Daily MTG : Magic: The Gathering

Posted in Event Coverage on July 29, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

Stuck behind a computer screen while the everyone else is at Magic Weekend?

Fear not! Our illustrious team of snoops, sleuths, sharks and shakers are out to bring you the latest buzz from the premier Pro Tour event of the 2006 season. As always we're inviting you to be part of the action. Are you rooting for a particular pro player and itching for an interview? Are you nursing an awesome story idea just waiting to get covered? Discuss 2006 U.S. Nationals on our message boards and post your suggestions, comments, and ideas and we'll do our best to get you the insider scoop!

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Thursday night during the grinders, Chris Suarez approached me. "Has anyone ever made the Top 8 of U.S. Nationals from Puerto Rico?" he asked. I thought about it for a short time and could not come up with anyone.

Chris Suarez, left, and Josue Arroyo hope to put Puerto Rico on the Magic map.

"That's okay," he smiled. "I have two friends you should keep an eye on tomorrow. They are going to do big things."

He was referring to Josue Arroyo and Juan Luis Fernandez, who had both qualified for this event via Puerto Rican Regionals. Chris was trying to grind himself into Nats to join them. He had made the Top 8 of his regionals but was eliminated by Fernandez. Chris only got as far as the Top 16 of the one grinder he was able to play in. He was sanguine about it though - literally just happy to be here.

He could not believe his eyes as he scanned the pairings page to see where and whom his friends were playing. Josue, playing in the first round of his first premier event, was sitting at table one…across from reigning National Champion Antonino De Rosa.

When I wandered over, with coverage photographer extraordinaire Craig Gibson in tow, the two players were in Game 3. Arroyo was playing the blue-white-black Solar Flare (or Japanamator) while De Rosa was with another Japanese creation, GhaziGlare. Arroyo sealed the game, and the match, by Zombifying his Yosei. "That's my textless Zombify," beamed Suarez.

After the match slip was signed, and Arroyo's first win was on the books, he came over and showed off the deck that Suarez had helped him trick out with the slickest version of every card they could manage. "He pimped my deck," laughed Arroyo.

Arroyo was pumped to get his first premiere event win, especially against such a formidable opponent, but he did not let his emotions show on his face during the match - not matter how hard it was to control.

"I don't get scared but it definitely pumped me up. And when I won the first game? Wow! First big event? First match? And I beat the Champ? Good for me!"

Friday, July 28: 11:02 am - Grinder Tales: Nathan Zamora

by Brian David-Marshall

Nathan Zamora has gotten his fair share of press over the last couple of premier events starting back in Honolulu when he was doing well with his counter-heavy Magnivore deck. He was not qualified for Nationals but attended because his employer, a dealer at the shows, was going to be set up here.

Zamora shows off some French tech.

Why not grind?

Nathan tried the first two constructed Grinders with a pet deck of his before "deciding to play something that actually won something."

"I called my friend back home," said Nathan. "I said, 'Remember the French Nationals deck we were making fun of the other day…?'

"Give me the list."

Nathan made some minor adjustments to Sylvain Lauriol's decklist and after facing down his favorite archetype (Vore) in the first round, he emerged from the last grinder with six wins against six different archetypes. "The next deck I played was black-white Ghost Dad-ish. It seemed like a mix of all the black-white decks."

Next up was another White Weenie deck, then Zoo, and in the penultimate round he faced Solar Flare. "That was a hard matchup but if I can get Sky Hussar going it is pretty good," he explained.

In the final round he squared off with Cedric Phillips. "He was the only guy in the Top 8 I did not want to face," sighed Cedric as he watched a Feature Match on Friday from the spectator's gallery. "I don't know what changes he made to that decklist but it seemed like a great deck."

Friday, July 28: 12:55 pm - RTFC

by Brian David-Marshall

Most people think the headline on this entry means something entirely different than what it meant in Ervin Tormos's first match of the day. Ervin is what those of us in the coverage game like to refer to as a character. He is always hopping around, trying to glom onto anyone's computer to play Magic Online, and leaving a trail of chaos in his wake.

A foreign deck nearly bamboozled Ervin.

He got up a little late for the event this morning and dashed to the site. He just made it in time but when he sat down for his first round of Standard he had had no idea what he was playing - not a clue. A friend handed the deck and completed decklist off to him just before he planted himself in his seat and the list was collected. He barely had time to flip through his cards to learn he was playing blue-red Tron before it was off to round one.

He was in the middle of game, which he could easily win with Demonfire if he drew Urza's Mine, when he drew exactly the card he needed - or was it?

"Judge!" he called summoning one of the striped tournament officiators and showed him the freshly drawn cardboard. "What does this card do?"

"I don't understand your question," replied the puzzled judge.

"I just drew this card and I don't know what it is," explained Tormos, showing off his Japanese Chronicles Urza's Mine/Tower. He could not read the foreign card.

The judge explained that it was a Mine despite the fact that the art depicts a tall, narrow structure. Ervin leapt up and pumped the fist before completing his Tron and X-ing his opponent out of the game. It was the most time-delayed topdeck celebration I have seen in more than a decade of being involved with the game.

Friday, July 28: 1:40 pm - How To Keep A Busy - Take Two

by Brian David-Marshall

Alan Comer, smiling to the beat of a different Thrummer.

Alan Comer was somewhat chagrined by the list that was ultimately posted in my column today. He had been working on the deck throughout the day and was trying to locate Counterbalances to squeeze into the deck but had only secured one at the point I typed up the list - and had not actually taken anything out for it.

Since Thursday he has honed the list somewhat by cutting red out of the deck entirely and turning to a cycle of Reminisce and Dampen Thought as his kill mechanism. He also added Repeal, a card that has been key to him holding onto far more packs than he did Thursday (when you beat the gunslinger you win a booster).

"The Repeal has been great because it gives me a way to deal with Pithing Needle and Burning Tree Shaman. Both of those cards shut me down," the Hall of Famer said.

Alan was actually able to Repeal a Pithing Needle in one match that was set to Top. His Top was in play and locked down by the Needle. He also had Counterbalance in play. His unsuspecting opponent walked right into that trap. He replayed the Needle and Alan merely flipped his Top to draw a new card and revealed the Top with Counterbalance to counter the Needle. Alan slew many a one-drop that way Friday until people queued up for a shot at the gunslinger caught on to the on-table trick.

While there is little Alan likes more than playing Magic, he was excited that his gunslinging session was over this afternoon. He could not wait to get to a computer and see what suggestions my weekly readers had offered in the forums of my column.

How to Keep a Thrumming Stone Busy V2 - Alan Comer

Download Arena Decklist

Friday, July 28: 2:15 pm - The Meat from the Grinders

by Brian David-Marshall

There were five single-elimination tournaments held on Thursday that have come to be known as Meat Grinders, or grinders for short. Here are the lucky four survivors from each event. (And no, Rodemann did not win the grinder with his three first-pick quality cards. He actually lost in Round One. Such are the perils of single elim.)

When it was all tallied there were 10 different archetypes winning 16 seats for Round One on Friday. The Australian Nationals winning deck Solar Flare (blue-white-black control with Zombify) and Snakes (you know…with Snakes) were the big winners taking down three berths apiece. Ghazi Glare made a late push with two TOGIT-area guys winning with the old standby from Worlds last season. A Zamora-modified version of the winning deck from French Nats also pushed two players through to Friday.

Grinder 1 - Standard

Name Hometown Archetype
Justin Meyer St. Cloud, MN Izzetron
Brendan O’Donnell Deerfield, NH Heartbeat
David Sharfman Maitland, FL Hand in Hand
Lance Shrader Cary, NC Sea Stompy

Grinder 2 - Limited

Name Hometown Archetype
Chris Connelly N. Richland Hills, TX n/a
Sean Inoue Santa Fe, NM n/a
Forrest Mead Orlando, FL n/a
Sean Vandover Damascus, MD n/a

Grinder 3 - Standard

Name Hometown Archetype
Jack Cain Clarksville, TN GWU Control
Shawn Gorzkowski Elkton, MD Snakes
Julian Levin IV New York, NY Solar Flare
Shane Mason Santa Clara, CA Solar Flare

Grinder 4 - Standard

Name Hometown Archetype
James Buckingham Fredericksburg, MD Zoo
Dan Emmons Woodbury, CT Snakes
Jacob Gosche Palm Harbor, FL French Weenie
Jefferey Watts Forrestville, NY Solar Flare

Grinder 5 - Standard

Name Hometown Archetype
Chad Kastel Margate, NJ Ghazi Glare
John Mayes Hixon, TN Snakes
Phil Napoli Staten Island, NY Ghazi Glare
Nathan Zamora League City, TX French Weenie

Friday, July 28: 4:22 pm - Grinder Profile: Sean Inoue - Moving on Up

by Brian David-Marshall

Sean Inoue last appeared in the Tournament Center when he advanced as far as the quarterfinals of the 2005 Junior Super Series. He was also the highest finishing 14-year-old in the tournament, which would lead you to think he was going to come back bigger and badder this time out.

Sean Inoue has put the JSS in his past.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the JSS. The New Mexico-based player picked up his first career Pro Point when he and two buddies qualified for Pro Tour-Charleston. If he was going to play in a premier event during Magic Weekend, he was going to have to do it on the Senior Circuit.

"I actually ground in through the Sealed," said Inoue. "I had the most amazing pool you have ever seen. I had Invoke the Firemind and Savage Twister in my sideboard - that is how ridiculous my pool was. It was every single good card in the four colors I was in. My goal was to grind in but I didn't expect to do it through the Sealed. The Constructed format is so hard though. I went 0-1 in my first Constructed grinder and thought, 'hey, why not try sealed?'"

"I have been playing a lot and trying to get into more big events," he went on to explain when asked why he lost his JSS eligibility. Even though he and his teammates did not have a breakout performance he had no regrets. "I qualified for Charleston with my teammates Roberto and Corey. We went 1-4 but it was still a pretty fun experience. I got to sit next to Osyp at the registration table and that was a lot of fun."

As of this writing, Sean was 3-2 but felt his draft deck was good enough to carry him through the end of day one with a 5-2 record. It would go along way to helping him become like any of the game's stars featured on the thick stack of player cards that Sean keeps on hand to use as tokens, counters, and reminders.

"I think that if I really work hard at it then I can accomplish my goal of becoming a Pro. That is what I would really like to do."

The young player is not currently qualified for Kobe and explained: "There haven't been any Kobe qualifiers in my area yet. I was planning on playing in one this weekend but Nationals kind of overrides that."

Friday, July 28: 5:55 pm - Almost Famous

by Brian David-Marshall

Antonino De Rosa was having a hard time getting around the convention hall this weekend. It's not an injury or anything…it's just plain ol' celebrity. Antonino has always been a popular player on the Pro Tour but with his championship win last year has pushed his Q rating to new heights. Before Round 7 he was almost late for his feature match as he was stopped three separate times by parents who wanted their JSS children to take a picture with the lovable De Rosa.

Ant tries to talk a good game pretending that he does not like all the attention but he admitted to me before slipping past the ropes around the feature match area: "I love it!"

Of course, the one time no one stopped him to take a picture was when I had a professional photographer trailing him for the photo within a photo op. Instead we snapped this pic of Ant sizing up this year's U.S. Championship trophy.

Mine's bigger!

Friday, July 28: 6:46 pm - Where in the World is Billy Moreno?

by Brian David-Marshall

The answer to that question would be, "in the feature match area running his Day One record to 6-1."

What is a Kyle Sanchez to do? Kyle teamed with Billy at this year's Texas Two-Headed Giant Champs. When more than 50 teams queued up for the 2HG tournament on Friday and Billy looking like the odds on favorite to Top 8, Kyle was left without his more hirsute head. Kyle has done pretty well solo these days. He finished in the semis of Grand Prix Toronto and just missed the cut to the Top 8 in St. Louis. But this is 2HG and it was going to require another head.

Sanchez, left, fit well with his new head, J. Evan.

With Billy unavailable Kyle found the next best thing, Billy Moreno Fan Club president, J. Evan Dean. Evan is on a nomadic Magic journey that took him from St. Louis to Atlanta and will lead him back to Canada for his country's Nationals next week.

After five rounds the duo was 4-1 and in good position to make the cut to Top 4, which according the current rumor is going to feature the experimental new 2HG draft rules. Basically all four teams sit down around a table with teammates seated next to each other. Each team has six boosters and they are opened and passed in alternating order. Instead of taking one card each team takes two cards before passing. The cards are accumulated in one pile, which the team uses to construct two decks after the draft. I actually had a chance to playtest the format some in Charleston and I have to say it was extremely interesting.

Prizes in the event extend down as far as the Top 8, with the winning team receiving a pair of digital cameras. With all four of his team's eyes firmly on the prize, Kyle was unsure how to react to the potential new format, "It is probably the same basic strategy as a normal draft but right now it is blowing my mind."

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