by Mike RosenbergRound 15 Feature MatchMatt Mccullough, Ari Lax, and Alexander John vs.
Jiachen Tao, Eugene Hwang, and Andrew Brown
by Nate PriceSunday, 5:45 p.m.Here’s the Situation – Situation 3
by Nate PriceRound 13 Feature MatchNaylor/Siow/Gryn vs. Cheon/Scott-Vargas/Froehlich
by Mike RosenbergSunday, 5:30 p.m. - Quick Questions:What is your guild preference for this team draft format, if you have one?
by Mike RosenbergRound 12 Feature MatchBen Lundquist, Gerard Fabiano, and Antonino De Rosa vs.
Cedric Phillips, Tim Aten, and AJ Sacher
by Nate PriceSunday, 1:15 p.m.Here's the Situation - Situation 2
by Mike RosenbergSunday, 12:45 p.m.Tight Deadlines
by Nate PriceSunday, 12:30 p.m.Here’s the Situation – Situation 1
by Mike RosenbergSunday, 10:30 a.m.The Undefeated Team's Sealed Decklists
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. - The Undefeated Team's Sealed Decklists
The increased card pool not only adds additional decision points for players, but also leads to much more powerful Sealed decks thatn what you might be used to. Curious to see what the undefeated team, consisting of Jiachen Tao, Eugene Hwang, and Andrew Brown achieved their 10-0 Team Sealed record with? Check out their final decks below!
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – Here’s the Situation – Situation 1
Here's the situation: Your first two picks in a team Booster Draft are Maw of the Obzedat and Tithe Drinker. Other than a couple of reasonable Simic cards, you pass nothing that really piques your interest. In the third pack, you are dismayed to see no Orzhov cards of value. Instead, you are faced between the choice of a Woodlot Crawler or a Boros Guildgate as the most likely picks.
Which card do you take?
If you're Zac Hill, the answer is Boros Guildgate.
"This is a fairly difficult situation where you're balancing a couple of competing points. First, you have the option of a card that allows you to switch into Dimir, but will require you to make a mana commitment. Being a two-drop that you really want to hit the table early, you'd want to make sure you are reasonably heavy in black to ensure the ability to cast it regularly. You also have to take into account that passing a Dimir card when you might still be wanting to go Orzhov could prove problematic. On the other hand, the Boros Guildgate allows you to keep your mana flexible, obviously very important.
That being said, my pick here is Boros Guildgate. The ability to keep your mana flexible and your options open in a format like three-on-three drafting is insanely important. Decks in six-man drafts tend to be a little weaker than in eight-mans, and to make up for this, you often find yourself dipping into other colors to shore up your power level. In situations like this, you really need to make sure you are able to support your powerful cards. Having the Guildgate doesn't actively hurt you, and it opens up a whole new world of options. You have the ability to turn on Gatekeepers. You're black, so you have the ability to potentially attack with any Ogre Jailbreakers you pick up, which you'd play even with only a single Gate. I mean, the guy's a 4/4 house.
Also, as more people in the draft begin to dip into a third color, it becomes more correct for you to do so as well. Since they are potentially taking cards that would have otherwise made your deck, you have to take cards from other guilds to shore up your losses. Having the Guildgate supports your potential splash or switch, and it also makes other decks both less able to potentially cast their cards, as well as making it less likely that they will opt to splash into the guild you are eyeing."
Sunday, 12:45 p.m. – Tight Deadlines
Tropical Storm Andrea, an unexpected wrench in many travelers plans, formed earlier this week. The result was a number of heavily disrupted flights. For Grand Prix Providence, this was particularly dire for some teams, as the delays caused some players to try and find a very late third teammate.
While Ben Stark barely made it in time despite a series of delays, cancellations, and near misses, other teams weren't as lucky.
One of those teams was the Grand Prix San Jose champions. Paul Rietzl and David Williams were left scrambling for a third teammate when the third member of the San Jose winning team, Matt Sperling, was unable to get out of California due to a series of flight delays on Friday.
Williams, when the news came through, immediately moved to social media, looking for a third person for their team. When he had no luck, he was ready to book a flight back home, reserved in not being able to compete this weekend.
However, Rietzl had a plan. He asked around with the following question:
"Does anyone have Tom Guevin's number?"
David Williams, Paul Rietzl, and "Tight Tommy" Guevin
Many players today might not be familiar with "Tight Tommy" Guevin, a player who garnered his nickname for being known as a "tight" player. "Tight", in this context, meant someone who was very, very good at playing in accordance to every rule. You never miss a trigger, you never let a passing of priority go unconsidered, and you never play sloppy.
What many players might not know, except for those who have had Magic as a part of their lives for a long time, is that Guevin finished second place at the second Pro Tour to ever take place, at Pro Tour Los Angeles in 1996.
In short, Guevin is something of a legend among Magic's seasoned veterans.
Rietzl turned to Facebook and Twitter with his request. In short order, Patrick Chapin got in contact with Rietzl, who was able to finally contact Guevin at 11:30am...an hour before Williams and Rietzl's team were set to build. Guevin was two states away, but states doesn't necessarily mean a far distance in the northeast, as Guevin told Rietzl, "I'll be there in half an hour."
After hopping across two states, Guevin was in town, arriving halfway through the build process that Williams and Rietzl were allotted, and he immediately got to jump in and help out. It wasn't easy, as he had to catch up on decisions Williams and Rietzl had already discussed, but three heads is certainly better than two.
"We really built these decks well for game one," Guevin said, referring to both his and Rietzl's Team Sealed decks. And they were certainly good enough to get the team into Day Two, making it past the cut-off in Round 9 with a 7-2 record.
But admittedly, Guevin's legend as "Tight Tommy" has faded a bit in the past few years, the result of playing the game more casually. "I'm not as tight as you might think," Guevin noted. But that hasn't been holding the team back yet.
Sunday, 1:15 p.m. – Here's the Situation - Situation 2
Here's the situation: You're in a three-on-three draft, and you've opened a pair of excellent Simic cards, Give & Take and Krasis Incubation, but you've also opened Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts. After a shrug and a shuffle, you add the rare to your pile. The next pack has a Tithe Drinker in it, causing you to internally pump the fist, and you also take note of a Battering Krasis in the pack. After a couple more mediocre packs, with nothing save a speculative Pilfered Plans picked or passed to write home about, you receive your fifth pack and find yourself surprised. You find a Beetleform Mage staring back at you, something you did not expect. You also have a Runner's Bane and Rakdos Drake to consider, though you aren't particularly pleased at the prospect of taking either of those?
Do you take the Beetleform Mage or ship it along?
If you're Martin Juza, you pass it, and then you sigh as you shuffle the other two cards around.
"I don't think you can take the Beetleform there. You have already shipped along a couple of good Simic cards, and you don't want to take the chance that you might get screwed in the next pack. You aren't sure that you've put them into Simic, but even if you didn't, there's still a good chance that your teammate to their left is. If you ship the Mage and your opponent isn't the Simic drafter, they have the same decision you do. If they are smart and pass the card, your teammate gets a good card. If they're dumb and take it, they might be fooled into trying to draft Simic when your teammate is the one feeding them. That's perfect for your situation.
We had a similar situation show up in our draft, where Shuhei was trying to decide on a pick between Kingpin's Pet and Smite in the middle of pack two. He got passed an early Tithe Drinker in Dragon's Maze and realized that the person to his right wasn't Orzhov. He took the Smite and shipped the Kingpin's Pet along. The player to his right didn't take it and it ended up in my deck. You have to keep track of the table to decide what the best pick is in a situation. Can you slip something through, or do you need to take it yourself? Shuhei figured from the lack of white cards in the first pack that the player passing to him was likely white, but not Orzhov. He took the white card, passed the Orzhov card, and it made it through. He read it perfectly."
Round 12 Feature Match Ben Lundquist, Gerard Fabiano, and Antonino De Rosa vs. Cedric Phillips, Tim Aten, and AJ Sacher
Despite winning the previous round, the formerly 9-3 team of Ben Lundquist, Gerard Fabiano, and Antonino De Rosa could not claim victory against their opponents of Cedric Phillips, Tim Aten, and AJ Sacher. The two teams moved to 10-4 records, effectively knocking them out of contention.
De Rosa and Sacher's Match
Despite it ultimately not mattering when his teammates both succumbed in two quick games, De Rosa's Izzet deck quickly took down Sacher's Selesnya deck in two games, with the first one being won by none other than Ætherling.
Despite the win, Sahcer did make De Rosa sweat when he tapped out for the powerful blue creature, as De Rosa kept saying "Please don't kill it, please don't kill it, please don't kill it!" threw Sacher's turn. Sacher slowly tapped five lands and pointed an Angelic Edict a- oh wait, I'm just kidding. Sacher just cast a Steeple Roc and quickly died to the Æthering in short order.
Antonino De Rosa, Ben Lundquist, and Gerard Fabiano
The second game also went rocky for Sacher, who played out his game despite his team winning the match. While he had Debtor's Pulpit in his hand, one of the format's few answers to Æthering, he did not have lands in which to cast the enchantment. Ætherling was an unnecessary weapon De Rosa had in his deck, and his other creatures quickly did the job.
Fabiano and Aten's Match
The first match to end, however, was Fabiano and Aten's, which ended very poorly for Fabiano when he two-land Cluestone keep on the draw left him missing a land drop on the third turn. Despite finding the land on the fourth turn, the damage was done, and Aten's army of two and three mana threats did the trick.
AJ Sacher, Cedric Phillips, and Tim Aten
In the first game, mana was less of an issue, but Aten's 2 power creatures all had fairly important effects, and Ground Assault left Fabiano without a Basilica Guards to block them. Sewer Shambler was unblockable, Lotleth Troll could stick around for a while, but the real killer was Skaarg Guildmage, which dramatically upped Aten's clock when his lands could start to attack.
Lundquist and Phillips's Match
The match between Lundquist and Phillips also ended quickly, with Phillips coming out on top. Phillips had a Naya deck with a number of beaters, token-makers, and an Emmara Tandris.
Which, conveniently, hit play on the fifth turn of the second game thanks to a Boros Cluestone and Axebane Guardian. Lundquist's Grixis deck has some tricks, but not many creatures hit play for him in either game. Pyroconvergence also looked rather awkward when staring down Emmara's effect protecting the 2/2 knight tokens and Phillips followed it up with, courtesy of Selesnya Charm and Knightly Valor.
Despite De Rosa's Æthering-powered deck, his team was not able to repeat their win in the previous round, as all three matches wrapped up with a little more than twenty minutes remaining on the clock for the round.
Quick Questions: What is your guild preference for this team draft format, if you have one?
Sam Pardee: Boros.
Matthew Nass: Simic. I like to focus on a Gatecrash guild while having a backup guild from Return to Ravnica.
Ben Stark & Shuhei Nakamura: Agrees with Martin Juza.
Eric Froehlich: Whatever guild the player to my left is. Team drafts are more about making sure your deck is better than your opponent's anyway.
Paul Cheon: Whatever EFro says! For this draft format overall though, I have a preference for green-based guilds and Orzhov.
Round 13 Feature Match Naylor/Siow/Gryn v Cheon/Scott-Vargas/Froehlich
We might have to start calling Eric Froehlich "the Exterminator," after he was able to defeat the scourge of Return to Ravnica, a second-turn Pack Rat on the way to securing a win for his team.
This match between the second-place finishers of Grand Prix San Jose (Jason Naylor, Lucas Siow, and Maksym Gryn) and the of team Channelfireball's biggest names (Paul Cheon, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Eric Froehlich) put the winner in contention for a high finish, with an outside chance at the Top 8. The loser would likely be relegated to the dregs of the standings. Froehlich's teammate Scott-Vargas was the first to finish in this match, taking the final game of his match against Siow on the back of a Holy Mantle. Cheon thought he had won his match when he ripped a Flesh // Blood from the top of his deck, but after a closer examination of his mana, it turned out that he didn't have the double green mana, making Naylor's Skarrg Goliath more than lethal.
It was all up to Froehlich.
"I probably should have figured out faster why I was sitting alone," Froehlich said, arriving last to the table, a portent of things to come. Both of Froehlich's matches that have been covered this weekend have seen him as the last player to finish. Nevertheless, they are also easily the most memorable of his teams' games.
Eric Froehlich, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Paul Cheon
The first game was an incredibly intense affair. Froehlich's Boros splash blue deck had blown out of the gates, putting a lot of early pressure on Maksym Gryn's Dimir deck. Gryn managed to eke close enough for the game to become a race. Using an unblockable Deathcult Rogue, Gryn was able to generate a constant stream of blockers thanks to a Call of the Nightwing. When he added a Stolen Identity to the mix as well, he was generating two creatures a turn for free. He slowly whittled away at Froehlich's life total while Froehlich's ability to attack slowly dried up. Fortunately, Call gave Froehlich enough creatures to push through the damage needed for Ral Zarek to finish Gryn off.
"I just looked over and saw a bunch of cipher shenanigans, and I had no idea what was going on," Cheon said as he glanced over at the table, having just finished his own match.
"Yeah, his deck is pretty good," Froehlich admitted.
Game 2 saw Froehlich open with an even more aggressive start than the first game. Truefire Paladin, Viahino Firstblade, Skyknight Legionnaire, Sunhome Guildmage, and a Daring Skyjek made for a ridiculously impressive army. Gryn was able to trade off a few creatures and use Fatal Fumes to survive, but he was in serious danger. A Daggerdrome Imp with a ciphered Call of the Nightwing allowed him to begin to mitigate the damage Froehlich was able to put out, at least until he could land his Ætherling. When Gryn decided to send it sideways next turn, Froehlich deferred.
Jason Naylor, Lucas Siow, and Maksym Gryn
"I'm going to let you figure this one out," he told Scott-Vargas, perched just to his left. After consideration, the Shapeshifter hit him down to 9.
Froehlich had Gryn down to three meager life, but he wasn't able to attack through the Horror tokens or the Ætherling. It was exactly enough to keep him from being lethal, and Froehlich was not happy with his draw.
"I could have used absolutely any land in my deck or any non-creature spell left in it for this attack to be lethal," he sighed to his teammates, picking up his cards in the face of a lethal attack.
With two tight races behind them, Froehlich and Gryn entered the closest one yet. Froehlich was on the play, opening with a draw very similar to the one from Game 2. Gryn, on the other side, had that turn-two Pack Rat. Near unbeatable, Pack Rat has a tendency to completely dominate games once it hits play. Fortunately for Froehlich, he held the advantage. Viashino Firstblade dropped Gryn to 14 very early in the game, and a constant stream of creatures after that made life difficult for Gryn.
Rather than make another Rat token on his turn, Gryn chose to spend his three mana to make a Hover Barrier, literally putting a Wall between Froehlich and his life. But this left Gryn only one creature capable of blocking the next combat, and he fell to 12. To finish his turn up, Froehlich played a Cluestone and a Sunhome Guildmage, setting himself up for a backbreaking Goblin Rally on the following turn.
Before he could assemble Voltron, however, Froehlich found his Guildmage snatched away with Soul Ransom. This once again tapped him out, leaving his Pack Rat a mere 1/1. With only one card in hand, Froehlich was unable to regain control of his creature, so he simply drew, played Goblin Rally, and passed the turn.
Gryn saw the potential for lethal damage on the table and didn't like it. He passed the turn to Froehlich, letting him draw his card and discard to take back his Guildmage. Before the Soul Ransom ability resolved, however, Gryn made sure to fire a Fatal Fumes at the Guildmage, killing it before Froehlich had a chance to pump his army. As such, Froehlich was able to send his whole team, pumping the Paladin to kill the Hover Barrier, dropping to 6.
Gryn finally reached six mana and found himself able to make two Rats, giving him a trio of 3/3s. When Froehlich attacked, the Rats killed two of the tokens and forced the Paladin to use all of Froehlich's mana to kill off one Rat and stay alive. Gryn dropped to 2.
Now facing down two 1/1 Goblins, a Viashino Firstblade, and a Truefire Paladin with only a pair of 2/2 Pack Rats, Gryn went into the tank. He could simply make two 4/4s, but that would leave him open to cards like Weapon Surge. His other play was to play a Call of the Nightwing and attack with the ciphered Pack Rat. If Froehlich blocked, he could make another token and kill the Paladin. This would leave him with a 1/1 flier and two 3/3 Rats, alive to the Surge, but with a cleared board. If Froehlich didn't block, he would end with two 1/1 fliers and two 3/3 Rats, alive to the Surge, but with a Rat alive.
After consulting with teammates and coming to an inconclusive decision, Gryn chose to just make two Rats and block Froehlich's attack. Froehlich had the Weapon Surge, and the Rats fell. A pumped Truefire Paladin dealt five to the first, the Firstblade dealt three to the next, and the two remaining Goblin tokens did the rest. Utterly destroyed, Gryn conceded the match. Froehlich had managed to out-race a turn-two Pack Rat, and he and his teammates were ecstatic.
In their Game 3, Cheon had a Splatter Thug with Madcap Skills and a Maze Behemoth in his graveyard. When he drew Flesh // Blood on the final turn, he laughed, high-fived Scott-Vargas, and dropped the card into play, pointing to the lethal combination of cards. Naylor and his team were shocked at the turnaround until Siow pointed out that they didn't have double-green, which caused Cheon to do a double take, after which he apologized profusely.
"How do you draw the perfect topdeck and can't cast it?" Scott-Vargas mocked.
Sunday, 5:45 p.m. – Here’s the Situation – Situation 3
Here's the situation. You open your three-on-three draft with a Ral Zarek, Fluxcharger, and Wind Drake before you begin to notice white cards coming around the table. It begins with Beck & Call, which you gladly take out of the pack over a Nivix Cyclops. After that, you manage to snag a Guildgate to shore up your mana a bit before snagging a Viashino Firstblade that lapped from your opening pack.
Something is up. You correctly read the situation, deciding that you are clearly meant to be Boros. Gatecrash brings you a slew of cards, from Boros Elite and Daring Skyjek to Sunhome Guildmage and Truefire Paladin. You even managed to grab a Skyknight Legionnaire seventh pick (you took the Guildmage over it)!
Things are looking great. You've got most of a Boros deck, but you are still going to have to play a couple of blue cards to make it a full deck. You don't have any blue Guildgates, but you have Izzet and Azorius Cluestones, and Return to Ravnica has both Izzet and Azorius Guildgates to pick up. You think you're fine until you crack that final pack. You thumb through the pack, looking for Annihilating Fire, Arrest, Splatter Thug...literally any of a bevy of cards to help your burgeoning Boros deck. What you see is a Trostani's Judgment and an Isperia's Skywatch. Well, that and an Isperia, Supreme Judge.
What do you do?
Nate Price and Marshall Sutcliffe
"There's no way you can take that Isperia. It's not that great a card in the first place. Sure, it's a big flier, which is always reasonable, but it's really hard to cast. It's just an average card. In this deck, it sounds like you might never actually get to cast it. You've only got a few ways to splash for it with those Cluestones, and I don't think you can support it if you've got all of those Boros cards that require you to hit red and white mana early.
If it were me, I'm pretty sure I'd take the Trostani's Judgment and be fine with it. The card is an adequate removal spell that can kill virtually anything in the format. It's a bit expensive, which isn't really that great for Boros. It'll be a dead card in your hand from time to time, but that's more because it costs six than anything else. Isperia costs six, too, so you can't count it out because of the cost. Being able to actually force something through at the end of the game is a reasonably good thing to ask of a card near the end of games, and that's just what Trostani's Judgment does for you. Ignore Isperia."
Round 15 Feature Match Matt Mccullough, Ari Lax, and Alexander John vs. Jiachen Tao, Eugene Hwang, and Andrew Brown
The penultimate round featured Ari Lax and his teammates against the players who were undefeated going into today: Jiachen Tao, Eugene Hwang, and Andrew Brown. Mccullough, Lax, and John came out on top in this match with the deciding game coming from John's match against Brown in their third and final game.
But before that, tales of cruel games and races gone wrong took place.
Lax and Tao's Match
The first game ended fairly quickly for Tao's Azorius base deck when his Jelenn Sphinx fell prey to an awkward attack into Lax's 2/4 Crocanura. Lax had the unexpected and often sideboard-bound Furious Resistance, forcing Tao to try and save his creature with the white side of Profit & Loss. Lax had an Electrickery after first strike damage, and the sphinx went down. From there, Lax overwhelmed Tao's board with Jund beatdown, eventually pushing with a Maze Abomination and 4/6 Crocanura to get the concession.
The second game is best summarized by Lax's quote near the end of his match: "I don't know how I played this game, but it wasn't very well. I just had everything this game!"
What did he mean by that? Well, to start, the Master of Cruelties that Lax got out on turn four only drops opponents to 1 if he goes unblocked, but that didn't stop Lax from bloodrushing Ghor-Clan Rampager, earning an awkward reaction when he found out that didn't work how he thought it would. Still, he got in for 4, and the Master of Cruelties was certainly cruel, picking away at well more than three creatures in that game.
Jiachen Tao, Andrew Brown, and Eugene Hwang
Despite finding a Paralyzing Grasp to stop the Master, it had gone on for too many turns at picking away at blockers. Once Lax started attacking for 7 with his other creatures, Tao quickly scooped it up.
Mccullough and Hwang's Match
The first two games in Mccullough's and Hwang's match went by in a flash, with each player running over one another in the first and second games, Hwang sporting an aggressive Golgari base deck and Mccullough piloting an aggressive deck steeped in Gruul cards.
In the third game, Mccullough had some two mana plays, but no land past the second for more than a few turns. However, his Kraul Warrior received a Forced Adaptation, and was growing to the point where Hwang's two Disciple of the Old Ways and Gutter Skulk wouldn't be able to efficiently trade with it. However, Slum Reaper gave him a chance to race. Mccullough fought back with Pit Fight on one of Hwang's creatures, and the Give side of Give & Take grew the already large Kraul Warrior into a 9/9. Mccullough was determined to race, playing a post-combat Bellow's Lizard to chump block in a tight game.
However, Rites of Reaping not only took out the chump-blocker, but also gave Hwang enough damage to end the game that turn. It all came down to the final match.
John and Brown's Match
John made quick work of Brown in the first game when his Nivix Cyclops, supporting by his four color Dimir deck, went the distance. Despite losing an Assault Griffin to an Ubul Sar Gatekeepers from Brown, who was piloting Junk colors, back-to-back-to-back removal spells on consecutive turns kept Brown's back against the wall as the Cyclops kept waking up for attacks until Brown packed it up for the second game. John, despite having a lot of colors, had a deck with a very high power level, with his strategies steeped in having over 200 hours of experience drafting Return to Ravnica Block which he confirmed after the match.
Alexander John, Ari Lax, and Matt Mccullough
The second game, however, did not go well for John, as Brown had his deck's Collective Blessing. Well, eventually. Despite some pretty harsh mana flood, Brown was able to keep himself alive until his Selesnya enchantment let his creatures go the distance. The game was close, but the powerful enchantment and Brown's creatures, which he finally started seeing out of his deck, cleaned things up.
The third game was the deciding one of the whole match, as both teams were 1-1 in Round 15. Mana was not a factor for John, who had the guildgate needed to cast all of his spells, and the curve of Cloudfin Raptor into Kingpin's Pet into Assault Griffin. Brown fought back at first with Avenging Arrow on the Kingpin's Pet and Killing Glare on the Raptor while John was tapped out, but he was also starving for lands.
Meanwhile, John continued to curve with Spawn of Rix Maadi. As Brown struggled to get beyond three mana, Nivix Cyclops joined the team, and when Pilfered Plans turned it from a defender into an attacker, John locked up the match for his team.