Coverage of 2010 Australia National Championship

Posted in Event Coverage on July 24, 2010

By Wizards of the Coast

Day one of Australian Nationals has come to a close. Spells were slung, monsters clashed across battlefields, and Planeswalkers duelled over seven rounds of intense competition. M11 has had a huge impact on the Standard environment, with old decks fading into obscurity and new ones emerging. Drafting has been intense, with players coming to grips with a new set and developing their strategies. The one remaining undefeated player is Jeremy Neeman, who hasn't dropped a game all day. Neeman is looking strong to build on his Top 8 finish at Pro Tour: San Juan, and his Top 4 finish here last year. There are many talented players hot on his heels, though, with Justin Cheung and previous Champions Jamie Mackintosh, Aaron Nicastri and Steven Aplin showing strong, along with last year's finalist Ian Wood. Check back in for results, interviews and more coverage tomorrow!



pairings, results, standings


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Saturday, 10:39 a.m. – Bonus: Legacy Public Event Winner

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

While many queued up to compete in the Last Chance Qualifiers, some people were lucky enough to already have a spot in the main event. Others just had a hankering to play some Legacy. Once the smoke had cleared, Garry "Lift-Buster" Wong came out on top. Fellow coverage colleague Pip Hunn has just told me Garry had been seen wandering around the room before the event asking people if he could borrow a Terravore, so that three-of in there might not be quite as optimal as you think, but hey, it worked for Garry!

Garry Wong

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 12:21 p.m. – Round 1: Scott Hunstad vs Hugh Glanville

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

Hugh Glanville took third place in last year's National Champs, and that wasn't even his first top 8 in Australia. And yet, he still may not be as well known as his opponent, popular Australian card store chain co-founder, Scott Hunstad. Hunstad was handed a deck yesterday by one of their Melbourne store's employees, and proceeded to grind out a qualifying spot with it.

Glanville summoned a second turn Fauna Shaman, while Hunstad powered up his Student of Warfare and attacked Glanville down to 17. Missing his third land drop, Glanville summoned a Noble Hierarch and left his Shaman open to activate. Hunstad also appeared to be missing a third land, but happily attacked in again for 3, declining to level up the Student further. Glanville ditched a second Shaman at the end of turn, and searched up a Vengevine, before playing and cracking a Verdant Catacombs and summoning a Knight of the Reliquary. Hunstad showed everyone what his Glacial Fortress was for, and countered it with a Mana Leak. Hunstad then summoned a Knight of the White Orchid, fetching up another Plains and playing a Celestial Colonnade, having slow-rolled his third land drop. After falling to 10, Glanville ditched the first Vengevine to Shaman up another. Glanville untapped and took out the Student with an Oblivion Ring. Hunstad continued the assault, his Knight dropping Glanville to 8 before being joined by a Baneslayer Angel. The second Vengevine was pitched and found a Stoneforge Mystic. Glanville untapped, summoned the Mystic (finding a Basilisk Collar) and then discarded a Bloodbraid Elf to find and summon a Birds of Paradise, returning both Vengevines to play, neither of which were willing to attack into the Angel.

2009 National Team member, Hugh Glanville.

"I don't know what I'm meant to play here," Hunstad laughed, "I don't know this format at all." He summoned Elspeth, Knight-Errant and sent the Baneslayer over for 8, the Birds of Paradise valiantly dying for the cause. Glanville went for a Cunning Sparkmage. "Ooh, that guy's good," Hunstad remarked, "I'm gonna Mana Leak him." Glanville paid the three mana, and attacked Elspeth with his Mystic and two Vengevines. Hunstad blocked the Mystic with his Knight, and Elspeth departed the Mortal Realm. The Baneslayer would now be unable to finish Glanville in one swing, but Hunstad had a plan B. "You're tapped out?" he asked, motioning to his Colonnade and the mana to use it. Glanville gathered up his permanents. "I see why Vengevine is worth so much now," the store owner laughed.

Hunstad 1 – Glanville 0

Hunstad mulliganed to six Game 2, while Glanville promptly Verdant Catacomb'd up a Forest and played... A Basilisk Collar. "That's not what I was expecting," Hunstad joked, "I never draw my acceleration," Glanville agreed with a grin. Hunstad again had a turn one Student of Warfare, while Glanville Stoneforge Mystic'd for a second Collar. "You might Oblivion Ring my first one, right?" he laughed. The Student leveled up and dropped Glanville to 16, then 15 when he used an Arid Mesa to find a Mountain. That allowed Glanville to summon a Cunning Sparkmage, but Hunstad had a Path to Exile before it got out of hand. He followed that up a second Student, who got all studious as well. "It's still a 1/1, right?" Glanville asked, peering at the Student's one counter. He sent in his Mystic again, dropping Hunstad to 17 and summoning a Baneslayer of his own.

"This is such a bad play, I am such a bad player," Hunstad sighed, "Level him up four times and not attack," he pointed to his first Student. Glanville gave a Collar to his Mystic, and sent in the team, dropping Hunstad to 11 and taking himself back up to 18. He then removed the largest Student with an Oblivion Ring. Hunstad had a Ring as well, and wasted no time taking out the Angel. He leveled up his second Student and attacked back for 3. Glanville replaced the Angel with a Vengevine, which took up the Collar. Hunstad dropped to 6 while Glanville climbed to 19. Hunstad summoned a Knight of the White Orchid and trained his Student a few more times. Glanville summoned another Cunning Sparkmage and gave it the Collar. Hunstad was unimpressed, and played a surprise Day of Judgment.

Store owner by day, White Weenie pilot by err, also by day, I guess, Scott Hunstad.

With his gas tank emptied into his graveyard, Glanville finally summoned his second Basilisk Collar, while Hunstad had a Baneslayer Angel. "Nice," Glanville laughed with an empty hand. He peeled a Bloodbraid Elf off the top and the gathering audience "oooh!"'d appreciatively. The Elf found a Noble Hierarch, which triggered the Vengevine. Glanville equipped Collars to each of the larger creatures and passed the turn back in the face of the Baneslayer. Hunstad summoned a Meddling Mage and named Oblivion Ring. He then tried to play an Oblivion Ring, to the amusement of all. "Don't put that in the coverage!" Hunstad pleaded with a laugh, before turning back to Glanville. "I'm probably gonna block with that guy now," he admitted sheepishly.

The Vengevine attacked and sure enough, the Meddling Mage leapt in front. The life totals now back in the high teens for both players, thanks to the hearty amount of lifelink on both sides of the table. Hunstad added a Basilisk Collar of his own, and finally managed to play his Oblivion Ring on the Vengevine. Glanville attacked back with his Collar'd Bloodbraid Elf, and dropped an Oblivion Ring on Hunstad's Angel. Hunstad summoned Elspeth to his side again, threatening to make the long game his if it kept up like this.

Hunstad finally found and summoned a Student of Warfare, putting it on an accelerated learning program. With the help of Elspeth and the Collar, the Student swung in for a lot. Glanville kept trying to attack Elspeth, but Hunstad happily threw anyone not otherwise engaged in face-smashery in the way, forcing Glanville to spend an Oblivion Ring on the Planeswalker instead. Eventually Glanville fell to 1 life, and Hunstad climbed to 57 as Time was called. Glanville admitted with a smile and a handshake "I think we can call it 1-0 to you."

Scott Hunstad defeats Hugh Glanville 1 – 0

Saturday, 1:08 p.m. – Round 2: Cameron Veigel vs Tim He

by Pip Hunn

Both players were relaxed and confident as they settled into round two. They had played together on the Australian Worlds team 2006. Tim He boasted an impressive record, having been Australian National Champion twice already. Veigel Top 16'd GP: Melbourne, but was self-deprecating when pressed for a further resume; he claimed to have won a draft online 'at least once'. The judges had mispronounced Cameron's name, twice, in calling the feature match, and he was adamant to not be called 'Catherine' for the rest of Nationals. Tim He was going to be more of a challenge, having Australia's most confusing surname to include in coverage.

He led with a Sejiri Refuge. Veigel had mulliganed but still powered out a Noble Hierarch, which was answered by a Wall of Omens. Veigel happily threw fetchlands into the graveyard, and dropped a Knight of the Reliquary while He was tapped out. The 4/4 was Oblivion Ring'd, but Veigel simply played another. Veigel cracked yet another fetchland to make his Knight a 5/5 and ran out a Cunning Sparkmage, which He countered with a Mana Leak. Veigel left his Knight at home, untapped and active. He had not action and passed. Veigel searched up a Raging Ravine with the Knight, and He (as in Tim) quickly Path to Exile'd the Knight while it was vulnerable. With an empty board on both sides, Veigel animated his Ravine and attacked. He fell to 16.

Cameron Veigel is the aggressor.

Spreading Seas negated the Ravine. Veigel played a Baneslayer Angel, with 3 mana carefully left open for any Mana Leaks. He had nothing and the Baneslayer crashed in unanswered. Veigel cast another Sparkmage. Tim He cast a Day of Judgment and exchanged a single ping of damage for a less threatening board. Veigel rebuilt with a lonely Noble Hierarch. He's Elspeth, Knight-Errant, was more imposing. Veigel found a Vengevine and attacked, but a Soldier kept Elspeth alive. He ran out an Ajani Vengeant and the Vengevine was left useless. Jace, the Mind Sculptor joined the growing army of Planeswalkers next turn, prompting Veigel to concede.

Tim He 1 – Cameron Veigel 0

Veigel opened Game 2 with a Noble Hierarch, who attacked before being joined by a Fauna Shaman. He stalled with a Wall of Omens, which let Veigel cast a Knight of the Reliquary unopposed. He dug for a third land with another Wall, but came up short. Veigel used his Fauna Shaman to discard a Vengevine, fetching another, before He discarded and passed.

Veigel set up an imposing turn. He discarded a second Vengevine to tutor up a Bloodbraid Elf. Veigel cast the Bloodbraid off his Hierarch, scowling when he cascaded into an Oblivion Ring. Both Vengevines sat, useless, in the graveyard. He played a Spreading Seas and managed to find his third land off the cantrip. Veigel had a second Bloodbraid Elf, which this time cascaded into a Noble Hierarch. The Vengevines reanimated and gave Veigel an impressive eight creatures on the board. Six of them attacked. He reached for his sideboard.

Cameron Veigel 1 – Tim He 1

Veigel had his third turn one Hierarch for the match. His follow-up Knight of the Reliquary was met with a Flashfreeze. He dropped a third land without seeing any white mana, but held a second Flashfreeze for Veigel's Fauna Shaman. A Spreading Seas dug to find He his fourth land, unfortunately a Tectonic Edge, leaving Him without any answers for on-board threats. A Vengevine from Veigel highlighted He's problems. He drew a Plains for Oblivion Ring, but Veigel simply repeated his earlier play and another Vengevine swung in for 5 thanks to the Hierarch's exalted. He played a Wall of Omens to stall one attack, and used an Edge to blow up Veigel's Ravine. Veigel exchanged an Oblivion ring of his own to get his second Vengevine back and attacked.

He cast a Day of Judgment and cleared the board. Veigel cast a Knight of the Reliquary. He played a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounced the Knight. He's life was at 4, and the Vengevines in Veigel's graveyard looked very dangerous. He used an Edge and a Spreading Seas to constrict Veigel to white mana only, and bounced the Knight once more.

Two-time National Champion, Tim He, takes control of the match.

Veigel had an Elspeth to play with his sole remaining color of mana, who brought a Soldier to the battlefield. Tim He established control of the board by summoning a Baneslayer and fatesealing Veigel. Veigel simply played another Soldier and passed. The Baneslayer attacked unanswered and raised He's life total to a more comfortable 9. Veigel pumped one of his men with Elspeth, Knight-Errant and attacked Jace, but He's Celestial Colonnade leapt in the way. Once declared as a blocker, the Colonnade tapped for a mana to Condemn the other attacker. Another fateseal from Jace left He in control. He animated a Colonnade once more and attacked Veigel down to 8, leaving him with one turn to come up with an answer. Veigel cracked a fetchland, shuffled, looked to the top of his deck, and scooped.

Time He 2 – Cameron Veigel 1

Saturday, 2:26 p.m. – Round 3: Behind the Scenes

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

Being somewhat behind the scenes myself, I feel that those who work their fingers to the bone to bring you these events deserve just a little bit of recognition. Naturally, there's the Judge staff: this weekend lead by their fearless leader, Level 3 James Mackay from Melbourne. The rest of the team are Mark Brown (L4), Ryan Dare (L3), Nathan Brewer, Gareth Pye, Tom Haddy, Fabian Peck (L2's), Jason Doan, Simon Hall, Chris Worrell, Jacob Moriarty, Mackenzie Stratford, Steven Clarke, Danesh Jogia, Julian Rzechowicz, John Tong, Chris Evans and Morgan Meehan-Lam.

No shenanigans please, we're judges.
Aus/NZ Organized Play Manager Rob Teirney feels the love.

And of course, none of this would be possible without tireless work of the Australian/New Zealand Organized Play Manager Rob Teirney. Prominent Melbourne Card Store owner Isaac Egan took upon himself to surprise Rob today with a trophy and a bottle of wine to thank him for his efforts over the last four years. Ahh, it seems like only yesterday Rob was running his first ever Nationals after taking the job a few scant weeks earlier. Needless to say, he has long since figured out that he doesn't actually have to fetch me chocolate and bottled water whenever I ask, and has channeled his abilities elsewhere, such as running increasingly popular National Championships and Grand Prix events. Clearly he's doing something right. Anyway, Rob was considerably taken aback with this token of Australia's appreciation and could only smile and say to the room, "this job... it doesn't suck."

Saturday, 2:50 p.m. – Draft One: Jeremy Neeman

by Pip Hunn

Jeremy Neeman rose to fame at Pro Tour: San Juan earlier in the year, where he made Top 8. He started off his Nationals with a 3-0 record and looked to continue his winning streak heading into the draft.

Neeman opened an uninspiring pack and, without any competition, took a Duskdale Wurm. His second pack, also a little tepid, gave him a Sleep. Neeman followed up in blue with a Cloud Elemental, and a pair of Cloud Crusaders to follow hinted that his plan was U/W. Neeman took a powerful Nantuko Shade in the middle of pack one, but with no black to follow up with, happily reverted to white for an Excommunicate and a Squadron Hawk. A sideboard-worthy Solemn Offering finished off the first third of the draft. When Neeman fanned his cards to review, he was solidly leaning towards U/W. The Shade still sat there, powerful but lonely.

Pack two offered up a Blinding Mage. The idea of diverting to black was abandoned as Neeman took a Foresee, an Air Servant, and a Cloud Elemental in the early picks. He picked up a second Squadron Hawk and a late Inspired Charge to give his army of fliers extra oomph. A late pick Augury Owl gave him even more library manipulation. Neeman headed into his third pack with the makings of a solid deck.

The final pack started off with a pair of Jace's Ingenuity. Neeman happily took a Pacifism, bolstering his otherwise minimal creature removal. Wild Griffin was followed by a fifth-pick Vengeful Archon. Ice Cage vs. Roc Egg gave Neeman pause for thought, with the enchantment eventually getting the nod. Neeman wheeled a War Priest of Thune, a Negate and a third Squadron Hawk, rounding off his deck and giving him some sideboarding options.

Neeman was happy with the way his deck had taken shape. He had settled on a strong archetype early in the draft, resisted temptation to stray, and been rewarded with a solid third pack. The Jace's Ingenuity's coming in pack three gave him a solid draw suite, especially coupled with his Foresee and a Preordain. A bomb to use all his manipulation to draw to had finally arrived in the Vengeful Archon. With a powerful finisher and an army of evasive men, Neeman headed to his first draft pairing confident of victory.

Saturday, 4:15 p.m. – Round 4: Shaun Rayson vs Kuan Tian

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

While our attention was naturally drawn to the top tables once the drafts got underway, apparently there was quite a loaded table down in the 1-2 bracket. Three National Championship titles (Aaron Nicastri and Tim He, the latter cheeky having two), countless Nationals Top 8's (Aaron Nicoll and Shaun Rayson) and nigh on infinite top 16's (Kuan Tian and Joe Connolly). Not only did Kuan Tian finish top 16 at Grand Prix: Melbourne last year, he also finished top 32 at Pro Tour: Austin as well. His opponent, Shaun Rayson is no slouch either. While he hasn't had any notable Pro Tour finishes to speak of, he has been attending where he can. And let's not forget his Nationals Top 8 in 2008.

Kuan Tian has been quietly racking up the results.

But for men of such success, they're not having much of it today.

Rayson lead with a Child of Night and a War Priest of Thune, while Tian summoned an Augury Owl and a Chandra's Spitfire. Tian started attacking in the air, making it count with a Volcanic Strength on the Owl. "This is embarrassing," Tian quipped, as he added a Goblin Tunneler to his team. "It's like our decks are the limited non-hits," Rayson agreed. Clearly Rayson was lying, as he Squadron Hawk'd up two more and a Corrupt took out the Owl. A Frost Titan from Tian locked down Rayson's Child of Night, "Is that even a real Mythic?" Rayson joked about the most underappreciated of the five Titans, before summoning a Juggernaut. The Titan blocked the Juggernaut when Rayson attacked in on the following turn, and a Stabbing Pain finished off the Mythic. Liliana's Specter knocked an Act of Treason out of Tian's hand, and a Chandra's Outrage took down the War Priest. The Spitfire was the only thing Tian had left holding the fort, and an Excommunicate and a Stabbing Pain from Rayson had Tian dropping lower and lower on life. An Aether Adept bounced the remaining Squadron Hawk. "I'm just gonna reload, you know that," Rayson joked, and when he attacked on the following turn, Tian could only admit, "you got me."

Shaun Rayson has a whole Squadron of Hawks.

Rayson 1 – Tian 0

"Squadron Hawk, that thing's like Belfry Spirit," Tian bemoaned as they shuffled. He lead Game 2 with his trusty Goblin Tunneler and suited it up with a Volcanic Strength, only to have it Excommunicated, allowing Rayson's Black Knight to get in for 2. Rayson followed up with a Howling Banshee and a Juggernaut, and things were looking bad for Tian, who tried to find an answer with his Augury Owl. "Why isn't this card Foresee?" Tian complained, dropping to 3 life on Rayson's next attack. "I guess I want you to discard two cards," Rayson admitted, showing a Mind Rot, but Tian just packed it in.

Shaun Rayson defeats Kuan Tian 2 – 0

"I usually like to draw in this format," Rayson commented after the match, "but my deck is so bad I figured its only chance was if I chose to play." Tian obviously felt much the same way about his own. "That Owl showed me so many good cards that if I'd been able to draw them that turn, I would have been fine."

Saturday, 4:57 p.m. – Round 5: Jeremy Neeman vs Hugh Rayner

by Pip Hunn

Hugh Rayner is a well-known figure in Australian Magic. He recently won a Sydney PTQ with a relatively unusual build of Mono-Red featuring Goblin Arsonist. Jeremy Neeman recently Top 8'd Pro Tour: San Juan and is looking to build on his record this weekend. Both are undefeated coming into the fifth round. Rayner dropped a pair of dice onto the table. "Nine. Strong." Neeman gave his dice a powerful two-handed shake. "Eleven. Stronger."

Rayner led the action with an Infantry Veteran. Neeman kept pace with a Squadron Hawk, who fetched two friends. Rayner fed his board with a Silvercoat Lion but didn't want lose his Veteran, who stayed home. Neeman got his Hawk into the red zone, and Rayner fell to 19. He followed with a Cloud Elemental, aiming to use his fliers to race Rayner's growing ground army. Rayner increased the pressure with an Honor of the Pure and attacked with both men. The Cloud Elemental watched helplessly from above, unable to block, and Neeman fell to 15. Neeman pondered his options and returned attacks with both his fliers before he summoned a Cloud Crusader.

Rayner kept his men swinging in the uneven race, attacking with his Silvercoat, naturally a 3/3. After Neeman declined to block, the Veteran pumped it to 4/4, which dropped Neeman down to 11. Neeman's fliers started to clog up the board. He played out an Air Servant which could hold off Rayner's Wild Griffin, but held his creatures back. Rayner's attack traded his Wild Griffin with a Cloud Crusader and a Squadron Hawk, thanks to the pumps from the Honor of the Pure and the Veteran. Neeman was on the back foot, his fliers unable to keep pace with the army of bulked-up weenies on the ground below.

Neeman summoned an Augury Owl and perused the top of his deck. Both players played quickly and precisely, leaving this poor coverage reporter struggling to keep up. Neeman's fliers attacked Rayner down to 10. He then played both remaining Squadron Hawks. Their role as chump blockers was clear as they fell valiantly to Rayner's next attack. Rayner added an Ajani's Pridemate to the board, which left him with four solid men staring down Neeman's two lonesome fliers, one unable to block. Tension mounted on both sides.

Neeman untapped and drew.
Then he cast Sleep.
Neeman swung through the air.
Game 2.

Jeremy Neeman 1 – Hugh Rayner 0

Jeremy Neeman drafts upstream of Hugh Rayner.

Both players chatted about the matchup as they shuffled for the second game. Rayner pointed out the difficult task ahead of him: "We're both playing aggressive decks... But you've got men I can't block."

Rayner shook his head at a dismal hand before mulliganing, while Neeman fine-tuned his hand with a turn one Preordain. Rayner's Silvercoat Lion was answered by Neeman with a Squadron Hawk, who once again fetched his comrades. Rayner attacked with an unblocked Lion and passed. Neeman swung with his Hawk and summoned a Wild Griffin. Rayner simply attacked back with his Lion, content to race. Neeman blocked with the Griffin, but Rayner had a Safe Passage to keep his Lion safe.

Neeman played out both his remaining Squadron Hawks and Rayner punched through once more with his Lion. He then summoned a Hoarding Dragon, tucking away a Gargoyle Sentinel in case his dragon came to an unfortunate demise. With his opponent's board totalling three 1/1's, that did not seem imminent. Rayner's men attacked and a Hawk leapt in front of the incoming Dragon as Neeman fell to 14. Rayner followed up with a Juggernaut. Excommunicate from Neeman answered the dragon for a turn and permanently left the Sentinel alone in exile. A Palace Guard bolstered Neeman's ground defence.

Juggernaut crashed in alongside the Silvercoat Lion. Palace Guard and a Squadron Hawk blocked the Juggernaut, but a Safe Passage kept the infernal machine alive and attacking for another turn. Neeman dropped to a perilously low life total. His board started to look a little empty. The end-game loomed.

Neeman found a seventh land and dropped a Vengeful Archon. This drew a frown from his opponent. "Your bomb is bigger than mine!" observed Rayner. "Yeah, I'd noticed", smiled Neeman. Juggernaut had a suicidal run into the giant Archon, who promptly smote it. Rayner's replayed Hoarding Dragon wasn't enough to stave off the Archon's attacks, and Rayner fell down in a few short, brutal turns. Jeremy Neeman continued to his next round, still undefeated.

Jeremy Neeman defeats Hugh Rayner 2 – 0

Saturday, 6:26 p.m. – Round 6: The Public Events

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

As with most big shows like this, the main event is not the only game in town. For those who didn't qualify in the Last Chance Qualifiers, or just felt like a more relaxed sling of the spells, there are plenty of entertaining Public Events available. For instance, today we had the Vanguard Sealed Deck tournament. Where you get a booster pack each of Nemesis, Invasion, Onslaught, Fifth Dawn and Saviors of Kamigawa, and get to play with a Vanguard Avatar of your choice. Or there's Metagame Sealed, where you get a pack from each Standard legal set to build your sealed deck from. There's also a Vintage tournament, for you to break out your old-school power cards, or perhaps the Ironman Sealed, where cards that end up in the graveyard are instead torn in half (or however many pieces you want to tear them into, it's up to you.)

Ben Mychael and Tim Amos from Gosford, NSW (also proud members of Team Pirate!) are definitely having a good time this weekend.

Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar there's a PTQ for Pro Tour: Amsterdam, ideal for those who didn't quite get there in the Grinders or day one of the main event, but think they have what it takes for the Big Time. There's the Highlander tournament, using the Australian 7-point deck construction rules, and also a Two-Headed Giant event. And finally, there's the Minimaster Sealed, where you get one booster pack each of Sixth Edition, Seventh Edition, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth Edition, M10 and M11, and each round you choose one of your boosters (that you haven't yet played with) add three of each basic land, shuffle up and play! In other words, we have something for everyone. Everyone who likes Magic, that is, but then again, that should be everyone!

Saturday, 6:51 p.m. – Draft Two: Alex McCormick

by Pip Hunn

Alex McCormick is a well-known identity in Australian magic. A recognised contributor to forums and discussions worldwide under the nickname Melbourne_Junkie, he was one of two undefeated players heading into the second draft.

McCormick's first pack didn't have a dazzling array of options, with the two best cards being Giant Spider and Pyroclasm. After some thought, McCormick took the Spider, passing the powerful red uncommon downstream. The second pack gave him a chance to reconsider: a second Pyroclasm stared out at McCormick, sitting next to a Quag Sickness. McCormick passed over the burn spell and a Garruk's Companion to take the Sickness. The next two picks gave McCormick more opportunity to spread his picks across multiple colors, with Ice Cages and other middle-pick commons being overlooked for a Barony Vampire and a Nether Horror. A fifth-pick Reassembling Skeleton rounded off the playables, with the pack rapidly drying up for him from there. Reviewing his cards, McCormick looked over a few solid black cards, but nothing spectacular.

McCormick opened his second pack and took a Doom Blade over a Yavimaya Wurm. He then had the choice of a Cultivate or another Wurm, and took the Cultivate. He followed that with a second Giant Spider, and then branched out to a Blinding Mage as black completely dried up. McCormick reluctantly took a Gargoyle Sentinel and a Stone Golem and waited for the color signals from his left to become clearer. Unfortunately, by the time they did, McCormick was left to scrounge Rotting Legions and a Nightwing Shade.

Alex "Melbourne_Junkie" McCormick drafts ahead of Jamie "reigning champ" MacKintosh, Garry "don't share a lift with me" Wong and Jeremy "top 8 PT San Juan oooh yeah!" Neeman.

Pack three started depressingly devoid of bombs, with a Sign in Blood being the best on offer. McCormick then had to choose between a second Quag Sickness and a Corrupt. Resigned, he took the flexible enchantment over the powerful sorcery. A second Blinding Mage made a white splash inevitable. McCormick slumped in his seat as the draft veered closer to completion with him low on playables. Luckily, the finishing boosters yielded an Assassinate, a Mind Rot and a late-pick Gravedigger to finish off the draft.

McCormick expressed hesitant confidence in his deck, and was satisfied with his early picks. He had drafted with the player on his right previously and knew they didn't like drafting green. That had pushed his decision to take the Giant Spider over the other first pick options he had. McCormick was surprised to get so few strong green and black cards in the second pack, and then to have green dry up in the third pack completely. He dismissed Pyroclasm, not liking it in M11 as much as previous sets. "It's less powerful in this format, and it's harder to make it asymmetrical." He also discounted Ice Cage. "The format has too many playable effects that will negate Ice Cage. Cards like Shiv's Embrace and Diminish severely drop its playability."

McCormick ended up building a different deck to the one he had planned. A mass of solid, mid-range black creatures supported a double splash of a pair of Giant Spiders and the Blinding Mages. He regretted not taking the Corrupt over the Quag Sickness, but hadn't anticipated building a mostly-black deck. His two-color splashes without significant fixing didn't faze him. "With this format, it's valid to splash any number of good cards as long as 80% of your deck is the one color." Was McCormick confident? "If you offered me a 2-1, right now, I'd take it."

Saturday, 6:58 p.m. – Draft One: 3-0 Draft Decks from the 6-0 Players

by Pip Hunn

Jeremy Neeman

Download Arena Decklist

Alex McCormick

Download Arena Decklist

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