Day 1 Coverage of Australia National Championship

Posted in Event Coverage on July 17, 2009

Day one is in the books here at the Australian National Championships. Newcomer Ian Wood is the last undefeated player, with plenty of veterans snapping at his heels, including 2008 Rookie of the Year Aaron Nicastri and Magic Online Championship Series 3 winner, Justin Cheung. Both of whom represented Australia at the World Champs last year, and are no doubt keen to repeat their finals appearance again this year. Stay tuned here at while we find out what comes out on top in the new Magic 2010 Standard format.



Saturday, July 18: 8:57 a.m. – Too many decks on the dance floor!

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Every year, people who haven’t yet qualified for the National Champs line up the day before the big event for a chance to play with the grown ups. Affectionately referred to as “the Grinders”, the Last Chance Qualifiers are single elimination events, where the winner gets a spot in the main event, and the rest get to sign up for another LCQ. Outdoing last years 17 constructed LCQ’s, this year we had 24, which is simply too many to post on one page!

(All 24 lists can be found here.)

As was probably expected, White creature swarm decks were the majority, either Kithkin, Soldiers or a mix of both. Following the small white men were the always present and threatening Faerie menace. After that, the Elf Combo deck and Bloodbraid Elf decks took a few slots, with assorted other archetypes rounding out the LCQ field.

Saturday, July 18: 9:18 a.m. – Wilfy Horig vs Garry Wong

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Last night, Wilfy Horig, a young player from Melbourne, won a Last Chance Qualifier to be able to play today, and as the players were sitting down, he was still de-sideboarding from his victory the night before. Garry Wong, an Australian Nationals regular, instead spent almost an hour stuck in one of the hotel’s elevators last night after a late night fire alarm. Like many of the players and staff this morning, he was considerably bleary eyed.

Wong won the roll and lead with Vivid Crag, to which Horig replied with a Figure Of Destiny, that swung in to take two from Wong, who passed his third turn with no third land. Horig beefed up his Figure with an Honor of the Pure, while setting up a pair of Windbrisk Heights. When Wong’s next draw step didn’t yield a third land, he reached for his sideboard.

Horig 1 – Wong 0

Wilfy Horig, a 14 year-old player from Melbourne.

Horig again started out with a Figure of Destiny, but this time Wong had a Putrid Leech to hold it off. Horig doubled up on his Figures, but didn’t haven a second land, only passing the turn back to Wong as he built his mana base with Vivid lands. The Leech swung in, taking a bite out of both players, before Wong refilled with a Kitchen Finks. Horig finally found another land, a Windbrisk Heights that could definitely pull him back into the race. When he went to block the Leech, a Harms Way ran afoul of a Cryptic Command from Wong, forcing Horig to rebuild with a Knight of Meadowgrain. It would now be a while before Horig could get some value out of his Heights. Another Harms Way met another Cryptic Command, that also reset the Heights, Horig now down to 9 life from Wong’s attacks. The Knight’s lifelink was barely keeping Horig afloat, but when Wong landed a Broodmate Dragon, it was Horig’s turn to reach for his sideboard.

Horig 1 – Wong 1

“This format is all about drawing lands,” Wong quipped.
“What format isn’t?” Horig replied with a laugh.

Veteran Elevator dweller, Garry Wong.

Yet again, Horig had the Figure, and an Honor of the Pure to boost it. Not bad for a man who took a mulligan on the play. Wong exiled the attacker with a Path to Exile, and recovered some of his life with a Kitchen Finks. Horig replaced the Figure with a Stillmoon Cavalier, but could only smirk as Wong played a Behemoth Sledge. “Cool card,” he deadpanned, with a shake of his head. Wong equipped his Finks, but had to leave them on defense in the face of Horigs Cavalier and a freshly summoned Knight of the Meadowgrain. Horig then played an Ajani Goldmane, prompting Wong to Path to Exile the Knight. A Volcanic Fallout cleared out the rest of Horig’s board, with Wong forcing the Planeswalker to take one for the team, and before getting his attack on with a 5/4 trampling, lifelink’d Kitchen Finks. Horig tried to make another Cavalier, but Wong countered it with a Cryptic Command, while his life total spiraled up over 40. Horig could only shake his head and his opponent’s hand.

Garry Wong defeats Wilfy Hong 2 – 1

Saturday, July 18: 10:13 a.m. – An alarming late night occurrence

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

After the Last Chance Qualifiers had all wrapped up, the dealers had packed away all of their stock, and the players and staff had all retired to their hotel rooms, and were perhaps snuggled up in bed or maybe getting in some last minute playtesting, at around 11:10pm, the hotel’s fire alarm sounded. The old woman in the room across from me wanted me to have a look at something in her room, she thought she had broken something. “No, that’s the fire alarm,” I told her. Soon enough, players and other hotel guests alike were gathered outside the hotel, in the crisp Canberra winter at night air.

Level 3 Head Judge James Mackay from Melbourne.Eventually, everyone gathered in the Hotel foyer to wait for the fire service to check the upper stories of the building, where apparently an air conditioning unit had been emitting something akin to smoke. I’m pretty sure everyone was aware that hanging around in the foyer was a Bad Idea, but the general consensus was that were weren’t about to burn to death, and it was too darn chilly out. The call went out amongst the players and judges for a draft, but despite there being packs and players aplenty, nobody had any basic land.

Eventually, people were allowed back in to the elevators, which were promptly over filled and broke down, trapping people in them for around an hour while the fire services scrambled around to free them. It wasn’t until around 1am that people made it back to their rooms to get some much-needed rest.

But what if the alarm had sounded during the main event? I took aside Head Judge James Mackay to ask how he’d handle such a situation. “I’d make an announcement that results already in stand, any games completed stand, and any games in progress will be restarted. I’d then ask all players to take their belongings and proceed down the stairs and outside. From there I’d make further announcements and so on. Basically, everyone would get an extra ten minutes on their round, and I’d be very lenient on tardiness coming back in from the evacuation area, although I’d hope the players wouldn’t wander too far away. “ Mackay said with a laugh.

Saturday, July 18: 10:22 a.m. - Justin Cheung vs Jarron Puszet

by Pip Hunn

Justin Cheung is one of Australia’s most accomplished players. Part of the Worlds team that placed 2nd in 2009, Cheung recently qualified for the Magic Online Championship, to be held in Rome during the World Championships later this year. Jarron Puszet made Top 8 in Nationals 2007, and has recently attended PT: Honolulu, where he made Day 2 wielding Cascade. Today he’s bringing Kithkin to the board to battle against Cheung’s Faeries.

Puszet elected to play, and Cheung decisively mulliganed. Puszet lead off with a Goldmeadow Stalwart, and he didn’t slow down, following up with a second Stalwart, then a Figure of Destiny, making Cheung’s sole Island look a little lonely. Cheung laid a Secluded Glen and a Bitterblossom to try and stem the tide. Puszet dropped a Wizened Cenn and pumped his Figure, beating for 9 on a brutally fast third turn. Cheung laid a Mutavault and passed. When the opposing team crashed in, Cheung activated his Mutavault and blocked the Cenn and Figure. No tricks from either player left Cheung short on options. His draw step yielded nothing that dealt with the onslaught, so he moved to his sideboard for answers.

Puszet - 1 Cheung - 0

Both players weren’t happy with their hands for Game 2, but Puszet was forced to head to 5. He peeked at the top of his deck and announced he made the right choice, with the cards he needed nowhere to be seen.

Jarron Puszet looking for a way in.

Cheung opened play with a turn two Bitterblossom. Puszet played a Figure of Destiny and pumped it while Cheung was tapped out. Cheung Deathmarked the Figure and laid a Mutavault. Puszet stalled on lands but a Knight of Meadowgrain hoped to stem any bleeding. It was met by a second Deathmark, and the Vault and a winged beastie crashed in to drop Puszet to 17. He could only lay an Honor of the Pure and pass. Cheung played a 4th land and beat in with his men. Puszet tried a Spectral Procession, dropping 6 power of fliers onto the board to try and find some breathing room. Cheung flashed in a Scion of Oona at the end of turn to pump his men, then swung in with three 2/2 fliers, happy to trade with the Spirit tokens. With no action for Puszet, Cheung’s Bitterblossom fed another Faerie onto an intimidating table. He played his third Deathmark on a spirit and beat with 4 men, 2 of whom were blocked by the Spirit tokens. Puszet dropped to 5 and Cheung was happy to pass with 4 mana up, earning a scoop from his opponent.

Puszet 1 – 1 Cheung

Puszet mulliganed to 6, then lead off with a Windbrisk Heights, hiding goodies safely away for later. He followed up with a Knight of Meadowgrain, which Cheung Deathmarked. Honor of the Pure was less than impressive on an empty board, but Cheung had no action either, passing with 3 mana up. Puszet laid another Honor and passed, giving Cheung a window to drop an end step Scion. It was hit by Path to Exile, leaving the board creatureless again. Cheung had nothing, and Puszet calmly laid his third Honor of the Pure, making all of his men impressively large... if he could only find some. Cheung flashed in a Plumeveil in Puszet’s end step, then passed with four mana up, seemingly unable to find any action. A Moonglove Extract was met by a second Plumeveil, with a decidedly nonagressive board developing.

Justin Cheung takes control of the game, and everything in it.

Both players laid lands for a few turns, 8 power of defensive fliers glaring across an empty board. Puszet’s Cloudgoat Ranger was Cryptically Commanded. Despite digging, Cheung was unable to find any pressure, with both players falling back into draw-go. Cheung eventually dropped a Mutavault and begun to apply pressure. Puszet fell to 18, the first damage of the game. Puszet laid a massive 5/5 Knight of Meadowgrain, which Cheung took with a Sower of Temptation, despite the Extract. Puszet popped the Extract at Cheung’s end step, returning the Knight to its’ rightful owner. It crashed into the red zone moments later, the Plumeveil stepping aside to let the Knight sail in for 5. Cheung untapped and tried a second Sower, which Puszet exiled with an Unmake. Cheung refusing to tap down for counterspells on his turn, let the troublesome Knight switch sides for a 4th time. Cheung took another clobbering from the Knight and untapped, looking for more answers. He played a third Sower, confusing the hapless Knight no end as it switched sides once again. This time Puszet was out of answers for the Sower, and passed without any play. Cheung swung with his men, clawing some of his life total back. During Puszet’s draw step, Cheung laid a Vendilion Clique, revealing Puszet’s hand of 3 Plains and a fourth Honor of the Pure. Cheung was happy not to take anything.

“I’m all strong now”, Cheung said happily as a pile of men crashed across the board. Puszet found a Wizened Cenn but it was quickly stolen by the game’s fourth Sower, leaving Puszet with no board but a pile of useless enchantments. Puszet found a Knight of Meadowgrain, but it was not enough to stop the incoming hordes.

Justin Cheung defeats Jarron Puszet 2 - 1

Saturday, July 18: 11:41 a.m. – Round 3. Andrew Eckermann vs Brandon Lau

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Andrew Eckermann finishes top 16 at these events year after year, even cracking the top 8 in 2007, while Brandon Lau was part of the Australian National team that stormed the World Champs last year.

Eckermann got the game started with a Vivid Creek, which could mean any number of things in this format, while Lau had a Savage Lands, implying that some Bloodbraid Elves may be lurking nearby. Eckermann evoked a Mulldrifter on his third turn. When Lau headed for the red zone with a Boggart Ram-Gang, Eckermann had the Doom Blade. Lau tried again with a more durable threat, a Kitchen Finks. Another Ram-Gang came down, and together they ran into a surprise Plumeveil, which ate the first half of the Finks, before rounding out its meal with one of Lau’s Lightning Bolts, which obviously proved too much for it in one sitting. Eckermann then hard-cast a Mulldrifter, but when it went to block the Kitchen Finks, a Briarhorn from Lau made a mess of things. Eckermann considered his options, before finishing off the Finks with a Cruel Ultimatum, taking him back up to 16 life. He dropped to 10 from the next attack, and then swept the board with a Martial Coup for six. Unfazed, Lau summoned a Broodmate Dragon (and friend) to fly over the soldiers. Eckermann had a pair of Plumeveils however, who dutifully leapt in front of the Dynamic Dragon Duo. Eckermann, untapped and played a Broodmate of his own, which was enough to send Lau packing.

Eckermann 1 – Lau 0

Eckermann prepares his Cruel Ultimatum.

After much pondering and head cocking, Eckermann kept a hand that featured a Sunken Ruins and a Mystic Gate as its only lands, and was facing down a Bloodbraid Elf and a Kitchen Finks before he found his third land, which naturally, entered the battlefield tapped. Lau continued his onslaught with a Sygg River Cutthroat and a Putrid Leech, and Eckermann’s Plumeveil could not stave off death.

Eckermann 1 – Lau 1

Lau mulliganed in the decider, and ran his turn two Sygg River Cutthroat straight into a Broken Ambitions. Lau revealed a Great Sable Stag, while Eckermann revealed a Lightning Bolt. “Not very good against Lightning Bolt,” Lau laughed, shipping the Stag to the bottom of his deck. Eckermann evoked a Mulldrifter, while Lau snuck in with a Boggart Ram-Gang. When Eckermann went to Bolt the incoming Ram-Gang, a Jund Charm gave it a pair of +1/+1 counters, forcing Eckermann to also spend a Plumeveil on the attacker. Lau then played another Stag, while Eckermann replied with a pair of Dragons. Hardly fair. Lau summoned a Kitchen Finks, but couldn’t find a way through to Eckermann’s life total. A Mulldrifter topped up Eckermann’s hand while the three-colored Dragon flew over for four, leaving the Red token on defense. Lau had another Kitchen Finks that could only stand there with its cousin and watch as Eckermann’s army flew past. Lau attacked back, finishing the Dragon token off with a Lightning Bolt and playing a replacement Stag. Eckermann forced Lau to empty his hand with an Esper Charm at the end of his turn.

Defending Australian National Team member, Brandon Lau.

Eckermann summoned another Mulldrifter, and attacked Lau down to twelve, before adding persist counters to Lau’s pair of Kitchen Finks with a Firespout. Lau plucked a Bloodbraid Elf off the top, hitting a Lightning Bolt that took down the defending Mulldrifter, and attacked Eckermann back down to four. A Martial Coup gummed up the board for Eckermann, while his Dragon and ‘Drifter combo continue to take pieces of Lau as souvenirs. With only one draw step left before Eckermann could fly in for the win, Lau flipped over his next card enthusiastically, revealing an essentially blank Duress. “Good Game,” he said with a laugh, offering Eckermann his hand.

Andrew Eckermann defeats Brandon Lau 2 – 1

Saturday, July 18: 11:48 a.m. – Round 3: Deck not so tech, with Kuan Tian

by Pip Hunn

Kuan Tian has sculpted a name for himself as one of Australia’s most innovative and successful deck designers. For the last few years, Kuan’s decks have been piloted to impressive results both domestically and internationally. Heavily involved in developing the Aussie Storm, Bubble Hulk, and Cascade Swans, all of which were quickly adopted through the world, coverage staff kept an eager eye out for his latest creation. We found him at the end of round 3, finishing off an off-character 0-3 record. What was happening?

Kuan outlined the mechanics of the deck. Revolving around a Tezzeret engine, the deck aims to play out as many artifacts as possible, utilizing delaying effects and Time Walks to stretch it’s life totals out. Open the Vault brings back sacrificed artifacts to be animated by the Planeswalker, hopefully overwhelming opponents at an opportune moment. Kuan advises the deck has a positive match up against Kithkin, with the Angelsongs essentially acting as further Time Walks, but the decks’ record against everything else is between “50-50, down to -100% against Faeries”.

“It’s like Turbofog, but worse in every way. Still, it’s fun to play”, Kuan explained. Well aware of his terrible record at Shards Limited, Kuan’s focus is on Sunday’s PTQ, and he’s playing this deck essentially for fun. Of the three rounds, Kuan’s taken one game, beating his hapless opponent to death with multiple animated Elsewhere Flasks. Kuan is enjoying the challenge of winning, even mid-combo. “The deck isn’t like Dragonstorm or Heartbeat. Sometimes, you can just fizzle mid-combo. The Goldfish sits there and beats you.”

Kuan Tian

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Saturday, July 18: 2:28 p.m. – Twitter Time!

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

While we’re not using the official Magic Pro Tour Twitter account this weekend, we’ve encouraged anyone playing in the event, or near the event, or just plain reading the event from home, to hash-tag their Tweets with #ausnats. If you search for #ausnats on Twitter, anyone with that tag will show up. I’m pretty sure we only have one player using it so far, but that’s a start! Oh, and I am, obviously. So as Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says* Twittah Tayme! HahahaHAAA!

*At least in television parodies, he does, but that’s good enough for me.

Saturday, July 18: 2:16p.m. – Draft 1 – Justin Cheung

by Pip Hunn

Cheung opened his first pack and flicked Kederekt Leviathan, Mosstodon and Akrasan Squire to the front. The Squire got picked, followed by a Qasali Ambusher from a mostly empty second pack. Cheung paused briefly when given the choice between an Agony Warp and a Resounding Roar third, but in the end the powerful removal won out. “It seemed worthwhile to pass up the pump spell when there was still flexibility”, Cheung said. The rest of the picks started to push Cheung towards Bant, with a Jhessian Infiltrator, Resounding Wave, Resounding Silence and Outrider of Jhess rounding out the picks.

Pack 2 opened sparsely, with Cheung settling for an Aven Squire and a Rhox Meditant. Things sweetened up a little after that, landing a Wall of Reverence to shore up his defense. Cheung had to choose between a Path to Exile and a Magister Sphinx. With the removal perfectly playable and only the Agony Warp so far to lead him into black, Cheung chose the Path. The rest of the pack showed up an Esper Cormorants, another Meditant, some Vedalken Outlanders and a Darklit Gargoyle for some more aerial offense. At this point, Cheung was heavily U/W, with a few Green cards to trigger the Meditants.

Justin Cheung, Magic Online Championship Series 3 winner, drafting at 3-0.

Alara Reborn provided a bevy of options, with Cheung picking a Wall of Denial over a Wargate and a Talon Trooper, following on his plan of creating a strong defense and winning through exalted evaders. Ethercaste Knight’s came thick and fast in the following packs. Ethersworn Shieldmage provided another trick to make combat harder for opponents. Cheung mopped up his strategy with some Talon Troopers and a second Wall of Denial on the wheel.

Moving to deck construction, Cheung grimaced at the very light Green base. After much deliberation, he decided to cut down to U/W with a very light splash for the Agony Warp and to help out the Gargoyle, going for consistency rather than having to spread his mana base too thinly to cover the third color. Cheung was reasonably happy with his deck, confident that the bevy of 1/3’s and 0/8’s could stave off any aggressors long enough for him to punch through.

Justin Cheung

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Saturday, July 18: 2:47 p.m. - Round 4: Quick Questions

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

What deck are you playing in standard?

Jeremy Neeman “Combo Elves. It’s really, really good against the White decks, and it’s worst match up, Faeries, isn’t that bad after sideboarding.” Aaron Nicastri “Rhys Gould’s Soul Manipulation/Makeshift Mannequin deck.” Garry Wong “5CB (Five Color Bloodbraid), I didn’t do any testing.”

Saturday, July 18: 3:45 p.m. - Round 5: Quick Questions

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

How much sleep did you get last night? (The fire alarm question!)

Dom Lo “None, the bed was too soft! The Alarm? Didn’t bother me.” Justin Cheung “I waited it out next in the apartment blocks next door with some friends, once I got the call that it was all clear I came back.” Glenn Shanley “Did I stay here? God no! Apparently it was awful here? I stayed with friends of mine, Jens is a lovely, wonderful man.”

Saturday, July 18: 4:14p.m. – Round 5 Feature Match: Jeremy Neeman vs Aaron Yue

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Canberra’s Jeremy Neeman has been frequenting the Top 8’s of Australian Premier Events for a while now, while Aaron Yue, you guessed it, was stuck in an Elevator with Garry Wong during last night’s fire alarm. Both players enter round five undefeated, which is just how most people like to get their National Championships started.

While on the draw, Neeman had the first play with a Akrasan Squire, that bashed through a Nacatl Outlander on the following turn with a Resounding Roar. Neeman added a Paragon of Amesha to the board, while Yue tried to hold them off with a Knight of the White Orchard. Yue made a Naya Sojourners, while Neeman continued to build his exalted army with a Guardians of Akrasa and a Sigil Captain. When Yue attacked with his Sojourners, a Qasali Ambusher appeared, before the Captain traded with the 5/3, which in turn bolstered Yue’s Knight. Yue then made a Rip-Clan Crasher, and prevented Neeman from attacking by taking out he Paragon with an Intimidation Bolt. Yue made a Gorger Wurm, but Neeman made a Nacatl Hunt-Pride, which looked much more menacing. The Gorger attacked unopposed, as Neeman considered how he would return fire. The Hunt-Pride swung in, preventing the Knight from blocking. Yue took 7, dropping to 3, before topping himself up with a Sylvan Bounty, while Neeman simply added another Hunt Pride to his team. Yue cast Exploding Borders to pull out another forest, and prepared to take Neeman’s Hunt-Prides to the face. Neeman attacked with both, preventing the Gorger Wurm from blocking. Yue pushed his remaining two creatures in front of one of the Hunt-Prides, Neeman crushed the board with a Gleam of Resistance. Yue drew his card for the turn and scooped up his cards.

Neeman 1 – Yue 0

Yue had a turn two Rupture Spire, and passed the turn with three mana on turn three and no play, while Neeman searched out a Plains with his Gleam of Resistance. Neeman played, interesting enough, a different Plains on his turn, causing Yue to reach for his pen and note it down while Neeman main phased his Qasali Ambusher. Yue made up for his lack of play with a monstrous Wild Leotau, and followed it with a Knight of the White Orchard and a Beacon Behemoth. Neeman filled out his team with a Sigil Captain and a Mosstodon. He then forced an opening with Excommunicate, sending back Yue’s Beacon Behemoth, while Resounding Roar allowed his Captain to take down the Leotau. Instead of replaying his Behemoth, Yue made a Bull Cerodon and attacked Neeman back, before trading it for the Mosstodon on the return. Neeman replaced it with a Pale Recluse, while Yue finally replayed his Behemoth. Neeman summoned a Leonin Armorguard and threw his team across the table at Yue, who pondered his block, traded his Orchid and a Fresh Qasali Pridemage for the Ambusher, and dropped to four life. Yue activated his Behemoth and tried to tag Neeman back for five. The Armorguard got in the way, and Yue had to cycle his Naya Sojourners to keep the Behemoth around, before finishing his turn with a Sacellum Archers.

Neeman sends his team in to fight with Yue

Neeman dug up a Forest and a Nacatl Hunt-Pride with Gift of the Gargantuan, before sending his Pale Recluse in to trade with the Behemoth, and playing a Bant Sureblade. Yue had no play for his turn, sending it back with eight mana open. Neeman summoned his Hunt-Pride and nobody was surprised when Yue gained 8 life at the end of turn with Sylvan Bounty. He untapped and summoned a tiny Tukatongue Thallid. With eight land in play, and three more in hand, Neeman considered his attack, eventually deciding to send in the Hunt-Pride and preventing the Knight from blocking. Rather than blocking, Yue shot it down with the Archers and an Intimidation Bolt. Yue didn’t want to attack into the Captain and the Sureblade, despite the backup from his Archers, and Neeman was still drawing blanks. Well, one turn he drew a Messenger Falcons, but that drew him a land as well.

Yue played a Where Ancients Tread, and shot Neeman for 3 with Exploding Borders, dropping him to 10 to Yue’s 12. Neeman drew and summoned an Aven Trailblazer, and then a Guardians of Akrasa, that helped the Trailblazer get it for a little bit more. Yue swung back with his Orchid, and Neeman elected to just take 2. The Trailblazer again came back in for 3, dropping Yue to 6 to Neeman’s 8. Yue attacked back again and leveled the scores. On Neeman’s next attack, Intimidation Bolt finally took out the Trailblazer, and Neeman forgot for a moment that this mean nobody else on his team could attack either. When Yue came in again with his Orchid, the Guardians blocked and were trampled over by a Colossal Might. Yue tried to end it with a Gorger Wurm, but Neeman cast Sylvan Bounty with the Where Ancients Tread trigger on the stack. Neeman played another Sureblade, but Yue had a Deadshot Minotaur for the Falcon, before sending in his Orchid and Wurm. Neeman blocked feebly, and had no follow up on his turn.

Neeman 1 – Yue 1

Neeman began Game 3 with an Aven Squire with Guardians of Akrasa backup, while Yue was attacking right back with his Tukatongue and Qasali Pridemage. The Pridemage attacked alone into the wall, with three mana behind it. Leery of a cycled Naya Sojourners, Neeman let it by, keeping his Wall safe to enable his attack in the air. A Qasali Ambusher ate the Tukatongue Thallid, and it seemed like Neeman was suddenly all over the board when he untapped and summoned a Mosstodon. Yue could only play a Where Ancients Tread, and wait behind his Pridemage and Saproling token. It may seem like an unenviable position, but Yue would be perfectly capable of untapping and going Flametongue all over Neeman with the enchantment. Not wanting to give Yue the opening, Neeman sent in his team, and crashed through for a ton with Gleam of Resistance, dropping Yue to 3 life.

Yue had no creatures left to Neeman’s Aven, Ambusher and Mosstodon, so he played a Gorger Wurm that shot down the Aven before trading with the Mosstodon, as the Ambusher dropped Yue to 1. Neeman cast a Bant Sureblade and sent the turn back. Yue played a seventh land, and summoned a Naya Sojourners that took out the Sureblade. The Ambusher came back, and with the help of the Wall, traded with the Sojourners before Yue could garner even more value from it. Neeman played a Nacatl Hunt-Pride, and Yue passed the turn with no play. Neeman pointed the Hunt-Pride at Yue, who naturally beefed up his life total with Sylvan Bounty. Yue’s Rip-Clan Crasher didn’t look especially flash across from the Hunt-Pride, so Yue had to fend it off with an Intimidation Bolt instead. Neeman added a Pale Recluse to the cause and passed it back. Yue still capable of rallying with a five-power creature to take out the Hunt-Pride and block the recluse, however, the top of his deck was found wanting. As Yue scooped up his cards, spectators were keen to point the wording of Intimidation Bolt to both players, in particular the part where it says “other creatures cannot attack.” Neither player had been aware that Bolting the Wall would have been much better than Bolting the Hunt-Pride. “Ah well,” Neeman laughed, “I’m scrubbing it up at 5-0.”

Jeremy Neeman defeats Aaron Yue 2 – 1

Saturday, July 18: 5:03 p.m. - Round 6: Quick Questions

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

What color combination do you prefer to draft in Shards of Alara block?

Brandon Lau “Jund.” Justin Cheung “I prefer Grixis.” Jeremy Neeman “I’m really open, I take what comes to me.”

Saturday, July 18: 5:31p.m. – Round 6 Feature Match: Aaron Nicastri vs Oliver Oks

by By Pip Hunn

Oliver Oks has attended Pro Tours regularly in the past, and has ‘a few’ Grand Prix Top 8’s to his record as well. Most Australians will be familiar with Aaron Nicastri’s resume, so let’s just say “Worlds” and “Rookie of the Year” and get onto the match.

Oks led the action with Dragon Fodder. Nicastri countered with an Nacatl Outlander, and little men stared balefully across the battlefield balefully for a few turns. Nicastri dug with Gift of the Gargantuan, revealing an upcoming Paleoloth. The Outlander was removed with a Magma Spray, and the Goblins rumbled across the table. A Viscera Dragger from Nicastri halted the beats. Oks played a Pestilent Kathari to gain some air advantage, but it was quickly Terminated. Paleoloth made its presence known as it the board with a resounding thump. Suddenly the two goblins looked a little lonely. Oks resolved a Parasitic Strix, which failed to deter Nicastri’s sizeable monsters from smashing face. A follow-up Skeletal Kathari from Nicastri, with Oks hovering on 6, hinted at an impending end to the game. Oks went deep into the tank, then dropped a Yoke of the Damned onto the Kathari. The team from Nicastri crashed in, Oks chumped, then unleashed a Lavalanche for 5, wiping Nicastri’s team and dropping the Rookie to 11. Nicastri made a note in bold his lifepad, grimacing. He prepared a second onslaught, with the Kathari coming back via the Paleoloth and a Sprouting Thrinax joining in. Oks was unable to find anything to answer the renewed threat, and scooped.

Nicastri – 1 Oks – 0

Both players were stoic as they shuffled up for game 2. Oks knocked the top of his deck, then led off with Bloodhall Ooze. Nicastri remained unfazed as the Ooze swung unopposed for a few turns, with a Tidehollow Strix joining the board. Nicastri cycled a Jund Sojourners effectively Zapping the Strix and leaving the Ooze relatively non-threatening. A tiny child wandered into the feature match area and tried to climb onto the table, only to be shooed away. Australian Nationals are a very relaxed atmosphere.

The Ooze swung in only to be met with a second cycled Sojourners. Nicastri followed up his buffet of removal with his Viscera Dragger, which Oks answered with an Undead Leotau. Nicastri dropped a Terminate onto the flaming horse monster, then attacked with the Dragger. Oks laid out a Jhessian Zombies, an effective blocker against the Dragger. Nicastri’s Paleoloth crashed into play, easily outclassing the 2/4. Dragon Fodder provided Oks with some breathing room, but Mosstodon negated their value as chump blockers. Oks responded to the Mosstodon with an Unsummon on the Paleoloth, trying to buy time. He doesn’t find anything on the top of his deck, as Nicastri swung in with his men, wearing the defense down.

Oks looked a little dispirited but played a Kathari Bomber, hoping to get more time for him to draw into an answer. Nicastri sighed and kept swinging. A Wild Leotau entered the battlefield, recycling the Mosstodon. A sideboarded Relic of Progenitus from Nicastri negated the Bomber in the graveyard. Oks cast a Deny Reality, but the delaying tactic failed to provide anything useful. Nicastri recycled his large men with the Paleoloth and refused to over commit into Oks’ potential Lavalanche. Rather than continuing to try and delay the inevitable, Oks conceded.

Aaron Nicastri defeats Oliver Oks 2 – 0

Saturday, July 18: 6:20 p.m. – Draft 2 with Aaron Nicastri

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Rookie of the Year Aaron Nicastri was 5-1 going into the second draft, after 3-0ing his first draft with the help of a Broodmate Dragon, Bituminous Blast and a couple of Terminates. His first pack in the second draft was a doozy, offering Resounding Thunder, Branching Bolt, Arcane Sanctum and Agony Warp. Nicastri took the Thunder, and shipped the rest of the first picks downstream. Second pick he took a Rhox Charger over Wild Nacatl, Akrasan Squire and Tidehollow Strix, and in third, he opted for a Jund Panorama over another Wild Nacatl and a Seaside Citadel.

The Nacatl is still a strong play if you’re not in White, and being passed them would indicate that Green/White was open. “I know Aaron (Yue, on Nicastri’s left) likes to draft Green/White, so I knew I was going to try staying out of White, because he could set me up with some strong Red/Black in Conflux.” Nicastri explained. He then scooped up a gift Necrogenesis fifth pick, and then a Spearbreaker Behemoth over a second Necrogenesis sixth. It looked like Jund was well and truly open to our protagonist. “I never want more than one Necrogenesis, even though it’s a bomb. The Spearbreaker is a bomb too, though.”

Aaron Nicastri sets up Aaron Yue in Green/White on his right.Conflux gave Nicastri pause, when he was offered a Wall of Reverence over a Drag Down and an Armillary Sphere, eventually deciding on the removal spell. “The wall would be awesome, but knowing I’ve tried to put the guy on my left in White means I don’t want to risk going into it.” Pick two was just as tempting, with a Meglonoth looking back seductively, alongside a Dark Temper and a Shambling Remains. “I probably should have taken the removal spell,” Nicastri mused, after taking the Remains, “I had no idea my deck was going to turn out how it did.” The rest of Conflux was relatively unexciting, filling out the support end of his deck, which is more than okay, considering the power level of Alara Reborn.

One of the main reasons to be in Jund come Alara Reborn is Bloodbraid Elf, which can turn a frown of a board position upside down. Sure enough, when Nicastri cracked his last pack, there was a Bloodbraid Elf smiling back at him. And a Lord of Extinction snuggled up behind it, like spoons in a drawer. You could almost hear the thought processes going on. You never pass the Elf, unless you get like, Lord of Extinction or Lavalanche or something, but nobody wants to pass the Elf while in Jund. But pass the Elf he did, in favor of the Mythic Elemental. The second pick played out in a similar fashion. The first card of note Nicastri thumbed across was Sangrite Backlash, a great removal spell, before spotting a Vengeful Rebirth, an incredible removal spell, before getting to the back of the pack and seeing Lavalanche, and ridiculous bomb. The third pick was a Behemoth Sledge, which was the final straw, pushing the deck in to splashing White. Pick four was even worse, a Trace of Abundance looked inviting, if not for the fact it was accompanied by Uril, the Miststalker and an Enlisted Wurm. While there had been perfectly good reasons to stay away from White earlier, there was no way Nicastri was passing any of this stuff, as he selected the Wurm over the Miststalker. “My deck would be insane if I’d gone Naya, splashing Lavalanche,” Nicastri reflected, “I mean, it’s still insane, but it could have been even better with Wall of Reverence.”

Saturday, July 18: 7:10 p.m. - Round 7: Quick Questions

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

How many Magic 2010 prerelease flights did you play in last weekend to try and get new cards?

Dom Lo “Too many!” Glenn Shanley “I couldn’t, it was the second ever prerelease I’ve had to miss, including getting to one in China, another in Germany…” Brandon Lau “None, I was touring New Zealand! But I have good friends who set me up.”

Saturday, July 18: 7:16 p.m. - Magic 2010 and the secondary market

by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Scott Hunstad and Paul van der Werk from Good Games Sydney.There was plenty of discussion over the fact that Magic 2010 was going on sale the day before the National Championships, and the impact on the secondary market, with some players fearing that they were going to be paying somewhere between premium and through the nose for the new cards. I took Scott Hunstad from Good Games aside for a quick chat on the matter. “We opened twenty cases, and have sold out of the main cards that everyone has been after several times over, buying the cards from players whenever we can.” The best sellers being Honor of the Pure, Elvish Archdruid, Great Sable Stag and Sunpetal Grove. I asked how Drowned Catacomb had been selling, which seemed like an obvious pick for anyone looking for the easy option of porting 10th Edition Faeries over to Magic 2010. “That has sold the least out of all of the lands,” Hunstad revealed, indicating perhaps that Great Sable Stag had indeed put the fear into Faeries players everywhere.

Which left us with the elephant in the room, the prices. Before I even got the words out of my mouth, Hunstad was shaking his head. “No, definitely the regular prices. There’s no reason to hike the prices on the community,” he said, clearly a man who understands you can shear a sheep many times, but skin it only once.

Saturday, July 18: 7:41 p.m. – Round 7 Feature Match: Ian Wood vs Jamie Mackintosh

by By Pip Hunn

The two players left at the end of Day 1 without a loss to their name are two relative unknowns. Chatting with each other as they shuffle up, it transpires that both players haven’t played ‘serious’ constructed tournaments before, having both qualified directly from their Regionals. Ian Wood hails from Adelaide, where he and other players are members of a cricket team dubbed ‘Svogthos, the Restless Tomb’. Jamie Mackintosh lives in Coffs Harbour and assures me he tests with a secretive collection of elite players. Wood cast a Sighted-Caste Sorcerer off a Plains and a Swamp, following up unanswered with an Akrasan Squire. Mackintosh found an effective blocker in Grizzled Leotau, halting the offense from across the board.

Jamie Mackintosh has no losses, but does have a draw.Wood dropped a Behemoth Sledge onto the board with a thump. Mackintosh blinked furiously and thought about his outs, passing his turn to Wood. The Sorcerer took up the Sledge and attacked, only to have his equipment met by a Bant Charm. The Leotau harmlessly blocked the incoming sorcerer. Mackintosh untapped and dropped a Battlegrace Angel. Mildly rebuking, Wood asked “I thought you said your deck was bad?” An invigorated Leotau swing back at Wood, who admitted regretting passing the Bant Charm. Mackintosh asked if Wood had seen the Rhox War Monk travelling around in the pod, but Wood declined to comment.

Wood dropped a Scornful Æther-Lich, which was met by a Stormcaller’s Boon into a Brackwater Elemental from Mackintosh. The Battlegrace kept swinging through the air, Wood racing on the ground as hard as he could. Wood summoned a Darklit Gargoyle, but was unable to utilize the multiple exalted triggers, having only one Swamp in play. Mackintosh summoned a Sigil Captain and passed.

Wretched Banquet feasted on the Leotau and then the Æther-Lich crashed in, the Brackwater Elemental unable to effectively block the 4/6. When the Battlegrace returned fire, Wood blocked with the Gargoyle and flashed in a Ethersworn Shieldmage, keeping the Gargoyle alive and kicking. Sigil Captain pumped a freshly summoned Jhessian Balmgiver to a 3/3. Wood sent Darklit Gargoyle back across the battlefield, still only with one Swamp untapped. In return, Brackwater Elemental unearthed itself, received some evasive balm-giving, and joined the Battlegrace Angel for the lethal swing.

Mackintosh – 1 Wood - 0

Both players headed to their sideboards for the second game, but neither player found anything of use. “I don’t think the deck gets any better,” shrugged Wood as he shuffled up.

First action was from Mackintosh, with an Aven Squire. Wood calmly shored up his mana with an Arcane Sanctum and a Bant Panorama, but with no answering men. Mackintosh dropped a Court Archers and swung through the air for 3, Exalted proving a strong theme in both decks. Wood curved into Tower Gargoyle turn 4, putting a temporary halt to the aggression on both sides. Mackintosh cast a Captured Sunlight cascading into Jhessian Balmgiver. He then declined to block the incoming Gargoyle, dropping back to 20.

Scornful Æther-Lich entered on Wood’s side once again. Aven Squire pinged relentlessly through the air, and a Grizzled Leotau from Mackintosh further clogged up the ground. Wood powered up the Æther-Lich and swung with both his men. Mackintosh’s Balmgiver prevented one damage, but the rest got through unchecked. Wood summoned an Esperzoa and passed. Critically, Mackintosh forgot to use his untapped mana to crack his Bant panorama for an Island at end of turn, leaving his Waveskimmer Aven stranded in hand. Rattled, he took a moment to compose himself before sending his Aven Squire into battle once more. Esperzoa leaped to Wood’s defense, but Mackintosh used a Gleam of Resistance to save his man. Wood’s men powered up and attacked again. A Deny Reality from Woods onto Mackintosh’s Plains cascaded into Ethersworn Knight, further setting Mackintosh’s defense back a step.

The Tower Gargoyle swung in on its own, pumped to a 5/5 from the Knight. Woods’ follow up, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, was even more impressive. Both players ran through its’ dizzying list of abilities, earning a scoop from Mackintosh.

Wood – 1 Mackintosh - 1

Mackintosh took some shuffling time to berate himself for failing to crack his Panorama, and then asked me if the battles would be written up in heroic imagery. After assurances that their battles were ‘epic’, they both settled into the third game.

No mulligans from either player leads to a Akrasan Squire from Wood, answered by an Aven Squire from Mackintosh. Mackintosh dropped a Court Archers, effective against the lonely Squire, and his Aven zipped through the air for a nibble.

Ian Wood, Happy to be the last completely undefeated player.Wood cantripped a Kaleidastone and passed, letting Mackintosh develop his board with a Brackwater elemental. Unable to attack, Wood could only lay a Vedalken Outlander. Mackintosh surged further ahead in tempo with a third unanswered attack from the Aven Squire. Gleam of Resistance fetched a Forest which brought out Grizzled Leotau, further clogging up the ground. Wood cracked his Kaleidastone for a 5-mana Tower Gargoyle, pumping a celebratory fist as he conspicuously took no mana burn under the new Magic 2010 rules. With the air offensive stalled, Mackintosh swung with a Brackwater Elemental; the 6/6 getting chumped an inoffensive Vedalken Outlander. Wood untapped, drew, and then played and equipped Behemoth Sledge to his Gargoyle, drawing an enthusiastic roar from the crowd.
“How lucky can I be?” asked Mackintosh, praying the top of his deck would grant him the Bant Charm that saved him in game 1. Unfortunately, the deck failed to deliver, and Woods’ massive lifegainer proved impossible to race.

Wood – 2 Mackintosh – 1

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