- Blog: 6:43p.m - Draft 2: Aaron Nicastri
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Feature Match: Round 6: Steven Aplin vs Aaron Nicastri
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Feature Match: Round 5 - Jeremy Neeman vs David Zhao
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Blog: 12:31p.m - Draft 1: Steven Aplin
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Feature Match: Round 2 - Daniel Piechnick vs Anatoli Lightfoot
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Blog: 10:13a.m - Round 1: Early Attrition
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Blog: 9:08a.m - The Grinders Recap
by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw
- Info: Fact Sheet
by Event Coverage Staff
Saturday, July 19: 9:08a.m - The Grinders Recap
Even before the first land is played or the first spell is cast in this event, players need to qualify. There's the usual route, having a high enough composite rating, being a returning National Team Member, and duking it out in one of the Regional Qualifier events. But even after that, there are the Last Chance Qualifiers, affectionately referred to as the Meat Grinders. Yesterday, 23 players managed to win themselves a spot in today's field. 6 through the 3 limited events, and the remaining 17 each won a constructed Grinder. Now, I know you'd rather I typed out all 17 lists individually, I know you do, but I'm gonna draw the line at a metagame breakdown for now.
3 Saito Mono Red
2 Black/Green Elves
1 Goblins (with Boartusk Liege)
1 Mono Red Combo
1 Mono Black Control
1 Green/Red Snow Ramp
Okay, so the two relatively unknown decklists should get an airing, I'll relent to that.
Saturday, July 19: 10:13a.m - Round 1: Early Attrition
While we started with 113 players registered, we very quickly found we were down a few bodies. Apparently a bout of food poisoning had worked some Magic of its own with a few players, with one calling in to let us know with another two associates missing in action, well, missing before the action even. Another player shuffled his deck, presented it, shuffled his opponents deck, drew his opening hand and promptly called a judge to let them know that despite the similarity in both sleeves and deck box, the deck was still most definitely nothing like the one he had registered.
He picked up a game loss immediately for presenting the wrong deck, and then another for tardiness five minutes later when he had still not yet returned with the correct deck. Rumor has it that he now has the correct deck however, and is ready to start playing in round two. Just like other guy who just plain turned up late. I mean seriously, who turns up late? More importantly, who turns up late, bypasses the many clearly marked judges and heads straight for the guy with "Magic, the Gathering official Event Coverage" shirt on to tell him (me) instead? Well okay, I admit that in arriving late to a National Championship Event, this gentleman was already demonstrating a clear tendency towards failing to follow instructions, but still...
Saturday, July 19: 11:10a.m - Round 2: Daniel Piechnick vs Anatoli Lightfoot
It's always fun scanning the pairings for a feature match. Many names stand out from recent and past Australian history, but the trick is to find them playing each other instead of someone relative unknown. Daniel Piechnick is often seen floating about the top half of the standings, and even joined the Australian National team in 2006. Anatoli Lightfoot won the last Australian Grand Prix in Brisbane, has been a finalist in at least another Australian Grand Prix in Brisbane, and by way of spots passing down in the top 8, was a member of the 2007 Australian National team playing in New York.
Piechnick won the roll with his "lucky loaded die" and proceeded to mulligan. After pondering his opening land play, Lightfoot boldly suggested he was playing Reveillark.
"It's the only deck where you have to think about your opening land drop"
As if to make a point, Piechnick instead lead with a Murmuring Bosk, indicating that he was probably playing a Doran, the Siege Tower based Aggro Control deck instead. Lightfoot replied with a Vivid Grove, suggesting the greedy mana base of either the Quick and the Toast, or something even more unusual. Sure enough, Piechnick's third turn heralded the Legendary namesake of his deck, with Doran, the Siege Tower landing on the table and preceding to take 5 point chunks out of Lightfoot's face. Lightfoot could only evoke a Mulldrifter, discarding another at end of turn, and then utilize a Makeshift Mannequin to get one of them back into play to chump the Treefolk for a turn. Piechnick then played a Reveillark.
"See? I was right!"
"Yes, I am playing the card named Reveillark" Piechnick deadpanned, as Lightfoot untapped and played one of his own, which was considerably more threatening with two Mulldrifters in the graveyard, and replied
"I too am playing the card named Reveillark."
"Who plays that card?"
Doran swung in, and the Reveillark chumped, getting back the pair of card drawing Elementals. Lightfoot had now drawn something within it region of half a billion extra cards during this game, and all within the rules as well. He then cleared the board with a pair of Firespouts, and followed them up on his next turn with a Body Double on the Reveillark. The game was quickly slipping from Piechnick's grasp, and not long after his Profane Command ran into a Rune Snag, they were shuffling up for Game 2.
"Proper Control decks are a very bad match up for me" Piechnick admitted as he again mulliganed to six. He then lead with one Thoughtseize after another, taking Lightfoot's Wall of Roots, which can trade with Doran, and a Rune Snag, which in it's own way, can also trade with a Doran. Unfortunately, Piechnick, then failed to play a third land while Lightfoot proceeded to draw several off the top of his deck. Sensing an opening, Lightfoot actually summoned a Faerie Macabre, which seldom happens outside of limited formats. Piechnick drew and played a third land, only to have it put back with a Primal Command from Lightfoot, which also tutored up a Greater Gargadon. Piechnick finally mustered enough mana to drop a Murderous Redcap on the Macabre, but was now facing a Mulldrifter in the air as well. His double Thoughtseize opening had left his life in tatters, and 2/2 flyers were making short work of whatever was left over. Lightfoot played a Reveillark and Piechnick could only scoop up his cards.
Anatoli Lightfoot defeats Daniel Piechnick 2-0
Saturday, July 19: 12:31p.m - Draft 1: Steven Aplin
At the 2007 Australian National Championships, Steven Aplin knocked the top 8 flat with his Aggressive Rakdos deck, completely mirroring the slow grind of Solar Flare mirror matches from the year before. This year the returning champ is again looking good at 3-0 going into the first draft. Other names in the top pod looking to stop Aplin's second run for the title are veterans Aaron Nicastri, David Zhao, Charles Koh and Jeremy Neeman.
Aplin plucked a Leech Bonder over Kitchen Finks and a Shield of the Oversoul from his first pack, and followed it up with a Biting Tether over a Burn Trail and a Runes of the Deus. His third pick showed a shift in preference, passing a Barrenton Cragtreads and a Watchwing Scarecrow in favor of a Scuzzback Marauders. Whether or not this was the correct choice, the fourth pack left him few options outside of a Farhaven Elf, which he added to his pile. His next few picks were Kinscaer Harpoonist, a Somnomancer and a Seedcradle Witch. Downstream of Aplin, Matthew Trull was picking up Green and White creatures, with some Red backup, thanks to the third pick Burn Trail Aplin passed him. Feeding Aplin, Jeremy Neeman seemed to be building a rocket car of a mono Red deck.
Pack two, Aplin took a Spawnwrithe over Howl of the Night Pack and Devoted Druid, Crabapple Cohort over Æthertow, and Steel of the Godhead over Flow of Ideas, Inquisitor's Snare and Juvenile Gloomwidow. Even if Aplin stuck to Green and Blue at this point, the crossover between any of his hybrid cards would mean that he could still get some use out of the Aura, even if not at it's full strength. Rounding out the pack, he picked up another Farhaven Elf, a Merrow Wavebreakers and potentially large Mossbridge Troll. However, the picks were looking pretty thin on the ground drafting Green behind Trull and beyond that, Nicastri, who was in Blue and White. While I didn't see what Nicastri took over the Steel of the Godhead, most people would assume it was probably a Silkbind Faerie.
The last pack rewarded Aplin with another Leech Bonder. He had previously shipped a Presence of Gond but now with at least three creatures with untap abilities, would no doubt be slamming down any more that might come his way. Unfortunately, he only managed to find one in the seventh pack passed to him. He filled in the remaining gaps with a Kitchen Finks, a Devoted Druid, a Barkshell Blessing, an Æthertow and a Wildslayer Elves.
From watching how his draft proceeded, I wasn't sure Aplin had much to go on, but he was quietly confident that his deck could earn him at least a 2-1 record on the back of some Green fat and Blue trickery. I asked him about the third pick Scuzzback Marauders over a pair of what I consider very playable Blue cards, to which Aplin explained that he really liked the Marauders and figured that getting one third indicated that either Green or Red would be open as a second color.
And it seems to have worked so far, helping him overcome Matthew Trull 2-0 in the fourth round, despite Trull's Power of Fire threatening to dominate the board in this shot. The champ is now sitting at 4-0 and still looking good for a reasonable finish today.
Saturday, July 19: 2:10p.m - Round 5: Jeremy Neeman vs David Zhao
After going 3-0 in standard, both David Zhao and Jeremy Neeman were now down a match each in the first draft, and were looking to keep their draft records from being 1-2, dropping them back into the pack.
As any reporter would be, I was thrilled to see both players dropping Mountains into play on their first turns, Neeman even used his to make a Intimidator Initiate. With any luck, this would be short for both, but probably only sweet for one of them. Zhao removed it with a Scar, but due to a mulligan to six, was on the back foot as Neeman dropped a pair of Tattermunge Duos. His Rosheen Meanderer kept the Duos at bay for a turn while Neeman expanded his army with a Horde of Boggarts. On his fifth turn, Zhao played a fifth land and sank into the think tank.
Finally Zhao dropped a Deus (Runes of the) and swung in for 12, causing him to finally break into a smile. Neeman's eyebrows shot up as he pondered his next move. He played another Intimidator Initiate and returned for six with the Duos. When Zhao swung again with the oversized Rosheen, Neeman threw the Initiate and the Horde of Boggarts in the way, dropping perilously close to death. Zhao threw out some token blockers, but was stunned as Neeman upgraded his Duo of Duos to a Trio, and snuck in for the win thanks to the Forestwalking trio of Duos.
Game 2 seemed much worse for Neeman. With Zhao on the play, none of Neeman's beaters were getting to do any beating while Zhao's defense force was built up in opposition. Before Neeman could even begin to establish an attack, Zhao swept his board aside with a Jaws of Stone. Neeman tried to rebuild, but Zhao's Foxfire Oak and Old Ghastbark could not be stopped by the team of small Red men.
Thankfully for Neeman, he was on the play again for the decider, leading with an Intimidator Initiate on turn one, and swinging with it and a Sootstoke Kindler on turn two. Zhao rallied a reasonable defense with a Vexing Shusher and a Tattermunge Duo, but Neeman had a Duo of his own and the Initiate helped keep the clock ticking. When Zhao passed his fourth turn with mana up instead of adding another blocker to the board, Neeman dropped a Furystoke Giant to try to sweep away the Shusher and Duo. Zhao responded with a Flame Javelin on Neeman's Duo, meaning that there would only be two critters able to use the Furystoke's bonus. When the smoke cleared, Neeman was down his Duo and Zhao still at least had his Shusher.
Zhao played a Juvenile Gloomwidow and passed it back, only to have Neeman press back with a Cultbrand Cinder on the spider, neutering it's ability to wither combatants. A Sootwalkers came down for Zhao, but Neeman's Sootstoke Kindler was still making things difficult for his opponent, and when a Kulrath Knight came down the following turn and headed straight for the red zone, Zhao was forced to concede defeat under the tide of incoming 3/3s.
Jeremy Neeman defeats David Zhao 2-1
Saturday, July 19: 4:37p.m - Round 6: Steven Aplin vs Aaron Nicastri
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, and it's the weekend, it's not like you need to be, Steven Aplin is the returning Australian National Champion. Facing him is Aaron Nicastri. Now, if you've ever read any coverage penned by myself about Australian events, Aaron may seem like a relatively new name to you. However, this is not Nicastri's fault, he's had many a feature match under my watch, but it always seems like they fall on a round where I'm still trying to type up one from the previous round. Not happy with my lack of attention, apparently he went out of his way to earn a feature match or two at a Pro Tour or something. Some people, I don't know.
Anyway, Nicastri lead the game with a turn two Briarberry Cohort, to which Aplin replied with a Devoted Druid. Barrenton Cragtreads came down and was upgraded with a Steel of the Godhead, making Aplin's Leech Bonder look less menacing than it usually would. Aplin simply untapped and placed a Biting Tether on the Cragtreads and sliding the permanent over to his side of the table. The Leech Bonder was again promising to be problematic now that it could keep the Tethered Cragtreads alive. The top of Nicastri's deck delivered nothing to stop the unblockable, lifelinked Cragtreads over the next few turns, and he succumbed to the very monster he had created.
"Biting tether is good," Nicastri noted dryly.
"So I've heard"
Aplin began Game 2 with a mulligan, and quickly found his board pinned down by a Silkbind Faerie from Nicastri, who also had a Last Breath for Aplin's Leach Bonder. The Faerie suited up with a Steel of the Godhead but Aplin found the land he needed to again steal it with his Biting Tether. However, this time Nicastri had a Tether of his own and took back the Faerie. He also had another Steel of the Godhead and added it to a Barrenton Cragtreads. Aplin pondered this predicament and noted that his answer to a Steel'd up creature had already been used and he picked up his cards for Game 3.
Nicastri again had a Last Breath for Aplin's early Leech Bonder, and again had his Silkbind Faerie to tie up Aplin's team. While Aplin developed with a Scuzzback Marauders and a Crabapple Cohort, Nicastri held them off with the monstrous Wicker Warcrawler, all the while distracting creatures with his Silkbind Faerie. With some of Aplin's monsters tapped low, the Warcrawler waded into the field reducing his foes life expectancy dramatically. Unable to swing back without taking rather a lot to the face, Aplin tried to dig up some gas with an Elsewhere Flask fueled Flow of Ideas for eight. With only two mana still available, Aplin had failed to find the Turn to Mist he needed to prevent Nicastri from crushing his board position.
"Yeah that's so game. It would have been nice to have an untap step there." Aplin lamented.
Aaron Nicastri defeats Steven Aplin 2-1
Saturday, July 19: 6:43p.m - Draft 2: Aaron Nicastri
I spoke with Aaron Nicastri earlier about his preferences in Shadowmoor draft, and he expressed a fondness of Blue and White, as they seemed to be the deepest and most powerful colors. Sitting at 6-0, he was hoping he could build a consistent and reliable deck to take him into Intentional Draw territory without taking too many risks in the draft.
Pack one gave Nicastri an Armored Ascension over Mass Calcify and Shield of the Oversoul, a pick he hoped he could have define his draft, as he told me later he considers the Aura "pretty insane". Second pick he was passed a Silkbind Faerie by Andrew Vance, who evidently knew of Nicastri's color preferences and was hoping to get some co-operation under way. The next few picks weren't especially flash for Nicastri, but he did get a couple of Barrenton Cragtreads and a Turn to Mist. By the end of the first pack, he was clearly trying to draft White, but the packs weren't giving him a great deal of power. It was safe to assume that Vance probably wasn't White upstream of him, but beyond that there could have been a few people picking out the gems before they made it to Nicastri. During the review of pack one, Vance revealed himself to be mono Red, which was a reasonable expectation after the Silkbind Faerie signal. Downstream of Nicastri, Glenn Shanley was drafting Blue/Black, and I assume it was on the strength of his first few picks, as it didn't look like Nicastri was feeding him anything especially over the top.
The first pick of the second pack had nothing for Nicastri, and his choices were between Gloomlance, Puncture Bolt and Corrupt, with an outside option for Ghastly Discovery. He took the Corrupt, which was the most powerful spell that wasn't stepping on Vance's toes, while giving him the possibility of moving into Black. Nicastri was most likely unaware that Shanley, now upstream of him, was drafting Black, as he hadn't exactly fed him anything that would push him that way in pack one. The second pick was also pretty disastrous, offering Firespout, Burn Trail and Scuttlemutt. He took the tricky little mana maker and shipped the Red on to Vance. At this point, pack two wasn't starting out too well, so Nicastri was looking to keep Vance on side for the third pack with the gift Firespout or Burn Trail. However, there was little else of note throughout the second pack, and Nicastri only managed to pick up a Mistmeadow Skulk and a Steel of the Godhead.
Pack three coughed up a Wilt-Leaf Liege, followed by a Prison Term and a Mistmeadow Witch, greatly improving Nicastri's outlook. He rounded out the last pack by filling in his curve with a Raven's Run Dragoons, an Old Ghastbark, a Puresight Merrow and a Safehold Elite.
After the draft, Nicastri was prepared to admit that his deck wasn't much better than 2-1, but was confident that 2-1 was all he needed before he could start offering draws. He agreed that pack two was nothing but awful, but he recovered well in the last pack. He also knew that having not passed much of note to Glenn Shanley, the only other person at 6-0, that he had a reasonable chance in his next match as well. Sure enough, Nicastri then dispatched Shanley 2-0 to become the only remaining undefeated player.