Popular Magic columnist and part-time secret agent Brian David-Marshall has once again infiltrated the halls of yet another Pro Tour and is bringing you all the hot stories live from the tournament floor.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 9:19 am - Why do you think they have been so good?
- 10:06 am - Quick walk around the hall…
- 10:45 am - Top 6 Players
- 11:22 am - First Look at the Last Chance
- 12:44 pm - Round Three Matchups
- 2:07 pm - Random Quotes on the New Extended
- 3:01 pm - Fun with your New Goblin
- 3:45 pm - Boys and Ghouls
- 5:07 pm - Goblins take a tumble
Round one of the tournament is underway and nobody looks entirely comfortable. Despite months of preparation and playtesting, no team claims to have busted the Extended format wide open. With all but one of the Top 8 decks (Tog) from last year's Extended Pro Tour in New Orleans still legal for play, 12 months later players did not have much to work with in the way of a square one.
Many players could be seen with old stand-bys like Rock, Tog -- even blue-green Madness -- tuned for this tournament of course but there seemed to be little in the way of startling new developments. For that, everyone seemed to be looking toward the Japanese contingent. During the player meeting I asked Tsuyoshi Fujita and Osamu Fujita what exciting tech lurked within their deck boxes.
Tsuyoshi grinned, holding his deck close to his vest and tightly thumbed through it to pull out three cards. He dramatically unveiled the cards one by one:
He fanned the rest of the deck up to show Cursed Scrolls and plenty of pain lands. Osamu laughed, pointed to himself, "Same!"
Justin Gary, sitting at the table just shook his head sadly. "How disappointing."
Friday, October 29: 10:06 am - Quick walk around the hall…
There was some talk that Akira Asahara was going to play an infinite life combo deck like the one he played in Okayama, but in the end he settled on Goblins. Most of the Japanese seem to be playing either that deck or the Red Deck Wins that Osamu and Tsuyoshi were sporting.
The TOGIT gang was all running Tog decks with Isochron Scepter, not unlike Tomohiro Yokosuka's Top 8 deck from last year. Making a comeback in their incarnation of the deck is an old favorite that was last seen in Kai Budde's winning deck from Pro Tour New Orleans three years ago -- Morphling.
The French squad could not reach any sort of consensus on the format and every one of them seems to have arrived at a different deck decision. That plan worked for Your Move Games at Pro Tour-Houston. French decks include Goblins, Mind's Desire, The Rock, and blue-green Madness.
The notable Your Move Games players in attendance have been whittled down to Dave Humpherys, Justin Gary, and Rob Dougherty. That is two-thirds of the team that made the Top 8 in Houston, the year Gary won the whole thing with Oath (with Dave Humpherys subbing in for Darwin Kastle). That year YMG played three different decks to a Sunday pairing. This time the red dragon crowd was playing in lockstep, with Re-animator for all of them.
They did not feel it was the best deck but thought that it would fly far enough under the radar that there would be little in the way of hate for the deck. Of course, when Justin and Nassif were paired in the first round, the YMGer's turn-two Akroma was swiped with a Gilded Drake. Perhaps YMG should have paid more attention to the Japanese GP circuit. Earlier this year, Itaru Ishida made the Top 8 of GP Okayama with a similar deck.
There were two YMG players in the feature area for round one, with Dave Humpherys paired with Bram Snepvangers. In Game 3, Dave laid his cards on the table on the first turn -- literally. He played a land, two Chrome Moxes, and cast Show and Tell to put Akroma, Angel of Vengeance into play.
"That was Humpherys?" asked fellow coverage scribe Ted Knutson. "I heard about it but I assumed it was a Japanese player. I can't imagine Dave playing Show and Tell! It seems like way too much fun for him to play."
Dave won that game and the match when all Bram's Rock deck could bring to class was the turn-one Yavimaya Elder.
The most interesting deck in the tournament so far has to be the Dutch deck that is also be playing by Gabe Walls and Neil Reeves. They are actually playing White Weenie with four Savannah Lions and two Hounds of Konda among its numerous one-drops. Neil was not terribly positive about his chances, and after borrowing a few Exalted Angels promised, "Thanks, I'll return them later today." Neil does play the 'aw shucks' angle to the hilt so who knows if that actually means anything.
Friday, October 29: 10:45 am - Top 6 Players
Two players from last year's Extended Top 8 are not in attendance this weekend. Pro Tour-New Orleans Champion Rickard Osterberg was a casualty of the Scandinavian disdain for Constructed formats. He could not actually find a motivated playtest group to help him prepare. Combine that with the bone-weariness of a year of traveling to every major Magic event and Rickard decided it was time to stay home and hone his Limited game for Nagoya. Draft is a format you have no problems getting help playtesting for in any part of the world that is home to Anton Jonsson.
Tomohiro Yokosuka -- the lone player of a deck that is still legal from last year's Top 8 -- is also not in attendance. He recently had a child and has retired from Magic to devote more time and energy to supporting his family.
Here is a breakdown of what the other six Top 8 players from last year are playing this year.
Nicholas LaBarre: Tog
Eugene Harvey: Tog
Yann Hamon: Rock
Masashi Oiso: Mind's Desire
Gabriel Nassif: Rock splashing blue
Hans Joachim Hoh: Rock splashing red
Friday, October 29: 11:22 am - First Look at the Last Chance
Eight rounds of Swiss play were followed by a harrowing single round of Top 8 elimination last night -- check that…this morning -- in the Last Chance Qualifier for this Pro Tour. It was one of those very rare occasions that a player could qualify for the Pro Tour playing a Standard deck. Armed with umpteen deck lists from last weekend's State Championships, 129 players arrived at the convention center Thursday evening to scuffle for one of four slots to play today.
To make the event just a tiny bit crueler, there was a mistaken belief that some number of 6-2 players would make the cut to the elimination round. In the end it was a clean cut with all the players sporting 6-1-1 or better moving on, while the 6-2 players could all console themselves with a late wake-up call. From there, the players only had to win one round -- four would advance and four more would get to sleep in.
Congratulations to all four on a hard night's work. I will follow up in the middle rounds with the decks they played for the event and how they are faring.
Friday, October 29: 12:44 pm - Round Three Matchups
While Teddy Cardgame was focusing his attentions in the direction of Osyp Lebedowicz and Yann Hamon I was keeping an eye on the other three feature matches to get a look at some early -- very early -- undefeated matchups that were on center stage.
Jelger Wiegersma vs. Shuhei Nakamura
The lesson learned from this matchup is that Cursed Scroll trumps Benevolent Bodyguard. Jelger was playing a White Weenie deck (along with Gabe Walls and Neil Reeves). Nakamura was with Red Deck Wins and as I wandered over a glum Jelger was sideboarding for Game 2. "He made two Cursed Scrolls and killed all my guys," he frowned.
Jelger brought in Absolute Law for the second game and got it out early although Nakamura had Cursed Scroll to negate it. Jelger's Exalted Angel, on the other hand, was more than up to the task. Game 3 was the same story as game 1 with double Cursed Scroll serving as a permanent Wrath of God for Jelger's team and eventually finishing him off.
Jeroen Remie vs. Torben Twiefel
Rock on Rock Action! As you like it!
In game 1, German National Team member Torben Twiefel stumbled on lands while Jeroen's Eternal Witnesses undid a pair of Duresses. Jeroen beat down with his Witnesses while Twiefel scuffled for lands. A Ravenous Baloth showed up for mop-up detail and they quickly went to a second game.
Twiefel took the second game while I was watching Jelger try to outrace two Cursed Scrolls and the third game started off with a pair of Cabal Therapies. Torben named Troll Acetic and saw a pair of Negators looming in the wings. Jeroen whiffed with his own Therapy and saw two Flametongues. Torben was unwilling to eat his Birds of Paradise to take out the Negators and they saw play turn three and turn four with the flashed -back Therapy (sacrificing Nezumi Graverobber) from Jeroen hitting the Kavus.
Jeroen served with his Negators, and when Torben put a Ravenous Baloth out to buy some time Jeroen just kept on coming. He lost four lands but left Torben pounding on the top of his deck for a Flametongue. It did not come. After the match Jeroen questioned Torben's play. Torben was holding Cranial Extraction and Vampiric Tutor when Remie looked at his hand. Torben had been wary of the Nezumi Graverobber and Vamped early for an unknown card. Remie felt that Torben should have Cranial Extractioned the second Negator and then tutored for Recurring Nightmare to bring back a Flametongue to deal with the first one.
Osamu Fujita vs. Ben Rubin
Osamu Fujita eschewed the Rock, Reanimator, and Life decks in testing for the time tested and aptly named Red Deck Wins. While a number of players were sporting variations on Ben Rubin's Dump Truck deck that won Grand Prix-Anaheim, Rubin was not. Instead, he was playing a blue-green Madness deck with Intuition.
Game 1 went easily to Rubin as Fujita's Jackal Pups could find no path around an early Aquamoeba. When Ben Intuitioned for Roar of the Wurm, Wonder, and Deep Analysis the first game ended shortly thereafter.
Ben looked to be in a solid position for Game 2 but was stopped dead in his tracks by an Ensnaring Bridge. Without Naturalize or Ensnaring Bride in his deck or sideboard his only hope was to Intuition for three Deep Analysis and set up a position where he could flash it back targeting Fujita and attack with a Wild Mongrel. The only problem with that plan was that Ben played his Wonder as opposed to waiting for a Mongrel to dump it off to, and despite three Chills in play Osamu forced a game 3 with Seals of Fire, Firebolts, and a little help from Ben's Deep Analysis. Ben stared at the Wonder and asked, "Why did I play you?"
One of the reasons you choose to play with RDW is that once every round or so you are likely to get an "Oops! I win!" draw, and the third game was exactly that for Fujita and he took the match after falling into a one-game hole.
Friday, October 29: 2:07 pm - Random Quotes on the New Extended
Randy Buelher: "Have you seen an Affinity deck yet?"
Randy (smiling): "Me neither."
Mike Flores finished 10th in last night's LCQ. He will be taking part in the webcast on Sunday and is pitching in around the coverage area typing in decklists. As he reached the end of the A's he noticed something. "I have yet to enter two decks that are even remotely the same."
Randy (still smiling): "There are so many cards being played in this tournament."
Friday, October 29: 3:01 pm - Fun with your New Goblin
Goblins have always been a popular choice in any format. The deck took a right turn from beatdown to combo with Jin Okamoto and company at the wheel of the stunning GobVantagedeck during the World Championships in Berlin. Next came the contentious Food Chain Goblins during Pro Tour-New Orleans. Combo Goblins were then neutered by the banning of the abusive Goblin Recruiter. If people wanted to play goblins they would no longer be able to stack their decks.
Goblins remain scary though, as anyone who played against them in the recently expired Standard format can attest. Goblins were a popular choice this weekend although they came in a variety of flavors.
Gerard Fabiano veered from the TOGIT party line of Psychatog to play Goblins with Aether Vial -- an innovation that Zvi Mowshowitz advocated at the end of the last Extended PTQ season. His deck is capable of some devastating turns. He can Vial out a Warchief on the fourth turn and then cast Siege-Gang a turn sooner, he can put multiple Piledrivers into play, or even--from the sideboard--Vial out a Flametongue Kavu.
"Vial is better in this format than in Block," said Paul Rietzl.Olivier Ruel
Speaking of Zvi and goblin decks, Olivier Ruel was playing a variant of that deck and had an utterly ridiculous game 1 against an opponent playing with Reanimator. Ruel's foe Careful Studied a Phantom Nishoba into his yard on the first turn. Ruel Cabal Therapied him, naming "Exhume" and took the spell that would have sealed the game next turn. His opponent cast a Cabal Therapy of his own and whiffed. He saw a Burning Wish sitting in Ruel's grip and decided not to cast the other one he was holding to get rid of it. Ruel drew a land on the next turn and was able to Burning Wish for Reanimate and put the Nishoba into play on his side of the table.
There have been many cards/colors splashed in Goblin decks over the years. Kazumasa Shiki even ran a Dralnu's Crusade in the board of his GP Okayama Top 8 Bidding deck to get around Absolute Law and COP Red. Last Chance Qualifier winner Bryn Kenney was playing a similar deck today but moved the Crusade into his main deck.
The most interesting goblin deck this weekend came from Japan in the deck box of Akira Asahara -- one of my all-time favorite deck designers. He was playing a green-red goblin deck that touched green for Pattern of Rebirth. Among the cards that could spring forth from his deck? How about Akroma, Angel of Vengeance and Platinum Angel.
Friday, October 29: 3:45 pm - Boys and Ghouls
It is only fitting on Halloween that one of the more buzzed-about decks on the tournament floor features Sutured Ghoul. Hermit Druid was banned after last year's tournament in this same format, but the deck keeps coming back from the grave.
Hermit Druid was so good that he requires two cards to replace him. Javier Dominguez piloted his Cephalid Breakfast to a 4-1 record after five rounds. The deck replaces the Druid with a two-piece combo of Cephalid Illusionist and an En-Kor. He mills his entire deck into the bin and from there it functions exactly like the Angry Ghoul deck. He uses Koran Reclamation to put an Exhume or Reanimate on top of his non-existent deck and creates an enormous, hasty, Dragon Breathed, Sutured Ghoul.
The deck can go off on turn two or three and seems to be well thought out despite its janky appearance. After round five there could be at least two 4-1 players of the six with the deck. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look from Teddy Cardgame later in the day.
Friday, October 29: 5:07 pm - Goblins take a tumble
Round six saw eight of the remaining nine undefeated players square off in the feature match area. Three of the four tables featured goblin decks. Olivier Ruel was playing Red Army against Nicholas West and his blue-white Isochron Scepter Control deck. The match went to three games but in the breaker a turn-two Scepter imprinted with Fire/Ice was sufficient to send Ruel into the X-1 bracket.
US Nationals Top 8 competitor Billy Postlethwait was with Aether Vial goblins against Ryuuchi Arita playing his En-Kor combo deck that was designed by Masami Ibamoto. It was not a good matchup for the American. "He gained infinite life game 1. I couldn't even kill his guys," Billy sighed as they began game 2.
Billy looked good in game 2 as he was able to Sparksmith an En-Kor,
The other goblin matchup was Dylan Leach, with another red-black build, versus Pierre Canali, one of the few players in the room with Affinity. Pierre dismantled the goblin player with two Engineered Plagues and a Meddling Mage to knock all of the goblin decks out of the undefeated bracket.
Coming into the round there were nine undefeated decks and they broke down by archetype thusly:
Justin Gary and his blue-black Reanimator deck lost to Oiso's Mind's Desire deck. Michael Brodt, also playing Reanimator, was paired down against Adrian Olivera and his Cephalid Breakfast. Brodt won his match leaving five undefeated players going into round seven.
Blue-Black Reanimator, Mind's Desire, En-Kor Infinite