2011 U.S. National Championship - Alternate Style

Posted in Event Coverage on August 6, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast

After seven rounds of play for Day 1, 224 players arrived to get another crack at the M12 Draft format. Wesley Wise, Hai Bing Hu, and Joshua Howe stand atop the standings as the only players to make it through undefeated. But they can't rest easy, as there are some big names chasing them down. Adam Yurchick, Todd Anderson, and last year's National team alternate David Ochoa are sitting right behind them with one loss. Play is underway, and in a mere seven rounds, we will have decided our Top 8! Check back throughout the day to see who manages to crack into the single elimination rounds!

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EVENT COVERAGE

  • by Brian David-Marshall
    Deck Tech: Drafting with Haibing Hu
  • by Brian David-Marshall
    Round 7: Feature Match
    Brad Nelson vs. Brian Kibler
  • by Nate Price
    Friday, 1:30 p.m.: A Quick Look at Vintage

pairings, results, standings

Pairings

10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Results

9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Standings

9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Friday, 1:30 p.m. – A Quick Look at Vintage

by Nate Price

Ah Vintage, the least understood of Magic's many formats (Chaos Planechase Archenemy Emperor Commander notwithstanding). Vintage has been around for actual ever, but very few people outside of the dedicated community seem to show any interest in it. As the years have passed, players have started to become more and more interested in the older formats. All you have to do is look at the booming popularity of Legacy to see that that is true. Many players have looked down on Vintage as a stagnant, never-changing format filled with broken cards, non-interactive matches, and generally not worth their time to get into.

Honestly, it's a shame. After years of covering the Vintage Championhips, I've learned how wrong those opinions are. The format is constantly shifting as new cards are added to the mix. Sure, not all of them will be even playable, but every so often, a new superstar comes in and makes waves in the pool, often one you never see coming. The cards are definitely incredibly powerful, but they lend themselves to layers of strategy that don't exist in the other formats. You may think that the Storm mirror match is just going to be a vomit-fest, where someone just dies on the first or second turn with no chance for their opponent to even play Magic, but the matchup is actually highly interactive, with a great deal of ebb and flow, and packed with strategic thinking. It really is a rich format, as its very tight community can tell you, and it's only a matter of time before players start to come around. After all, the negative opinions that players have held about the format are eerie echoes of their problems with Legacy, and we can all see how that turned out.

So for those of you that have read this far, and would like to learn more about this very interesting format, let's begin by taking a look at what comes together to make Vintage. One of the biggest hallmarks of Vintage is the presence of the powerful older cards. Cards of legend, like the Moxen, Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Mishra's Workshop …these are definitely the first things that jump to peoples' minds when you think of Vintage, and with good reason. They are some of the most powerful cards ever printed, and that definitely contributes to the power level of the format as a whole. Up next is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in Vintage and Legacy to a lesser extent. Because of the sheer size of the card pool, there are often cards that will have a very big impact in Vintage that are virtually unplayable in other formats. One of the best examples of this is the card Slash Panther.

All right, believe me when I say that the first time I heard about this, I just started to laugh, assuming that someone was playing a joke on me. But as they explained it, it really started to make sense. While a player might get mocked mercilessly out of the room were they to play Slash Panther in Standard right now, it fills many important roles in Vintage.

Phyrexian Metamorph

The deck it has found a home in is the Mishra's Workshop -based artifact decks that are major players in the Vintage scene. The deck used to run Juggernaut as a kill condition, since a first-turn 5-powered creature tends to end things in short order. Back that up with some disruption in the form of Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, and Tangle Wire and an opponent frequently finds themselves in a world of hurt. When Lodestone Golem was released, the deck got a significant upgrade. After all, what is better than disruption and a fat creature? Disruption on a fat creature.

Slash Panther is the newest addition to the deck. While a little smaller than its predecessors, it makes up for that in speed. Combined with Phyrexian Metamorph, which is also proving to be a standout across multiple formats, the hasty Panthers are able to do many things that their cousins could not. For example, they kill Jace, the Mind Sculptor immediately (yes, he's even ridiculously good in Vintage). Second, he can actually kill faster than the other two since most players tend to take a little self-inflicted damage in the early turns of the game. All in all, he's just a great versatile addition to the deck. Not exactly the power-level you'd expect from a standout in Vintage, I bet.

Mystic Remora

One of the other cool things about Vintage is the fact that there are so many cards that no one can play in other formats because they are too old. These cards only see play in Vintage, and they are just really cool to see in action. Mystic Remora is a good example. This simple little enchantment, while it might be nothing more than average or good were it playable in other formats, is an absolute stud in Vintage. You know those Moxes that seem to be running about? They're spells. How about those other cheap spells that seem to be running about, like Brainstorm, Ponder, Duress, Preordain, Inquisition of Kozilek, Ancestral Recall, Force of Will... I could go on. This card will often draw you an incredible number of cards for an entirely negligible cost. Pretty sexy!

Right now, taking a look around the Vintage world, the format appears to be pretty open. You are going to see variations on decks running Mishra's Workshop. Some will run the aggressive plan described above, some with Slash Panther and some without. You will also see versions running a control strategy, using Smokestack to keep opponents locked out of the game. There will be a slew of blue-based control decks. Most will be UB, dipping in to find Dark Confidant, Tutors, and discard. Often you'll see them playing Tezzeret the Seeker to abuse with their plethora of artifacts and mana-producers. They will all have Jace, the Mind Sculptor. These decks can really go a number of ways, though setting up a lock with Time Vault and either Tezzeret or Voltaic Key seems to be the most popular. There will definitely be combo decks in the field as well, with the most popular being the storm decks, killing with either Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens, and generating their storm count through either Rituals or Hurkyl's Recall.

Kataki, War's Wage

There are definitely aggressive decks in the format as well. One of the more popular versions is a BWG "Hate-Bears" deck. It uses the large number of cheap creatures with embedded abilities that happen to be good against these other strategies to hamper them as they smash their faces in. I'm talking Phyrexian Revoker, Leonin Relic-Warder, Ethersworn Canonist, Aven Mindcensor, and Kataki, War's Wage. These cards lock down a specific element of the opponent's strategy, all the while turning sideways and bringing the game closer to an end. There are the "Fish" variants that run about as well. These run a similar strategy, using cards like Gaddock Teeg, Trygon Predator, and Qasali Pridemage to keep people hemmed down, though they reinforce their little men with a suite of countermagic. On top of that, they often keep their hands stocked through Cold-Eyed Selkie, which is a virtually guaranteed card every turn in this heavy-blue field.

Other than that, there are the occasional other decks that have made an appearance. People will still play Dredge in every format that the cards are in. They will continue to find ways to cheat creatures into play, either via Oath of Druids, Show and Tell (sometimes both in the same deck), Tinker, or reanimator spells. They will play Painter's Servant and Grindstone to mill a deck out, or maybe even Helm of Obedience if they're feeling really old-school. These are all things that have been around Vintage at one time or another, though their power level in the current format is up for debate. Regardless of how strong they are, they are still decks that you have to be aware exist if you hope to play Vintage.

Over the rest of the day, I'll be stopping in with some of the players playing some of the more interesting decks in the field, as well as trying to get some insights into the more consistently performing decks. After all, this format is far deeper than most people give it credit for being, and I'd really like to illustrate how that is so.

Round 7: Feature Match – Brad Nelson vs. Brian Kibler

by Brian David-Marshall

So Brad Nelson was pretty unhappy with his deck. He showed it to Brian Kibler after losing his last round to drop to 4-1. "This might be the worst M12 limited deck I've ever seen," was the first thing Kibler said. He followed that comment closely with, "If you're to win a match this draft, you a) have to get extremely lucky, while b) your opponent gets extremely unlucky."

"My deck is pretty terrible too." Luis Scott-Vargas returned.

The usually chipper Brad Nelson was slightly frowning and slumping in his chair. This draft had gotten the best of him. On a lighter note, to figure out who went first, Luis laid two cards face down and said, "Pick the better card for constructed. Don't worry, it's not close." Nelson flipped over a Wurm's Tooth, while LSV showed a Dragon's Claw.

"See? Not close. I'll play."

Luis Scott-Vargas
Crimson Mage

Game 1

They both kept and LSV played a turn-two Crimson Mage off a Mountain and a Plains. He then cast a Divine Favor on it the following turn and attacked into a Reassembling Skeleton that declined to block. When Scott-Vargas attacked again, Nelson's Skeleton happily joined the fray, because this time he was aided by a Sacred Wolf. All three creatures went happily to the graveyard.

Scott-Vargas quickly refilled with an Arbalest Elite and an Auramancer returning the Divine Favor. Nelson's refilling consisted of the Skeleton rising from the grave and a Garruk's Companion. An un-aura'ed Thran Golem and an Auramancer attacked the following, making the totals 23-13 in Luis Scott-Vargas' favor. Brad's demeanor was getting lower, but it hadn't hit bottom yet. That came when he realized the Divine Favor on Luis' Thran Golem also gave in Flying, in addition to First Strike, Trample. and +3/+5. Two turns later, Brad was at one. Three turns later, he was dead.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1 – 0 Brad Nelson

"I can see from the spells we cast that neither of us were exaggerating about our decks." Scott-Vargas said. Brad could only let out a slight chuckle.

Sad Brad

Game 2

Though Nelson went first, Scott-Vargas cast the inaugural spell in Crown of Empires. A turn-four Reassembling Skeleton was Brad's sort-of response, to which Luis cast a Rusted Sentinel.

Thran Golem

The Sentinel's power was clearly too imposing, so an Arachnus Web answered it. LSV tried to add power with Divine Favor, but before it could resolve, Nelson Naturalized the Sentinel away.

Over a few turns LSV added a Thran Golem, Blood Ogre (bloodthirsty, mind you) and a Benalish Veteran, who received a Deathmark. Brad had another Reassembling Skeleton and a Rusted Sentinel of his own. There was an old fashioned stalemate round these parts.

That is, until Scott-Vargas cast a Flameblast Dragon.

Brad scoffed, drew his next card, and packed it in. I guess to Kibler's comment, neither a) nor b) happened for Brad. I didn't see him getting any happier as he walked away from the table.

Luis Scott-Vargas 2 – 0 Brad Nelson

Luis Scott-Vargas is now 5-1; Brad Nelson is 4-2.

Deck Tech – Drafting with Haibing Hu

by Brian David-Marshall
Sengir Vampire

Texan Magic veteran Haibing Hu went 7-0 on day one here at Nats and closed out the last three rounds in convincing fashion with a Goblin deck in the Magic 2012 draft format. As he sat down at a table with the other two 7-0 players -- Joshua Howe and Wesley Wise -- as well as a couple of former National teammates -- Adam Yurchick and Todd Anderson -- I was curious what his plan would be for this draft. Would he force the archetype that served him so well yesterday?

"I don't like forcing. I try to take what I am passed," said Haibing after the draft. He opened a pack and did not see anything he liked better than a card that has been around even longer than he has -- Sengir Vampire. He took an Incinerate with his second pick and then was faced with a dilemma for pick three.

Sphinx of Uthuun

Having passed an Æther Adept to take the Vampire, Hu wanted to avoid blue if at all possible but when he was passed a third pick Sphinx of Uthuun he could not pass it.

"I had to jump into blue for the Sphinx of Uthuun and I am pretty sure I had already put players to my left into blue," explained Hu who was willing to be cut off in one direction on the color. "I would rather take a signal from the player passing me two packs. Plus Sphinx of Uthuun is really good."

Hu added a Gravedigger, Bloodrage Vampire, and Manalith to his growing pile of cards and when his opening pack made its way back to him he found Drifting Shade waiting.

"I was pretty sure I was getting cut from blue," said Hu of the way pack two played out when he opened on Æther Adept and then was passed Gideon Jura.

Gideon Jura

He agonized between the Gideon Jura and either Mind Rot or Divination before ultimately dipping his toe into white to test the waters.

"I was pretty sure I was still going to be blue but if I got passed Pacifism and Griffins..." Hu explained of his Planeswalker pick. "Besides I can never beat this card. All the blue and black cards in the pack were pretty much the same and I was pretty sure one of them would come back.

He was right, as both the Mind Rot in his opening pack, and the one he took Gideon Jura over came back to him. He also picked up a late Divination as well.

Pack three started off with Doom Blade and then he took the first of three Vampire Outcasts. "Black was definitely open by the third pack," said Hu, who rounded out the draft with Merfolk Looter and a couple of fliers.

Haibing Hu - Draft Deck Two

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