Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 Day 2 Coverage

Posted in Daily Deck on February 15, 2014

The sun has risen, the players are seated, and it's time to get started with Day Two of Grand Prix Mexico City. While 704 players entered, only 111 of those players have returned to today's six remaining rounds before the Top 8 cut.

The format today is Born of the Gods / Theros / Theros Booster Draft, with Mexico City being the first time that this format has been played at the Grand Prix level. What sorts of new dynamics does Born of the Gods add to the Theros block Booster Draft format? Players are coming in today with a few decisive ideas that we'll be exploring in our draft features. Whether these players' perceptions on the new format ring true is another story, but we'll see later today.

Who will end up taking home the trophy today? Check back regularly as we bring you live coverage from here in Mexico City!

  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Curious in seeing what got these players to the end of Day One without a single loss? Take a look at the main decks that these four players used to reach today's Booster Drafts.

    Ramon Vazquez, 8-0 – Grand Prix Mexico City 2014

    Download Arena Decklist

    Mario Flores, 8-0 – Grand Prix Mexico City 2014

    Download Arena Decklist

    Charlie Rinehart, 8-0 – Grand Prix Mexico City 2014

    Download Arena Decklist

    Juan Rafael Acosta Portilla, 7-0-1 – Grand Prix Mexico City 2014

    Download Arena Decklist

  • Round 9 Feature Match – Marcelino Freeman vs. Zachariah Docsett

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Marcelino Freeman is one of Mexico's most known current Magic players. While his win at the 2010 Mexican National Championship was an impressive finish to add to his resume, he has also gone above that when he represented his country in the 2012 World Magic Cup. His recent big finish was a Top 8 at Grand Prix Detroit.

    His opponent, Zachariah Docsett, who currently lives in Colorado, recently picked up the game when Magic 2012 was released. Since then, he's been traveling around to events when able, and is a regular sight around the top tables at Grand Prix events as well as in the third-party tournament circuits.

      The Decks

    Freeman's deck features some big hits from what you'd expect of blue-white. While he's light on heroic creatures, he does have plenty of powerful threats, including multiple bestow creatures and Ephara's Enlightenment.

    Docsett, however, has a green-white base deck featuring Fleecemane Lion with a splash for blue. The reason for the splash? Voyage's End as well as the activated effect on his Agent of Horizons. It's a lot easier to make these splashes happen when one of your lands is the Temple of Enlightenment.

      The Games

    Docsett led off aggressively with Swordwise Centaur on the second turn and then Agent of Horizons the turn after. The start required Freeman to cast Nimbus Naiad as a blocker, but Savage Surge saved Docsett's creature and allowed him to keep up aggression. Satyr Hedonist followed and Docsett passed with a commanding lead.

    Zacharia Docsett

    Nyxborn Triton from Freeman allowed him to trade with the Swordwise Centaur, but he already had fallen to 11 and was behind on the battlefield. However, 11 was enough, and when Docsett stalled on his second color, he was unable to capitalize on Freeman's empty board. Divine Verdict from Freeman took out Agent of Horizons, and suddenly when Freeman cast Horizon Scholar, he was in the driver's seat.

    Chorus of the Tides followed from Freeman, and when Gods Willing saved his siren from Docsett's final attack, Docsett's fate in the first game was clear. A Plains from Docsett came way too late, and Vanquish the Foul on the Scholar was thwarted by Voyage's End from Freeman. Docsett moved to the second game in short order.

    Docsett again led off fast in the second game, with Traveling Philosopher into Chronicler of Heroes. Voyage's End cleared out Freeman's Nyxborn Triton blocker and allowed him to keep attacking, but Divine Verdict shut down the Centaur on the next turn. Docsett did not let up and replaced it with Agent of Horizons, with Docsett sitting on blue to make it unblockable. While Freeman re-cast his Nyxborn Triton, Docsett had a powerful follow-up with Fleecemane Lion. Freeman deployed Coastline Chimera and braced for impact.

    Docsett sent in his unblockable Agent of Horizons and his Fleecemane, which did not have enough mana for monstrosity. When Freeman went for the block, Battlewise Valor allowed Docsett to take out the Chimera. Chorus of the Tides bestowed with Nyxborn Shieldmate gave Freeman some defense, but he was sitting at 8 life, and Docsett was in control of combat when he sent in his Fleecemane Lion with all of his mana untapped. Freeman blocked with his Nyxborn Triton, then lost his Chorus to Vanquish the Foul post-combat.

    Left without any answers to the Agent of Horizons at this point, and without any real pressure on his part, Freeman moved to a third game.

    Marcelino Freeman

    Artisan of Forms was Freeman's first play, but Docsett came out strong early on with a second-turn Fleecemane Lion. However Freeman had a solid follow-up with a bestowed Nyxborn Shieldmate, triggering the heroic effect on the Artisan, making it a Lion as well. He attacked in for 4, and Docsett was left only to race and to add Agent of Horizons to his board.

    Freeman pressed on, dropping Docsett to 12 before adding Chorus of the Tides to his growing army. Docsett thought for a moment before sending in his creatures, losing Fleecemane Lion to the Chorus when Freeman went for a block. Traveling Philosopher replaced the Lion, and Docsett passed with a smaller board and down in life.

    Freeman only added to his board more with Aerie Worshipper, giving him a sizable lead, especially when Docsett was unable to make any attacks. Nyxborn Triton bestowed on the Worshipper earned a concession from Docsett. "Good game," Docsett said, shaking his opponent's hand. "It's always a pleasure to play against you."

  • Sunday, 12:23 a.m. – Drafting Born of the Gods/Theros with Marc Lalague

    by Nate Price

  • Sitting on the corner of Pod 2 with a 7-1 record carrying over from Day 1, Marc Lalague seemed like the perfect person to watch for my first professional-level Booster Draft of this young format. Lalague is a Grand Prix champion, having taken down the title at Grand Prix Anaheim in 2012. He also managed to make a strong Top 8 in Houston last year, a Return to Ravnica block Limited Grand Prix. Lalague made the trip here to Mexico City with a few of his teammates from Team TCGPlayer, including a pair of excellent Limited players in Chris Fennell and Seth Manfield, and the current 23rd ranked player in the world Craig Wescoe. After a fairly abysmal day yesterday, everyone but Lalague fell short of making it through to the Draft rounds of the tournament.

    Lalague opened his first pack with a seemingly easy decision: the gold card.

    "Gild is one of those cards that you're going to play 80% of the time," Lalague explained after the draft. The pack was relatively weak other than Gild, and the versatility of being able to remove virtually anything, and its easy splashability, made it an easy first pick.

    Still, if the pack were a little stronger, Gild is a card that might give players some pause. It is a common conception that black is the color that has taken the biggest hit with the addition of Born of the Gods, mostly due to the loss of a pack's worth of the notorious Gray Merchant of Asphodel. This perceived weakness has really put a lot of the top-level professional players off of black in this new format.

    "Black probably got the shortest end of the stick in Born of the Gods," Lalague explained. "It's a color that really requires you to get a critical mass of black cards to really make it playable. That said, it's a color that makes a great support color. If you're able to get seventeen or more of your main color, black works well to support that. Those are really the two ways that you want to draft it. Gild is a card that works well as a splash or as a support card. I wasn't really intending to play black, in fact it was a color that I was actively looking to avoid, but Gild is too good of a card to pass up."

    With his versatile first pick in his pile, he picked up his second pack for what would be the defining pick of his draft. Fall of the Hammer is one of the strongest commons in Born of the Gods, providing incredibly reliable removal, as well as a good way to trigger heroic. It would have been an easy pick to make, but Lalague opted instead for the equally impressive Graverobber Spider. After a first-pick Gild, the Spider may seem like an easy choice due to the black activation. But locking yourself into two colors this early in the draft can be an easy way to railroad yourself into a deck that it can be hard to get out of if things turn south.

    "Yeah, I have a really strong red preference in general," Lalague admitted when I questioned him about his decision. "I want to be red whenever I can. The last GP I just missed Top 8 playing red throughout the tournament. I only lost once when I played red and lost twice the one time I wasn't red. I just think that the Spider was too good to pass up. Especially considering the Gild, I knew that I was going to get some value out of playing a Swamp for the activation no matter what. These cards made a great way to start things off, and, as good as Fall of the Hammer is, I just couldn't justify picking it up over the Spider."

    His decision would immediately be called into question upon picking up his third pack to reveal a second Fall of the Hammer making the rounds. Still, rather than jump ship and move into red, Lalague realized that he had already made his decision on the color with his previous pass, opting into a safer, albeit weaker pick.

    "I'm not a huge fan of Noble Quarry," he admitted about his selection. "It turned out being pretty sweet in this deck since I have three Sedge Scorpions. If I hadn't passed a Hammer already I might not have passed the second. The Quarry is also a card I haven't even played with yet, and, with the Scorpions it seems insane, so I'm fine with it."

    To follow that up, Lalague had another very interesting decision within his color of choice. One of the early frontrunners for "Best Common in Born of the Gods" was the green 3/3 Pheres-Band Tromper. Already right at the sweet spot for size in this format, the Tromper threatens to absolutely take over games if it gets to untap even once or twice. Still, Lalague chose to forgo the Tromper for what many people would consider to be an inferior green common.

    "I like Nyxborn Wolf a lot," he explained. "3/1 for three mana is great, and, for the bestow cost, I think it's the best common bestow card in Born of the Gods. As for the Tromper, it seems that there is always a wealth of four drops in the green deck. Since I already started with one, cards like Nylea's Disciple, Nylea's Emissary, Karametra's Acolyte... I always seem to get plenty of fours. On the other hand, the Wolf is just a little more aggressively costed and a little bit more powerful overall, so I like the Wolf better."

    A bit later in the pack, Lalague's draft strategy became much clearer. Given the choice between a Spiteful Returned and a second Setessan Oathsworn, he opted to take the green creature. This allowed him to stay more-or-less monogreen through this point, and he greatly valued the versatility. While I have heard a number of comments maligning the Oathsworn due to its reliance on triggering heroic, Lalague defended his selection.

    "I like having multiple Oathsworn in pack one because it greatly increases the value of a number of cards later," he explained. "For the first one, I don't think I was passing up anything good, and, while I'm a fan of Spiteful Returned, I wasn't married to the idea of black as a main color. I only had the Gild and the activation on the Spider, so I decided to go ahead and double up on this guy. Again, it's not a guy I'm in love with, but with six or seven bestow guys and a couple of Time to Feeds, he looks pretty nice."

    Continuing on, Lalague explained a little about why he never pulled the trigger and committed to a second color.

    "The best cards I passed were red and white by far, so I was thinking that either black or blue might be open in pack two," he began. "Red is a color that it can be nearly impossible to jump back into once you start to pass it. If you're looking for good red cards, you aren't going to see any of them once you've passed two of the best red common and some other good red stuff. On the other side, black was being cut off, and so was blue, so I wanted to be open to possibly pick up some blue cards...I just never saw any."

    After spending the entire first pack picking up almost exclusively green card, Lalague finally made a tentative commitment to having black be his second color, selecting a Gray Merchant of Asphodel over Sedge Scorpion. This may seem like a no brainer to many people, but consider the fact that he had exactly one black permanent by that point, and he was likely to only have one pack to accrue them since the person to his right was cutting black so hard. In addition, most players have realized by now that Sedge Scorpion is much better than it was originally getting credit for being.

    "I felt that there was a reasonable chance that the Scorpion might table," Lalague said, reflecting on the draft to that point. "Again, green was so open in the first pack, so I figured there was a reasonable chance that I might get it back in this pack, even though it is a card that I really want for this deck. I took the Gray Merchant because I figured that black may have been cut off well enough to get a good black card or two, in which case I would switch into it. There was a small chance that the Scorpion would lap, and it did, so I'm very pleased with how that pick went."

    With the Grey Merchant in his pile, Lalague set about looking for some good black cards to support it. When he was immediately faced with one in the second pack, he surprisingly chose against it, selecting Voyaging Satyr over a potentially powerhouse Nighthowler.

    "The Nighthowler is a card that would let me go into a green/black, graveyard-style of deck," he said. "The trouble is that when you're getting a wealth of good cards, you don't have the room to play the mediocre cards that fill up your graveyard. I just didn't feel that it was a card that I really needed, especially given that I already had three bestow guys. I figured that it was best for me to just pick the more consistent card. Satyr has really gone up in value with Born of the Gods now that there are only two packs. You are always going to be able to find other things to do, but you aren't ever going to get another crack at a Voyaging Satyr."

    Considering that he had decided that he didn't want to put together a black/green graveyard deck, it took me by surprise when he swiftly pulled a Commune with the Gods to the front of the pack in the next pack. He ended up ultimately taking a Sedge Scorpion to replace the one he'd passed on first, but I still wanted to ask him about why the Commune made such an impression on him.

    "Commune is a card that I like a lot," he told me, "especially if you have Nemesis of Mortals, and even more so if you have multiples, so I'm always excited to play Commune when I have one to go with it. It's one of those cards that you always want to notice when they are in the pack from first to fourth pick or so because there's a good chance that it will wheel. Bringing it up to the front like that was just my way of making a note of it mentally. There wasn't any chance that I was going to take it there."

    By the end of the second pack, Lalague's deck seemed incredibly powerful, yet there were still some holes. He was virtually monogreen, with only a few black cards polluting his pool. He had three removal spells and a terrific curve, but he was missing a bit of beef on the top end.

    "I would have definitely liked another Satyr," he told me when I asked him what he was hoping to get in the last pack. "It's a card that you're always happy to get. I wanted a way to shore my deck up against fliers, too, and managed to get some help there. Other than that, I was really just looking for that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, that I opened to come back to me. I really wanted that Nykthos, but, you know..."

    In his nearly monogreen deck, Nykthos would have been monstrous, especially given his decision to pick up that second Setessan Oathsworn in the first pack. Still, he was presented with a way to shore up one of the other needs in his deck, opting to take a Nylea's Emissary over it.

    "The Emissary is a card that I have been really pleased with," he explained. "Decks like this, especially when you have green heroic guys, the value of trample goes up dramatically. Also, I wasn't necessarily lacking per se, but I really wanted to pick up some bigger things to play. I didn't have any of these other big guys at that point, so I was looking for some bigger things. I had plenty of bestow guys to fill out the curve, but I was really looking for that fat."

    It was also clear to him that black was going to be an afterthought at best. He would easily be able to splash for the Gild and the Spider's activation, but it was unlikely that the Gray Merchant or the Sip of Hemlock that he'd picked up in the second pack were going to make the cut. As such, he shifted away from black entirely, taking a Leafcrown Dryad over an Insatiable Harpy that could have been incredibly powerful in his deck.

    "With all of these bestow guys, I would have been really happy if I could have found room for a card like the Harpy, but the mana requirements and the fact that the Dryad was in the just didn't work out. I was basically monogreen at this point, and the Dryad is just a better card for me there."

    As a reward for correctly identifying green as the color that was going to be open for him, he received a laughably strong third pick, taking a Boon Satyr over both a Nemesis of Mortals and Nessian Asp.

    "Yeah, that was a real pack," he laughed. "Boon Satyr is just ridiculous. I don't know for sure that it's better than Nemesis or the Asp...I think it is, but... It was really a great pickup for the deck. I didn't expect the Nemesis to come back, but when it did, that was pretty nice."

    After the draft, Lalague reflected on the cards that he had passed and tried to think of anything that might have concerned him about the coming rounds.

    "I did pass a Phalanx Leader," he recalled, "which is a card that I can't really...well, I have a couple of ways to deal with it. If they have a creature that is really difficult to deal with, I could be in trouble. Honestly, this deck doesn't really seem to have any weaknesses. I have game against fliers, game against aggression, I have powerful endgame stuff...this is just a really sweet deck."

    And it's a sweet deck because he correctly identified the color that he was supposed to be in and avoided many of the traps that came his way. It would have been very easy for this draft to go a completely different direction for him, and it all hinged on his decision to pick the Graverobber Spider as his second pick of the draft.

    "The real moment of truth was the decision to take the Spider over that Fall of the Hammer second pick," he elaborated. "Once I decided to pass the Fall, I couldn't play red, and the other colors weren't really open. I think that really showcases what's important about this format: staying open. Especially because I think that the Theros cards are so much more powerful on average than the Born of the Gods cards, I feel that you really get rewarded for being patient and knowing whether you are going to get a good pack two or pack three before you commit."

    While it may seem that it was especially easy for Lalague to stay open given the high number of quality green cards he was seeing, it took a large amount of restraint and planning on his part. He avoided jumping ship early, sticking to one color for most of the draft. He also correctly identified the colors that he was most likely to be seeing in pack two and took steps to be able to take advantage of that.

    "I think that the key is to try and identify a color that is going to be open for pack three and to also try and figure out what you're going to do for pack two," he explained of his thinking during the draft. "Like in my draft, black and blue were really interesting for pack two because I wasn't able to pick or even really see any in the first pack. If the person to your right is helping you there, then you should have a chance to pick up some good cards of the cut-off color in that next pack. I'm not really a big fan of jumping around colors a lot early in the first pack, because once you've passed one of those premium commons in this set, there's such a low chance that the person to your left isn't taking it that it runs a risk of ruining your entire draft. That's a lot different than how things were in Return to Ravnica, where I used to do that all the time. I would first pick Far//Away, follow it with Warleader's Helix, and just figure out which or both that I'm going to play by the end of the draft. In this color, I prefer to just find that main color, that one that's going to be open in pack three, and just focus on that with a secondary eye on what I think I can get in the second pack."

    And did it ever work out for him. Correctly reading the packs allowed him to avoid being in a color that was being cut off, while finding a color that he could himself cut. In the end, this allowed him to get the cards he wanted from his right, as well as those he wanted from his left.

    "In my draft, I was getting a lot of packs that only had one good green card in them, so it really worked out. I think I only let two good green cards get past me the entire draft. I ended up getting even more in the second and third packs, too, so it went great. Sometimes things just fall into your lap, and that definitely happened here, but being adaptable is really huge so I did my best to do that. I ended up not needing a second color, but I was always prepared."

  • Round 11 Feature Match – Marc Lalague vs. Gilbert Leon

    by Nate Price

  • Earlier, I had a chance to sit down and watch my first draft of the season with Marc Lalague. His deck ended up being nearly monogreen, and he was incredibly pleased with it. "This deck doesn't really have any weaknesses," he told me after building. Despite this statement, he did realize that a difficult to kill creature could potentially get out of hand.

    "Fabled Hero is one hell of a Magic card. I lost my first round to that," he reported to me as he sat down for this final match of the first draft. Without a Time to Feed or Nemesis of Mortals early, the Hero was simply able to get too large too fast for Lalague to overcome it. This time around, he was able to dodge the powerful Hero, but he would have a different cast of problematic characters to deal with from Gilbert Leon's aggressive blue/black deck.

    This match would prove to be an age-old battle of ground pounders against fliers. Leon's deck was completely full of evasive threats, while Lalague's deck had a number of monstrous, earthbound attackers. In matches like this, the roll of the die often has a large impact on the outcome of the game, as the first to gain an advantage usually keeps it. Leon was fortunate enough to win the die roll, and he found himself even more fortunate when Lalague threw back an unimpressive first hand for a better six.

    Marc Lalague

    Leon started out very strongly, with a veritable air force at his disposal. Herald of Torment, Blood-Toll Harpy, and Nimbus Naiad made for an impressive opening to the game, and Lalague quickly found himself on the back foot. He managed to pare the board down to just the Nimbus Naiad thanks to some good attacks and removal, but he had fallen to a mere 9 life. Lalague built his ground troops quickly, conceding dominance of the skies to Leon. Two copies of Nemesis of Mortals were an impressive threat, but Leon calmly found a way around them. Archetype of Imagination lifted his other creatures in the sky to join the Naiad, and he crashed over, dropping Lalague to 2. He had left one blocker behind beside his Archetype, ready to block the pair of Nemeses. Lalague didn't have anything to force through his damage, nor a removal spell for the Naiad, and the first game of the match went to Leon and his never-ending fliers.

    Lalague felt that his deck had the appropriate tools to deal with fliers, he just needed to draw them. Between Leafcrown Dryad, Nessian Asp, Graverobber Spider, and a handful of removal spells, the tools were certainly there. In the second game, Lalague was able to come out of the gates as the aggressor, using a Voyaging Satyr to power out a third-turn Nylea's Emissary. This was the perfect spot for him to drop his Leafcrown Dryad, giving him both a 5/5 attacker, as well as a potentially powerful blocker against Leon's fliers should things turn rough.

    Leon did manage to get a Nimbus Naiad into play, but the 5/5 trampling Emissary, and the 5/5 Nemesis of Mortals that soon joined it, proved far too strong for Leon to handle.

    Gilbert Leon

    The final game of the match started out much slower than the previous ones. Leon's opening salvo was surprisingly a bunch of small ground creatures, including a Baleful Eidolon, Omenspeaker, and Servant of Tymaret. These cards were actually quite good against Lalague's larger green deck. However Lalague's start was fairly non-standard as well, opening with a couple of smaller green creatures and a Karametra's Acolyte.

    After a bunch of uninteresting turns of building, things finally started cooking. Lalague used his Karametra's Acolyte top power out both a Nemesis of Mortals and a Nessian Asp in the same turn. Leon followed this with a Siren of the Fanged Coast, which Lalague opted to turn into a 4/4 flier. Thanks to the large flier and the Baleful Eidolon on Leon's side, the game had escalated to a slightly larger standoff, one that Lalague was eager to break.

    On his turn, he began going through the motions to count his damage before sending his creatures sideways. A bestowed Leafcrown Dryad had turned his Setessan Oathsworn into a 7/7, and it crashed in alongside Nemesis of Mortals. The Eidolon did its job, taking out the Oathsworn. To replace it, Leon made a second copy of the potent deathtouch blocker. This forced Lalague to once again trade off one of his massive creatures with Leon's measly two-drop. Nemesis, Nessian Asp, and a Graverobber Spider all hit the red zone.

    With four creatures in the graveyard, even the Spider represented at least six points of potential damage. Leon blocked the Spider and the Asp, allowing Nemesis of Mortals through. Lalague tapped five mana, bestowing a Boon Satyr onto the Nemesis, giving him just enough devotion to make it monstrous as well. All of a sudden, Lalague's attack was lethal. Leon was tapped out, so there was nothing he could do but check out his life total, hoping he might have misread it. Sadly, it wasn't the case, and Lalague's explosive display of power proved good enough to give him the match.

    "Overall, I'm pleased with the way the deck performed," Lalague told me after the match. "I went at least 2-1, like I thought I should. I only had a couple of ways I could have won the match that I lost, but it's too tough to tell how it would have gone had I played differently. I did end up making a few changes, however. I ended up siding out a land for the Satyr Wayfinder every game, and I brought in the Prized Quarry most of the games, too, though I never got to cast it."

    Here's the list Lalague ultimately went with:

    Grand Prix Mexico City 2014 - Marc Lalague Draft #1

    Download Arena Decklist

  • Sunday, 3:14 p.m. – Who's Who: Mexico City's Resident Staff

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • It's easy to look past the faces of those who make these events what they are. The staff that helps make a Grand Prix possible, or the judges that help enforce fair and balanced play during each round. However, holding an event on this scale just wouldn't be possible without an experienced event staff, including judges.

    This event features three judges (and one Tournament Organizer) that reside in Mexico City, with the Grand Prix taking place on their home turf.

    More to the point, each one of these staff members has been involved with Magic for a long time. They love the game, which in part is why they have ended up on the staff. After all, making Magic happen at home takes precedence over simply playing in your local Grand Prix.

    I sat down to talk to each of these four people to learn a little bit more about their Magic backgrounds. In addition to that, as residents of Mexico City, they also offered up some recommendations for places that visitors should check out.

      Dalibor Trnka

    Role this weekend:
    Level 2 Judge, and judge manager for this event

    How long have you been playing Magic? What was your biggest accomplishment?
    I've been playing Magic for 14 years. My biggest accomplishment was being team captain for Mexico in last year's World Magic Cup. I also finished in the Top 64 at Pro Tour Nagoya 2011.

    How long have you been judging/TOing?
    I've been judging for 3 years.

    How long have you been living in Mexico City?
    All my life.

    What is the one thing that you absolutely insist that visiting Magic players/judges/friends must see when they come to Mexico City?
    Probably the downtown area and Coyocan.

      Alvaro Ibañez

    Role this weekend:
    Level 2 Judge

    How long have you been playing Magic? What was your biggest accomplishment?
    Since Mirage block. I've Top 8'd three PTQs, as well as a 160 person Grand Prix trial.

    How long have you been judging?
    I've been judging since Fifth Dawn.

    How long have you been living in Mexico City?
    I was born here, but I lived three years in Germany for work.

    What is the one thing that you absolutely insist that visiting Magic players/judges/friends must see when they come to Mexico City?
    Xochimilco, but Coyocan is also high on my list. If they like museums, then the National Museum of Anthrology is an excellent choice.

      Hector Fuentes

    Role this weekend:
    Level 3 Judge

    How long have you been playing Magic? What was your biggest accomplishment?
    I started playing in 1998. I was Mexico's National Champion in 2000.

    How long have you been judging?
    I started judging in 2001, and started doing international judging in 2004 with the World Championship in San Francisco.

    How long have you been living in Mexico City?
    I've been living in Mexico City all my life. I come from the south part of the city known as Coyocan.

    What is the one thing that you absolutely insist that visiting Magic players/judges/friends must see when they come to Mexico City?
    They should really go to Coyocan. It's a nice area to have food and drink, and it's a great place to visit for those who want to learn more about the art and life of Frida Kahlo.

      Saul Arreola

    Role this weekend:
    Tournament Organizer

    How long have you been playing Magic? What was your biggest accomplishment?
    It was around Revised and Fourth Edition that I began playing. I was part of the Mexican National Team in 1999, where we almost made Top 4, missing out in the final round before the cut and finishing in 9th overall. As a player I also attended a couple more Pro Tours around that time.

    How long have you been involved as part of the event staff?
    I started judging in 1999, and I eventually became a level 3 judge. I have head judged a few National Championships in Mexico, and I started organizing events when Prophecy was released. I've been organizing tournaments for over 12 years now, and I still find time to play. I'll even be going to Pro Tour Born of the Gods to compete next weekend.

    How long have you been living in Mexico City?
    I was born here, then moved to Costa Rica and then Encinada, and I also lived once in Central America. I moved back here for college and have been living here ever since.

    What is the one thing that you absolutely insist that visiting Magic players/judges/friends must see when they come to Mexico City?
    I'd recommend Chapultapec Castle, the National Museum of Anthropology, the Teotihuacan pyramids, Xochimilco, and Coyocan.

  • Sunday, 4:13 p.m. – Drafting Born of the Gods/Theros with Marcelino Freeman

    by Nate Price

  • "This isn't the kind of deck that's going to play expensive bombs," he said as he began to lay out his deck. "The only reason I even ended up with this Ember Swallower is because there wasn't anything else in the pack for me. What you want to do is try to end up with a bunch of inexpensive creatures, fifteen lands, and then overpower an opponent."

    Watching Marcelino Freeman draft was very intriguing, as his early picks were completely contrary to many of the things I had been learning about this format. It seemed like he was actively taking worse cards to adhere to his strategy, snagging cards like Nyxborn Rollicker and Impetuous Sunchaser over other, far more powerful cards. Yet by the end of the first pack, I couldn't argue with what he had begun to put together. It all started with his first pick of the draft, where he selected a Bolt of Keranos over Fall of the Hammer.

    "One of the things I noticed that made me pick the Bolt over Fall of the Hammer was the green cards in the pack" he explained. "Fall of the Hammer is very good, but if I'm drafting it, I want to be green to take advantage of the larger power on the creatures. In a deck like red/white, for example, many of my creatures are 1/1s or 2/1s, so it is much less powerful. If I take it, I'm likely going to be fighting for green with the people I am passing to, so I would rather take the Bolt, where I can go red/blue or red/white. Fall of the Hammer is still good in those colors, but not as good as in red/green. It was a risk I was willing to take."

    It was a risk that appeared to ultimately pay off, as he was passed a clear signal that the archetype he was hoping to speculate into with his Bolt pick was wide open.

    "This very aggressive red/white archetype is not one that many people like to draft," Freeman began. "Most of the people in the draft aren't going to be fighting over the one- and two-drops that you really want in your deck, so you can just take them. In the last pod, one of the decks that I saw a player end up with was monored, and he used it to win his pod. Early on, there weren't any really good white cards coming around, so I tried to keep myself close to monored, which is a really fast deck that many people here don't know how to play around. When the Loyal Pegasus came around like fifth pick, I realized that no one was drafting white weenie, so I was able to move into white and build an aggressive red/white deck. This deck doesn't have the strongest cards in it, but it's so aggressive that it can really punish poor draws and mana bases. It gives you free wins, which is very hard to do in draft."

    It wasn't just wins that Freeman was hoping to pick up for free. Not only does he believe that this archetype takes advantage of a weakness in the format, it also takes advantage of other drafters' opinions of many of the cards in it.

    "You also get a lot of free cards during the draft," he laughed, "because not many people are going to want the cards you want. You can get cards like Loyal Pegasus and Nyxborn Shieldmate, which a deck like green/white isn't going to really want, so you get these cards really late. You could definitely find yourself fighting for cards against a green/white curve deck, but most of the time, people drafting green want to draft the big monsters, so you don't have to worry about them taking your small creatures."

    And small creatures is where it is at for Freeman. While many people would be reveling at having an Ember Swallower in their red deck, he almost wished it wasn't.

    "The only thing that I would have liked is to have a few more inexpensive creatures so that I could keep my curve below four mana," he said, pointing to the trio of creatures in his four-drop slot. "With three four-drops, I am probably going to have to play sixteen lands when I really want to be playing fifteen. Loyal Pegasus is a very important card to this deck, and Impetuous Sunchaser is, too. And he's a bad card; no one else wants him. If you manage to get a couple of each of them, you can play the Pegasus and follow it up with the Sunchaser and deal an incredible amount of damage before they can even get started. It's almost as good as Monored in Standard, where you're dealing four or five damage on turn two. If you can do that in Limited, it's very hard to lose, especially if it's with fliers."

    Occasionally, though, the fact that your creatures are so small can come back to bite you. Once the 3/3s start coming out, your 2/1s begin to look a lot less appealing. Fortunately, Freeman has another card that his deck is positioned far better to use than most of the field.

    "Portent of Betrayal is really important to this deck," he explained, "because you often find yourself needing to find a way to finish the game. You spend your early turns playing everything you can, pump your creatures, and use Portent to finish them off. This format is a little slower, and most decks don't really have much to do on turn two. This lets you get them to like 11 before they get a real threat on the table, and you can just use Portent to steal it, drop them to like 2, and then it's almost impossible for them to win."

  • Round 12 Feature Match - Hugo Araiza vs. Charlie Reinhart

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Hugo Araiza is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you were playing back in 2001, it may ring a bell. That is because Araiza was the winner of Grand Prix Buenos Aires during that year. The occasion was made all the more momentous however, as Araiza became the first Mexican national to win a Magic Grand Prix that day. Now he finds himself in Top 8 contention, in excellent shape as one of the only 4 players left with a record of 10 wins or better following the second draft of the day, proving that he's still got what it takes to take down a Grand Prix, even despite how much they've grown in attendance in recent years.

    "I started playing around 1995, when Revised was the expansion," Araiza said. "My first tournament was the National Championship for my country [one year after Araiza started playing], and I got second place."

    Araiza followed his Grand Prix victory with a 13th place finish at Grand Prix Santiago later in 2001. Unfortunately, during these years, Pro Tours were not really an option for him, despite putting up some solid finishes in the Grand Prix circuit. "I didn't play in Pro Tours because Pro Tours were mostly in the United States, and I didn't have a visa," he explained.

    Hugo Araiza

    It wasn't long until real life kicked in, and Araiza had to put down his cards due to work. However, after very long hiatus, Araiza started playing again a year ago. "But only sometimes," he said. "Just when the format is Sealed."

    Araiza's familiarity with the current block is also a little limited, so his performance has been based more on instincts and less on knowing the card pool. "The Born of the Gods prerelease was my first time playing Theros block," he said. The number of times he has played a Theros block Limited event before this weekend was relegated to that prerelease and two additional booster drafts.

    His opponent for this round, Charlie Reinhart, traveled from the USA to try his hand at a run for the Grand Prix trophy. His weekend started off on a high note, as you may have noticed if you've seen the undefeated Sealed decks from yesterday, when he piloted an absolutely brutal blue-black deck to an 8-0 finish. His first draft was also solid, landing him a 2-1 finish and giving him a shot at Top 8.

    Now, the two face off to see who is going into Round 13 in a commanding position for Top 8. Losing isn't the end, but it will make finishing in the Top 8 harder.

      The Decks

    You may not be able to tell if Araiza's deck starts off with a couple of early plays, but Araiza's red-black deck is short on creatures. He confirmed after the match that he only had access to 11 creatures, meaning he needed his slew of removal to carry him to a stage where his creatures could end things.

    Reinhart's green-black deck offered up some powerful draws as well, with a slant towards green to support cards like Nylea's Disciple.

      The Games

    Reinhart spent his early turns on color fixing, such as Traveler's Amulet and Nylea's Presence. He was first on the board as well with Blood-Toll Harpy, but the flying creature was shot down by Spark Jolt at the end of Reinhart's turn. Araiza left the card from his scry on top, then followed up with a third-turn Spearpoint Oread.

    However, Reinhart came over the top of the three mana red creature with Mistcutter Hydra for three, which knocked down Araiza to 16. Araiza's follow-up, Anvilwrought Raptor, was not what he was looking for. The Hydra attacked in again, knocking Araiza to 13. Reinhart popped his Traveler's Amulet, fetching out a Swamp, then followed it up with Cavern Lampad.

    Charlie Reinhart

    Araiza thought long before casting Dragon Mantle on his Spearpoint Oread, and attacking in with one pump. Nyxborn Eidolon from Reinhart was bestowed on his Mistcutter Hydra and, despite losing his Cavern Lampad to Pharika's Cure, the Hydra was hitting hard. However, four toughness was not enough to get the Hydra out of range of Araiza's Lash of the Whip, which gave the former Grand Prix champion some breathing room. Attacks dropped Reinhart to 8, but Reinhart cracked back with his Nyxborn Eidolon, then dropped Araiza to 6 with Sip of Hemlock.

    When Araiza had Scouring Sands to dispose of the Eidolon, Reinhart was out of gas. Fearsome Temper gave Reinhart only a turn to find an answer, but when none came, he picked up his cards for the next game.

    Reinhart started off the second game with a monumental lead, leading with Swordsmith Centaur bashing in for 3 on the third turn. The Sedge Scorpion that followed became an inefficient blocker in the face of Araiza's Spearpoint Oread, which also threatened to hold back the Centaur. However, Reinhart's green creatures still contributed to devotion, and Nylea's Disciple gained him 5 life.

    Araiza enchanted his Oread with Dragon Mantle on the fourth turn, giving him a sizable blocker. Reinhart, however, was willing to push through damage regardless, bestowing Nyxborn Eidolon on Sedge Scorpion and attacking with all of his creatures. When Araiza had Pharika's Cure, the dust settled, and Araiza was still at 19, with Reinhart's board left only with a 3/3 scorpion. Kragma Warcaller gave Araiza another threat, and attacks dropped Reinhart to 19.

    But Reinhart was not done yet. He quickly untapped and cast Pheres-Band Raiders, giving him a way to claw back into the game. Araiza played his land, then sent his creatures in. When the Raiders blocked the Warcaller, Lash of the Whip made it a 1/1 and ensured the creature's demise.

    Ragemonger made things all the more troublesome for Reinhart, as it gained some abilities (including haste) due to Araiza's Warcaller, and Araiza sent in his three creatures. When Reinhart went for blocks, Araiza announced 4 damage with the Ragemonger. "You didn't announce your trigger for him," Reinhart said, noting that players had already passed the declare attackers step and that damage was being assigned. When the judge confirmed this, the Ragermonger only dealt 2, and the Kragma Warcaller traded with the enchanted Sedge Scorpion.

    Despite that setback, while Reinhart found Servant of Tyramet to soak up some damage, the glut of lands he was drawing offered him no way to stem the damage he was still taking. Fearsome Temper made the regenerating blocker irrelevant a turn later, and Reinhart offered the concession.

    Araiza 2 – Reinhart 0

  • Round 13 Feature Match - Marcelino Freeman vs. Michaell Solorzano

    by Nate Price

  • Paired down with only two more rounds to play, Marcelino Freeman's back was against the wall. Having picked up a second loss early in the day, Freeman was in need of a perfect 3-0 finish to this Pod in order to secure his berth in the Top 8. His weapon of choice to accomplish this was an incredibly aggressive red/white deck featuring multiple two-powered creatures for one mana. He was able to easily dispatch his opponent in the first round of play with this deck, and he hoped the trend would continue. Standing in his way was Michaell Solorzano, sitting at 9-3 and pushing to keep his dreams of a Top 16 berth alive. Solorzano's aggressive red/white deck was fast enough to keep pace with Freeman's, something he hadn't encountered before.

    Freeman was forced to mulligan on the play, but was able to get on the board fairly quickly with a Nyxborn Rollicker which he soon enchanted with a Nyxborn Shieldmate. Solorzano's draw was even faster, putting an Akroan Crusader into play and enchanting it with Ordeal of Heliod, one of the worst poss

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