quickly sent back his opening hand, and frowned when he saw his new six. He couldn't justify keeping it, and went to five.
Owen told a little story to pass the time. "My opponent last round was complaining about wishing people good luck. 'Who are these guys who wish people good luck and secretly want them to mulligan and get manascrewed?' Of course, then he mulliganed to five and lost. I told him it was karma."
Wescoe stayed at five and they were off. His early Silverchase Fox was held off by a turn-two Typhoid Rats from Turtenwald. Wescoe skipped a land drop, but then made a few more without adding to the board. Meanwhile Turtenwald had dug with Forbidden Alchemy and and was content to play lands and sit on his mana. Wescoe played his fifth land and tapped out for Angelic Overseer .
"This is dirty," said Turtenwald, tapping three for Frightful Delusion . Wescoe broke out laughing, "WHAAAAAAMMY!"
Turtenwald continued to churn through his deck while Wescoe sat helpless. He flashed back Forbidden Alchemy , then cast Tower Geist putting Reap the Seagraf into the graveyard. Wescoe mainphased Moment of Heroism to set up Prey Upon on Tower Geist , but Turtenwald had Undying Evil . How many cards he was up over the course of the match is left as an exercise to the reader.
Turtenwald hit for three and summoned Murder of Crows . Wescoe had Smite the Monstrous for it on his turn. Turtenwald flashed back Reap the Seagraf and began the business of killing Wescoe. All Wescoe could manage was a Festerhide boar, saying "This draw's been pretty Boar-ing" with a grin. Grasp of Phantoms from Turtenwald made the rest of the match academic.
Turtenwald 1 - Wescoe 0
While they shuffled they talked about the draft and how they had managed to stay out of each other's way. Scorned Villager from Wescoe had given Turtenwald the heads-up to stay away from green, and he figured Wescoe would pair it with either red or white.
Wescoe kicked off with a Scorned Villager , and Turtenwald bought himself some time with a Silent Departure . Wescoe gamely replayed it the following turn. Turtenwald drew, played a third land, and passed with a scowl. Wescoe's werewolf flipped, giving him scads of mana. He summoned Somberwald Dryad , then Silverchase Fox . With a shrug, Turtenwald Dissipate d it. Wescoe made him pay with a Travel Preparations , and hit for three.
Turtenwald cast Forbidden Alchemy on his mainphase, binning Ghoulraiser , Screeching Skaab and Tragic Slip . Wescoe continued to pile on the pain, attacking with his two creatures and adding Briarpack Alpha to make it eight damage.
Turtenwald paused on his turn, then flashed back Silent Departure on the Somberwald Dryad . Wescoe flashed back his Preparations on his two remaining creatures and smashed. Wescoe had Evil Twin to copy Briarpack Alpha , but Wescoe had more gas in the tank, including another Travel Preparations , and took the game handily.
Turtenwald 1 - Wescoe 1
Turtenwald led out with Screeching Skaab , getting Reap the Seagraf into his graveyard. wescoe made a Dawntreader Elk . Turtenwald played his third land and passed. Wescoe played his third forest and held back. Turtenwald played Forbidden Alchemy at end of turn, then swung in with his Skaab. Wescoe blocked and sacrified to fetch a plains, and Turtenwald slammed down Bloodline Keeper , hoping to run away with things.
Not so. Wescoe was ready with Crush ing vines on his turn. Of course, he had no offense to speak of. Turtenwald hit and flashed back Reap the Seagraf . Finally Wescoe got on the board with Kessig Cagebreakers . Turtenwald flipped the script on that with an Evil Twin and a Silent Departure . His attack brought Wescoe to fourteen and he played Delver of Secrets .
Wescoe was forced to spend a Travel Preparations and Smite the Monstrous to get rid of Turtenwald's mock Cagebreakers. Turtenwald hit again. Wescoe was running out of time. He passed without playing anything, buying himself a turn when Turtenwald had to avoid attacking into the obvious Briarpack Alpha . Wescoe played it at the end of turn, then re-enlisted his Cagebreakers.
If Turtenwald hadn't been in the driver's seat before, a Dissipate flipping his Delver of Secrets certainly put him there. He flashed back Silent Departure on the Cagebreakers and dropped Wescoe to just six life. Wescoe's board couldn't answer the flier, and with Dissipate in Turtenwald's hand it was long odds to escape. He gamely played it out, but could not avoid defeat.
"Yeah, flipping off Dissipate - pretty gross," said Turtenwald
Afterward they compared decks, and Turtenwald admitted he'd needed the good fortune to beat Wescoe's beatdown machine. They wished each other good luck in the final round of the first draft.
Owen Turtenwald defeats Craig Wescoe 2-1
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Quick Questions - What Innistrad card has changed in desirability the most for draft, now that Dark Ascension is out?
|Craig Wescoe: " Doomed Traveler . Really all the white creatures that give you value when they die. They're even better than before. "||Tom Martell: " Ghoulcaller's Chant . It's so much better now, especially with Screeching Skaab , who trades off where Armored Skaab would just sit there. "|
|Sam Black: " Intangible Virtue . There are enough token makers now that you can draft a legitimate tokens deck."||Shuuhei Nakamura: " Swamp . Black is the worst color by far now. "|
|Conley Woods: "Gimmick cards like Burning Vengeance and Spider Spawning . You have to go into them blind and might not get there."||Luis Scott-Vargas: " Thraben Sentry . Black-White sacrifice is a very real deck."|
Sunday, 3:20 p.m.: Deck Tech - Blue-Green Mill Yourself with Sam Black
When Dark Ascension hit stores a few weeks ago, many top players proclaimed that graveyard based strategies, such as Burning Vengeance , and Blue-Green Mill Yourself were no longer viable.
Sam Black listened to these public declarations, but they didn't sway him. In fact, the lack of support for Blue-Green Mill Yourself further encouraged Sam to look for opportunities to draft the deck.
And in the first draft at Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma, Sam Black did just that.
"I first picked Niblis of the Breath over Death's Caress , and Skirsdag Flayer . Then I took Dawntreader Elk (when there was a Tracker 's Instincts that I was pretty sure I was going to be able to table) over Death's Caress – then I third picked a Screeching Skaab over some other good black spells. I got a very late Feed the Pack , and I tabled the Tracker 's Instincts as expected."
The rest of the draft went well, and Sam put together a powerful Blue-Green Mill Yourself deck that he ultimately piloted to a 2-1 record.
When asked what it takes to make the deck work, Sam explained that the deck needs a lot of different pieces (in the right proportions) if it's going to win.
And once you have the requisite ways to put cards into your graveyard, you're going to have to fill up your deck with a bunch of creatures.
"For starters, you need at least 14 creatures. And you want a good curve full of things that can trade early, since you really want to have creatures in the graveyard for things like Gnaw to the Bone . However, that last part can be pretty tough since a lot of your early creatures are cards like Armored Skaab that rarely die – which is why I go out of my way to draft cards like Dawntreader Elk , and Screeching Skaab ."
So you've got your creatures and your graveyard enablers, what next?
"The deck has to do a lot of different things well. The deck needs fliers not for their offensive capabilities, but so you don't just die in the air to opposing Chapel Geist s, and the like. "
"You also need Gnaw to the Bone , Spider Spawning , or a bunch of good aggressive creatures like Stitched Drake to help you catch up if you fall behind early. If the Gnaw to the Bone (or, alternatively, a Spider Spawning ) hadn't been opened, I don't think I would have been able to win any of my matches."
But that's not all.
"Once you have that all taken care of, you still have to make sure that your end game is powerful enough that you can reliably win once you've milled away most of your library."
But Sam doesn't stop once he's picked up all the necessary pieces for his own deck. Sam also goes out of his way to take cards that would be particularly effective against him out of the draft.
"I made it a point to take cards that would have been really good against my deck, particularly when I could play them myself. Somberwald Dryad , and Undead Alchemist might not have been the best cards in my deck – but they would have been really tough for me to beat, so I didn't hesitate to take them."
When asked if he had to make any particularly tough picks in the draft, Sam had a specific choice in mind.
"My hardest pick was Selhoff Occultist versus One-Eyed Scarecrow – and I ultimately went with the Selhoff Occultist , which really hurt me in the match against Blue-White that I lost. I should really just stop passing One-Eyed Scarecrow ..."
I was pretty surprised by this, so I asked Sam to elaborate.
"There are a ton of cards that make 1/1 flying spirit tokens, and One-Eyed Scarecrow just blanks all of them. Plus, Blue-White Fliers is the best deck in the format by a significant margin, and One-Eyed Scarecrow is the best card against them."
"It's tricky with decks like this one where all of your cards are so synergy dependent, so you need a lot of enablers -- but I still should have taken the One-Eyed Scarecrow . Niblis of the Breath plus Murder of Crows just isn't enough flying defense. I should have taken the Scarecrow , and I definitely should have played the Battleground Geist maindeck."
Before we left, Sam explained that he had some regrets about the way he had constructed his deck.
"After playing with the deck for three rounds, I think I misbuilt it," said Sam while pointing towards the Memory's Journey, and the Runic Repetition that was in his deck.
"It's possible that I should have played a Wreath of Geists main – but it's too easy to get blown out by cards like Bonds of Faith , or Victim of Night . I really should have just played more of my big guys."
There are a lot of people out there who will tell you that Blue-Green doesn't have the tools to win right now. But if you, like Sam Black, are willing to go against the grain – you just mind find yourself with an excellent deck full of Tracker 's Instincts, and Boneyard Wurm s!
Round 13: Feature Match - Sameer Merchant vs. Dillon Winter
Interest in thirteen-year-old Dillon Winter was sparked when legendary Meddling Mage Chris Pikula snapped a photo of him drafting beside Jon Finkel on Day 2, pointing out that Finkel has a Pro Tour Top 8 for each year Winter has been alive. Now he's at 10-2 and fighting for Top 8. In his way was Sameer Merchant, piloting an Esper deck packed with card draw and heavy hitters like Bloodline Keeper .
Winter won the roll and chose to play. They started slow, with the first play being Winter's Armored Skaab on turn three. It milled away three land and Reap the Seagraf . Merchant cast Divination up to eight cards, and discarded Stitcher's Apprentice . Winter played Nephalia Drownyard and upsized his Skaab with Diregraf Captain .
Merchant tapped out for One-Eyed Scarecrow and Blazing Torch . Winter flashed back Reap the Seagraf . Merchant wasted no time throwing Blazing Torch at the Captain, then summoned Makeshift Mauler . Grasp of Phantoms from Winter put that on the back burner for a while, and he attacked for three.
Merchant untapped and upgraded to Angel of Flight Alabaster . Winter thought hard for his next play, then settled on a second Armored Skaab (milling Geralf's Messenger , Griptide and land) and Manor Skeleton . Merchant swung overhead for four and stocked up with another Divination . Still no sixth land, but he did add a Black Cat to the table.
Winter took care of the Angel with a one-two punch of Corpse Lunge exiling Diregraf Captain and Dead Weight , but his rag-tag unenhanced zombies weren't threatening. Merchant had a grip of goodies. He threw down Stormbound Geist and Markov Patrician , overshadowing Winter's next plays of Highborn Ghoul and Black Cat . Merchant hit for two and finally got his Makeshift Mauler back into play. The Geist hit again, and Winter ambushed it with Nephalia Seakite . Merchant resolved the undying trigger.
Winter drew and passed back. It was a snarled board. While Winter surveyed, Merchant realised they'd made a mistake, forgetting the Scarecrow 's effect. The Stormbound Geist should've lived. A Judge was called and the game state was quickly rectified.
Merchant sent his Markov Patrician in, clearly as a sacrificial lamb. Winter blocked with Manor Skeleton and regenerated. Down came Morkrut Banshee , clearing off the Nephalia Seakite . Winter milled Merchant for three and played out Battleground Geist . The Nephalia Drownyard was looking like Winter's best path out of this mess.
Merchant helped that plan along with Tower Geist , and then played Liliana of the Veil . He forced the last card out of Winter's hand, an uncastable Back from the Brink . So it went for a couple turns, Winter milling and Merchant ticking up his Liliana. He got her to six, but had only four cards left in his library. When Winter milled him in response to Liliana's ulitmate ability, Merchant conceded.
Winter 1 - Merchant 0
Merchant went on the aggressive for game two, opening with Black Cat and Markov Patrician . Winter had Dead Weight to dispatch the vampire, but Merchant restocked with Divination . Winter passed on four mana and flashed in a Nephalia Seakite , but Merchant went over the top with Bloodline Keeper .
Manor Skeleton wasn't exactly the rejoinder that Winter needed. Meanwhile, Merchant was long on power, following up with Angel of Flight Alabaster . He couldn't grab his 2/2 flying vampire tokens soon enough. Winter played Battleground Geist . Merchant grew his vampire army, then cast Stormbound Geist and Blazing Torch . Things were getting worse for Winter and Reap the Seagraf wasn't helping matters.
Merchant suicided his Stormbound Geist in, finishing off Seakite with the Torch, then used Tragic Slip to get rid of Stormbound Geist . The silver lining for Winter was that his Corpse Lunge was online to kill Bloodline Keeper , but he still couldn't handle Merchant's fliers. In two short attacks, it was over.
Winter 1 - Merchant 1
Winter mulliganed to six for the decider. Merchant stayed on seven. Winter played out lands and Merchant fixed his mana with Evolving wilds. Winter passed his third turn without a play and watched as Merchant cast Divination , discarding island down to seven.
Winter kept it off the board for a turn with Griptide and got in for one. Merchant replayed it and passed. A sixth mana for Winter let him cast Back from the Brink . Merchant cluttered the board with Markov Patrician and One-Eyed Scar crow, and got his vampire tokens ready.
Winter got Diregraf Captain Back from the Brink and added Stitched Drake , but Bloodline Keeper was churning out tokens. Dead Weight got the makeshift Captain off the table and Chant of the Skifsang defanged the Stitched Drake . Winter got to restock his graveyard by getting a token Armored Skaab , but before long Merchant was flipping into Lord of Lineage , and that's funny for only one person at the table.
Time was called on the match, but the result wasn't in doubt. The supercharged vampire army flew over for victory in just two swings, and Winter extended the hand.
Sameer Merchant defeats Dillon Winter 2-1
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: Quick Questions - What's your favorite card to first-pick?
|Luis Scott-Vargas: " Zombie Apocalypse , obviously."||David Ochoa: " Burden of Guilt . One of the most efficient removal spells, and white pairs well with all the colors."|
|Tom Martell: " Tracker's Instincts . I always want to draft self-mill."||Conley Woods: " Pyreheart Wolf . That card is a beating."|
|Craig Wescoe: " Drogskol Captain . Decks with him are always so amazing."||Sam Black: " Wolfhunter's Quiver . It doesn't matter what else I get."|
Sunday, 5:40 p.m.: Drafting with Jon Finkel
Living Legend Jon Finkel 3-0'd his first draft of the day (though not with ease, he says) and sat down looking for a repeat to earn himself a spot in the Top 8.
His first pick was easy - Flayer of the Hatebound , a card he rates quite highly. The second was significantly more contentious - Drogskol Captain over Wrack with Madness . He said that too often people feel locked in by their first pick.
"I like to make high-variance picks like that. Drogskol Captain is so good, and with a card like that getting passed, you have to think more is coming. I'd much rather take a card completely out of my colors if it means having a chance at an incredible deck."
Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Only the red cards kept coming, and he wound up with a bunch of aggressive creatures and a pair of Faithless Looting . Finkel said he rates the Looting quite highly.
He got to reaffirm his color choice to the table with Kruin Outlaw to start pack two, but still hadn't settled on a second color. Third pick he saw Burning Vengeance and set his sights on tabling it, taking Skirsdag Cultist instead. A fourth pick Skirsdag High Priest nudged him toward black, and he picked up two Burning Vengeance s late. He was hoping a Bump in the Night would get back to him as well, but it was not to be.
"I was pretty sure the Burning Vengeance would wheel, and the Cultist is just too good to pass up. I'm playing both of the Vengeance s but I only have the five flashback spells. At least with the Lootings I'll be seeing a lot of my deck."
The third pack was unexciting for Finkel, with no standout red or black cards save for a Brimstone Volley and a Geistflame . There were also strange late blue signals, like a sixth pick Silent Departure . Finkel had passed on a late Dream Twist in pack two, taking a Brain Weevil instead, a card he knew he might have to play. As it stood, he had to dance with who brought him, having more black than useful blue.
He wasn't thrilled with his deck. "I mean, I'm playing Sightless Ghoul . I hate that guy, but with Cultist and Altar's Reap he's barely good enough. It's going to be a tough one. I'm not playing Torch Fiend , but maybe I should."
Sunday, 5:50 p.m.: Quick Questions - Grand Prix Indianapolis next weekend is Legacy. What deck should people be playing?
|David Ochoa: "Well, I don't want to give away all my secrets, but something with Brainstorm ."||Owen Turtenwald: "Definitely Blue-White Stoneforge Mystic."|
|Tom Martell: "I think Counterbalance is really well-positioned."||Conley Woods: "I'm going to say Dredge. I think it's under the radar right now."|
|Craig Wescoe: "Probably Green-White Maverick, or RUG Delver of Secrets"||Luis Scott-Vargas: "I have no idea. Probably something with Brainstorm ?"|
Round 14: Feature Match - Ben Stark vs. Michael Jacob
When you ask members of the pro community to name the best limited players in the world, Ben Stark's name inevitably comes up. And with good reason. The Pro Tour Paris Champion has found himself at, or near, the top of the standings at just about every limited tournament he's played in over the last three years.
The cerebral Michael Jacob might not have quite the resume that Ben Stark has – but he's still one of the most fearsome players on the Pro Tour. With a Top 8 at Pro Tour Amsterdam in 2010, and four Grand Prix Top 8s under his belt, Michael Jacob is not someone that you want to face with a Top 8 on the line.
Stark never drew an answer for Jacob's 3/2 flier, and died to it a few turns later.
Michael Jacob 1 – Ben Stark 0
Michael Jacob 1 – Ben Stark 1
Jacob didn't have a Delver of Secrets to start the third game, nor did he have a fourth land – and consequently found himself backpedalling for much of the game.
Ben Stark 2 – Michael Jacob 1