Ben Raymond is one of the talks of the tournament. The 29-year old nutritional consultant came to the event unqualified and in one weekend made his first two Top 8 finishes in a Magic tournament - first qualifying through the Canadian Open and then moving into the Top 8 of Nationals for an impressive undefeated record in Standard for the weekend. Before this weekend, his best finish in a big event was Top 16 of 1998 Canadian Nationals.
"The grinder was hugely confirming for me. Qualifying gives you a lot of confidence, and I went into Standard looking good. The deck was built to beat control and rebels, and I felt that the professional players would most be avoiding Fires for this tournament. It seems that my prediction paid off. Control deck's have spot removal and mass removal, and the graveyard recursion is very good against both of these styles of removal. In essence, I have something similar to a Rebel Chain, but where they use their library as a resource, I use my graveyard. In the long drawn out games, my discard can often have a huge effect, and a single use of graveyard recursion can set up many more."
His deck was certainly the right metagame call. Going undefeated with a 9-0-2 combined record in both the Open and the National tournament, his deck is certain to get notice.
"The deck doesn't look like much. One of the reasons I was winning this weekend is that people don't understand how to play against it. If the deck gets any notice for Worlds that may change a lot. All day I had people naming the wrong cards with Meddling Mage, for example, but I won't have that luxury in the Top 8. Anyone that plays the deck at World's is going to have the same issue."
However he finishes, Raymond is excited about the weekend.
"It's been a great showing already."