Catch up on all the action from previous days at the Magic Invitational.
Podcast: A Vintage Invitational
by Rich Hagon
by Event Coverage Staff
6:12 p.m.: Vintage Quick Hits
by Tim Willoughby
5:56 p.m.: A View of Vintage
by Tobias Henke
- 5:17 p.m.: The Broken Mirror
Round 13: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Stephen Menendianby Tim Willoughby
by Mark Rosewater
4:43 p.m.: Not Your Standard Standard
by Tim Willoughby
Podcast: The Perfect Ingredients
by Rich Hagon
12:50 p.m.: When Standard Eras Collide
Round 10: Tiago Chan vs. Jelger Wiegersmaby Tim Willoughby
Decklists: Choose Your Own Standard
by Event Coverage Staff
11:08 a.m.: So Many Options
by Tim Willoughby
Video: Choose Your Own Standard
by Mark Rosewater
Recap: Day Two
by Tim Willoughby
Ask the Pro: Invitational Update
by Raphael Levy
Recap: Day Two
Day Two of the 2007 Magic Invitational here at Spiel Essen in Germany is at a close, and as unlikely as it seemed in the middle of the day, we currently have a clear leader. Having gone undefeated in both the Auction of the People format and in Winston Draft, Tiago Chan is making a bid for immortality with his own Magic card, with just six rounds of Constructed play standing between him and the finals. The round-robin format has meant for a very close field, with players moving up and down the standings as they find formats that they get on well with.
The Winston Draft format, a great little way for players to get a draft going when there are only two players, has seen a different set of skills tested for 3 rounds today. While Stephen Menendian showed promise in the Cube draft, this was not his format, and after a tough time in the Auction of the People, he is now lagging behind the pack with his best format, Vintage, still to come. He was last seen succumbing to a turn-four Dread from Shuhei Nakamura, who has been getting fatties into play fast in every format he's played so far.
The formats for Saturday are the ones where we might well see the most fruits of good preparation and deckbuilding. First we have"Choose Your Own Standard," where players will get to merge their favourite two blocks with one of many base sets to create something new and special. Then there is the most eternal of formats, Vintage, a format that has never been newer and fresher than in the post-Future Sight Vintage, with unrestricted Gush shenanigans.
Video: Choose Your Own Standard
What deck would you build if you could combine any two blocks and one core set? We give the Invitationalists that very option.
11:08 a.m. - So Many Options
For Constructed Saturday, as it has been dubbed, we have three rounds of Vintage to finish things out, but before that there is Choose Your Own Standard. For this year's Invitational, Mark Rosewater was looking for a format that allowed people to play with old cards, but without things being too open to the sorts of broken plays available in Vintage or Legacy.
He settled on a variation on Standard, where one could choose any two blocks, starting with Ice Age, and any one base set, starting with Fifth Edition. With a banned list that is something of an amalgamation of the Legacy and Block banned lists (no Necropotence or Affinity for you!), it is a format that allows players to either be pretty lazy, using an old Standard deck that they liked from a previous format, or producing something new and scary, for example taking Ice Age block, with Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares and Counterbalance, and sticking those cards into an Onslaught block blue/white control deck.
What players have done with it is pretty fun. The format has become something of a who's who of cool decks from Standard over the last decade or so, with a few nifty little tweaks. Craig Jones was seen frantically searching on Gatherer for the best block to complement Tempest for his red burn deck, and eventually settled on Mirage, lured in by Fireblast and Hammer of Bogardan. Kenji and Richie are both playing Survival of the Fittest with Recurring Nightmare, and are making the most of power level errata changes to do very silly things with Priest of Gix and Palinchron.
Meanwhile Tiago Chan is re-visiting the deck he played at his very first World Championships in 2001—a Saproling Cluster/Fecundity deck that stood out as a combo deck not hammered by various bannings. More than a few of the cards are signed and dated from back when Tiago was far from being the pro he is today, and he's clearly enjoying the nostalgia.
The traders are probably enjoying it too... this morning there was a swarm of pros looking to get their last few cards while simultaneously not letting other players see what they were up to. We get to see everything though, and for decklists, play-by-play and more, stay tuned for three rounds of action.
Players descended on the dealer tables looking for secret tech.
12:50 p.m. - When Standard Eras Collide
Last night at 11 p.m., Tiago Chan was fretting a little about his deck.
"I played this deck at Worlds in 2001, but couldn't find the list on my computer anywhere," he said. "The list I found on the Internet for it doesn't seem as good as I remember... but I can't remember what the differences were."
The deck that Tiago had at Worlds 2001 was a deck called Cluster Bomb, and he has it here at the Invitational in Essen Germany. It is looking to set up a three-card combo: Fecundity, Ashnod's Altar, and Saproling Cluster (go ahead, click the link). With all three in play, Tiago can pay one mana, discard a card from his hand to make a 1/1 Saproling, then sacrifice it to draw a card and get two mana. Every iteration of his loop gains him one mana, and he also gets to filter through his deck for his kill condition—a Heart of Ramos to get red mana, and a Blaze to dome his opponent. It was one of the combos that Tiago knew well, but that he felt wouldn't be on people's radars.
Jelger Wiegersma, by contrast, was playing a deck that is pretty well known to many pros, and well loved by coverage reporters—Mirari's Wake. This is a green/white/blue control deck that looks to build up huge amounts of mana with its namesake enchantment, and then ultimately launch of some big spells like Decree of Justice to win. With counterspells and card-drawing aplenty it is very powerful, if a little slow sometimes.
In Game 1 of the three-game set, things were all about Tiago. He fired off an early Duress on Jelger, seeing two copies of Deep Analysis, plus Mana Leak, Wrath of God, Cunning Wish and Flooded Strand. Suddenly Tiago was operating with pretty much perfect information. He knew how his opponent's deck worked, and could get right on to beating him. Taking Cunning Wish, he carried on with a Saproling Cluster.
Jelger was flummoxed. He read the card. He read it again. He checked the set symbol.
"Is that card from Masques?"
"Yeah, the set where all the cards are pretty crappy apart from Rishadan Port."
When Jelger tapped out for Mirari's Wake, Tiago took his shot. He used Enlightened Tutor to fetch Ashnod's Altar, untapped and went for his combo. Jelger watched, smiling, as he got to see more of Chan's deck, and ultimately the Blaze that would finish him off.
As the players shuffled up for Game 2, Jelger complemented Chan's choice of deck, which can in theory go off as early as turn three with sufficient mana creatures. Chan simply confirmed with Wiegersma that Ray of Revelation was probably going to be a problem for the rest of the match, and made a little sad face... Games 2 and 3 would be tougher.
Jelger's deck was well-known, but what had Tiago brought with him?If Game 1 was Tiago's then it would have to be said that the second was Jelger's. An early Duress from Chan saw Wrath of God, 2 copies of Mana Leak, Decree of Justice, Plains and Krosan Verge. The Decree went away, but those two Mana Leaks slowed down Tiago's plan a touch.
Tiago did sneak down a Saproling Cluster, but was soon in trouble when Jelger played a Mirari's Wake, meaning that he could now use Tiago's own enchantment to make some scary beaters of his own. Three copies of Krosan Verge came down, slowly but surely giving Jelger colossal amounts of mana, most of which was not really used, as each player played draw, go. When Jelger eventually made four 2/2 Saprolings off the Cluster, Tiago was forced to act. He made 1/1's of his own, and was at almost exactly the right amount of cards and mana (with the help of Ashnod's Altar) to Blaze for the win. However, just as he was looking to go for it, he drew his card, and saw Academy Rector. Now he could legitimately go for his main combo. He cast it, and Jelger responded with Cunning Wish for Stifle. One way or another that Cunning Wish would have stopped things—and this way around Jelger simply Stifled Academy Rector's triggered ability, and beat down with his 2/2 Saprolings.
It was on to Game 3, and things were looking pretty tense. Tiago was sat at the top of the standings, and while Jelger was not exactly close behind him, there was still a chance that he could get there with a good run. Neither player was giving an inch for the decider.
A Duress showed him that he was actually not in as good a state as he'd hoped though. Ray of Revelation, Mirari's Wake, Mirari, Mana Leak, Circular Logic, Forest and Brushland were a pretty powerful collection of cards. Ray of Revelation got sent away, but it would still be able to flash back—meaning that Chan's combo plan looked a little shaky.
Bearing this in mind, Tiago started to beat with his mana creatures. He cast a Saproling Burst to draw out the Ray of Revelation, then used Academy Rector to fetch a Fecundity. To stay gassed up, he played a second Saproling Burst, immediately making 7 tokens, who became 0/0 as the Burst had no tokens left. When they all died, he drew 7 new cards. None too shabby.
Jelger still had plenty of game, though. He used Cunning Wish to get back the Ray of Revelation that had previously been removed from the game upon being flashed back. The enchantment plan still looked a little awkward...Tiago continued to beat, making the most of the fact that Jelger was a little short on blue mana, and had taken a point or two from his Brushland. He played another Academy Rector.
Jelger got up to six lands and cast Mirari's Wake with just a Brushland up. This was enough to get Tiago to sacrifice Academy Rector to High Market, fetching another Saproling Burst. Jelger was forced to play Ray of Revelation, but this left him tapped out.
Tiago carefully counted his mana, then counted it again. He tapped it all, and had the Blaze to finish things off exactly.
Tiago Chan wins 2-1!
Podcast: The Perfect Ingredients
Listen to the full coverage of Storyteller vs. Fanatic in this afternoon's episode.Take 16 of the biggest names in Magic. Choose any two blocks from Ice Age forward. Chop, cut, prune and otherwise pare down until only the sweetest, juiciest, rawest cards remain. Shuffle into a deck. Cover with sleeves. Cook on gas mark 10-12 for three hours. Sideboard to taste.
This was a truly fabulous format, with deck innovation everywhere you looked. And for dessert? How about three rounds of the finest Vintage in the company of Steve Menendian? That's coming your way later Saturday, when the two finalists will be revealed, prior to their three-course gourmet feast of Magic on Sunday. Yum!
- Right-click here to download the podcast to your computer, or just click on the link to open it directly in your browser.
4:43 p.m.: Not Your Standard Standard
Looking around the eight tables, there is a massive variety amongst the decks on show for Choose Your Own Standard. Within the 16 decks being played, every base set on offer is being used, along with every block except Mirrodin, where the impact of the ban-hammer on so many of the powerful affinity cards rather left the set unpopular for this weekend. There is aggro, in the form of Craig Jones's super aggressive Red Deck Wins. There is combo of all sorts, from Dragonstorm to Fruity Pebbles to Survival of the Fittest / Recurring Nightmare and more. There is control with Nassif and Ruel playing Psychatog while Wiegersma and Levy play Wake.
What is kind of interesting is how all the decks stack up against each other. Does one Standard have adequate answers to another? Craig Jones was, until late last night, intending on his red deck using Ravnica rather than Mirage block, simply due to the possibility of being destroyed the dredge deck that he felt certain Frank Karsten would be playing. Leyline of the Void was very nearly a fixture in his sideboard. Tiago Chan had a slightly dicey time of it against the Ray of Revelations coming out of Odyssey block from Jelger Wiegersma's Wake deck.
Quite a few players have decided that the best way to fight an unknown format was to use counterspells, and with Ice Age block containing Counterspell itself, along with Counterbalance and Force of Will, it is a pretty popular choice as a great start to a control deck.
There have been a few decks that have changed in power over the years, and suddenly improved with recent changes to errata policy. Richard Hoaen and Kenji Tsumura are having a blast using their Recurring Nightmare/Survival of the Fittest deck with Palinchron and Priest of Gix to set up some pretty insane combos. With the help of Wall of Roots, Palinchron and Recurring Nightmare, Rich killed Jelger Wiegersma on turn four, following turn-one and -two Duress in Round 3. The round before he'd faced Kenji in the mirror, and after they both took mulligans to zero, Rich proved to be the Lucky Master of the two friends in the match, winning 2-0.
Frank Karsten's Dredge deck, sporting cards from Odyssey, Ravnica and Seventh Edition, had the powerful combination of the best of current dredge deck, Psychatog, Zombie Infestation and Tolarian Winds. With this powerhouse he went 3-0 in the format, dominating Evan Erwin's blue/white aggro control deck in Round 3. The only other Constructed master was, well, the Constructed Master. Gabriel Nassif had a friendly wager with Jelger Wiegersma that he would go undefeated in the format, and upon finishing his final round victorious, he cheerily declared, "It's like I finished second at the Invitational!" Unfortunately for Gabriel, actually making Sunday's play is now impossible for him, but like so many of the Invitationalists, he is happy to be here, playing fun formats with the best in the world.
The Invitational goes back to the roots of Magic, opening up the cardpool for everyone to jump in.
5:17 p.m - The Broken Mirror
"Are you in contention? I guess I'm playing spoiler then."
Stephen Menendian, Vintage World Champion, was all business as he sat down for the first round of "his" format. Against Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, he found himself in a mirror GAT match which it is likely that he has played significantly more than his opponent. However, there are not too many Vintage players who are Level 6 Pro Tour players. This would be an interesting match.
As the players shuffled up for Game 1, Tournament Manager Scott Larabee came over and pointed out that Rich Hoaen had already won his first game. If PV was planning on making the finals, then he would have to be playing catch up.
PV, left, had to get through the Vintage champ to keep his Invitational hopes alive.PV won the roll and led with a Duress of Underground Sea, revealing Gush, Gush, Mystical Tutor, Force of Will, Misdirection, Street Wraith and Volcanic Island. He took the tutor.
For his turn, Steve cycled his Street Wraith, played his land and passed. PV had a Brainstorm for the following turn, taking some time to make sure he put the right cards back, as he had a Polluted Delta that would mean that some number could get shuffled away.
Stephen was not eager to get aggressive, simply playing Mox Jet, Island and passing. He let himself get hit by a second Duress, showing that Yawgmoth's Will was also now in his hand, along with those two Gush, Force of Will and Misdirection. PV took Misdirection, signaling that he might have an Ancestral Recall planned. He cracked his fetchland for a Volcanic Island. When it came, one Gush was pitched to Force of Will. PV had the Misdirection, removing Merchant Scroll, and PV built his hand back up.
Down a little on cards, Stephen used the remaining Gush, floating beforehand. He played a fetchland, cracking it to find Tropical Island, and used one of the mana for the first Quirion Dryad of the game. It was time to get aggressive. He didn't have a use for the second point of mana, and burned for one, but with the first threat of the game on the board, he looked OK.
PV looked across at his opponent's board. That Dryad looked pretty good. He played one of his own. Stephen cycled another Street Wraith, dropping to 13 life, while PV sat high on 18, having only taken fetchland damage.
With Dryads on both sides of the board, and down on life, Menendian was hesitant to attack. PV was less worried though. He had a Gush to begin his turn, floating blue and black mana. Stephen played Pyroblast. When PV followed up with Yawgmoth's Will, Menendian just sat back and said "Merry Christmas."
What followed was a little silly. Duress took Menendian's Yawgmoth's Will, and left him with just two land. Gush got PV even more cards. Ancestral Recall took his hand size up to 11 (including at least four lands thanks to all that gushing). Mox Jet came down, and PV used Demonic Tutor again also, for a 7/7 Dryad on the swing. When next it swung, Menendian was forced to block, and a Force of Will on Vampiric Tutor was enough to put Menendian on the ropes. Yet another Force of Will, this time on Merchant Scroll, finished it.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – 0 Stephen Menendian
Between games Menendian commented that he could only ever win that game on the play, even then with some difficulty. He would be on the play for the second game.
Game 2 began with a swift Mox Emerald, fetchland into Volcanic Island, and a Merchant Scroll for Force of Will from Menendian, looking to take control and get back in there. PV fired back with a turn-one Duress, seeing three copies of Gush, Force of Will and a Flooded Strand. One way or another Stephen could draw a lot of cards this game, as PV took the Force of Will.
PV had Time Walk, Brainstorm, Smother, Duress, Red Elemental Blast and MoxEmerald. Would Menendian take PV's one mana source, or the Brainstorm that could draw him more? He went for the Brainstorm, meaning that PV would most likely end up tempted to play a Time Walk as a really expensive cantrip to get into land, rather than later when there could easily be a rampaging Quirion Dryad in play.
Menendian played the first of his copies of Gush, following up with two Street Wraith cycles, a Mox Ruby and a Brainstorm. PV responded to this by fetching a Volcanic Island and playing Red Elemental Blast. Menendian was forced to burn for 1 point of his floated mana. He played a fetchland and passed.
Steve was low on cards. That last Gush came, followed by Merchant Scroll for AncestralRecall, which went straight onto the stack. When it resolved, all of a sudden Menendian was right back in things, in spite of Paulo's best efforts to deny him.
At the end of the turn, Paulo played a Mystical Tutor for his Ancestral Recall, and Menendian discarded the lone basic Island in his deck. Menendian used Misdirection to grab PV's Ancestral Recall, suddenly with a hand full of cards. He looked to keep it that way with Library of Alexandria, a card that is powerful for winning card-advantage wars in the mirror, but a source of some contention among Vintage commentators for inclusion in GAT.
PV played Gush into Fastbond, but burned for two on his turn. Stephen played Time Walk and took two turns of his own. In spite of not a single point of attacking, Menendian was on 12 to PV's 16. He dropped to 10 by cycling Street Wraith, but upon drawing into Demonic Tutor, he was immediately looking at his graveyard, working out just how good the Yawgmoth's Will could be. A little short on mana to fully abuse it, Menendian started out with another cycled Street Wraith, and passed the turn, discarding a land.
Menendian was a card drawing machine thanks to his Library of Alexandria, but either wasn't ready or wasn't able to commit a monster to the board and start swinging. What he did do, was cast Yawgmoth's Will, with four mana up to do all sorts of shenanigans with what was quite a full graveyard. PV cast Force of Will, leaving him with just one card in hand. Menendian had the Pyroblast. Suddenly Menendian had a functional hand size that was quite absurd. He used Demonic Tutor and Gush first, and with a Fastbond was able to get plenty of use out of his Gushes.
It was these that got him to a Quirion Dryad. Another Gush made it a 2/2. Stephen had drawn so many cards that he was virtually decking himself. He played some lands back, dropping to just three life. Ancestral Recall dropped him to around 10 cards left in his deck. Time Walk meant that the Dryad would get at least one good attack in, as at least a 4/4. Brainstorm made it 5/5. Then came Black Lotus, who had been a long time showing up to the party. Mystical Tutor put Brainstorm on top of Stephen's library, where it was found by Brainstorm. That's an 8/8 Dryad now folks. A third Brainstorm followed.
After what had been about a 15-minute turn... it was time for Menendian to take another one.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – 1 Stephen Menendian
This didn't seem to matter, as Stephen drew one off the top, and saw Gush, Smother, Pyroblast, Mox Emerald and Polluted Delta. Menendian took the Gush. Upon his next draw, Menendian pumped the fist a little. He played Merchant Scroll, prompting a fetchland for Volcanic Island and a Pyroblast. Misdirection said no. Menendian got Ancestral Recall, and resolved it—the first step in winning with this sort of deck. Street Wraith got cycled, before Demonic Tutor set Menendian up for more craziness with the crazy Gush deck.
Paulo's turn was straight-forward but powerful. He played Mox Emerald, Mox Ruby and Empty the Warrens for 6 Goblin tokens. On 16 life, that as a three-turn clock for Menendian. He cycled Street Wraith before playing Yawgmoth's Will. According to R&D, when this card was first designed there was a comment next to it in the file saying "Good in block." It turns out they were right. It was.
A cracked fetchland later Menendian was at 13, and he cast Ancestral Recall, digging for answers to PV's threats on the board. There was no more juice though, and in his discard step, Menendian discarded Force of Will. Paulo Vitor played Brainstorm, followed by Merchant Scroll, shuffling away the bad cards he'd put back, and fetching him Ancestral Recall to replace them with. He bashed for 6 and passed. On just 7, Menendian would have to fight hard to pull things out.
He used Gush, followed by Merchant Scroll, finding Cunning Wish. If there was an Echoing Truth in Stephen's board, then now he had the means to find it. There was, and Steve went to his end step, discarding a pair of copies of Force of Will. Attacks from PV took Menendian to 1.
PV played Duress. Menendian responded with Force of Will. Damo da Rosa dug with Ancestral for a way to counter, but had to let Menendian hide his answer on top of his deck, taking Duress, and leaving Menendian Red Elemental Blast, Merchant Scroll, Quirion Dryad and land. It was time for the fight to resolve Echoing Truth. It would have been bold of PV to have slow rolled the counterspell, but Menendian was clearly still concerned, playing Merchant Scroll to find a Gush, which he played, floating a black mana.
Echoing Truth resolved, and Menendian's chin hit the floor. Another Duress from PV made sure things were safe, and a Fastbond meant that another Empty the Warrens for 6 was coming. For the second time in the game, Menendian's chin hit the floor. It was all over.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa wins 2 – 1
5:56 p.m - A View of Vintage
As always, Vintage is the format where craziness abounds. Walking around the play area, I've seen quite a few plays unheard of in any other format.
For example, here we see the board at the end of turn ONE:
On his first turn Richie Hoaen played Gemstone Mine, Black Lotus, Mox Jet, and then, with his jewelry already in play, tried to resolve a Chalice of the Void. That would have had Shuhei Nakamura totally locked out of the game, his only mana sources in hand being a Lotus Petal and a Mox of his own. It could have been the end of the game right there.
But Force of Will stopped the Chalice, and then on his first turn Shuhei went for the combo-kill himself! Again, that might have been "game over," but this time a Red Elemental Blast stopped the Flash from resolving.
Apparently, when both decks can potentially kill (or lock down the game) on turn one and have countermagic at their disposal that costs one mana (one or none, that is), the games are not necessarily quickly over but on the contrary surprisingly slow.
And then there is some excessive mulliganing going on...
While Craig Jones obviously got some help here, thanks to Serum Powder, Frank Karsten is doing it the hard way, finally settling on these four: Virulent Sliver, Pact of Negation, Protean Hulk, Flash, certainly not bad at all but desperately in need of a Black Lotus any time soon.
We learned afterwards, that in this game the Prof. had "nearly killed on turn two." Nearly? Why, yes, Frank certainly had the power to stop the game-ending Dread Return with his Pact of Negation, only to die on the very next upkeep due to the insurmountable upkeep cost.
Not going for the throat as quickly as all those Gush and Flash decks we've seen so far, Rich Hoaen's Stax is doing good work in the hands of Kenji Tsumura. Slow but steady wins the race...
"Need more dice... Gotta die?"
"Well, we all gotta die eventually."
6:12 p.m - Vintage Quick Hits
Vintage is a pretty nutty format. While waiting for it to start, Jelger Wiegersma played his GushATog (GAT) deck against Shuhei Nakamura's Flash Hulk build. On turn one, he managed to get out all five Moxes, Fastbond, play two Gush, Merchant Scroll, AncestralRecall, QuirionDryad, and a whole host of spells. He passed the turn. Shuhei drew, and played a turn-one Flash, putting Protean Hulk briefly into play, only for him to go to the graveyard, fetching four Virulent Slivers and one Heart Sliver, who all ran in, poisoning Jelger in quite savage fashion.
When the format is quick, it is very quick. From time to time though, there will be instances of matches that take some time. Sometimes, these will be the control mirrors. Other times though, you are simply waiting for mana-less Ichorid to finish all those mulligans. Craig Jones managed a total of eight mulligans in his first game (thanks in part to Serum Powder). He did not win. Later he did manage a turn-two win, although he had to go down to two cards.
Meanwhile, a spectator asked me whether or not Vintage was supposed to turn out this way, when they saw Shuhei Nakamura attacking with a lone Virulent Sliver. While it's not necessarily the most broken of plays, sometimes getting ten little hits in with your dude is good enough with the Flash deck to sneak past a control deck's early counters.
Our final little quirky play came from Tiago Chan, the first player to lock up a slot in the Invitational finals. He got to attack with his Virulent Slivers which each delivered 5 shots of poison against Frank Karsten, whose Virulent Sliver on the other side of the board was betraying its owner. Sometimes these slivers can be a little toooo helpful...
Podcast: A Vintage Invitational
A pulsating three days of competition draws to a close, with half the field still in with a chance of making the Top 2 with only three rounds to play. This time the format is as old as it gets, and we join Vintage World Champion Steve Menendian on a tour of all the main decks. Then settle in for a rollercoaster ride that culminates in a winner-take-all shootout for the second slot in Sunday's final. This is almost certainly the best day of Magic I've had the privilege to witness, and you can share the fun with a single click.
Right-click here to download the podcast to your computer, or just click on the link to open it directly in your browser.