Day 1 Blog Archive

Posted in Event Coverage on November 12, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast



Saturday, Nov 11: 12:50 p.m. - Sealed Deckbuilding with Mark Herberholz and Tomoharu Saito

by Noah Weil
Tomoharu Saito

Tomoharu Saito and Mark Herberholz are two pros who have consistently proven their talent with Time Spiral limited, most recently at Pro Tour Kobe. For the Grand Prix, these two find themselves with three byes, and deep in the running for player of the year. With Herberholz coming in at 40 Pro Tour points and Saito at 45, a big score here would go very far for taking the title.

Tomoharu and Mark both started their construction in the same way: verifying their registration sheets to their physical cards. Pretty smart, as they both know how disruptive it is to call a judge midway through deck construction. After the card pools checked out, the two pros got to work. Mark started off sifting through the White cards. Finding nothing to pique his interest, those got quickly became sideboard fodder. Green was a little more interesting with Durkwood Baloth and double Gemhide Sliver [Gemhide Sliver pic]. Black also looked like quality with Strangling Soot, Tendrils of Corruption, Vampiric Sliver, and a Plague Sliver. Red was the real winner though with some removal and slivers across the board, including the extraordinarily powerful Sedge Sliver. Suddenly Mark's deck took on a whole new tenor as he laid out every single sliver he opened across the table.

Tomoharu's deck nearly built itself. His red was excellent with great creatures and removal, including Firemaw Kavu and double Lightning Axe. His white consisted of Witch Hunter and nothing else, and his black was simply a blank. His only major decision was whether to pair red with green or red with blue. The green offered Durkwood Baloth and Verdant Embrace, but in the end it was just a collection of creatures. Blue, on the other hand offered flexibility in Snapback, Wipe Away, Errant Ephemeron, and a very sexy Psionic Blast. Interestingly, when Saito was sorting out his cards by mana cost, he put both bounce spells in the four-slot. An insight into how Tomoharu plays those cards? Tomoharu's final decision was Eternity Snare versus Chromatic Star. It was a close call, and Saito went back and forth for a good five minutes as he began to register everything else. Finally, with a declaration of "sideboard", Chromatic Star made maindeck rank. The deck ended up looking very good, and Tomoharu felt confident going into the fray.

Herberholz focuses on the slivers

Mark ended up dedicating his deck to the sliver theme. His double Gemhide allowed him four colors, and made his pricey spells (Triskelavus, Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII) much more efficient. At this point Plague Sliver took the axe, but in the end Mark pulled off a surprisingly consistent-seeming sliver deck, impressive for sealed.

Herberholz: "I like the deck. It was nice getting so many slivers that worked so well together. The mana is a little tough, but if a Gemhide stays alive, I think I've got a very good shot."

As much as we'd love to show you the final decklists, it's not fair to the players to give away all their secret tech before they start playing. Check back here at the end of the day to see the cards they played with, although considering these two pros, you may see them on the "Undefeated Decks of Day 1" entry as well.

Mark Herberholz

Download Arena Decklist

Tomoharu Saito

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, Nov 11: 3:51 p.m. - Artists on Site: Ed Beard, Jr. and Mark Poole

by Noah Weil

Artist Ed Beard Jr.

What is your name and where do you live?

My name is Ed Beard, Jr. I currently live in Pennsylvania

How long have you been an artist, and what got you started?

I've considered myself a professional artist since 1997. My first job as an artist was as a painter of portraits for government officials in Washington DC.

What was the first card you drew for Wizards of the Coast?

Well, there was no one card I drew first. My first set with Wizards was Legends, where I drew all the cards at about the same time.

What Magic card illustration are you most proud of?

Mind's Eye print

(Ed checks his prints) It was never published. It was one for Ravnica that got graveyarded. Out of all my cards to see print, Crusading Knight is my favorite. I love that guy.

Are there any other projects you're working on right now?

I've got a brand new art book out by ERS publishing. It combines art instruction and historical perspective and it's been doing really well. It just got picked up by some major booksellers. I've also signed a contract with Tide-Mark to produce their Dragon calendars for the next five years.

Thanks for your time Ed!

Crypt Sliver print

What is your name and where do you currently live?

Mark Poole

Mark Poole and I live in South Carolina

How long have you been an artist, and what got you started?

Since I've been a kid I've always loved to draw. I've always considered myself an artist.

What was the first card you drew for Wizards of the Coast?

Natural Selection

What Magic card illustration are you most proud of and why?

This iconic creature has quite a story

Birds of Paradise, because originally it wasn't a card. I was asked to make the art for an Island-type card. I painted the island and added the birds to the picture as an afterthought. They sent me back the art and asked me to take out the birds, but Richard Garfield liked it so much he made a card around the bird picture. Now it's one of the most famous creatures in the game.

Are there any other projects you're working on right now?

Lots of stuff. I'm working on the next set for Wizards of the Coast. I'm also working on things for AEG, Legends of the Five Rings, and the some White Wolf properties.

Thanks a lot Mark! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

The unsuspended version

Saturday, Nov 11: 7:37 p.m. - Round 4: Chris Pikula vs. Matt Vienneau

by Noah Weil

The always smiling Matt Vienneau

Another Time Spiral blast from the past. These elder statesmen met up in round four to swap some stories and sling some spells. After a bit of age-showing where they talked about significant others and failing eyesight, the conversation turned to the previous time these competitors had faced off.

Vienneau: "I believe it was…Pro Tour Columbus 1996"
Pikula: "Really? That long ago?"
Vienneau: "Yeah, that was the match where I lost cause I randomly took a damage from a land."
Pikula: "Oh yeah I totally remember that. I had two cards left in my library and you were at 27 life off Zuran Orb. I couldn't win at all."
Vienneau: "And then I cast Deadly Insect off a Brushland…"
Pikula: "…And you took that point of damage so I was able, with my last two cards, to Lava Burst you for 13 twice."
Vienneau: "Yep"

Their decks received the shuffling of a lifetime as the players continued to entertain the crowd with taunts and stories.

Vienneau: "Hey, any other players at the table have two Grand Prix wins?"
Pikula: "Well I do have three top 8s."
Vienneau: "Fair enough… ::cough:: four top 8s ::cough:: ::cough::"

Theatrics aside, these two were all business when John Carter announced the beginning of game time.

Pikula's creatures were too much to handle Game 1

Game 1: Interestingly, these two had shown each their decks, before the round had been paired, taking advice on ways to improve their decks for games two and three. Chris' deck looked like it didn't need much assistance, as he rolled out with a suspended Durkwood Baloth, Spike Feeder, Sporesower Thallid, and then Mystic Enforcer. These all did good work on the 6th turn when the Baloth came out to attack as well. Matt's draw was certainly less explosive. His Pendelhaven was used to power up Molten Slagheap and Kher Keep. A Thallid Shell-Dweller held off Sporesower, but Chris' other creatures dealt serious damage. Chris made an error here, and thought Pendelhaven gave a +1/+1 bonus instead of +1/+2. That misperception causes Chris to cast Thrill of the Hunt after damage was on the stack rather than before, allowing Matt to keep his 2/3 Gemhide Sliver.

Pikula: "That was so dumb. I got overconfident. I can't believe I forgot that land makes Kird Apes."
Vienneau: "Don't worry, you're still going to win this game."

And that turned out to be true. After Chris dropped Zhalfirin Commander alongside the rest of his army, Matt had to pack it in.

Pikua: 1
Vienneau: 0

The Meddling Mage himself Chris Pikula

Pikula: "Don't forget, we're the only two people to make top 8 of a sealed Pro Tour" (PT Atlanta 1996).
Vienneau: "Nope, Darwin's here"
Pikula: "Darwin's here?"
Vienneau: Yep, and they pay you $50 if you beat him or any Hall of Famer."

It's true, come to a Grand Prix and the organizers will literally give money away.

Game 2: Both players started with two-drops this game, Matt with Gemhide Sliver and Chris with Looter il-Kor. Matt passed back with four mana up, but as expected played an end of turn Crookclaw Transmuter. The flier was joined by another in Stormcloud Djinn. Chris was definitely on the backpedal this game. His defense against Crookclaw Transmuter, Errant Doomsayers, was completely undone via Matt's Scryb Ranger. With the Doomsayer nullified and Gemhide getting a workout, Chris' back was against the wall. Again and again the Looter swung in, trading drawn cards for discarded Thrills of the Hunt. Eventually Chris did find a Spike Feeder and Penumbra Spider to hold the fort for a turn. Matt skipped the attack, but cast Primal Forcemage and suspended Nantuko Shaman. Chris did what he could, but when Matt cast Ashcoat Bear and then Strangling Soot, Chris was crippled. Judicious blocking plus four extra life kept Chris at one for a turn, but facing creatures of much greater size and quantity Mr. Meddling Mage had to scoop.

Pikula: 1
Vienneau: 1

But Matt Vienneau came back for Game 2

Pikula: "Hey Matt, remember when you got really drunk at the invitational and fell off the ship into shark-infested waters? (Turning to me) Seriously, shark-infested waters!"

Game 3: Both players kept their openers for this final game of a very entertaining match. Chris led with a suspended Durkwood Baloth and Errant Doomsayers. On his third turn Matt attacked with his Doomsayers, only to be thrown for a loop by Matt's Ashcoat Bear. Visibly upset to see Flash Bear, Chris spent some time thinking, and ultimately decided to Temporal Isolation the bear before it could block.

Matt starts to develop his own board with Primal Forcemage and a suspended Nantuko Shaman. The Shaman got tapped before it could receive a Forcemage bonus, but Forcemage did deal some damage on its own. Matt ended his turn with a Search for Tomorrow for his last land, a Swamp. On Chris' upkeep his Baloth resolved and the players were off to the races. The race became very lopsided when once again Matt had the Scryb Ranger to undo Errant Doomsayer activations. However, Chris was far ahead on life; 22 to his opponent's 12. He was rapidly losing ground on the creature front, but his Baloth remained the strongest creature on the board. After trading some damage, Chris decided to hold off a turn of attacking, hoping he could stay alive long enough to draw his seventh land for Triskelavus. With an opponent at five life, the rare artifact creature could end the game on the turn after it came to play. Matt spent his turn playing more creatures and passed it back. Chris did find the seventh land and tapped out for the powerful machine.

Chris Pikula's creatures were large but lonely

On the final turn, Matt attacked with all his creatures, including the Temporally Isolated Ashcoat Bears. Chris spent a long time thinking about his block, knowing it was the most important turn of the match. Finally, Chris decided to keep the Triskelavus out of combat and put his Baloth in front of Matt's strongest creature. Matt had the Strength in Numbers, and it provided enough damage for Matt to win the game and the match.

Afterwards Chris admitted he didn't think Matt would play with that card. He and his opponent also agreed it was probably in Chris' best option to play as if his opponent didn't have the growth spell, because Chris would have been in such a terrible board position without Triskelavus. With a hearty handshake, the two opponents promised to do it again in another ten years.

Pikula: 1
Vienneau: 2

Saturday, Nov 11: 11:02 p.m. - Round 7: Mark Zajdner vs. Craig Krempels

by Noah Weil

Craig Krempels

These two players entered round seven at 5-1. Clearly amused by the pairing, these friends immediately started cracking jokes, only stopping to wish each other a sincere good luck before beginning the match.

Game 1: The two pros, unsure of the value of suspend, gave the mechanic a workout this game. Craig led with a suspended Corpulent Corpse. Mark spent his second turn on suspending Riftwing Cloudskate. Craig went with a suspended Phthisis, and Mark went with a second suspended Riftwing Cloudskate. Unfortunately for Craig, Mark's Cloudskates resolved before Craig's cards. Worse for Krempels, after getting the two lands bounced back, was Mark's Verdant Embrace; the first card played that actually went directly into play. Phthisis was winding down a little too slowly to beat that start, and Craig conceded Game 1.

Zajdner: 1
Krempels: 0

A busy upkeep

Zajdner: "My draw was…pretty good."
Krempels: "Yes it was."

Game 2: Zajdner debated and decided to mulligan his first hand of five lands, Gemhide Sliver, and Dream Stalker (good call). His second hand of zero lands was an easy toss.

Krempels: "The little victories!"

Mark gave his opponent a withering look at his definition of "little" but the next five was solid. Three Islands led to a face down Fathom Seer. Next turn Mark floated two, undid the mulligans, and played Dream Stalker on Fathom Seer and a Wall of Roots. Nice turn.

Awesome Human Being Mark Zajdner

His opponent wasn't twiddling his thumbs during all bouncery. An early suspended Corpulent Corpse promised damage, along with a Skulking Knight and a morph. The resolved Corpse took a Temporal Eddy, but when Craig unflipped his morph into Thelonite Hermit, his board position improved dramatically. The tokens and the Knight dealt some hefty damage. Mark stabilized the board at a precarious life total, but felt safe enough to begin attacking with Tolarian Sentinel, and later, Unyaro Bees. Craig took a few points, but after reaching six mana, tapped some Forests, Swamps, and a Mountain for a big Tromp the Domains. Wall of Roots plus Unyaro Bees took out the Hermit itself, but his brethren were still too powerful to contain. Facing so much trampling damage, Mark fell to fungus.

Zajdner: 1
Krempels: 1

In between games two and three, Mark Zajdner shared his Junior Mints with everyone at the table. Mark's awesome.

Best Friends Forever

Game 3: Mark, after some hesitation, kept his opening hand of three Forests, Verdant Embrace, Sporesower Thallid, Temporal Eddy, and Arena. Craig expressed languid confidence about his opening hand, a fact not lost on his opponent. Mark started with morph on his third turn, then had a decision to make on his fourth: Play a Forest and Sporesower Thallid, or play Arena and kill his opponent's Skulking Knight? Mark went with the board development route. Next turn Craig suspended his Phthisis and passed it back. Mark's fifth turn was the Verdant Embrace onto Sporesower, a powerful play but risking powerful damage off the opponent's Phthisis. Mark determined that between the 7/7 and its saprolings, he could race the black suspended card. That plan went a little awry when Krempels cast and un-morphed Thelonite Hermit. The blockers kept coming from Craig, and that Phthisis kept losing counters. With one Island in play and a Cancel in hand, all Mark needed was a second Island within his next two draws to negate Phthisis and overwhelm his opponent. Mark did draw his Island the next turn, but decided to play the Arena and tap out to use it deal extra damage. That move proved to be his undoing as Krempels tapped six mana and aimed a Mindstab at Mark Kajdner, completely emptying his hand. Craig gave a big "woot" when he saw the bullet he had dodged. Indeed, the next turn Phthisis resolved to deal a hefty 14 points of damage to Kajdner. Short on cards and having lost his best creature, Mark could only helplessly watch his opponent come back with double Corpulent Corpse. The zombies along with Phthisis damage was enough for Krempels to take the game and the match.

Zajdner: 1
Krempels: 2

Zajdner: "I had it all figured out! Mindstab ruined me"

After the match the two comrades acknowledged the havoc Mindstab played that round. Wishing each other good luck, the two shared a quick embrace before moving on to the next fight.

Saturday, Nov 11: 11:34 p.m. - Photo Journal

by Noah Weil

Here's a taste of the more interesting scenes of Grand Prix New Jersey. This doesn't really give the full account of what having 1,000 Magic players under a roof looks like, but it's a start.

Professor Fuzzy Britches aka John Shuler decides to take the Garden State's moniker to heart with a relaxing picnic. Being an action junkie, John can't sup too far from the action.

Straight from Dominiaria's sweatshops to your back, these sharp articles represent the hippest of the hip. Pick one up now before everyone else does!

Lucas Glavin showed exactly what you should do with six mana. It's always nice to open a sealed deck better than most drafts.

This little fellow's name is Noah. According to his mother, he had a DCI card before a social security one. Anyway you slice, I think this one's in trouble

The fun part about playing triple-set sealed is getting three times of a card. In this case, those three Shell-Dwellers and their five saprolings are playing quite well with their fellow Savage Thallid.

A classic combo with a modern twist.

Tim Aten shows his fans exactly how he's risen to the top.

Check back during day two for more scenes from the floor!

Saturday, Nov 11: 11:58 p.m. - Round 9: John Pelcak vs. Steven Spotts

by Noah Weil

Steven Spotts

Random fan: "Spotts! Feature match! You are sexy!"

John Pelcak entered this round at 8-0, needing just one more win to score a perfect day 1. Opposing him was stoic opponent John Spotts. While both were guaranteed second day, each player wanted the status and position this final win would bring.

Game 1: Steven started off with a mulligan and didn't recover. While he was busy missing land drops, John was playing hits like a suspended Errant Ephemeron, a Gemhide Sliver into Pirate Ship, and Clockwork Hydra. The Epemeron met with a Cancel, but John's Tromp the Domains forcefully resolved, which gave Pelcak a very uneventful first game.

Pelcak: 1
Spotts: 0

Game 2: Pelcak's first play was another suspender, in this case Deep-Sea Kraken. His opponent came back with an answer: Witch Hunter. While not a very aggressive beginning, it was good enough to reveal Pelcak's first creature as a morphed Slipstream Serpent. A Pirate Ship later forced Steven to spend three a turn to keep the Human Pirate (Ship) at bay.

Summon the Kraken!

Cak, wary of being set back too much, simply resolved the issue with a Strangling Soot on the Witch Hunter. With John tapped out, Steven felt safe to play Benalish Calvary and enchant it with Griffin Guide. This brought the Deep-Sea Kraken to very dangerous levels. John simply replayed his Pirate Ship and passed back, patient to let his 6/6s do the leg work. On Steven's turn, he had a choice to make. He could cast Spirit Loop on his Calvary, which would force the Kraken into being Cancelled. Or he could wait it out for two turns to cast a Draining Whelk on the Kraken, giving him an 11/11 flier. The second plan had a lot of holes, yet that was the route Steven decided to take. Anyone see the problem looming?

John Pelcak

With his Kraken down to a single counter John attacked with a Slipstream Serpent, ended up transforming Calvary into a Griffin. Next turn Steven had to pass back to have the mana left open for his Whelk plan. Deep-Sea tried to resolve, but was attacked by the Draining Whelk. Unfortunately for Spotts, Pelcak responded to the trigger by shooting Draining Whelk *Whelk card The 1/1 died before it could get massive and Steven took a big hit for his trouble. Soon John again attempted his Tromp the Domains. Steven had an excellent response in Wipe Away on an Island, which killed Pirate Ship, Slipstream Serpent, and gave everything else -1/-1. This would have been an awesome play earlier in the game, but sadly at this point it was too late, and even the reduced Tromp still provided enough damage to end the game and the match.


John Pelcak begins day two with a 9-0 record!

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