2009 Grand Prix Chicago: Day 2 Blog Archive

Posted in Event Coverage on March 7, 2009


Sunday, 9:07 a.m. – Day 1 Undefeated Players and Decks

by Blake Rasmussen

Six players found their way through the crowd without losing a match, paced by Gaudenis Vidugiris, Andy Probasco, and Trent Jones with pristine 9-0 records. Vidugiris rode a Mono Blue Merfolk and Wizards list to the top of the standings, followed by Probasco's Countertop deck and Jones' Goblins. Kurtis Droge, Paul Rietzl, and Adam Yurchick were also undefeated at 8-0-1. Yurchick protected his 10/10 with Countebalance, while Rietzl's Nearly Mono Black and Droge's Blue Zoo list propelled them to day two.

Gaudenis Vidugiris

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Andy Probasco

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Trent Jones

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Kurtis Droge

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Paul Rietzl

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Adam Yurchick

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Round 10 Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Andy Probasco

by Blake Rasmussen

Gaudenis Vidugiris and Andy Probasco are two of the three players remaining with no ties and no losses. Vidugiris is sporting a Lorwyn take on the old Fish archetype, supplemented by the Merfolk tribe. Vintage and Legacy specialist Andy Probasco was running Countertop and to great effect. Both players were 9-0 and sitting pretty heading into Day 2.

Game 1
Probasco kept his opener, while Vidugiris very quietly shipped his back. The reason for his quiet demeanor?

“I can't talk,” he managed in barely above a whisper.

idugiris' six was much better, and he had the first action of the game in a turn one Æther Vial, which Probasco Force of Willed. He followed that up with a Tarmogoyf, already at three power.

Vidugiris played both Æther Vial and Cursecatcher on his turn, both of which earned a quick “sure” from Probasco. This was quite possibly the quietest all-English-speaking feature match ever.

Probasco ran out both Top and Ponder on his turn, growing his ‘Goyf and attacking for four and adding an Academy Ruins to the table. Vidugiris tried Umezawa's Jitte on his turn, but Probasco had the Spell Snare, and was content to simply swing Vidugiris to 12 and pass the turn.

The following turn, Vidugiris tried to set up a Standstill with Æther Vial in play. In response, Probasco simply flipped his Top without checking and cast Krosan Grip on the Æther Vial, leaving Vidugiris in the unenviable position of having to crack his own Standstill with Silvergill Adept the following turn. The Standstill drew Probasco into a Spell Snare, stopping the 2/1 and allowing Probasco to swing in unabated once more and add a second Tarmogoyf to the table.

When a Silvergill Adept drew nothing of importance, Vidugiris moved on to Game 2.

Andy Probasco 1 Gaudenis Vidugiris 0

Game 2
Once again, both players shuffled up in near complete silence, which probably had as much to do with the hour as it did with Vidugiris' throat. The players noted the change in time as Rich Shay walked by and talked about his early round win...because his opponent didn't show up.

“I was terrified I would do that,” said Probasco, echoing the sentiments of many on turning their clocks forward overnight.

Back in non-farming-related action, Vidugiris once again mulliganed, while Probasco kept and led with Sensei's Divining Top. Vidugiris had the turn two Silvergill Adept, revealing Lord of Atlantis to start his early clock.

The following turn the Lord was stopped by Spell Snare, but the Silvergill took Andrew down to 17 before being dwarfed by Tarmogoyf. Probasco added Umezawa's Jitte to his side the following turn, but simply passed back without equipping or attacking.

Probasco didn't hold back in the face of Umezawa's Jitte, however, and freely attacked with his Tarmogoyf. When Vidugiris attempted to attack with a Umezawa's Jitte-wielding Adept the following turn, Probasco was ready with Ancient Grudge, also growing his Tarmogoyf in the process.

Ponder was met with Spellstutter Sprite the following turn, and Probasco merely shrugged and attacked for five with Tarmogoyf. Sometimes big green men just get there.

Vidugiris wasn't finished yet, though, as he resolved a Merrow Reejerey and attacked Probasco down to 10 while he sat at 12 from ‘Goyf attacks. The Reejerey meant the Tarmogoyf couldn't even block effectively, as it risked getting tapped down prior to attackers.

Probasco Topped, sacrificed a land and Topped again, looking for an answer, which he found in Firespout. Rather, almost found. The last two cards in Vidugiris' hand were Force of Will and blue card (Standstill, if it really matters). Probasco instead attacked with his Tarmogoyf, knocking Vidugiris to 6.

In turn, Vidugiris cracked back with his entire team, then played Cursecatcher and passed with Probasco down to three while he stood one point out of Tarmogoyf range.

On his turn, Probasco simply cracked a fetch land, knocked the top of his deck, and Topped. Finding no help he conceded to a horde of Mer-people.

Andy Probasco 1 Gaudenis Vidugiris 1

Game 3
Both players kept this game, and Probasco kicked things off by Pondering his options and playing a Counterbalance, while Vidugiris had the turn one Æther Vial and a Wasteland on turn two for Tropical Island.

Probasco then added Sensei's Divining Top to his board, while Vidugiris Æther Vialed a Cursecatcher, completely ignoring the nearly broken countering engine. On his turn, Vidugiris attacked for one with the ‘Catcher and Æther Vialed in a main phase Silvergill Adept.

Countertop in tow, Probasco attempted to shut down Æther Vial with Ancient Grudge, which resulted in a minor Force of Wills. Probasco came out on top (no pun intended...Sensei's Divining Top was not involved) , and Vidugiris was forced to bin his Countertop-resistant artifact.

His follow-up, Merrow Reejerey, was pretty Countebalance-resistant as well, and allowed Vidugiris to attack for five, dropping Probasco to 11. Sower of Temptation however, stole the Reejerey and Vidugiris' momentum.

Yet another Reejerey snuck through Counterbalance (revealing Ancient Grudge). Probasco had no play on his turn other than to Top and attack for two with Sower of Temptation.

Vidugiris, sensing the advantage, animated his Mutavault and attacked into his own Reejerey with Mutavault, Reejerey, Silvergill Adept, and Cursecatcher. Probasco chose not to trade Reejereys, instead he simply chump blocked the Mutavault and fell to four.

The reason became apparent the following turn, as Firespout yielded at least a temporary solution, though it cost him four mana when Cursecatcher jumped in the way and Riptide Laboratory bounced Silvergill Adept.

Still, Probasco had to find a way to deal with a Riptide Laboratory-backed Mutavault, and a Merrow Reejerey that resolved through Counterbalance. Tarmogoyf off the Top (in both senses of the word) was a pretty solid answer. So much so that Vidugiris was forced to simply pass the turn back.

Things got worse as Probasco added Vedalken Shackles to the table, which for the first time all match led Vidugiris to cough out “That's not good.”

And it wasn't. Probasco stole Merrow Reejerey and was suddenly able to go on the offensive with Tarmogoyf, taking Vidugiris down to 12, who then passed his turn with no play. Probasco attacked once again and Vidugiris fell to 7. Curiously, he neglected to block with his Riptide Laboratory-backed Mutavault.

When Probasco attempted a second Tarmogoyf, Vidugiris had to stem the bleeding, and tried to foul up Probasco's lock by targeting Polluted Delta with Wasteland, which prompted Probasco to sacrifice it. Vidugiris then returned his Spellstutter Sprite, and activated Mutavault to attempt to counter with Spellstutter. However, when Probasco's Top yielded another two-drop, Vidugiris packed it in.

Andy Probasco now sits at 10-0, poised to make a run at the Top 8.

Andy Probasco defeats Gaudenis Vidugiris 2-1

Sunday, 9:39 – Talking with Head Judge Jason Ness

by Bill Stark

It is an often thankless job, yet a vital one to the successful completion of any premier Magic event. The Head Judge; overseer, supreme ruler, final say on all matters. The coverage team sat down with Level IV judge Jason Ness early Sunday morning to ask him what heading the largest North American Grand Prix in the history of the game was like, as well as any interesting challenges posed by the unique Legacy format.

“There were some interesting card interactions,” Jason began, quickly detailing one particular match involving the Alliances artifact Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void. “The Oracle ruling on Helm directs a player to put cards into their graveyard until they meet one of two conditions. Since Leyline replaces the effect of cards going into the graveyard, those conditions are never met and you simply deck someone.” Ness had seen the play happen at least once during Saturday's portion of competition.

There were three specific cards that had accounted for a significant portion of confusion from players. “Lion's Eye Diamond tricks a lot of people. Because it has the text ‘play this ability as an instant' many players think they can use Stifle effects to counter it; you can't.” Jason quickly added another thing you couldn't do with the card “You can't use L.E.D. to play a spell in your hand.”

The other two-thirds of the holy triumvirate of Legacy befuddlement? Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top, particularly in conjunction with one another. “I was shocked at the amount of people who tried to activate Sensei's Divining Top without actually having one in play,” Jason explained. Most of the time it was simply a gaffe, from players so used to having the artifact on the board they took for granted it might not be. Many others activated it after using it to draw card, forgetting for the moment it was on the top of their deck instead of in play. “Counterbalance was confusing too, with players unsure whether revealing a land to Counterbalance could counter a zero casting cost spell.” It does. He also detailed a mistaken ruling from the feature match area on Saturday, where a judge errantly ruled that if a player didn't consciously make mention of triggering the Counterbalance before doing something in response (like activating Sensei's Divining Top to arrange the top three cards of the library favorably), the trigger was missed and the player couldn't reveal. “Whenever an opponent plays a spell, Counterbalancemust trigger. When it comes to revealing the card, the controller of Counterbalance may choose to do that.” Response or not, the Counterbalance trigger goes on the stack.

The conversation turned from specific card interactions to the details of handling the largest Grand Prix on the record books for North America. “I was really impressed with the round turnover time, despite the massive amount of players,” Ness exclaimed. It's certainly something that's easy to take for granted, but Jason pointed out that because judges must verify a match slip result and pick them up from the table when a match finishes, unlike at many smaller events. Jason's judge staff could very well spend much of their time in a round rushing around 1,200+ players picking up match slips. “The logistics are certainly challenging.”

We're on our way to a smooth finish on Sunday, and it's in large part thanks to the cool headed handling of head judge Jason Ness and his talented judge staff.

Head Judge Jason Ness.

Round 11: Kurtis Droge vs. Gerry Thompson

by Bill Stark

“Where you from?” Gerry Thompson asked his opponent Kurtis Droge as they sat down to their Round 11 Feature Match.

“Ann Arbor, Michigan.” Droge explained. The two chatted amiably as they prepared for the go-ahead to begin the round. Gerry Thompson has become a household name in America of late, working with some of the game's brightest minds and becoming a respected writer. While Kurtis was new to the Feature Match scene, he outlined some of the communities he played with in Michigan.

Gerry won the die roll and opened on a Sensei's Divining Top, but the real action started when Kurtis attempted a Tarmogoyf on his second turn. Thompson responded by using a sac land to search up Tropical Island, activating his Top, then allowing the ‘Goyf to resolve. He untapped, then attempted a Tarmogoyf of his own, which was met with Force of Will from Droge. That merited a Force back from Gerry, and the Future Sight standout hit the board.

Kurtis Droge makes his debut in the Feature Match area.

A third copy of the creature resolved a turn later when Kurtis played his second copy of the match, but when Gerry tried to make it a whopping four Tarmogoyfs, Droge had a Spell Snare to successfully prevent Thompson from sticking the creature. Gerry began working his Top in an effort to gain an advantage while being behind, but Droge had double Ponder to keep himself in the card drawing game.

Swords to Plowshares found its way to Gerry's hand, and he used the uber instant to RFG one of the opposing Tarmogoys, evening the ‘Goyf count to one per player. With a (now) mostly even board, Thompson had given himself a small virtual lead thanks to his Divining Top, but Droge remained dug in. He ripped a Brainstorm that he combined with a sac land to refresh his hand, then played a Wild Nacatl and Kird Ape. All of a sudden his deck had morphed from the standard Counterbalance deck that had seen much play in the Feature Match area over the weekend to a controlling Zoo deck!

Gerry made an effort to keep up with all the creatures, playing a Dark Confidant. Droge revealed the final card in his hand, a Spell Snare, to counter, and Gerry tried to come up with a counter-counter using Divining Top. Failing to do so, he passed the turn and was immediately attacked with all of Droge's team. Gerry's Tarmogoyf munched the Wild Nacatl, but he fell to 3. Kurtis played the card he had drawn that turn, a replacement Wild Nacatl, and passed. Thompson needed some help to survive the next combat step, but he had plenty of opportunities.

He used Top to rearrange the top portion of his deck, then cashed the artifact in to draw a card. The card in question was Dark Confidant, a valiant chump blocker that could help Gerry survive the turn. Unfortunately for him, the 2/1 could also spell his demise as he had his Sensei's Divining Top on the top of his library, guaranteeing he would take a point during his next turn should Droge opt not to attack. From there, Thompson would have to hit some miraculous spins from the Top, hitting a land throughout the rest of the game so he could reveal a pain free draw to Dark Confidant, or risk losing to his very own mercy blocker.

Droge rendered the discussion moot on his draw step, however, peeling Fire/Ice and pointing the burn spell at both Dark Confidant and Gerry's head, clearing the way for a lethal attack.

Kurtis Droge 1, Gerry Thompson 0

The two players sideboarded in silence for their second game, neither letting on what changes to their maindeck they were making. Droge's deck posed an interesting take on the Threshold archetype, with a Zoo shell few players could be seen playing on Saturday. The aggressive plan had worked well for him in the first game, though he had been the beneficiary of some fortunate draws in the mid game.

Thompson kicked off the second game with a Sensei's Divining Top, but when Droge made a Kird Ape on his first turn, the two players dropped themselves to zero lands on matching Dazes. That meant the Ape resolved, and it was the 1/1 staring down Gerry's Top. Thompson played Wasteland and passed the turn.

Grand Prix powerhouse Gerry Thompson.

Vedalken Shackles was the next major spell on the table, coming to the defense of Gerry Thompson or at least attempting to do so. Kurtis revealed a second Daze to counter the spell, then dropped a Wild Nacatl to increase the size of his red zone team. Thompson played a second Wasteland and, with Droge on just a Volcanic Island and a Tropical Island for lands, threatened to significantly reduce the size of Droge's army should he choose to eat said lands with the non-basic hate. Swords to Plowshares came forth to nail the Nacatl, and Gerry fell to 13 from a 1/1 Kird Ape attack. The board had stalled significantly for Kurtis Droge, but he still had a good chunk of cards in hand to try to get something going.

Looking to prevent exactly that, Gerry Thompson spent his turn using Wasteland to hit Kurtis' only untapped land, the Volcanic Island, then cashed in his Divining Top for a card. That let him play Counterbalance, and he passed the turn. Droge attacked for 2 after playing a Savannah, then dropped Tarmogoyf. The green powerhouse soon switched sides of the table, however, as Thompson untapped and played Sower of Temptation. That left Gerry with Tarmogoyf, Sower, and Counterbalance with Sensei's Divining Top. The game was firmly getting out of hand for Kurtis Droge, and he was aware.

Krosan Grip allowed Kurtis to dispose of his opponent's Counterbalance, but he fell to 14 life when Gerry attacked him with his own Tarmogoyf and the Sower of Temptation that had stolen it. When Gerry tried to make the same attack a turn later, Kurtis used Red Elemental Blast to blow up the 2/2, getting his ‘Goyf back. He didn't have it for long, however, as Gerry played a second Sower post-combat to re-steal the Tarmogoyf.

Unable to get his original Tarmogoyf back, Droge just added another to the table, which resolved successfully. He then attacked Gerry to 7 with Kird Ape. Thompson attacked back with Sower, putting Kurtis to 11 and played a Tarmogoyf of his own, winning the ensuing counter battle. It was a rough turn of events for Kurtis, but he got some help from the top of his deck in the form of Ranger of Eos, searching up two Wild Nacatls and ensuring he would have plenty of gas for the near future.

The back and forth continued as Gerry responded to his opponent's fortunate series of plays by furiously spinning his Top, finding another Tarmogoyf, and hopping it into play. That gave him a board of triple Tarmogoyf and a Sower of Temptation, while Droge's board became double Nacatl, Ranger of Eos, Kird Ape, and Tarmogoyf. Sensing an opening, Gerry turned his entire team sideways forcing Kurtis to figure out blocks in order to survive the turn. When all was said and done, Droge was at 1 and had lost just a Kird Ape. Gerry played a post-combat Dark Confidant to chump, threatening lethal the following turn.

Droge clearly had a plan as he took the turn, excitedly untapping. He revealed a Fire/Ice to deal 1 to Dark Confidant and 1 to Thompson, clearing the way for his team. Gerry didn't have the counter, the Fire resolved, and Kurtis bashed with lethal, clinching the match in a sweep despite the fact both games had felt shifted to Gerry Thompson's favor.

Kurtis Droge 2, Gerry Thompson 0

Sunday, 10:45 a.m. - Dealer Talk

by Blake Rasmussen

Dealers tend to have a unique finger on the pulse of any given tournament. For one, it's their job to know what cards players will and will not buy. They quite literally pay their rent based on how well they know what cards to lug all the way to large tournaments. Conversely, on the day of, dealers get a front-row seat to the metagame as they sell players their last-minute deck-fillers.



This weekend, with Legacy taking the stage, a number of players were looking for older, harder to find cards. Cards that haven't seen a PTQ in years, if ever, came out in force as dealers sold Wasteland, Sinkhole, Null Rod, Misdirection, Back to Basics, Rishidan Port, Vindicate, Humility, and Moat were all strong sellers on the weekend.

Counterbalance/Top drove much of the sales this weekend as well, as its two namesakes sold well across the board and undoubtedly helped drive up demand for counterparts like Stifle, Spell Snare, and Engineered Explosives. Likewise, cards like Krosan Grip and Trygon Predator were popular for their ability to fight through the soft lock.

Some staples, new and old, sold well too. Kataki, War's Wage, Path to Exile, Terravore, Magus of the Moon, Chalice of the Void, and the various fetch lands and dual lands all sold well.


Natural Order

The talk of the tournament prior to this weekend was the interaction between Natural Order and Progenitus. While a number of players opted to run the “combo,” dealers reported mostly lukewarm sales. Progenitus was mostly a one-of in those decks, so soft sales there weren't particularly surprising, but dealers also reported disappointing sales of Natural Order.

A number of other cards performed below general expectations. Cards from both burn and combo decks were below what most dealers thought, and Lion's Eye Diamond was nearly unanimously the most disappointing. Other combo cards like Tendrils of Agony were similarly under-purchased. And while Counterbalance raised all cards with it, it seemed players were eschewing the Phyrexian Dreadnaught kill. Likewise, Grindstone and Painter's Servant may be exciting, but not enough to garner much attention this weekend.


Circle of Protection: Green

Overall, the weekend held few surprises on the dealers' end, but a few requests took them by surprise. Players scrambled for answers to the protection-from-everything Progenitus, and came up with some long-forgotten answers. Perish, Hibernation, and Circle of Protection: Green were among the most popular, as each had the added advantage of answering Nimble Mongoose, Tarmogoyf, and the occasional Trygon Predator

Round 12 - Brian Kowal vs. Reuben Bresler

by Blake Rasmussen

“How do I know you, you look familiar?” asked Brian Kowal as he sat down across from Reuben Bresler.
“I wrote for Starcity Games for 30 seconds. I made stupid videos,” offered Bresler amongst the chatter. “Oh, and I won a PTQ once.”
“Are we friends on Facebook?” asked Kowal.
“Yeah, that's probably it. My biggest Magic achievement is convincing people I was good enough to hire.”

Getting recognized by Brian Kowal? Priceless. Getting recognized by Brian Kowal because you're possibly unknowingly Facebook friends? Slightly less priceless.

Kowal and Bresler had both brought decks aimed squarely at Counterbalance decks, and had been paid off as both were within reach of the Top 8. Kowal was packing discard spells backed by Dark Confidant, Tombstalker, and Tarmogoyf. Bresler meanwhile had “12 main deck Vindicates” with Red Elemental Blast, Pyroblast, and the often forgotten Ancient Volcano, all backed by everyone's favorite 1/3 Painter's Servant (sorry, Bottle Gnomes).

Each showed their proclivity for unusual die rolls, with Kowal opting for even/odd and Bresler recounting, well: “I played Monopoly rules earlier. High roll, but re-roll on doubles and if you roll three doubles in a row, you go to jail, er, lose. It was a blast.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Reuben Bresler.

Game 1
Kowal, on the play, kept, while Bresler led with Ancient Tomb and a discarded Simian Spirit Guide for Magus of the Moon. Kowal responded and searched up a basic Swamp.

The next turn he used that Swamp to Dark Ritual and Mesmeric Fiend, seeing Active Volcano, Grindstone, Gamble, Pyroblast and City of Traitors. Kowal took the Grindstone, the cast Hymn to Tourach, hitting the Pyroblast and Active Volcano.

After attacking with Magus of the Moon, Bresler cast Gamble, discarding City of Traitors and passing with no other play.

Both players attacked with their utility dorks for a few turns while Kowal made more “mountains” and Bresler managed a Grindstone with no third mana or Painter's Servant. Kowal made a Dark Confidant while Bresler Gambled once again.

“This deck's sweet,” said Kowal in the face of a second Gamble. This time, the Gamble didn't pay off, as Bresler was forced to randomly discard the Painter's Servant. His fake crying didn't seem to move Kowal much.

Post-Gamble, Bresler ran out a second Magus of the Moon off of Chrome Mox. Kowal one-uped him by Dark Ritualing out a Tombstalker.

“Hm, that's more than a little awkward,” said Bresler right before randomly activating Grindstone, which milled only two. It didn't matter, as Tombstalker was too fat and too soon for Bresler's combo.

Brian Kowal 1 Reuben Bresler 0

Game 2
”Now I bring in my whole sideboard,” threatened Kowal. “I was prepared for Painter.”
“You're the only person in the room then,” said the nearly undefeated Bresler.
“What'd you lose to?”
“An awkward Red White aggro deck.”
“Well, Red White beats everything,” said the inventor of the Boat Brew.

Kowal's turn-one Thoughtseize revealed Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, and Imperial Recruiter, plus two lands. Somehow this resulted in Bresler singing “People let me tell ‘ya ‘bout my best friend.” For those who know Bresler, this isn't terribly unusual.

Bresler dropped the Imperial Recruiter on the table, fetching Goblin Welder.

Kowal returned serve on his turn by fetching out another basic land and playing Dark Confidant. He declined to block with it the following turn, as the Recruiter crashed in unimpeded. Painter's Servant, naming blue, and the Welder soon followed. A Mesmeric Fiend revealed just how good the servant was, as Bresler revealed two Red Elemental Blasts and a Pyroblast.

One turn later, Kowal had no creatures on board and Bresler had no cards in hand. Kowal, on the other hand, had plenty. A Swords to Plowshares removed the Painter's Servant, and soon a Tombstalker threatened to take over.

Kowal found another Imperial Recruiter, and fetched a Painter's Servant, needing only a Grindstone and an unimpeded turn to go off. However, when Kowal played a second Tombstalker and Bresler drew blanks, the superiority of Tombstalkers over Imperial Recruiters was confirmed.

Brian Kowal defeats Reuben Bresler 2-0

Sunday, 11:48 a.m. - Quick Hits: What's the Best Two-Drop in Legacy?

by Bill Stark

Luis Scott-Vargas
Luis Scott-Vargas: Counterbalance

Richard Feldman
Richard Feldman: Counterbalance?

Carlos Romao
Carlos Romao: Counterbalance

Reuben Bresler
Reuben Bresler: Chalice of the Void for 1

Brian Kowal
Brian Kowal: Tarmogoyf, not close

Paul Rietzl
Paul Rietzl: Nantuko Shade! But seriously, Tarmogoyf. Not Dark Confidant!

Sunday, 12:35 p.m. - Day 2 Metagame Breakdown

by Duncan McGregor
Type Total
CounterTop 19
Goblins 17
ANT 10
Merfolk 10
Threshold 8
Dreadstill 7
Landstill 6
Aggro Loam 6
BG(w) aggro 5
Dredge 5
RG aggro 5
Mono-red aggro 4
4c control 2
Affinity 2
Combo Elves 2
Natural Order Rock 2
Painter's Servant / Grindstone 2
Survival 2
Team America 2
UW control 2
41 Land 1
4c aggro-control 1
Belcher 1
Countersliver 1
CounterTop / Dreadnought 1
Dragon Stompy 1
Faeries 1
Mono-blue aggro 1
RG creatureless Loam 1
RGW aggro 1
Salvagers combo 1
UB control 1
UG aggro 1
UGB Standstill 1

The diverse Day 1 metagame that the Legacy card pool allowed has, at least partially, resolved itself. While the fight for the top continues, we can now look at the field to see the gauntlet that the remaining 132 players will have to face.

Leading the pack is a collection of 19 CounterTop aggro decks. These have their origin in the multicolored Threshold decks that are an established part of the Legacy metagame, but have largely moved away from threshold itself, removing the Nimble Mongooses that were the last remnant of that mechanic, with other cuts made as well. Replacing them are some combination of Dark Confidants for card advantage, Krosan Grips for utility, Vedalken Shackles or Sower of Temptation for creature control, and additional land to power all that. The omnipresent Tarmogoyf applies beatdown.

Following those in popularity is Goblins. A full 17 players rode the little red tribe into Day 2, using a combination of explosiveness, card advantage, and tutors to overwhelm their opponent. Splashes for utility cards vary, with black mana for Warren Weirdings and sometimes Earwig Squads being common, and green for Krosan Grip and Tin-Street Hooligan also present.

Two decks each got 10 players over the cut. ANT - Ad Nauseum Tendrils - continues to work around the lack of Mind's Desire to allow a viable storm deck in Legacy. Getting a proper storm count takes a bit more work, but the rewards are there for those willing to fight for them. On the other end of the spectrum, Merfolk's aggro-control strategy has also proved successful against the largely blue field. The combination of a reasonable clock and some of the best disruption available makes them very successful against some decks, and while they have very serious problems against others, the metagame gamble has paid off for many.

Moving into single digits, there are 8 surviving players piloting standard Threshold decks. Eschewing the Counterbalance/Sensei's Divining Top synergy in favor of cards with more immediate impact, these use the same strategy as Merfolk: disruption + clock = win. The extra cards vary greatly, with burn, additional counters, or the Natural Order / Progenitus combo all being represented.

Seven players are running Dreadstill - a blue-based control deck that uses Stifles and Trickbind to trick Phyrexian Dreadnought into play. Once they decide it's time to win, they don't want to waste any time. The remainder of the deck runs to card draw and counters, with black and green splashes both being seen. The similar Landstill deck, with 6 players, also aims to slow the game down with Standstill, but uses a more gradual win condition, with Mishra's Factories and other creature-lands being the intended path to victory. They are typically blue-white, but as with other decks in Legacy, other colors can easily be splashed. The other Day 2 representative with 6 players is Aggro Loam. Life from the Loam is used to fuel Countryside Crusher, Devastating Dreams, and Seismic Assault, with Terravore and Tarmogoyf providing additional beatings.

Moving down the list, three decks each got 5 players over the cut. Black-Green Aggro decks use hand disruption and creature kill instead of counterspells to keep their opponents off balance until they can deliver a finishing blow. Usually splashing white as well for the efficient Swords to Plowshares, the attacks are supplied by Tombstalkers and (again) Tarmogoyfs. Tarmogoyf also figured in the red-green aggro decks, with the simple plan of “attack and burn.” In some cases, the ‘Goyf was the only green card in the main deck - after all, green doesn't usually go directly to the face. An additional four players actually went with that route - no green at all, just red cards for as quick a clock as they could get. Finally, the bogeyman of the graveyard, Dredge, is the last archetype with 5 representatives. Since Dredge's game plan is so different from every other deck in the format, it can steal wins from opponents who have no plan against it, but conversely prepared opponents can shut down the graveyard and deny it the one resource it truly needs. So far the gamble is paying off, at least for some.

While these are the most popular decks, there is no guarantee that the winner will be from one of these. A whopping 30 players piloted an additional 22 archetypes into Day 2, from Painter's Servant/Grindstone combo to Dragon Stompy to Faeries. The fight for the top promises to be an interesting one.

Round 13 Feature Match: Paul Rietzl vs. Luis Scott-Vargas

by Bill Stark

“I think the last time I played you, you had Canopy Crawler in your deck.” Luis Scott-Vargas joked with his opponent as they sat down in the feature match area.

“What?” A befuddled Rietzl asked.

“It was a Magic Online Onslaught/Legions/Scourge Draft.” Luis clarified.

Rietzl was overjoyed to win a die roll, one of the few he claimed to have been victorious with on the weekend then kicked the match off with a Dark Ritual-fueled super turn. The first Dark Ritual netted him Dark Confidant, and with the spare black mana he played a second Dark Ritual, just enough for Hypnotic Specter.

“That's...going to be difficult.” Luis deadpanned.

Still, LSV isn't a super-pro for nothing. He had a Swords to Plowshares to nail the 2/2 Hypnotic Specter, but was a bit dismayed to see Paul's second land drop in Wasteland. When Paul immediately used it on Luis' Tundra, it became clear why the Pro Tour-Kyoto finalist was so dismayed; the dual land was his only source of mana, and he passed the turn with an empty board. Paul's meager clock of Dark Confidant went on the warpath, and he used a Hymn to Tourach to keep Scott-Vargas further off balance.

Luis finally found a Polluted Delta, which fetched Tundra, then set up his next few draw steps with a Ponder. Rietzl's Bob charged in to put Luis at 12, then Paul played Thoughtseize seeing triple Daze, double Counterbalance.

“Innnnnnteresting...” Paul said, before binning one of the Dazes.

Luis Scott-Vargas maneuvers against a plethora of Dark Rituals.

Luis ripped a Swords to Plowshares off the top from his Ponder, but was still stuck on one land. Paul was having difficulty finding pressure, however, playing an Umezawa's Jitte but unable to get an attacker to carry the pointy stick. Luis found himself a Sensei's Divining Top, then a second source of blue to play Counterbalance. All of a sudden, Paul Rietzl was in trouble. Luis had established his deck's soft lock, and Paul needed to find a threat he could stick quickly or risk falling out of the game.

Meanwhile, Luis was busy trying to spin his way into an improbable comeback. He worked his Top, finding a Flooded Strand to take him to three mana, and searched up an Underground Sea that enabled him to play Dark Confidant. Paul's hand was growing larger and larger, but featured Snuff Outs, Dark Rituals, and Sinkholes, few of which were relevant at the moment. What he really needed was a creature that could resolve through Counterbalance.

Paul played Dark Ritual, which was allowed to resolve. He used two of the mana to play Sinkhole, which merited a Brainstorm from Luis, and the Sinkhole was countered as Scott-Vargas revealed a Counterbalance on top of his deck to the Counterbalance in play. “Burn for 1,” Paul said, failing to spend the last mana in his pool.

A second Dark Confidant joined the team for LSV, and Paul Rietzl found himself at 13 life against an opponent with Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance, drawing three cards a turn! Unbelievably, Luis was turning the game around in monstrous fashion and, a few turns later, he landed Tarmogoyf. That let him send his entire team into the red zone and Luis Scott-Vargas had done it!

“I never drew a creature...” Paul lamented as he moved to his sideboard.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Paul Rietzl 0

Rietzl started the second game off by sacrificing his Polluted Delta on his main phase to fetch up a Bayou. He failed to play any spells on the turn, instead passing. Cracking the sac land was a heads up play, however. He lost nothing doing so, and potentially played around an off-chance Stifle from his opponent.

Paul's second play was Dark Confidant, and he passed the turn to Luis. The Pro Tour-Berlin winner dropped Sensei's Divining Top, then went into the tank. Clearly missing a second land drop, he heavily considered blind drawing with his Top on the off chance he could hit a land. “Go for it!” Paul teased the California pro.

Luis did exactly that, masterfully ripping a Tropical Island, then playing a second Top from his hand. “You're the best...” Rietzl sighed before attacking with his Confidant. A turn later, Paul's 2/1 was joined by a matching copy from Luis, but Scott-Vargas was going to need the help as Paul used two Hymn to Tourachs to knock Luis' hand down to just one card. A Sensei's Divining Top was waiting for Luis, however, and Paul needed to find a way to continue putting pressure on his opponent.

A Hypnotic Specter joined the Paul Rietzl side of the table, and he attacked to put the totals 12-10 in Luis Scott-Vargas' favor. To his credit, Luis managed to assemble the Counterbalance/Top combo, but lost his Dark Confidant to a Rietzl Diabolic Edict and fell to 6 on Paul's attack. There was an outside hope for Luis, however, as Paul had fallen to 8. Because the East Coast player had Tombstalker in his deck, it was possible he could reveal the massive creature to Dark Confidant, taking lethal. His next reveal was...Wasteland. He breathed a sigh of relief, then laughed as his draw for the turn was Tombstalker. Had the cards been reversed, he would have lost the match on the spot!

Instead, his Confidant and Specter were able to hold the field of battle, clinching the second game and sending the players to a third.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Paul Rietzl 1

Luis Scott-Vargas started the rubber game with an Island, while Rietzl came right out of the gates again with a Dark Ritual. His opponent nodded, and the mana jump resolved. That led to a Sinkhole targeting Luis' Island, then a second Dark Ritual got Paul Nantuko Shade and Pithing Needle. It was an amazing start again for Rietzl, but we had already seen such a beginning fail him earlier in the match.

A turn later he played Wasteland, blowing up Luis' second land drop of Tundra, then used Thoughtseize to see that Luis had no more lands and a hand full of expensive spells. The Nantuko Shade went to the red zone repeatedly, brutalizing Scott-Vargas' life total to 9. Fortunately Luis managed to draw back-to-back lands, allowing him a Dark Confidant, but the 2/1 was quickly dispatched by Diabolic Edict from Paul. Luis fell to 6.

Paul Rietzl takes on one of the best.

A turn later Ponder came off the top for Luis, and Paul responded animatedly. “Oh please miss!” He exclaimed, praying for no Swords to Plowshares for his opponent. Paul's deck had given him a phenomenal opening series of plays, but he had petered out after that and if Luis managed to stabilize, it would be all but over. No Swords was forthcoming, but Luis did find a land to let him play a second Dark Confidant to chump.

Rietzl's Insect Shade wasn't afraid, charging into the Invitational card, but a Duress revealed Luis had only lands in his hand. Another Dark Confidant came off the top to buy Luis a turn, but Paul had a Wasteland to keep his opponent at two mana. That mana threshold was key as Luis had two copies of Sower of Temptation in his hand. When Scott-Vargas failed to find a Swords to Plowshares and couldn't actually play any cards in his hand, he was dead on the board.

Paul Rietzl 2, Luis Scott-Vargas 1

Sunday, 12:45 p.m. - Rogue's Gallery

by Blake Rasmussen

While the weekend is shaping up to be a battle of Goblins and Counterbalances, a number of players have chosen some more...interesting...routes to day two, including a few who find themselves in shouting distance of the Top 8.

Kurtis Droge is once such player, running a sort of Blue Zoo that might just be the only deck in the room running a combo you can find in Shards of Alara limited. In fact, Droge may be running more Shards of Alara/Conflux cards than any other player in the room between Wild Nacatl, Ranger of Eos, and Path to Exile. A series of blue spells like Daze, Force of Will, Fire/Ice and Spell Snare can keep his opponent off balance while he attacks with some of the most efficient creatures ever printed.

Kurtis Droge

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James Mink isn't the only person shooting for the (Magus of the) Moon on turn one, but is the only one running the full-on Dragon Stompy archetype on day two, complete with Rakdos Pit Dragon and a newer “dragon,” Taurean Mauler. Mauler is especially impressive where an opponent's turn can involve Ponder into Sensei's Dining Top into Brainstorm into Force of Will. After round 12 Mink was 10-2 and still in position to make the Top 8. Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, and both moon effects give the widespread blue decks fits, and many of the deck's spells cost more than two, making it a solid choice in a Counterbalance field.

James Mink

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Chris Andersen found his way to an 8-3-1 record after 12 rounds as the sole surviving 41-land deck. Circumventing the normal one-land-per-turn rule with explosive options like Exploration and Mana Bond, and fitting everything together with Life from the Loam, Anderson can often lay his entire hand on the table turn one, and then draw multiple cards on turn two with Life from the Loam and cycling lands. Man lands provide the offense while Maze of Ith and Glacial Chasm play defense. Add to that the fact that his lands are immune to Counterbalance and his Life from the Loam outpaces Wasteland, and you've got a strong metagame contender.

Chris Andersen

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Our last list fell short come Day 2, but as a combo aficionado I couldn't help but point out that Frank Emmert made it through Day 1 with Salvager's Combo and 61 cards. The deck looks get an Auriok Salvagers in play, then generate infinite mana with Lion's Eye Diamond. From there, Chromatic Sphere can draw the library to find Pyrite Spellbomb to deal as much damage as needed. The deck is a very cool sometimes contender that falls prey to splash damage on graveyard hate and from Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. It does have the potential to take some unaware players by surprise.

Frank Emmert

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Sunday, 1:35 p.m. - Public Events at Grand Prix-Chicago

by Duncan McGregor

While 1,230 players playing Legacy is, by any standards, awesome, there was much more to do in the suburbs of the Windy City this weekend than the main event. The Public Events stage at the Grand Prix has been busy all weekend, and with the cut for all X-2s on Sunday, today the main focus of many has shifted to the open events. Eight-person drafts, as well as Standard, Extended and Legacy single-elimination events, are running on demand, and demand is high. In addition to these, each day has seen special tournaments that you can only get at an event like a Grand Prix.

Things kicked off on Friday with numerous Grand Prix Trials, but even those who had no interest in Legacy had an event to look forward to - Mega Friday Night Magic attracted 119 players who competed for the chance to win a Magic: The Gathering skinned XBox 360, as well as product prizes and foils. Saturday's marquee event was an Extended tournament for an amazing array of prizes - first place, for instance, had the choice between a play set of Revised dual lands (a full 40), a near-mint Beta Ancestral Recall, or a $1000 gift certificate for Pastimes, the primary tournament organizer this weekend. We've pulled the Top 8 decklists from that event, to give you an idea of what the metagame was like - you can find them below.

The Extended action continues today, with 234 players managing to allow for the Daylight Saving Time shift to show up in time to register for the PTQ. With that event still in its infancy, we will have to wait until later to see if those who were successful in the Extended Insanity yesterday are able to repeat, but look for decklists to show up soon on magicthegathering.com‘s deck archive.

Other Legacy and Vintage scheduled events have happened or are happening as well, but the attention of many is on the last big event of the weekend - the Public Events Championship. Entering any event this weekend got you event tickets which allowed you to enter into a drawing - the more events you played, the more tickets you got. At 3 p.m. today they're going to draw 14 names from that pool, to go with two lucky players from the Grand Prix yesterday, and those 16 are going to have a draft, followed by single elimination. Anyone who wins at least one match will win a piece of power - a full set of the Power 9 is being given away to the Top 8 from that event! Win one match to win a piece of power - the pressure is on!

Kenny Castor

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