TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Blog - 8:36 p.m. - Round 9: Paul Cheon vs. Jeff Rabovsky
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 7:25 p.m. - Round 8: Flash Drive
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 5:07 p.m. - Round 7: Willy Edel vs. Gadiel Szleifer
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 4:12 p.m. - Round 5: David Gearhart vs. Stephen Menendian
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 3:03 p.m. - Round 4: Jon Sonne vs. Antonino DeRosa
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 12:41 p.m. - Round 1 Walkabout
by Brian David-Marshall
- Blog - 12:22 p.m. - Flash Flood
by Brian David-Marshall
The good folks at Professional Events Services who are running this weekend's event also set up a retail booth featuring sleeves, dice, in print and out of print packs, and -most importantly at a Legacy event - singles cards. I checked in with Sean, who manned the booth for most of the day yesterday, to take a quick pulse of the format.
Coming into the event Hulk Flash was the deck on everyone's mind but according to Sean that does not necessarily mean that it will be the most played deck. In fact, Flash was one of the few cards PES did not have deep stock on coming into the event as dedicated dealers had scooped them up already speculating on the event. Hoped for prices of $25 never materialized on the card and there were stacks 'priced to sell' at $4 languishing in the other dealers showcases.
"I think it is funny that Leyline of the Void was our best-selling card but we sold maybe two Flashes," laughed Sean. "I could have sold 40 Dazes if I had them. Honest to God, before the event every third person came up looking for Dazes."
The late rush on Dazes is probably reflective of the huge shift toward Fish decks which had favorable match-ups against the Hulk. The Fish decks have disruption in the form of Duress and Meddling Mage and back it up with a suite of free counters
Saturday, May 19: 12:41 p.m. - Round 1 Walkabout
As the last grains of round one's sand trickled into the bottom of the hourglass I looked around to see what people were playing. There were plenty of Goblins, as predicted, along with many other decks from blocks of yore. Affinity and Slivers also appeared on multiple tables. The Sliver decks were actually running Plated Sliver which seemed surprising but I am told it is common, albeit janky, tech since one Muscle Sliver and one Plater Sliver allow the whole team to live through Massacre.
A popular deck in Legacy that does not have origins in Block Constructed in Landstill, a deck which relies on the abundant man-lands and utility lands through the ages and can sit behind Standstill without ever having to crack it. I watched one player holding off an opponent with three Maze of Ith and Tabernacle at Pendrel Vale while struggling to find a way through a Jitte equipped creature on the other side of the table.
"Whoo-hoo!" declared the Landstill player as round one ended in a draw for him. "I didn't lose!"
Another staple in the Eternal formats is any deck featuring Smokestack and Crucible of Worlds. While Stax decks are well known they were hardly on anyone's radar coming into this event and I doubt either of the players I watched at the end of the round were expecting to start their day off with a mirror match.
Iggy Pop was a dark horse deck coming into Grand Prix Philadelphia two seasons ago but it has grown into a fixture of the format. The deck has a number of variants and has warped into something that resembles TEPs from the past Extended season. As round one ended an Iggy Pop partisan was facing off against Red Death, which is a black deck by the way, and had many of key cards removed from the game via Extirpate…
…but that was not enough to stop him from generating 13 spells parlayed into 26 goblin tokens.
I was taking an incredulous picture of a graveyard while trying to figure out what the heck a certain deck was that had Frostwielder in play. While the deck could be chalked up to an enthusiastic new gamer just wanting to play a homebrew the players talked and played in a crisp way that indicated more experience than one would expect of bringing Frostwielder to a Legacy tournament.
They quickly explained that they were killing time before round two playing a casual format known as Harem. Almost all the cards in a player's deck have to feature artwork of women and all the creatures have to be female. Almost all the creatures that is…as each deck is built around one mail character they referred to as the…ummm… sugar daddy. The deck pictured was built around Goblin Welder while the other was a modified Project X featuring Crypt Champion.
Saturday, May 19: 3:03 p.m. - Round 4: Jon Sonne vs. Antonino DeRosa
The last time there was a Grand Prix in North America Jon Sonne emerged victorious from a Finals match-up with Chris Pikula in Philadelphia. His deck of choice for that event? He played Goblins. With two seasons under his belt and the metagame reverberations from the Hulk Flash deck shaking up the format I was curious if the traditionally control-oriented player would stand pat with the little red men.
His opponent for the first round of "everyone into the pool" matches was his friend and occasional playtest partner Antonino DeRosa - in fact the duo returned from lunch together to see their names across from each other on the pairings board. DeRosa also had a fair bit of success in Philly when he and Alex Lieberman played an Enlightened Tutor fueled Landstill deck to a 10th and 13th place finish.
For this event Antonino had opted for what appeared to be a Fish deck although he apparently made a distinction between those decks and his.
"This deck is really good against Hulk and decks that want to beat Hulk like Fish," explained DeRosa.
So if his deck was not Fish then what was it?
"Bigger Fish," beamed DeRosa but his smile faded quickly as he turned his attention to his friend/opponent. "I am going to lose so fast he is playing Goblins."
The two players scanned the feature match area for randomization methods that might happen to be laying around but no dice. Ant cupped his hand over his scorepad and scribbled something. "I am writing down a number, is it even or odd?" he asked Jon.
Jon squinted his eyes and considered the question carefully - as he does with everything. Slowly he began to pat down his pockets. "I have a coin."
Ant sighed: "Do you want to write down a number?"
"I have a coin," asserted Jon.
"I hate you," Ant laughed as they prepared to flip.
DeRosa looked at his hand and chuckled at the three Swords to Plowshares sitting there. "There is no way I would have kept this hand if I had not known what he was playing."
After stunting DeRosa's mana with Rishadan Port for a turn Sonne broke out a Warchief. DeRosa fashioned a Plowshare out of it on his own turn and took the Port free opportunity to play Dark Confidant.
Sonne parlayed Matron into Fanatic and got rid of the card advantage engine but Ant was ready with another in Shadowmage Infiltrator. The Invitationalist old-timer's game continued as Meddling Mage naming Siege-Gang Commander joined the team a turn later.Jon Sonne
Sonne had been massing his forces on the border of the red zone and when Gobin King hit play he attacked with everyone. Swords took out the King and Ant safely blocked a Goblin Lackey with the Mage. Sonne added a Piledriver after his disappointing combat.
Ant kept getting advantage with his Infiltrator. He played another Finkel and used Swords - the third of the game - on the Piledriver. Ant admired his lineup of Invitationalists: "I tried to get Mike Long in my deck too."
Ant had to Force of Will a Matron after a cycled Gempalm took out Meddling Mage. DeRosa was drawing two a turn and added Jotun Grunt and a replacement Meddling Mage to his board. Sonne cycled a replacement Gempalm but did not appear to have the Siege-Gang that his actions suggested.
DeRosa put two breaklands on the bottom of Sonne's deck to decrease the quality of Sonne's draws should they get shuffled up through another breakland. He then took the Ringleader with a just-cast Vedalken Shackles.
Sonne did have a Siege-Gang for the next turn but he could not pay for its ability after DeRosa made him tap one of his two available mana to pay for Daze. DeRosa relinquished control of the Ringleader and set his sights on the Siege-Gang. He also played another Shackles after some Brainstorming.
At this point DeRosa was putting his best graveyard goodies on the bottom of his own deck and shuffling them into the mix with Polluted Delta while drawing three cards a turn. Plus he had two Control Magics on a stick and another Meddling Mage barring the way for future Siege-Gangs.
DeRosa - 1 Sonne - 0
"That was a painful game," groaned DeRosa. "This is a bad match-up and I think it is actually better for me Game 1 than after board."
DeRosa took a mulligan on a hand featuring three land, Shadowmage, two Brainstorm, and Vedalken Shackles obviously looking for some answers to the explosive starts the goblin deck is capable of. He kept his next six which showcased one land, Chrome Mox, Swords to Plowshares, Meddling Mage, Massacre, and Shadowmage. Sonne offered up a turn two Piledriver and DeRosa debated but ultimately removed it with the white instant.
He untapped and made a turn two Shadowmage with some help from the Mox. Sonne thought for a while before playing Aether Vial and Goblin Tinkerer. DeRosa got in for a card with Shadowmage and played Meddling Mage naming Goblin Ringleader when it hit play. Sonne's fourth turn Warchief was Dazed even though he was holding his fourth mana, which he used to activate the Tinkerer and kill the Chrome Mox.
DeRosa kept coming and added Serra Avenger to his team. Sonne Vialed out a Lackey at the end of the turn. Goblin Matron fetched up Gempalm but Sonne did not have a fifth mana to also cycle it as well. DeRosa had to leave his Meddling Mage back and got Sonne down to elcven on his next attack. Vedlaken Shackles meant that Sonne had to pop the Tinkerer.
That was fine by him. He Vialed out another Matron for a second Gemplam and killed both three-toughness guys on DeRosa's side of the board. With the Vial on the verge of four counters there was no reason to keep his Meddling Mage around and Ant ran it into the red zone to trade. He played an understudy naming Siege-Gang.
The clock was ticking away and both players picked up the pace considerably. DeRosa ran his Meddling Mage into the two Matrons; again the Vial made the Mage useless. Sonne Vialed out the Siege-Gang a turn later and that was enough to finish off DeRosa with only 15 seconds remaining on the clock.
"Do we have to start Game 3?"
The buzzer announced the end of the round before the judge could even answer and the match ended in a draw.
DeRosa - 1 Sonne - 1
Saturday, May 19: 4:12 p.m. - Round 5: David Gearhart vs. Stephen Menendian
This round was a showdown between two high profile names in the Vintage and Legacy communities. David is most identified with Legacy's version of the High Tide deck which is known as Solidarity and sometimes Reset High Tide. At the helm of the powerful blue combo deck David has ridden roughshod over the Legacy community winning countless dual lands, money, and, power cards.
If you have any question about the power of the Hulk Flash deck it should be put to rest by the fact that it was powerful enough to get David - who piloted Solidarity to 9th place in Philly - to put down his trademark deck for the errata enabled combo deck.
Stephen Menendian writes a weekly column on Vintage for Star City and is the leader of Team Meandeck, one of the most successful teams in the Vintage community. He was also piloting Hulk Flash but had opted to play a version with the Disciple kill as opposed to the Kiki-Jiki package. Early builds of the Hulk Flash deck featured a kill where the player Flashed out the Hulk into four Disciples and enough Shifting Walls and Phyrexian Marauders - which as zero casting creatures die immediately upon hitting play - to kill.
The deck has moved away from that in favor of a smaller combo set that involves Kiki-Jiki, Karmic Guide, Carrion Feeded, and Body Snatcher to make infinite fliers. The combo is a little more fragile since the Karmic Guide can be killed in response to the first Kiki-Jiki activation with Swords or any non-black spot removal. As a result cards like Benevolent Bodyguard and Sylvan Safekeeper have made their way into the deck.
Stephen chose not to go down that path and played the slightly bigger but cleaner Disciple kill while David had a teched out Kiki version.
On the draw Stephen played a land and Lotus Bloom and took a deep breath before offering up a Flash. Gearhart Played Daze. Menedian Force of Willed and David Forced back Stephen slumped back in his chair. The two players traded Duresses. Stephen whiffed on two Protean Hulks while David saw Hulk, Mystical Tutor, and Lim-Dul's Vault -- he took the Tutor.
David played Dark Confidant, which flipped up Wipe Away a turn later. Meanwhile Stephen was digging through his library with Lim-Dul's Vault. There was a little confusion as to Menendian's life total. The judge informed the players that they were each responsible for keeping track of life totals.
"I thought I was going to win on turn one with Force back-up," sighed Stephen. "I didn't think it would be necessary."
"Oopsie daisy," laughed David.
A turn later Stephen cast Flash. David broke a fetch land to have the mana for the Wipe Away but Stepehen told him not to bother. "I am playing the Disciple kill…your Wipe Away doesn't do anything."
Stephen - 1 David - 0
He tried to figure out whether or not the Deed was relevant - and wondered why David had even brought it in from his board - before he took the Flash. A Lotus Petal off the top allowed David to play Dark Confidant. Stephen became keenly aware of the fact that David would have to do something with the Kiki-Jiki stranded in his hand and proceeded to Daze another Brainstorm to keep it from getting shuffled back into the deck.
Both players were stalled on one land but David pulled out of it first with the Confidant and he Duressed a Brainstorm from Stephen but Stephen had hid a Duress of his own the previous turn with another Brainstorm and fired back at David's hand to see Dark Confidant, Kiki-Jiki, Deed, and Duress.
David beamed: "Ha-ha, jokes on you. My hand sucks."
Stephen took the Duress and then played Shifting Wall for one mana to hold off the Confidant. The ability to play the walls to hold off the format's agro decks was one of the appeals of this version to him.
David dug through his deck with Lim-Dul's Vault paying life after life. Stephen did a quick tally of David's graveyard and hand: "Oooh too bad for you. Your deck is left in fives. You never see new combinations of cards."
It was not even clear that David had enough life to work with. Finally he stopped on six when he found the card he needed. Lotus Petal came off the top of his deck from the Confidant, raising an eyebrow from Stephen: "Interesting. Let's see the Brainstorm."
But David surprised him by cracking the Petal to play Pernicious Deed. "I don't even know what to make of that," laughed Stephen who played Disciple of the Vault and prompted David to pop the Deed. Stephen missed an opportunity to do one with the Disciple.
While the questions surrounding the Hulk Flash deck won't be answered until the end ofg the tournament there was no question that Brainstorm was the battleground that these two decks were fighting over. Stephen agonized over another Brainstorm on the stack and finally decided to Force of Will it.
He played out another Disciple to keep the Dark Confidant at bay. It was obvious that being under the lights with so many people watching him was affecting Stephen. Add to that the fact that he had by now realized that he had missed as point when the Deed went off. On top of that both players were skating on a razor's edge in this game and were forced to fight counterbattles over Brainstorm.
Stephen put his hand to his chest and seemed surprised by the force with which his heart was beating, "Boom, boom, boom…"
"Nice," said Stephen. Now that he was within the missed point of damage his anxiety mounted. "My stomach... Why can't I just draw a Wall. I just want Shifting Wall."
There were many dead cards in David's deck now that he was at one. Fetch lands were pointless and Lim-Dul's Vault could only set up the next five cards. David was relieved when one of them was a land. Another was a Brainstorm which would allow him to set up two more lands. Meanwhile Stephen needed to do that last point.
He found and Echoing Truth to try and get his Disciple in for the last point but David used his two Daze and Brainstormed end of turn. Stephen tried to calm down. "That's fine. I can't believe how intense this game is. Why won't you just die?"
David had another Lim-Dul's Vault and hoped he could live through his next five cards.
It was getting close though. David had four spells and one land. Stephen tried to play Lim-Dul's Vault on David's end step. Oddly enough he used it to find a Shifting Wall which would kill David. David scooped despite a Wipe Away in his hand because he knew the next card in his deck was a spell.
Stephen - 2 David - 0
Saturday, May 19: 5:07 p.m. - Round 7: Willy Edel vs. Gadiel Szleifer
"So how did you happen to pick this match?" giggled Tim Aten as he shuffled into the feature match area to watch his old teammate play against Willy Edel.
"Threw a dart," I said.
There is history between these two guys but this would likely have been a feature match even if they had not played against each other multiple times at Pro Tour Charleston en route to the first of Willy Edel's three career Top 8 finishes and the third of Gadiel's three. In the wake of the event Gadiel accused Willy of… let's just say poor operations. Willy responded to the accusations in Geneva by wondering where Gadiel had disappeared to after Charleston.
Let's just suffice it to say that these two players don't like each other one bit.
The two players shuffled in silence until it was time to present decks. Gadiel turned to the table judge and asked: "Judge, can you shuffle my deck instead of my opponent?"
"Is there some reason you don't want him to do it?"
Gadiel reasserted his claims of operational mismanagement. Willy rolled his eyes and gestured for the judge to shuffle, "Can you pile him into threes please?"
Gadiel looked at his openers and put them back in for six new cards. Willy looked up at the judge with a smile, "Good job." Gadiel went back for five new ones. Willy beamed.
Gadiel just shook his head. "I guess if you can do it telepathically you deserve it."
Willy cracked a fetch land for Tundra and made a point of adjusting his life totals.
"You're taking damage this time, of your own free will. How surprising."
Willy ignored him and played Mother of Runes. Gadiel offered up Duress and Willy displayed a hand with two Force of Will and Umezawa's Jitte among the goodies - Gaidel took the artifact. A turn later he had Cabal Therapy. Willy pitched a Daze to Force of Will it - once again making sure to adjust his life totals. Gadiel decided not to fight and let it resolve. Willy played a second Mother and Gadiel Mystical Tutored at the end of turn for Lim-Dul's Vault. Gadiel handed the deck to Willy who deferred to the judge.
"I would have let you that time," shrugged Gadiel. "I didn't even notice."
A turn later he Flashed out Protean Hulk. Willy had Force of Will but Gadiel pushed back with a Force of his own. Carrion Feeder, Body Snatcher, and Slyvan Safekeeper hit play. Gadiel cashed in the Body Snatcher for the Protean Hulk. Hulk was sac'd to the Carrion Feeder again and begat the Kamric Guide. Hulk came back one more time and turned into Kiki-Jiki. Willy made sure Gadiel knew how all the moving parts in the combo interacted and they were off to Game 2.
Szleifer - 1 Edel - 0
Gadiel went back to the well for the third time in two games. He kept the six card hand. Edel led off with Mother of Runes again. Gadiel broke a Delta for Volcanic Island and was able to Pyroblast a Meddling Mage.
Gadiel Peeked but could not dig into his third land even with the help of a Brainstorm. Willy played another Mother. Gadiel found a Flooded Strand at the bottom of Brainstorm a turn later which would allow him to turn on the Duress and Therapy he was holding. Therapy cleared the Force of Will Willy was holding and revealed Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Meddling Mage, and Swords to Plowshares as well.Gadiel Szleifer
Gadiel had fallen to 11 between the pecking of the Mothers and his own fetch lands. Massacre was an economical answer to the Mothers and REB took care of Meddling Mage when Willy offered it up. The two players went into draw-go mode for awhile. Gadiel broke the monotony with Mystical Tutor. Willy shrugged as Gadiel put Cabal Therapy on top of his deck.
Gadiel took Swords to Plowshares from Willy and played Phyrexian Negator. Willy actually raised an eyebrow. He tried to Vindicate it but Gadiel was ready with Force of Will. A second white mana arrived for Edel and he played the Samurai of the Pale Curtain that had been languishing in his hand. Gadiel Massacred and the 5/5 sideboard staple went the distance.
Szleifer - 2 Edel - 0
Saturday, May 19: 7:25 p.m. - Round 8: Drive
Donald Kaster and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
One round from the cut to Day Two there were only 10 players remaining with sterling records of 7-0. I did a walk of the top tables to see who was there and - more importantly - what they were playing.
Table one featured 2005 JSS Championship winner Jeff Rabovsky playing with a Threshold deck against Jerry Yang. Jerry was running a deck with Mountain and every burn spell he could possibly cram into a sixty card structure. Jeff managed to weather the barrage of burn and took the match to secure an 8-0 start to his day.
Bruce Calhoun and Owen Turtenwald were playing a mirror match - at least on the surface as both players had pink sleeves. In reality Calhoun was sporting MonoBlack Control while Turtenwald was herding Goblins and Siege-Gang Commander proved to be more than a match for Nantuko Shade.
Two of PES' PTQ stalwarts faced off at table four. Samuel Stoddard was running Hulk Flash while Marshall Arthurs was running the Fish deck designed to beat Stoddard's and everything played out according to script.Bruce Calhoun and Owen Turtenwald
Table five was a showdown between two Flash decks piloted by two top players. Gadiel Szleifer had dispatched Willy Edel last round and now had to get past Ben Lundquist. This match took him three games but just like in his decisive game with Willy the Phyrexian Negator was the difference maker.
Of the five Flash decks in the undefeated wedge of this tournament coming into the round only two stayed pristine - of course two of the three losses came at the hands of the victorious Flash decks. We'll have a better idea tomorrow if, and how hard, the sky has landed on Chicken Little's split level ranch house or if there are other decks to beat after this tournament.Marshall Arthurs and Samuel Stoddard
I know there will be a deck tech in the morning with Richard Feldman who was off to a 7-0-1 start with an exciting little elf number. Stay tuned for that one.
Saturday, May 19: 8:36 p.m. - Round 9: Paul Cheon vs. Jeff Rabovsky
After a long day we got to end with a battle between two players who have had a fair amount of success at The Magic Weekend - sometimes known as U.S. Nationals and the Junior Super Series Championships. Paul Cheon led the U.S. National team last year and a few short tournaments has vaulted to the upper echelon of American players. He was 7-0-1 coming into the round playing Bigger Fish - the deck he and Luis Scott Vargas designed and Ant DeRosa adopted and named.
His opponent was 2005 Junior Super Series Champion Jeff Rabovsky. Hot on the heels of that event Jeff went to Grand Prix Philadelphia and ran the table on Day One only to fall back into the mid-thirties on the second day. He was off to a similar start this weekend at 8-0 and hoping for a better second day with Threshold. But first he needed to get through the National Champion.
Cheon tried to get a little info about his matchup and asked: "What did you draw with?"
"I didn't draw," grinned Jeff.
Brainstorm failed to dig up a second land for Cheon. Jeff attempted a Dryad and Cheon had to pitch an ironic Spell Snare to Force of Will it. Jeff found another one on the next turn but thanks to a second Duress from Cheon had to pass the turn without any counters on his Dryad.
Cheon found another Brainstorm and was able to cash it in for land number two which in turn paid for Swords to Plowshares. A turn later it powered out Jotun Grunt but it was met with good old fashioned Counterspell. Imagine that, paying mana to counter a spell. How quaint. Paul's Shadowmage Infiltrator was Swords to Plowshared and his Vedalken Shackles were Dazed. A Brainstorm later and suddenly Jeff seemed like he was taking command of the game.
He mustered a Meddling Mage naming Dark Confidant but Cheon a different Invitational winner's card to fuel him back into the game - Shadowmage Infiltrator. With a Jotun Grunt guarding the gates the Infiltrator was able to replenish Cheon's hand. Meanwhile, Jeff had a Quirion Dryad that was getting bigger as he dug through his deck with card selection - Opt, Serum Visions, and Brainstorm. By the time one Meddling Mage was Force of Willed - with Cheon paying full price - and another hit play he Dryad was 7/7.
Cheon's Grunt seemed puny in comparison and not even Jon Finkel could help him find his way from in front of the oncoming Dryad.
Rabovsky - 1 Cheon - 0
Meddling Mage came down for Cheon on turn two naming Quirion Dryad and drawing a Swords to Plowshares. Jeff made a Nimble Mongoose and Force of Willed Dark Confidant. He tapped UU to counter the next Confidant from Cheon. Nimble Mongoose number two came down but Jeff was still four cards away from having them be serious threats. Not that it would have mattered with Cheon playing Engineered Explosives on one.
Meddling Mage hit the board for Cheon and he locked a Force of Will in Jeff's hand. Dark Confidant hit the table next. When Cheon attempted to assemble the full Justice Society of Invitationalists his Infiltrator was Counterspelled. Cheon was full of gas at this point though and used Swords to clear a Dryad and played out another Confidant and a Grunt.
That was enough for Jeff to reach for his sideboard to prepare for the rubber game (just for you Shuler!).
Rabovsky - 1 Cheon - 1
It had been a long day but Cheon had not had his fill of gaming. He looked back at Luis Scott Vargas and asked, "Drafts after? We can get food later."
"Drafts," beamed Cheon happily.
Meddling Mage on Dark Confidant got the traditional Swords treatment from Cheon who promptly untapped and played a Confidant. Jeff pitched Force of Will to Force it but Cheon picked up a land and Dazed.Paul Cheon
Another Meddling Mage from Jeff this time named Shadowmage Infiltrator. Cheon played his second land and forged a Jitte. Jeff had to play Engineered Explosives and blow up the board. Cheon untapped and played Vedalken Shackles. When he attempted Meddling Mage a turn later Jeff attempted Counterspell but Cheon was able to pull up Spell Snare with Brainstorm. Jotun Grunt signed up for Cheon's army.
Jeff found Nimble Mongoose but it oculd not hold the Grunt at bay - even without Cheon's Explosives set on one. Jeff kept digging but he could not find anything in time.
"I don't mind losing to this guy,"
Rabovsky - 1 Cheon - 2