Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on September 11, 2010

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 10:17 a.m. – Grinder Decklists

by Bill Stark

A dozen last chance grinders awarded a host of lucky players three byes for the first rounds of Grand Prix-Portland? Their identities? Read on below, where you'll find not only who but what their decks contained to pull the feat off!

Joseph Grove

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Greg Larson

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Hunter Coale

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Brandon Baker

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David Horning

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Christian Ruth

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Dylan McDonald

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David Tayler

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Jon Loucks

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Ricky Tipps

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Jia Wu

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Josh Marusek

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Saturday, 11:21 a.m. – Build Along With Coverage

by Josh Bennett

While the competitors struggle to figure out the optimal build of their various sealed pools, we offer you the opportunity to share their pain, albeit with nothing on the line. Feel free to share your take in the forums. Later in the day, we'll post our own versions for you to mock freely.

Also, conspiracy theorists take note: The packs contained tokens for two different Oozes and a Beast.

Here's what you have to work with:

Dragon's Claw
Gargoyle Sentinel
Terramorphic Expanse
Whispersilk Cloak
Wurm's Tooth

Assault Griffin
Blinding Mage
Celestial Purge
Elite Vanguard
2 Excommunicate
Holy Strength
Honor of the Pure
Infantry Veteran
Inspired Charge
Knight Exemplar
Mighty Leap
Palace Guard
2 Safe Passage
Siege Mastodon
2 Stormfront Pegasus
Tireless Missionaries
White Knight

Barony Vampire
Black Knight
Bog Raiders
Child of Night
Dark Tutelage
Diabolic Tutor
Haunting Echoes
Liliana's Caress
2 Liliana's Specter
Mind Rot
Nether Horror
Quag Sickness
Reassembling Skeleton
Sign in Blood
2 Viscera Seer

Awakener Druid
Brindle Boar
2 Fog
Garruk Wildspeaker
Giant Growth
Mitotic Slime
Nature's Spiral
Primal Cocoon
Sacred Wolf
Spined Wurm

Æther Adept
Alluring Siren
2 Augury Owl
Call to Mind
Conundrum Sphinx
Harbor Serpent
Ice Cage
Jace's erasure
Merfolk Spy
Tome Scour

Arc Runner
Canyon Minotaur
Ember Hauler
Goblin Balloon Brigade
Goblin Tunneler
Lava Axe
Manic Vandal
Pyretic Ritual
Shiv's Embrace
Thunder Strike
Vulshok Berserker

Feature Match: Round 1 – Martin Kearns vs Daniel Duterte

by Zaiem Beg

Daniel Duterte was coming off winning a Mox Opal and $1,000 at the Assault on Mirrodin party at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. After a challenge from a friend, he had opted to bring his Mox trophy to Grand Prix-Portland, held near his hometown of Seattle. Martin Kearns, his opponent for the first round of the day, didn't have a cool trophy but he did have a desire to beat his opponent, trophy or not.

Game 1

Martin won the die roll and elected to play, both players liking their opening seven. Martin started off aggressively with Child of Night followed by Silvercoat Lion, and Daniel's turn three Cloud Elemental did nothing to keep him from falling behind on life totals. When Daniel's Azure Drake and Assault Griffin were both ended by Doom Blade on consecutive turns, he thought long and hard before casting Foresee with six lands on the battlefield.

"I'll leave four on top," Daniel said, indicating what nobody wants to hear when the opponent scrys four.

"Oh wow," replied Martin.

Daniel decided that he wasn't done scrying, and cast an Augury Owl. Martin cast a Barony Vampire to add to his board, but it was outclassed by a Vengeful Archon.

Martin sent everything into the red zone. Daniel grimaced, expecting a trick, but had to walk into it or he would die. Archon ate the Barony Vampire and the Owl and Child of Night traded, but there was no combat trick and Martin could only drop a second Barony Vampire.

A Mystifying Maze was added to Daniel's board, making Martin's attacks even less effective. Daniel generated more card advantage by casting Foresee and Jace's Ingenuity, digging for a counterspell to ensure that his opponent was locked out of winning the game. When Martin attacked Daniel down to 1 life and cast a post-combat Corrupt, Daniel had indeed found the counterspell he needed, and Cancel ended Martin's hopes of taking game one.

Daniel Duterte 1, Martin Kearns 0

"You throw in a Jitte, right?" Martin asked, referring to the promo Umezawa's Jitte that every player received for registering in the event.

"Yeah, I should have started it. I just didn't really read the card so I didn't think it was that good," Daniel deadpanned.

Game two

Martin started out with six cards on the play, while Daniel liked his seven. Martin led off with another two drop creature on turn two, but this time it was the more defensive Blinding Mage in contrast to the first game's Silvercoat Lion. But Daniel answered with his own Blinding Mage, as well as an air assault in Cloud Elemental and Azure Drake. When Martin's Barony Vampire attacked into Daniel's Azure Drake, Martin's board was left somewhat barren and Daniel took the opportunity to draw cards by casting Jace's Ingenuity and Foresee, digging for ways to slam the game shut.

Daniel found exactly what he needed when he cast Ajani Goldmane, eliciting a "wow" from Martin.

"That's a pretty good pool there," said Martin.

"I got a little lucky," Daniel replied.

The planeswalker boosted all of Daniel's creatures, and two turns later Martin's Child of Night and Barony Vampire were badly outclassed, resulting in the concession.

Daniel Duterte defeats Martin Kearns 2-0.

Saturday, 12:18 p.m. – Build Along With Coverage 2 - Josh Bennett's Build

by Josh Bennett

I tried White-Green at first and didn't like the way things were looking. My first build of blue-white didn't wow me either. I wound up skewing towards taking advantage of my fast fliers. This might wind up leaving me with a lot of clunky draws. I didn't add the Terramorphic Expanse because it seems like a land that comes into play tapped will always cost me.

There are also some cards I worry I ought to be playing: Negate, Flashfreeze, Whispersilk Cloak.

Hopefully this isn't a complete embarrassment.

Josh Bennett's Build

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Feature Match: Round 2 – Terry Tsang vs Phil Freneau

by Josh Bennett

It was a clash of the graybeards here in Round 2. Phil Freneau (Top 8 at Pro Tour Tokyo 2000) sat down against Canadian Terry Tsang (Top 8 at Pro Tour New York 1999), their time away from the game having reduced them to just a single bye apiece. With the GP so nearby (Tsang is from Vancouver, and Freneau is local) they couldn't resist coming out for some gaming.

Freneau got on the board quickly with Infantry Veteran (locked in an Ice Cage by Tsang), and then Blinding Mage, ready to free his one-drop. Tsang played his third land and tapped out for Crystal Ball. Freneau played Augury Owl, leaving mana open to bust the Cage. Tsang stopped the beatdown cold with Azure Drake.

Freneau shifted gears and cast Foresee. Two went to the bottom, and the others into his hand. Tsang went looking with his Ball on upkeep but simply played a land and passed. Freneau added Cloud Elemental, still unable to bust through. Chandra's Outrage sent it to the bin at end of turn, and the reason for leaving the Blinding Mage alive was made clear after he untapped.

"Inferno Titan."

Freneau flipped it around to read the text. "Seems good."

The Titan smashed the Veteran and Tapper, leaving Freneau with just an Owl in play. He gamely made a Gargoyle Sentinel. Tsang swung in with the Titan and killed it, asking it Freneau had the Diminish. He did. Tsang replaced it with Harbor Serpent, leaving himself empty-handed. Augury Owl for Freneau sent three cards to the bottom.

Tsang rigged his deck with Crystal Ball before untapping and played yet another backbreaker: Conundrum Sphinx. Tsang smiled, saying "my card pool's a little powerful."

In a couple attacks they were on to Game 2.

Tsang 1 - Freneau 0

Phil Freneau

A judge wandered by with the results slip and had to ask if this was the match he was looking for. Tsang laughed.

"Not even the judges know us. If this was 2000, everyone would know our names. Now it's 2010. We're washed up."

"We're has-beens," agreed Freneau

"Yep. Still, better to be a has-been than a never-was."

Freneau's early Blinding Mage fell to Lightning Bolt, and he followed up with Gargoyle Sentinel. Tsang played Cloud Elemental. Freneau spent his fourth turn swinging for three. Tsang returned fire and made no play. Freneau hit again, his fifth land letting him add Stormfront Pegasus to the mix.

Tsang paused on his fifth turn, then drew three with Jace's Ingenuity. He held his Cloud Elemental back to block. The Sentinel knocked him to eleven. Freneau dug with Augury Owl and left two on top. Would Tsang wreck house with Titan in consecutive games?

Mercifully for Freneau, he didn't. He put the Sentinel on Ice and passed the turn. Freneau made no play. With a full grip and under no pressure, Tsang elected to play the waiting game. They drew and played lands for a pair of turns. Eventually Tsang played Harbor Serpent with three mana open.

Freneau played out Infantry Veteran and Wall of Frost. Tsang mopped up a bit with Pyroclasm then attacked for seven. He added an insult of getting back Jace's Ingenuity with Call to Mind. Not even Stormtide Leviathan from Freneau could blunt his assault.

Still, there was no reason to leave it on the other side of the table. Tsang tapped five for Mind Control Freneau nodded. After all, why wouldn't it be?

Freneau bought some time with Sleep but the writing was on the wall.

Terry Tsang defeats Phil Freneau 2-0

Feature Match: Round 3 – Jeff Cunningham vs Cassius Weathersby

by Bill Stark

A former pro player, Canadian Jeff Cunningham entered the third round of competition at Grand Prix-Portland undefeated. Unlike his glory days, however, he had to play the third round rather than rely on three byes from his Pro Points as in years past. His opponent was Cassius Weathersby who was no stranger to the feature match area having been featured at Grand Prix-Los Angeles in 2009.

Game 1

Cunningham lost the die roll but came out of the gates considerably faster than his opponent. He opened on Infantry Veteran, then followed up with Stormfront Pegasus. His opponent used an early Doom Blade to tame the Pegasus, but then found a Gargoyle Sentinel staring down at him from Jeff's side of the battlefield. Weathersby managed to reach five mana, but still hadn't cast anything beyond the Doom Blade for the Pegasus.

His opponent didn't seem to mind, simply spending his mana each turn to activate his Gargoyle in order to munch 4-point chunks out of his opponent's life total with help from the Infantry Vet. "You've got to have something in there," Jeff muttered, nodding at his opponent's hand. Finally Cassius pulled the trigger, casting a Serra Angel. His opponent, however, was ready, casting a Doom Blade of his own to take out the 4/4 and attacking to drop Cassius to just 6. In the background, newly minted Pro Tour champion Paul Rietzl leaned in to whisper "This is quite a feature match for the third round!"

The Serra Angel from Weathersby proved to be a test spell as he untapped and reloaded with Baneslayer Angel. The powerful 5/5 mythic helped explain why Cassius was undefeated on the day, and it drew a long pause from Jeff who tried to figure out what his solution for the Angel was. He opted to cast Quag Sickness targeting the flyer, and promptly cut it down to just a 2/2. That allowed him to continue attacking with his Gargoyle, pumped by Infantry Veteran.

Attacking with his 2/2, Cassius built up some of his missing life total and cast a third white flyer by tapping 3WW for a repeat copy of Serra Angel. Fearlessly Cunningham sent his team of creatures to the red zone, unafraid of losing them to the Angel. Cassius had no choice but to block, facing lethal damage at 4 life, and opted to put his Serra in front of the Gargoyle. That drew a Mighty Leap from his opponent which saved the artifact creature and took out the 4/4, while Cassius fell to 3 from the Infantry Veteran.

With the turn back Cassius worked on digging himself out, attacking with Baneslayer Angel to move back to 5. That gave him enough cushion to cast Sign in Blood on himself, and the two cards he drew allowed him to deal with both of his opponent's creatures: Excommunicate for the Gargoyle Sentinel and Stabbing Pain for the Infantry Veteran. He passed with little mana up, and his opponent showed him a Corrupt in his hand, enough for lethal. Cassius hesitated, but after doing the math realized he was dead and conceded.

Jeff Cunningham 1, Cassius Weathersby 0

Jeff Cunningham

Game 2

The second game started off quickly for Jeff Cunningham, matching his pace in the first as he cast Ajani's Pridemate followed by Child of Night. But in contrast to his own first game, Cassius Weathersby had a Gargoyle Sentinel on his third turn. Not only was that the creature that did the most damage to him in the previous game, but it was the first time in the match he had cast a creature that cost less than five mana!

Jeff began attacking, but lost his 2/1 Child to a Stabbing Pain, then his Pridemate to Assassinate. On five mana Cassius hit the twilight hour and plopped a Serra Angel to the battlefield. A turn later, however, the 4/4 flyer was dead to Condemn from Cunningham. Weathersby reloaded with a Stone Golem, and Cunningham replied with Assault Griffin. The Griffin was soon joined by Squadron Hawk, and the Canadian Cunningham even had Deathmark for his opponent's Baneslayer Angel as it reappeared in the match.

Rise from the Grave brought the Baneslayer back, but comically the rarely relevant portion of the spell that turned the 5/5 into a black Zombie on top of being an Angel proved to matter! Celestial Purge, which Jeff had likely boarded in to tame his opponent's black creatures, had a Baneslayer-sized legal target. Quag Sickness then helped Jeff minimize the hurt coming from his opponent's Stone Golem and it looked like Jeff was quickly running away with things.

Cassius worked to buy himself some time, casting Excommunicate to put his opponent's Assault Griffin back on top of his library. He then cast Crystal Ball which promised to dig him into the goods left in his deck provided he could survive the continued aerial assault from his opponent. Pacifism helped to that end, turning off the Griffin, and Jeff looked to the top of his deck for some help.

The two players slowly worked on racing one another, Cassius using his Crystal Ball to find the goods, Cunningham forced to simply draw one card each turn. The 2/2 Stone Golem from Cassius dug into Jeff for 2 turn after turn while double Squadron Hawk from Cunningham backed by an Infantry Veteran allowed Jeff to fight back. A second Serra Angel from Weathersby was Pacified but with the scores 8-2 in Cassius's favor, Cunningham still had his work cut out for him.

Wild Griffin made an appearance for Cassius, but was quickly killed by a second Quag Sickness. Jeff traded off a Liliana's Specter and a second Mighty Leap for his opponent's Stone Golem and Nether Horror, putting him back into the lead as he beat down with a Squadron Hawk pumped by Infantry Veteran each turn. But, as it had multiple times throughout the game, tempo swung once again. An innocuous Roc Egg, which had sat on the battlefield for turns doing nothing against an aerial assault, died to a Doom Blade from Cassius himself. That gave him a 3/3 flying Bird token which allowed him to block one of his opponent's Hawks, then when Jeff had no removal for the creature they were on to the third game, tied.

Jeff Cunningham 1, Cassius Weathersby 1

Cassius Weathersby

Game 3

For the third time in the match, Jeff Cunningham had an aggressive start out of the gates, casting a Squadron Hawk on his second turn. When he didn't search up a second copy of the 1/1, as he had in the second game, it became apparent he had drawn the other Bird on one of his early draws. Cassius had no creatures, again, opting to sculpt his draws with a Crystal Ball instead of casting attackers or blockers. A Roc Egg soon guarded the ground for him, but did little against his opponent's actual creatures which all had flying.

Weathersby used a Duress to see his opponent's hand and found a Doom Blade for the taking. Serra Angel found its way to the battlefield for Cassius, but died almost immediately to a Quag Sickness. Stormfront Pegasus for Jeff allowed him to double the size of his attacking force on power, but he was clearly concerned about losing out to his opponent's card selection via Crystal Ball. Pacifism from Cassius took out Stormfront Pegasus, and a Stabbing Pain took out a Squadron Hawk. Jeff tried to reload with a Child of Night but was at risk of falling too far behind from his opponent's scheduled draw steps.

Stone Golem from Cassius provided him with a threat that stayed on the battlefield and began crunching his opponent's life total. Confident in his status in the game, the Golem owner cast a Sign in Blood targeting himself, falling to 7 in the process. Between the sorcery and the Ball, Cassius managed to find himself his Baneslayer Angel but slow-rolled it to force his opponent to use up his removal on other creatures first. The plan worked as an Assassinate took out Stone Golem, and Weathersby tried a Nightwing Shade as a final test spell before pulling the trigger on the Baneslayer.

Across the battlefield, Cunningham had managed to drop his opponent to just 3 by way of a Howling Banshee. He didn't look pleased by the Baneslayer, however. In the background, time in the round was called and judge Mike MacPhee, monitoring the match, reminded the players they had a three minute extension after the match had been forced to switch tables in the feature match area. Cunningham appealed the ruling, concerned that it was more time than was used for the move. Head judge Jeff Morrow came to the table and upheld MacPhee's ruling, which Cunningham accepted with a shoulder shrug.

The Nightwing Shade snuck across the red zone, but surprisingly the Baneslayer stayed home. Post-combat Weathersby used an Excommunicate on his opponent's Squadron Hawk and cast Nether Horror. Cunningham was in bad shape and he knew it, chumping the Horror a turn later with his Howling Banshee. Because the Baneslayer was staying home, the chump put Cunningham into a position in which he could win if he drew a Gravedigger to bring the Banshee back for re-casting. Before he could, Cassius cast an Ajani's Pridemate and finally felt safe enough to attack with the Baneslayer. The 5/5 pumped the Pridemate up to 3/3 and knocked Cunningham to 8 while giving its owner a 5 point swing in life. The time extension ended and the players were down to the actual five extra turns, but his opponent's Crystal Ball proved too much and Jeff's deck didn't offer up what was needed to finish Weathersby; Cassius held on for the dubya.

Cassius Weathersby defeats Jeff Cunningham 2-1.

Saturday, 8:21 p.m. – Meeting Dr. Garfield

by Zaiem Beg

Creator of Magic Richard Garfield took some time to meet fans of the game, signing cards, shirts, playmats, and more. We caught up with a few people and asked about their experience with meeting him.

Name: Nathan Wobbe
Home town: Corvallis, Oregon
How long have you been playing Magic? Since around Legends.
What did he sign? My friend Jason and his wife are celebrating their fifth anniversary and I had him make a fifth anniversary card. He also signed my Ornithopters and gave them bowties.
Why did you want to meet him? He's the creator of the game I love!
What was he like? I was humbled by his presence, but it's not overwhelming. He doesn't come off as unapproachable and had a pleasantness about him that makes a person comfortable when speaking with him.

Name: Cody Jacobson
Home town: Seattle, Washington
How long have you been playing Magic? For about ten years.
What did he sign? My DCI card and some assorted cards I had.
Why did you want to meet him? He created the game that is such a big part of my life. It's taught me things in life like how to be more forgiving. Everyone makes mistakes in life, as in Magic.
What was he like? He was really nice and he seemed happy.

Name: Elaine Capella, Adam Grund-Klampit, and Amanda Houck
Home town: Monmouth, Oregon
How long have you been playing Magic? About two and a half years.
What did he sign? The first time through the line (about 30 minutes), I had him sign the box for our cube. Then we realized we wanted to have him sign some other things, so we went through the line again and had him sign a playmat, an Armadillo Cloak, and a driver's test.
Why did you want to meet him? Because he made Magic!
What was he like? He was friendly and seemed very nice.

Feature Match: Round 4 – Michael Jacob vs Ben Seck

by Zaiem Beg

Michael "MJ" Jacob was fresh off a Top 8 appearance at Pro Tour-Amsterdam as he entered the fourth round of Grand Prix-Portland undefeated. "The" Ben Seck is a native Australian living in California and had his own Pro Tour Top 8 on his resume at Pro Tour-Yokohama in 2003.

"You haven't played any games yet, right?" asked Michael.

"I have played one. But my last opponent was 2-0, so I can beat a 2-0 deck," replied his opponent.

"My deck is mediocre," Jacob, a former National champion, replied.

Game 1

MJ mulliganed his seven, but looked at the top card of his library. "Aww, that would have been such a good keep. Seven lands, Crystal Ball is the nuts!"

"You'll never draw a land again!" Seck replied.

"Hopefully five lands, Crystal Ball," Jacob said as he was shuffling his deck. "Hold on to your Manic Vandals for my Crystal Ball."

Jacob liked his six, but neither player had much action early on. Michael cast a turn-two Child of Night, while "The" Ben Seck missed several land drops after casting a Gargoyle Sentinel.

"You know what sucks?" Seck's opponent asked, continuing, "when I mis-build my deck by one card, and then I draw that card." He cast the Ice Cage on Ben's Gargoyle Sentinel saying, "This is supposed to be an Island, but it's an Ice Cage this game. The sick thing is you probably have no way to get rid of the Ice Cage."

Ice Cage

"I've got ways to deal with it."

The game stalled out with the Australian casting another Gargoyle Sentinel, but Jacob was able to profitably attack with his Child of Night after bouncing the 3/3 with an Æther Adept. The second Gargoyle Sentinel was Doom Bladed by Jacob.

MJ cast a Bog Raiders saying, "Gray Ogres never stop," then looked at Ben's board and said, "you don't have any Swamps, that sucks."

Both players traded tempo swings by casting Æther Adepts, but Jacob chipped away at Seck's life total and when his American opponent cast a Howling Banshee, the Australian was precariously at 3 life.

Neither player had any good attacks until Jacob felt safe to attack with his Banshee; Ben double blocked with Azure Drake and a freshly cast Cloud Elemental, killing the 3/3. Rise from the Grave brought the Banshee back onto the battlefield, dealing the final 3 points of damage for the win.

Michael Jacob 1, Ben Seck 0

"I'm boarding out Ice Cage for an Island, so don't think of bringing in things that destroy it," the Pro Tour-Amsterdam competitor teased his opponent.

Ben thought about his play that lost him the game, "I probably wouldn't have won that game, but maybe I should have thought about it some more," referring to the double block. "You could have also had Gravedigger."

"Or Disentomb."

Game 2

Jacob again opened on Child of Night with an exultant, "She's back!" but Seck quickly cast a turn-three Wall of Frost.

"Don't think I won't attack. I'll gain two life! Ha ha!" said the American as he ran his Child of Night into the Wall, then followed that up with an Alluring Siren.

Alluring Siren

Jacob cast Nightwing Shade, and although it was bounced by Æther Adept, Seck had no permanent answer to the Shade.

"I read Inquest, so I know that this is a combo," Michael said, pointing to Nightwing Shade and Alluring Siren. Seck was slowly seeing his creatures picked off by that very duo, and within a few turns Ben's board was just a lonely Wall of Frost.

Summing up the game Seck opined, "Alluring Siren has never been so good."

"Where are your Ice Cages? You can Ice Cage that guy," MJ replied.

Seck never did find an answer to the Nightwing Shade/Alluring Siren combo, and when he ran out of chump blockers for the Nightwing Shade was forced to extend the hand.

Michael Jacob defeats Ben Seck 2-0.

Saturday, 9:06 p.m. – Elspeth vs. Tezzeret

by Bill Stark

It is the hottest new product available for Magic: the Gathering, the latest Duel Deck. It pits Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Tezzeret the Seeker against one another, the artifact planeswalker wielding powerful blue spells with artifacts to support them while Elspeth calls forth a host of Soldiers to do her bidding. The sixty card decks, each of which comes in the boxed set, features some alternate art cards, special foil versions of the planeswalkers, and of course hours of game play. But are they fun? That was the question I set out to answer at Grand Prix-Portland, my shiny new copy recently purchased. But who to trouble with the playing of the games?

Tom Martell vs. Pat Chapin

First up were pros Patrick Chapin and Tom Martell. When presented with the decks, Chapin immediately attempted to shotgun Tezzeret, but Martell demanded a roll off. "You know Tezzeret is both our styles," Tom demanded, before losing the die roll anyway. Things started off well for Chapin initially, but soon his opponent's board was cluttered with creatures and a surprise Abolish meant Chapin was scooping.

Post-game I asked each player which card(s) they felt was most powerful from the game. "Esperzoa. Faerie Mechanist was pretty sick too," Chapin replied. For Martell it was the removal spell that had allowed him to blow his opponent out. "Abolish!" He said, a huge grin spread across his face.

How did they feel about the game play? "It's fun enough that I want to try getting him best two out of three," replied Chapin. "There's a variety of ways for players to interact. Both decks are interesting."

Elspeth 1, Tezzeret 0

Chris Crile vs. Ben Torgerson

The second battle found Chris Crile and Ben Torgerson battling one another. Crile had traveled to the Grand Prix from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to meet up with his college friend and roommate (and former Magic teammate!) Ben, who lives up the road from Portland in Olympia, Washington. While it had been a few years since the two had played, the allure of a Grand Prix and the chance to rehash old times proved too strong to pass up, and they made the trip by car and by plane to battle in Oregon.

After a brief explanation of how planeswalkers work for Chris, who hadn't played with the spell type yet, the two got underway. Torgerson battled for Tezzeret while Chris was using the monowhite deck. Tezzeret took an early lead using Contagion Clasp to great effect, but when Chris ripped his Elspeth, Knight-Errant, it was all over.

Post-game the players felt their best cards were pretty obvious. "Contagion Clasp made all my other cards better," Torgerson pointed out, citing the interaction between the Scars of Mirrodin preview card (each deck has one) and cards like Serrated Biskelion, Everflowing Chalice, and of course planeswalkers themselves.

And Chris's best card? "Elspeth! But I liked Swords to Plowshares. I've always been a big fan of that card."

Elspeth 2, Tezzeret 0

Brad Nelson vs. Paul Rietzl

Recreating the Finals of last weekend's Pro Tour-Amsterdam, superstars Paul Rietzl and Brad Nelson sat down for the final Duel Decks battle. Rietzl immediately tried to shotgun the Tezzeret deck, as Tom Martell had done before him, but Nelson wisely forced a die roll to determine who would play which deck. Paul wound up with Tezzeret anyway, and Nelson had Elspeth.

"I already played these decks at Pro Tour-Amsterdam," Nelson pointed out, having taken the time out of making the Finals of that event to get a few games in at the Champion's Challenge in the Netherlands. Having seen the contents of the decks gave him a decided edge over Rietzl, who had no idea what surprises he might find in Tezzeret's arsenal.

"They made new cards?" Paul asked, indicating he had drawn Contagion Clasp in his opening hand. The two got underway with Rietzl bursting onto the table via the affinity on his Frogmite. But Nelson's powerful white creatures proved too much, and he managed to successfully fend off the artifact horde from Paul to ironically defeat Rietzl with the very strategy (White Weenie) Paul had used just one weekend prior to defeat Brad with in the Finals of the Pro Tour.

"I love these decks," Nelson said after finishing his games. "They're s much fun. I've loved every Duel Deck so far."

Paul echoed that sentiment, saying, "I think they're cool. It's an interesting balance that rewards you for learning what's in your deck. It's useful to have fun playing and learning."

"It teaches you a lot of keyword abilities!" Nelson added.

Final count? Elspeth swept, though each Tezzeret player acknowledged that was probably a result of their not knowing what was in their decks.

Elspeth 3, Tezzeret 0

The Duel Decks: Elseth vs. Tezzeret is available for sale now.

Feature Match: Round 5 – Tom Martell vs Alex West

by Josh Bennett

ChannelFireball's Tom Martell was pumping himself up with some tunes through his headphones. This round he faced Alex West, writer for the rival website Star City Games. Would this match determine website supremacy? No. No it would not.

Martell led off with Elite Vanguard. West countered with Squadron Hawk, who dug up a friend. Martell played out Blinding Mage and said
"I'm gettin jiggy with it." He then broke into an impromptu chorus of the eponymous song, accompanied by subdued dance.

"I thought you said you'd turn the music off during the match," said West

"I did. This is all Martell."

Quag Sickness took care of the tapper. Martell replaced it with Stormfront Pegasus, leaving a blue mana up. West drew two with Sign in Blood and played out his second Hawk.

Martell played his fourth land and took a moment to consider his options. The one he went with was a good one: Ajani Goldmane, boosting his team and attacking for a vigilant six. West let it through. He untapped and Excommunicated the Pegasus. His fliers dinged Ajani down to a single loyalty.

Martell replayed his Pegasus and added Silvercoat Lion. He buffed his team, sending Ajani to the graveyard, and attacked for four more. West was down to eight. Martell had two cards left in hand.

West tried to stem the bleeding with Serra Angel. Martell's army swung in. The Angel took on the 3/3 Silvercoat Lion and two Hawks teamed up on the 3/2 Pegasus. Martell was ready with Mighty Leap to kill the Angel and West was down to four. West played out Barony Vamprie. Martell untapped and played Foresee, and showed Unsummon for the win.

Martell 1 - West 0

West boarded in a pair of Duresses for the second game and played one on his first turn. Martell shrugged, saying "I kept a loose one." He shipped Unsummon to the bin and showed five land and Gargoyle Sentinel. West followed up with Squadron Hawk, fetching the second.

Martel played land and passed. West played his second Hawk but had no third land. Martell played out his Sentinel. West flew in for two but still hadn't found land. Martel played his fourth land and passed the turn.

Finally West found a third land, but it was Terramorphic Expanse, delaying him a turn. Martell hit for three and played Stormfront Pegasus. West fired back for one and Duressed again, seeing only lands and a second Sentinel. He added Wild Griffin to the table.

Martell roused his Sentinel again for three in the air and played a second. West was at fourteen. West, now with five land, cast Sign in Blood and a Sentinel of his own. "Probably the most Sentinels that have ever been in play at once," said Martell. He tapped six and swung in with both Sentinels and dropped West to six.

West gave one of the Sentinels Quag Sickness for -2/-2 and played a Silvercoat Lion. He snuck in for another point with one of his Hawks. Martell sent with his Sentinels again, losing the smaller one to a Hawk. West was down to three. Liliana's Specter stole a land from Martell. Another swing from the Sentinel, and this time the remaining Hawk and the Specter teamed up to kill it. Martell replaced it with a Cloud Crusader.

Unfortunately for him, West was starting to bring out the big guns. First was Liliana Vess, stealing a card from his hand. Martell attacked to put West to one. He played a Pegasus. West's follow-up was the backbreaking Platinum Angel. It was even foil.

Martell swung in gamely and West blocked the Pegasus with his Angel, falling to negative one from the unblocked Crusader. Martell had no way to remove the Angel and was forced to pass the turn. West's attack left him just a turn to live. Martell check his top card, then scooped.

Martell 1 - West 1

Martell was shaking his head as he shuffled up. "I should've attacked turn four. Wasn't thinking. You're manascrewed, I'll gladly trade three for two."

West led with Duress again and this time caught Martell holding Ajani Goldmane. The rest of his hand was a Stormfront Pegasus, Celestial Purge and lands. They performed a familiar dance of Pegasus held off by Squadron Hawk (West glum becuase he already held the second), and then Blinding Mage dispatched by Quag Sickness

Martell had no play on his four land. West hit for one in the air and played a second Hawk. Martell found a Gargoyle Sentinel, which went unanswered by West, and then Preordained himself a second one. West played his sixth land and still had nothing to contribute to the board. Martel hit for three and passed.

West attacked for two, then plunked down land number seven. Naturally, that meant it was Platinum Angel time. Martel swung back at him with Sentinel and Pegasus. West though for a moment, then put his Angel in front of the Pegasus. Martell showed him Mighty Leap for the trade.

West played out a Sentinel of his own, trading it when Martell crashed in with both of his. West fired back for two, leaving them both at eleven. He added Child of Night to the board. Martell drew and passed back. Quag Sickness took care of the second Sentinel and West charged in with his team. The Celestial Purge from earlier took care of the Child. West tried a Cloud Crusader, but Martell stopped it with Mana Leak.

Martell untapped and drew. He had a few cards in hand, but no action. West, free of the threat of Celestial Purge, playing Liliana Vess and forcing a discard from Martell: Solemn Offering. His forces brought Martell to seven. Martel added a Pegasus to his board. West forced another discard and played Cloud Crusader.

Before Vess could get completely out of hand, Martell cast Sleep, allowing him to untap and hit Vess down to five Loyalty. West docked her to three to tutor up a card. Martell took her to one and played his big trump: Vengeful Archon.

The minutes were counting down and the players picked up their pace of play. West incremented Vess and played out his tutored-up Serra Angel, leaving him enough power to prevent the Archon from attacking. They started playing draw-go, with Vess ticking up. Once, West tutored, thinking he had another removal spell in his deck, but found only Excommunicate, taking it over Royal Assassin in his haste.

Excommunicate only made Martell throw up a shield, then replay his Archon on his turn. Now West was committed to incrementing Vess to her Ultimate. Along the way he drew his Royal Assassin. The ultimate yielded a ton of monsters, including Blinding Mage. On the first extra turn he was able to tap down the Archon, Assassinate it, and then attack for enough to break through the redirection shield for twelve, with Platinum Angel keeping him alive despite going into the negatives.

Alex West defeats Tom Martell 2-1

Saturday, 9:50 p.m. – Build Along With Coverage - Bill Stark

by Josh Bennett

"I initially tried white-blue and blue-green, but I settled on white-green because it is simultaneously very aggressive, but also lets me play the green bombs."

Here is Bill's take on things.