TABLE OF CONTENTS
Saturday, November 5: 11:07 a.m. - Hanging AroundThe beautiful Melbourne sky
After Pro Tour-Los Angeles, I hung around in L.A. all day editing StarCityGames.com until around 5PM, when I met up with Brian David-Marshall and his business partner for a few beers while we waited for our respective flights. BDM was headed back to New York on the red eye, while I had a 10:25PM departure time to the land of Oz. Sadly, the flight had some mechanical problems and we were forced to sweat on the runway for two hours waiting for repairs. Many many hours later, I and my luggage had arrived safely in Melbourne.
Unfortunately for me, an e-mail inquiring as to where I was staying had apparently bounced and I didn't notice, and no one was at the airport to pick me up. No worries, I thought, I'll just call Dale Aitken or the travel agent that booked me to find out. An hour of failed calls and wrong numbers later, I finally asked the guy at the travel information desk what the hell I was doing wrong, and he informed me that I needed to preface my calls with a zero when dialing Sydney, in spite of the fact that none of the phone numbers I was given actually contained a zero anywhere in them. There could be less fun things to do when you have just gotten off an interminable flight than worrying about where you are staying when all you want to do is get a shower, some food, and a nap, but I'm not sure what they are. Anyway, long story short, I finally got ahold of Dale, walk half a mile after the surly female cabbie drops me off at the wrong place, and discover the Holiday Inn Melbourne is an excellent place to stay. The lesson of this story: Always know where you are staying before you actually get there. Oh, and I'm an idiot. But if you've been reading Grand Prix coverage for a while, you already knew that.
The other two days here in Melbourne have been spent shopping, taking some horrible poker beats at the local casino, and enjoying Melbourne cuisine, which is quite cosmopolitan and generally very good. In terms of feel, Melbourne is a lot like San Francisco or Seattle with more sun. It's billed locally as Australia's center of art and culture (though Sydney folk probably disagree). There's a wonderful mix of ethnicity here including a sizeable east Asian group, Indians, a large Greek contingent, and of course the usual group of incredibly cute, pale, freckled woman that I have grown to know and look forward to. The shopping here in Melbourne is also stupidly good, with relatively cheap goods for everyone including tons of clothing for the more fashionable among you. Actually, having seen the average PTQ goer, fashion probably interests almost none of you, so maybe we should just move along…
Unlike Brisbane last year, Melbourne isn't quite as warm at this time of year, and the Grand Prix is actually a week earlier, putting it smack dab in the center of finals period for all the students, which means you'll get no pictures of adorable Aussie lifeguards on the beach this time around and the attendance at the Grand Prix today is considerably smaller than last year. Regardless, the new Extended format is great, Australia is great, and I highly encourage anyone with the means to take advantage of the twelve-month visas they offer to visitors here. It might just be my favorite place on earth.
Saturday, November 5: 1:45 p.m. - Round 5: Hugh Glanville vs. Terry SohTerry Soh
With 140 players and literally two names that most of you would know, notable feature matches may be hard to come by this weekend. However, one of those names just happens to be Invitational winner Terry Soh, who came down to Australia on a lark and is staying with some friends this weekend on a brief vacation. Soh admits to suffering a bit from Invitational drought, as university has kept him so busy lately, he barely has time to play Magic, and his performance has suffered for it. Terry's opponent this round is Hugh Glanville, a 24-year-old government worker from Canberra, Australia. Hugh is running an aggressive Rock deck while Soh is piloting Masahiko Morita's No Stick deck from last weekend's Pro Tour.
Glanville cast an early Hypnotic Specter, but Soh had a Mana Leak for it. Terry cast Isochron Scepter imprinting Fire/Ice two turns later, taking down a Birds of Paradise, but leaving himself open for a Troll Ascetic. The Troll started to go to work on Soh's life total and Putrefy smashed the Scepter, seemingly putting Glanville well ahead in the game since Soh now needed to Wrath or die to get rid of the pesky Troll. Glanville overextended just a bit two turns later by casting Hypnotic Specter and Soh Wrathed the board clear, dissipating any danger. It was all Soh from that point on. A second Scepter with Fire/Ice earned him a ton of card advantage that Glanville simply could not overcome, and when a Fact or Fiction flipped over five business spells, Glanville scooped instead of prolonging his misery.
Soh 1 - Glanville 0
Game 2 was all about a double mulligan for Soh, allowing Glanville to cast a turn 2 Troll Asectic and then equip it with a Sword of Fire and Ice two turns later. Soh was at 9 before he knew what hit him, and Cabal Therapy plus flashback and a hint of mana screw finished the job, evening the match at one each.
Soh 1 - Glanville 1Hugh Glanville
Game 3 had a mulligan-free start for both players, making for a reasonably even game. Soh dealt with the first two Hypnotic Specters, but a Cabal Therapy let the third get through and stick for a turn, helping to decimate Soh's hand in spite of a Thirst for Knowledge. Soh drew into Wrath of God, wiping out the Specter beatings and then plucked Exalted Angel off the top, giving him a large clock and a ton of life gain to pull him out of the danger zone. A cycled Decree of Justice and then Fire/Ice on Isochron Scepter put Soh firmly in front and Glanville was once again forced to scoop, a victim of too much mana and not enough to do with it.
Soh 2 - Glanville 1
Saturday, November 5: 3:00 p.m. - Flight to FightKit Donnelly
Kit Donnelly is an 18-year-old Tasmanian Magic player who just happened to be the first recipient of free plane fare to the Pro Tour that she qualified for, an absolutely huge deal for Australian Magicians. The qualifier she won was a Kamigawa Block PTQ that took place at Australian Nats, where she smashed through the field playing White Weenie with maindeck Pithing Needles.
In Los Angeles, Kit ran the little red men, piloting the deck to a 2-4 record before she dropped. She says she hated the area around the Staples Center. However, she was able to hit Venice Beach afterwards and describes that as a great experience, marking her as yet another pale, freckled Australian who loves the beach. Thus far on the weekend, she's 3-1-1, again playing Goblins. She says that she wanted to play Star Wars Kid's Heartbeat Combo deck (it's suddenly very strange that people around the world know who Chris McDaniel is) but couldn't get the cards.
When asked how big an effect the new plane ticket prizes had on her ability to attend the Pro Tour, Kit described it as huge. It was roughly 1650$ that Kit didn't have to pay, and since she's recently unemployed, if she didn't have the flight money she wouldn't have been able to attend. As for right now, she says she's working on qualification to Honolulu. This weekend's Grand Prix will also mark the new qualification setup where the Top 16 players automatically receive slots to the next PT (Honolulu), whether they are already Q'd or not, though since this isn't a PTQ, the winners here will simply get the cash instead of the full airfare.
Saturday, November 5: 4:06 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown
|Archetype||# of Players|
|Boros Deck Wins||16|
|Mad Tog 20/20||5|
|Tooth and Nail||3|
|Red Deck Wins||3|
|U/W Trinket Control||2|
The metagame here in Australia is essentially the same as you'll probably see at your local PTQs, making it a good testing ground for some theories I had about how the PTQ metagame will differ from that of the Pro Tour. If things go as they have in years past (and there's little reason to think that they won't), PTQs will feature considerably more Rock, Goblins, and Red Deck/Boros Deck wins than might otherwise be warranted when you consider the performance of those decks in Los Angeles. For whatever reason, mainstream players love those decks and color combinations and will play them in numbers whenever the decks are viable. Does this theory hold true here in Oz? Here are the numbers so that you can judge for yourself.
Saturday, November 5: 6:21 p.m. - Round 7: James Zhang vs. Tim HeTim He
Tim He is seventeen and a former national champion of Australia, a hefty resume for one so young. Thus far on the day he has yet to lose a match with his Affinity deck, an archetype he has been playing online for some time now. His opponent James Zhang is He's teammate and is also considered one of the stronger players in the country. Zhang is nineteen and a university student from Sydney, who chose to run Ruel's Psychatog deck this weekend.
Game 1 began with He winning the die roll, and the board was quickly two Arcbound Workers and a Chromatic Sphere facing down a third-turn Psychatog. He was stuck on just a Seat of the Synod, clearly unhappy with the current status quo. Cycling through the Chromatic Sphere allowed him to cast Somber Hoverguard and draw Blinkmoth Nexus, which went directly into play. Arcbound Ravager from He on the next turn drew a Circular Logic, while the flying drone began to beat down in earnest, taking three point chunks out of Zhang's life. Cranial Plating hit another Logic, while Dr. Teeth remained stunted on defense, unable to attack through a wall of chumps. A pair of Nexuses also got in on the action, increasing the pressure on Psychatog and friends to find some answers or die.
With Zhang at three with seven cards left in hand, he was forced to Force Spike a Shrapnel Blast targeting his face, though it was probably irrelevant anyway, since He had just enough damage coming through unblocked on his next attack phase to kill him, regardless of the presence (or lack thereof) of Wonder in Zhang's graveyard.
He 1 - Zhang 0
Zhang kicked off game 2 with a blind Pithing Needle for Cranial Plating. He had a hot start, throwing down two artifact lands, a Worker, a 'Thopter, and a Frogmite by turn 2. Ice targeting Watery Grave also let him draw an extra card, further helping power his explosive engine. On the other side of the board, Zhang was quickly mana screwed, stopping at three lands and a Psychatog, while again absorbing through the air via Blinkmoth Nexus and Ornithopter. Mainphase Thirst for Knowledge gave Zhang a Swamp while shipping a second Tog and a Force Spike to the bin. The Swamp was critical, letting Zhang send the Nexus to its Ghastly Demise, and then giving him plenty of mana to cast Gifts Ungiven at the end of the next turn, getting Meloku, Fact or Fiction, Psychatog, and Wonder. He gave him (welcome to the world of weird language) Wonder and the Tog, but Zhang had another Meloku in hand to cast on the next turn, gumming up the board with awesomeness, while leaving himself open to a resolved Arcbound Ravager from He on the next turn.
Pithing Needle immediately shut down any stupid Ravager tricks and then Meloku and Dr. Teeth teamed up to do their thing a turn later, evening the match at one game a piece
He 1 - Zhang 1James Zhang
Game 3 went all wrong for Zhang. Frogmite and Ravager were both on the board before Zhang had more than a Polluted Delta in play, applying a ton of early pressure on the Tog deck. Smother on Zhang's own turn killed the Ravager, but not before he created a 4/4 Frog that gained a battle helmet for turn 3, battering Zhang for nine. Oof. Psychatog was just what the doctor ordered, giving Zhang a blocker that could trade with the Frogmite, while He was out of gas briefly, passing his turn after the attack with no action. Another Frogmite entered play a turn later, but Ghastly Demise made sure it never became a threat and a second Psychatog a turn later appeared to shift the momentum away from the bad robots. Myr Enforcer created a détente between the warring factions, but he quickly crumbled to a second Ghastly Demise, while Darkblast crushed his little Worker friend and Shrapnel Blast on the Tog was effectively countered by Boomerang. Extra turns kicked in after this and now it was a race to see whether or not Zhang could get enough graveyard food to do eighteen in two attacks. Mental Note and Cephalid Coliseum created graveyard fodder for the Tog, but he was well short of going lethal before the turns ended, giving both players their first non-wins of the day.
He 1 - Zhang 1 - Draw