Day One of Great Britain Nationals 2009 is over, but for the champion, we’re not yet at the halfway mark. A crowd of 167 players started out beside the glory that is the English Channel here in sunny Brighton, but 166 of them would meet with at least one defeat before the day was done. The exception was Dan Gardner, who piloted his Blue-white ‘Lark deck to 3-0 in Standard, before acing his first draft pod and opening up with a last round win over Gerard Boyd to claim the overnight lead.
Right behind him is Chris Rossiter, who has a single draw to go with his six wins so far. Eight more players sit on 6-1, including Pro Stuart Wright, Mick Edwards, and Chris Stocking (who made the Top 8 last year.) But with 38 players within 6 points of the lead, the Top 8 is far from certain, and former champions Craig Stevenson and Richard Moore will be among those looking to make a move from 15 points to claim the title for the second time.
Tune in Friday for the last two rounds of draft, three rounds of Standard, and then the blow-by-blow action from the Top 8, when the Great Britain team for Worlds in Rome will be finalised. Seven down, five to go – it’s still all to play for. God save the Queen!
by Steve SadinThursday, 8:47 p.m. - Round Seven Feature MatchDanny Gardner V Gerard Boyd
by Rich HagonThursday, 7:30 p.m.At The Halfway Mark
by Steve SadinThursday, 7:21 p.m.21 Players, 14 Decks
by Rich HagonThursday, 7:05 p.m.Inside the Mind of Gerry Thompson
by Steve SadinThursday, 6:07 p.m. - Round Five Feature MatchRichard Moore v Mark Glenister
by Rich HagonThursday, 5:35 p.m.‘Hats Entertainment
by Steve SadinThursday, 4:21 p.m.Drafting with Stuart Wright
by Rich HagonThursday, 3:57 p.m. - Round Four Feature MatchNeil Rigby v Laura Dawes
by Steve SadinThursday, 1:45 p.m.Metagame Breakdown
by Rich HagonThursday, 1:25 p.m.(M) 10 out of 10
by Rich HagonThursday, 1:10 p.m. - Round Three Feature MatchJames Corwood v Stuart Wright
by Rich HagonThursday, 11:27 a.m.The Great British Who’s Who
by Steve SadinThursday, 11:15 a.m. - Round 1 Feature MatchJonathan Randle v David Grant
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Thursday, 11:15am : Round 1 Feature Match - Jonathan Randle v David Grant
Defending Great Britain National Champion and level 4 Pro Jonathan Randle appeared cool, confident and sleepy when he said down for his round one feature match. In direct contrast to this was his opponent David Grant, an old school Pro who showed up to the match wide-awake and ready to entertain the crowd.
“Please don’t feature me.” Said Grant. “I almost want to concede now, Jon is my pick to win the tournament.”
“Think positive.” a friend of Grant’s said.
“I can’t. Today I’m mostly just here for fun.”
Randle won the roll but had to mulligan.
“I should read my cards, I don’t know what they all do,” said Grant, eliciting a laugh from some of the spectators. “I’m not joking, I got this deck this morning.”
If Grant wasn’t feeling too confident before the match a second mulligan from Randle had to improve his outlook a bit.
Grant opened on a turn 1 Island into Fieldmist Borderpost.
“It is Time Sieve,” quipped Randle, already confident that he knew what his opponent was playing.
“Looks like mulligans don’t matter anymore.” Said Grant.
On his 7th turn Grant cast a Jace Beleren, which Randle responded to with a Broken Ambitions for 4. Fearing a powerful follow up play, such as Broodmate Dragon or Identity Crisis, Grant chose to counter the Broken Ambitions with a Cryptic Command bouncing a vivid land and leaving Randle with 5 lands in play and a tapped land in his hand.
Grant then chose to have both players draw with Jace Beleren, protecting it from a potential Volcanic Fallout or Ajani Vengeant.
On Randle’s turn he did have a threat to play, but it was not the 6 casting cost threat that Grant was anticipating, but instead a 5 mana Baneslayer Angel.
Grant once again chose to have both players draw a card with Jace Beleren, suggesting that he really wanted to protect his Planeswalker from Volcanic Fallout, or that he intended to use the ultimate ability to mill his opponent for 20 cards.
A Pollen Lullaby shut down the Baneslayer Angel for a bit and when Randle tried to attack again two turns later Grant cast another Pollen Lullaby, this time revealing a Angelsong and proving without a doubt that he was playing Turbo Fog.
Grant pumped his Jace up to 11 counters prompting Randle to Volcanic Fallout it back down to 9 counters. Grant again pumped his Jace up to 11 counters and Randle tried to answer with a Jace of his own. Grant won the counter war but Randle had a Volcanic Fallout to buy himself another turn.
Grant resolved a Tezzeret the Seeker, but said go without activating its ability to untap two borderposts. Grant noticed his mistake just moments later causing him to hit himself on the forehead hard enough to leave a noticeable mark.
For a moment this looked like it might swing the game as Randle had enough of a mana advantage on his turn to force through a Jace of his own with a Negate and a Cryptic Command that he used to bounce Grant’s Tezzeret.
However on his final turn, with 0 cards remaining in his library, Grant had just enough counterspells, Howling Mines and Font of Mythos’ to ensure that Randle (who had gotten the first crack at the additional draws from the Howling Mines and the Font of Mythos) would deck himself on the following turn.
Grant 1 – Randle 0
By the time the players had shuffled up for Game 2 they had a mere 15 minutes remaining to finish the match.
Randle drew the two cards for his turn and still no land greeted him. He did have a Negate for Grant’s Font of Mythos and then finally drew a 3rd land.
Grant cast and resolved a Jace Beleren, which he used to have both players draw a card, giving Randle a chance to resolve an end of turn Vendilion Clique. Randle, very aware that only 8 minutes remained in the round, chose to attack Grant and not the Planeswalker with his flier before tapping out for an Ajani Vengeant that he used to lock down a land.
Grant had a Runed Halo naming Ajani Vengeant in case Randle should attempt to use its ultimate ability.
On his turn Grant attempted a silence, which Randle responded to with a Cryptic Command bouncing a land and drawing a card. Grant then cast a Cryptic Command of his own countering and bouncing one of Randle’s lands.
“I’m just trying to get rid of some cards here.” Said Grant.
However, in his haste, Grant missed a prime opportunity to bounce his opponent’s Ajani Vengeant, which at that point was already up to 5 counters.
Randle resolved a Baneslayer Angel but Grant had a Runed Halo protecting him from the flier and a Meddling Mage naming Esper Charm.
On his turn Randle pumped the Ajani Vengeant up to 7 counters.
Grant played a Runed Halo naming Vendillion Clique and a second Meddling Mage, this time naming Cryptic Command leaving Randle without any way to use Ajani Vengeant’s ultimate ability on his next turn...
...until Randle cast Volcanic Fallout killing the two Meddling Mages and his own Clique.
An Esper Charm later and Grant was left with only two borderposts for mana.
Grant tapped all (two) of his mana sources to cast a Meddling Mage naming Cryptic Command.
Randle untapped and began resolving a Cruel Ultimatum when time was called.
Randle drew into a second Esper Charm which he used to destroy his opponent’s Runed Halo on Baneslayer Angel allowing him to win the game on the 5th turn of extra turns.
Grant 1 - Randle 1
L-to-R: Jonathan Randle (27 Pro Points), Steve Sadin (73 Pro Points), Dave Grant (34 Pro Points)
Thursday, 11:27am : The Great British Who’s Who
One of the most expensive books money can buy here in Great Britain is the massive tome ‘Who’s Who’, which is, essentially, an encyclopaedia of the Great and the Good of these blessed islands. Business Leaders, Judges, Lawyers, TV Presenters, Actors, Entepreneurs, Authors, Newspaper Editors, Peers of the Realm, every Politician still breathing...Basically, if you’re a mover and a shaker, you’re in Who’s Who.
Now, the fact is that I won’t be spending nine months preparing the Magic Who’s Who, and that means the Editorial standards might not be world class. That’s my way of saying, ‘If I didn’t mention you, please send my apologies to your Mum, and I’ll try and do better next year!’
So, to business.
Iain Bain is a competitive sort, who is likely to be in the mix.
Dave Ball has been out of the game for a while, but judging by the high-octane group he surrounded himself with yesterday as he familiarised himself with his Standard deck, he’s lost none of his competitive edge.
Bradley Barclay is perhaps the best-known Scottish player. One of the quietest players in the room, and one of the toughest opponents.
Adam Barnett has had some Pro Tour success, having been the highest-placed GB finisher at Pro Tour Yokohama 2007.
Richard Bland is part of the Coventry squad that has coalesced around the Orsini-Jones brothers, and will look to do better than a disappointing outing last year.
Gerard Boyd is a soft-spoken Scot who was in contention deep into Pro Tour Hollywood last year.
Andrew Buchanan is one of the most experienced players here, having made a Grand Prix Top 8 in the late 1990s.
Russ Davies had a great Nationals last year, making it all the way to Worlds in Memphis.
Konstantinos (Dad) and Nick (Son) Doropoulos jointly run one of the major Tournaments in the North, and regularly travel to European Grand Prix.
Michael Duke narrowly missed out on the Top 8 of Grand Prix Birmingham last year, and is one of the leading traders in England.
Peter Dun has plenty of Grand Prix and Pro Tour experience.
James Escritt made his Pro Tour debut in Honolulu, and made Day Two, doubtless thanks to my expert tuition back home in Scunthorpe!
Ray Fong is more used to wearing the DCI Judge shirt, but uses his player credentials here.
Dan Gardner is another from the Coventry squad.
Stefano Gattolin is a long-time GB resident who hails, as you may guess, from Italy. He has a string of Pro Tour appearances to his name.
Mark Glenister had a fantastic run at Pro Tour Honolulu, where he finished in the Top 16, thus guaranteeing him long-term Pro status. Must be one of the favorites here.
Daniel Godfrey was travelling the world last year, but was part of the Worlds team in 2007.
Dave Grant is one of the most entertaining players in the country, both on and off the table. He lost to Stuart Wright in the Quarter Finals of 2007, and remains a threat.
Tom Harle was playing plenty of Pro Tours whilst still at school. Now all grown up, this Limited expert should be near the top tables come tomorrow night.
Mark Knight has made the team before, but has largely been away from the game in recent times.
Ioannis Kyriazis defeated Russ Davies to claim the third spot on the GB team at Worlds 2008.
Nick Lovett is arguably the most successful player here, having finished third in the 2006 World Championships. He’ll be looking to make sure there’s a Welsh representative on the GB team.
Jeremy Mansfield is always the easiest man in the room to spot, since he unfailingly wears a set of ram horns to events. Yes, really.
Graeme Mcintyre is one of the leading Scots, and was always among the favorites to lift the Scottish title, prior to the GB join-up.
Richard Moore is the 2005 English Champion, and continues to be among the most consistent GB players on the European Grand Prix circuit, where he almost invariably makes Day Two.
Stephen Murray was the beaten finalist from last year, and the determined Scot has shown he has what it takes to succeed at the Pro level too. A major contender for the title.
Marco Orsini-Jones was widely considered to be the best player in his family, until Matteo forced Gabriel Nassif to find the cruelest of Cruel Ultimatums in the Pro Tour Kyoto Top 8. Seeing both of them make the team wouldn’t be a surprise. Seeing neither of them in the mix really would be.
Ian Pirouet made the Top 8 in 2006, but missed out on the Worlds team.
Lian Pizzey is an experienced Judge who is one of the tightest technical players in the country.
Jonathan Randle is the reigning GB Champion, having comprehensively deserved his win twelve months ago.
Tom Reeve is an outstanding Limited player, who could be in great shape if only he can get that far with Standard.
Neil Rigby was last spotted roaming around Honolulu in a Pink Panther outfit, and is looking for his fourth Worlds appearance.
Ben Ronaldson is a name that should resonate with students of the game, since he was at the heart of the Hampton Court Palace crew that made such a significant contribution to Constructed in the early 2000’s. At one point arguably the most influential deckbuilder in world Magic, he makes an unexpected and welcome return to tournament action.
Ed Ross was a more or less permanent fixture on the Scotland team before the champs unification, and is always a tough nut to crack.
Chris Rossiter has an incredible string of PTQ Top 8s in recent months, but has yet to break through to the main event.
Ben Sanders undoubtedly has the most impressive facial hair in the room, and is also a former Scottish team member.
Guy Southcott is a perennial PTQer who makes the Tour regularly. He’s due a big weekend.
Robert Stanjer has performed well at multiple European Grand Prix.
Craig Stevenson is the current editor of starcitygames.com, and won this event in 2006, carrying the flag at Paris Worlds.
Rob C. Wagner and Rob H. Wagner – one of these is a Tournament Organiser. One of them isn’t.
Paul Wray is the playtest partner of Craig Stevenson, and succeeded in the Last Chance Qualifier yesterday.
Stuart Wright was the runner-up behind Craig ‘Lightning Helix’ Jones in 2007, and remains one of our foremost players and deckbuilders.
Dave Yendall made the Top 8 in 2006, but is still looking for his first Worlds appearance.
So there you have it, a potted guide to some of the better-known players here at GB Nationals. Now of course, the fact is that none of these have a prayer, simply because I’ve mentioned them. However, just to absolutely put the nail in the coffin for another year, here’s my idea of the Top 4 that will go on to represent Queen and Country:
First – Matteo Orsini-Jones
Second – Stuart Wright
Third – Stefano Gattolin
Fourth – Mark Glenister
Tune in tomorrow, when I tell you all about the people who are actually winning at Magic!
Somewhere in there is a National Champion. Possibly.
Thursday, 1:10 p.m. - Round Three Feature Match: James Corwood v Stuart Wright
James Corwood brings Elves to battle. So you probably know who Stuart Wright is. One of the best deckbuilders around. A regular on the Pro Tour. 2007 Nationals runner-up. Perhaps you don’t know his opponent, James Corwood. He’s been playing since The Dark, and qualifies for Nationals pretty much every year. And what’s his best finish?
‘I never finish’.
Winning the dice roll, Stuart decided to play with his mid-range Jund deck. As he explained before the match, it’s quite the chameleon. ‘I’m tempted to call it a Control deck, but Putrid Leech is just so good that you can’t help but play with it. Sometimes, you just go Leech, Leech, Bloodbraid Elf, and you’ve won. I guess then you’re playing Aggro.’
Following a mulligan to six, Wright opened with the afore-mentioned Putrid Leech on Turn Two, while two Forests gave Wright little clue as to Corwood’s hand. The Leech smashed for four, and Great-Sable Stag joined the team. Corwood’s first play was a Turn Three Elvish Archdruid, allowing Wright to smash for another seven on Turn Four. Maelstrom Pulse then sent the Archdruid packing, and it was back to Corwood.
Llanowar Elves and Heritage Druid arrived, but he faced another huge chunk of damage the following turn. Another seven damage dropped him to two, before Wright made a second Putrid Leech.
Now was the time for Corwood to stitch together an awesome come from behind victory. He laid Devoted Druid and a second Heritage Druid, and passed. This time there was little choice but to block left, right, and centre, as two Putrid Leeches and Great Sable Stag piled in, leaving Corwood just the Llanowar Elves. That wasn’t enough, and we were off to Game 2 in double-quick time.
Wright 1 – Corwood 0.
‘I really hate Wooded Bastion’ said Corwood, as he sent back his opening seven for the second game. ‘Funny, I really like mine’ said Wright.
Again, both players opened with a Forest, with Elvish Visionary first down for Corwood. A second turn Swamp was added to by Wright with Fertile Ground. The Visionary attacked, and Corwood passed, apparently with very little action in hand following his mulligan. A second Fertile Ground for Wright saw him up to five mana, and he dropped a Putrid Leech.
Corwood’s fourth mana saw him cast Ranger of Eos, and he sought out Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid, getting ready for future fun and frolics. With minimal pressure being applied by Wright, he seemed in much better shape.
Is it Aggro? Is it Control? It's Stuart Wright. Five mana saw Primal Command from Corwood, sending a Swamp to the top of Wright’s library (and handily killing the attached Fertile Ground) before seeking out Oversoul of Dusk. In a shocking turn of events, Wright drew a Swamp on the following turn, and he wasted no time in casting Thought Hemorrhage set to the Oversoul. To go with the Oversoul, Corwood revealed a hand of Coat of Arms, Heritage Druid, two Nettle Sentinels and a Primal Command, prompting Wright to say, ‘I should have cast it last turn!’
Primal Command duly came down, finding Regal Force for Corwood and again sending a Fertile Ground-enchanted Swamp to the top of Wright’s library, once again setting him back. That started to tell, as he passed the turn with no action other than replaying the Swamp.
Llanowar Elves was all Corwood chose to muster, though, as the game went quiet. The following turn Coat of Arms hit play, but Wright’s Putrid Leech continued to cause Corwood caution, leaving his team at home for another turn.
For four mana, Wright invited Planeswalker Garruk Wildspeaker to join his team, and he used the bonus mana from Garruk to aim Maelstrom Pulse at the Coat of Arms. Now Corwood swung into action, casting Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, and he was off to the races. With Wright helpfully keeping track of the mana, as Corwood cast a third Nettle Sentinel things were looking good for an equaliser. Seven mana got him to Regal Force, drawing him eight cards. He laid Windbrisk Heights, but then ended his turn, leaving Wright a window of opportunity.
Stuart Wright tends to take opportunities, and he wasted no time in casting Jund Charm, utterly demolishing Corwood’s board, apart from Regal Force, which Wright used Lignify to render ineffective.
Back to Corwood then, with a stack of cards in hand, but next to nothing in play. He cast Nettle Sentinel, Devoted Druid and Heritage Druid, followed by M10 Rare Elvish Archdruid. Infest from Wright sent them all packing, and on the back of Garruk Wildspeaker, Wright was getting the upper hand.
‘It almost looks like I’m winning, but I confess I’m still a little concerned’ he said. Corwood reloaded with Ranger of Eos, fetching two Llanowar Elves, which he promptly cast before passing the turn. Wright elected to push the button on Garruk, creating the Overrun effect for both Putrid Leech and a Garruk beast token that he’d sneaked into play in between desperately using the Planeswalker for mana. Now Corwood was down to one, and Wright completed a massive turn with Maelstrom Pulse to off the pair of Llanowar Elves.
Another Ranger of Eos found Llanowar Elves and Heritage Druid, but - in a handy seaside analogy – Corwood was clearly swimming against the tide. More compulsory blocks followed, but the Putrid Leech looked as if it would get the job done. One Jund Charm later, and the match was over.
Stuart Wright 2, James Corwood 0
Thursday, 1:25 p.m. : (M) 10 out of 10
Unopened M10 - an endangered species. ‘It’s the best Core Set since Alpha’.
Well, if anyone’s qualified to say things like that, it’s Nigel Rowlidge. Nigel’s here as Troll and Toad Europe, one of the leading traders in the world, and he’s seen a lot of Magic cards come and go during his time in the industry.
‘Wizards have taken care of two really important things with M10’ he continues. ‘First, black border cards, and second – well, that’s all about good cards.’
So what are the good cards that are making M10 such a hot commodity this Summer?
‘You have to start with the Dual lands. They’re already fairly popular, but they’re only going to become more desirable once the Lorwyn Block cards rotate out of Standard in the Autumn. That means no Vivid lands, and people are going to appreciate the Duals a lot more.’
What else is popular?
‘Although they’ve been around for a while, there are still tons of players who are pleased to open the Planeswalkers. Jace Beleren and Garruk Wildspeaker are still very popular, and Ajani Goldmane has been steadily in demand. There’s no doubt about the big two though. That’s Baneslayer Angel and Great Sable Stag. The Baneslayer is Mythic, so there aren’t that many around, and so many people want a decent monster that can’t be countered.’
So what’s the clientele for M10? Are there noticeable trends?
‘M10 has certainly brought plenty of lapsed players back into the fold. What’s even better, is that they’re bringing completely new players with them, because everyone needs a playtest partner, right?’
As for the boxes of boosters on display, they’re rapidly becoming an endangered species. M10 had a very heavy initial printing, but it seems that everyone wants a piece of the action.
‘We brought our last stock to this event, and by the time players arrive for the Grand Prix, everything will be gone. Like I said, it’s the best Core Set since Alpha!’
Thursday, 1:45 p.m. : Metagame Breakdown
167 players showed up to this year’s Great Britain Nationals and they chose to play a wide variety of decks.
28 Five-Color Control
22 Red-Black Burn
18 Jund Beatdown
17 Faeries (8 Blue-Black, 9 Blue-Black-Red)
15 Combo Elves
9 Kithkin (8 Mono White, 1 White-Red)
7 GB Elves
6 Jund Mannequin
5 Time Sieve
4 Five Color Blood
4 UW Lark
4 No Blue Blood
3 Spanish Inquisition
2 GW Beatdown
1 Grixis Control
1 Finest Hour
1 Swan Control
1 Red Green Beatdown
1 Red White Black Beatdown
1 Sanity Grinding
1 Turbo Fog
1 Naya beatdown
1 Naya Ramp
1 Jund Ramp
The top performing decks at Japanese Nationals were Combo Elves and Wafo-Tapa style Five-Color Control. Shuhei Nakamura took home the title with his Five-Color Control deck handily defeating many Combo Elf decks along the way.
Players around the world, and especially players competing in US Nationals, took note of this. The next week saw a whopping 61 out of 230 players at US Nationals choosing to play a concoction full of Cryptic Commands, Plumeveils and Cruel Ultimatums.
The deck lived up to its numbers at that tournament as Charles Gindy, Adam Yurchick and Todd Anderson took the three slots on the National team with lists that were only a few cards off from Nakamura’s championship list (their changes were mostly to make the deck stronger in the mirror).
Five-Color Control is once again the most popular deck with 28 players choosing to wield Cryptic Commands, Plumeveils and Cruel Ultimatums.
The second most popular deck is Red Black burn. The Red Black burn decks at GB Nats mostly feature a full set of maindeck Anathemancers to punish the greedy Multi Color Decks.
Jund Beatdown also remains quite popular. Featuring many of the most powerful cheap creatures in the format such as Putrid Leech, Great Sable-Stag, Anathemancer and Bloodbraid Elf, a good Jund draw can beat you before you even know what’s going on.
Faerie decks, both with Lightning Bolts and without, still remain a prevalent force despite poor showings at US Nationals.
Combo Elves round out the double-digit decks with 15 players looking to Primal Command and Regal Force their way to victory.
What will be the big deck(s) from GB Nationals?
Continue checking in on Magicthegathering.com to find out!
Thursday, 3:57 p.m. : Round Four Feature Match – Neil Rigby v Laura Dawes
Neil Rigby - Here He Rules. With an interesting Esper Draft behind him, mulitple Worlds competitor Neil Rigby entered the Feature Match area for the first Limited match of the day. His opponent was Laura Dawes, whose previous best at Nationals was 17th in 2008. Currently residing in Oxford, but hailing from Leicester, she’s been testing, as she says, with her ‘long-suffering boyfriend. Trouble is, he keeps getting better, and I keep losing.’ Both players came in with a 2-1 record, knowing that acing the Draft pod would see them in great shape at the halfway mark.
Laura opened with a mulligan, while Neil opened with, as Laura put it, ‘the strongest card in Magic.’ That’ll be an Island then. Cylian Elf was her opening play, followed up with Qasali Pridemage. Ethersworn Shieldmage prevented some damage, and Rigby used the Flash monster to attack back, adding the 3/3 flyer, Esper Cormorants.
The Cormorants weren’t around for long, as Qasali Pridemage stayed around just long enough to trigger Exalted for the Cylian Elf, before sacrificing to send the flyer packing. Knight of the Skyward Eye was next for Laura.
Rigby laid a Vedalken Outlander, which quickly traded with the Cylian Elf, and Laura added Naya Hushblade to the board. In typical Limited fashion, there was more action in the graveyards than in play. A pumped-up Knight of the Skyward Eye dealt five damage, dropping Neil to ten. Courier’s Capsule caused his opponent to do a passable Zombie impression, as she muttered, ‘Tasty, tasty cards....’
Reborn Hope returned the Quasali Pridemage for Laura, and with three Islands and three Plains in play, Rigby was still desperately searching for a Swamp. And failing yet again. Parasitic Strix arrived to no useful effect, but when Laura moved to pump her Knight, he had Path to Exile ready and waiting, leaving his Parasitic Strix alone on the board.
Bant Sureblade and Qasali Pridemage re-energised Laura’s position, while the Strix continued to hit for Neil. Aven Mimeomancer came down, and Laura wanted a closer look, before using the cycling ability on Jund Sojourners to off the Alara Reborn rare.
Pridemage and Sureblade powered in, dropping Rigby to just three, and eight mana later it was all over, as Resounding Thunder cycled to deal the final points.
Laura Dawes 1 – Neil Rigby 0.
With all his many Swamps in the bottom third of his library, Neil was looking for a better mix of land and spells in Game 2. That didn’t happen from his opening seven, as he took less than a second to send them back in search of a better six.
Glassdusk Hulk cycled on Turn One for Neil, very much in keeping with his card advantage plans. Puppet Conjuror met with Sangrite Backlash, and Neil continued to cycle, this time Absorb Vis setting up his complete set of basics. Laura laid Qasali Pridemage, before Mistvein Borderpost led to another rare for Neil, this time the Lich Lord of Unx, which Laura was less than excited to see.
Sedraxis Alchemist bounced the Pridemage, and the Lich Lord attacked for two. Gleam of Resistance cycled for Laura, and it seemed this second game wouldn’t be decided by mana issues on either side. Back came the Pridemage, but not for long, as a second Sedraxis Alchemist arrived. In came the first with the Lich Lord of Unx, and Laura was down to 14. Cycling Jund Sojourners at end of turn left Neil on 16.
This time, the Qasali Pridemage was joined by another Exalted friend in the shape of Akrasan Squire. Guess what happened next? Yep, the third Sedraxis Alchemist. And guess what happened next? Yep, the nine-hundred-and-thirty-first replaying of the Qasali Pridemage, with the Akrasan Squire dropping Neil to 13 against 8 for Laura.
In came the full squad for Neil, with Gleam of Resistance attempting to hold the fort for Laura. Not this time, however, as Neil used Path to Exile to off the Pridemage, before activating the Lich Lord. With four Zombies in play, Laura lost four life, and with only one blocker left, took a further – lethal – six.
Turned out, playing with Swamps made a bit of a difference.
Laura Dawes 1 – Neil Rigby 1.
Laura Dawes - Here She Rules. ‘It’s one of those one landers. That’s a problem when it’s Rupture Spire.’ With that, Laura sent back her opening seven, and she didn’t seem happy with the following six either. Having been sorely tempted, she finally resisted the urge to gamble, and went down to just five.
Naya Hushblade was a decent start for Laura, but it was clear the mountain was a steep one, as with just that in play she had only three cards left in hand. Gleam of Resistance enabled her to search out a Mountain, and subsequently play it, meaning she didn’t miss a land-drop at least. Meanwhile, Rigby was busy cycling a pair of Glassdusk Hulks, knowing he could potentially return them later in the game with Sanctum Gargoyles.
More cycling from Laura, this time via Pale Recluse, took her to five mana, while Neil had yet to play a spell. The Naya Hushblade dropped Neil to 14, but Absorb Vis finally set him up with his missing color via a Plains.
‘Come on multi-colored permanent’ said Laura, but the Hushblade remained resolutely a 2/1. Vedalken Outlander landed for Neil, but Laura sent it away with Naturalize, allowing the Hushblade to hit for a fifth time in the game. Etherium Abomination arrived, and again, was sent away, this time with Sangrite Backlash. With Neil at 8, he finally tired of the Hushblade, using Path to Exile to stem the bleeding. Puppet Conjurer was next for Neil, and finally he had a monster that was staying in play.
‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine’ said Laura, tapping every land in sight.
‘Good game’ said Neil, staring at the Martial Coup on the table.
Laura Dawes 2 – Neil Rigby 1.
Thursday, 4:21 p.m. : Drafting with Stuart Wright
Stuart Wright has been regarded as one of England’s top deck designers and players for years. He had his biggest taste of success two years ago when he made the finals of Great Britain Nationals, a performance that he followed with a top 16 at Worlds in New York which helped him lead his team to a 9th place finish in the team competition.
Since then Stuart’s results haven’t been quite as impressive, but with a 3-0 start today he seems poised to make another run at the Great Britain National Team.
Stuart opened his first pack and quickly flipped Agony Warp, Grixis Charm, Courier’s Capsule, Fire-Field Ogre and Master of Etherium to the front of the pack. While Stuart clearly felt uncomfortable taking a blue card out of such a blue heavy pack, he had no choice, as the next best card was a Jund Panorama.
After a bit of deliberation Stuart went with the Master of Etherium.
Pick five saw a return of the blue cards and offered a choice between Tidehollow Sculler, Grixis Panorama and Cloudheath Drake. Stu deliberated between Tidehollow Sculler and Cloudheath Drake until the last moment before deciding on the Drake.
When Stuart first glanced at his possible sixth pick he excitedly moved a Courier’s Capsule to the front. When he got to the end of the pack he noticed a Stoic Angel staring back at him. Stuart thought for a moment, as though trying to figure out if there was any reasonable way that he could pass the powerful rare flier when he already had a Topan Ascetic in his pile, but eventually decided that he could not give up on this opportunity and added the Stoic Angel to his stack.
At the end of pack one Stuart seemed to be committed to blue, and would probably end up playing at least a bit of white and green to support the Stoic Angel, but anything after that was up in the air.
The first pick of the second pack offered Stuart a choice between Maelstrom Archangel and Esper Cormorants. While the 5-colored rare certainly caught Stuart’s eye, it wasn’t flashy enough for Stu to take it over the four mana 3/3 artifact flier.
Pick five saw Stuart add another multi-colored land, Ancient Ziggurat, to his increasingly consistent pool.
Stuart then picked up yet another mana fixer in the form of Gleam of Resistance before rounding out the pack with Countersquall, Kraniocerous and 11th pick Might of Alara (yes, really), Worldly Counsel and View From Above.
...and nothing remarkable that he could even hope to cast.
Pick four saw Stuart deliberating between Ethercaste Knight and Grixis Grimblade, it seemed as though he was mentally calculating how good his mana was before deciding to take the slightly harder to cast Grixis Grimblade.
Stuart then had a tough pick between Jhessian Zombies and Pale Recluse (in a pack which still had a Putrid Leech). It was very important for Stuart to get black mana early in the game, but he was a bit short on green fixing. After careful consideration, Stu went with the Pale Recluse remembering that he was likely to get a couple more good green cards in the pack.
Stuart was impressively done constructing his deck before I even had a chance to walk over his table, submitting the following 40 cards.
While Stuart’s draft might not have gone exactly as he planned, his ability to think on his feet allowed him to make the best of a slightly awkward run of packs.
The speed with which he put his deck together, and the thumbs up that he gave me when I walked over, suggested that Stuart felt quite confident about his chances in this draft pod.
Thursday, 5:35 p.m. : ‘Hats Entertainment
It can be quite tricky attempting to find people in the huge conference centres that get used for major Nationals, Grand Prix and Pro Tours. We’re therefore always grateful when someone takes a bit of time to make themselves stand out from the crowd. In this, our Day One “pictures speak louder than words” feature, we’re proud to present a variety of poses from the neck up, from the seriously smart, to the sartorially suicidal. We’ll leave it to you to work out which is which.
We begin with Dan Gardner, currently at 3-0 going into the Draft portion of the event. His multi-colored offering isn’t even his, belonging rather to Marco Orsini-Jones. Says Gardner, “I thought it was kind of cool, so here we are.” And does the hat have any significance? “I haven’t lost in it yet.”
Next up is Robert Stanjer, another 3-0 man at the top tables, who will be looking to parlay that into a 7-0 overnight score, before going outside to scare the local residents. Presumably.
Plenty of Magic players have some kind of vitamin deficiency, meaning that glasses are as much a part of their tournament kit as a scorepad and sleeves. We now present two different approaches to these optical aids. First up is Mark Voisey, who apparently needs glasses to work out where he’s put his glasses. Meanwhile, sitting next door is Andrew Buchanan, who seems to have them in the optimal position.
For the authentic “you can’t see what I’m thinking” look, we turn to long-time player Dave Ball, back at Nationals after a lengthy hiatus. He’s taken the bull by the horns, something really taken to heart by Jeremy Mansfield, whose rams-horn headgear is one of the few constants on the Nationals scene.
And then we have Ben Ronaldson. I guess, if you’re prepared to wear a hat like that, you don’t mind the spotlight. Believe it or not, Ronaldson is one of the most approachable players in the building.
But the real prize for high visibility wear goes to this group from Exeter. Although not in the main event, none of this garish group are at all bothered by that minor technical detail. With a name like Team Brewery, you can probably guess that win, lose, or draw, this tropical team are going to have a very good time.
Thursday, 6:07 p.m. : Round Five Feature Match – Richard Moore v Mark Glenister
The feature match for round five saw two of the best players in the UK going head to head. Richard Moore is one of the most consistent Grand Prix performers in the country and the 2005 National Champion. His slightly less experienced but equally formidable opponent, Mark Glenister, is coming off a top 16 finish Pro Tour Honolulu, his best Pro Tour finish to date.
Both players entered the match at 3-1.
“So far I’m 0-4 on die rolls,” said Mark.
Richard then won the die roll.
“Looks like your luck continues,” said Richard. “Hey, you are 3-1, maybe drawing is the right thing for you today.”
“I have so much rubbish in my deck. I might just give up at this point so I don’t have to draw any more rubbish cards,” said Richard before playing a third land and passing the turn.
On his third turn Mark cast an Exploding Borders ensuring that he could cast almost anything on the following turn.
But Mark wasn’t really interested in trading creatures. Instead he played a Rakeclaw Gargantuan, attacked with his Nacatl Hunt-Pride and forced the Naya Sojourners to block his now first striking 5/4.
Richard didn’t have anything to play on his turn and when Mark cast an Enlisted Wurm flipping a Wooly Thoctar Richard conceded.
Glenister 1 – Moore 0
“I’m missing an important color...” said Richard in a sing-song voice.
Mark GlenisterRichard had to pass his turn with no plays, opting to sacrifice his panorama after Mark played a Macta Rioters.
A Worldheart Phoenix finally allowed Richard to go on the offensive for a few turns knocking Mark all the way to 7.
“I figured even if I beat you this game you were going to whomp me in the third,” quipped the upbeat Richard.
Glenister 2 – Moore 0
Thursday, 7:05 p.m. : Inside the Mind of Gerry Thompson
Watching Pros Draft, it’s sometimes next to impossible to work out all the things they were considering when they chose their final pick. Ask many of them, and they’ll just shrug and say, “It’s clearly the right pick.” That can get pretty frustrating, when you just know there’s a stack of complex detail being shifted at lightning speed, all leading to that one card being shuffled to the front of the booster, and going into their pile.
Gerry ThompsonWell, we’ve decided to do something about this wretched state of affairs. We took US Pro Gerry Thompson away from his Magic Online Drafts and writing for ChannelFireball.com to talk to us about a sample Shards of Alara booster. But we cheated, at least a little, because we didn’t let him see the whole pack and evaluate it in two seconds flat. Instead, he got to see just one card at a time. Thus, using our (patent pending) DraftTime technology, we were able to find out just what goes on inside a Pro head as the first booster is unveiled...
Kederekt Creeper – I like it. I’d like to think it might table (go round the table and come back pick nine) and then put it in my deck.
Soul’s Grace – I’m going to basically ignore this, because it’s rubbish. To be honest, I’d take a basic land over this, and hope my opponents play it!
Obelisk of Naya – I don’t like Obelisks, and I don’t like Naya. My objection to obelisks is that they’re too slow, and the jump from three to five mana isn’t very relevant. As for Naya, it’s all about creatures. Spells give you more options.
Oblivion Ring – I’m very happy to see this, it’s a quality first pick, and I can go anywhere from here, splashing it if I don’t end up in White.
Esper Panorama – If I’m very, very lucky it will table. I calculate this on a pack by pack basis, rather than from past experience of an ‘average’ chance of it coming back.
Hindering Light – It isn’t very good, and I haven’t cast it very often to good effect, so no.
Fatestitcher - Oooh. I’m tempted. It’s slightly worse than Oblivion Ring, but it’s in an optimal color. You can do so many tricksy things too, with Unearth, ramping your mana, it’s good on offence and defense...
Rockcaster Platoon – A fatty boom boom, which doesn’t really do anything.
Necrogenesis – Basically, this is a Mythic Uncommon. I’d be excited to have it in my deck, but two colors as a first pick is bad news. Also, it’s quite hard to be based in Black/Green.
Battlegrace Angel – Dear God. We’ve found our first pick. These other cards...(throw them down).
Island – Not changing my pick from the Battlegrace.
And with that, Gerry T returns to Magic Online...
Thursday, 7:21 p.m. : 21 Players, 14 Decks
2 Combo Elves
2 Red Black Burn
2 Five Color Control
1 Cruel Ramp
1 Finest Hour
1 Green Black Elves
1 Green White Beatdown
1 Jund Beatdown
1 Jund Ramp
1 Rogue Red White Black
1 Blue White Lark
Despite being the most popular deck in the tournament with 28 players, only one Five-Color Control deck managed to leave the first three rounds of constructed unscathed. The other undefeated Five-Color Control deck, piloted by defending Champion Jonathan Randle, had to settle with a 2-0-1 record going into the drafts.
One might be tempted to attribute the unspectacular early performance of Five-Color Control on the prevalence of Red Black Burn decks and Jund decks featuring four maindeck Anathemancer...
But Red Black Burn performed almost as unremarkably, leaving only two of its 22 players undefeated going into the drafts. And Jund beatdown preformed even less spectacularly leaving only one of its 18 pilots with 9 points.
It seems that the abundance of Great Sable-Stags and Volcanic Fallouts have taken their toll as not one of the 17 Faeries decks (an almost even mix of Blue-Black and Blue-Black-Red) went 3-0 to start the weekend.
Combo Elves left a respectable two of its 15 pilots with undefeated records, though they might perform even better on the other side of the drafts if they’re able to dodge the Five-Color Control decks.
The only deck type that produced three undefeated players was Kithkin. In recent weeks many people, including Cedric Phillips an American Pro and known for his undying affinity for the little white men, have been mourning the “Death of Kithkin.”
However, it seems as though Kithkin definitely still has a pulse and could easily be ready for a run at the Championship this weekend.
The other deck to produce multiple 9 pointers is Doran. Last seen winning Grand Prix – Seattle, two of the deck’s four pilots found themselves with perfect records heading into the first draft.
21 undefeated players, 14 different decks. It’s truly anyone’s tournament.
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. : At The Halfway Mark
Looking to go all the way.As the players sat down to Draft for the second time here on Day One, it signalled the hlafway point of GB Nationals 2009, at least as far as the Swiss rounds were concerned. With 167 players separating out into Draft pods early this afternoon, it was inevitable that we would be left with just three players with an unblemished record. Frankly, none of them are too surprising.
Chris Rossiter has been one of the most consistent PTQ performers in the last six months, but has repeatedly missed out at the final hurdle, including the Last Chance Qualifier in Honolulu, where he flew halfway round the world to try and make it in, losing in the penultimate round to Gabe Carleton-Barnes.
Daniel Gardner has been a regular on the Grand Prix circuit for the last few years, travelling in a powerful group that generally includes Richard Bland and the Orsini-Jones brothers. As he told us in the photo essay, he has yet to lose in his colorful headgear, so we can expect it to be back again tomorrow – assuming he comes through his last round tonight unscathed.
That leaves Scotland’s Gerard Boyd, GB’s highest placed finisher from Pro Tour Hollywood last year. With 10 lifetime Pro Points, he represents the most experienced of the undefeated trio, with Gardner at 3 Points, and Rossiter yet to score.
Can GP experience become Nationals success?That gives hope to a chasing pack that still contains many of the favorites for the title. Amongst the group on 5-1 sit Stuart Wright, Stefano Gattolin, Richard Bland, and 2006 Top 8 man David Yendall. In total, 13 players have just one defeat to their name, putting them in a strong position for a run at the Top 8.
Once you hit the 4-2 mark, however, it gets seriously cluttered. With the second Draft pod ensuring that only one out of every eight can come away with a perfect record, some of the Draft Pods for this second session are going to get very, very messy. Pod 3 featured Chris Stocking, the irrepressible Dave Grant, the reigning Champion Jonathan Randle, Robert Stanjer, and dark horse Daniel Royde, who continues to impress.
2005 Champion Richard Moore and three-time Team member Neil Rigby look to be on a collision course in Pod 4, while Mark Glenister will have to contend with both Tom Harle and Peter Dun if he is to reach 7-2.
Happy with his second Draft. Frankly, though, the “Pod of Death” looks to be the sixth group. Dave Ball would expect to win most Drafts. Ben Sanders is a former Scottish Champion. Matteo Orsini-Jones – well, you know all about him. Then there’s perennial top Scot Bradley Barclay, with fellow countryman Ben Scoones. Add in Matt Parker, Rob Wagner and Simon Copp, and you have the recipe for carnage.
As for Craig Stevenson, the 2006 Champion doesn’t have it much better, as he has 2008 Team member Ioannis Kyriazis, Grand Prix Top 8er Andy Buchanan, and another Pro Tour Scot in Andrew Morrison, all sitting in pod 7.
Whilst a third defeat wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of the line, nobody with serious title aspirations wants to go into an abbreviated Day Two with no lives left to give. And that means the second Draft is going to mean everything to a lot of people. Keep it right here, to see who makes the grade. We’re halfway – on to Part Two!
Thursday, 8:47 p.m. : Round Seven Feature Match - Danny Gardner V Gerard Boyd
Both players entered this round with unblemished 6-0 records, but only one would end the day with a perfect 7-0 record.
“It’s all about the hat, if it weren’t for the hat he wouldn’t be here,” quipped a friend of Danny’s watching the match.
“You have to give some credit to the slightly unbuttoned shirt too,” chimed another friend.
Gerard won the roll, but Danny started with a Forest, a Mountain and a turn two Viashino Slaughtermaster. Gerard’s first play was a third turn Goblin Outlander, leaving Danny free to attack with impudence after he played a Swamp.
Already down to 13 life and far behind on the board, Gerard spent a considerable amount of time thinking about his next play before casting a Bloodpyre Elemental which he used to destroy his opponent’s Viashino Slaughtermaster.
Gerard’s draw step offered no miracles and he quickly found himself reaching for a bunch of sideboard cards.
Danny Gardner 1 – Gerard Boyd 0
“I didn’t get to see much of your ‘bad’ deck.” Said Danny.
“That’s about all you need to see. Cascade is so good, I don’t feel like I have much of a chance against you,” said Gerard.
Dan Gardner is the one in the hat. But you knew that by now, right?Gerard played a Skyclaw Thrash, putting himself even further ahead of his struggling opponent. Rather than make a play to help himself catch up, Danny could only muster a Gift of the Gargantuan on his next turn to find a much needed Mountain.
Gerard Equipped Manaforce Mace to his Esper Stormblade and attacked with both of his creature. He lost the flip on Skyclaw Thrash, allowing Danny an opportunity to chump block with Elvish Visionary, but the attack still knocked Danny down to 12.
A Veinfire Borderpost and a Bloodbraid Elf flipping Viashino Slaughtermaster looked to put Danny back in the running, but another attack from the Equipped Esper Stormblade and a Singe-Mind Ogre that hit a Gorger Wurm left Danny at a mere 1 life.
Danny untapped and Mountaincycled a Valley Rannet when Gerard noticed that he had played a Swamp, a fourth land type, which would have made his Esper Stormblade a 7/6 attacker. If they had counted this properly Danny would have been lost on the previous turn.
As it was a mistake that neither player had noticed both players were issued warnings and continued play as normal, with Danny on serious life support.
Danny attempted to get back in the game in a big way by adding a 6/6 Mycoloth to his board (sacrificing the Viashino Slaughtermaster) but a Bloodpyre Elemental destroying a blocker later and they were off to Game 3.
Danny Gardner 1 – Gerard Boyd 1
Danny’s next play was a turn four Rip-Clan Crasher which prompted an attack that knocked Gerard to 15. Gerard used Danny’s third turn to landcycle a Fiery Fall fetching a Plains to go with his Island, Mountain and Swamp.
Gerard attacked with the Skyclaw Thrash but had no follow up play. So when Danny drew an eighth land he was able to cycle his Resounding Thunder killing the Singe-Mind Ogre and knocking Gerard down to 7.
Gerard untapped and calmly attacked with his Skyclaw Thrash, putting Danny to 7 before passing the turn without a play.
Danny was having none of it casting a Violent Outburst to end the game right then and there and end the day with a perfect 7-0 record.
Danny Gardner 2 – Gerard Boyd 1