2011 Great Britain National Championship - Day 1 Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on August 19, 2011

EVENT COVERAGE

Friday, 12:00 p.m. - What s Talk About

by Rich Hagon
Squadron Hawk

You may not know this, but Squadron Hawks have their own association, a trade body if you will, organized for the sole purpose of the proliferation of Squadron Hawks around the world. We've managed to infiltrate some key emails from the highest echelons of the organization, and present them to you here.

20th June 2011 Everybody, pay attention. We're hearing something's coming right around the corner from Wizards HQ, and it's coming right around the corner at us. Stay tuned.

20th June 2011 Our worst fears are confirmed. They've taken down Jace, the Mindsculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. Beatings.

22nd June 2011 OK, enough with the grief. Time to get our thinking caps on. We're still the engine room behind the best deck in Standard, and now it's time for us to prove it. National Championships are coming up, and we need to show that you can't take the squawk out of the hawk.

29th June 2011 Alright, think we've cracked it. Had a word with a few influential players. Should start seeing big results, beginning next week in China.

4th July 2011 Guys, what happened? Chinese Nationals, and not a single one of us in the Top 8. Something must be done.

4th July 2011 Sorry boss, we couldn't get Visas.

9th July 2011 Japanese Nationals. Top 8 is...Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, UB Control, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, GW Acceleration, Tempered Steel, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Tempered Steel. Let me check that again. OK, people, this is unacceptable. One of the biggest Nationals in the world, and we're nowhere to be seen. We've got to spread the message, or we're going to be forgotten. Five years from now, people will look at us and think we're a marginal Sealed deck card. Unless we fix this. Fix this. Starting with France and Australia this weekend.

21st July 2011 Boss, I don't want to belittle the issues we've been having in Standard lately at these National Championships, but we should look at the wider picture. You know that we're going to absolutely destroy the Extended Pro Tour in Philadelphia. Seriously, all testing results show we can't be beaten.

21st July 2011 That is indeed a comfort.

25th July 2011 Finally we're getting somewhere. France - a couple of red decks, some idiotic Elf thing, that Olivier Ruel guy played Birthing Pod, Vampires? Seriously, who plays Vampires? Still, Armel Primot played us, and so did Glaunes Dorian. Thanks gentlemen, cheque's in the post. Not such good news in Australia though. Only one of the Top 8 played us, with Tempered Steel, Red decks, and Birthing Pod the popular crowd. Bastards.

1st August 2011 Champions! Champions! Now you're talking. Marcello Calvetto, we could kiss you. Actually, he probably gets that a lot, especially from the ladies. Great result for us, a big name European Pro, taking down their Nationals with us (and some support cards, obviously.) Now onto the big one - US Nats. They've got some good players, surely ChannelFireball are going to work out that we're the nuts.

8th August 2011 You know what's better than Kiefer Sutherland's '24'? Squadron Hawk 24! 24 copies in the Top 8 of US Nationals. Yes, finally, the world has caught up to our awesomeness. Everybody knew that Squadron Hawk-Sword of Feast and Famine was the best deck, and even though some misguided people tried to stop it, our overwhelming card advantage awesomeness delivered the goods, round after round. We murderized them. Good job.

8th August 2011 But boss, didn't Ali Aintrazi win the event because he knew how to beat Squadron Hawk-Sword of Feast and Famine?

8th August 2011 Shut up. No really. Shut. Up.

11th August 2011 Now, I wonder whether any of the Europeans can read. Spain and Germany this weekend.

12th August 2011 Disaster. They've changed the Pro Tour format. Goodbye Extended, hello Modern. Aaron Forsythe, we want a word with you.

15th August 2011 Apparently they can't read. Spain, one player in the Top 8. They were all about Splinter Twin. Idiots. Germany? Nobody. None. Zero.

15th August 2011 Boss, the coverage was in English. Perhaps nobody in Spain or Germany speaks English.

15th August 2011 It could be that, I suppose. No excuse for the British, though, is there? They can read English, presumably. Over to GB Nationals then.

So what's going on? Is Squadron Hawk-Sword of Feast and Famine the best deck in Standard? And will the best Nationals in the world definitively answer the question? Keep it right here to find out.

Round 1: Feature Match - Baljeet Samra vs. Manveer Samra

by David Sutcliffe

"What were the chances of being drawn against each other?" asked Manveer Samra of the world at large, as he and his brother took their places in the feature match area. The Samra brothers are popular players on the UK circuit, and have been increasingly mentioned as possible dark horse contenders for the title. To have the two play each other in the first round was in irresistible draw for coverage. Baljeet was bringing the G/R Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle ramp deck, while Manveer was piloting a B/U Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas Infect deck that looked to cheat Blightsteel Colossus into play with Kuldotha Forgemaster

"We've played this matchup quite a few times", Baljeet confided to me, as the round began, "and it's not in my favour".

Game 1

Needing all the luck, Baljeet won the dice roll and chose to play first, but his luck ended there. Manveer joined him for the first mulligan, but Baljeet hissed as he drew his second hand of six and immediately threw it back on top of his deck and began shuffling. On the play, from five cards, in a bad matchup - things did not look good for Baljeet. Worse yet, an Inquisition of Kozilek brought an anguished cry and his five cards were instantly reduced to four, and Baljeet lost a Rampant Growth from hand. All Baljeet could manage through the early turns was to build lands, while Manveer replied with a pair of Spellskites and a Kuldotha Forgemaster.

Turn six saw Baljeet finally make a play, and he dropped his Primeval Titan. The arrival of the Titan was a huge boost for Baljeet, and he searched up a second copy of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to join the one he already hand, and a fourth mountain. Despite the way the early turns had gone in his favour, it now seemed as though momentum was shifting and all Manveer could manage to do was play a Creeping Tar Pit and pass the turn, shuffling the two cards in his hand backwards and forwards nervously.

Baljeet Samra

Baljeet untapped, played a Forest and summoned forth an Avenger of Zendikar – that brought 8 0/1 Plants into play. Attacking with Primeval Titan allowed Baljeet to dig up another two mountains, and that signalled problems for Manveer – the arrival of the lands grew all of Baljeet's plants by +2/+2, and his twin volcanoes rained down fire on his brother. It was potentially devastating but Manveer was prepared and redirected all the damage from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle onto one of his flimsy Spellskites.

Having survived the turn, Manveer had the chance to strike back – his Kuldotha Forgemaster churned away, reforging his second Spellskite and a pair of Inkmoth Nexus into a Blightsteel Colossus!

The Blightsteel Colossus would normally threaten to end the game on it's own, but Baljeet was tucked up safely behind his army of plants, thanks to that Avenger of Zendikar, and the Blightsteel Colossus only managed to chew threw a chunk of Baljeet's vegetable garden.

Untapped, Baljeet swung back, and Manveer admitted defeat – it would simply take too long to plough a path through his brother's Plants.

"That never happened in playtesting!", Baljeet admitted, smiling with relief at his win.

Game 2

From a mulligan to 5, on the play, Baljeet had found Manveer helpless to prevent his march to six lands, and from there unable to defend himself from the sheer power of the behemoths Baljeet had at his disposal. When an Indestructible 11/11 creature isn't good enough, you know things haven't gone to plan.

The second game began more positively for Manveer, and an Everlasting Chalice accelerated him to a third turn Memoricide, stripping his brother of all the Primeval Titans in his deck! That play was followed by Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and it seemed like Manveer was making big strides toward levelling the match.

Having Explore, Birds of Paradise and Rampant Growth on hand saw Baljeet ramp up his mana very quickly, though, and although there would be no Primeval Titan at the end of that road, it didn't stop Baljeet from bringing the big boys to the table – Inferno Titan was his weapon of choice in the second game.

Manveer Samra

The arrival of the Inferno Titan saw Manveer pause for thought before playing a Kuldotha Forgemaster, but the danger was now that Baljeet's deck would snowball very rapidly into lethal damage before Manveer could craft up his Darksteel Colossus and finish things in a single strike.

Baljeet summoned an Oracle of Mul Daya, revealing the top card of his deck to be a Terramorphic Expanse. The Terramorphic Expanse allowed Baljeet to find a Mountain, then he followed up with a second Mountain from hand, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle threw more fire across the table. The Inferno Titan attacked, accounting for Manveer's Kuldotha Forgemaster, and the older brother fell down to just 8 life.

Manveer struck back with a 5/5 Inkmoth Nexus, using Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas's power to boost the little Infect creature and hanve Baljeet five poison counters, but it was Manveer's last play.

You could see the hesitation in Baljeet's face, and in every play that he made, as the game drew to a close – he was so certain that the match was unwinnable that the approach of victory was surely impossible. Surely he wasn't going to win, and with every step of his final turn he seemed to be waiting for his brother to reveal how he would steal back the game.

It never came. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle spouted fire onto Manveer helpess Spellskite, and the Inferno Titan attacked to destroy both the Spellskite and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Desperately clinging to life, Manveer hurled in Inkmoth Nexus under the Inferno Titan, but it was a temporary reprieve. The Oracle of Mul Daya had Baljeet playing with the top card of his deck revealed, and both players knew that he had drawn Avenger of Zendikar. As the big green man hit the table Manveer ended his misery and conceded the match.

That wasn't how the games had gone in playtesting, but Manveer didn't seem to upset,

"The first game he was really lucky to play a land every turn after mulliganing to five", he told me, "and then to get the Avenger of Zendikar because there's only one of them in the deck. We played this matchup a lot last night and I win pretty much every time... apart from the time when it matters, obviously!"

Baljeet Samra 2 - 0 Manveer Samra

Friday, 1:15 p.m. - An Interview with Gary Campbell

 

There are 184 players taking part in Great Britain Nationals this weekend. We're going to talk about someone who isn't playing. Seems perverse, I agree, but the man we're talking with is one of the most important and respected people in the GB Magic community.

Gary Campbell hails from Scotland, and is the glue that holds the community together north of the border. He has so many incredible Magic stories that we could have spent hours in his affable company, but in even a few minutes we heard some tales that were new even to us, who have been around the game for fifteen years and more.

First things first, why isn't Gary playing at Nationals?

'Because I'm a tournament organizer north of the border, I never get to play in any National Qualifiers. Every year I come along to Nationals, and have to take my chance in the Last Chance Qualifier.

This year, I didn't make it.'

Gary started playing back when Legends was the latest set. And yes, that's a long time ago.

'A friend had a deck, and wanted someone to play against. I'm a builder by trade, and let me tell you that a Scottish builder doesn't go out in the evening to play cards with Elves and Goblins. It used to be a secret, and I'd never tell any of my building friends about my hobby. '

Gary qualified at his first Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Columbus all the way back in 1996. That's the third Pro Tour ever, and it was very different then compared to the modern (and Modern) era.

'Everyone I played against was a big name player. In five of the six rounds I faced George Baxter, Henry Stern, Darwin Kastle, Matt Place, and Bertrand Lestree'

We could spend an age discussing the merits of those five, but suffice to say they were a really big deal then, and some still are.

'It was a very relaxed atmosphere. I became really good friends with Jeff Donais, who was a Level 2 judge at the time, because of an incident with Bertrand Lestree. We were both at 1-4 when we sat down to play, and Bertrand started singing the French National anthem at the top of his voice. Jeff came over to watch what was clearly the most interesting match that round, and we got chatting, and we've been friends ever since.'

Over the years, Gary has played in some momentous Pro Tours. He was in New York when Jon Finkel won his first Pro Tour title. He was at Barcelona when Kai Budde lifted the trophy. He saw Carlos Romão win Worlds in Sydney in 2002, and Kai winning again in New Orleans. That Worlds trip in 2002 holds some special memories.

Razorfin Hunter

'In those days you could build a homebrew deck and have a chance of not being destroyed, and I built a deck around Razorfin Hunter, and went 5-1 on the opening day. Because Eddie Ross also went 5-1, Scotland led the world at the end of the first day. Although I couldn't keep that kind of pace up, I still got to the last round needing a win to make the top 64. I got there, on the last turn of extra turns.'

In 2000, Gary left the building profession behind and began a new career building a Magic community. He opened the Highlander Games store in Dundee, and has been instrumental in nurturing every scrap of Scottish talent over the last eleven years. For four straight years, Highlander had the highest number of Drafts held in-store anywhere in the British Isles. Now another phenomenon is sweeping through the club: Commander.

Commander has really taken off in the store. It's specifically because of the new Commander decks. I've always had access to all the cards I want to play with, but newer players struggle with that. Now, they can buy one of the five Commander decks, and they're on an even footing with even the best players. That's another thing that's great about the community - all the top players play Commander too, and they leave their super-powerful decks at home, and play with the new Commander decks instead, to help make sure that everybody has a good time.'

Making sure that everybody has a good time is high on Campbell's list.

It's almost impossible to quantify the debt that dozens of high level Scottish Magic players owe to Campbell, who is a tireless organizer behind the scenes, providing just the right amount of motivation to get players out of bed and on the road in time to get to their nearest PTQ.

'For me, the days of driving hundreds of miles to PTQs, then driving back to Scotland all through Sunday night in time to start work on Monday morning are gone. I'm lucky if I can play in one PTQ each year.'

That's exactly what he did a few weeks ago, and he made the most of it, qualifying for the Modern Pro Tour Philadelphia at the ripe old age of 46. We're not sure if that will make him the oldest Pro Tour competitor yet, but we'll do our best to find out. And what would his advice be to anyone just starting out on their journey towards the Pro Tour?

'I've always treated each and every one of my Pro Tours as my last. You never know if you're going to get the chance again, so make the most of it. I've never dropped from a single round, ever, no matter what my record. Why would you? Take the opportunity, treat it as your last chance, and have fun. It all comes down to having fun.'

Campbell holds a very special place in the hearts of hundreds of Scottish players who he has helped to have fun over many years. Now, he gets another slice of fun himself in Philadelphia next month, and nobody will have more well-wishers behind them.

Gary Campbell, pride of Scotland.

LCQ Standard Qualifying Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Grateful thanks to Dan Barrett, who slaved away over a hot stove (well, laptop) to bring you every qualifying list from yesterday's Standard LCQ. There were an amazing 148 players taking part, with only 18 of them making it into the main event. Between them, there should be a decklist to keep everyone happy, until we bring you the Top 8 on Sunday.

Charlie Grover

Download Arena Decklist

Matthew Trindall

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Matthew Gwynne

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Ben Heath

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David Fairweather

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Andrew Quinn

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Alex Marsden

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Rob Catton

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Alex Roebuck

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Kyle Wright

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Rich Parker

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Mark Quarmby

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Ian Pirouet

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