The Champion Challenge is a fixture at Pro Tours, and Worlds is no exception. Anyone is free to sign up and battle against Magic luminaries for fun and bragging rights. Here at Memphis players can duke it out with Magic creator Richard Garfield, R&D members Aaron Forsythe, Matt Place, and Mark Rosewater, and Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty. Some players come with the latest Standard tech, but the memorable losses are always to exciting homebrews.
One player managed to sweep the entire gauntlet with an honest-to-goodness, no-changeling-cheats Goat Deck. His deck went crazy with Springjack Shepherd and Flicker effects, then a played Liege or two to attack for ludicrous damage.
R&D members Matt Place and Mark Rosewater take on all challengers.One new player managed to get the better of R&D’s Matt Place, even though he didn’t win their match. He had only learned the game the day before, and showed up with the planeswalker Standard Constructed deck. In the course of the match he killed one of Place’s creatures with Ajani Vengeant, then pointed at another. Matt Place stopped him, saying, “Oh, you can only use a planeswalker ability once on your turn,” and started to explain it in detail, thinking the new player needed a lesson.
The player stopped him and gestured at his Rings of Brighthearth. “I’m copying the activated ability.”
“I don’t know if there were any other awesome stories,” Matt told me later. “Oh! What about that twelve-year old girl who beat me?”
“... She was TWENTY,” said Aaron Forsythe.
Mark Rosewater was thrilled to be beaten by a player showing off two of his more infamous cards: One With Nothing, and the realshifted Cheese Stands Alone, Barren Glory. While Rosewater went about his business, his opponent played the control role, keeping himself out of danger. With room to breathe, he played Barren Glory, then tucked it underneath an Oblivion Ring. The next piece of the combo was Lich’s Mirror. He then played One With Nothing and responded with Spoils of the Vault, naming a card not in his deck (say, Dong Zhuo, the Tyrant.) His deck was removed from the game and he lost enough life to die—but instead, thanks to Lich’s Mirror, shuffling all his permanents into his deck and giving him a fresh seven. With Oblivion Ring gone, Barren Glory returned to play. Then One With Nothing resolved, and he was left empty-handed. When Rosewater had no Naturalize, the game was over on the following upkeep.
Players showed up with all kinds of decks, and not just for themselves. One player showed up with all-Alpha decks to give R&D a trip down memory lane. Mark Rosewater found out first-hand that green really didn’t have what it takes to stand up to Dragon Whelp way back when.
As cool as that was, the Rosewater match that drew the most spectators was against Justin Hovdenes of South Dakota, a Level 2 Judge working side events here at Worlds. Justin had brought with him his real life Momir Vig, Simic Visionary Basic playset, consisting of a binder full of lookup tables, plastic-coated cards and sharpies to make tokens, and dice for random generators.
Rosewater was in trouble as early as turn four, when Hovdenes rolled up a Lumbering Satyr. Naturally, Rosewater was the only player with a Forest. Hovdenes’s little creatures bashed him about the face and neck while the bigger ones held the fort, making racing impossible. Facing lethal damage, Rosewater needed a big score on his seven-cost creature. He rolled and consulted the list: Phage the Untouchable.