2004 United States National Championship Feature Match

Posted in Event Coverage on June 18, 2004

By Ted Knutson

Bill Stead

Brian Kibler is a name that needs little introduction for most Magic players. He went 9-0 in last year's Nationals before conceding some of his friends into the top 8 with him. Unfortunately, that was where his luck ran out, and he was unable to make the U.S. National team. He has long been respected as an outstanding Constructed deck builder, but few people know that his Limited skills (when he's been practicing) are some of the best the U.S. has to offer.

Bill Stead, on the other hand, is a name that few fans would know very well. He is a long-time Limited specialist who is frequently in the money, but aside from winning Grand Prix: New Orleans in 2000-2001, and winning Grand Prix: D.C. with his team, he has had few finishes that would cause the more casual fan to sit up and take note. However, all the pros know that when sitting across from him playing forty card decks, they can expect a formidable opponent.

Game 1

Kibler started the match buying a pen from Randy Buehler for a dollar, claiming "Well, that's the longest I've actually been able to keep a pen at any tournament, so I guess I should be happy. Good luck, Bill… but not as much as you had in D.C. (where Bill's team defeated Brian's on their way to winning the whole Grand Prix)."

A second turn Leonin Squire from Stead was matched by a Tel-Jilad Chosen from Kibler. The Squire gained a Scimitar, and thwacked Brian for three. His cousin, Leonin Den-Guard dropped into the game as well, while Kibler cast a Loxodon Anchorite.

Stead cast Leonin Sun Standard on his turn, catching a response of "Huh" from Kibler, as he now had a very real clock to deal with. Another attack plus a pump dropped Brian to seven. Brian continued to shape his elephantine defenses though, as he played a Loxodon Mystic. A Cobalt Golem from Stead and Tel-Jilad Archers from Kibler further gummed up both the air and ground games.

Razor Golem looked to push the stalemate in Stead's favor, but provoked this exchange from Kibler, who wanted to know a question about the draft.

Kibler: "What did you take over that Razor Golem?"
Stead: "I didn't take anything over Razor Golem…"
Kibler: "Yes you did… I've drafted enough to count back." Bill just made a sheepish grimace and offered no response.

Fireshrieker and Pteron Ghost from Stead, plus another Loxodon Mystic for Kibler saw the board seesaw back and forth in each player's favor. Fortunately for Stead, he had a Sun Standard in play and Kibler at six life, while Brian was simply fighting to survive.

Kibler: "As fun as this is, you're probably going to have to play a little faster."
Stead: "I'm sorry, I'm trying to think a turn ahead."

A Raise the Alarm at the end of Kibler's turn opened things up a bit more in Bill's favor, and he was able to push enough damage through with two boosts from the Sun Standard to finish Brian off.

Stead 1 - Kibler 0

Game 2

Kibler kicked off with Auriok Transfixer and Darksteel Ingot, while Stead went creature light with Leonin Scimitar and Sun Standard. Razor Golem for Stead helped out a little, but Kibler continued the beats by tapping the Golem down with the Transfixer and delivering Anchorite and Tel-Jilad Exile beatings.

"And this is what I took over that Razor Golem," said Stead, answering Kibler's question from the first game by tossing Pristine Angel onto the board.

"Hmm… that's a neat one."

Another Razor Golem plus Echoing Truth on his own Leonin Sun Standard meant Bill would soon be delivering some very healthy beatings with a very large team. Kibler cast Sword of Fire and Ice saying "There are situations where this is really good. This time it does absolutely nothing."

Brian Kibler

Kibler: "I knew I was in trouble when I saw you were playing Plains and you passed me a Razor Golem. There is just no way that I can beat a Pristine Angel with a Green/White deck."

Stead 2 - Kibler 0

Kibler: "I really wanted to have back to back undefeated Day 1s at U.S. Nationals, but it didn't work out." Kibler's loss plus one more in the final round created a fourteen-way tie for first place at the end of Day 1. However, when the smoke cleared he was still in first place on tie-breaks, giving him an impressive set of back-to-back day 1 leads.

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